Photo by Erika N. Walsh

Photo by Erika N. Walsh

We’re counting down the days to the 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, organized by the Retired Racehorse Project (RRP), a nonprofit dedicated to the placement of ex-racehorses in second careers, and sponsored by Thoroughbred Charities of America.

You can join thousands of others who believe that every Thoroughbred deserves a chance to win at life at the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, October 27-30, as top trainers engage in the process of transitioning ex-racehorses to second careers. The Thoroughbred Makeover serves as the only national gathering of the organizations, trainers, and farms dedicated to serving OTTBs and features educational clinics and demonstrations, as well as the Makeover Horse Sale and the $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover competition.

The 2016 Makeover features over 300 Thoroughbreds that began working with trainers from across the country after the first of the year and who will compete in up to two of ten equestrian disciplines to showcase their talents and trainability.

“The Thoroughbred Makeover is a unique opportunity on so many levels,” says one of the event’s judges, TSB author and president of EquestrianCoach.com Bernie Traurig. “First, it’s a wonderful way to see firsthand the great qualities the Thoroughbred has to offer for so many disciplines. There are over 300 OTTBs competing and demonstrating their versatility in a wide array of sports. Second, for those interested in purchasing an OTTB, many, perhaps half, are available to be tried and purchased. David Hopper and I are judging the jumpers, and we are both really excited to see some of these great Thoroughbreds.”

As supporters of the Retired Racehorse Project, TSB is proud to have a number of authors joining Bernie Traurig (creator of DEVELOPING PERFECT POSITION and other DVDs) in this year’s Makeover. BEYOND THE TRACK author Anna Morgan Ford’s OTTB adoption organization New Vocations always has a significant presence at the event, and both Denny Emerson (HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD) and Yvonne Barteau (THE DRESSAGE HORSE MANIFESTO) worked with OTTBs with the competition in mind.




“I did not know of the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover challenge until my friend Lisa Diersen of the Equus Film Festival mentioned it to me,” recounts Barteau. “Since I spent seven years on racetracks, working with Standardbred and Thoroughbred racehorses, and also a few years training ex-racehorses, it seemed like a good thing for me to do.

“I started working with SeventyTwo (‘Indy’) in February,” she says. “I found him a bit aloof at first and also somewhat challenging. He likes a good argument and will try to drag you into one if you are not careful. He is also funny, charming, and extremely clever. He learns things, (good or bad), super fast, so I have had to stay ahead of him in the training game.

“I am having such fun with Indy, I plan on keeping him and continuing to train him up the levels in dressage as well as making an exhibition horse out of him. I don’t know how he will be when I take him to a new environment (the Makeover), so however he acts there will be just part of our journey together. I’m looking forward to it either way!”

Don’t missing seeing Indy and all the other winning ex-racehorses as they show off what they’ve learned over the last few months and compete to be named America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred! Tickets for the 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover are on sale now (CLICK HERE).

Watch Yvonne and Indy working together in this short video:



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


We at TSB are very honored to have been part of the team that brought the 7 CLINICS WITH BUCK BRANNAMAN DVD SET to life. Together with Director Cindy Meehl and Cedar Creek Productions, we immersed ourselves in this remarkable horseman’s world of working with horses and the people who want to be with them. Along the way, you can’t help but notice what a fine orator Brannaman is, and when you randomly pull snippets from his lessons, you find that every thought, even shared in a different venue, in a different state, at a different time, with different students, flows seamlessly into his overarching message. Here, then, find 20 of Buck Brannaman’s best quotes. When you’ve read them all, don’t be surprised if you feel like you learned a little something. Even after hearing them and reading them again and again, we still do.


“The essence of preparation is to position your horse to where the one thing that he’s most likely to do is exactly what you had in mind…which makes it a perfect time to ask him.”

2  “The horse needs to respect you, but sometimes people confuse respect and fear. And they’re not the same at all.”

3  “Make sure that every time you take a hold of the horse, you have a point; you have a legitimate reason for doing it rather than it just being accidental or you not being aware.”

4  “When riding, ask yourself, ‘What will my horse get out of this if I get what I want?’ Many times, human nature is to take and to not give anything back.“

5  “It’s just like learning how to dance with another human being. You might think you’re really getting something done when you’ve both mastered the hokey-pokey, but depending on how much you want to dance and your passion for dancing, you’re probably going to work your way through the hokey-pokey and move on to something else.”

