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BalanceinMovementFB-horseandriderbooks

Good mobility of the shoulders and arms is necessary for good riding. In her classic bestseller BALANCE IN MOVEMENT, biomechanics expert Susanne von Dietze says, “One of the ailments of our civilized society, poor posture, especially when sitting, often causes the shoulder girdle to slide forward. In the long term this means severe tension in the area of the back of the neck, since the shoulder girdle is suspended there on the muscles of the neck instead of resting on the thorax…. There are a few very beneficial stretching exercises for the shoulder girdle, in particular, which you can do within the context of your everyday activities.” Von Dietze explains that by incorporating certain movements into your everyday barn tasks, it is possible to be both fit and efficient.

One of the easiest stretches to add to your regular routine is stretching the shoulders while you groom your horse. 

“When grooming your horses’s neck, pause for a moment with your hand high up on the neck. Stand close in to the horse’s shoulder and position your hand with the brush on the horse’s neck. have the opposite leg positioned in front as if you are about to walk forward.

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Photo from Balance in Movement

“Before actually starting to groom with the brush, apply gentle pressure and hold the brush against your horse’s neck. Yo will feel the stretch at the side of the shoulder. Vary the pressure on the hand on the brush: sometimes put more on the little-finger side, sometimes more on the ball of your thumb. Different groups of muscles are activated when you do this and the stretch is intensified.

“Remember the old grooming rule: ‘long strokes and short breaks.’ The stroke should be as long as possible and applied with even pressure. Your whole body can follow the movement.

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Photo from Balance in Movement

“When grooming the horse’s back and belly try other positions and stretches. By varying the body position and pressure you can very easily feel where any muscles are tight and what is best for your body.

“When grooming the other side of the horse, the brush should be held in your other hand as you repeat the stretches and strokes on that side.”

For more innovative exercises to help you improve your seat on the horse and better your riding position and performance, check out BALANCE IN MOVEMENT by Susanne von Dietze, available from the TSB online bookstore.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

Quarantine-horseandriderbooks

We of course all know a bit too much about quarantine these days. In fact, I’m pretty sure we’ve had just about enough of it. But if bringing home a new horse–perhaps a rescue, an adoption, or even just a spontaneous purchase from the place just down the road–is a possibility anytime in your future, then understanding the ins and outs of proper equine quarantine procedure is a must to protect other horses on your property or in your boarding facility.

In her book THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR HORSES IN NEED, large animal veterinarian Dr. Stacie Boswell provides the basics of what we need to know to quarantine properly.

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Photo by Zahaoha from Pexels.

Quarantine Basics

Quarantining a rescue horse is important for reducing the chance of contagious diseases and parasites spreading.

Depending on the circumstances, you may not know much about your newly acquired horse. He may have an uncertain vaccine status. Travel exposes him to contagious diseases, especially if he commingled with others at a livestock auction or other holding area.

A new horse should be quarantined from your other horses for at least three weeks. Quarantine distance should be a mimimum 40 feet, which is based on a horse’s ability to sneeze or cough and spray droplets up to 15 feet, and accounts for additional wind dispersal. Another way respiratory diseases are spread is carriage by fomites—objects such as buckets, brushes, or clothing that have come into contact with infected horses.

Quarantine time period and distance recommendations are designed to prevent contagious respiratory diseases such as Equine Herpes Virus (rhinopneumonitis), influenza, and strangles (Streptococcus equi ssp. equi) from infecting the established herd. During the quarantine period, you should monitor the temperature of your new horse each day because a fever sometimes occurs before obvious disease. Spread of other contagious diseases that cause diarrhea (such as Salmonella spp.) are minimized by using proper quarantine procedures.

Finally, quarantine protects your established herd from both external and internal parasites such as lice or strongyles.

Ultimate Guide to Horses in NeedDuring quarantine, you should implement biosecurity measures, including a sanitizing foot bath and protective barrier gear, such as gloves, disposable barrier coveralls or gown, and a hat or mask, especially if there are any signs of illness. A horse can sneeze or breathe into the caretaker’s hair, and the virus particles can then be carried to other horses.

Another technique is to care for your established horses first, and then the new horse. Washing your hands between horses or groups is an easy and effective way to reduce the spread of infectious agents. You should attend to the healthy horses first, then any horses possibly exposed to illness or disease that are not yet showing signs. Take care of sick horses last.

