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Varying the "tone" of your calf muscles results in better leg aids.

Varying the “tone” of your calf muscles results in better leg aids.

A few of us might picture a buff blonde in a bathing suit when we see the words “toned calves”…but don’t worry, this particular post is about riding better—not about muscle development! You can “give greater strength or firmness” to any muscle, momentarily, to change the way it feels, works, and impacts your movement (or lack of it), and when it comes to your legs and your horse, how your leg muscles “feel” can affect his response to your aids, as well as his overall way of going.

In her book 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES, instructor and creator of the Sure Foot Equine Stability Program Wendy Murdoch says the rider can increase the strength of the lower leg (when needed) by “toning” the calf muscles. This firming of the calf muscles is achieved by varying the depth of the heels.

“But, when the heel is always pressed down as far as it will go all the time, this valuable aid is lost,” explains Wendy. “A constantly hard calf can makes the horse tense or dull to the lower leg aid because it is at maximum hardness (“volume”) without letup.

“From the basic position—that is, when the rider’s heel (not the boot’s heel but the foot inside) is level with the stirrup—the calf can give a soft leg aid. Pressing the heel down strongly makes the calf hard, which you can do when a stronger aid is required.”

 

To improve your ability to control the “tone” of your calf muscles, try this exercise from 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES:

1  Feel this while sitting on the floor. “Stand” one foot flat on the ground with the knee bent, and relax your calf.

2  Place your hand around the calf about midway between knee and ankle. Feel how the muscles are soft and pliable.

3  Lift the front of your foot off the floor, and feel muscle tone changes. It is somewhat firmer but still pliable. This position simulates your heel lower than your toes in the stirrup. The calf muscles can lengthen to allow the heel to sink without the muscles hardening.

4  Now, press your heel against the floor. What happens to the calf? Feel how it hardens due to the increase in muscle tone. This will create a stronger leg aid against your horse’s side. But you want to go back to the softer position for this subtle aid to be effective. If you keep your calf toned as firmly as possible all the time, the more subtle leg aid is lost.

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

Learn more great 5-minute exercises for improving your riding in Wendy Murdoch’s 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES, as well as her other bestselling book and DVDs, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Image used by permission (thelwell.org.uk).

Image used by permission (thelwell.org.uk).

 

Norman Thelwell was right, of course—and I’d say his wisdom is best followed in these first few days after Mother’s Day!

Many of us have, in fact, been “keeping our own ponies clean” for many years, but as rote as basic grooming may seem by now, there are still little things we can learn to keep our horses that much shinier, healthier, and happier in the days ahead. The new book WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES by pro grooms Cat Hill and Emma Ford is chock full of the kinds of tricks of the trade it takes a lifetime of experience in the barn aisle to acquire. Here are five pro tips they recommend that you might not have tried yet:

 

1  Pick your horse’s feet out while he is still in his stall to help keep your barn aisle clean and tidy. Do it over a small bucket to prevent mud from falling into the bedding and creating dust.

2  Use a hot towel laid over your horse’s mane to help train his mane to lie flat. Smooth a little beeswax pomade over the mane daily to create a nice, smooth mane.

Don’t overgroom the tail. Keep it tangle-free with gentle daily attention from your fingers and/or comb, always starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. On bath days, use a gentle conditioning shampoo, and scrub the dock really well, getting your fingernails into it, to help remove the dead skin and gunk that can build up close to the roots. Never comb a wet tail!

4  While you groom the horse’s body, look for any scratches, bumps, or skin issues. Once he is clean and before you ride, treat any problems you found while grooming. Thermazene or SSD cream is an excellent strong, gentle antibiotic and antifungal that can be used on many minor skin problems. First clean the area with witch hazel on a clean cotton square, then, if necessary, apply the cream.

5  When trying to get a light-colored horse clean, or one with a lot of “chrome,” you may need several baths with whitening agents to get the desired glow. Make sure not to uses these more than two times a week, though, because they can irritate the horse’s skin. Alternate between a gentle shampoo and a whitening agent. Put a very small amount in water, then sponge directly onto “white bits” of the horse, scrub with your fingers, and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. (Note: More is NOT better, in this case, so don’t be tempted to go longer!) Rinse, rinse some more, and rinse again until the water runs clear.

 

You can hear more from Cat and Emma, and learn why Horse Radio Network host Glenn the Geek thinks WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES is “The best book on grooming ever! Horse-Husband Approved!” by listening to last week’s Stable Scoop episode. Click the image below to check it out:

Click the image to listen to Cat Hill and Emma Ford on the Horse Radio Network!

