Home' On The Land : January 6th 2011 Contents By ANNETTE CHISHOLM
STEVE Halfpenny, of Silversand
Horsemanship, approached the
recent The Way of the Horse
competition as a demonstration,
rather than a contest.
The competition requires
that an unridden three-year-old
horse be prepared for and taken
through a 15-minute skills test in
the space of 135 minutes, spread
over two days.
In a competition mindset, it
would be easy to rush through
issues that may have a better
result with a little more time
spent on the foundations.
Steve's priority was to deal with
the welfare of the horse above
Steve was the first human Myth
had to deal with apart from during
worming, branding and gelding,
all of which had left negative
feelings towards humans.
Steve's approach was that he
was "not going to do anything
today, that would make tomorrow
To the lay person watching on
the first day, there didn't seem to
be a great deal going on. There
was a lot of groundwork that laid
the foundation for what was to
Steve found the horse to be
stand-offish, its body language
telling him that Myth did not
want anything to do with him.
He travelled around the round
yard with his head to the outside
and his shoulder closest to Steve,
offering no opportunity to get
"inside" the horse.
If he had pushed the issue
there was a chance the horse
could strike out and Steve
readily admitted that he had
been walloped in the past for
"not listening" to the horse. He
started moving Myth forward from
behind, getting him used to being
moved forward rather than just
Steve then brought out his lariat
rope and swung that around until
Myth was comfortable that this
was not a new danger. When the
rope settled around Myth's neck
there was no charge and frenzied
bucking, but a continued forward
movement that was quite settled
considering what was going on.
Steve let the rope slip over
the horse's back and over the
off-side which evoked no negative
response. This was a good sign.
Gradually Steve worked to-
wards getting close to Myth. Every
time he went to turn away Steve
would pull on the rope and Myth
would turn back towards him.
Steve could finally get close
enough to start touching Myth on
the near shoulder and down the
legs and then around the head.
At this point he took his
compulsory five-minute break
to confer with his assistant and
associate, Silversand instructor
After his break, Steve really
started to work the horse, using
pressure to ask him to move his
All of the horses in the competi-
tion seemed to be head shy but, if
you consider that the head is the
most vulnerable area of the horse,
reluctance to let anyone touch
them there is understandable. In
every aspect of Steve's interaction
with Myth, you could see evidence
of "the pressure principal". If the
horse yields to pressure, the pres-
sure is taken away. This is where
timing is critical. Get it wrong and
you can undo all of the good work
that you have achieved up to this
At the end of the first 60
minutes, Steve appeared to be
nowhere near getting the halter
or saddle on the horse, however,
nothing could have been further
from the truth.
On the second day he had the
halter on within 10 minutes and
15 minutes later the saddle was
Steve then brought in the
stock whip and started cracking
it around Myth who showed no
signs of fear.
He then put a rope around
the horse's hind end which
created forward movement and
also got Myth used to having rope
touch him around the back end.
Removing the rope, Steve took
his compulsory break to let Myth
wander around and get used to
When he re-entered the arena,
Steve used a flag to flick over
the horse's back, allowing him
to get used to seeing something
over his back with both eyes.
Steve mounted at the 48-minute
All his groundwork paid off.
The horse was calmly ridden
forward less than two minutes
later. Steve then roped some of
the witches' hats and let the rope
drag behind in preparation for
the hay bale drag.
He rode Myth over poles in
the round yard and worked on
walking, trotting and cantering
in both directions. When time
was called Steve and Myth were
happily riding around the yard.
Myth was unsaddled and led
away to await his turn in the
In all aspects of the ridden
work there was no sign of hump-
ing up or major resistance. The
horse remained calm which was
a testament to the groundwork
that Steve had laid down.
After a break, Steve entered the
arena again. It took some time to
get the saddle back on but in every
move that Steve made you could
sense an unhurried calm, even
though he was on the clock.
Six-and-a-half minutes into the
skills test Steve had the saddle
on, but he still worked to make
sure that Myth was comfortable
They worked through much
of the skills test but when con-
fronted with the tarp Myth was
not convinced and Steve decided
to leave that for another day.
Steve acquitted himself in a
fashion that was great to see.
Even under so much pressure he
took the time to lay down good
Myth has been sold to a woman
in Western Australia and Steve
has continued to work with the
horse, starting him in the right
way for his future.
More information about Steve
Halfpenny can be found at www.
r David Mellor will hold a
clinic at Highview horse com-
plex, Illowa on February 19 and
20, working on the Silversand
Horsemanship philosophy that
Steve Halfpenny has developed.
Limited places are available.
Contact Sacha Gasperini on
0419 242 189 to register.
6 -- ON THE LAND THURSDAY, January 6, 2011
Patience pays off
Steve Halfpenny, of Silversand Horsmanship, works with Myth in The Way of the Horse competition.
Picture: ANNETTE CHISHOLM
Pressure method reaps rewards
A COLLABORATION between Australia and
Germany is set to provide researchers with
genetic answers on why rabbit hemorrhagic
disease (RHD) --- also known as calicivirus ---
is losing effectiveness as a control measure.
Biosecurity SA senior research officer Ron
Sinclair said that for the past three months,
a Berlin-based scientist had been collecting
rabbit samples at the Turretfield Research
Centre and across South Australia.
"They are studying genes which trigger RHD
and undertaking work to better understand
the disease," Dr Sinclair said.
The researchers hope to find out why large
numbers of rabbits were dying in Europe
while surviving in Australia. "In Europe,
the rabbit is a native animal and supports
the lifechain of many endangered species,"
Dr Sinclair said. "But their numbers have
declined and not recovered so they are hoping
to compare their research here with that of
overseas studies to find an answer."
Dr Sinclair said it would take at least six
months before the results were known.
"Calicivirus is not useless as a control,"
he said. "There are weak and strong strains
of the disease due to natural changes in the
Myxomatosis is still working but not as
strongly as when it was first introduced."
Dr Sinclair said that this year, the La Niña
weather pattern could keep rabbit numbers on
the increase through summer, rather than the
Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia chair-
man Nicholas Newman said calicivirus was
relatively effective in arid and semi-arid zones
but less effective in higher rainfall areas.
Research to find
answers on RHD
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