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When Dan James of Double Dan Horsemanship was growing up in his native Australia, his father stressed the importance of using long-reining as part of early groundwork when starting colts, as well as using the technique as a safe way to troubleshoot issues when restarting older horses with training or behavior problems. But the influx of American horsemanship methods just as Dan James and his business partner Dan Steers began their careers meant the popularity of traditional long-reining techniques waned.

It was when Dan and Dan trained with Heath Harris, one of the world’s elite liberty trainers and the man behind the horses in blockbuster films such as The Man from Snowy River, Phar Lap, The Young Black Stallion, and The Legend of Zorro, that they discovered the true value of long-reining in a horse’s education.

“Heath mounted us up on green Warmbloods that had just come in for training,” Dan and Dan remember in their new book LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP. “If one of those ‘giants’ wasn’t well broke and ran away, it could get scary really fast. It became quickly apparent that the more we had these horses bridled up and working well from the ground, the easier it was when we got into the saddle.”

So yes, long-reining is a fantastic intermediate groundwork step that bridges the gap between leading a horse and riding him.

“There are a lot of horses that get ‘lost in translation’ when making that leap,” say Dan and Dan, “so the simpler and smoother you can make the transition, the better. We’re not saying that everything a horse can do when being long-reined he will automatically be able to do with you on his back, but we do find it drastically reduces the level of fear and confusion for most horses. And, colts that are taught long-reining progress much faster starting under saddle than horses that are taught everything from their back.”

Heath Harris also had Dan and Dan work with off-the-track Thoroughbreds and “problem” horses that needed to revisit earlier training to fill in holes in their education. These horses taught them that long-reining is equally useful for building a foundation, working through issues, or refining skills the horses might already possess.

“Since we started teaching long-reining to the public, we’ve learned that the magic it works with horses is only half of its benefits,” say Dan and Dan. “We’ve also discovered it helps people gain confidence with their horsemanship—no small thing.”

Long-reining rapidly builds from basic skills to performing high-level exercises. Many classically trained dressage riders at the Olympian level use a lot of long-reining in their programs, as do some elite Western riders. And of course, we’re all familiar with famous Lipizzaner stallions from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, who–alongside their trainers–take long-reining to its highest level of difficulty, entertaining the world with maneuvers that once prepared horses for the immense challenges of the battlefield.

Whether you are into Western or English riding, the long-reining concepts taught in LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP are well worth trying!

“If you have ever seen the Double Dans perform a long-reining demonstration, I am sure that you have been amazed by their skill and talent,” says Jen Johnson, Chief Executive Director of North American Western Dressage (NAWD). “At North American Western Dressage, we understand that good horsemanship begins on the ground. Long-reining can help you and your horse develop a great deal of harmony before you ever get in the saddle, and your horse can learn to use his body in a beneficial manner—without the added weight of a rider. Working your horse from the ground enhances physical and emotional fitness, and this is a great step-by-step guide to help you, with lots of terrific exercises.”

“Dan James and his partner in Double Dan Horsemanship, Dan Steers, are very well suited to offer advice in achieving success with long-lining techniques in a friendly, easy-to-follow manner,” agrees FEI 4* judge and long-lining expert Bo Jena.

You can download a free chapter from LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP or order a copy of the book from the Trafalgar Square Books storefront, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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fit2ridebackside

It’s the point that comes in contact with the horse and the saddle (and sometimes the ground)…the part of our bodies we eye with disgust in the tack shop mirror when trying on breeches…the area we want the fringe on our chaps to accentuate when we’re young and camouflage when we’re…not-so-young. Our bottoms, our backsides, our glutes—the butt can’t be an afterthought, as much as it might trail behind us. Its shape and its state of “flab or fab” matters—to our riding and to our horses.

In her new book FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS! certified fitness trainer and riding coach Heather Sansom explains that the rider’s “backline” includes the gluteals, hamstring, and calf muscles, and all of these are necessary to a balanced, straight, and supple equestrian who can communicate clearly and efficiently with her horse.

“Due to our seated lifestyle,” says Heather, “these muscles are often undeveloped, causing them to be short and tight, which has a negative impact on the rider’s position and her ability to have tension-free, full body usage.”

So does this mean we have to ramp up our rump work? Heather says it isn’t just about conditioning this area of the body, it’s about doing it the right way for riding.