Click the image to listen to Cat Hill and Emma Ford on the Horse Radio Network!

 

WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free excerpt or to order your copy.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

 

 

MothersDay15

In his book HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD, author Denny Emerson details the success stories of 23 top riders. And it is perhaps no surprise that when asked to name some of the reasons they “got good,” many of these equestrians listed “Mom” way up near the top.

“My mom was my first teacher,” says Reining Freestyle Champion Stacy Westfall, “but she didn’t just tell me what to do. She wanted me to figure it out. If my pony did something wrong, like stopping at one of the tiny jumps we had set up, Mom would say, ‘Why do you think Misty did that?’ Her approach got me thinking like a horse, which has really influenced my life. When you can figure out what the horse is thinking and how to communicate with the horse and mold that, you can do almost anything.”

Co-founder of the American Hunter Jumper Foundation Louise Serio agrees that moms can be the best riding teachers. “My mother taught riding for a living,” she says. “She didn’t make us kids ride, it just happened…Whenever we were ‘just riding,’ though, my mother was always teaching someone. I can hear her and her instruction in my mind, from all those years.”

Cowgirl Hall of Fame Inductee Sandy Collier says, “When my mother realized I was absolutely a horse person, she made sure I got lessons with quality trainers and helped me get involved with Pony Club and eventing (because that was available in our area). That was my foundation; the seat I developed for dressage contributed to my success as a reiner.”

“My mom had been a serious rider as a junior and there were horses in our backyard in Ocala from the time I was two,” champion hunter rider Havens Schatt chimes in. “We had a really good pony I could sit on in the paddock, in front of the kitchen window where my mom would watch me…Having a parent who was so into horses made riding feel natural and easy from the start.”

On the opposite side of the horse-family spectrum, gold-medal-winning British event rider Mary King says, “Although my mother wasn’t interested in horses herself, she liked to help me; she made the picnic and drove the lorry to competitions, as she still does today! My dreams seemed farfetched, from a starting point of a non-horsey family with no money, but I have been able to do what I dreamed of doing.”

And at least partly because of Mom.

 

Thanks to all the supportive horse moms out there.

Happy Mother’s Day from Trafalgar Square Books.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

CLICK HERE to read more from Denny Emerson’s HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD

yvonnehuffpost

“I have long been impressed with Yvonne Barteau,” writes Irene Michaels for the Huff Post. “Being over 50, she has inspired me to keep working hard on my horsemanship and has humbled me by the knowledge she is able to share. I am impressed by her dedication to her craft and also to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. She has built both a career and a loving home.”

With another busy season training horses and riders, as well as the upcoming release of her new book THE DRESSAGE HORSE MANIFESTO, Barteau has a big year in store. The Huff Post piece by Irene Michaels and an iONTHESCENE feature highlighting Barteau’s backstory by Leigh Redmond celebrate her achievements and recognize the lifetime she has invested in teaching others the art of horsemanship through riding instruction, spirited live performances, and insightful books.

 

yvonneonthescene

Like Michaels and Redmond, we at TSB love the sense of fun Yvonne Barteau brings to the dressage ring, as well as her honest and heartfelt concern for the horses she works with. When in her company, her energy and positivity is tangible and contagious. And Barteau’s desire to share the beauty of the horse’s form and movement with others is apparent both in the competitive arena and in the creative exhibitions she performs with her family.

You can read the complete Huffington Post piece HERE and find an excerpt from THE DRESSAGE HORSE MANIFESTO in Redmond’s article for iONTHESCENE by clicking HERE.

And enjoy this charming video of Barteau and her Grand Prix stallion “Ray”—you’ll see how they enjoy their time together, in and out of the ring, in front of an audience, or just out for a graze or a roll.

 

CLICK IMAGE TO JOIN WAIT LIST

CLICK IMAGE TO JOIN WAIT LIST

Join the wait list to be notified when Yvonne Barteau’s new book THE DRESSAGE HORSE MANIFESTO is available to order by clicking HERE.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

 

As we prepare for the Run for the Roses tomorrow, May 2, 2015, many are considering which horse to choose as the next great-hearted champion of the historic Churchill Downs. One very familiar to this subject is Kerry Thomas, creator of the Thomas Herding Technique and co-author of HORSE PROFILING with Calvin Carter. Kerry has consistently named top finishers in the Derby using his technique of “profiling” the field and determining each horse’s “emotional conformation.”