6  “I don’t believe in waiting for a horse to do the wrong thing and then punishing him after the fact. You can’t just say ‘No’ to a horse. You have to redirect a negative behavior with a positive one—something that works for both of you. It’s as though you’re saying, ‘Instead of doing that, we can do this…together.’”

7  “Fear has to do with helplessness. The only thing that conquers it is knowledge. When you learn about how a horse thinks and makes decisions, that helplessness goes away.”

8  “I’m just trying to get people to understand horses. You have to be consistent and logical, use your brain, and not be emotional and not lose your temper.”

9  “Feel for the horse. I can’t stress how important this is.”

10  “Respect the fact that he’s thinking, that he’s searching… if he ever found that out about you, he wouldn’t dream of bucking you off.”


11  “You can be a leader without being intimidating. The horse can be your partner without being your slave. I’m trying to keep the best part of the horse in there. I’m not trying to take anything away from him.”

12  “The horse isn’t so different from us. In order to learn, you have to make mistakes. Then you recalibrate, make a decision, try something different, and try again.”

13  “To me, there’s nothing more beautiful than seeing a horse think…and someone allowing a horse to think.”

14  “The idea with a horse is when you see things going in the wrong direction, then you redirect his mind. You don’t wait for him to get into trouble…you try to keep him out of trouble.”

15  “A lot of people, they want it all to be fuzzy and warm and cosmic, but it’s no different with a horse than with a kid…You can’t always be the kid’s best friend. First you have to be the parent.”

16  “You can be strict, but that doesn’t mean you have to be unfair.”

17  “The horse responds to comfort, they respond to peace better than about anything else you could do. So if the horse responds to you and you give him a little peace and comfort that means more to him than anything.”

18  “Where you end up your ride on a horse is so important. It’s a little bit like when you were young and you were dating—that last two minutes of the date can be a real deal breaker. With these horses it’s the same thing…You got to quit on a good note.”

19  “I’ve always wanted to do the right thing by a horse, that’s never changed, its just that as my knowledge grew I’ve been able to offer the horse a better human being.”

20  “I’m still on the move, I’m getting better because I’m still studying. I still want to be a better horseman.”

7 CLINICS WITH BUCK BRANNAMAN is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to order now.


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


How do you greet someone for the first time? Depending on which part of the world you are from, perhaps it is no more than a nod and a smile of acknowledgment, a small bow, or it could be a kiss on one cheek or two. Of course, the greeting many of us are most familiar with is the handshake.

The handshake dates back to Ancient Greece. It is believed that by shaking hands, rather than bowing or curtseying, two individuals proved they were equals. It also demonstrated that they felt comfortable enough together to be unarmed.

Have you ever thought about the fact that horses have a similar system in place? A way to show when they are on equal footing and not a threat to one another? Of course we’ve all seen the horse-to-horse sniff, stomp, and squeal, but have we ever really considered what it all means…and what it means when it comes to the way we greet our horses?

“The Greeting Ritual is the basic platform I have created to teach humans how Conversations with horses can exist,” says Sharon Wilsie of Wilsie Way Horsemanship in HORSE SPEAK, the book she wrote with fellow horsewoman Gretchen Vogel. “The Greeting Ritual consists of three separate moments in which horses that are meeting touch noses on the Greeting Button (located on the front of the muzzle). The speed at which they may perform these three touches varies from lightning-fast to very slow. The reason for three official touches is simple: there is much to say in a first, formal greeting, and it takes two subsequent touches to sort it all out.”


HORSE SPEAK author Sharon Wilsie greets her Morgan mare.

HORSE SPEAK author Sharon Wilsie greets her Morgan mare.


Here’s a very simple way to start a real Conversation with your horse, the way he’d like you to, beginning with “Hello”:

1 Use a Knuckle Touch (your hand in a soft fist, knuckles up) to the horse’s Greeting Button to say, “Hello,” followed by an obvious turn to one side. Do this to see if the horse will copy your movement (an offer to follow you).

2 Add a second Knuckle Touch to say, “Getting to know you!” and once more turn to the side to confirm the horse will offer to follow you.

3 End with a third Knuckle Touch to say, “What’s next?” as you breathe in and out softly. This could lead to you going somewhere together, grooming (some form of touch), or separating peacefully. The third touch is where the next level of Conversation begins.