“The large muscle on your seat, the gluteus maximus, is a primary muscle responsible for powering human movement,” she explains. “It needs to be strong and powerful for nearly all sports because you cannot run or transfer energy or motion up through your body without strong glutes. It is common for exercise trainers who are not riders to think that posting is just the same as performing squats, lunges, or pliés, and that the engine of the motion is in the rider’s leg and seat as it would be for all other similar looking movements where the rider is springing from her feet. In actuality, the energy from posting only partially comes from the rider’s leg and hip. The rest comes from the momentum of the horse transferred to the rider through the inner leg contact.

Certified Fitness Trainer and Riding Coach Heather Sansom shows us how fitness can improve our abilities in the saddle, enabling our horses to perform their best.

Certified Fitness Trainer and Riding Coach Heather Sansom shows us how fitness can improve our abilities in the saddle, enabling our horses to perform their best.

“For a rider, gluteal strength is important, but not for the reasons often supposed (such as above). The strength in the gluteals is not for powering motion so much as it is for first, supporting rising-seat postures, and second, anchoring back positioning muscles as well as controlling leg-aid strength. Unfortunately, most riders spend a great deal of their day sitting, which causes this large and important muscle to atrophy. Also, since riding itself is a more or less seated activity, riding does not condition the muscle sufficiently.

“Many riders have weak ‘glutes’ accompanied by tight and short hip flexors. The combined problem creates a chair-seat leg, and when the rider tries to correct the chair seat by force, it creates a locked-down hip due to muscle tension. It also makes it difficult for the rider to hold her spine neutral when the hip flexors (psoas and iliacus muscle), pulling on the lower back, and weak glutes provide no counter-support. The gluteus maximus is included as a core muscle because without tone in this area, the rider’s hips cannot be supple and straight, and the torso has no base of support.

“Many exercises that train the gluteus maximus also often train the hamstring muscle. I like riders to use bodyweight exercises such as lunges because they train proper folding at the hips, and use of the hamstrings along their length (as well as gluteals). Although popular in fitness gyms, exercises using machines or equipment to target the hamstrings alone are often not as useful for riders or others training for application to movement (functional training), because they do not train the hamstrings functionally. In some cases, they train just one small segment of the muscle, which creates a ‘bunchy’ muscle that is not useful for riders.

“Generally, I don’t recommend exercises for riders that create ‘bunchy’ muscles since these can cause issue with proper seat and leg position, as well as with proper body usage in riding. A rider can be quite strong, and should be if she also does farm work since strength training protects joints from strain. But bulky or unevenly developed muscles get in the way of the rider and also don’t engage efficiently.

“I do not recommend that most riders do exercises like leg presses (lying backward on a machine and pushing great amounts of weight with your feet), for example, because the weight loading can far exceed the rider’s bodyweight. Besides creating a risk of hip injury, this type of exercise creates bulk which, again, is not functionally useful, and may even impede a nice leg position.”

To find out the simple ways you can get fit to ride for your horse in 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week, for 9 weeks, check out FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS! by Heather Sansom, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

 

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

 

OutofWildHere

NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING JOHN DIEHL, JEAN LOUISA KELLEY AND BEN ASHBROOK | DIRECTED BY PAUL KRIZAN

We’ve all fallen hard for Mark Rashid’s powerful storytelling in his numerous bestselling memoirs about horses, horsemanship, and how humans can enter the mix. Now we’re thrilled to announce the release of his novel OUT OF THE WILD in advance of the debut of the new feature film based on the book.

One dark, vacant, Nevada night cattle rancher Henry McBride closes his eyes, only to open them and find his life suddenly in shambles, with everything that means anything lost to him forever. Overwhelmed by grief and haunted by guilt, Henry drives away from his past as far and as fast as he can. Jobs, towns, and whiskey come and go. He always tells himself he’ll stay just long enough to earn the money he needs to buy his next drink, somewhere else on down the road.

But guest ranch owner Jessie King extends an open and forgiving hand to the cowboy, and the arrival of a young mustang stallion— also wounded and alone—ignites a flicker of recognition in Henry. Like him…broken. With Jessie’s powerful ability to connect with horses, and her gentle attempts to connect with Henry, time slows enough on the ranch to heal, just a little. But Jessie, too, has an imperfect past, and when her former ranch manager returns with murder in mind, the fragile world she, Henry, and the stallion are building together threatens to come crashing down.

OutofWildFB

An excerpt from OUT OF THE WILD by Mark Rashid:

Dust rose from under the horses’ feet as they moved in a slow circle around her, and the setting sun gave the entire scene a crimson hue Henry had never seen before. He continued to watch for several minutes, almost in awe at the relationship Jessie had with her horses, and it was only after she had made contact with each one that she made her way back through the herd, climbed through the fence and walked slowly back the way she had come.

