Welcome to the Schmidt Show: 24 Hours with Dressage Trainer and Equine Cartoonist Morgane Schmidt

One of our favorite things about my job is that I get to know the most fun and fascinating people. Our authors come from so many parts of the world and with so many different life experiences, a day doesn’t pass where I don’t wish I lived closer to one or all of them so we could hang out on a regular basis. Luckily, many are willing to give us a peek behind the curtain and into their lives so we can see what it’s like being in their shoes for a day. Trainer and cartoonist Morgane Schmidt, author and illustrator of the hilarious comic treasury LIFE WITH HORSES IS NEVER ORDERLY, recently shared one of her typical dog days of summer, where there is much latte, quite a bit of maid service, and even some dressage.

“I found myself laughing out loud as I turned the pages of Life with Horses Is Never Orderly. Morgane Schmidt has explained just about every experience I have had in my many years in the horse world and put just the right spin on it. Everyone who needs a laugh (and don’t all equestrians?) should read this.” —Lendon Gray, Olympian, Dressage Coach, and Founder of Dressage4Kids


3:15 am Awaken to Goblin sitting on my head and Bowie standing next to the bed, over me, breathing. Heavily. I usually groan, chuck a pillow at Bowie and shove Goblin into his bed on the floor all while regretting the ONE time I let them out at this ungodly hour.

The face of evil.

5:43 am Startle into wakefulness because Bowie is now sitting all 165 pounds of his fuzzy ass on my legs, cutting off circulation. Goblin is also farting. I acquiesce and get up to let them out and feed them. Usually, I put Goblin’s food in his crate and lock him in it so I can go lie back down for a few moments unmolested. Bowie tends to saunter in after his breakfast to begin his very early morning nap that generally lasts until about 9:00 am. Lucky sod.

6:30 am These days, this tends to be when I get up in earnest. Before returning to The Swamp (aka Florida), I started the day quite a bit earlier by necessity as I was trying to work horses before sitting down to my actual desk job. Now that I am not juggling multiple training horses, I suppose I’ve gotten lazy—that or I need the extra few minutes of sleep since my dogs are jerks. At any rate, this is when I start mainlining coffee. Then I meditate and do some special yoga for riders…just kidding. I just drink coffee, eat oatmeal with chocolate chips (like a REAL adult), and mindlessly play on my phone.

That’s me, double fisting it.

7:00 am – 9:00 am Once I am somewhat among the living (usually three or four espresso shots in), I head out and provide room service and hospitality to my generally ungrateful herd. There’s often a bit of huffing about there not being enough alfalfa, but I’m immune to their grousing. At the moment, it’s just Wilson and Milona at the farm, so barn chores are generally pretty quick.

After breakfast, maid service, and a general wellness check to ensure no one has succeeded in maiming or offing themselves, I tack Wilson up to ride. As he is the elder beast, and the least likely to chuck me into the bushes before I am fully awake, he gets harassed first. Honestly, this is probably my favorite part of the day. It’s beautiful out—a light breeze, birds chirping, gators still sleeping—it’s perfect.

You can almost hear the birds chirping…the ones the gators haven’t eaten anyway.

Wilson, who I used to call “The Beastlet” when he was younger and more fractious, is quite the trustworthy soul these days. If anything, he could benefit from being a tad more forward-thinking. We are continually working to help him be quicker with his hind leg and maintain his balance. He’s such a big, elastic mover that sometimes coordinating everything with balance AND impulsion can be tricky. Rather than getting hot or explosive he just…stops. He does a very good rock impression. Super zen-like. It makes for an incredibly frustrating FEI test though.

Interestingly, the tricks are easy for him. He loves changes and can really sit in a pirouette. Collected trot though? What’s that nonsense about?!

Wilson, ever the charmer.

9:00 am After warming myself up with Wilson, I tackle Milona, the “Red Dragon.” She has many opinions. As long as she voices them respectfully, rather than taking me for a self-guided field trip from the scary corner in the arena to the other end in three strides, I count it as a win. In all seriousness, she’s a lovely youngster, bright red mare that she is. She loves to work and entirely believes that the world is there to admire her greatness (I suspect she may not be wrong if she develops as I think she will). While she doesn’t often have tantrums, she is a mare and she is currently in the “Fabulous or ‘Eff You’ Fives,” so there are questionable moments, and those moments can be quite *exciting* given her athleticism. As a result, I’ve enlisted the help of a fabulous friend and trainer, Alejandro Salazaar. He’s like some sort of riding savant; he’s one of the few riders I’ve worked with who is equally as talented with youngsters as FEI horses. Milona, of course, adores him.

Milona in a non-flight moment.

10:00 am – Sometime in the Late Afternoon After my early morning barn sabbatical, it’s time for me to head inside for my *real* job. I currently work for a tech company based in Boulder, Colorado. We offer speech recognition for the Healthcare industry, specifically home health and hospice. I work remotely as a marketing manager. This means that I do things like help develop collateral, outreach campaigns, website and social media content, as well as manage Google AdWords and other lead-driving initiatives.

Sounds sexy, right? Well, it is! In news that will shock no one, the horse industry is a tough one to make a living in. As much as I love training and teaching, for a multitude of reasons I’m not cut out to do it full time. I also find that having a job in an entirely unrelated field helps keep my brain sharp(er). And while any office job has its fair share of “meetings that could have been emails,” I do really enjoy mine and the people I work with.

As I work from home, my day sort of varies and is generally built around whatever meetings I have scheduled and what projects we have going that I’m working on. In the middle of that though, I generally head out around lunch to check once again that no one has committed hari-kari on a fence post, or anything similarly stupid, and to reward them with more snacks for avoiding vet bills. If time permits, I do another round of maid service.

Sometime late afternoon I take some time to meditate. Just kidding. I still don’t do that. But it is a goal! Eventually. I do make another latte though. That seems like healthy self-care.

Sometimes one must give the kids something to entertain themselves so actual work can get done.

Evening When my work calls are done for the day, I do a final round of ration-dispensing and maid service. The doggos kindly provide me with entertainment both in the yard beforehand as well as while I cook dinner. Usually something super fun like ricocheting from the couch to the ottoman and then onto the dining room table. It’s mildly funny when Goblin does it. It’s borderline tragic when Bowie attempts it.

During the week I occasionally have an evening lesson or two to teach. I have been fortunate in that I have some super-fun horses and people that I get to work with. Some are strictly dressage riders and others are eventers.  As a former eventer (I gave that goal up after I figured out that continually barfing in the start box wasn’t a thing), I love being around the sport, particularly now that I’m not the one doing that whole hurtling over immovable obstacles part.

