Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Author Interviews’ Category

It seems like after decades in the horse industry, all of a sudden, everyone is talking about fascia. This is that thin sheath of fibrous tissue that encloses the muscles and other organs, and apparently, it is really pretty important to your horse’s posture, movement, comfort, and performance. Huh. If you’re like us, all these years of riding and horse care and various bodywork therapies, and you haven’t given fascia a thought, right? Well, now is the time to acquire a whole new awareness of your horse’s body and how you can keep it happy and healthy.

We caught up with TSB author Margret Henkels, founder of Conformation Balancing, her method of fascia fitness for horses, and author of the book and DVD IS YOUR HORSE 100%? She brought us up to speed with how easy it can be to positively affect the horse’s fascia…and shared a few of the secrets that keep her going, too!

TSB: Your book and DVD IS YOUR HORSE 100%? were published in 2017. They explain your method of bodywork targeting the horse’s fascia, which anyone can do. Why do you feel fascia fitness is important to horse and rider? How can your method of bodywork help horses with “problems”?

MH: Fascia (sometimes called myofascia), or connective tissue, is an amazing tissue. When it’s healthy, it’s full of light and free movement…when it’s stiff, it’s rigid and painful. Nearly every horse experiences strain. Stuck fascia is a huge problem for a free-moving, master athlete like a horse. These dark stuck areas ruin their free movement and create a fearful mental state. Fascia is the only tissue that also “holds” emotional trauma, due to its unique properties. When a rider “melts” a hard, stiff area on their horse with their hands, this action also releases emotional anxiety related to that limit. This is a miracle for the horse! They become very grateful to us for this relief.  Riders win and keep the trust of their horse with this work. Also, the rider understands her horse much better. Limits are now recognized as physical issues, not refusals. It’s an amazing new way to relate to horses and riding.

IsYourHorse100Percent-horseandriderbooks

TSB: You first became interested in fascia and how it can be influenced when you had your own physical compensations and adhesions addressed by a bodyworker. How is fascia work for horses similar to that for humans? How does it differ?

MH: Horses and humans both feel much better with flowing fitness. Humans entertain themselves with distractions and diversions, but horses live in constant fear and anxiety if they aren’t fit. Humans often medicate the discomfort. Horses constantly fear a predator will get them. Humans might feel limited by poor fitness, but horses feel very unsafe and judged against.

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

MH: Fascia is astonishing in its self-intelligence, and it is easy to effect huge, progressive, balancing advances from difficult, stuck, and unhappy situations.

20171109_134700

Margret Henkels demonstrating how to “melt” the fascia at Equine Affaire in MA, 2017.

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?

MH: An Arabian horse and Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado’s GALLOP TO FREEDOM!

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

MH: Jump big fences on a talented jumping horse. 

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

MH: Integrity.

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

MH: Integrity.

Margret Henkels and Pepper

Henkels with her dog Pepper.

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

MH: That human consciousness will continue to limit the horse’s happiness.

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

MH: Chocolate.

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

MH: To be younger with all the gains I made in aging.
 

IMG_1077

With Tanga, a BLM Mustang

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

MH: Organic, local carrots and bee pollen.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

MH: Being part of a transformative experience.

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

MH: Harry de Leyer, owner of Snowman.

TSB: What is your motto?

MH: Don’t give up before the miracle happens.

Margret Henkels’ BOOK and DVD are both available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

OurHorsesOurselves-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Pam White

 

TSB is excited to announce a wonderful upcoming event at the Time Out Foundation—a 35-acre farm in beautiful northwest Connecticut that provides children and teens with the time, space, and experiences they need to create positive change in their lives. On May 20, 2018, from 3-5:00 pm, TSB author Paula Josa-Jones will present a playful, collaborative equine event based on her book OUR HORSES, OURSELVES entitled “3 Horse Tales for the 21st Century.” CLICK HERE to hear Josa-Jones talk about the event and what she hopes it will help achieve in a short interview with Marshall Miles on Robin Hood Radio.

Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 6.05.32 PM

CLICK TO VISIT ROBIN HOOD RADIO

 

A short time ago, we found some time to chat with Josa-Jones about her book and her work as a choreographer and a dancer. It was wonderful to learn a little more about her hopes for the horse world, as well as her creative process. Here’s what she had to say about OUR HORSES, OURSELVES and the differences between working with human dancers and finding ways to “dance” with horses.

 

TSB: Your book OUR HORSES, OURSELVES: DISCOVERING THE COMMON BODY was published in the fall of 2017. Your perspective as a dancer and choreographer offers a different “way in” to that place of connection with the horse everyone strives for. For those who are unfamiliar with your work, how would you explain the relationship between your life as a dancer and your life as a horsewoman?

PJJ: Movement! Between 60 and 80 percent of our communication is nonverbal, spoken in the bodily languages of movement and touch—including conscious and unconscious movements, gestures, postures, and facial expressions.  The whole encyclopedia of our movement is in fact an intricate web of communication. Horses are in fact masters of the this movement language. They are speaking in it all the time. Every movement is expressive and carries meaning.  Much of their communication has such subtlety that even very experienced horsewomen and men find it difficult to parse. 

