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Archive for the ‘Author Interviews’ Category

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Karen Robertson on Carlos at the Rose City Opener National Hunter Derby, Bend, Oregon (photo courtesy of Barbara Dudley).

TSB author Karen Robertson mulls over her upcoming date with The One and Only.

I started considered riding in a George Morris clinic in recent years. I know, I know… most of you are probably wondering why on earth I’d throw myself into the fire like that. And you’re right – I’m kind of freaking out about it. I’ve been freaking out for months! I haven’t ridden without stirrups enough and I’m not someone who rides five horses a day with a perfect position. George is sure to tell me my stirrup isn’t the correct angle on the ball of my foot, my leg isn’t strong enough, my hand isn’t educated enough, and that I sit “like a soup sandwich.” If I’m really lucky, he might even run behind me with a longe whip while I struggle to jump the water.

All that makes my heart race. Over the past five months I haven’t gone a day without thinking about the clinic. It truly scares me to put myself on a horse in front of George. He has laid eyes on every great hunter or jumper rider in the world for over six decades…and now he’s going to lay eyes on me.

Gulp.

I’m doing this for two reasons: My riding has in the last decade or so (I’m 39) begun resembling correct fundamentals to the extent that I think I can hold my own in this particular clinic that has a 1.00 meter group. And secondly, I helped George pen UNRELENTING, his no-holds-barred autobiography published last year. Working on UNRELENTING with George was like getting a whole new education on my best-loved sport. Just by being in George’s orbit, my ambition caught fire to work harder, be bolder, and take more risks. I’ve watched a dozen clinics first-hand over the past five years, and I know what he expects from riders. Now it’s my turn. And in one week, my friend and I will drive seven hours north with our horses to Potcreek Meadow Farm in Washington to ride with George.

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Karen and George working on UNRELENTING in September 2015 (photo courtesy of Barbara Dudley).

Hang on, I had to put my head between my knees and breath deeply for a second there. Whew. Okay. I’m back.

What will it be like for me to ride with George? To feel those eyes that have an unmatched ability to instantly size up a rider and horse and then, in every pair’s case, fit a specific but well-worn key of wisdom into the right lock to help them reach their potential? What will it feel like to hear his deep, satisfied cry of “Thaaaaat’s it!” if I deliver what he commands?

I can only imagine how it will feel, but I hope that I have enough calm in my mind that I can absorb and enjoy the experience. No matter how well I ride each clinic day or what mistakes I ride through, the bottom line is that I will be riding with him: the timid boy too afraid to be off the lead line who became The Godfather of Hunt Seat Equitation and Chef d’Equipe of the Olympic Show Jumping Team; the reproach-impervious master who walks the fiery line between motivator and intimidator; the same coach who fifty years ago inspired a wily crew of American women to reach beyond their wildest dreams on the international show jumping stage and end the decades-long reign of European men.

George is also my dear friend. When I first met him in 2013, it took only hours for us to form a kinship that transcended the book and the horse world. With a kind of glee, we recognized in each other the same kind of professional ambition flanked by a sometimes reckless need for letting ourselves go and being wild. We grew close over the three years, and he listened kindly and gave me advice when I had hardship in my life. George shared his thoughts and feelings with me unreservedly, and I had the honor to hear hundreds of hours of stories from his life…only some of which made the book but which all fit together to help me understand how he wanted to tell his story. I was struck with awe and amusement in the moments I looked in at myself – sitting across from him at lunch or next to him as he drove the car or by his bedside interviewing him – when I wondered, “How did I get here? How is this my life? This is absolutely unbelievable that I get to be here.” It made me want to cry and laugh and collapse in wonder.

Riding with George will be a whole new relationship paradigm for us, and I will ride onto that grass field with no expectations for special treatment. I know he will measure me in a new way: as a rider and horsewoman rather than a writer and a friend. I’m a little afraid that he might lose respect for me if I’m not a sharp enough rider, but I hope so completely that this experience will bring us even closer.

This is scary, to take this risk. But sometimes you say yes to scary and the rewards are better than any ordinary day ever could be.

When I asked my childhood show jumping heroes during interviews for UNRELENTING what it was like to have George take them to the ring when the stakes were high, they all said that their trust in George and his belief that they could win made them feel like they could jump anything – A house! The moon! Besides the incredible learning opportunities, and taking to heart the critical comments (of which there are bound to be many), what I really want to feel in the clinic is just one moment where his voice lifts me up and I feel invincible.

 

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Karen and Carlos at HITS Coachella Desert Circuit, January 2016 (photo by Jose Ruiz).

Karen Robertson will return with a follow-up post after her clinic with George Morris.