The neighbors aren’t impressed with Bowie’s antics.

7:00 pm – 10:00 pm After one final barn check, I usually settle into art/writing/computer projects in the evening. As someone who is hardwired as a night owl but reprogrammed as a morning person due to horses and the gross reality that it’s hard to get a productive ride in after dark, I find that I’m most creative at night. This works well with the fact that I am also a procrastinator. While I do keep a running list of comic ideas—usually gleaned from conversations with friends and fellow equestrians or sparked by memes or other internet rabbit holes—the actual drawing and creation of the comic usually happens sometime after 8:00 pm Tuesday night (because it’s due Wednesday morning).

If I don’t have a comic that I’m working on, I often use this time to work on other art projects or articles. Most of my artwork is equine or dog related though I have been known to attempt people on occasion. I currently have a watercolor of The Goblin King going that is screaming to be finished.

Where the magic happens?

10:00 pm Reading and internet rabbit-hole time! I would like to say that I go to bed by 10:00 pm but that would largely be a lie. In theory—because sleep is important—I would like to be in bed and sleeping by 10:00, but in practice I sometimes find that hard to manage. My dogs also do not go to bed by 10:00 so there’s that too. I have made a concerted effort to do more reading of actual books rather than reading on my phone though. For the curious, I currently have five books in various stages of completion on my nightstand: A Grave for a Dolphin, Good Omens, David Sedaris – the Best of Me, The Chronicles of Between, and Beyond Biocentrism. I’m only a little eclectic.

11:00 pm The hellhounds get one more freedom run through the yard so they can track all sorts of glorious debris into the bed. Then bedtime. Maybe.

All photos courtesy of Morgane Schmidt.

You can find Morgane’s hilarious comic treasury LIFE WITH HORSES IS NEVER ORDERLY at the TSB online bookstore and wherever horse books are sold.

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.

Enjoy this? Check out other author interviews in the “24 Hours” series:

Sally Batton
Sandra Beaulieu
Dr. Stacie Boswell
Cathy Woods
Dr. Jenni Grimmett
Dr. Bob Grisel
Tik Maynard
Jec Aristotle Ballou
Kendra Gale
Jean Abernethy
Yvonne Barteau
Jonathan Field
Emma Ford
Jochen Schleese
Heather Smith Thomas
Lynn Palm
Daniel Stewart
Doug Payne
Janet Foy

Snorkeling, Horses Who Wear Hats, and Very Scary Rocks: 24 Hours with Collegiate Riding Coach Sally Batton

It is a privilege at TSB to get to know so many horse people from such a variety of backgrounds. The common thread is that ALL of them are busy, with days full of teaching, training, and expanding their own understanding of horses and horse sport. More often than not there’s some travel thrown in there, too. We asked former Dartmouth Equestrian Coach Sally Batton, author of THE ATHLETIC EQUESTRIAN, to share one of her clinic days with us, and we hit the jackpot with a glimpse at a day in her life while visiting the oh-so-beautiful Hawaii.

6:00 am  After a long day of travel yesterday, I wake up to the sounds of blowing palm fronds and exotic bird calls that we don’t have back home in New Hampshire. It’s my eighth trip to teach clinics on Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands. I started my trips to Oahu when a prospective student visited Dartmouth and went home and told the Hawaii Pony Clubs and various barns that I was willing to travel to Hawaii to teach. (I know, I know–tough gig!)  I’m staying in Honolulu at a private home with a rooftop view of Diamond Head and an easy walk to the beach. I come downstairs to a beautiful display of fresh fruit put out by my host and friend Sherry, and accompany it with my usual rice cakes with almond butter. Oh, and I don’t drink coffee…my morning caffeine-delivery system is in the form of Coke Zero! 

7:00 am  I spend about 30 minutes by the pool at the house on my computer. Most of my clinics on the mainland are planned by the clinic hosts, and they do all of the scheduling and organizing for my clinic days. My Hawaii clinics are a bit different…I do all of the day and time organization myself, so the half-hour on my computer is for any last-minute questions and add-on clinic times.

Breakfast! Photo courtesy of Sally Batton

7:30 am I clinic at all three Hawaii Pony Clubs–Lio Li’i, Malu’Olu, and Na Lio Kai–as well as the farms/ranches where the Pony Clubs are located and many of the private clients at each farm/ranch. I jump into my car and drive the 15 minutes to my first clinic location along the southeast shore of Oahu, passing Hanauma Bay and the Halona Blowhole, two famous tourist spots on Oahu. Although the temperatures are in the 70s and low 80s, my New-England-pale skin is covered head to toe in a wide-brimmed hat,  a UPF 50+ long-sleeved shirt, yoga-style breeches, and my Hoka hiking boots…oh, and SPF 50 sunscreen that gets applied throughout the day!

Halona Blowhole view. Photo courtesy of Sally Batton

8:00 am I arrive at Koko Crater Stables located near Hawaii Kai off the Kalanianaole Highway.  Koko Crater has a rich history dating back to 1960 and sits on 8.5 acres inside the Koko Crater. Koko Crater Stables is a municipal facility owned by the City of Honolulu and operated by Horse Haven. I teach Lia, a youth rider new to me, for an hour in the sand arena, which is made of black sand due to the volcanic nature of the area. I start every clinic explaining that I teach my clinics similar to how I taught my varsity Dartmouth Equestrian Team for 30 years. I work on my coaching principles such as Attention to Detail, Mental Toughness, Ride at Show Attention, as well as introduce my various teaching tools and work on position at all three gaits. I also introduce Lia to working on her two-point position with no stirrups, an exercise that I feel is invaluable to all riders to increase their riding fitness.

Working with Lia at Koko Crater Stables. Photo courtesy of Sally Batton

9:00 am I finish up at Koko Crater and head to my next clinic, which is 15 minutes farther up the coast road to Malu’Olu Ranch in Waimanalo. Malu’Olu has some of the most stunning backdrops to their outdoor, lighted arena. Almost all arenas on Oahu are fully outdoors with only a couple that offer covered arenas. The general rule is that if it rains, we all get wet and the clinic carries on!  Luckily for me this trip had beautiful weather, mostly sunny, with gorgeous trade winds that blow in off the ocean and keep both me and the riders and horses cool! At Malu’Olu I’m teaching a couple of youth riders who I’ve taught for years. My first session is with Quinn and her horse Romeo, who has a penchant for hats…yes, I said hats!  Apparently he has quite the selection of hats that have been converted with ear holes and a string to keep them on his head, even while jumping! Quinn and I focus her session on what it will take to do well at collegiate team tryouts when she’s ready to head to college in a year. We also work on keeping Romeo working forward off her leg over jumps to prepare for an upcoming Hawaii Horse Show Association (HHSA) Hunter/Equitation show.

