We are so excited that Equitana USA at the amazing and beautiful Kentucky Horse Park is right around the corner, and we are THRILLED that six of our amazing authors are featured presenters. Here’s what you have in store in Lexington this weekend.
Sally Batton, Founder and President of the Athletic Equestrian League and author of the forthcoming The Athletic Equestrian (coming January 2022)
With a dynamic combination of seminars, clinics, and trainings, the EQUITANA USA Education Program will broaden your understanding of all things related to horse care and riding, while opening doors to new disciplines and fun. It all starts on Friday, October 1! Get your tickets and plan your visit today!
In 2013 at the age of 36, Jesse McNeil—at times carpenter, commercial fisherman, dabbler in real estate—decided to buy an untrained horse, make himself into a horseman, and ride all the way across the United States, from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.
A fiercely independent traveler, Jesse had navigated previous coast-to-coast trips—solo journeys by moped, bicycle, and small airplane. This time, however, he had a partner: a five-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse named Pepper. An inexperienced horseman with an equally inexperienced mount, Jesse would quickly discover the immense challenges of his new undertaking. Over the course of eight months and fourteen states—beginning in Oregon and ending on a beach in New Hampshire—he would be tested many times over as he learned not only what it took to keep Pepper safe and healthy, but the true value of qualities that he had once easily dismissed: patience and companionship.
We asked Jesse about his adventuring past and his new book ON THE HOOF, which shares his journey on horseback.
Your book ON THE HOOF tells the story of your journey across the United States, from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, with your horse Pepper. This was not your first trek across the continent. Can you tell us a little about your other trips?
My travels coast to coast first began as a stunt: I took a moped as a cheap way across the continent. It cost me only $52 in gas to putter east for three weeks to my home state of New Hampshire. A few years later I earned my pilot certificate and did the same by air in a small trainer plane. The cost was way more, but the view grander. Another journey was by an old motorcycle—this time westward back to the San Juan Islands in Washington State—which felt much like the book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I didn’t read until a year after.
It was by simpler means, a bicycle jaunt east across Canada to the Bay of Fundy in 2010, that triggered the idea of riding a horse. I was pushing down on the pedals across Saskatchewan when I saw on a horse in a pasture beside the road. It felt like it would be more real, more to the heart of traveling, to be on a horse than a flimsy bicycle.
You were not a horseman prior to buying Pepper as a green five-year-old with the trip you were planning in mind. What did you find challenging about training a horse for the first time? What did you find fulfilling?
Simply managing the size of such an animal was intimidating, although a thousand pounds of beast held by a thin rope felt comical, too. Then, quite quickly, I realized that a horse would know if it was possible to dominate me or not. Even though I didn’t know what I was doing, I had to act as if I did, otherwise the day’s training would fall apart. I learned, too, that subtleness of pressure and positive emotional energy was extremely important, and really enjoyed exploring how precise I had to be with Pepper for her to listen to me and respect our budding relationship.
Looking back, do you feel traveling 3,800 miles with a horse changed you? If so, how? Was this trip more transformative than the other adventures you’ve had?
Yes, traveling with an animal is much more demanding than handling a piece of machinery. Building a partnership is extremely important and takes a great deal of time, and there’s no manual to follow. It’s an intuitive experience that is truly a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Patience is key. I had to learn to have more than I ever had back at the Pacific shore.
“Jesse McNeil’s memoir demonstrates the hardships that happen when taking on a challenge as daunting as his coast-to-coast journey on foot, with only a horse named Pepper as his companion. It’s not for the faint of heart or those enamored with the romantic concept of ‘just being with a horse.’ For Jesse, it would become a life-changing experience with the realization he could overcome almost anything he would face in his life ahead…. The bond that develops between Jesse and Pepper cannot be explained to others, as there are no words to describe the deepness that is reached…. We as readers can feel Jesse’s emotions in the words he shares. We can also learn to apply the lessons he learns to our own journeys—to life’s good days, best days, hard days, and ‘impossible’ tests.” —JOHN LYONS America’s Most Trusted Horseman
“Jesse McNeil and his four-legged companion Pep remind us that even the best-laid plans require constant adjustment. But through teamwork, flexibility, and tenacity they can be navigated to an outcome that’s really special, and that’s exactly what On the Hoof is. A long walk, rhythmic trot, and full gallop that will leave you wanting to strike out on your own unique adventure.” —TY GAGNE Author of Where You’ll Find Me: Risk, Decisions, and the Last Climb of Kate Matrosova and The Last Traverse: Tragedy and Resilience in the Winter Whites
“Those of us who breed horses and write of them hope to ride vicariously on the adventures to which we send them. So it’s doubly gratifying, as the breeders and initial trainers of a horse named Pepper, to see her adventures and those of her owner Jesse McNeil poetically narrated in a book named On the Hoof.” —DAN AADLAND Author of Sketches from the Ranch and In Trace of TR
Watch the book trailer:
ON THE HOOF is available now 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 videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.