 

UNRELENTING by George Morris with Karen Robertson, 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. 

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“A common problem with lateral flexion is that even when done correctly…it is simply practiced too much,” writes renowned horseman Mark Rashid in his new book FINDING THE MISSED PATH: THE ART OF RESTARTING HORSES. “Now I realize there are folks that teach who say that lateral flexion can never be done too much. Others will tell us to practice lateral flexion for hours at a time, and still others will tell us that we should never even think about riding our horse without first making sure the horse flexes laterally at least 25 or 30 times in each direction.

“Even though there are some who will tell us that flexion can never be done too much, the truth is, horses often say something different. Over the years, I have run into hundreds, if not thousands of horses that show obvious signs of being overflexed,” says Rashid.

The signs he highlights in FINDING THE MISSED PATH include:

  • the inability of a horse to walk a straight line while being ridden.
  • the inability to follow his own nose in a turn.
  • the inability to stop when asked.
  • and even being unable to stand quietly with a rider on his back without feeling like he needs to mindlessly turn his head from side to side, even though he isn’t being asked to do so.

“Many overflexed horses will simply stand with their head turned and their nose all the way around to the rider’s boot,” Rashid goes on. “When the rider asks the horse to straighten his head, he often just turns and puts his nose on the other boot. In cases like these, lateral flexion has been done to the point where the action itself has become little more than a default movement for the horse. In other words, the horse will laterally flex himself regardless of the situation or circumstances, and whether or not he is even being asked.

“Another thing that happens when the horse is overflexed like this is the joint at C1 actually becomes what we might refer to as ‘hyper-mobile,'” he adds. “When this happens, the horse literally loses the connection between his head and the rest of his body while being ridden. There are a number of serious issues with a horse losing this connection—for both rider and horse—not the least of which is a total loss of overall control. But even more concerning is that losing this control can, and usually is, quite difficult and very time consuming to correct.”

 

 

So should we no longer practice lateral flexion in the way that so many trainers have advocated over the last decade or so? Rashid says not to be hasty—there are still benefits to be had from conscientious use of the exercise.

“Understanding proper lateral flexion is an important part of a horse’s education, whether we’re talking about a young horse that’s just starting out, or an older horse whose education has somehow gotten off track,” Rashid explains. “I prefer to practice things like this with a sort of ‘as we go’ attitude or mentality: Rather than getting on my horse and saying to myself, ‘Okay, now we’re going to do some lateral flexion,’ I’m more likely to spend time on it while I’m going about whatever business I’m doing with my horse on that particular day. If I’m doing clinics, for instance, I might ask him to flex laterally while I’m turning him as we get ready to move from one place to another. If I’m on the ground and we go through a gate, I might send my horse past me through the gate then ask him to flex when I bring him back to me as I close the gate. For me, putting a purpose behind the exercise eliminates the drilling aspect of it, which, in turn, allows the horse to stay mentally and emotionally engaged in the process.

“I understand there are folks that feel differently about this, people who feel that the road to perfection is through lengthy, nearly non-stop repetition of exercises like lateral flexion. And for them, perhaps that is the key to perfect behavior and flawless responses from a horse. After all, there is no question that many horses, when given no other option, will most certainly repeat behavior that has been relentlessly drilled into them. But there is always a cost for a quest of perfection through mechanical repetition. Usually, the cost is that we end up losing the essence and personality of the horse. And, at least for me, that is a cost that seems a bit too high to pay.”

FINDING THE MISSED PATH: THE ART OF RESTARTING HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to order now.

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

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So many of us know Fergus the Horse, the world’s most popular cartoon horse and a bonafide social media celebrity with over 315,000 followers on Facebook and two books about his adventures. But did you know that his creator, the wit behind the Fergus comics that bounce around the globe, isn’t a full-time artist? Every summer Jean Abernethy packs her saddle bags, loads her half-Arabian Willow, and heads to South Algonquin Trails in Harcourt, Ontario, Canada, where she spends several months leading guided trail rides into the Algonquin Provincial Park, 2,955 astoundingly beautiful square miles of Crown Land.

Here Jean shares with us her typical day “on the trail,” with lots of fly spray, ponies who defy grazing muzzles, and plenty to be thankful for.

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4:30 am  An empty log truck hits its engine brakes out on the paved road less than 300 yards from my cabin. It’s slowing for the turn up Kingscote Road.  They’re logging up there this summer… drift back to asleep…

6:00 am (and a couple of trucks later)  Alarm sounds. Hit two buttons: ”snooze,” and coffee maker.