10:00 am Still at Malu’Olu, I also teach Hope, who moved up from a pony to a horse last year, and we’ve been working on getting The Governess to land on the correct leads in courses since her flying changes aren’t quite reliable yet. We work on keeping her moving forward and also the coordination of the aids to ask for the new lead.  Hope’s family brought “Guvvy” over from Maui a year ago. Some riders in Hawaii are able to import horses from the mainland, but many are bought and sold either on Oahu or from one of the neighboring islands, and they come across by boat. 

11:00 am  I leave Malu’Olu and pick up a quick vegetarian lunch at the Ohana Grill and sit and eat on the Waimanalo beach overlooking Manana, or Rabbit Island. I then head farther north and inland to Maunawili in Kailua. The majority of my sessions for this trip will happen at Maunawili; they have a thriving boarder and share-boarder population of riders, as well as numerous trainers and the Lio Li’i Pony Club.  Maunawili is located over the Ko’olau Range on the windward (or eastern) side of Oahu, and tends to be wetter and greener.  Driving to Maunawili is like driving through a lush, tropical rain forest with beautiful and exotic vegetation and flowers. 

12:00 pm I teach a couple 30-minute sessions to Maunawili riders, including one with Lynne and her new four-year-old OTTB “Boss.” Lynne was my host and clinic scheduler on my very first Oahu tour and has become a good friend. I work with Lynne and Boss unmounted, simply working on leading and various scenarios that could cause alarm in a young horse and best practices to deal with them when they occur. For the most part, I’m impressed with Boss’s calm nature and can tell that there’s already a bond between him and Lynne, even though she only imported him from the mainland six months ago. When we come across a grouping of large rocks in a circle, Boss startles and then won’t go forward. I teach Lynn to turn his head away from the rocks, tell him to “walk on,” and then circle the rocks about five or six times until they become “boring” to him, and he can walk around them on a loose lead.  

Lynne and her OTTB “Boss.” Photo courtesy of Sally Batton

1:00 pm I leave Maunawili and drive the hour north to North Shore Oahu to Kawailoa Ranch in Haleiwa. Although it isn’t the norm for me to hit all four of my usual clinic spots in one day, it takes less than an hour to drive from Kailua to the North Shore, and there are few highways so I don’t usually get lost! My usual clinic pattern is to teach the southern and southeast clinics for a few days and then teach on the North Shore for a few, and then back down to another spot for a few, but occasionally I have days where I hit them all. The North Shore has acres and acres of pineapple fields and abandoned sugar cane fields, with the sugar industry shutting down on Oahu due to the mechanization in mills on the mainland. North Shore is also famous for the surf breaks at Sunset Beach and the famous Pipeline. I’ve spent many lunch hours on the beach at Pipeline, watching the brave surfers and listening to the pounding surf!

2:00 pm I teach both youth and adult members of the Na Lio Kai Pony Club, including sessions preparing Mahea for her Pony Club C3 rating at the end of the summer and getting the others ready for the HHSA horse show. I’ll teach Minnie in the upcoming days for two to three hours each day, since she has three horses, including an OTTB that she has just started working with. Minnie also exercises up to five polo horses on any given day for members of the Hawaii Polo Club who hold their matches on the Mokuleia polo field adjacent to the beach.  

4:00 pm When the last lesson wraps for the day, I sign copies of my new book THE ATHLETIC EQUESTRIAN and answer rider questions.

5:00 pm I change into my swim gear, head south to the Honolulu area, and arrive at Waikiki Beach to get on a sunset cruise…it’s not all work on my clinic tours! I do manage to get in some “play,” too. As much as I can on my Hawaii tours, I’ll hit the local snorkel spots to view the beautiful tropical fish and my favorites, the “Honu” or green sea turtles. Honu are a protected species and it’s illegal to go within eight feet or them or touch them, and many Oahu beaches have groups of volunteers that rope off areas of turtle nests from tourists. My sunset tour starts off with a crew member blowing through a conch shell, and once we get well away from the beach, they hoist the sails and we’re off! We sail for about an hour with amazing views of Honolulu and the Waikiki hotels and also Diamond Head, Hawaii’s most recognized landmark, and take in the beautiful sunset.  

8:00 pm After a full day of teaching and sailing, I meet my host Sherry at a beachside restaurant where we enjoy drinks and pupus (appetizers), and I have fresh fish for dinner. We enjoy the tiki torches and the sounds of the surf and a local musician playing Hawaiian favorites.

9:30 pm After we return to my host’s home, I tell Sherry “mahalo”(thank you) and then head to bed, exhausted but ready to get up tomorrow and do it all again!

Dinner view. Photo courtesy of Sally Batton

 


Sally’s book THE ATHLETIC EQUESTRIAN, written with Christina Keim, is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order now.

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

A Maine Horseman on Loving the American West, Avocados, and Watership Down

It isn’t uncommon to have an experience that marks a major life change–a dramatic meeting, a sudden loss, an unexpected epiphany…all of these can inspire a re-evaluation of who we are and what we are doing with our lives. When Chris Lombard suffered a breakup that upended his life and left him searching for meaning and purpose, he headed west to learn how to work with and ride horses–something he knew nothing about. We caught up with Chris and talked to him about the book that tells his story, LAND OF THE HORSES, and how a single moment can herald seismic events.

TSB: Your book LAND OF THE HORSES explores a year you spent traveling the West, searching for opportunities to be with and work with horses, having never done so before. What inspired you to share this particular story with the world? 

CL: Well, first off, I just enjoyed writing about it. It was fun to revisit it all. In the writing I would remember the beauty, the adventure, the inspiration. And also the little moments. Moments that meant a lot back then, but also moments that only upon further reflection did I realize how meaningful they were to me. To put this time of my life into a story—into something tied together into one cohesive journey—has been a gift to me. And, as I’ve learned, the best thing to do with a gift is to give it away to others. 

CLICK FOR MORE INFORMATION

TSB: In your book, there are a number of themes, including what can or can’t be seen in someone’s eyes. What is it about the eye, and in particular the horse’s eye, that you find profound?