“Horses must be bilingual,” says Wilsie. “They must speak ‘horse language’ to horses (although if they have been isolated, they may not be effective communicators with other horses). In addition, horses need to speak ‘human.’ We use words and inflections to indicate our many levels of feelings, needs, and replies to each other. Humans don’t need to rely on subtle visual messages. We express less with our bodies than we do with words. We make so many random movements around our horses that they can be at a loss trying to understand us.

HORSE SPEAK is meant to help both sides of the coin: humans and horses. Just like learning a foreign language, you will first learn distinct movements that are the horse’s individual words. You’ll learn how to mirror his words visually, in a way he will understand. Eventually, you will be able to combine these gestures in sequences and pose questions to horses. When a horse replies with his own movements, you will understand what he is saying and be able to respond logically. Fluency comes with the flexibility to have a conversation automatically, calibrated with appropriate intensity. And giving you the means to become fluent is my goal.”

Watch the book trailer here:




HORSE SPEAK: THE EQUINE-HUMAN TRANSLATION GUIDE 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 DVDs, is a small business located on a farm in rural Vermont.


Don’t we all like to feel like we’re in control of our actions and reactions? Especially when it comes to working with and riding horses—it is in our best interests (in terms of living to see another day, that is) to maintain some semblance of calm, cool, rational control in stance and movement, and to generally avoid screaming, flailing, lurching, vomiting, fainting, or in other ways baffling or scaring the 1200-pound creature beside or beneath us.

The thing is, any number of years can go by, any number of instructors can point us in the a positive direction, and any number of experiences can go right…but we’ll still be thrown out of whack psychologically at the very thought of them potentially going wrong. And it is this that inspires the sudden and ill-advised lack of control that can end with us bottoms up in a puddle.

“The amygdala, which sits very near the brain stem, is the part of the brain responsible for these basic emotions: happy, sad, mad, and scared,” explains formerly practicing psychotherapist and certified riding instructor Andrea Waldo in her new book BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS. “The area that includes the brain stem and the amygdala is often referred to as the ‘Lizard Brain’ or the ‘Reptile Brain,’ because reptiles seem to have been the first animals to possess this area.

“Much, much later, we evolved our prefrontal cortex,” she goes on, “a very large section located just behind the forehead. This is your ‘Rational Brain,’ the part of the brain that controls logical thought: it allows you to plan
that after you read this chapter, you need to pick up your son from soccer, buy grain, and remind your spouse that tomorrow is recycling day. It also allows you to do cool things like think in the abstract and come up with great inventions like saddles and Velcro and duct tape. We tend to rely on the prefrontal cortex to get us through the day.”

But guess what? Despite all that evolving that has occurred, the Lizard Brain likes to take the reins in our brains, determining how we act and react—and the reptile is neither reasoned nor logical.

“As much as we know that an apple is better than a cookie and that paying the electric bill is more important than the tack shop’s clearance sale, our Lizard Brain couldn’t care less about ‘long term health’ or ‘financial stability,’” says Waldo. “It thinks only about the immediate moment, and it cares about only one thing in this moment: survival. This is why you can’t think straight when you’re extremely nervous: your amygdala has hijacked your Rational Brain. You’re not stupid or inept; you’ve just allowed your Lizard Brain to run the show. It thinks you’re being attacked by a tiger, so it tries to get you to safety.

“The Lizard Brain can’t distinguish between a psychological threat and a physical one; it uses the same response for both. This is why a dressage judge can send your heart pounding and wipe your brain clean of everything you knew five minutes ago…. To the Lizard Brain, a threat is a threat, and you either need to kill it or run away from it as fast as possible.”

Your Lizard Brain is why a dressage judge can send your heart pounding and wipe your brain clean of everything you know!

Your Lizard Brain is why a dressage judge can send your heart pounding and wipe your brain clean of everything you know!

The good news is we don’t have to be brought down by a mental Godzilla! Waldo has lots of ways to tame the Lizard Brain, keeping us the cool, rational, controlled riders who are not only safer in the saddle, but happier and more successful in all our dealings with horses.

Here’s an easy exercise to get you started as you head out for a weekend of riding: List 10 of your riding skills.

Can you do it? Every single one, even the most basic, counts. If you can’t recognize your abilities, you can’t have confidence in them. But when you can look at yourself and identify all the ways you are a knowledgeable and capable horse person, then you can take one step in keeping that Lizard Brain out of the driver’s seat.