From June 7 to 11, 2021, TSB author Janet Jones, PhD, whose HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN has become a runaway international bestseller since its release last year, was a featured presenter at HETI Seoul. Hosted by the Korea Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (KATH) and Korea Racing Authority (KRA), the 17th HETI International Congress was held as both an in-person and virtual event. Janet traveled to Seoul to speak to attendees in person.
The goal of HETI Seoul was to welcome experts and officials from all over the world to catch up on the latest trends taking place in the field of equine-assisted activity and therapy. In her presentation, Janet discussed what it is about equine brains that makes horses so good at equine-assisted therapy for humans. She introduced some of the reasons:
Horses have no prefrontal cortex and therefore cannot judge their human handlers.
Horse-and-human communication depends on nonverbal body language.
Horses learn and respond quickly in “pure” form with little emotional baggage.
Horses have little to no categorical perception and therefore notice small details.
The horse’s primary emotion is fear, as is common to wounded human psyches.
Methods that calm equine fear also help control human fear.
Successful horse-and-human interaction requires mutual trust built over time.
Horses’ size and power requires humans to abandon techniques involving force.
During her talk, Janet explained how each of these items affects human wellness and aids in many types of therapeutic intervention (read more in her official conference abstract HERE).
*Photos above: Janet presenting six neurological reasons for horses’ excellence at equine-assisted psychotherapy; the foreign speakers, organizers, the HETI Board, and leaders of the host organizations Korea Racing Authority and Korea Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship at the Presidential Dinner held at Seoul’s Floating Island on (on top of!) the water of the Han River; Janet presenting the Best Volunteer Award to a young Korean rider who worked tirelessly to help everyone.Photos courtesy of Janet Jones.
“I enjoyed the HETI Congress immensely,” says Janet. “The organizers managed every detail, the presentations were informative, and all the complex online hybrid and translation technology worked. I met lots of interesting new people and got to discuss global and local horse industries with many of them.The presentations had simultaneous translation into multiple languages–I think simultaneous translation is pretty cool, though perhaps it is more common nowadays than I was aware! Final convention counts showed 909 participants from 37 countries—remarkable given the global pandemic at this time.”
The 18th HETI International Congress is slated for 2024 in Budapest, Hungary.
In this excerpt from STILL HORSE CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, Olympian and tale-teller Jim Wofford shares a formative experience with an equestrian coach that told him all he needed to know about what it takes to be a good rider.
When I first came to Gladstone in 1965, Richard Wätjen was coaching the dressage team, and I audited his lessons whenever possible. Wätjen, German by birth, was classically trained at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna after WWI and had become a coach after WWII. Tall and portly, he was a legend in the dressage world, and must have been a tough old buzzard as well. In the winter of 1966–67, Nautical Hall, the indoor riding arena at Gladstone, was one of the coldest places on Earth, but no matter how cold it was, Wätjen taught in slacks and street shoes, wearing a dark green Loden greatcoat. He was not an inspiring instructor, and his comments were brief and pungent. “More,” was one of his favorites, along with “Again,” and “No.” I never knew if teaching in a second language was a problem for him, or if it was just his style, and I was too intimidated to ask.
He was dedicated to obtaining a correct response from his horses by establishing an inside leg to outside rein connection. One day a student remarked that he wanted to start work in half-pass. “No,” said Wätjen, in his heavy German accent. “Vee vill put him in shoulder-in for two years, und zen vee vill put him in half-pass in two days.” His point was that once the basic response was correctly established, the horse would put his forces completely at our disposal. In terms of my overall development as a horseman, I might have gotten as much from my auditing as from riding at the time.
Once Wätjen had finished his work with the Team horses, he taught occasional outside lessons for dressage riders. A woman showed up for one lesson with a very fancy, recently imported horse reputed to have set her back a princely sum. (Given the fur coat and diamonds she was sporting, I don’t think she noticed the cost a bit.) It was obvious after she careened around the ring for a few minutes that she couldn’t get this creature even close to being on the bit.
Then magic happened. Telling this unfortunate lady to ride in and “get down,” Wätjen turned toward the corner of the arena where Rick Eckhart and I were cowering. Pointing at us, he said, “Boys. Come here.”
Next thing we knew, we were holding the horse while, in street shoes and gabardine slacks, Wätjen laboriously stepped aboard. He would have been in his late seventies by this time, and his beer belly indicated he wasn’t much for exercise. I knew he had been a fabulous rider in his day—a long time ago. He walked off gathering his reins, then moved into working trot. By now the horse was starting to settle into the contact and produced a few transitions from working trot to collected trot, followed by extended trot across each diagonal. This happened with no discernable aids, as Wätjen sat bolt upright in the saddle. Some canter work followed, including several flying changes remarkable for their straightness and fluidity.
All this only took a few minutes, with no preparation or warm-up. In the meantime, the dressage rider was standing with a stupefied look on her face, and I was pretty impressed as well. Wätjen walked back to the center and gestured that we should hold the horse while he carefully stepped down, gave him a pat, and said, “Nice horse.” The owner began to babble about how grateful she was, and how impressed. “How ever did you do that?” she inquired.