As soon as Jessie was out of sight, Henry stepped off the porch and nonchalantly made his way over to the pen she had just vacated. He stood outside the corral for several seconds, looked in every direction to make sure nobody was watching, then climbed through the fence and in with the horses. He stood in the same spot Jessie had when the horses first approached and waited for them to respond. The horses barely acknowledged his presence, and then turned their backs to him and walk away as if he wasn’t even there.

“I’ll be damned,” he said to himself. He turned and looked in the direction Jessie went when she left the pen, and wondered what kind of magic she used on the herd. He looked back at the horses and found they had dispersed all over the pen and gone back to eating the piles of hay scattered on the ground. “How the hell’d she do that?”

OUT OF THE WILD, the novel by Mark Rashid, is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to order the book now.

Watch the trailer for OUT OF THE WILD the movie here:

 

“A story of redemption that gives us a glimpse into ways of looking at horses, and perhaps even ourselves, with new eyes.”

—THE HUFFINGTON POST

 

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

GHM-magic

As we watch the Olympic Team Jumping Qualification and the jubilation in the Brazilian camp as members rack up clear rounds in search of a place on the podium in front of their home crowd, we are no doubt a little sad to acknowledge that in Rio, George Morris is focused on the success of someone other than our own American riders. It is, of course, the way of the equestrian world for the most talented coaches to cross international borders on a regular basis, and so we cannot be surprised that George was eventually tempted to help the country he admits is one of his “absolute favorite places” go for gold.

But if the Brazilians do keep it up and George is, in fact, making magic in Rio, one can’t help but wonder if he’s had to apply the same kind of tough love that has not only been his clinic calling card for decades, but also helped guide the US to their success in countless World Equestrian Games, World Championships, and Olympics of years past.

“In 2005, George Morris took over the role of Chef d’Equipe of the U.S. Show Jumping Team,” writes Olympic silver and gold medalist Chris Kappler in his foreword to UNRELENTING, George’s bestselling autobiography, which was released earlier this year. “Shortly after, I received a call from a member of one of his first Nations Cup teams. ‘How did you do this?’ the rider asked. ‘Chris, how did you work for George for twenty years?’ As the new Chef, George was pushing limits…Commanding specific attitudes, turnout, and professionalism, he expected an extraordinary commitment…I have experienced first-hand the zealous pursuit of excellence for which George is famous. ‘If you can take my pressure cooker,’ George would always say, ‘the Olympics will seem like nothing.’”

“I always had childhood dreams of going to the Olympics someday,” adds five-time Olympian Anne Kursinksi in UNRELENTING. “With George’s encouragement…I made it…Horsemanship and what it took to have an Olympic level horse was George’s passion, and it was contagious! George had vision and made it all happen; he took us all with him. It was an amazing time. George helped you figure out how to be your absolute best. For him, there is no other way to be in life.”

Excellence. Passion. Vision. Absolute best. This is where the magic begins, and I can’t begrudge another from wanting to sample from the fountain of success. Ultimately, George’s willingness to share his wealth of knowledge helps improve the level of horsemanship and elevate the level of competition, worldwide. I, for one, can’t wait to see the results.

TSB wishes all riders and horses in the Olympic Equestrian Jumping Competition the best of luck. Have fun, ride safe, and enjoy the remarkable partnership that helped you reach the pinnacle of the sport!

UNRELENTING by George H. Morris is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

ORDER NOW and SAVE with our OLYMPIC FEVER SALE! Click here.

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

TSB caught up with Anne Gribbons, FEI/USEF dressage judge, former Technical Director of the US Dressage Team, and author of the wonderful book of “dressage time travel” COLLECTIVE REMARKS, and we asked for her thoughts on the 2016 Olympic Dressage competition, underway now in Rio de Janeiro. Here are her insights as we begin Day 2. (For Anne’s refreshingly honest and brutally funny perspective on past Olympics and other international competitions, as well as all manner of dressage-related subjects, check out COLLECTIVE REMARKS!)

 

ANNE & STEFAN

Anne Gribbons with Steffen Peters in 2010.