My own story is that I rode as a young girl, and then horses left my life and dance became primary.  And then I found myself needing to be around horses and ride again as an adult. Almost immediately I wanted to get out of the saddle and explore moving with them on the ground. I wanted to speak with them in the shared language of movement and see what would happen. As an improviser, I was curious about just being still, listening with my body, and letting movement arise from simply being in their presence rather than from “performing” planned or patterned movements.

I am still doing that.  I would say that I try to dance every aspect of my relationship with my horses, and with the work that I do with students and clients.

 

OurHorsesOurselves2-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Jeffrey Anderson

TSB: OUR HORSES, OURSELVES provides dozens of gentle exercises and meditations. How can these simple activities, many of them out of the saddle and away from the horse, improve riding, training, and competitive performance?

PJJ: The idea of many of these exercises is to support riders and horse people in having a more holistic, sense of themselves and their bodies, and understanding that this embodied awareness is an essential foundation for all dimensions of horsemanship. Embodiment means experiencing our bodies in a continuous, feeling, conscious way, what I call “body presence,” meaning a moment-to-moment awareness of the flow of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and energies through our bodily selves. 

So instead of fixing the horse—the neck, the jaw, poll, or inside hind—or making small or big adjustments to the position of our legs, or hands, or seat, we start to feel the whole of ourselves in connection with the whole of the horse. This moves our focus from outside (seeing ourselves as an external viewer) to inside (feeling ourselves from within). 

Mindfulness about our bodies and our movement takes practice! We have to notice the details of our movement and bodily sensations in an ongoing way: how you pick up your cup, hold your steering wheel, sit at the computer, get up, shake someone’s hand, pick up your grooming brushes, move around your horse or your house.

Also, the exercises in my book are intended to move us toward a more “awake” expressive, exploratory, curious, and playful experience of our moving selves in relationship to the horse. So much of our movement is functional—about going somewhere and doing something—and we forget to “dance” our lives, or may not even consider that as possible. I want to challenge the unconscious, the habitual, and look for ways to “wake up” and experience each breath, each ride, as unique—as an opportunity to become more awake and engaged.

 

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

PJJ: That we are not separate. The subtitle of my book is “Discovering the Common Body.” I want to emphasize that your body is not separate from my body or from the body of the horse, the praying mantis, the hummingbird, the manatee or the earth itself.
In his book The Songs of Trees, author David George Haskell, says, “Life is embodied network.”  What that means to me is that all living beings are an interconnected, interspecies, bio-similar, cross-pollinating network in a constant flux of adjustment, response, and transformation. Often, however, we are not feeling that ongoing connectedness; we are not orienting toward the pleasurable dimensions of that relationship with others or ourselves.
 
I believe that the horses can help us with that. There is something so precious and profound about entering the mystery and the silence of connection with them that has little or nothing to do with technique or conventional horsemanship, and everything to do with the deep alignment of relationship.

 

TSB: You have choreographed performances for humans and those for horses with humans. What has been most rewarding in your work with dancers on the stage? With those in the arena and on horseback?

PJJ: Each dance has its own intention and necessity at the time that it is created.  That means that the ideas and the movement materials that were a part of that particular dance took on the quality of an obsession, with a specific, intense urgency. For example, I worked over a period of two years on Ghostdance—with my company and in collaboration with a community of dancers in Mexico, and the composer Pauline Oliveros. That happened to include the year that my father was dying, and so that gave the dance a particular edge, and deepened the work in some unexpected and important ways.

I love each dance that I have made. I would have to say that I love the work into being, into form, and that each one leaves its traces—changes me deeply—and makes way for the next work, and the next. The important thing is to let oneself be drawn to the work, like a surfer waiting for that next perfect, inevitable wave.

With the horse dances, RIDE, the first dance that I created with horses, has a special resonance. I think that is because it grew from a community of riders and horse people (I was living on Martha’s Vineyard at the time) and had a velocity and potency that took us all by surprise. Like that wave, again, we all felt we were being carried. I was also a complete beginner in my adult horsemanship and in making dances with horses, and had all the blessings of beginner’s mind, meaning a strong, eager determination but few preconceptions.

 

OurHorsesOurselves3-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Pam White

 

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?

PJJ: Probably a Friesian, like my strong, steady, beautiful Sanne.  On the other hand, perhaps an Andalusian, like my feisty, enthusiastic, gorgeous stallion Capprichio. Both?
I will need two books: the complete poems of Mary Oliver and any mystery by Ruth Rendell.

 

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

PJJ: Riding an Icelandic pony in Iceland! I have always wanted to know what tolting feels like.

 

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

PJJ: Enthusiasm and kindness.

 

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

PJJ: Curiosity. 

 

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

PJJ: Something happening to someone (animals included) that I love. 

 

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

PJJ: The horses, always the horses!

 

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

PJJ: I am VERY sensitive, like an anemone.  That is a blessing and a curse—a double-edged sword.  I love that my sensitivity allows me to feel everything so deeply, and wish that I were not quite so vulnerable to the cruelties. On the other hand, my outrage fuels my activism.

 

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

PJJ: Avocados, goat milk, and something green.

 

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

PJJ: I have more than one! Riding out with my horse on a spring morning or a fall afternoon, tasting the air together, feeling each other. Reading a book while listening to the Caribbean ocean. Swimming in the Caribbean ocean. Standing with Sanne’s nose pressed into my shoulder. Sitting on the porch with a cup of tea and my beloved Pam White. 