A horse should be fully vaccinated and medically cleared before being moved from quarantine to general housing. A very thin or sick horse may remain in quarantine for a longer period of time. Quarantine should also account for a horse’s mental well-being. Maintain previously established groups, if possible. For instance, if a group of yearlings arrive together, they should continue to live together. Spend time haltering, brushing, petting, and bonding with your new arrivals. Quarantine pens are typically small, so if you have an untrained, untouchable horse, this is a great time to befriend him and begin the halter-training process. When you consistently provide food and water to a horse who has been neglected, this is the first step to showing him that you are trustworthy.

A horse who lives alone may feel stressed out. This is not ideal as stress weakens the immune system. When you adopt a single new horse into your group, he may need a companion during the quarantine time. A fully vaccinated, mature gelding with a steady personality can be used as a quarantine companion. Remember, the “companion” horse cannot be returned to the established herd until the quarantine period is over. A mare is not ideal as she could be impregnated by a newly rescued colt that has not been gelded. A goat can also be used as a companion, without the risk of contracting an equine respiratory disease.

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR HORSES IN NEED by Dr. Stacie Boswell is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

MoreThanaGoodEye-horseandriderbooks

Understanding and implementing stride control (being able to adjust the number of strides before and between fences) improves a horse’s rideability and allows the rider to further improve the horse’s technique over an obstacle. Renowned coach Jen Marsden Hamilton has taught countless riders and horses around the world in the striding techniques that brought her success during her own impressive competitive career, and now she has compiled her knowledge in a concise book of exercises and insightful strategies: STRIDE CONTROL. Here’s the backstory of why striding rules the course.

In the 1970s, change came to the hunter-jumper world. Related measured distances became the norm. Show Hunter courses moved from big open courses on half-polo fields to a ring enclosed by a fence. Equitation and Jumper courses became more sophisticated and challenging due to professional course designing. These challenging courses required analysis and a course strategy. Walking the course became necessary. Wonderful riders such as Rodney Jenkins, Bernie Traurig, Katie Monahan Prudent, Conrad Homfeld, and Melanie Smith Taylor became our new heroes. They didn’t rely on just god-given talent. They were educated and talented. (And now we have superheroes Beezie Madden and McLain Ward!)

StrideControlPin-horseandriderbooksSince then, course design has become an art and probably one of the most important elements of a horse show. Measured distances allow and require a more knowledgeable and sophisticated ride than the old days of “hand riding and a good eye.” The rider has or should have the knowledge of the number and quality of the strides on the course (class strategy, based on the course walk or posted distances on the posted course plan), and then that knowledge has to be put into physical action.

Stride control is about the rider creating and controlling the horse’s stride and rhythm based on the knowledge the rider possesses of the course to be ridden (course analysis). Are the distances (measurements) between the jumps normal, long, or short, and how does this relate to the horse being ridden?

Striding (the counting of strides) changed the jumping world as we knew it. Everyone knew that you couldn’t teach an eye, and “feel” was never really discussed. But now a new tool for teaching was added to the equation. The measured distances based on a 12-foot stride provided predictability.

Riders and teachers knew how many strides were to be ridden between jumps. The guesswork was being taken out of riding a course, and it was being replaced with the training of both rider and horse. Dressage always had structure, but jumping was a bit of an organized free-for-all until this change. The “jumper cowboy” was about to be tamed!

Now there really could be a method to teach the rider “feel” on course and educate the rider’s eye…through counting strides.

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What is stride control all about?

• It’s about creating enough canter to get to the jump, jump the jump, and leave the jump to jump the next. The main focus is longitudinal connection (leg to hand) and control while also maintaining correct suppleness laterally, giving more control longitudinally.

• It’s about strengthening the horse and doing gymnastic exercises to improve the horse’s shape and technique over the jumps.

• It’s about the flatwork between the jumps. The hardest part about jumping a course is getting to the jumps! That’s flatwork!

 

STRIDE CONTROL by Jen Marsden Hamilton is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Proprioception. It’s a big word that’s bandied about a lot in equestrian circles. And though it sounds like a massive concept, really it just means your perception or awareness of the position of and movement of your body—and of course as riders and trainers we all know what a huge role that plays when working with horses, on the ground or in the saddle.

In HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN, the book that is taking the equestrian world by storm with its game-changing explanations of the neuroscience of horsemanship, brain scientist and horsewoman Janet Jones explains in plain language how important our proprioception is to achieving effective and fair communication with our horses.