CL: In the eyes—our eyes or an animal’s eyes—is truth. It’s a common truth that is inherent to us all, ties us together, and unites us. The look and feeling in our eyes also speaks more clearly than any words or sentences or whole books ever could. The eyes give us a look into the soul, and how that soul feels, and what it truly wishes to communicate to the world. And this is not so much something that is learned or practiced or trained—it’s something always there, and we just have to get ourselves and our mind and our thinking out of the way of it. In the eyes is where we can best see and feel the unseen world of the soul.  

TSB: You are lucky to meet many horses as you learn to ride and strive to become a horseman. Tell us about one of the horses that had an impact on you during that time. 

CL: Cheyenne, a Mustang mare. She was thirteen when I met her. She had lived in the wild until the age of two, was rounded up, then adopted. But never tamed. She spent the next eleven years of her life successfully fending off any attempts at domestication. She was the most challenging horse I have ever worked with. She helped me to learn and feel what my entire being was saying and doing when around horses. She taught me how to slow down, believe, to love unconditionally, and that trust is never, ever made to happen. And that with trust is the ONLY way a horse can and should be led.    

TSB: You are from Maine but admit a distinct love for and connection to the American West. What is it about the West that you love? What is it about the West that makes it a place you cannot stay but can only visit? 

CL: I sure do love the West. The land feels wise, wild, and ancient. It’s deep, magical. I am also very tied to the indigenous people’s ways of living and being, so that holds me there. And also the horses—it’s no mistake that most wild horses on this continent have settled around that area of North America. It’s the type of land that they are most comfortable living on. But Maine is home. At the end of the day, Maine has a wonderful variety of land, and the ocean. And I love the people there. So Maine is home, but I will always adventure and journey into the West. 

Photo Courtesy of Chris Lombard

TSB: What is one lesson you hope readers will take away from your book?

CL: That we all have a passion, a love, that is inside us that is uniquely our own. For me, I need to have horses in my life. For others it’s the piano, or gardening, or painting, or cooking, or something else. And when we are following our passion, it gives love to us, arising naturally from within us. We’re happy. And this unique passion we have turns to a gift that we can give to the world. And then in the giving of it we are happy. It seems we are all given a part to play in this great world, and when we find that part, when we play it, it gives back to us in all ways.   

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?

CL: A Mustang and Watership Down by Richard Adams.

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

CL: Ride with Rocky across the country bareback and bridle-less, even with no halter and lead-rope for when I get down to lead him…. Impossible? I think about it all the time.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

CL: Trust. Common answer, and there’s a good reason why. 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

CL: Horse-ness. Horse happiness. Free to be themselves. 

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

CL: That I won’t “get myself out of the way of myself” enough to fully give everything I want to give to the world.

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

CL: Avocados!

TSB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

CL: I would like to slow down in many ways that would allow me to do more with the life I have.

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

CL: Broccoli.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

CL: To recognize in every moment how much love and beauty there is all around us.

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

CL: Caga Mato Wanbli, also known as Frank Fools Crow, an Oglala Lakota holy man. 

TSB: What is your motto?

CL: Live from your love within.

LAND OF THE HORSES is available now in print and eBook format from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

What they’re saying about LAND OF THE HORSES:

“A well written and heartfelt book that demonstrates the positive and often life changing promise that horses have to offer—when we let them.” —Mark Rashid, author of Journey to Softness, Finding the Missed Path, and Horses Never Lie

“This book gave me pause. I was absorbed in Chris Lombard’s words of wisdom about being with and connecting with the horse. His thoughts on horses and life resonate truth. They are simple, yet profound. It made me want to run out to my barn to work with a small and troubled horse that is new to my farm and seems angry at the world. I slowed down with him and started seeing a shift and a softer eye. Land of the Horses is definitely worth the read!” —Cindy Meehl, Cedar Creek Media, Director and Producer of Buck7 Clinics with Buck Brannaman, and The Dog Doc, and Executive Producer of Rewind, The River and the Wall, For the Birds, UnbrandedTrapped, and Dogs on the Inside

“This book needs to be read. I am changed by it. It has a quietly powerful way of bringing home the connection between the human and the horse.” —Joe Camp, author of The Soul of a Horse

“I love linear timeline books such as this…narratives that take you on an emotional and physical journey while periodically dropping you into very different worlds along the way. Chris Lombard’s story is told with an adventure essence that kept me connected the entire time—from teaching children in a school to guiding night rides in Los Angeles to working with dudes in Arizona. It’s a story of adventure steeped with the discovery of finding oneself—and the horse serving as the catalyst for that discovery.” —Bud Force, Co-Director, Producer, and Director of Photography for the feature film Cowboys: A Documentary Portrait 

On Traditions, Beginnings, and May First

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.

—Melissa A. Priblo Chapman, 2021


Melissa’s book DISTANT SKIES: AN AMERICAN JOURNEY ON HORSEBACK is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping is FREE in the US.

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.

Friesians, Parachutes, and Playlists: 24 Hours with Horse Trainer and Performer Sandra Beaulieu

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.

Photo by Susan McClafferty

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.

Coffee and working on the latest eBook. Photo by Sandra Beaulieu.

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.

A beautiful morning bringing in the horses at Little River Friesians in Havana, Florida.

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. 

Riding Co Fan S at a dressage clinic. He is a thirteen-year-old Friesian gelding owned by Little River Friesians. Photo by Triple C Photography

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.

Preparing Co Fan S for a funny TikTok video. Photo by Rachel Quidagno

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. 

The “Model” Friesian mares at Little River Friesians: (left to right) Truus Van Het Houkumhuis, Trudi, Trude Van De Kleine Koppel, Sybrich V. Stal Staf Karima. Photo by Kimberly Chason

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.

Painting from horseback while riding Rovandio, a Lipizzan/Andalusian/TB cross gelding. Photo by Kimberly Chason

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. 

My heart horse Douwe was a lot of fun in photo shoots. We used to perform a lot together, blending bridleless riding, liberty, and tricks. Photo by Kimberly Chason

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!

With Douwe, the Friesian gelding that changed my life. Photo/art by Kimberly Chason

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.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Enjoy this? Check out other author interviews in the “24 Hours” series:

Dr. Stacie Boswell
Cathy Woods
Dr. Jenni Grimmett
Dr. Bob Grisel
Tik Maynard
Jec Aristotle Ballou
Kendra Gale
Jean Abernethy
Yvonne Barteau
Jonathan Field
Emma Ford
Jochen Schleese
Heather Smith Thomas
Lynn Palm
Daniel Stewart
Doug Payne
Janet Foy




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

TSB Author Jen Marsden Hamilton on Striding, Convertibles, and Cats on the Beach

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. 