 

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

PJJ: Please don’t make me pick ONE!!! Eleanor Roosevelt. Rachel Carson. Harriet Tubman.

 

TSB: What is your motto?

PJJ: I believe in deepening creativity and awareness playfully, through the body, and finding ways to expand understanding and feeling with all sixty trillion cells, not just the ones perched on our necks. That means having a 24/7, wide-awake, multi-sensory, empathetic bodily experience of the world and ourselves.

 

Our Horses OurselvesPaula Josa-Jones’ book OUR HORSES, OURSELVES is available now 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 DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

Read Full Post »

IngridKlimke-horseandriderbooks

German Olympian Ingrid Klimke is an incredible horsewoman and author, and we’ve long admired her ability to balance her equestrian career with her family, as well as her commitment to educate others, just as her esteemed father Reiner Klimke always did. TSB caught up with Ingrid last month and had a chance to ask her a few questions about her new book and the year ahead.

TSB: You recently wrote TRAINING HORSES THE INGRID KLIMKE WAY, which shares many details about your training philosophy and the horses in your stable. In it, readers can really see how much each individual horse means to you. What is one lesson one of your horses has taught you that you feel has changed you, your riding, or how you work with horses?

IK: Abraxxas (“Braxxi”) taught me one really important lesson in my life: Horses, just like human beings, have strengths and weaknesses, and you have to accept that! Braxxi was always mostly great in the dressage and cross-country…but then the show jumping was not always easy. I eventually found there was no other way forward than to accept this and live with it and find other ways to make him strong. His gift to me was only one rail down in his last run at the CCI**** Burghley 2013!

0000-horseandriderbooks

Ingrid on Braxxi with just a neck ring. Photo by Horst Streitferdt

TSB: It’s a WEG year—what are your hopes for the competition in Tryon, personally and for the German team?

IK: For sure, GOLD for the team and for Bobby (Hale Bob)!

TSB: Anyone who has tried to balance a riding life and a family will look at you with great admiration, as you compete at the very top of the international scene while still managing to be “Mom.” How do you balance your riding and training career with your family? Do you have any tips for the rest of us?

IK: Good organization is the key. With the perfect team and supporters you have the chance to make everything possible. I must give many thanks to my mum Ruth, as she is always there for me. And my barn manager Carmen, as she knows all the horses—and me—better than anybody else! #teamworkmakesthedreamwork

0002-horseandriderbooks

Ingrid with her family: Andreas, Greta, and Philippa. Photo by Horst Streitferdt.

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?

IK: I would choose a blood horse, and I would take the book Ahlerich, which was written by my father.

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

IK: Cheese and fruit.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

IK: Perfect happiness for me is to gallop on the beach on a fast horse 🙂

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember sitting on a horse.

IK: When I was two years old my mum put me on the back of a horse in the stable…

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember falling off a horse.

IK: …that same time with my mum…I fell off on the concrete!

0001-horseandriderbooks

With daughter Philippa. Photo by Horst Streitferdt.

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

IK: I like a sense of humor. A good friend also needs to be tolerant so that we can be like we are and stay like we are.

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

IK: I like ambitious horses with personality 🙂 It’s great when they have a winning spirit. Its also very nice when they are good jumpers.

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

IK: I would love to ride across the Rocky Mountains.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

IK: Salad and pasta.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?

IK: In my perfect holiday I would love to be out in nature with wild animals, on horseback, along with great people. My partner pferdesafari fulfills this dream perfectly!

pferdesafari

Click image above to visit pferdesafari.

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

IK: Nelson Mandele.

TSB: What is your motto?

IK: Love what you do and do what you love.

 

Train Horse Ingrid Klimke

Click to Order!

Ingrid’s new book TRAINING HORSES THE INGRID KLIMKE WAY 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 DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Read Full Post »

CoachDanielStewart-horseandriderbooks

Coach Daniel Stewart is an enthusiastic force of positivity that makes you smile even when you’re in the middle of getting your riding butt kicked into gear. His mental and physical training techniques have helped boost equestrians from mediocre to masterful all over the globe. At TSB, we’ve been lucky to work with Coach Stewart on three books over the many years we’ve now known him, including his newest FIT & FOCUSED IN 52. Recently, we caught up with him at an airport in between flights to clinics, and he shared a little about his new book, as well as his feelings about clowns, gray hair, and ice cream.

TSB: Your new book FIT & FOCUSED IN 52 was published in December. It provides a calendar of tips for the rider’s mind and body, one each for every week of the year. What was your inspiration behind this concept and how do you think pairing fitness and focus can benefit riders?

CDS: The inspiration behind creating FF52 was my belief that success in riding—like in all sports—only occurs when we become both physically and mentally strong; when we match a strong leg and seat with strong focus and confidence. I’ve always thought that riding was a sport of distances (like 3-foot fences and 12-foot strides) but perhaps the most important distances of all are the 5 feet below our ears… and the 5 inches between them!

24910101_1584813671586167_3495329191515073251_n

Coach Stewart with Olympian Boyd Martin, who says, “Everyone can benefit from becoming more confident, focused, and fit…and Daniel’s equestrian sport psychology and fitness programs are a great way to do it!”

TSB: You have been leading a number of high-quality “equestrian athlete camps” around the country. What do you feel these intensive settings bring to a rider’s ability to improve, compete, and succeed?