Read on:

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Photo by Markus Spiske

Why do riders have to address small discrepancies in proprioception? If your brain thinks your left shoulder has moved back 1 inch, same as your right one, but in fact it’s moved back 2 inches, so what? The answer is that we need to match our horse’s proprioceptive sensitivity if we hope to achieve brain-to-brain communication. And horses are exquisitely sensitive animals when it comes to body awareness.

Flygirl is a Holsteiner built like a tank, black with a sprinkling of socks and some grey hair on her face. After a lifetime of Grand Prix jumping in the United States and Europe, she’s now a late-twenties school horse who teaches equitation to beginning and intermediate hunt seat riders. One afternoon long ago I was working on flying changes with her and noticed how sensitive she was to my aids. To request a lead change on a straight line, all I had to do was shift my head slightly to the side corresponding to the new lead. She changed instantly. The same was true over fences. To turn left in the air, I just barely looked left.

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Photo by Matthias Zomer

Nearly every trainer will tell you that when riders look left, our hands, shoulders, hips, and legs unconsciously shift left. Horses could be picking up many bodily cues aside from head position—and indeed it’s unlikely they would notice a 10-degree turn of the head. They can’t even see us up there! So I experimented with Fly, holding every part of my body true north while shifting only my head slightly to the northwest. I tried this in all directions, at various locations, over fences and on the flat, at all gaits and unexpected moments over a month or so. She turned every time. She also matched the degree of her bodily turn to the degree of my head turn.

Even if she was picking up some form of unconscious directional change in my body, that level of sensory discrimination is sick—in the very best way.

Can a huge animal be sensitive? Well, the average horse weighs 50 million times more than the average fly, but immediately feels the pest settle on his body. A hypothetical human with that degree of sensitivity would feel the weight of five unseen dandelion seeds—something real humans can’t do. Trained horses can detect from two yards away a nod of the human head that measures only 8/1000 of an inch in displacement. That’s two-and-a-half times more susceptible to visual displacement than we are. Faced with the same nod, humans wouldn’t even know it had occurred.

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If we were as sensitive as horses, we’d be able to detect the weight of five dandelion seeds.

One more statistic: at the withers, a horse can detect 3/10,000 of an ounce of pressure from one nylon filament—the weight of about three grains of sand. Poke the same filament into a human fingertip, and we have no idea it’s there.

With this level of sensitivity, horses notice the difference between 1 inch of shoulder movement and 2 inches. And they’re trying to figure out what it means. If we fail to train our brains proprioceptively, our horses suffer confusion in the face of mixed messages.

A secondary issue is at work here, too: Vision, while a tremendous boon for daily life, often interferes with proprioception. For example, asked to walk at a normal pace and stop with both feet toeing an imaginary line, most people will look at their feet to accomplish the task. Just for fun, hop up and try that, then practice a few times without looking. You might be surprised at how close you come to the line that your eyes can’t see. Our brains can direct our bodies without eyesight, if we let them. Vision cheats our proprioceptive system of the chance to do its work.

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Walk and stop with your feet on an imaginary line, without looking. Your brain can do it if you let it. Photo by Amine M’Siouri.

So, equestrians hone proprioception not only because our mounts are super-sensitive, but also because we can’t watch our bodies or our horses while we ride. We have no choice but to ride by feel. Proprioceptive training teaches our brains to align our joints, maintain balance, isolate muscles for independent use, and regulate their flexibility and strength in ways that promote direct communication between horse and rider.

HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN by Janet Jones is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

FathersDay2020-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Ladd Farm Photography

We’re celebrating fathers this weekend. Thank you to eventer, trainer, horseman, and author of IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN Tik Maynard for this original essay.

God, I’m turning into my dad. I forget where I put the car keys, my wallet. I wear riding pants to the grocery store. I can’t find the milk—it’s right in front of me! I only listen to music I know the words to. My wife has to repeat herself.

Every year my dad hears my mum less and less. Recently she spent weeks deliberating how to tactfully suggest he go in for a hearing test. “Maybe he just needs a hearing aid?” she said. “It’s his happiness I’m worried about,” she explained.

After the test, the doctor sat my dad down.

“So your wife says you don’t hear her anymore?”

Dad, a little embarrassed: “That’s what she says.”

Doctor: “Well, Rick, I don’t know what you’re going to tell her…. Your hearing is fine.”