Jen flaunting her catch phrase.

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.

Jen using the sand to clarify a lesson.

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.

Husband Brian and his antique seed-spreader above…and the heavenly result below.

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!

Jen, going topless!

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.

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.

TSB Author Cathy Woods on Yoga, Riding in the Smoky Mountains, and Finding the “Super Chill”

Photo by Dell Hambleton

It is always so interesting what we bring to our horse lives in terms of experience. Our pursuits or interactions with the world outside the barn are destined to impact those inside it. Consider what an argument with a colleague can mean to your lesson later that day, or how traffic can add tension to an already tight schedule between work, horse, and home. Yoga teacher and horsewoman Cathy Woods says that making yoga a part of your horse life offers wonderful benefits, in and out of the saddle. We caught up with Cathy to talk about why she feels yoga and horsemanship aren’t so different from each other and her new book YOGA FOR RIDERS.

TSB: Your book YOGA FOR RIDERS provides a number of parallels you have designated as illustrative of the similarities between yoga and horsemanship. How do these parallels provide horse lovers a new or different path to better horsemanship and/or improved riding? 

CW: Many people seem to view yoga as a form of stretches done on a mat, but when true yoga is examined deeper, it becomes clear that it’s really a way of life – a way to live with greater awareness. There are 8-limbs/aspects to yoga which teach us how to better interact with our inner and outer world. This enhanced way of living can apply to horsemanship as well as other areas of life. In essence, the parallels are things we should be doing in our yoga practice but also principles we’d want to apply to good horsemanship. Some parallels include: slowing down; mindfulness; and becoming body, breath, and energy aware, to name a few.  These can deepen our experience with horses, expand our learning on the ground and in the saddle, and enrich our relationship with our horses and other sentient beings, which enhances personal growth and adds richness to life. It’s a win/win! 

TSB: Were you a yogini or a horsewoman first? What made you first connect the two pursuits? 

CW: As odd as it may sound, I was born a yogini (a female drawn to and dedicated to yogic tradition). I had an inner pull toward yoga and had yogic awareness from a very young age and long before I was formally introduced to the practice. I quickly realized that being a yogini was not separate from anything thing else, such as my dance and fitness interests and my horsemanship. Being a yogini is a way of life – “How you do anything is how you do everything.” It has put me in touch with subtle energies, and equestrians know how important that can be in horsemanship, from energy shifts to intuition. I clearly saw that applying a yogic attitude to my horsemanship made a positive difference.  Things like being “present,” or what head and energy space I was in when I went to the barn, factored in to what my experience with my horse was on a given day. I organically came to realize that yoga and horsemanship were not so different from each other and instead, actually, a likely pairing. 

TSB: You teach people a combination of postures, breathing, and meditative exercises, on the mat and in the saddle. Is there a balance to strike between yoga practice off the horse and yoga practice on the horse? Which do you prefer? 

CW: I personally find it quite enjoyable and beneficial to do some gentle yoga poses, breathing techniques, and meditation in motion on horseback. However, I would say the mat practice is more important. I like to think of the mat and meditation cushion as a training ground for life – a place for personal groundwork and collection. Once skills are honed or mastered there, we naturally begin applying them to our horsemanship and other life situations – things like, breathing through challenges, heightened focus, body awareness, and the ability to self-correct when out of alignment or tense. We learn these skills best when practiced regularly on the mat. Then they become second nature off the mat as well. 

TSB: If you had to name one, most important benefit of exploring yoga in order to improve your horsemanship, what would it be? 

CW: The heightened self-awareness that comes from practicing yoga, along with becoming more mindful and present.  “Yoga is an awareness practice” – we become more keenly aware of ourselves on all levels, including our inner workings. This also translates to tapping in to inner wisdom, making decisions and choices from a clear, centered place. We also gain the ability for improved situational awareness, which is paramount in horsemanship. 

TSB: What is one lesson you hope readers will take away from your book? 

CW: That true yoga is SO much more than just twisted, contorted poses on a mat! It is really a practice for living well and a path for self-realization. It’s a means to spend integrated, quality time with all aspects of ourselves — body, mind, and spirit – and then carry that integrated awareness into all that we do.  

TSB: You are based in the Smoky Mountains. What is the best part about where you live and where you ride? 

CW: There is so much I love about this region, but one of the best parts is the sacredness of these ancient mountains (they are the oldest in the world). They feel deep-rooted, comforting, and safe. We have no crowds, and we get to live very close to nature. As far as riding, the Smokies have endless and diverse trails – everything from vistas, beautiful creeks and rivers, lovely lakes, and amazing vegetation, to abundant wildlife and rich Appalachian history. I’ve traveled and ridden in many parts of the United States, yet I’m always amazed at what the Great Smoky Mountains have to offer in comparison.  Though rugged, it’s truly some of the best riding ever! 

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? 

CW: The horse breed is easy: I’d go with a Quarter Horse. In my opinion, they are the best, all-around breed. A Quarter Horse could be a good companion, a leisure horse, or a working horse. As far as a book, a survival book would likely be a smart choice, but I’d probably go with The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In a nutshell, the Yoga Sutras are a collection of 196 short verses that serve as a guide to attain wisdom and self-realization through yoga. What better to do if trapped on a desert island than to become self-realized and extrapolate Universal Truth! 

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be? 

CW: A European or Icelandic village to village, several-day ride/tour with my good friend and program assistant Amanda – we travel well together and have had many great adventures.  

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

CW: Authenticity. 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

CW: Good sense.

Photo by Dell Hambleton

TSB: What is your greatest fear? 

CW: Loss and dying. Clearly if these are issues to me, I’m not yet an Enlightened Yoga Master (nor do I claim to be).  I’m also a bit of a germaphobe – getting sick or injured scares me a bit, so I try to use these concerns to make good choices. 

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

CW: I love owning and residing on 30+ acres in the Smoky Mountains. Though it may sound extravagant, it’s actually pretty rustic, and it really allows me to live simply.

TSB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

CW: I’d love to be calmer and more patient. I’m not naturally wired that way, and it’s a constant practice for me. One might think being a yogini I’d be super chill, but that’s one of the reasons I practice yoga – it’s a tool that helps bring balance to the imbalances. 