6:10 am  Dawn is my favorite time. Up, dressed, coffee in hand, I grab my pony’s breakfast bucket from the pump house, and check one water trough on my way to the kitchen house where the cream and sugar is. Loons are calling overhead. I sip my coffee in the quiet dawn while Willow eats. Start breakfast in my skillet on the stove, and start a load of saddle cloths in the washer behind the kitchen house.

Dawn is Jean's favorite time. Here the South Algonquin Trail horses have breakfast in the morning fog.

Dawn is Jean’s favorite time. Here the South Algonquin Trail horses have breakfast in the morning fog.

7:00 am  Juggling chores, filling two water tanks, running the washer, hanging clean saddle cloths on the fence. Open the office, sweep, check the book for today’s trail rides and camp kids.  Check and top up the mineral buckets in the paddocks.  Check big bales in the paddocks and remove strings for safety. Open the tackroom, check the dry erase board (which should match the book), to see which horses are needed for the day. …walking…walking…

7:45 am  Slip a halter on Willow, groom and tack her up. Tie her in the trees to wait until she is needed. I tell her I’m proud of her. She finds validity in the routine here and does this work well. Once tied, she cocks a leg and dozes off. I open the road gate.

Willow, being a good pony, waiting to go to work.

Willow, being a good pony, waiting to go to work.

8:00 am  My friend and employer Tammy arrives with her daughter Jocelyn and an assortment of other help: Jesse, a high school senior and brilliant young equestrian, and there might be others who jump out of the truck…siblings or young teens volunteering for the summer. We gather horses from the paddocks into the yard, grooming and saddling to prepare for the “Camp Kids” and scheduled rides on the trails. Tacked-up horses are tied in the trees until needed.

Rodney & Dwayne arrive.  These young men help out here when they can.  There might be a tree down across the trails out there somewhere. We’ll send them out into the bush on the 4-wheeler with a chainsaw. Or, we might need them to sink a new tie-post in the yard or guide a ride with us.

9:00 am  The “Camp Kids” show up.  There might be 3, or 6, or more…we share up the tasks of getting them started with their grooming tools, instructions, and assigned horses. They will have a riding lesson and trail ride before noon. This also means supervising our young volunteers. Safety and savvy are the biggest lessons. So is stamina. I hand it to Tammy.  She creates opportunity here at SAT, for a lot of kids to learn real stuff!

The "Camp Kids," learning real horse stuff!

The “Camp Kids,” learning real horse stuff!

10:00 am  It’s getting hot. Flies are buzzing, horses stomping.

Guests arrive for the first scheduled trail ride. As they check in with Tammy in the office…payments, waivers, helmets…we, the crew in the yard, prepare the horses. Put their bits into their mouths and tighten girths. And apply fly repellent. Lots of fly repellent. We put our guests on, give them some instruction, and head out. Willow and I go in front, and another guide is in back. For 6 or more riders, it’s nice to have a guide in the middle, too. A ride could be 30 minutes to 4 hours. This one is 2 hours.

11:00 am  The shade of the bush protects us from the sun. First horse gets the worst of the flies. I’ve cut a 5-foot leafy Maple branch to sweep flies off my horse, Willow, ears to tail. After the first hour, I feel “welded” into my saddle. Bliss. I chat with our guests, telling them a little history of our Provincial Park, or just let them enjoy the sights and sounds of the woods.  I watch for tracks and point them out whenever possible. It’s exciting to see fresh moose tracks, but I watch Willow’s ears, and silently pray there will be no moose, only tracks. (I don’t like putting people back on!)

12:00 pm  We ride back into the yard as the “Camp Kids” are finishing up.  Most of our guests have very little riding experience, so we joke with them as they dismount: “You’ll only walk funny for 3 days.” They drive out of the yard happy, with a recommendation for the nearest ice-cream vendor, hiking, or fishing spot.  They’re summer people on holidays, and we do all we can to add to their fun.

12:30 pm  I check with Tammy about the rental cabin. Some folk haul their own horses up here, stay in the cabin on SAT property, and ride the trails out in the Crown Land just beyond SAT’s back fence. The cabin beds need to be fresh, campfire pit tidy and inviting, stalls and turnout pens clean. I’ll do what needs to be done.

Grab my laptop from my cabin for a moment to check emails, and check up on Fergus’s progress on social media.

1:00 pm  Babysitting the horses tied in the yard, making sure that no one is stepping on dangling reins, or chewing his neighbor’s saddle. We’re re-applying fly repellent, offering them drinks at the trough. The guests for the next ride check in. In fact, it’s two families, so we’ll take them out together…bits in, girths tightened, and off to the mounting platform. Oh my goodness! I lead Black Horse (name changed to protect the innocent) to the platform. Guest is wondering which foot to put in the stirrup to mount. So I advise: “Well, do you want to face forward?”

