Jeff Sanders Clinic

By: Debbie Dowden

If there was ever a professor of horsemen, Jeff Sanders would be him. The Californian horseman not only looks a little like a professor, but teaches what amounts to university level horsemanship. He teaches the best of the best. He recently visited Geraldton in Western Australia, Blanchetown in South Australia and Monegeetta in Victoria to pass on his skills to some enthusiastic groups of Aussie riders.
Jeff teaches horsemanship in the Californian Vaquero style, knowledge that has been passed down through his family for generations. He is a holistic horseman who combines his deep understanding of equine biomechanics with his passion for horsemanship and the traditions of the old masters.
The horsemanship of the Californian Vaqueros has its origins in the war horses of medieval Europe, when the life of a man depended upon the training of his mount. Spanish horsemen brought their battle skills with them when they colonised the Americas and the traditions and skills were passed down through the generations. Over time the horsemanship that began during the wars developed into two branches; dressage and working cow horses. For the Vaqueros the split was not quite as clean; they stood out from the ordinary cowboys in America in the sense that they not only got the job done, but they did it with great style.
Because of the great history of the Vaqueros that Jeff brings with him, his clinics are unique in the fact that they could be about classical dressage, they could be about working cows, or they could seamlessly combine the two.


Jeff has trained with Bent Branderup, a leading authority in Baroque horsemanship. Branderup consults with Jeff about working his classical dressage horses in a hackamore (bosal.) He has held clinics with Pedro Torres, arguably the world’s greatest Working Equitation rider. He consults with Eitan Beth-Halachmy for the Vaquero style Cowboy Dressage competitions. Jeff is a sought after clinician in over fifteen countries including Europe, the USA and Israel.
Jeff’s horsemanship style seeks an exquisite level of refinement. His training methods and regime aim to lighten the horse to such an extent that it can ultimately be ridden in high school dressage movements with a mere whisper of a command. Like the old masters, Jeff takes years to train a good bridle horse, (called so because it has the degree of training required to be ridden in just a bridle as opposed to a bosal.) It can take up to twelve years to train a good bridle horse, the same amount of time it can take to train a grand prix dressage horse and the end result is not as dissimilar as one might imagine.
During the clinic in Geraldton there were some cattle available and so riders were able to experience the Californian Vaquero way of working. They use the cattle to train their horses. If a mistake is made then the focus is on the horse and rider getting it right. What the cattle did was not as important. According to Jeff, the use of cattle in the training process helps to keep the horse alert and fosters better overall movement and collection. At this clinic there was a focus on lateral work. Riding a horse laterally towards the cattle provides a bigger visual picture for the cows and helps them to move where they need to go with a minimum of fuss. For the horse, lateral work encourages the horse to be soft and balanced and come more easily into collection.
Jeff Sanders challenges riders to aspire to new heights with their horsemanship. He carries with him messages from the old masters and brings with him the deep traditions of the Californian Vaqueros. He is one of the modern day great horsemen and we are privileged to have him visit us in Australia.
Jeff will return to WA in November and then travel to New Zealand for clinics. More information about Jeff and his clinics can be found at

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