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

CW: Cheese! I like to think I have no addictions, but I might be slightly addicted to cheese 😊

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

CW: Being soul-content in all life’s situations. 

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be? 

CW: That’s a tough question, because I miss my parents greatly, and they were full of good, practical wisdom – I’d love to converse with them again. But a bit more outside the box, probably Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian monk and guru who died in 1952. There was something special about him (some deemed him a saint), not to mention his profound understandings and teachings about life, death, and beyond. I am drawn to adept individuals with this kind of life-knowledge and wisdom. 

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?

CW: My husband Robert and I enjoy taking extended RV trips. Though I’ve traveled to many places in the US and abroad, I’ve still not made it to the Red Rock Parks of Utah (Bryce, Zion, etc.). This was on our 2020 travel list, which was of course postponed. We’d sightsee, spend time in nature, hike, and make more good memories! The trips we enjoy most are to natural destinations and just the two of us (and our cats)! 

TSB: What is your motto?

CW: Live well, live creatively, live deliberately, and live in a balanced way. Be present and take journeys (inward and outward)! 

Cathy’s book YOGA FOR RIDERS 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.


Early Morning Writing, COVID Vetting, and a Vomiting Princess: 24 Hours with Dr. Stacie Boswell

One of the things we have been incredibly thankful for during this strange year is the contact we have been able to maintain, albeit virtually, with the TSB authors with whom we are so lucky to work. But in the midst of editorial, production, or the initial marketing push for a new book, we don’t often have time to trade details about our daily lives. So when Dr. Stacie Boswell, author of THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR HORSES IN NEED, shared 24 hours of her life as a vet in 2020, we loved getting this chance to peek into her typical day on the job as a rural vet. And OH MY GOSH we learned so much!

5:00 am I’m trying hard to be awake. 

Even my dogs are not awake yet. Peso El Guapo is still cuddled under his blanket on the bed. He doesn’t move when I get up, but Tia gets up off her dog bed and follows me. We found Peso while out trail riding, and I kept him because he has a severe heart problem that will shorten his lifespan considerably. Tia is pathologically attached to me. I acquired her as a job hazard from working in mixed animal practice. She was morbidly obese, weighing in at 30.8 lbs. Her previous owner brought her in to be euthanized because she couldn’t walk. For a year we worked on diet and exercise, and she now stays a much healthier 11 lbs. She has lots of extra skin, but also significantly more pep in her step. 

It’s early dawn gray right now, and while I make some coffee, I watch my two yearling mules chase a mule deer doe and fawn across our pasture.  This morning, I have three recommendations to write for capable young women applying for admission to veterinary school. Like many people who write, this early time of day is my best time. My brain isn’t crowded yet, and the quiet in the house is advantageous for my focus. I want my recommendees to succeed, so I definitely want to write the best possible letters that I can.

6:30 am The other dogs are finally up. It’s exciting — breakfast!! I also wake my husband, Sid, and get ready for work.  

7:30 am And we’re off!!!! My appointments begin. During COVID-19, veterinary practices have been extremely busy. We aren’t sure why this is the case, but it may be that people are home observing their pets (or stressing them out), or that veterinarians are more welcoming and feel safer than human hospitals. The New York Times wrote about this topic in August.

Most of my morning appointments are vaccines or minor problems, but I feel like I’m early in the marathon of the day and I’m already trying to catch my breath. We are doing curbside service to reduce client and staff possible exposure to COVID-19, and that also adds a layer of challenge to communication, and an additional time commitment to each appointment.

10:30 am Yep, now we begin to rearrange the day to accommodate true emergencies. A very nice but worried mom drops off her seven-year-old daughter’s cat, Princess Jingles. Princess Jingles has been vomiting for about a week, and although she is still eating, she has lost a significant amount of weight. About a year ago, she vomited some hair ties, but recently it’s been mostly food and bile. Princess Jingles is a cute, long-haired calico cat. I palpate her, and in the cranial (forward) portion of her abdomen, I can feel a lump that shouldn’t be there. The cat mews—she’s uncomfortable. Apparently, I make a face that’s obvious even with my mask on; my assistant asks, “What are you feeling?” I’m worried that it’s hair ties (again) in Princess Jingles’s stomach. I call her owner and discuss doing X-rays.

11:30 am X-rays are done. For sure there is something in the cat’s stomach that shouldn’t be there. There is also a small area in the colon that is suspicious. These are outlined in the yellow arrows on the X-ray below.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Stacie Boswell

I’m a large-animal surgeon but really love all surgery. An abdominal exploratory will be necessary for Princess Jingles. I always think of this procedure like it is a box of chocolates: “You never know what you’re gonna get.” That makes it fun for me. This time, I’m pretty sure it will be hair ties. I call my afternoon appointments and rearrange my day to accommodate the procedure. One of my colleagues is gracious enough to take over an overlapping early afternoon appointment. 

12:30 pm I finish my morning appointments, and our wonderful technicians get everything set up and ready for surgery.

1:00 pm Princess Jingles is anesthetized and “on the table.” My practice has a visiting fourth-year veterinary student, Alyssa, getting some hands-on real-world experience. She scrubs in with me, and it is so nice having an extra set of capable hands who can retract the stomach as I cut it open and extract ten hair ties and two pieces of yarn. After removing the foreign objects, I close the cat’s stomach. All the other bowel and internal organs are evaluated. There is another hair tie in the colon, but I avoid opening the dirty, bacteria-filled colon during surgery and instead massage the hair tie as far toward the “exit” as I can.

1:40 pm I close the deepest layer of the incision, and then pass the finish off to capable Alyssa. I call Princess Jingles’s people with an update. They are relieved and happy to hear that surgery went smoothly.

Post-operatively, we take two more X-rays to make sure we removed everything. I know from surgery that I did, but I also want to show Alyssa and our other future veterinarians what a “pneumoabdomen” (air in the abdominal cavity) looks like, so the X-rays are a learning opportunity.

We give Princess Jingles an enema to remove that final hair tie. It’s the pink one!

Photo courtesy of Dr. Stacie Boswell

2:30 pm I work on finishing a little paperwork while scarfing cheese and crackers for lunch.

3:00 pm I start my afternoon with horses. Today, I am seeing Bronwynn, a Warmblood mare I’ve seen since she was a foal. She is now six years old. I see her about twice a year, and every time she has grown larger. I think she is about 17 hands at this point. I really love getting to know my clients and their animals over time.