My parents met in 1957. My mother was eleven. My dad was fifteen. They both grew up in Southlands, a neighborhood in Vancouver. They both loved horses. My mother took lessons at his grandparents’ farm. (His parents, and grandparents, rode; hers did not.)  Recently I asked my mother about how they met:

“Rick was getting into trouble (rolling cars with his girlfriend, amongst other things) so he and his parents [Rick is an only child] moved back in with his grandparents. That’s when I started getting to know Rick better, but as I was fourteen and he was eighteen, and he had a steady girlfriend, there were no expectations on my part. But we used to go up the UBC trails a lot, and at one point, as we were galloping along the beach at Spanish banks, he said, ‘You are so much more fun than Sally!’ So I guess that is when I started getting a bit of a crush.

“That was how we met. How he proposed is funny, too. I was about eighteen, and he was twenty-two. We did a lot of fun stuff together: riding up trails; hikes; swimming; flying around the province in the two-seater Luscombe that was provided by Pitt Meadows Flying Club. It was Valentine’s Day, I forget the year, probably 1965 or ’66, and we went canoeing on the Squamish River. It was kind of cold and rainy and neither of us really had canoeing skills. We started to go sideways and hit a bridge overpass and capsized. The river was shallow enough that we could stand up and drag the canoe to shore. Rick’s movie camera got soaked. We aborted the trip and went home. He lit a fire and we got warmed up. At that point he produced the ring which had been in his pocket the whole day waiting for the romantic moment! But that was years before we actually got married, in 1968. We picked the date of August 29 because Gramps was the official photographer at the Pacific National Exhibition Horse Show, and in those days the PNE was divided into three sections. Your horse had to stay for the whole section, and in between there was a ‘changeover day’ where the horses went out, and the next section of horses came in. On that day there was no photographer needed, so Gramps had the day off. August 29, 1968, was changeover day at the PNE. And Gramps was the official photographer at our wedding.”

This August that will be fifty-two years.

My parents, like most couples I assume, but don’t know for sure, argued. Sometimes with my mother losing her patience. Often with my father leaving the room. But never once in my entire life did I hear the words “breakup” or “divorce.” Their relationship gave me a powerful faith in marriage, loyalty, and family.

My faith in our “family unit” was so strong it might be called blind—and this ability to weather any storm, together, is what I want to give my own family and son.

 

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Photo courtesy of Tik Maynard

 

My dad also gave me a love for animals. Far beyond that, he gave me an empathy for animals. He became a vegetarian in 1959, before it became a big fad in Vancouver. And I was born a vegetarian. I eat dairy and fish, but I can count on one hand the number of times I have tried red meat. (What we are doing to the oceans has convinced me to be more careful about fish now, too.)

I can’t imagine it was easy for my dad to tell his parents and his friends he had given up meat. Today he is just as strong in his convictions. This is how it began, again in my mother’s words:

“In 1959 Rick was living in Maple Ridge on a farm. He was in Pony Club and was selected for the Inter-Pacific Rally in Australia. The other two team members were Tom Gayford, and I think Jim Elder, but I’m not sure about that. They both flew to Australia, but the Maynards had no money, so Rick got passage on a freighter. [The MV King Arthur, carrying lumber, on the way there. The SS Suva, with a load of Sugar from Fiji, on the way back]. I think it took six weeks to get there. Anyhow, some time before he left they got a couple of piglets. Higgledy and Wiggles. ‘Large Pink’ or ‘Yorkshire’ animals. When Rick came back from Australia they were in the freezer! Trauma!”

So my Dad was seventeen when he made this seemingly small decision to act on his own beliefs rather than those of the society around him. But that decision has caused me, and many others that have met my dad, to question their own beliefs. My dad still remembers those pigs. They were intelligent. Each had a character unique to them. And both were “pink with lovely floppy ears.”

For my father to imagine an animal suffering is for him to suffer as well.

I try to carry that thoughtfulness into my career with horses. This started me down the road of learning “natural horsemanship,” and then to understanding “positive reinforcement,” and now to new ideas where I see the similarities between horses, dogs, children, even myself.

My dad taught me to ride; now it is my lifestyle and career, the same as it is for him. And my dad taught me all that by never telling me what to do.

 

 

My dad always speaks to me as if I understand. He always listens to my opinion. He lets me make mistakes. He taught me at home but always encouraged me to take lessons and clinics from other professionals. My dad has attended over 250 clinics, and he has gotten “…at least one very useful idea out of every one.”

