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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.

thumbnail_IMG_1991

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.’”

thumbnail_IMG_1990

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!”

IMG_3988

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.

MusictoTrainBy-horseandriderbooks

Who hasn’t struggled to get a horse in front of the leg? None of us want to resort to kicking like a kindergartener in a Thelwell cartoon, but sometimes, when the piggy pony comes out…

Dressage trainer and exhibition performer Sandra Beaulieu suggests that music can be used to increase forward energy in the sleepiest, most sluggish of equines. In her new book FREESTYLE: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO RIDING, TRAINING, AND COMPETING TO MUSIC, she explains what to consider when faced with energy problems in the arena:

_______________________________________

Is your horse unmotivated? When your horse is on the low end of the energy spectrum, you can use music to help “find the forward” by changing the energy around him. In my experience, some draft and Warmblood breeds are more likely to fall into this category, but remember: It doesn’t matter what breed your horse is…he’s an individual.

MakeYourOwnFreestyle-horseandriderbooksSet the Mood

In the same way you can use calming music in the barn and while you ride, choose upbeat, lighthearted music for the low-energy horse. Pick up your pace around the barn, have some fun with your riding friends, laugh a lot, keep spirits high.

Be aware of how your horse is affected by the change. You may notice that your version of “high” energy may actually be irritating to your horse. There is a big difference between positive, light energy and frantic, fast energy. Your horse’s reaction will let you know if you are on the right track.

Are You Too Grounded?

One of the reasons a horse may not move forward under saddle is because his rider’s energy is really grounded and slow. When you ride, do you tend to work harder than your horse? Do you follow your horse’s rhythm more than you create it for yourself? If you are a more advanced rider, you may find that you are better paired with an overly forward horse that your grounded energy can help slow down. Many horses respond well to a rider who is quiet and peaceful, but there is a difference between relaxed, positive energy and stuck, depressed energy.

Some riders have the ability to excite a horse and get him to move really forward, and others can kick and kick and nothing happens. The horse is reading the energy and body language of the rider. If you lack confidence, balance, and the right energy, you will struggle to create forwardness in your horse until those things are in place.

To help improve your riding when you suspect you are “too grounded,” you can try yoga, tai chi, or dance classes to become more aware of your energy and how it affects those around you. These exercises will not only help you understand and manage your groundedness, they teach you to lighten your energy, go with the flow, feel more elastic, and discover awareness through your body.

BookstoHelpwithEnergy-horseandriderbooks

Is It Pain-Related?

I have dealt with many types of horses over the years, and in my experience, a horse that does not want to go forward is sometimes feeling pain physically and/or emotionally. If you find that increasing your energy makes your horse more upset rather than more forward, you may be dealing with a pain issue.

My Friesian gelding has taught me volumes on this topic. He came to me with a lot of emotional and physical baggage that was difficult to unravel because he is very stoic. His reaction to everything is to not go forward, whether he is experiencing pain in the hind end, ulcers, or just “stuck” in his own mind. I have tried every exercise and technique I can think of to encourage him to be forward and in front of my aids. What works often depends on his mood and how he is feeling physically. He is an odd mix of highly sensitive and dull to the aids, so being too aggressive can shut him down and being too loud also bothers him. He is very receptive to my voice commands, and I have found some success in creating voice cues to encourage “forward” and “collect.”

FreestyleTheBook-horseandriderbooks

My Friesian gelding Douwe struggles in the “forward” department. Sometimes I ride to epic soundtrack music and imagine that we are in a movie scene. This gives added energy and purpose to my riding, and helps him as well. Photo by Spotted Vision Photography.

Create an Upbeat Playlist

If you are in the early learning stages when it comes to tempo and how to stay consistent in the saddle, try the following technique. For a slow horse, create a playlist featuring music that is a beat or two faster than your horse’s stride for you to match with your own body’s movements. The slightly faster music will give your body something to “sync up” with, encouraging you to post in a more determined way, use your driving aids more effectively when you feel the tempo slow down, and feel amazing when you and your horse find the beat.

_______________________________________

FreestyleIn FREESTYLE the book, Sandra Beaulieu provides everything readers need to know to enjoy Freestyles of their own—whether for fun or for ribbons. Discover how to choose suitable music, explore choreography techniques, and learn basic music editing. Review required movements, then use Beaulieu’s expert suggestions for weaving them together. Plus, enjoy a section on preparing exhibition performances—complete with ideas for props and costumes.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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

StaffPick2-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Cathy Lynn Cimino, Equine Info Exchange

I love watching the Olympics—winter and summer. Pick a sport and I’m into it, willing to admire the athletes, agonize over the losses, celebrate the successes, and even puzzle over the “rules of the game” when it comes to contests unfamiliar to me. I grew up an athlete, and I can identify with the ambition, the guts, and the honor of being an Olympic competitor. Even though it will never be me on a balance beam, ski jump, or podium, I still get a rush seeing others reach such a goal—the kind of goal that requires much sacrifice, hours upon hours upon days upon years, for a few moments of complete and utter validation.