Bronwynn’s person, Joella, really wanted a lovely Warmblood for dressage, and so she bred the mare she had (Bronwynn’s dam). A caretaker was looking after her pregnant mare, but something went wrong, and when Bronwynn was born, the filly was found stuck and frozen in the mud shortly after birth, and was severely hypothermic with a core body temperature of 87oF (normal foal body temperature should be 100oF to 102oF).

The areas of skin injury from the frostbite Bronwynn suffered are now scars. Because of her injury, her right hind leg is somewhat weaker and not as conformationally correct as her left hind, so keeping her foot balanced is challenging. Today I am taking X-rays of her feet to help optimize her hoof trims and keep her foot as straight and balanced as possible.

4:30 pm  My next appointment is Jennifer, who is bringing in her new off-the-track Thoroughbred, Mike. She was able to come in now instead of her originally scheduled time of 2:00 pm. Jennifer runs a boarding facility and has quite a few horses of her own. She ended up with Mike after his racing-career-ending injury. He’s a sweet horse, and she hopes to make a trail horse out of him. 

Mike’s left front foot is more upright, with a small scar and marks from freeze-firing. This information tells me that the left forelimb has some chronic pain and lameness problems.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Stacie Boswell

Freeze-firing has replaced pin-firing (which used heat) as a treatment for bowed tendons, bucked shins, or splint problems. The use of pins makes scars, which can be seen on the skin overlying the injury. Advocates for the procedure use a different depth and pattern of firing for different primary injuries.

The theory is that the counter-irritation of the firing speeds the healing of the primary problem. It was first used in about 500 AD, and even then there were doubts about its efficacy. Now, 1,500 years later, there is very little science-based evidence for it, and it is not taught in veterinary curricula in the United States. Many veterinarians frown upon its use as a treatment.

I like the way Dr. Doug Thal phrases it on HorseSideVetGuide.com, “If pin-firing is suggested as a treatment, you should question the logic of using this age-old treatment. Surely there are other treatments that are superior and cause less pain and suffering to the horse.”

But back to Mike… although someone at the track took X-rays of his more recent injury, Jennifer doesn’t have access to them, and she wants to know if there is any healing. She knows the injury involves a right front sesamoid (the small bones at the back of the ankle or fetlock). She has managed Mike on stall rest for the last six to seven weeks.

I examine Mike, and he is baseline lame on his right forelimb. His range of motion of his fetlock is reduced by at least 50 percent. The X-rays show a fractured sesamoid bone. This bone serves as an attachment for the suspensory branches and is part of the boundary for the fetlock joint. 

Small bones in the body are also generally termed “sesamoids.” They are located at joints and are embedded within a ligament, tendon, or muscle, and serve as a fulcrum over a joint. These include the navicular bone in horses’ feet, and the patella (also known as the “kneecap” in people). Humans have sesamoids in the joints of our knuckles and feet. When horses’ sesamoid bones are fractured, healing will not be apparent on X-rays because the bone fragments are always pulled apart by the stress of the suspensory ligament, which basically continually pulls the two bone pieces apart. This concept of healing holds true for the navicular and the patella as well, as they also get pulled in two directions.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Stacie Boswell

Most likely, Mike had an injury of his left forelimb. He then compensated by over-using his right forelimb, which resulted in his right forelimb not holding up. A fractured sesamoid with concurrent damage to the suspensory ligament is one stage of breakdown injury in racehorses. Jennifer and I talk at length about a variety of treatment options and costs. Ideally, the smaller bone fragment at the top of the sesamoid should be removed arthroscopically. It sounds like a previous veterinarian had also talked to Jennifer about trying to repair the facture (which could involve a screw or a wire and would be much more difficult and expensive), or simply resting (which she has already done, and won’t actually repair the primary damage).

6:00 pm I started my day helping future veterinary students with recommendation letters. As my day begins to wind down, I will say goodbye to Kayla—she is starting veterinary school on Monday. We are sad to see her go but already so proud of her future.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Stacie Boswell

7:30 pm At the end of the day, I have a euthanasia at home for a 31-year-old horse whose people are also aging out of horses and horse care. Montana has some tough weather in the winter, making it extremely difficult for an older horse with dysfunctional knees to make it through the snow. He also has dysfunctional teeth, and making wet mashes to feed him in the winter here, as you can imagine, quickly ends up as popsicles. It’s not winter yet, but these nice folks have re-homed their two younger horses and don’t want their beloved old man to be alone when the others leave the farm this weekend.

I have a 35-minute drive from my office, so I take my dear husband, Sid, as my technician. It’s been busy, so I haven’t seen him much this week, and I’d like a chance to talk to him and catch up. Sid only knows how to tech for nighttime emergencies such as down horses, colics, and euthanasias. Lacerations are tougher…the blood makes him queasy.

I pick him up and call to coordinate with the local company that takes care of burial and cremation options for pets.

Sid and I arrive just before the person who will pick up the old horse’s body. I hug the wife and console the husband. I then sedate their horse. When I give the final injection, he goes down quietly. I then cut his tail to wash and braid with ribbon so his people can remember his long life and the good times they had together. They really loved him.

10:00 pm  We arrive back home. Tia is ecstatic to see us. After a quick dinner, I fall into bed. Peso is already there underneath his blanket.

I hope I can get some writing done tomorrow morning!

Dr. Stacie Boswell’s book THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR HORSES IN NEED 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.

Fergus the Horse Celebrates 20 Years

He has hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook and a surging presence on Instagram.

Each day, he and his diverse group of friends share their mishaps, their successes, and their innermost thoughts with the world.

He is seemingly ageless, looking even better now than when his ascent to fame began.

Who is this intriguing Internet celebrity?

Fergus the Horse (Equus hilarious), the creation of artist Jean Abernethy, has been entertaining audiences—young and old, in print and online—with his comedic adventures for the past 20 years. His rise to fame was documented in the epic equine comic collection THE ESSENTIAL FERGUS THE HORSE, and now, Abernethy celebrates his age—and the wisdom that should come with it—with an all-new selection of horsey humor, including many cartoons fans have never seen before, created exclusively for an all-new book.

With a genuine appeal that crosses boundaries of breed, discipline, and geographic location, Fergus unites anyone with an eye for a horse and a need for a laugh. Readers of all ages—from 5 to 95—will be delighted by his wit, honesty, and profoundly funny observations on horses, humans, and the life they strive to live together.

“The first time I heard someone say to me, ‘I grew up reading Fergus!‘ I was taken aback. The speaker was young, but a grown-up! Had it been THAT long?” remarks artist and Fergus creator Jean Abernethy. 