I cannot imagine a more humble student of equestrianism than my father. He has coached riders that have gone on to Grand Prix and the Olympics. Recently he has been approached about coaching show jumping for the Canadian Modern Pentathlon Team at the next Olympics. (He has already coached that team at the Olympics twice!) Yet still, at every clinic, he makes notes. Lately he has come to some of my clinics, and he watches and asks questions.

 

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In the words of Canadian show jumping team rider Brian Morton: “ Rick has been the most incredible mentor and father figure in my life. He is a man that first and foremost leads by example. Rick is one of the most naturally talented riders I’ve ever seen. He had and has the ability to win in great style on every type of horse, in every type of event. I got the pleasure to watch Rick win many times, however I’m not sure I can ever recall a boastful moment from him. He is always the first person to give credit to the horse, or to the groom or to whoever it may be that he felt contributed to his success on that day. Rick was my coach and mentor for many years, and if I won a class he was very happy for me. However, if managed to demonstrate the values of humility, perseverance, sportsmanship and patience that he holds so dear, those were the moments that I felt he was the proudest of me”

Dad, I have learned empathy, and commitment to my family from you. You have instilled in me an unrelenting-thirst-for-improvement. Sinead says I am still working on humility.

Thanks for inspiring me, Dad. Happy Fathers Day!

 

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Rick and Brooks Maynard, photo courtesy of Tik Maynard.

Horseman Tik Maynard is the author of the bestselling IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN, available in print and digital formats from the TSB online bookstore.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Top5EBooks-FB-horseandriderbooks

As we roll toward a summer that promises to be a bit less social than what we might be used to, having some good reading material lined up is going to be HUGE. If you love to ride or are just crazy about horses, we have 5 great equestrian eBooks to recommend.

 

In the Middle Are the Horsemen-horseandriderbooks1  IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN by Tik Maynard

For: Any rider, horse person, or individual seeking a life’s purpose. Those interested in becoming a working student. Those who enjoy travel memoir.

What the critics say: “Funny, honest, and eloquent.” (UnTacked)

 

Four Legs Move My Soul-horseandriderbooks2  FOUR LEGS MOVE MY SOUL by Isabell Werth and Evi Simeoni

For: Dressage enthusiasts. Any competitive rider. Those who enjoy athletes’ biographies.

What the critics say: “A compelling read, with refreshingly honest commentary from Isabell.” (Horse & Hound)

 

Brain Train for Riders Final-horseandriderbooks3  BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS by Andrea Monsarrat Waldo

For: Anyone struggling to surmount issues with fear, lack of confidence, insecurity, anxiety, or nerves when working with horses or competing. Those who like practical exercises for self-improvement.

What the critics say: “Life-changing, honestly.” ($900 Facebook Pony)

 

Horses in Translation-horseandriderbooks4  HORSES IN TRANSLATION by Sharon Wilsie

For: Every horse person looking to “get” what horses say to us and learn how best to respond in a language they can understand. Those who like to read true stories that impart important lessons.

What the critics say: “Wilsie is a gifted storyteller…I was enthralled.” (Horse Nation)

 

Many Brave Fools-horseandriderbooks5  MANY BRAVE FOOLS by Susan E. Conley

For: Women, those who are horse-crazy (newbie or experienced). Those new to riding or horsekeeping. Those dealing with codependency, addiction, and recovery.

What the critics say: “Revealing tale of recovery…honest and humorous.” (Equine Journal)

 

So, How Can I Order?

TSB is SUPER excited to announce that you can now buy eBook editions of your favorite equestrian titles directly from our online bookstore! We have partnered with another independent company and an app called Glassboxx for a seamless eBook order, read, and storage experience. Check out the 100 titles we offer as eBooks (CLICK HERE for a complete list) or browse our store with over 400 books and videos about horses and equestrian sport from some of the top names in the world. (Note: Our New Releases are generally available in eBook format about three months after publication.)

Orders from today until June 14 get 20% off both digital and print orders by using the coupon code EBOOKS (enter the coupon code at checkout). We have FREE SHIPPING in the USA.

CLICK HERE to shop now.

Thank you for supporting small businesses!

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Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

CatchingtheUncatchableHorse-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

In her brand new book WHAT HORSES REALLY WANT, horsewoman Lynn Acton explores a number of skills we all would like to bring to the barn, for example:

  • The ability to earn a horse’s trust starting from the moment you meet him.
  • Knowledge of how to discourage unwanted behavior without punishment.
  • Experience turning pressure into a clear means of communication instead of a source of stress.
  • And more.
What Horses Really Want

Brandy is the covergirl on Lynn’s book.