CDS: My four-day equestrian athlete camps held at the US Olympic Training Center are designed to give developing and young riders access to the same quality of instruction, coaching, and facilities as our high-performing teams receive. While I initially created these camps to help riders improve their success by teaching them how to improve their physical and mental fitness, I was delighted to find out that the riders were also creating amazing camaraderie with their newfound teammates—some of which appears like it might last a lifetime! 

TSB: You and your family and neighborhood were hit hard by Hurricane Irma in September. What is one lesson you learned from the experience, both during the storm and in its aftermath?

CDS: Believe it or not, I actually learned more from before the hurricane hit than I learned from the storm itself! In the days before Irma hit my home in Naples, Florida, my neighbors and I began knocking on doors to see if we could help others in any way. While were greeted with thanks and appreciation, the majority of homeowners actually asked if they could join our “team,” so we all began knocking on even more doors! Before Irma even hit, we had created an amazing community of neighbors working through the fantastic heat and humidity to install hurricane shutters, empty refrigerators, remove potted plants, and complete other such tasks that would help ensure our community was impacted as little as possible. In the end learned that living through something like Irma can really bring a huge sense of community…to a community!

Screen Shot 2018-01-30 at 5.47.49 PM

The scene after Irma at Coach Stewart’s home.

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?

CDS: I suppose I’d want to bring along a Criollo horse because I understand that history has shown that they can be great swimmers. I recall reading a story about this breed of horse being thrown off of ships in the middle of the ocean (to try and save the ships from sinking) and many of the horses were able to swim great distances to the shores of islands. If I’m getting stuck on an island, I want to have a horse who can get me out of there. As for the book…I’d bring my own! (I wrote it but I haven’t actually had time to sit down and really read the finished copy yet!)

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

CDS: I’ve trekked through Ireland, but I never had the chance to trek from one bed-and-breakfast to another. I’ve heard about these kind of trips and would love to try one!

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

CDS: While attributes like loyalty are really important to me, the one quality I look for most in a friend is kindness—kindness to others, to their friends and family, to strangers, and just as importantly, to themselves! I feel that kindness is the root of most everything that is good. Without kindness, for example, all other qualities (such as loyalty) are really going to struggle.

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

CDS: The quality I love most in a horse is when I know that they’re giving me 100 percent. It’s not important that their 100 percent be enough to succeed at everything they do… I just love knowing that they’re willing and able to give everything they can at everything they do.

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

CDS: Clowns. Mimes and clowns. My children have always known this… that’s why they’d always color pictures of clowns in elementary school art class and bring them home for me…

clown-630883_1280

We’re with you, Coach Stewart…super-scary!

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

CDS: I’m definitely not a very extravagant guy. I drive a tiny car, only own one suit (the one I was married in), and count my pennies… but I did splurge on a nice, safe home for my family. Living in Florida means that we always have lots of friends and family spending vacation with us, so I insisted that we buy a home that had at least one guest room (two if you count my office when I get kicked out of it.)

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

CDS: I suppose I could say something like, “I’d like less gray hair or more money to travel the world,” but in reality I wouldn’t change a thing about myself. I love my wife, my life, and my family, and I love my friends and my career. If given the chance, I actually wouldn’t change a thing… it would just be greedy to ask for anything more than what I already have!

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

DS: Greek yogurt, berries, peanut butter, eggs, guacamole, olives, ice cream (my weakness!) and now some weird odor that we can’t get rid of because Hurricane Irma cut electricity to our fridge or a week…

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

CDS: Exercising with my children, date night movies with my wife… and ice cream.

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

CDS: Instead of a famous person, I’d actually prefer to have a conversation with my all-time favorite horse, Gem Twist, so that I could ask him, “Why did you always buck so much between fences?”

Gem Twist from Unrelenting-horseandriderbooks

Greg Best on Gem Twist at the Seoul Olympics, 1988. Photo by PhelpsSports from UNRELENTING by George H. Morris. 

TSB: What is your motto?

CDS: (1) Be happy in your happy place. (2) Do what you love and love what you do. (3) Everything will be alright in the end; if it’s not alright, then it’s not the end.

(You really think I only have one favorite motto? You know I could go on for days!)

 

Coach Daniel Stewart’s new book FIT & FOCUSED IN 52 is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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

Read Full Post »

24HoursKendraGale

Winter is not just coming…for those of us in many parts of North America, it is completely, frigidly, and snowily upon us. Any horse person knows that things just get a bit, well, harder when the temp dips below zero. It doesn’t matter what size the manure pile—it all freezes to the ground.

Kendra Gale has been breeding, raising, and training Miniature Horses in Alberta, Canada, for decades, so she’s no stranger to ice in the water trough. Gale is the author of THE BIG BOOK OF MINIATURE HORSES, where she shares sage advice for keeping Miniatures as best suits their equine nature, as well as competing them at the highest levels. Her book is the perfect primer for the horse lover new to Miniatures, or the first-time horse owner, period.

In this segment of TSB’s “Horseworld by the Hour” series, Gale gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to walk a long (but satisfying) day in her winter boots.

***

6:30 am It’s winter in Alberta, so while I usually get up about now, it’s not the “jump out of bed and get going” it might be on a summer day with lessons or workshops or competitions on the schedule. After all, the sun won’t be up for a couple hours yet!