Kerry has developed what he calls the “P-Type” grading system, which assigns letter grades according to a horse’s instinctual tendencies (basic and acquired), and his ability to handle environmental stimuli while in motion. This has become a valuable means for analyzing racing potential for obvious reasons, but it also resonates in other equine sports, as it can help you the best methods of choosing a discipline or training a particular horse (see more about this concept in HORSE PROFILING).

Click image to read the article about TSB author Kerry Thomas in the Wall Street Journal.

Click image to read the article about TSB author Kerry Thomas in the Wall Street Journal.

 

To access Kerry’s picks for the 2015 Kentucky Derby, CLICK HERE to visit Brisnet.com. You can also listen to Kerry and his THT associate Pete Denk discuss this year’s Derby field on Twin Spires Radio (CLICK HERE).

In addition, HORSE PROFILING co-author Calvin Carter, founder of Classic Champion Thoroughbreds, discusses this year’s Derby contenders on a pedigree-by-pedigree basis, as well as with consideration of past performances, on his blog: CLICK HERE.

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

John Strassburger, Performance Editor of Horse Journal, says: “[HORSE PROFILING] will help you unravel your equine athlete’s personality and needs, so you can evaluate your horse’s ’emotional conformation,’ which the author Kerry Thomas calls the real indicator of a horse’s ability…no question as to why his work has been called ‘groundbreaking.'”

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

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

We’re happy to have TSB author, translator, and Masterson Method Practitioner Coralie Hughes discuss the idea of “balance” in the horse, providing insight and ideas from her experiences at a clinic with Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, as well as in her work with Jim Masterson and the Masterson Method of Equine Bodywork. Coralie and Jim’s new book THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED is due out in June 2015. CLICK HERE to add your name to the wait list to be notified as soon as its available!

Coralie Hughes and Jim Masterson discussing the painted horse from their new book THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED.

Coralie Hughes and Jim Masterson discussing the painted horse from their new book THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED.

Having translated his book BALANCING ACT from German to English, I felt I understood Gerd Heuschmann’s equestrian philosophy pretty well. Attending a recent riding clinic of his and listening as he taught dressage riders of all levels to Grand Prix was still an extraordinary experience for me, both from the perspective of being a dressage rider myself and being a Masterson Method practitioner.

If you haven’t yet encountered Dr. Heuschmann of Germany, he is an accomplished dressage rider and trainer, a veterinarian and the individual who led the international charge against Rollkur (a flawed training practice used in all disciplines, English and Western, that brings the horse’s nose to the chest in the mistaken notion that the poll and the back will release, while actually accomplishing the opposite). Dr. Heuschmann is also a fan of the Masterson Method and loves to watch the horses release as Jim works.

To Dr. Heuschmann, what he does in his clinics is balance horses. He teaches the riders to ride with the sensitivity of seat and hand that allows the horse to free his back and poll. If the horse is ridden at the tempo and rhythm that is most comfortable for that horse (“Every horse is a song and we must find the melody”) and the back is free, full utilization of the hind end in his work is possible. If hand, seat, or leg transmits negative tension to the horse, then tension develops in the poll and transfers to the back and to the hindquarters.

During the clinic, Dr. Heuschmann identified common riding errors, especially in the use of the hands, that cause increased poll tension, inhibit the movement of the corresponding hind leg, and negatively impact the back. Such a horse is imbalanced in his movement and the dressage goals of impulsion, straightness, and “throughness” are impossible to achieve. There is a kink or block in the energy transfer through the body of the horse.

But even the best-ridden horse is going to develop negative tension in his body as a result of his efforts to please his rider and just simply as a result of repetitive motion. Over time, the muscles lose the ability to fully contract and fully relax, and the muscle chains of the body become unbalanced. As a Masterson Method practitioner, it is commonplace to feel the tight and locked poll, the stiff back, and the shoulders and haunches that have only limited range of motion. It is also commonplace to be able to restore range of motion and release restriction in the body of the horse through Masterson Method bodywork.

Click the image to join the wait list.

Click the image to join the wait list.