Gesturing with his hand toward her shoulder, Wätjen said, “Vell, you must sit mit a straight line from shoulder, to hip, to heel.” She replied eagerly, “Yes, yes, I am doing that.” Wätjen continued, “… und zen you are riding mit a straight line from elbow to horse’s mouth.” The lady pounced on this statement with glee, “Yes, yes. I have been doing this.” “Goot!” said Wätjen. “Now you must practice for 30 years.” I started to crack up at what I thought was a masterful put-down, but I happened to take a look at Wätjen’s face. He wasn’t putting her down, or kidding. He was serious.
In her memoir DISTANT SKIES: AN AMERICAN JOURNEY ON HORSEBACK, a book reviewers rave is “uplifting, inspiring, poignant, and poetic,” Melissa Chapman shares the story of a remarkable journey she took when she was 23 years old—a young woman who had long dreamed of traveling solo across the United States on horseback, and who had the guts, and the faith, to go for it.
There are many ways her youthful adventure marked her life, and here Melissa shares with us one annual tradition that keeps her connected to all that transpired all those years ago.
We’ve all heard it’s not healthy to live in the past. But touching the past, re-visiting it, can stir our soul and remind us of lessons we learned and help us reconnect with things that are important to us.
Every May First, since 1982, I have traveled back over the beginning miles of my solo horseback journey of 39 years ago.
The First of May has had significant meaning to me ever since my animals and I set out on our cross-country trek. When the very first anniversary of that departure rolled around, I had only been home a few months since the completion of the trip. I felt like a lost soul. I didn’t really know where I belonged. The nomadic, outdoor life had grown into more than a journey, it had become a way of life for me. I understood that riding and living outdoors and on the road was not something I could or should do forever, but it was not clear to me where to go from there. So, I did the one thing that always seemed to give me balance and clarity. I saddled up my horse Rainy, and with my dog Gypsy, rode to a spot I knew called Gregory’s Flat—a clearing off a trail with flat land along the creek—where we camped for the night.
As time went on, I eventually adjusted and moved forward, as is usually the way. But that first anniversary ride and camp out steadied me. It reminded me that I always felt direction and solace around the animals and outdoors, and it was the furthering of the lessons I’d learned on our cross-country journey.
The following year, when May First came, I did the same thing, and again for several more years after that. It became my own tradition. I learned to surround myself with what I loved, and though my life eventually became far from wild or adventurous, I managed to keep one foot firmly planted in the world of nature.
As time went on, I had a family and no longer took Rainy and camped on May First, though he and I would always ride out. The tradition grew and became a part of my life like a holiday or any other long-honored ritual. In recent years, when that date rolls around, I ride in the morning, then go for a drive. Sometimes I go as far as Amish country and meet with old friends I met on my journey. Often, I roam the back roads and hike at some of the places we rode and camped all those years ago. I pay close attention to what is around me and how it makes me feel.
What it makes me feel is connected. It reminds me how beautiful it is to spend an entire May day (or several) free and wandering. When I see the steep winding roads where I started my trip with Rainy and Gypsy all those years ago, I am reminded once again how incredible Rainy was, and how blessed we were on that journey.
This year, 2021, has been an extra special time to revisit these places, as that horseback adventure has come to the forefront of my life again with the release of my book, DISTANT SKIES: AN AMERICAN JOURNEY ON HORSEBACK. It was also a timely reminder for me. Because though the farms and back roads I visited did not disappoint with their beauty, this May First, at certain spots along the way a memory would come back to me, and many of those early day’s memories are about how hard the beginning of my trip was, what a difficult adjustment it was for me to walk away from “normal life” and put myself out on a limb, both physically and emotionally. It’s good to be reminded that beginnings are not always easy, even when you are doing something of your own choosing. Maybe even more so when it’s following a dream. Because you’ve followed that dream for a reason and sometimes the reason can seem difficult or out of reach. I started out on that long ago horse trip to find freedom and joy and to ride and to be outside. I had all that, and it was still difficult.
Here’s why I am sharing this with other horse people. Because like normal life, our “horse lives” are full of all kinds of beginnings. Horse people seem to be kind of a forward-thinking bunch and are usually up to a new challenge. The first canter, the first jump, trying a new discipline, sitting on a young horse for the first time, returning to riding as an adult after a long time away. The list of how many new beginnings there are with horses could go on and on. I’m going through a version of that right now. I have a new horse and she’s proving to be a bit more of a challenge than I had anticipated.
Heading out on the old steps of our cross-country journey was a good reminder to me that though beginnings are not always easy, they are often worth the effort. If you believe in yourself and in the goal you are pursuing, if it’s the right time and place and the right challenge for you, you will adjust, and it will be worth it…whether it’s a new horse or a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Whenever I visit them, those Pennsylvania trails and hills remind me of important lessons I learned there: You can handle whatever comes up. You’re doing this because it’s the path to what you want. And that when things get hard, you just keep going.