1:20 pm  We ride out. Red Horse, with child aboard, is right behind Willow and me in the line-up. Right beyond the first bridge, Red Horse puts her head into the weeds to eat, despite the muzzle on her face. Rider is helpless. I, and the other guides speak instructions to Rider.  Rider is still helpless. Red Horse eats. Pinto Horse, further back in the line, begins to pee. Rider behind Pinto Horse giggles, then his horse begins to pee, and there is much giggling amid the guests. All 10 horses, given the pause, begin to eat at the edge of the trail. Guest riders do not know how to influence this, nor do they understand how precarious this all is! (Large Mare has a tendency to turn around and go home!)

I sidepass over to Red Horse (thank you, Willow) and hook onto to the halter with a lead line, pony her for a bit , while instructing Rider…who is still helpless. The guides further back speak instructions to all, the horses follow up, and we get the whole procession moving again. Deep sigh. Jocelyn (always smiling) tells a little girl that she must not whine because it upsets her pony. The girl stops whining. The pony is indifferent. Jocelyn is a star!!

Willow and Jean leading a guided trail ride.

Willow and Jean leading a guided trail ride.

2:20 pm  We ride back in. All hands on deck to get these folks safely dismounted and horses made comfortable until the next ride.

2:30 pm  A family drives in, unscheduled, wanting pony rides. We oblige. Quick tack change to swap out for a pony saddle…skee-daddle to the paddock for the wee pony who wasn’t  brought in earlier, and we hand-walk two ponies on the pony trail at the edge of the woods.  One child is utterly charming, parents following and cooing…the other child cries. Ten minutes later there is no crying, photos are taken, memories made, children lifted off…ponies’ girths loosened…

3:00 pm  It’s hot. We’re tired and hungry. As the next holiday folks pull into the yard in expensive cars, we are all on the office porch sucking popsicles, swatting flies, and eating Doritos. Good God! Three people want 3 hours of trail ride, no riding experience, and they’ve showed up in shorts and flip-flops! Is there a Patron Saint of Trail Riders I can pray to?

Tammy’s brilliant! She has various chaps & boots on hand…waivers…helmets…we put them on, and ride out. I like the 3-hour ride. Haven’t been up to Gut Rapids for 3 days. I love this trail! Folk like this seem to be expecting a ride at the fair—you know, where you get in, clasp your hands on something solid, and wait for the whole experience to happen. We make some effort to express to them that they can communicate cues to their mount. Penny does not drop. The horses are stars. They tote these folks out, relying on each other, nose-to-tail, and we even make it through the water crossing without anyone balking or turning around!

At the Gut Rapids tie-up, we dismount them, tie the horses to trees, and take the folks for a 5-minute hike to the rapids. They admire the scenery, take a photo, eat a snack…then we walk them back and put them on, using “mounting rocks.”  Of course all of the horses become 10 years younger when walking home! This is when the guests ask, “Are we going to gallop?”

Dear God…

4:00 pm  Halfway back…folks are quiet, absorbing the magic of the woods…the sun is warm on my face, flies not so bad on this shady trail… an earthy scent drifts past my nose…Willow walks patiently…raven calls…I am reminded how lucky I am do be doing this…zap back to the moment, and turn around to check that everyone is safe.

Willow and Jean both enjoy the beautiful trails at SAT.

Willow and Jean both enjoy the beautiful trails at SAT.

6:15 pm  We arrive back in the yard, get these folks safely off, and send them cheerily on their way.  They’re laughing, walking funny, and have a whole new respect for horse riding, and for our vast forest. Dwayne, Rodney, and volunteers have gone home. Water tanks need topping up. Horses untacked and turned out.  Sweaty saddle cloths have piled up again…fold and stack the clean ones that have been drying on the fence all day… sweep the porch…pick up in the yard…there’s sand in my boots…

7:00 pm  Tammy’s still in the office working, the girls and I are doing chores. We pause to watch two little red foxes playing about the manure pile. I give Willow her evening meal.

7:30 pm  Tammy’s on the tractor, hefting big squares from the hay barn to the paddocks. We look sharp to work the gates and cut strings off bales.

8:30 pm  Tammy and folks drive out. I smile and wave, shut the gate behind them. I don’t remember what I ate today, make some kind of supper in the kitchen, start Willow’s breakfast soaking for morning, and walk to my cabin. Catch up on my journal. The twilight sky over the treetops is breathtaking! A loon calls.