With the Masterson Method, we have recently taken it a huge step further. With the painted horse project that yielded the DRESSAGE MOVEMENTS REVEALED DVD SET and now the book THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED, we studied the biomechanics of the dressage horse so that dressage riders, and we Masterson Method practitioners, would be better able to understand how the horse uses his body in his work. The better we understand how the horse must use his body to perform movements of upper level dressage, the better a rider understands how to be in sync with the horse and not against his motion, and the better a Masterson Method practitioner understands why certain muscle groups are involved when a dressage trainer is having given training issues. Bodywork can often feel like a “hide-and-go-seek” effort. Through the work we did with DRESSAGE MOVEMENTS REVEALED and THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED, we have gained an understanding that removes a lot of the mystery when horses can’t perform as well as they used to, barring a frank veterinary cause.

Since completing the research and work related to this new book, co-authored with Jim Masterson, I find in my Masterson Method practice that I better understand horses of all equestrian disciplines. The reiner that is having trouble in a spin reminds me of the front end of the dressage horse’s half-pass. The jumper that can’t use his back or flex his lumbosacral joint or use his gluteals in a good push off, is a dressage horse that is too locked up to collect properly or has lost his extended trot.

The musculoskeletal system of the horse allows for a limited set of movements of his body parts. Because the dressage horse is asked to perform the greatest range of different movements, understanding how the dressage horse uses his body can be a springboard for understanding any equestrian discipline as a bodyworker.

Betsy Steiner on Bacchus from THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED.

Betsy Steiner on Bacchus from THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED.

Most equestrians are trying their best to be good riders. But as one of the old dressage masters said, “A lifetime isn’t long enough to learn to ride a horse.” With the Masterson Method we can help the aspiring rider travel the long, often frustrating but also joyous journey of learning to ride by rebalancing the musculoskeletal system of the horse through regular bodywork. In essence, we are giving the rider a new “blank slate” for his or her continued efforts to learn to ride this most noble of creatures.

It’s all about balance… from Dr. Heuschmann’s ground-breaking work about how to ride a horse in balance, to the Masterson Method’s rebalancing of muscle systems through release of tension. For every horse of any discipline, it is a question of balance in how the horse is using his body, or the lack thereof.

The DRESSAGE MOVEMENTS REVEALED DVD SET and THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED BOOK are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

For information about Masterson Method courses, seminars, and workshops visit www.mastersonmethod.com.

As we leave the past weekend’s World Cup competition in Las Vegas behind and close in on Rolex Kentucky 2015 (April 23-26, 2015), it stands to reason we’d spend a little time in awe of the world’s top riders and the horses with whom they conquer massive jump courses and dance intricate dressage steps.

But there’s more to these successful partnerships than what we see in the spotlight. Outside the competitive arena, beside every great horse, stands a great groom (damp rag and hoof oil in hand). These hard-working individuals are often the earliest to rise and the last to leave the barn. They travel in the back of trailers and the underbellies of planes to keep watch over their charges. And they master the ritual, labor, and indeed, the artistry involved in ensuring healthy, happy horses that shine like the lucky side of a new dime, inside and out.

With the first jog at Rolex on the horizon (scheduled for tomorrow at 3 pm), Emma Ford, head groom to gold-medal-winning event rider Phillip Dutton’s string and co-author of the season’s must-have book WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES, stole a few precious minutes from her busy day to tell us what life is like on True Prospect Farm.

WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES and MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON are both available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

Photo of Emma Ford by Amber Heintzberger from Modern Eventing with Phillip Dutton.

Photo of Emma Ford by Amber Heintzberger from Modern Eventing with Phillip Dutton.

For those of you not familiar with eventing, every work day for the event horse varies. Day 1 might be a hack day, Day 2 jog and flat, Day 3 flat and jump… For the purpose of this blog, I am going to tell you about a gallop day. For me there is no “typical” day at True Prospect. With so many horses in work, plans can change hourly, and who knows what is waiting around the corner to surprise us. Being flexible and being able to cope with last-minute decisions is a must.

6:00 am  Whilst I’m making my coffee and feeding my faithful sidekick Charlie, one of the working students feeds the barn of anywhere from 30 to 45 horses. We have a rotation for AM feedings and late-night check, that way no one person gets stuck doing it multiple times.

7:00 am  Arrive at barn. Immediately I go to check the legs of the three horses heading to Rolex. For me, I feel every day is primarily about the safety and care of the horses; however, after the Rolex horses have run their last prep run at the Fork Horse Trials in North Carolina, I become ultra-paranoid about the possibility of missing a small abnormal cut or swelling that could alter the horses’ chance of getting to Kentucky.

7:15 am  Horses on night turnout come in, and it is about now I start to hear, “EMMA!” called from numerous directions. The usual question: “What blankets are the horses to wear?” If I had a dollar for all the times I am asked that question, I would be a very rich groom!