So whether you find yourself facing a new challenge or if you just need a way to “center,” as they call it, consider taking a page from my little tradition and head outside. Whether it’s by foot or by horseback or driving on a country road, there’s something cleansing and clarifying about wandering. Even if it’s just to get out and think and appreciate where you are. Here in the Northeast, for a little while in May, the air smells like lilacs, the creeks are full and flowing, and the birdsong is incredible. No matter the reason, it’s just good to get out there. And maybe you’ll find in yourself a new resolve and new ideas for whatever challenge (horse life or otherwise) you are about to take on.
It is always amazing to learn how our authors manage their days. With most of them working equestrians or equine experts, hours are always an incredible juggling act of horses, clients, and family. This month we caught up with the stunning and talented Sandra Beaulieu, author of FREESTYLE: The Ultimate Guide to Riding, Training, and Competing to Music, to find out how her life balance works as the manager of Little River Friesians in Havana, Florida.
5:00 am A few years ago I started waking up early to work on my book FREESTYLE. I love the dark and quiet nature of the morning…with my two cups of coffee of course! Don’t get me wrong…I would love to sleep in, but if I don’t work in the morning it just won’t happen. To help me stay consistent I put my cell phone outside my room so I have to get up to turn off the alarm, otherwise I will hit snooze. I am currently working on an ebook specifically for Second Level choreography, which is a supplement to my book FREESTYLE. I also work on blog posts, social media…basically anything that involves my computer.
6:00 am Light yoga and any physical therapy exercises I am working on. I have old riding injuries and a chronic hip flexor issue that takes a lot to maintain. I go to the chiropractor and a masseuse once a week and also use my Magna Wave machine, KT tape sometimes, and Arnica to help improve healing and symmetry in my body. If I ride too many horses in one day or a very wide horse it puts a lot of stress on my body so I do my best to stay flexible and strong.
7:00 am Down the stairs and into the barn…I live in a beautiful apartment above the horses and I love being so close to them. I have quick access in case of emergencies, and it makes my day to hear them whinny when it’s time for carrots. There have been many nights where I need to give medications, bring in a loose horse, or check on a pregnant mare. I help with morning chores and make sure everyone is safe, happy, and healthy.
8:00 am – 11:00 am Run back upstairs to make my morning smoothie and take my supplements. Then back downstairs to write out my plan for the day and powwow with Lilian, our barn manager. Every day is different but most of the time I plan to ride two or three horses by lunch. Once a week we plan a trail day where the horses get to venture out and have a relaxing stroll through the woods. Sometimes I am preparing for a clinic, performance, or photo shoot.
I work on basic dressage training with all the riding horses and add liberty and trick training as well. Lately, I have added some working equitation obstacles and introduced some of the horses to the garrocha pole. I like to keep training sessions fun with a lot of variety. I always play music and have individual playlists for each horse to work on future Freestyles and to keep the energy light and playful.
11:00 am – 12:00 pm Lunch time for me and the horses. I help the team give out hay, water, and extra supplements/medications. I usually check the social media channels for Little River Friesians while I eat and Lilian and I meet to work on TikTok videos and post to Instagram/Facebook. We love creating beautiful and funny videos of the horses to share with the world. We have mostly Friesians at the farm along with a few Warlanders (Friesian x Andalusian cross) and Andalusians. They are certainly fairytale horses with wonderful personalities that love to entertain.
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm Back to the horses! We have quite a few broodmares that I work with, doing long-lining, easy trail riding, and sometimes ring work. My main priority is to keep them happy and healthy so that they are in the best shape possible for carrying their foals. This includes a lot of grooming time, bathing/braiding, and some trick training for fun. Lilian and I also work together to train the foals/yearlings so that they are well-handled when they are sold. All our weanlings lead very well, stand for the farrier, get baths, and are introduced to the trailer and the round pen before they move on to new homes.
3:00 pm “Dinner time” is fairly early so the horses can go outside and spend most of their time grazing and out with each other. In the summer months they stay inside under the fans until later in the evening but right now the weather is perfect to be outside from 3:00 pm in the afternoon until 7:00 am the next day.
4:00 pm This is usually my time to work with Rovandio, my personal horse. Right now we are learning how to do Working Equitation and having fun preparing for shows/clinics. Rovandio is nineteen years old and requires a lot of maintenance so while I am grooming him he has the Magna Wave on him, his nebulizer for breathing, and I give him his homeopathic remedies, arnica, and herbal cough syrup before we ride. We usually do a short walking trail ride to warm up and work on dressage and obstacles, depending on how he feels that day.
I have known Rovandio since he was born and owned by my close friend Bethanne Ragaglia. When he was older I started training him full time and taking him to perform with my horse Douwe. He is a handy horse, easy to ride with one hand, and has a comfortable stride. I started painting from horseback with Rovandio, and we have performed at Equine Affaire and were invited to the World Equestrian Games and Equitana as well.