RFTTPin-horseandriderbooksSo with Tokyo 2020 postponed until July 2021, I’m all about finding a new way to get my Olympic fix. One way is by reading the profiles in RIDING FOR THE TEAM: INSPIRATIONAL STORIES OF THE USA’S MEDAL-WINNING EQUESTRIANS AND THEIR HORSES. 

The great thing about these stories is that they are all over the spectrum in terms of equestrian sport (all 8 FEI disciplines are included) and individual voice. Each rider, driver, and vaulter contributed a first-person account of what it took to rise to the highest levels of dressage, show jumping, eventing, reining, para dressage, driving, vaulting, and endurance. We get to hear the fascinating bits and pieces that helped make our equestrian stars great, and man, it makes for great trivia! For example, did you know:

  • Margie Engle didn’t own her own horse until she was 25?
  • Michelle Gibson got the ride on Peron after an article about her time as a working student in Germany appeared in the local newspaper?
  • Boyd Martin has always competed in his high school’s blue-and-white rugby jersey?
  • Suzy Stafford switched from eventing to driving after she bought driving lessons for her father?
  • Becca Hart works as a head barista at Starbucks when she isn’t on the road competing?
  • Andrea Fappani grew up with a classical riding background in an English saddle?
  • Valerie Kanavy paid $150 for her first horse, Princess, with savings from her piggy bank?
  • Megan Benjamin Guimarin could only eat bread pieces dipped in Nutella before competing for the World Championship?
Martin2CBoyd_LennysLoss

Boyd Martin in outgrown jodhpurs and his school’s blue-and-white ruby jersey On Lenny’s Loss. Photo courtesy of Boyd Martin from RIDING FOR THE TEAM.

There are 47 contributors in RIDING FOR THE TEAM, and as a rider—even one who no longer competes—I enjoyed discovering how each one decided representing the US in international competition was what they aspired to, and then how each pursued and accomplished that goal. Some came from humble means, some had a leg up with families in the horse business or money that helped pave the way, but all of them struggled at points…and still prevailed. 

These lessons are the best kind right now. #LetTheDreamsBegin

Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor, TSB

RIDING FOR THE TEAM 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.

 

 

StaffPickRidingDoctor-horseandriderbooks

Let’s do something positive with all the time we suddenly have at home! We can improve as riders, trainers, and horse caregivers in little ways–and big ones, too!–even when we can’t go to the barn or when lessons and clinics have been canceled. TSB has published so many books full of tips, techniques, and exercises to make us better on the ground and in the saddle, it is sometimes difficult to recommend just one. So over the next couple weeks, we’re going to share a bunch of our favorites, giving you a few ideas to try and lots of things to learn.

Today TSB Managing Director is recommending the book THE RIDING DOCTOR by Dr. Beth Glosten (a real medical doctor, as well as a dressage rider and Pilates instructor). Dr. Glosten’s book offers incredible insight in terms of rider biomechanics as well as a series of exercises intended to improve specific riding skills as well as troubleshoot bad habits and imbalances you may have on horseback.

“I’m the first to admit I’m not an exerciser for the sake of exercising,” says Martha. “Take me out and I’ll clear trail all day. Put me in a gym and say, ‘Do these exercises,’ and I balk like a herd-bound horse going down the driveway. So, it’s a pretty big deal that I do many of the exercises in THE RIDING DOCTOR. I find they are not complicated, nor are they too tedious, and author Dr. Beth Glosten gives options to start out easy and add difficulty, which combats my temptation to quit! I especially like her physio-ball routines. And, yes, I have been bucked off the ball for lack of seat bone equality!”

Here’s one easy exercise from THE RIDING DOCTOR to try:

TheRidingDoctor-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Audrey Guidi from The Riding Doctor.

Bounce in Rhythm: Toe Tapping

Bouncing on an exercise ball to a metronome is a great warm-up exercise and hones your ability to keep a steady tempo. Add arm and leg movements to develop balance and coordination, as well, so you can ride with feel at any gait.
 
1 Set a metronome to about 96 beats per minute, sit on an exercise ball in an upright posture, and bounce to the beat of the metronome. (There are metronome apps available for your phone.)

2 Keeping your arms still, lift one leg a bit, and tap the foot in rhythm with the metronome.

3 Try to keep your balance on the ball using your core muscles, so that moving one leg does not disrupt your alignment (like on the horse).

4 Once you gain steady balance tapping one foot, change to tapping the other (you’ll probably find it easier to tap one foot compared to the other).

5 When this is straightforward, try tapping one foot for a set number of beats, then switch and tap with the other foot.

6 End by alternating foot taps, like marching.

 

Riding DoctorFor more exercises, check out THE RIDING DOCTOR, available from the TSB online bookstore. Everything is 20% off (plus free shipping) until April 1. Amazon is de-prioritizing book shipments during the pandemic crisis (they need to focus on household and health-related items), so please consider supporting a small business and buying from us direct.

And watch our blog in the coming days for more recommendations, tips, and exercises!

Take care of each other,

The TSB Staff

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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