7:30 am  Tack up Happy (Mighty Nice) for Phillip to go galloping. Phillip reminds me that NBC is coming to film at 9:00 am. Shoot! I do a walk through the barn, getting the guys to muck a little quicker while I tidy up—have to make sure those blankets are folded just so!! [Editor’s Note: Find out how in WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES!]

8:00 am  Need to run to buy ice. Phillip will be back by 8:45. I always wonder what the local gas station attendant thinks I am doing, buying 12 bags of ice every four to five days. He never asks, so I don’t tell!

9:00 am  Phillip returns, the NBC crew arrives, the training log book has been done, so the first set of horses get tacked up for their riders. NBC wants to film in the tack room, so I grab as much tack as I think we might need in order to avoid disturbing the interview…Oh…and, “Everybody keep the noise level down!” Meantime, Happy is standing in ice for 20 minutes. He only tries to jump out once…that’s good going for him.

10:00 am I head to the feed room to make up lunches and dinners…Must remember to call in that grain order. That’s odd, Caileigh is jogging up the path. I ask what’s up and am told the neighbor’s pigs are out and Fred jumped out of his paddock.” GREAT!! Grab a bucket of grain and get everybody on the ground to put horses in stalls, grab halters, and head out to catch Fred! Luckily for us, Fred cleared the fence and stayed near the next paddock. However, I say, “Bacon anyone?!”

Emma feeding.

Emma feeding.

11:00 am  Feed lunch, bring in all horses, switch those round pens…”Everybody has been out…correct?” NBC want to film Evie and Phillip galloping the other Rolex horses, so I say, “Okay girls, they need to be show-ready in 10 minutes…hoof oil please! I’ll grab the sponsor pads.”

12:00 pm  I ice Happy once more and put him on the Vitafloor for half an hour, then groom him, check his legs, and turn him out to the paddock for downtime. Phillip and Evie arrive back from galloping, cameras in tow! I really want to clip their horses this afternoon, so they get full shampoo baths, and I ice twice.

1:00 pm Make up morning feeds. I then take a horse to the vet clinic to get evaluated. We are extremely lucky to have Dr. Kevin Keane’s practice located literally next door, so if I need medications, have an emergency, or have to get that passport stamped, it is all at my fingertips.

2:00 pm I check Jack’s (Fernhill Fugitive’s) legs. They feel nice and tight. So I start the clipping session. Whilst doing this I have to organize my team for the afternoon. Changes to night turnout, what horses still need grooming, and let’s not forget about soaking Jackson’s foot and re-wrapping it. I rely heavily on my team to let me know if any horse has a slight abnormality that needs attention. With the number of horses we have in the barn, I do not get a chance to personally check each of them over every day.

3:00 pm  On a good day, most of the riding is done by 3:00 pm. Then everybody shares in the afternoon chore duties.

4:00 pm  Jack gets his post-clip bath with apple cider vinegar to try and prevent his skin from breaking out. I get Happy in, check his legs, and they feel great, so I wrap him up for the night. I use Stayons Poultice Wraps, which have made my life so much easier. They are much more time-efficient and have put an end to clay poultice all over myself and the horse!

The barn is fed dinner around 4:00, so I let Cuba (Fernhill Cubalawn) finish his meal before starting his Rolex clipping session. It takes me over an hour to get him done. By this time the barn is hopefully cleaned, but I maybe still have to wrap, roll, fold, and put away that laundry pile!

Emma washing socks.

Emma washing socks.

6:00 pm Bathe Cuba, and groom and wrap Jack before turning him out for the night. I do a walk-through of the barn to ensure horses are happy and correctly blanketed. I put Cuba on the Vitafloor and this helps to dry him quicker. (It is a vibrating plate that helps with circulation.) Then, time to groom him, check his legs, and wrap him for the night.

7:00 pm I’m done for the day, so home to shower and have a little downtime with friends before heading to bed, hopefully by 9:30 to rest up for tomorrow. I wonder what that will bring? Hopefully sound, happy, healthy horses and no more escaped pigs!!

 

Get hundreds of grooming tips from the pros in WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES by Cat Hill and Emma Ford, with over 1200 color photographs!

 

And get find all you need to enjoy the thrilling sport of eventing in MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON by Phillip Dutton with Amber Heintzberger.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE GREAT HORSE BOOKS

 

Be sure to read the other installments in the TSB “Horseworld by the Hour” blog series:

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

CLINTON ANDERSON

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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