For more about our reptilian side and the ways we can learn to unlock our riding potential, check out BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS by Andrea Waldo, 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 DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Photo by Erika N. Walsh

Photo by Erika N. Walsh


Yvonne Barteau, author of THE DRESSAGE HORSE MANIFESTO, is a career horsewoman. And while perhaps that doesn’t make her unusual or particularly different from the other authors we have featured in TSB’s “Horseworld by the Hour” blog series, her varied experiences certainly do. She began as a groom, and later, a trainer, at racetracks along the East Coast, before becoming a horsewoman who specialized in restarting “problem horses.” Eventually, she entered the equine theater business, spending over five years as the Director of Entertainment Operations, Principle Trainer, and Feature Performer at the Arabian Nights Dinner Theater in Orlando, Florida. Since then she has devoted herself to dressage and teaching students, training more than ten horses to the Grand Prix level and coaching many riders to year-end and Regional Championships. And she and her husband Kim continue to entertain audiences around the globe with stunning liberty work and theater shows featuring a variety of breeds and disciplines.

So what is the typical day in Yvonne’s life like?

“My life takes on different shapes throughout the year, depending on either the competition or exhibition dates we have on the calendar,” she says. “I have quite a few things I am preparing for now that occupy my hours.”

Here’s a glimpse behind the curtain at what it’s like to walk 24 hours in Yvonne Barteau’s boots.

Yvonne Barteau and her 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover horse, Indy.

Yvonne Barteau and her 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover horse, Indy.

5:00 a.m.  I’m usually up between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. The good old days of the racetrack have stuck with me a long time. I’ll have one cup of coffee and a couple of cookies for breakfast and let my two dogs, Gimme and Weezer (one a Jack Russell and the other a Jack-Corgi mix) out in the yard to play. If my horse training abilities were judged on how well those two rascals are trained, I would likely go hungry. They kind of do what they want for most of their day and demand something from me every time they see me.

Early morning is my writing and business time, and I try to get done with it by sixish. I then get ready and head down to the barn before my crew gets there. I always visit my good buddy Ray first. He is the Holsteiner stallion I trained to Grand Prix and would let live in the house with me if I could! Sergio our barn manager is usually feeding at this time. Right now I am preparing Indy, my little Thoroughbred, for the Retired Racehorse Thoroughbred Makeover Challenge, so I often get him out and let him have his breakfast “picnic style,” lying down in the arena or the field.

7:00 a.m.  My crew arrives and we talk about the day’s schedules, lessons, and horses to work, deciding who will work what. This is also “meeting time” if we have an upcoming exhibition we are preparing for. Next on our schedule is the Denver Stock Show in January, and we are deciding how we will bring The Sound of Music and Chicago, to life, on horseback. I often put a first ride on Indy about this time so he can then go out for turnout before lunch.


Yvonne and her students put on fabulous equine theater productions at major events across the country throughout the year.

Yvonne and her students put on fabulous equine theater productions at major events across the country throughout the year.

8:00 a.m.  Usually Papi, the big 17-hand, 11-year-old Andalusion stallion who is converting from theater work to the dressage arena just this season and starting at the PSG level, gets a ride around now. We have many connection issues and lots of walk work to address, so I may spend over an hour on him, with over half of it at the walk.

9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.  I may ride sale horses or teach my daughter Hudi during this time. I also have one regular Adult Amateur at 11:30 who is intent (and succeeding) in moving her horse up the levels with me only helping from the ground. She is fun and motivating to work with.

12:15 p.m.  I usually eat something while I catch up on computer work, which right now is movie editing. Our documentary on the making of an Equine Theater horse, called Into the Spotlight, is going to be in the Equus Film Festival in NYC and a few others this fall. It seems there is always “just one more edit” to do.


Yvonne made a name for herself as a horsewoman who can determine a horse's personality type and customize his training to suit.

Yvonne made a name for herself as a horsewoman who can determine a horse’s personality type and customize his training to suit.

1:00- 3:00 p.m. I have regular lessons to give here during this time, as well, and horses I ride or teach on that are in my five-day-a-week program.

3:00-5:00 p.m.  This is when the working students and apprentice trainers get their lessons, unless I have people who have shipped in for help. Right now, I usually get Indy out one more time to work on some Liberty or trick work before calling it a day with him. Project and sale horses are videoed if needed at this time and often it is more toward 7:00 p.m. before we all straggle up to the house.

8:00 p.m.  It is time for dinner, and I am the luckiest person in the world to have Kim, my husband, decide each day to make all of us a fabulous meal. We eat amazing and inventive meals each evening and many who have worked for us say the food and the home-cooked meals, are as much, or more, of an incentive, than the riding and training help they get!