 

After all the misgivings about Brazil not being able to handle the Olympics, it has come out of the starting box with flair. The eventing coverage was fabulous, the cross-country course beautiful and challenging, and the surprises many. Perhaps that is why I will always love combined training the most, because things can change in a heartbeat and each second can present a different landscape. And you can actually be competing, driving home without a ribbon, and still completely elated because the horse jumped so well it made your heart sing. Obviously, this is not the feeling you would have if something  goes awry on the Olympic course, and I am sure both Phillip Dutton and Ingrid Klimke were less than amused after brilliant dressage rides with the odd mishaps they had, which completely changed their standings at the top. 

Now the dressage is on, where the risk is limited and the element of surprise is a rarity. At this level, we expect each equipage to know its lessons well, and few mishaps to occur in the test. What we look for and revel in is the finely tuned communication between horse and rider. We search for  the balance, the self-carriage, the connection between the hand of the rider and the mouth of the horse. Harmony and yet full power when horse  and rider together reach for their ultimate best is what thrills us and keeps us glued to the screen. Watching it at home is a miracle, until it is not. When the streaming  momentarily shuts off, you get rudely pulled back to reality. With impeccable timing, this happens just as your country’s horse enters the ring. 

And I mentioned no surprises? Well, not true the first day when the Dutch star Parzival was retired by his rider who felt he was not quite up to the task. Good horsemanship, but a blow to the Dutch team, while it gave an opening to the Americans. We are talking fractions of a point here, and with no drop score left, the Dutch are more vulnerable. Since Kasey Perry-Glass had a very solid ride once she got past the first five movements when Dublet was busy in the mouth and Kasey was a bit tense, our chances looked even better after her ride. The Germans are powering on, and nobody expects any other team to catch up with them. In spite of one imploding pirouette and another weak one, Dorothee Schneider showed such strength in the rest of her work on Showtime that they gathered over 80%. And the 21-year-old Sönke Rothenberger who went first in the German team on his 10-year-old horse shows all the signs of growing up in a horse family. He admits he gets help from his father, Olympic rider Sven Rothenberger, but insists that his true calling is actually jumping. Well, if dressage is only his sideline, wait until he focuses on it! 

Riding for England, Fiona Bigwood had a very impressive ride on a wonderfully elastic and submissive mare named Orthilia. Imagine coming back from an injury that robs you of sight in one eye and putting on such a spot-on performance where balance and accuracy is of essence. Hats off to this lady who received a well-earned 77-plus% as a forerunner to more great scores expected by the remaining Brits, who are expected to finish in at least silver position. 

And then there is the US with four great quality horses and well prepared riders. Over the last two years all these combinations have gradually become more seasoned. Except for Roosevelt, I know all the team horses very well, and I am well aware of  the capacity of each. We already saw what Dublet was able to do, and believe me, there is so much more in that horse! Verdades is becoming seasoned and stronger and should have no trouble staying as focused on Laura Graves as he usually is in this comparatively quiet atmosphere. I can understand why the Chef D’ Equipe would make that combination the anchor by putting them last, because Legolas can, at times, be a little too fired up and lose concentration. However, Steffen Peters’ masterly riding has overcome that tendency in his shows as lately, and when they are on, he and Legolas can gather many valuable points. 

So, when I am writing this I am, like all of you, keeping my fingers crossed and hopes high for our team. Go USA!

–Anne Gribbons

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COLLECTIVE REMARKS by Anne Gribbons 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 DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

GetitRight

Guess what? There have been thousands of times our horses have tried to answer our requests, maybe in several “not-quite-right” ways, but then because of the way we reacted to those small mistakes, they “got spooked”…and then suddenly “not-quite-right” became “oh-so-wrong.”

In his bestselling book THE MODERN HORSEMAN’S COUNTDOWN TO BROKE, Florida-based trainer Sean Patrick explains that Avoidance Behavior is the defense mechanism your horse uses when a situation occurs that is unpleasant (such as water spraying in his ears) or scary (such as being approached with a noisy garbage bag).

“The horse looks for a way to avoid the stimulus or get rid of it,” says Sean.

This can mean he tries to run away, shy, buck, back, or rear. The goal for all of us is to learn the difference between the horse seeking a release point (the moment of “success” when the horse “gets” what you are asking and when the removal of any stimulus should instantly occur), and the horse that is overreacting and trying to avoid the situation altogether.

When approaching your horse with a stimulus, give him a chance to seek, and find, the right answer.

When approaching your horse with a stimulus, give him a chance to seek, and find, the right answer.

 

To begin to learn to recognize Avoidance Behavior and how to deal with it, let’s look at a few common examples and possible causes provided by Sean in his book:

 

Avoidance Behavior: The horse bolts away from you as you lift your dressage whip.