First priority is, of course, to let my Chihuahua, Clara, out to pee. Depending on the amount of snow or degree of Arctic temperatures, sometimes I’m successful in convincing her, sometimes not. In the summer she spends a lot of the day at the barn with me. In the winter, she opts out of the outdoors as much as possible. To be fair, the snow is sometimes deeper than she is tall!

7:00 am Breakfast and I jump onto the computer for a bit. Check emails, Facebook, and any concerns with my online classroom (www.MiniatureHorsemanship.com). Depending on how it goes, I might get some work done, editing videos or building slideshows, or maybe some writing.

8:00 am The sun starts peeking up between now and 8:30 am this time of year, and I usually wait for it before I head out to start chores. I like being able to see my horses in the daylight. They’re Miniature Horses, and lots of them are black…on days when I have to feed in the dark, I’ve been known to literally trip over them.

Before I go outside, I fill my big pail of hay cubes and senior feed with hot water to make a breakfast of mush for my collection of geriatric Miniature Horses. Then it’s time to layer up to head out—the number of layers is directly proportional to the cold. We have a wide range of winter temperatures here, and it could be above freezing, or it could be 40 below, and those two extremes could be in pretty close proximity to each other. Layers are key!

Image, my blind, one-eyed, 28-year-old, is the first to greet me when I get to the barn, with a hungry nicker and a big “downward dog” stretch. Image, along with Robin (age 27, a retired broodmare) and Valdez (age 29, sire of many of the horses on my farm), spend their nights inside in the winter, and their days, too, in nasty weather. Miniature Horses handle the cold really well, but these old folks do better with some extra spoiling.

With warm mush in their bellies, I head outside to feed the rest of the mush to my pen of slightly-less-old geldings (Knight Rider, 26, Spook, 22, and Paco, 21) and dole out some complete feed for some hard-keepers and the two weanlings, eight-month-old Victor and Vodka.

Next, it’s to the hay stack to collect a couple bales onto my calf sled. Currently I’m feeding about a bale and a half, morning and night, except when it’s colder than -20—then I feed more to help the horses stay warm. I distribute hay to the herd, checking everyone as I go to make sure no one is cold, or sick, or losing weight. I touch each horse every day—that’s 32 miniature equines in total.

winterfeeding

The herd. Photo by Kendra Gale.

8:30 am With all the beasties enjoying their breakfast, I love to stop and stand for a moment and enjoy the peace and morning light…unless it’s storming or something.

Next on the list I feed and water my birds. I keep Partridge Chantecler chickens and some mixed-breed ducks that never fail to make me laugh. The birds all do really well in the winter. I check to make sure their heated water dishes are all working and collect any (hopefully not-yet-frozen) eggs.

9:00 am Last week it was -36 and one of my heated, automatic waterers gave up the ghost. Of course, it was the one that the most horses drink from, and with the most run-in sheds in that pasture, I couldn’t move too many horses to other waterers. We got some heated pails to plug in for the herd so they all always had access to that all-important unfrozen water, but it means that next on my to-do list is hauling water: I do about six pails from the hydrant each morning to fill everything up for them.

9:30 am Some days I might head out to teach lessons at a client’s place, or spend the morning working on computer stuff, but today it’s farrier day. I see which horses are due for a trim and bring them into the barn. My farrier comes every two to three weeks and does six Miniatures at a time, which works out to a pretty good rotation. With a little luck, I get them in with enough time to dig the packed snow out of their feet and give them each a quick groom before the farrier arrives.

11:30 am It’s a trickier day for trims—most of the herd is easy, but we’ve got the weanlings on the list today. Victor is perfect, but Vodka used up all his “Good Boy” during treatment for an eye injury earlier this year and is going through a rebellious stage. We’re patient with him and he decides he’ll be a good citizen in the end. The big challenge today is Bentley, my new Miniature Mule: He’s only lived here a few months and is nervous of strangers, especially strangers who want to pick up his feet while holding tools. It takes some time, but it ultimately goes well. The farrier and I are pleased with his progress, and he gets lots of treats for his bravery. Luckily, the other three we trim today are old pros (that’s enough excitement for us for one day). They all get cookies and go back out with their friends to finish their breakfast. At this point, it doesn’t have to be very cold for me to still feel frozen solid—it’s definitely time to get back in the house for a bit!

claravictor

Clara and Victor. Photo by Kendra Gale.

12:00 pm I grab some lunch (and probably some hot tea!) and get back on the computer for a while. Time to get to work on whatever project I’m working on. Currently, I’m organizing a clinic/conference event, preparing for a clinic I’m teaching up north in a few weeks, and building a webinar and a couple promos for my online classroom.

1:30 pm I’m wrapped up in what I’m working on and would love keep at it, but the sun is shining so I head back outside. Time to clean stalls while the old folks are out enjoying some winter sun. Stall cleaning gets more complicated the colder it gets: frozen poop balls bounce away when they fall off the fork, and at times I take the pee spots out in one big frozen chunk, kind of like clumping cat litter. I also haul more water—another six pails midday (I’ll never take my automatic waterers for granted again after this…)

2:00 pm I want to get Rocky’s tail put back up—he’s my breeding stallion (Victor and Vodka’s daddy) and one of my favorite driving horses. I love his long tail and usually keep it up in a sock to protect it. This fall I let it down during fly season, and then I never got it put up again. After the last big snowfall I was laughing at the funny trail it left in the snow, but I’m sure that was pretty hard on it. Now that the weather has improved I’m going to get it up before the next snow and cold snap is scheduled. I set up my video camera so I can make a quick tutorial of the process for my YouTube channel.