9:00 pm  I walk down to the yard where Willow is munching hay with her friends. I put my arm over her back and thank her for another day’s work. She chews. There are so many stars overhead that the Milky Way is actually “milky.” Here, we are beyond the city’s light pollution. I might see a falling star or satellite. I wish I could watch it all night, but I am exhausted. I hear a wolf howl, far away…walk back to my cabin, fill my coffee maker, and flop into bed.

 

Jean Abernethy’s new book FERGUS: A HORSE TO BE RECKONED WITH, is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

Click below to watch the trailer:

 

For more information about the South Algonquin Trails, CLICK HERE.

 

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

YVONNE BARTEAU

JONATHAN FIELD

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

CLINTON ANDERSON

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Photo by Erika N. Walsh

Photo by Erika N. Walsh

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Watch Yvonne and Indy working together in this short video:

 

 

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

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Photo by Erika N. Walsh

Photo by Erika N. Walsh

 

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

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

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

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

Yvonne Barteau and her 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover horse, Indy.

Yvonne Barteau and her 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover horse, Indy.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

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

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

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.

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mf-blog

Screenshot from Bojack Horseman–Watch him on Netflix.

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

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

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

The exercise is as easy as 5-3-1…

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

• What are 3 things I hear?

• What is 1 thing I feel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

 

You can find more easy, horse-life-changing exercises in RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

 

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

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LRblog

When Dan James of Double Dan Horsemanship was growing up in his native Australia, his father stressed the importance of using long-reining as part of early groundwork when starting colts, as well as using the technique as a safe way to troubleshoot issues when restarting older horses with training or behavior problems. But the influx of American horsemanship methods just as Dan James and his business partner Dan Steers began their careers meant the popularity of traditional long-reining techniques waned.

It was when Dan and Dan trained with Heath Harris, one of the world’s elite liberty trainers and the man behind the horses in blockbuster films such as The Man from Snowy River, Phar Lap, The Young Black Stallion, and The Legend of Zorro, that they discovered the true value of long-reining in a horse’s education.

“Heath mounted us up on green Warmbloods that had just come in for training,” Dan and Dan remember in their new book LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP. “If one of those ‘giants’ wasn’t well broke and ran away, it could get scary really fast. It became quickly apparent that the more we had these horses bridled up and working well from the ground, the easier it was when we got into the saddle.”

So yes, long-reining is a fantastic intermediate groundwork step that bridges the gap between leading a horse and riding him.

“There are a lot of horses that get ‘lost in translation’ when making that leap,” say Dan and Dan, “so the simpler and smoother you can make the transition, the better. We’re not saying that everything a horse can do when being long-reined he will automatically be able to do with you on his back, but we do find it drastically reduces the level of fear and confusion for most horses. And, colts that are taught long-reining progress much faster starting under saddle than horses that are taught everything from their back.”

Heath Harris also had Dan and Dan work with off-the-track Thoroughbreds and “problem” horses that needed to revisit earlier training to fill in holes in their education. These horses taught them that long-reining is equally useful for building a foundation, working through issues, or refining skills the horses might already possess.

“Since we started teaching long-reining to the public, we’ve learned that the magic it works with horses is only half of its benefits,” say Dan and Dan. “We’ve also discovered it helps people gain confidence with their horsemanship—no small thing.”

Long-reining rapidly builds from basic skills to performing high-level exercises. Many classically trained dressage riders at the Olympian level use a lot of long-reining in their programs, as do some elite Western riders. And of course, we’re all familiar with famous Lipizzaner stallions from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, who–alongside their trainers–take long-reining to its highest level of difficulty, entertaining the world with maneuvers that once prepared horses for the immense challenges of the battlefield.

Whether you are into Western or English riding, the long-reining concepts taught in LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP are well worth trying!

“If you have ever seen the Double Dans perform a long-reining demonstration, I am sure that you have been amazed by their skill and talent,” says Jen Johnson, Chief Executive Director of North American Western Dressage (NAWD). “At North American Western Dressage, we understand that good horsemanship begins on the ground. Long-reining can help you and your horse develop a great deal of harmony before you ever get in the saddle, and your horse can learn to use his body in a beneficial manner—without the added weight of a rider. Working your horse from the ground enhances physical and emotional fitness, and this is a great step-by-step guide to help you, with lots of terrific exercises.”

“Dan James and his partner in Double Dan Horsemanship, Dan Steers, are very well suited to offer advice in achieving success with long-lining techniques in a friendly, easy-to-follow manner,” agrees FEI 4* judge and long-lining expert Bo Jena.

You can download a free chapter from LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP or order a copy of the book from the Trafalgar Square Books storefront, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

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