Possible Causes: 1) Previous application of the whip has been unfair—for example, the release has not been given at the right moment, or the whip has been used too firmly; 2) The horse does not understand that the whip is not something to fear but to calmly respond to.

 

Avoidance Behavior: The horse moves his head away from your moving hand, anticipating contact.

Possible Causes: 1) The horse is justified in believing that he may be struck by that moving hand and is preparing to get out of the way; 2) The horse has not had enough physical contact to know that he can trust your moving hands.

 

Avoidance Behavior: The horse takes off running with you on his back, becoming inattentive to your cues.

Possible Causes: 1) The horse is growing frustrated with your leg pressure, as a release does not seem to come, no matter how he responds; 2) The horse is being ridden in a place where his fear level has been raised until it is too much for him to handle, such as in an indoor arena on a windy day.

 

Avoidance Behavior: The horse begins to buck violently while you are riding and is not responding to any form of cue.

Possible Causes: 1) The horse is not used to having a rider on his back and bucks out of discomfort or fear; 2) The horse is startled by or unhappy with your use of leg pressure.

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

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Sean says that of course not all Avoidance Behavior is caused by improper handling. We should also note that a horse that has not had time to build trust in his human handlers and gain experience in that partnership will be more inclined to show it. We can all help our horses develop in ways that ensure Avoidance Behavior appears less and less often through conscious attention to our own use of techniques and our position around the horse and in the saddle; through thoughtful teaching; and by always being aware that scenarios such as these may not help our horses learn. It is our goal to help our horses learn in ways that make their lives safe, purposeful, and happy. And Rule #1 should be to give them a chance to get it right.

Discover more training insight, as well as Sean Patrick’s 33 steps to horse training, in THE MODERN HORSEMAN’S COUNTDOWN TO BROKE, 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 DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Rio2016

Who doesn’t get bored going in circles? Olympic Equestrian and TSB author Ingrid Klimke says that riding over cavalletti on circles and half-circles can be a welcome change, not only improving the rider’s seat so it is more secure and balanced, but developing “feel,” as well. And there are many benefits for the horse.

“Cavalletti work on circles and half-circles helps to loosen the horse, and can rectify stiffness on one side or the other, so the horse bends and flexes equally in both directions,” she writes with her father Reiner Klimke in their bestselling book CAVALLETTI. “If a horse is not straight, he will often lose rhythm – this where cavalletti work can help by restoring elasticity and encouraging the placing of the hind feet under the center of gravity.

“Over poles, the horse does not have the chance to step out to the side with the hind legs. The length of stride and placing of the feet is so precise that the horse maintains rhythm by himself. It takes very little practice before the hind feet step into the tracks of the front feet—and the horse becomes straight.

“Riding over cavalletti on circles is especially beneficial for training the horse’s inside hind leg to take weight. Because of this it can be quite strenuous, so avoid doing it for too long.”

Cavalletti1

Set up cavalletti on a circle. One exercise Ingrid recommends is on either end of a figure eight. Pick up a working trot, circling in your horse’s stronger (better) direction, keeping sure your seat light.

2  Just before the cavalletti, move your hands slightly forward, and ride exactly over the center of the cavalletti. If all goes well, change direction, and ride over the cavalletti in the other direction. The aim is to work the horse evenly on both sides, to work on lateral bend and suppleness through the ribs.

3  After working on the circle, do some exercises on the straight: ride forward on the long sides of the arena to re-establish freedom of movement. Riding forward helps overcome any stiffness or resistance.

Cavalletti2

Ride over the center of the cavalletti again, but now on each subsequent circle, make the circle bigger, moving out to where the space between cavalletti is larger, so the horse has to stretch more, making his steps bigger. This means that the inside hind foot must push off the ground with more energy and at the same time take more weight. At this point it is easy to cross the boundary between training to build muscle and straining muscles. For this reason, this exercise should only be repeated a few times, riding each circle just once in each direction every time.

5  Gradually bring the lesson to a finish. It is important to ride some easy exercises that the horse is familiar with at the end of the session. Finishing on a good note makes work the next day twice as easy. After working on circles a few times, allow the horse to stretch.

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For more cavalletti exercises from Ingrid Klimke, check out her book CAVALLETTI, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

And if you are a dressage rider, don’t miss Ingrid’s new DVD series TRAINING FOR DRESSAGE HORSES—the first level is now available!

TSB wishes Ingrid Klimke and all Olympic equestrians the best of luck in Rio 2016!

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

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