7:00 am Usually I try to catch up on my own social media channels at this time and make sure to include my sponsors, Adams Horse Supplies, Espana Silk, and Kastel Denmark. I check to see if Little River has any comments/messages and return emails as well.
Before I have dinner I enjoy taking the four-wheeler out to the horse’s paddocks to give them carrots and check that their fly masks/sheets/blankets are on properly and that everyone looks happy and healthy. During this nightly drive I stop by the beautiful meadow where my heart horse Douwe is buried and say goodnight to my special boy. He tragically passed away last summer due to a ruptured spleen and the past year has been a difficult time for me to grieve and figure out my life without him.
8:00 pm Wind down from the day with a healthy salad, sometimes a glass of wine, and an episode of whatever I have been watching recently. I like to watch familiar shows I have seen before…if I watch something new and exciting I just want to stay up all night to see what happens! I love watching shows and movies that have horses and beautiful costumes like Game of Thrones, Outlander, and Bridgerton. Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong time period!
9:00 pm My goal is to be in bed by this time, and I usually write in my journal before I turn the lights out, reflecting on my day and appreciating all the positive things in my life. I look forward to the future but do my best to stay present, enjoying my dream job surrounded by the beautiful, special horses of Little River Friesians.
Sandra Beaulieu’s book FREESTYLE is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
Tomorrow, Saturday, April 24, 2021, is Independent Bookstore Day, a day to celebrate the small but mighty independent bookstore–your local source for books, events, and most importantly, community! Indie bookstores suffered terribly over the past year as lockdowns and changes in purchasing habits during the pandemic devastated their bottom lines. As an independent book publisher, fighting hard for every sale is a familiar struggle, so we ask you to join us tomorrow and show your support for your favorite local bookstore.
We are very lucky to have three independent bookstores our staff frequents (and who carry select TSB books!) in locations near our main offices in North Pomfret, Vermont. We checked in with each shop to see how they are doing and what their reopening plans are–if you are in the area, we urge you to stop by and visit these stores, and if you aren’t, please consider placing an order online!
Liza Bernard and Penny McConnel met in 1988 at a book study group. Penny was working at the Dartmouth Bookstore, then one of the oldest independent bookstores in the country. Liza was supporting herself designing and making hand woven and knit clothing, and later as an independent art consultant and graphic designer.
In the early 1990s both Penny and Liza were approaching work transitions, and imagining what might come next. Always envious of Penny’s position being surrounded by books and the people who loved them, and knowing their work styles were complementary, Liza broached the idea of opening a bookstore together.
Here we are almost 30 years, and one pandemic, later, and the Norwich Bookstore continues to be a favorite destination for families and a hot shopping spot for locals (their complimentary gift wrapping is legend!).
“Since we opened the doors on August 1, 1994, we have enjoyed bringing writers and readers of the vibrant Upper Valley community together,” says Liza, “from offering personalized recommendations to hosting internationally acclaimed author events.”
2 Carmichael Street, Essex Jct, Vermont | 191 Bank Street, Burlington, Vermont | 2 Center Street, Rutland, Vermont
With 20 years of bookstore ownership behind them (Mike and Renee owned The Book Rack and Children’s Pages in Winooski, Vermont, from 1993-2003), Mike DeSanto and Renee Reiner opened the first Phoenix Books in Essex, Vermont in 2007. With support from the community, they then opened locations in Burlington in 2012 and Rutland in 2015.
“We are honored to have the opportunity to provide books and to foster a love of reading in our communities,” says Social Media Manager/Floor Manager Katie DeSanto. “It’s why we’re here!”
Vermont’s oldest continuously operated independent bookshop first opened in November 1935 and has been serving Woodstock and the surrounding towns ever since. Yankee offers a terrifically curated collection of books, as well as vinyl, stationery, gifts, and awesome puzzles (I bought MANY in 2020!).
The shop’s eighth and current local owners are Kari Meutsch and Kristian Preylowski who purchased the shop in February of 2017 with the help of the owners of Phoenix Books: Michael DeSanto and Renee Reiner.
But the past year undoubtedly challenged the usual ways our independent bookstores could interact with their customers, and seeing as that interaction is such a huge part of the connection we feel as neighbors and customers, we asked our locals how they felt the events of 2020 strengthened their place in our community.
“From how-to-knit to thrilling mysteries, people are turning to books to learn and to be entertained,” says Liza Bernard from Norwich Bookstore, “so we quickly pivoted from in-store browsing to recommending books by phone, email, and via our website for pickup from the porch. We turned to zoom for author events and book discussions! While not as up-close and personal, online events have the advantage that we can easily accommodate many more in the audience–and from all over the world. And we can host authors from far away such as when Nuala O’Connor signed in from Ireland to talk about her book, Nora. The challenges have underscored how important collaborations are! We have always partnered with other organizations and forged new connections in 2020.”
“Like so many other small businesses, we had to ensure our customers and booksellers worked and shopped in a safe environment,” Phoenix’s Katie DeSanto says. “We’ve heard many times from our customers over the last year that they feel comfortable shopping with us because of the safety precautions we continue to adhere to. It’s absolutely our number one priority.