2:30 pm Since I have Rocky in, I set up some of the obstacles for the January online Horse Agility competition. Rocky’s been off for a while, so it’s a good refresher for him. I set up the obstacles inside the barn. My barn is a good-sized tent building so I’m able to squeeze in a full agility course if I’m creative. It’s nice to work in out of the wind, and I’m paranoid about my horses slipping on poor footing outside in the winter. I also never drive in the winter, unless there is no snow or ice at all. Luckily, while driving is my favorite discipline, there are lots of other fun things to do with my Miniature Horses, and agility is one of my preferred wintertime activities.

rockyfrost

Rocky with a frosty forelock. Photo by Kendra Gale.

3:00 pm  Now I’ve got the obstacles set up, and I let Johnnie in to play. He does his agility at liberty. Johnnie is coming four, and while he’s one of my tiniest in stature at not quite 31 inches, he’s the biggest personality. I don’t dare practice any obstacle too many times, or he gets bored and invents new ways to do them. We work on standing and waiting until I ask him to come toward me, practice his sidepassing, and then move on to something else. Johnnie has been trained using positive reinforcement. I also want to start him in harness, so today I have a sidepull I’m going to use on him—I’ve driven Rocky bitless some, but I’m really looking forward to starting Johnnie bitless right front the start. We practice giving to pressure on the sidepull, first using a target to help him understand. It’s a fun new game for both of us! I’ve got the video camera running again, as one of my online courses is on starting your Miniature Horse in harness, and I want to add the bitless training process to the content. The toughest part with Johnnie is always convincing him to leave when I’m done playing with him…after demonstrating all kinds of skills at liberty, I actually have to put a halter on him to lead him back out to be with his friends!

3:45 pm I’m cold again, so it’s back in for more tea (Earl Grey with milk and a dribble of maple syrup—my friend named it a “Canadian Fog”) and to download my videos onto the computer. I get started on video editing and laugh at Johnnie’s antics. The bloopers are always my favorite, and if I don’t leave them in, I save them for future amusement.

4:45 pm I haven’t quite warmed up, but it’s getting dark, so I’m back out to start the evening chores. I bring in the old folks and and feed everyone just like in the morning. It’s supposed to extra cold overnight, so I give everybody some additional hay to help them stay warm. I turn on a podcast while I work: I like to listen to Horses In The Morning or Star Trek: The Next Conversation.

5:30 pm The sunset over the mountains is my favorite. I often pause my chores to take photos if it’s particularly spectacular.

I give Robin and Image their medication (Cushings medication for both, and anti-inflammatory for Robin) and haul another six or eight pails of water (I really can’t wait til that waterer is fixed…) before I say goodnight to everyone, close up the coops for the night, and head for the house. I check that the security camera is working in the barn—if anything seems amiss, I can see the stalls from my phone. It’s especially handy during foaling season.

sunset1

Another day done. Photo by Kendra Gale.

6:00 pm It’s back to the house for the evening. A couple times a month I teach a live webinar in the evenings, but most of the time I curl up on the couch with my laptop, enjoying some TV while I keep working away on my current projects. Or I might head over to my grandparents house to watch the game on TV…Go Flames Go!

10:00 pm I let Clara out one last time and we head for bed—a Chihuahua’s favorite time of day!

Kendra Gale’s book THE BIG BOOK OF MINIATURE HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

Click below to watch the trailer:

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

JEANNE ABERNETHY

YVONNE BARTEAU

JONATHAN FIELD

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

CLINTON ANDERSON

 

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

Read Full Post »

HorseSpeakSharonFB

In November of 2016 the book HORSE SPEAK: THE EQUINE-HUMAN TRANSLATION GUIDE was released, becoming an instant bestseller and propelling a little-known trainer and riding teacher from Westminster, Vermont, into a whirlwind of book signings, speaking engagements, and clinics throughout North America. Now with the book soon to be released in Dutch and in German, and a follow-up DVD and book in the works, Sharon Wilsie is looking to help more people, from all equestrian backgrounds and disciplines, all over the world, learn to truly communicate with their horses—but not using our language of words and ropes. Wilsie has decoded Horse Speak for the rest of us.

TSB: How did you conceive of the different aspects of Horse Speak?

SW: As a long-time animal trainer, I am intrinsically aware of the difference between a “trained skill” and an “authentic response” from the animal’s own nature. I can train a horse, for instance, to come to the mounting block while at liberty and stand perfectly still without a halter or bridle, and I can then proceed to ride that horse without tack. Eventually, though, this was no longer satisfying, as it occurred to me that just because a horse could do this with apparent ease and obedience did not necessarily mean that he was choosing to do it of his own volition. A well trained and loved servant is still a servant.

I truly wanted to know if a horse, given freedom of choice, would choose to offer me his back. In order to answer this question, I needed to go beyond training. I had to be able to ask a question, “Would you be interested in having me on your back?” Moreover, I would have to understand his answer.

Ultimately, I had to learn to speak “Horse.” Language flows, bends, twists, and turns. It is not the straight-line reasoning of training, which pares down to a set of responses the animal learns to give to the same cues over and over again. The language of the horse belies his innate world view, which can be similar to ours, and in other cases can be almost in opposition to us.