One of the topics Lynn discusses centers around the book’s covergirl: Brandy, a rescue destined to become part of Lynn’s herd. Brandy had been found wandering loose in upstate New York and was so feral it had taken months to lure her into a pasture so she could be herded into a trailer for transport to a rescue farm.

“I have always been good at catching horses,” says Lynn. “I have been doing it the same way for so long I don’t remember when or how I learned, but it works.”

Here’s the technique Lynn shares in WHAT HORSES REALLY WANT:

You might be tempted to skip this if your horse is easy to catch, but consider this: good horsemanship includes preparing for the unexpected, such as a gate left open, a rider down, or a loose horse frantic in a situation where he is in the most danger. Our impulse is to rush toward him in a desperate attempt to grab reins or halter, the action most certain to scare him off. Horses who are frightened or excited for any reason need a delicate approach.

The day we met Brandy, her increasingly desperate charge around the arena clearly showed fear. I did what I have always done with horses who do not want to be caught. I invited her to “catch” me instead. This approach is the best starting place even with horses who appear stubborn because such “bad behavior” often masks anxiety.

I strolled toward the center of the ring with a casual slouch, head down, unthreatening. When Brandy looked at me, I backed away, thus rewarding her for looking at me. When she stopped looking at me, I got her attention by moseying obliquely into her line of sight, weaving little serpentines. When she looked at me again, I stopped. When she began to slow down, I stepped back.

When Brandy looked like she was thinking about stepping toward me, I took another step backward. After a few more laps, she actually did step toward me. I took a bigger step back.

It is an intricate dance, each step meant to reassure the horse that I will not chase, harass, or scare her. The more skittish the horse, the slower my approach. Each time she looks at me or moves my way, I reward her by stopping or backing up. If she moves away, I resume moving, careful to keep my angle of approach in front of her, to avoid chasing her.

When Brandy walked toward me, I backed up slowly, letting her catch up to me. Then I stood still, hands down, just talking quietly to her for a moment. Since reaching toward a horse from the front is more threatening, I executed a slow about face so I was standing next to her, facing the same way. Slowly I reached up and scratched her shoulder. It had taken her about 10 minutes to catch me.

At this point, if I wanted to halter the horse, I would slowly reach the lead line under her neck with my left hand, reaching over the crest to grasp the line with my right. This is less threatening than placing a rope over the neck. Having already faced the same direction as the horse, I am in position to slowly slip the halter on. If she is already wearing a halter, I work my hand up to it. Every move is gentle, in slow motion. I breathe deeply.

Instead of haltering Brandy the first time she caught me, I just visited with her for a few quiet minutes, then walked back to the gate. Brandy followed me. She parked herself within arm’s reach of me, and stayed there calmly until I left. While I was not surprised that I had persuaded Brandy to catch me, I was surprised when she followed me and stayed with me. This told me that she wanted to trust.

 

WHAT HORSES REALLY WANT is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to read more or order now.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

 

We’re celebrating moms this weekend. Thank you to eventer, trainer, horseman, and author of IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN Tik Maynard for this original essay.

 

Scanned Documents

Tik and his mother Jen. Photo courtesy of Rick Maynard.

Mum

My mother walks into the bank, where she has banked since she was six years old. She waits in line, shuffling her feet. She studies the patrons, alert for gossip. The teller is frowning at a young girl who keeps repeating, “I don’t think so,” and then scrolls through her phone.

My mother huffs at cars that drive too fast, puffs at cars that drive too slow. She can’t teach riding, like my dad and I do, because she doesn’t “understand why they just don’t get it.” And if you are not a Democrat (in Canada a Green or NDP, or maybe a Liberal, if it is a year to vote strategically), you don’t have a prayer.

After ten minutes Mum walks up to the counter. The teller wears wire-rimmed glasses and is nearing retirement. She takes a deep breath then looks up at my mother. As Mum opens her mouth to say something, the teller speaks first. “Piss off,” she hisses.

My mother rocks back. Her eyes widen. And then she laughs. The teller smiles. They giggle. She feels honored that she is the kind of woman who can take a joke.

Mum will give it, but she can take it too. She loves that kind of thing. My mother teaches me to not take myself too seriously.

***

TikandMum3

Photo courtesy of Rick Maynard.