“But, yeah, there we are. Fergus was born in my sketchbooks 20 years ago.  When I look back now over those early drawings, I’m amazed by the evolution of the artwork. The natural progression of the artwork that I have seen in other cartoonists’ work, I can now see in my own. Only time can do that.

“I’m so happy to share Fergus’s 20th anniversary book with equestrians worldwide. What I cannot share online or in the book, is the memories of all those quiet hours alone, drawing…or those moments mucking stalls, when a funny idea would come to me. There were so many times, when the work seemed so discouraging, that I questioned the wisdom of carrying on.  Then an email would come in from some publication or writer, asking for a comic, or if I could make a custom drawing of Fergus for some purpose or another, assuring me how much they loved the silly bay horse, and confirming how popular he was. So, with gratitude, I kept drawing.

“It is that gratitude to Fergus’s fans that makes presenting IT’S BEEN 20 YEARS, FERGUS so special for me.”

IT’S BEEN 20 YEARS, FERGUS is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to order now.

Click to listen to Fergus creator Jean Abernethy on Horses in the Morning!

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

“Really, most people out there in the world are good. I’ll always believe that.” Lessons from a Cross-Country Trip on Horseback

When Melissa Chapman was 23 years old, she said goodbye to her happy, loving family, her job, and her boyfriend. Carrying a puppy named Gypsy, she climbed aboard a horse and rode away from everything, heading west. With no cell phone, no GPS, no support team or truck following with supplies, Chapman quickly learned that the reality of a cross-country horseback journey was quite different from the fantasy. Her solo adventure would immediately test her mental, physical, and emotional resources as she and her four-legged companions were forced to adapt to the dangers and loneliness of a trek that would span over 2,600 miles, beginning in New York State and reaching its end on the other side of the country, in California.

Melissa wrote about her journey in her new memoir DISTANT SKIES. We had a chance to ask her a little about what that long-ago trip did for her life, and what she hopes the book that chronicles it will do for others.

Your book DISTANT SKIES chronicles a journey you took across the USA in 1982. You were 23 and alone but for your animals—a horse and a dog, and later, a mule. Do you think a young person could make that same journey today? If so, how would it be different?

MC: I definitely think a person, young or not-so-young, could make a similar journey now. It’s a very physical experience but most importantly, it a journey of someone who is ready to step out of the familiar world and at the same time be willing to become even more a part of the world around us. I know of several “Long Riders” who would be considered elderly who rode on this type of trip and much longer!

But there are most definitely big differences between now and the eighties when I made my journey on horseback. The main one of course, being the advancement of technology, which created a dependence on constant contact and electronics. Long-distance adventurers of today use these tools to know things like exact miles from one place to another…the days of directions like “go down the road a fair piece and watch for a dirt turnoff past a big red barn” are a thing of the past. Also gone is the adventure of getting lost, and finding your way by instinct, and using things like the sun and the stars! It’s a little sad to me that now it’s so easy to find out what’s up ahead beyond the curve of the road by looking at your computer or your phone, but the positive side of that is that it’s safer! And with GPS, blogging, social media…people will always know where you are and will be able to follow your journey along with you.

Also, in the years between then and now, many rural places have become more suburban. I still ride almost every day and I can definitely say there are more places developed and more traffic on country roads, which horseback riders always have to consider.

Despite these changes, I know we will continue to hear of people trying, and sometimes completing, modern-day cross-country rides. It just calls to some people, and with the right horse and the right mindset, there is still open land and the open road. And the solid belief that really, most people out there in the world are good. I’ll always believe that.

When do you first remember dreaming about a cross-country adventure on horseback? Did it begin organically, or were you inspired by a book, movie, or event?

MC: The desire to ride cross-country on a horse came from my own head and heart. I remember daydreaming about just living on horseback and wandering around the country as a very young child. I remember once, in about seventh grade, telling a boy I went to school with that I was going to ride my horse across the whole country. I didn’t even own a horse, and he probably thought I was weird, but I remember that exact incident.

My father introduced me to the book The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters by Robert Lewis Taylor, about a boy and his father traveling west. It became my favorite book. I’m sure this, and many of the types of books I was interested in, fanned the flames of my dream.

Your journey became less about the places you went and more about the people you met along the way. Are you still in touch with those you came to know on your trip?

MC: I remember trying to assure my worried parents that horse people would help us out if needed. I did believe that, but I had absolutely no idea how much unknown people would become part of our journey. How the way of passing us along from one farm to another, and checking up on us and watching out for us, would become one of the reasons we actually completed the whole thing.

So many people, and I should say, not just horse people, became interested and emotionally invested in seeing me and my animals follow my dream and accomplish our goal—it still amazes me to this day. After my first draft of the book, when I had to make my book a shorter, more manageable size, I hated having to eliminate some of their stories, because they were so important to me!

Many of those special people you meet in the book are a part of my life to this day. Several of my “trip families” were at my wedding. Nancy Goodman and I can still talk until phone batteries die. Naomi and I write and occasionally see each other. A story that comes to mind is the day my first child was born, I woke up after an emergency C-section to see my baby, my husband, my mom, my sister, and a vase of yellow roses from Tom and Barb Kee, who had been waiting by the phone in Kansas. So absolutely, many treasured and life-long friendships came from this journey.

What is one thing you hope readers will take away from your book?

MC: This is an important question to me.

I think it’s an uplifting story and that people will be glad they read it.

But I’m especially hoping that someone who reads my book may be inspired to pursue their own dream, whatever it may be. I’m hoping that people will be reminded of the America that is about freedom and kindness. I hope readers can see that woven throughout the stories is a reminder that there’s goodness everywhere, and that even on the bad days, there’s still the possibility of finding that goodness somehow. And that you have to believe in yourself and be open to believing in others. And that when things don’t go as planned or things are hard, you just keep going.

You just have to keep going.

Melissan Chapman’s memoir DISTANT SKIES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to order now.

“In Melissa Chapman’s debut memoir, we meet characters that are always interesting, and almost without fail, kind. We read writing that is succinct and evocative. The author’s relationship with her animals and love for the land does what Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley in Search of America did for me—it inspires both thoughtfulness and action—and that is my favorite kind of book. This girl, riding bravely across the continent, reminds us to appreciate the journey—for the end comes all too soon. Distant Skies will move you, guaranteed.”

Tik Maynard,
Author of In the Middle Are the Horsemen

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