“Also, in-person events and story times have always been at the core of our business, and one of our roles in the community. That changed in March of 2020. We quickly began hosting virtual events in April 2020 (even though we were all a little camera-shy at the time) and have enjoyed it immensely since. They’re actually a lot of fun! We are grateful that our customers have embraced the online format wholeheartedly. It’s remarkable that our Events Coordinator, Michele, began her position in January of 2020 and has successfully navigated this brave new world of online author events with the grace and ease of someone who has been doing it for years!”
We asked if any specific out-of-the-box ideas helped our local indies get through 2020. Liza and Penny at Norwich Bookstore had a Porch Pop-Up Shop when weather cooperated, where they offered cards, puzzles, face masks, and sale books, even during the times when in-store shopping was unavailable. When shutdown began, Phoenix immediately mobilized one- or two-person teams in each store and focused on providing web fulfillment and curbside pickup to their communities. Puzzles and games were big for all three stores.
As small, locally owned businesses, what have we learned in the past year?
“The understanding of the importance of shopping, banking, and dining ‘local first’ has been growing and hopefully will continue as we slowly reopen,” offers Liza. “When we shop locally, we are making an investment in our own towns and villages; our family and neighbors.”
“Communities have always valued their neighborhood businesses,” adds Katie. “The pandemic highlighted how valuable small businesses are economically, socially, and culturally to neighborhoods. Every book, every meal out, every snow shovel, and every roll of paper towels matters to your local businesses. Keep shopping local, everyone!”
Norwich Bookstore, Phoenix Books, and Yankee Bookshop all carry select Trafalgar Square titles, as well as wonderfully curated collections of books from all genres. All offer online ordering and curbside pickup. And as of tomorrow, Independent Bookstore Day, all will be open for in-store browsing with protocols specific to each location in place. Please visit their websites for details regarding hours and safety protocols:
In her book HORSES IN TRANSLATION, TSB author Sharon Wilsie shares true stories of how she discovered Horse Speak® and the early horses and horse people who benefited from learning it, too. A lifelong horsewoman and animal lover, Sharon had to break down all that she had learned in a traditional sense about how to handle and ride horses in order to open herself to the possibility that there was a better way for our two species to communicate. Namely, she pinpointed ways we can learn to talk to horses in their language instead of expecting them to understand ours.
In this short piece from HORSES IN TRANSLATION, Sharon tests the body language she’d been trying with her own herd with a rescued Mustang. We are given a front-row seat to a breakthrough conversation that has now yielded an entire language that can be incorporated into any training method and used with any breed of horse, in any discipline, with unbelievable results. Horse Speak changes everything.
I received a phone call from the director of a local horse rescue. They had a Mustang no one could do anything with. She knew I was taking time off but asked if I could just come take a look and maybe offer some advice. I hadn’t worked with any horses outside my own herd for several months at this point. But the request didn’t feel like an intrusion. Perhaps I was ready to re-enter the bigger picture.
Sure, I thought. Why not?
The little Mustang stood stoically at the back of his pen, which was attached to the barn and gave him entry to his own stall. He had buddies in pens and stalls on either side of him, but they were all separated due to specific injuries and frailties, and for the time being, needed to stay that way.
The little guy took one look at me and turned his butt toward me, dramatically and as a warning. I got it loud and clear.
Well, I thought. Here goes nothing!
I started to walk back and forth about 10 feet away from his pen, showing him all sides of me. Then I stopped and did an “Aw-Shucks” (looked down and scuffed my foot, asking him to take the pressure off).
The Mustang turned around and dropped his nose to the dirt (the horse version of Aw-Shucks) in about two seconds!
At the time, I wasn’t totally sure about the protocols yet, so I just stood there, licking and chewing with my mouth and lips. He reached his nose in the air toward me and sniffed three huffing breaths. I copied him, figuring he knew better than I did what came next. He then dramatically turned his head to the side, and so did I. Sniffing at me again, the Mustang again lowered his head, muzzle to the ground. I took it as an invitation to come over.
I scuffed my way to him in a very “O” position (rounded shoulders, hands together in front of my belly), and extended my arm with my hand in a fist and my knuckles up when I got close. (This “fist bump” was what I had been using in lieu of a nose to greet my horses.) He touched them lightly with his nose, and turned away, walking into his stall. The conversation seemed to be over.
I walked away to visit some of the other horses and came back a few minutes later. The Mustang was waiting for me at the fence, and he reached to touch my knuckles again. I had the old urge to pat his forehead, but this caused him to pin his ears and turn away. Oops. I hastily backed up and scuffed the ground with my toe. He responded by sniffing the ground again.
Then he began to walk slowly to the left, so I did too. I stopped when he stopped, and he seemed pleased. I was curious to see what would happen if I turned to the right, so I took a step. The little horse paused a good, long moment and then swung around, also moving to the right. I didn’t know what to do next, so I exhaled loudly. He started to yawn. It felt like time to take a nap, so I sat down in the dirt outside his pen. He cocked a hind leg and closed his eyes.