When I’m home in Canada we play Scrabble. Mum usually wins, which is frustrating because I want to win more than she does. She just likes getting a lot of points—the 50-point bonus for using all seven letters in her hand, or putting an X or a J on a triple-letter score. She is an expert at the small words: ZUZ, QAT, XI, XU, QI, KA, ZA, AA.

I lay down “LIB” across, which adds an “L” to “AB” to make ”LAB.”

“Great words, Tik!”

“Thanks, Mum.”

She does the math. “You’re only 85 points behind,” she says sincerely.

“Thanks, Mum.”

My mother reminds me to keep enjoying things for their own sake.

***

I wonder who else banters. It drives my dad crazy. It pushes my wife to the edge. But my mother and I can’t get enough of it.

“You shouldn’t talk on the phone while you drive.”

“It’s legal in Florida.”

“Legality is not the same as intelligence.”

“Are you calling me stupid? Because stupidly is mostly genetic.”

Scanned Documents

Photo courtesy of Rick Maynard.

“If you are going 60 miles an hour and look down at your phone for two seconds, that is like going the length of a football field without looking up.”

“Did you know 80 percent of statistics are made up on the spot?”

My mother looks at me.

“Mum, I’m just saying, did you do the math on that?”

“We can figure it out right now…”

“And have you ever compared the reaction times of someone in their thirties to some in their eighties?”

“I was born in 1946.”

“So you haven’t?”

It’s like eating potato chips. We can’t stop.

***

My wife Sinead and I have a little joke where we like to give each other backhanded compliments.  We decided to let my mum in on the game this year and sent her a gift with this written on the card:

What some might call stubborn and overbearing
we see as strong-willed and filled with love. 
Happy Mother’s Day, from Tik, Sinead, and Brooks

***

My mother taught me to appreciate stories and literature. She taught me the names of constellations and how to grow tomatoes and that science is a method and not a discipline.

She taught me to question authority. (Entirely by example.)

My mother made me realize that we are all paradoxes. We are all hypocritical. She taught me that loving someone and understanding someone are not the same thing. My mother drives me crazy.

My mother taught me to love strong women.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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Photo by Patricia Dileo.

***

You don’t have to be from a different generation to be a strong woman. Take Sinead, for example. This will be her second Mother’s Day as a mother. Our son Brooks, about 20 months old, asked me to write a few words for him:

 

“Mummy” 

I watch Mummy make me breakfast. I watch her make me lunch. I watch her make me dinner. When my diaper needs to be changed she can make that happen too: She says “Oh, Daddy. Your turn for a bit…”

Sometimes I cry, but when I see Mummy, I know it will be okay.

Mummy teaches me things: “Dogs go ‘Woof-woof.’ Cows go ‘Moooo.’ Auntie Meg goes ‘Ca-caw, Ca-caw.’”

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Brooks and Sinead. Photo by Patricia Dileo.

Mummy reads me books like Giraffes Can’t Dance. She makes a joke about Daddy, but I think he is a good dancer. “Well, he is enthusiastic,” Mummy says. I don’t understand most of the book, but I point at the things I recognize and make noises.

When Mummy sits with me on the couch I feel like a prince. Sitting with Mummy is special; not everyone gets to sit with Mummy.

Mummy rides horses. I see her with them, and she is focused and calm. It is difficult to be focused and calm.

I like hugging Mummy. Mostly I just hug her legs, but when she picks me up and hugs me that is the best.

I love you Mummy.

***

In the Middle Are the Horsemen

 

Tik’s memoir IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN is available from the TSB online bookstore. 

CLICK HERE to read a free excerpt or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

TSBMOMS-horseandriderbooks

It is difficult to avoid sounding platitudinal when praising moms in honor of Mother’s Day. But in a time when our very survival—as healthy individuals, as equestrians, as teachers, coaches, competitors…as a business—is being tested, it only seems fair to acknowledge how support and sacrifice for one person ultimately impacts many. Here, four of our authors and two members of the TSB staff recognize how their moms helped them become who they are today. And tomorrow, horseman and author Tik Maynard will share a special essay on the subject of “mums.” Come back and see what he has to say.

 

FreestyleSandra Beaulieu, author of FREESTYLE

“My mother Peggy has always been supportive of my riding career. She was not a  horse person, but she understood that I had a lot of passion and dedication at a young age. I used to get very stressed at horse shows; I put a lot of pressure on myself to get particular scores, and I was way too serious! I remember one show my mom put a smiley face sticker on my horse’s bridle, right on the poll, so I could see it while I was riding my dressage test. She always tried to lighten the mood and be supportive!

