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100 mile a month walk with your horse CHALLENGE (160km)

Work your horse in-hand for an hour a day, across all terrain, to develop a connection.

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with Steve Halfpenny teve Halfpenny began teaching students his unique way of communicating with horses over 25 years ago and travels all over the world sharing his knowledge with students.

For many years Steve had been using groundwork to prepare horses to be ridden but had not really thought much about the process or type of exercises to do as he adjusted to each horse and used more of an intuitive approach to helping them. “I was very confident with riding and had developed techniques for controlling horses that may become worried while out on the trail during their first rides. When our international instructor team visited our property in South Australia each year - to share


ideas and start a number of horses under saddle for our students - I noticed that we all had different patterns of working with the horses. My pattern was to do ground work in the round yard with the saddle on first before riding on the trail, allowing the horse to move forward. Some of the team would also start in the round yard then they would lead their horse out, working on keeping the horse next to them as they explored all the places that they were going to ride later. They would then ride out but if the horse became worried they would step off and and walk beside the horse shoulder-toshoulder. “It started to become more obvious that this approach was easier on the horses as they gained much more support from the ground than they did from people on their backs.

“Most of the horse people that I meet are much more confident working with emotional horses from the ground than in the saddle.” “It became an option I started to promote more by advising riders that if they felt they could not help their horse relax when riding, then they should step off and work them on the ground.

Shoulderto-shoulder is the ‘safe’ place where foals position themselves. “It was not until jointly conducting a clinic with one of my early mentors, Philip Nye, that the idea of reaching out to everyone to try the 160km (100 miles) on the ground per month with their horses developed. During this clinic Philip explained that he would go out for an hour each day no matter what the weather was like, with his horse in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder, in all sorts or terrain, from tracks to hills to over jumps and really work on the connection between himself and his horse. Philip calculated that at the average walking speed an hour a day would work out to be around a hundred miles a month.” Steve had a great deal of feedback from the people that attended that clinic and followed up the concept of 100 miles a month. Continued

When your busy equestrian lifestyle gives you a short break have your copy of Hoofbeats at your fingertips. is incorrect for the indicate the tree angle ion. horse’s conformat TREE ANGLE the DDLE wide enough for A saddle can be SADDLE LENGTH of the tree may not horse, but the angle the last rib meets can cause problems. that The point at which end of the horse’s be optimal, and this of of thumb here is the The age-old rule saddle, the points the spine marks room to place 2-3 For the English saddle + rider) area in front of the there should be enough the saddle – that weight-bearing (i.e. behind the withers. can be found just tree the will of just saddle tree fingers in the gullet – beginning from of the pommel billet straps. A western the width of the back than here can ents: Loads applied farther is, between the underside rider’s hand is to the horse’s have two measurem the bars. 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When of the saddle panels but not the centre, resting on the long the flocking underneath Look for gaps using a pad underneath long back muscles, s in pressure along ready to ride, and the angle of the shoulder.the musculature and up pad the and to bring leading to difference Continued. between the saddle areas where there the saddle, be sure or so it is not stretched of the shoulder, into the gullet space would and these of withers both horse’s is compression – tightly across the that when the horse below). This is so the saddle does not spinous processes. of POMMEL shortage no here’s moves its front legs, with the movement SEAT on either side of CANTLE it comes to with the horse’s back information when From the restrict or interfere are the weightmistake made by fit. its spine. The panels saddle and THE PARTS OF THE the topic of saddle in any way; a commonthe saddle too far the at its SKIRT bearing surfaces of SADDLE scientific studies looking owners is positioning jumping with wool, air, the to is ‘flocked’) back (or are stuffed constitutes forward. The exception impact on the horse’s for some so the flap extends Before delving into whatit is important for the latest and gel or foam - which allowsWestern saddle, which is cut fit. the prolific advertising KNEE ROLL blade in order to a correctly fitted saddle adjustment in saddle design, the seemingly basic names forward of the shoulderleg position. panels, but rather greatest in saddle to be familiar with the saddles do not have ls and the constant provide a more secure The diagrams with endless testimonia PANEL for the saddle parts. on performance – the tree is lined underneathmaterial. parts of the gently on the horse’s STIRRUP reminders of its effect whole gamut. 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FENDER A correctly balanced the bars of the HOBBLE the rider’s back too! an English saddle, or not N saddle.) should have POSITIO saddles Western) STRAP SADDLE the Western saddle. Some which do not have saddle (English or to allow for relevant to both With Western saddles, of the tree which backwards. To evaluate, The following is changeable gullet systems ‘rock’ forwards or bars one saddle. 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100 miles a Month continued...

“The main comments we were receiving back from people who had tried the 100miles a month concept was that their horses were totally different and so much more relaxed and connected. Since then I have been challenging everyone that attends my clinics and our online followers to give the 100 miles a month on the ground a try and see how it works.

The main principle to this challenge is to have the horse respect your personal space and learn to stick with you, shoulderto-shoulder, without going ahead or falling behind. of the horse’s shoulders. If you feel the horse push into you the easiest way to fix this is to back the horse up and move it away from you. Then you would allow the horse to go forward and move around you in a circle, starting to work on the shoulder-toshoulder position. “Once you can circle with the horse on the outside then work on you being on the outside and doing a circle by getting the horse to turn away from you as you go forward.

If you work on this consistently then you develop a connection with the horse, which comes first from us being aware of the horse’s movements and responding at the right time to help the horse stay in the correct position. “It is a learning process and in the beginning most horses will go too fast, too slow or push into your space. The more you correct these things the more the horse will pay attention and become aware of the place you have set up for it to find comfort. If you think about it, this is the place where foals follow their mothers around at the walk, trot and canter, as they feel safe in this position at their mother’s side. All you are doing is setting up the same sort of situation where your horse will be comfortable with you in any environment or situation because they feel safe. “There are some basic horsemanship groundwork skills needed to keep our horses and ourselves safe, but they are not difficult to learn and combined with the 100 mile challenge can transform the relationship you have with your horse. “Mostly, when a horse feels worried they will push forward, often with their heads away from you, and end up moving you out of the way. This is one of the first things to address before moving forward. I teach people to back their horses up first, often using a horseman’s flag to drive the horse without touching. Once this is working then teach the horse to move back and over to the left and right, which gives you control October/November 2019 - Page 32

“I teach these exercises in an area where the horse feels confident so it is easier for the student to learn how to control the horse before heading out somewhere where the horse feels more anxious. You should consider that the horse has a comfort zone, and then a place where it is not so confident and then a place where it cannot think and feels afraid. Our task is to slowly expose the horse to more places and different things to the best of our ability, without reaching a place where the horse takes over because we have lost the connection. “The main thing to remember is that you are trying to help your horse feel more confident under all types of situations and this depends on our own confidence and skill level. If you are very confident and skilled at groundwork you could help the horse stay connected much better in new places than a really nervous person with less skill could. Remember to keep yourself safe as well as your horse. I would recommend starting this exercise with a quieter horse first to build your skills before working with a really worried horse that can become reactive.” About the Author -Steve Halfpenny

www.stevehalfpenny.com

A horseman, an award-winning film-maker, Equitana Australia presenter and best-selling author, Steve’s specialist style of training is not discipline-specific and can easily be applied to any form of riding.His training methods are extremely successful in helping dressage and competition riders achieve their goals as his training emphasis is on a much lighter contact and responsiveness between horse and rider. His technique is highly beneficial for anyone looking to build their horse’s gymnastic ability, create softness and improve communication between themselves and their equine partners.


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