What would my horse Rocky do now? I wondered. (Rocky had been teaching me many of the Horse Speak protocols.) I thought of Rocky flopping his ears sideways and wiggling his lips. I couldn’t flop my ears, but I could wiggle my lips, so I did. The Mustang came out of his reverie and then flopped his ears and wiggled his lips, too. This caused another round of yawning. I took a deep breath, opening my floating ribs to allow in more air, and his lower belly took a Shuddering Breath and expanded, making him look fatter for a minute.
Not sure of what else to do, I stood up. He seemed to know I was at a loss, so he swished his tail at me and headed back inside his stall. I swished my hand down by my thigh in response, and he paused, looking over his shoulder at me, and swished his tail again while blowing out his nose.
I wasn’t sure what good this did the little Mustang, but I was over the moon! The volunteers who had been watching were full of questions, so I agreed to come back for a teaching day to go over some of the movements I had used and why.
I got another call the very next day: The Mustang had met a volunteer at the door of his stall in the morning, for the first time since he had arrived. He allowed a handler to place his halter on so he could go out to the bigger field.
The rescue director said he was much more relaxed—it seemed like he just suddenly “fit in.” I was thrilled—but surprised. How could one visit in which I hadn’t even touched him have caused such a change? Was I just lucky, or was this really happening?
The breakthroughs Sharon experienced with the rescued Mustang were only the beginning. Horse Speak is now practiced by thousands of horse people around the world, and Sharon’s third book ESSENTIAL HORSE SPEAK: CONTINUING THE CONVERSATION, is coming out this year.
Eleven years ago, about a year after having my son, I gave Pilates a shot, and WOW! All I can say is it did amazing things for my body and my riding. I’m a fan.
TSB author Laura Reiman has been practicing Pilates since 2007. She completed her Comprehensive Teacher Training Course with BASI Pilates (Body Arts and Science International) in New York, then spent six months in Brisbane, Australia, teaching and continuing to learn from BASI faculty members before opening her own studio in Alexandria, Virginia. Well, Laura is also an eventer, and when her When her young horse was diagnosed with extreme back pain and a neurological disease, she turned to her knowledge of Pilates—the method she’d used to ease back pain in human clients for years—for help. She began to find ways to “bridge the gap” between the horse’s mind and body to help increase his body awareness and core engagement.
In Laura’s new book PILATES FOR HORSES, she shares the Pilates-inspired exercises she determined can offer the horse the same benefits they offer humans. They can be taken in parts or as a whole and seamlessly incorporated into an existing training program to be a preventive tool to increase the horse’s strength, balance, mobility, and stability, or a framework for a new program to help ease a horse back into work following an injury or time off.
Here, Laura shares one of the stretches from her program:
Human athletes know that stretching is an invaluable part of any training program to keep muscles elastic, and a tight muscle is more prone to injury. Stretching helps to improve circulation, range of motion, and overall health of your horse’s muscles, while also decreasing muscle soreness and fatigue. As an added benefit, spending a few minutes stretching your horse can help create a stronger bond.
Also known as “carrot stretches,” incentive stretches use treats or a clicker to ask your horse to stretch himself through flexion (rounding), lateral bending (side to side), and even extension (hollowing or reaching). Try this incentive stretch called “Chin to Chest” as an easy way to start incorporating stretches in your routine on a regular basis.
Ask your horse to bring his nose toward the center of his chest using a treat, creating flexion and stretch in the upper neck muscles.
l Increases mobility in the upper and middle neck muscles including the trapezius cervicis, cervical rhomboids, and splenius muscles.
1 Stand beside your horse, facing forward.
2 Offer a treat near the horse’s nose to get his attention.
3 Slowly move your hand back toward the center of the horse’s chest, covering the treat so he cannot grab it.
4 Make sure the horse’s neck is straight and his nose is pointing down.
5 When using a clicker, activate it right at the center of your horse’s chest.
6 Hold the stretch for 5 seconds to start, working up to 10–20 seconds over the course of several weeks.
7 Repeat 2–4 times, changing sides each time so your horse’s head doesn’t begin to tilt to one side in anticipation.
Every day, after your horse is warmed up. Hold for 10–20 seconds and repeat 2–4 times.
Learn more stretches, in-hand exercises, and ridden lessons to help build and maintain a solid foundation of strength and comfort for your horse in the book PILATES FOR HORSES by Laura Reiman.
CLICK HERE for more information and to download a free chapter.
Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.
There are some authors who inspire us, even out of the saddle. Jen Marsden Hamilton is one of those. She always seems to reach out just when we at TSB need a shot in the arm and encouragement to keep on, keeping on. We connected with Jen recently to talk about her book STRIDE CONTROL, what’s it’s like to own a field of sunflowers, and what Mark Twain has to teach all of us.
TSB: Your book STRIDE CONTROL provides exercises and advice for practicing striding at home so you can perform your best. Why is stride control integral to jumping success, both in the ring and cross-country?