“Mom also spent countless hours videotaping my lessons so that I could review them afterward. This was before cell phones so the video camera was quite large and clunky!

“Thanks to my mom’s encouragement and support, I have had a wonderful career with horses. She loves to refer to my horse as her ‘grandhorse’ since she doesn’t have any grandchildren. Thank you Mom you are the best!”

Sandra and Peggy Beaulieu

Sandra and Peggy Beaulieu. Photo courtesy of Sandra Beaulieu.

 

Stride ControlJen Marsden Hamilton, author of STRIDE CONTROL

“I grew up in the 1950s and 60s, so my mum, Loys Marsden, was the typical mother of the time. She kept the house, looked after my sister and me, volunteered at the library, and belonged to the local garden club.

“When my parents gave in to their horse-crazy daughter (me), life changed…albeit gradually. Mum became my chauffeur to the stable for lessons, and when I started going to local shows, she became a terrific groom—she could braid a lovely tail and even sewed my riding jacket! Her volunteering days turned into hours helping me muck out and feed…she sometimes even lunged horses to keep them fit when I was busy at school.

“My mum was a true encourager and my biggest cheerleader.

“Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers…especially the mothers of horse-crazy kids.”

 

Many Brave FoolsSusan Conley, author of MANY BRAVE FOOLS

“I’m fortunate in that I had two maternal figures in my life: my mother and her sister, my godmother. Auntie Sue (I’m her namesake) was 19 when I was born; she never married or had children herself, so I and my siblings had her loving attention our whole lives. She is no longer with us in the physical, and I miss her every day.

“One of my first memories is being driven around with Auntie Sue in her Mustang, which even at age four I knew was ridiculously cool. Talk about a role model! I doubt that, should I get my version of a Mustang, it will have an engine, but I’m hoping my engagement with horses is making a similar impression my nieces and nephews!”

 

 

FergustheHorseJean Abernethy, creator of FERGUS THE HORSE

“What a privilege it has been for the last 30 years to be a mum and to have my mum, Shirley. Living through some hard times shaped Mum into a relentless optimist. I am the youngest of her four children. She taught us how to work hard and play fair. How to prepare bird or beast for the oven—from the barnyard, to the supper plate. How to play music. How to say “I love you” and “I’m sorry” and the joy of a real good laugh. “Be a sport,” she would say. “Don’t be a stick-in-the-mud!”

“To this day, my mum’s love for family and her nine grandchildren shines as bright as the sun. So Happy Mother’s Day to you, Mum. Thanks to your example I now have two amazing young men who call me ‘Mum’ with love in their voices.”

 

Martha Cook, Managing Director

“My remarkable mom. The changes she’s seen in her 97 years. She grew up in the Great Depression. She served in World War II as a WAVE in the Navy, managed a small business, and unerringly supported her horse-crazy daughter. Thanks from the bottom of my heart, Mom!”

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Ruth and Martha Cook. Photo courtesy of Martha Cook.

 

Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor

“With no money and no knowledge of the equestrian world, my mother helped me find a way to have horses in my life. She taught me to work for it if I wanted it and to get back on when I fell off (even if she had to look the other way!) My mother’s convictions, her creativity, her love for books and art, and her curiosity for the world in all its minuscule and easily missed moments of beauty, were integral to my evolution. I am so thankful to have her as a mother, friend, and fellow explorer.”

BeccaandMom

Rebecca and her mom, Francesca. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Didier.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms of riders and writers…without you, TSB wouldn’t be!

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

MakeYrOwnPonyPencilHolder-horseandriderbooks

If you are looking for an easy craft to entertain your kids, here’s a fun, free idea! Plus, you probably have all the materials you need already at your fingertips (and if not, simple substitutes can be found around the house).

Don’t forget to remind your young crafters that their finished ponies can be customized with spots, brands, or braids in their manes and tails!

See below for a quick visual guide of materials and instructions, or CLICK HERE to download the Pony Pencil Holder page from our book HORSE FUN: FACTS AND ACTIVITIES FOR HORSE-CRAZY KIDS by Gudrun Braun and Anne Scheller, with art by Anike Hage.

HOW TO MAKE A PONY PENCIL HOLDER

HorseFunMakeaPencilHolder-horseandriderbooks

HORSE FUN is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

HorseFun-horseandriderbooks

HORSE FUN is full of real, fact-based knowledge about horses, as well as crafts and games!

Every order publisher-direct from TSB supports a
small, independently owned business!

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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