Unless we have other guests over, after dinner we often watch a movie—or for me, part of one!

9-9:30 p.m. I am in bed because I love a good night’s sleep.




You can read more about Yvonne Barteau and her dressage training philosophy in THE DRESSAGE HORSE MANIFESTO (which, by the way, is written from the horse’s point of view!), available at the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

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











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


Screenshot from Bojack Horseman–Watch him on Netflix.

There are a lot of things these days that can making getting to the barn difficult, or even impossible. Hey, from experience, it even can happen when your barn is in your backyard! Work, kids, spouse, meals, extended family, friends, fitness, errands, household repairs and chores, appointments—you name it, they take time, and pretty soon the hours you planned to spend with your horse have dissolved into a few minutes at the beginning and end of your day.

But that old argument for quality versus quantity gets a nod here, because of course both your horse and you can benefit from a short visit—if, that is, that visit is one where you are fully present. And with text vibrating away in your pocket and the mental clocking ticking down in your head, therein lies the modern equestrian challenge: Quiet, focused, undisturbed, tech-free-time with you-know-who. (And don’t forget the carrots.)

In her latest book RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN, horsewoman Melinda Folse explores the various traps we fall into as imperfect life and imperfect bodies sap the joy we once found beside or on a horse. Stress, feeling “overwhelmed” and out of control, and the unhappiness with “self” that often goes along with it, can play a big part in keeping us out of the saddle. Here’s one powerful exercise she provides, which she learned from licensed therapist Jill Valle, who was trained at The Mind Body Medical Institute at Harvard Medical School and has run a 15-year private practice, focusing on women and adolescents and body image issues.

The exercise is as easy as 5-3-1…

Any time you catch yourself feeling anxious, upset, or overwhelmed. Stop, take a deep breath, and then ask yourself:
• What are 5 things I see in the room or barn or arena around me?

• What are 3 things I hear?

• What is 1 thing I feel?

Valle says that using this exercise when we feel like the wheels are spinning too fast takes us out of our “loops,” returning us to the present moment by making us “observers.”

In RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN, Melinda Folse admits she often feels “overwhelmed by my life’s magical roller coaster ride,” and so she gave 5-3-1 a try.

“At work I got a pop-up reminder that the farrier was coming later that afternoon, so I left my office early, picked up my daughter from school, and headed to the barn,” she writes. “On the way I got a business call deemed ‘extremely urgent’ that necessitated an evening ahead full of damage control. As I pondered this mess, my daughter informed me she had nothing to wear to an important event the next day (oops), and I looked down to discover my inspection sticker was expired on my car. Did I mention we were out of hay?

“Taking a deep breath, I pulled into the parking area near our barn and immediately went for 5-3-1:

5 things I saw around me? 1) Horses grazing in a turnout pen; 2) the barn manager welding something on his trailer; 3) a friend giving her horse a bath in the washrack; 4) another friend hand-grazing her horse; 5) kittens playing on the clubhouse lawn.

3 things I heard? 1) The buzz and popping of the welding equipment; 2) horses in the pen behind me running down the fence line; 3) a tractor coming back from raking the arena.

1 thing I felt? Warm sun beating through the windshield of my car.

“Did this exercise change any of my circumstances? Not at all. But somehow, everything suddenly felt more doable….The turning point toward calm control was Valle’s 5-3-1.”





You can find more easy, horse-life-changing exercises in RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN, 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 DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.


Here’s a quick tip to take you into your weekend when you’ll be puttering around the barn and hanging out with your horses:

“A blanket should always be folded neatly and hung up,” say pro grooms Cat Hill and Emma Ford in their bestselling book WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES. “Blankets chucked over the wall or railing are not only not very nice to look at but potentially dangerous. Belly and leg straps hanging down can get tripped over or get caught on a horse; then suddenly, you have a loose blanket attached to a horse! A blanket touching the ground can host mice overnight; as a consequence it gets holes or stains in it.”

In their book, Cat and Emma show us several ways to fold a blanket properly. In this 30-second video, you’ll learn the one likely to be of most use this time of year—best for lightweight coolers and sheets:



You can order a copy of the book Olympic bronze medalist Phillip Dutton calls “unparalleled” and Grand Prix dressage rider Lisa Wilcox says “demonstrates impeccable horsemanship” from TSB’s online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.


Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs for over 30 years, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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