JMH: The average hunter course is about 100 strides and 8 jumps. Jumper courses, depending on the size of the arena, could be 150+ strides and up to maybe 16 jumps. The cross-country count can be 12 to over 30 over several miles, with lots of jumps and combinations.
Obviously, on a course the rider/horse spend more time on the ground than in the air. Best to spend that time wisely.
The ability to control the horse’s stride to a jump and within lines enables the horse to do his job—jump!
TSB: In your book, you describe yourself as a “watcher” who copied her heroes when you first rode and competed in the fifties. What is the benefit of being a “watcher”? Should young riders learn in this way today?
JMH: In the old days, riding lessons taught a very basic position, how to post to the trot, and how to canter. Basically how to “go” and “whoa” and not fall off.
One of the best ways to learn is to watch the best of the time. Your choice is to do that or remain stagnant.
Of course I think young riders should watch the best. Watching the best inspires! But one must never forget the progression of skill development to greatness.
TSB: You use the word “strategy” in your book to describe the plan you provide for each of your exercises. How does one devise a strategy for developing new skills and practicing new exercises without the benefit of a coach and when working on one’s own?
JMH: Read STRIDE CONTROL! Anyone can have a plan: Find exercises to take you toward your goals and follow the strategies to promote learning. Over time, your exercise strategies can be fine-tuned to your personal needs.
TSB: One of your catch phrases is “Be a star!” When did you first start saying this to your students and what does it mean to you?
JMH: I can’t remember when “Be a star” became my thing, but it has lasted over time and is so meaningful to so many in different ways.
Rapport allows for personal interpretation and positive affirmations.
TSB: What is one lesson you hope readers will take away from your book?
JMH: Teacher-directed lessons are great and at times essential when introducing new skills, but nothing replaces personal practice time to develop your feel and how to read a situation.
When the in-gate closes, you’re on your own. Internalized skills need to kick in. Take responsibility for the ride.
The exercises in STRIDE CONTROL promote self-directed positive learning in a non-threatening situation. It’s more than okay to self-train over valid exercises that promote correct and safe learning.
TSB: You are based in beautiful part of Nova Scotia and have your own field of sunflowers that blooms in the summer. Why sunflowers? And how did that field come to be?
JMH: My husband Brian is a fixer not a “throw-it-outer.” During the COVID lockdown, he refurbished a 100-year-old seed spreader.
Lots of land + working seeder + 2 bags of sunflower seed = a lovely field of yellow.
Being on the top of a hill the yellow could be seen from a distance. People enjoyed our field and many came for a big handful.
TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?
JMH:Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett: My favorite book, and it’d take a long time to read.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: The story of true friendship.
Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne: I could entertain myself and talk to myself, reciting the lovely stories and rhymes.
No horse. I’m taking a cat!
TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?
JMH: Go swimming bareback in the ocean.
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?
JMH: Truthfulness to help me maintain personal balance and someone to laugh and cry with. A tall friend to reach the top shelf is also useful.
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?
JMH: I love honest horses. Horses who try their best based on ability. The horse that would be the McDonald’s “Employee of the Month.”
TSB: What is your greatest fear?
JMH: The loss of hope.
TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?
JMH: I have a retro 2002 Inspiration-Yellow Thunderbird. Whenever I’m at a stoplight next to some young pups and they look over and think, “What a waste!” I gun it and leave ‘em in my dust!
TSB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
JMH: Since I can remember, I’ve asked for both my birthday and Christmas to wake up TALL and THIN. I’ve always been disappointed! I’ve learned to embrace/accept terms like RUGGED and STURDY, but really it is body shaming.
TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?
JMH: Milk, peanut butter, and red jam.
TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
JMH: I think the lyrics of “Happiness—You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” sums up happiness beautifully. If you don’t know the song, have a listen, then sing along, and enjoy. It will bring back memories and help you enjoy the present.
Really, it’s all about smiles and laughter. Smiles of greeting, love, safety, and personal and shared accomplishments. Laughter related to joy and memories, and just shared laughter with family and friends.
I can’t wait to have our whole family back together again! The smiles and laughter will be wonderful!
TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?
JMH: Mark Twain. He was the ultimate watcher and commentator on society. I love his quotes. In fact, I’m living by one of his quotes: “I have achieved my 70 years (74 now) in the usual way: by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else.”
TSB: If you could go back to December 2019 and go one place anywhere in the world with as many or as few people as you would like, where would you go, who would you bring, and what would you do?
JMH: In December 2019, I was planning and booking a trip to Kenya for Brian and me, our daughter, her husband, and our three grandchildren. I have been lucky to teach in Kenya several times and make friends there. I wanted to take everyone on safari and meet our friends before the “grand-ones” were too old and grumpy.
Hopefully, by the time the world opens our family will still want to travel with us and we won’t be too lame or jaded.
TSB: What is your motto?
JMH: Whatever you do, do it with total conviction and be a star!
Jen Marsden Hamilton’s book STRIDE CONTROL is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.