In this work, I start teaching people with the most basic platform: I call it “Going to Zero.” This simply means you adopt the inner state of calm that horses seek to maintain at all times. If you can steady yourself by learning to be at “Zero intensity,” both outside and in, you are on your way to learning the visual language of the horse.

TSB: How does Horse Speak differ from other forms of human-animal communication?

SW: Horse Speak demystifies the subtleties of not only horses, but of the best of the best trainers that people may wish to emulate. When we see a truly stunning performance—whether dressage, circus tricks, Roman riding, or some other amazing horse-and-rider combination—we all wish to experience that level of connection and inspired horsemanship. What few people understand is that body language is a natural part of all of us. It is the level of innate brain connectivity around the interpretation of body language that varies among us. Some people can be naturally fluent in this skill, while others may struggle to interpret even basic facial cues (as is the case in autism).

Horse Speak assists people on any level of awareness to either take what is already working and make it better, or even start from scratch and learn body language basics from the ground up.

HorseSpeakSharon3

TSB: Why do you feel others can benefit from and should learn Horse Speak?

SW: Whether a person has professional goals (showing, teaching, training) or simply enjoys a backyard horse or two, everyone generally wants to have a happy, healthy, and wholesome relationship with horses. Taking the time to really learn their language is just plain common sense.

TSB: How has Horse Speak changed your life with horses? Your career as a horse trainer and riding coach?

SW: To speak the language of the horse is to dive into a world of potential that only exists when two beings can really communicate with each other. And on a completely practical level, I know no better way to help a horse “buy in” to our ideas—whether we want to jump a bigger fence or just get through a veterinary visit without incident.

TSB: How do you see Horse Speak growing and changing other people’s lives with horses? Other people’s equine careers?

SW: In any theater of horsemanship, it is essential to have the utmost safety possible. Far too many people live with a level of mistrust, getting stepped on, run over, bucked off, and so on, while assuming this is just the way things are with horses. This is most definitely NOT the way things should be, and it is NOT ultimately the way horses wish things to be. Especially in the arena of therapeutic horsemanship (physical or emotional/psychological) the need for trust, rapport, and co-facilitation from the horse himself is paramount. One cannot simply layer on more and more obedience-based training, hoping to reach the horse’s authentic core and gain access to the depth of heart that these animals are capable of offering. This can only be reached through communication.

TSB: If there is one common message that most horses are trying to tell us that we don’t understand, what is it?

Horse Speak Final CoverSW: Live from your heart. Horses don’t mind if you cry, or are afraid, or even if you feel frustrated. But they abhor incongruity. If your insides are churning, and your outsides are trying to act like a rigid authority, this inner vs. outer conflict makes horses confused and anxious. If nothing else, learning to think and act like a horse will give any human access to a level of inner awareness and outer presence that trumps any other mechanical, rule-based roboticism that steers us to see horses as more of a biological motorcycle than the elegant gatekeepers to a richer existence in which being “one with nature” is more than a quaint expression: it is reality.

To find out more about HORSE SPEAK and to download a free chapter, CLICK HERE.

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

Read Full Post »

KarenYesScary

Karen Robertson on Carlos at the George Morris clinic. Photo by Lisa Pleasance.

TSB author Karen Robertson shared her hopes and fears for her clinic date with The George in May (click here to read her first post). Now she’s back to tell us how it all went down.

To tell the story about what it was like for me riding with George Morris in late May, I need to start the week before the clinic, when I showed at Sonoma’s Spring Classic Show. It’s a gorgeous place and such a wonderful show, but Carlos and I had a really rough week…. It was the kind of show where the wires get crossed and each day ends with a frustrated feeling of not being strong enough or fast enough or smart enough to ride well enough in any key moment. Seven good jumps didn’t cut it when the eighth was a stop. I got in my head. I started trying different things to end the pattern of choking… a better night’s sleep, more caffeine, or more breakfast. I walked the show grounds with my ear buds in listening to badass music to get myself fired up before I got on for the next class. But at the end of the show, I drove away from Sonoma Horse Park without ever digging myself out of the rut and laying down a solidly good trip. The familiar, consistent feel I’d had all winter with Carlos had been shaken badly; my riding was full of doubt. Needless to say, it was not the kind of show you want to have just days before your first time riding in front of George Morris.

Or, maybe it was.

The eight-hour drive north from Bend, Oregon, to the clinic location went smoothly, but I was full of restless anticipation. After a quick hack in the indoor and settling the horses in for the night, waves of nerves gave me goose bumps as I watched the farm’s crew collecting piles of cut grass from the beautiful front field in preparation for the next day.

In the morning, I was washing Carlos’s legs in the wash stall at the front of the barn when I saw George pull up. I walked out for a quick hello, gave him a kiss on the cheek when he stepped out of the car, and then scurried back in again to get ready. It had been just over a year since I’d seen him last—at the Easter Wellington book signing—and saying hello settled me. I was ready to put the previous week behind me and try my best for him.

When I rode Carlos onto the field less than an hour later, George looked up at me from his perch on the golf cart, paused and said, “Oh, Karen…I didn’t recognize you with your hat on. You look pretty good.”

I nodded with a ghost of a smile as I walked by him. After all the waiting, having registered six months before, it had begun.

As soon as that familiar cadence of George’s teaching—like the lecture of a college professor weaved with pointed instruction—began on that first morning, I found my nerves had passed. I settled into a mindset that stayed with me throughout the clinic: total concentration on following his direction exactly…with a strong dose of hustle. After watching George coach so many other riders in past years, it was absolutely surreal to have his voice speaking to me. It raised my focus to a calm but primed state of being present. I tried to absorb the big picture concepts while also being alert to react quickly.

The first day I was most concerned with riding boldly and not allowing the klutzy moments that had plagued us the week before in Sonoma. Carlos felt great—a little fresh but not wild. He ogled the ditch behind an oxer when we flatted by it, but when it came time to jump it, he didn’t hesitate. I found myself breathing barely whispered “Thank you” and “Good boy” praises to him. Flatwork set us up to feel the difference in our horses and then apply that feel in jumping exercises. George immediately zeroed in on my jumping position, telling me I needed to close my hip angle and lean forward, taking weight off Carlos’s back. This was his major critique of my riding, but throughout the clinic he acknowledged my practicing the adjusted position and encouraged my work to improve.

Looking back now at those three clinic days, I’m so proud that I met the challenges. We jumped a progressively wider water jump and rode well through some difficult exercises that tested flexibility of stride length, straightness, and tight turns. By Day 2, after flatwork and jumping without stirrups, George had me leading the group in most of the jumping exercises, which was exciting because having audited so many clinics, I knew what it meant: he thought I would bring confidence to the rest of the group.

There were definitely also some clumsy moments! Carlos and I haven’t had much practice jumping a bank, and at first we had a stop when he didn’t want to jump down over the small jump set at the bigger end of the bank. After I went to the stick hard and got him off the bank, I had a fire-breathing dragon underneath me for the rest of the day. I also halted at the wrong post in the fence line after someone had already made the same mistake ahead of me…George was very annoyed—and I heard about it. Then when he had us doing rider stretches, reaching down to touch our toes without stirrups, I knocked my helmet loose and my tucked-up ponytail started to slip out. Hair disaster!

As expected, there were the steely, scathing moments of George’s rebuke directed at various riders and auditors when they did not show proper respect or effort. Comments on the degraded state of our country, our general lack of discipline and work ethic, were weaved throughout the lectures each day. One rider had a fall when her horse caught a heel on the edge of the ditch, and George walked over, pointed down at her as she lay prone in the grass, and barked, “You have to keep your leg on at a ditch or a water! You didn’t leg him!”

He was right, of course. But what a picture that rider saw as she looked up at George Morris from the ground.

George also had soft, encouraging moments for riders who struggled. And he had so many words of reward—for everyone—when something was well ridden. “Excellent flying change!” “This girl—she is an educated rider, she is precise!” “That’s it…very good!” “Yeeeeesssss, THAT’S the way to ride that bank!” “This, people, is an excellent student—she listens!”

Every time George gave a compliment to any one of us, it lifted all of us up like we had climbed another step in showing him we, as a generation of riders, were worthy of the opportunity to learn from him. There was a silent, invisible vibration among the riders in my group. Although the rules of the road require that the riders not talk to one another during the clinic or even visibly laugh at George’s jokes (I’ve seen that go badly more than once), we were in it together and rooting for one another. I could feel it.

GEORGE-FRAMED

Speaking of clumsy moments, I had one while serving as jump crew during the 1.20 meter session on Day 1. I raised the top rail two holes on the water jump and stepping back from it, tripped backward over the wing box right in front of the audience and sprawled on hands and heels in the grass. I jumped up trying to recover and blushed hard, incredibly embarrassed. George looked over and said gravely, “Oh Karen, be careful,” and then addressing the crowd, “Karen wrote my book! That’s why she’s blushing…she knows alllll my stories! She knows more about me than my own mother. She even knows the stories that didn’t make the book.”

And just like that, he had taken my flustered moment and made me into a momentary celebrity out of pure sweetness.

George did not disappoint. He never does, does he? I was freaking out about being good enough to be in his clinic and wanting so badly to keep up with the group and belong out there. Now, looking back, I think to myself, “Don’t be silly—of course I belonged out there.” But maybe that’s just the post-George Karen talking. Maybe he instilled a level of certainty in those three days that makes the pre-George Karen a little bit of a stranger.

One thing that solidified that theory was the horse show I had the week following the clinic at the Rose City Opener back down in Bend. Just three days after getting home from the clinic, we were back in the show ring…and it was the best show Carlos and I have had together. We were consistently solid over all five days. We didn’t have a moment of doubt at a single jump. We got great ribbons all week, won the Ariat Medal class, and were Reserve Champion of our Hunter Division. But it was the Derby that felt like a true application of what I had taken with me from riding with George. I had never made it to the second round of a National Hunter Derby in four tries. At Rose City, we not only made it to the second round, but in the end, we were fifth, besting some excellent professional riders.

In my pre-clinic blog post, I wrote that I had hoped for one moment during the clinic when George Morris’s voice would make me feel invincible. Instead of a single moment to take with me, his voice, carrying me through those three clinic days, created a subtle, stream-of-consciousness-George-presence in the background whenever I ride. He is just there with me. In the Derby he was telling me, “Karen, first and foremost: Get it done.”

 

Karen Robertson worked with George Morris on his bestselling autobiography UNRELENTING, which is available from the TSB online bookstore.

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: