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Archive for the ‘Bestsellers’ Category

Photo by Laura Wilsie

In her book HORSES IN TRANSLATION, TSB author Sharon Wilsie shares true stories of how she discovered Horse Speak® and the early horses and horse people who benefited from learning it, too. A lifelong horsewoman and animal lover, Sharon had to break down all that she had learned in a traditional sense about how to handle and ride horses in order to open herself to the possibility that there was a better way for our two species to communicate. Namely, she pinpointed ways we can learn to talk to horses in their language instead of expecting them to understand ours.

In this short piece from HORSES IN TRANSLATION, Sharon tests the body language she’d been trying with her own herd with a rescued Mustang. We are given a front-row seat to a breakthrough conversation that has now yielded an entire language that can be incorporated into any training method and used with any breed of horse, in any discipline, with unbelievable results. Horse Speak changes everything.


I received a phone call from the director of a local horse rescue. They had a Mustang no one could do anything with. She knew I was taking time off but asked if I could just come take a look and maybe offer some advice. I hadn’t worked with any horses outside my own herd for several months at this point. But the request didn’t feel like an intrusion. Perhaps I was ready to re-enter the bigger picture.

Sure, I thought. Why not?

The little Mustang stood stoically at the back of his pen, which was attached to the barn and gave him entry to his own stall. He had buddies in pens and stalls on either side of him, but they were all separated due to specific injuries and frailties, and for the time being, needed to stay that way.

The little guy took one look at me and turned his butt toward me, dramatically and as a warning. I got it loud and clear.

Well, I thought. Here goes nothing!

I started to walk back and forth about 10 feet away from his pen, showing him all sides of me. Then I stopped and did an “Aw-Shucks” (looked down and scuffed my foot, asking him to take the pressure off).

The Mustang turned around and dropped his nose to the dirt (the horse version of Aw-Shucks) in about two seconds!

At the time, I wasn’t totally sure about the protocols yet, so I just stood there, licking and chewing with my mouth and lips. He reached his nose in the air toward me and sniffed three huffing breaths. I copied him, figuring he knew better than I did what came next. He then dramatically turned his head to the side, and so did I. Sniffing at me again, the Mustang again lowered his head, muzzle to the ground. I took it as an invitation to come over.

I scuffed my way to him in a very “O” position (rounded shoulders, hands together in front of my belly), and extended my arm with my hand in a fist and my knuckles up when I got close. (This “fist bump” was what I had been using in lieu of a nose to greet my horses.) He touched them lightly with his nose, and turned away, walking into his stall. The conversation seemed to be over.

Click image for more information.

I walked away to visit some of the other horses and came back a few minutes later. The Mustang was waiting for me at the fence, and he reached to touch my knuckles again. I had the old urge to pat his forehead, but this caused him to pin his ears and turn away. Oops. I hastily backed up and scuffed the ground with my toe. He responded by sniffing the ground again.

Then he began to walk slowly to the left, so I did too. I stopped when he stopped, and he seemed pleased. I was curious to see what would happen if I turned to the right, so I took a step. The little horse paused a good, long moment and then swung around, also moving to the right. I didn’t know what to do next, so I exhaled loudly. He started to yawn. It felt like time to take a nap, so I sat down in the dirt outside his pen. He cocked a hind leg and closed his eyes.

What would my horse Rocky do now? I wondered. (Rocky had been teaching me many of the Horse Speak protocols.) I thought of Rocky flopping his ears sideways and wiggling his lips. I couldn’t flop my ears, but I could wiggle my lips, so I did. The Mustang came out of his reverie and then flopped his ears and wiggled his lips, too. This caused another round of yawning. I took a deep breath, opening my floating ribs to allow in more air, and his lower belly took a Shuddering Breath and expanded, making him look fatter for a minute.

Not sure of what else to do, I stood up. He seemed to know I was at a loss, so he swished his tail at me and headed back inside his stall. I swished my hand down by my thigh in response, and he paused, looking over his shoulder at me, and swished his tail again while blowing out his nose.

I wasn’t sure what good this did the little Mustang, but I was over the moon! The volunteers who had been watching were full of questions, so I agreed to come back for a teaching day to go over some of the movements I had used and why.

I got another call the very next day: The Mustang had met a volunteer at the door of his stall in the morning, for the first time since he had arrived. He allowed a handler to place his halter on so he could go out to the bigger field.

The rescue director said he was much more relaxed—it seemed like he just suddenly “fit in.” I was thrilled—but surprised. How could one visit in which I hadn’t even touched him have caused such a change? Was I just lucky, or was this really happening?


The breakthroughs Sharon experienced with the rescued Mustang were only the beginning. Horse Speak is now practiced by thousands of horse people around the world, and Sharon’s third book ESSENTIAL HORSE SPEAK: CONTINUING THE CONVERSATION, is coming out this year.

CLICK HERE to add your name to the waitlist and be alerted when ESSENTIAL HORSE SPEAK is available.

COMING 2021

For more information about Horse Speak, visit Sharon Wilsie’s website: https://sharonwilsie.com/

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

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What saved us in 2020? We had books to publish. The ever-present routine that is our (often overwhelming) publication schedule actually kept us sane: In March, while some titles idled at printers when the world shut down, we were deep in editorial for books that would (hopefully) come out later in the year, designing covers for those already in the proofreading stage, and brainstorming marketing plans for the titles we expected to arrive in our warehouse in the coming weeks. As the months opened and closed, each marked by challenging events and difficult news, we focused on the books in our care and the hope and excitement that each new one always brings.

Of course, the impact of the pandemic affected all stages of a book’s usual evolution. Authors’ lives were upended and so manuscripts were delivered late. Photo shoots had to be rescheduled. Printers were shut down and shipping delays became the norm. Events were canceled, book and tack shops were closed, and publicity and sales efforts moved almost entirely online. And so, the year has been a course in both “steady as she goes” and “think outside the box.”

As we turn the page on 2020 and head into our 36th year as equestrian book publishers, we want to take a look back at the titles we released in the past 12 months. In a year marked by turmoil, the publication of each of these reminded us that, no matter what, we could still count on books to keep us going.

January

Mustang: From Wild Horse to Riding Horse by Vivian Gabor

Follow along as one trainer and a young Mustang mare discover partnership and trust while they prepare for the Mustang Makeover in Germany.

February

Freestyle: The Ultimate Guide to Riding, Training, and Competing to Music by Sandra Beaulieu

Award-winning musical freestyle designer Sandra Beaulieu provides everything readers need to know to enjoy musical Freestyles of their own—whether for fun or for ribbons.

April

Brain Training for Riders (Audiobook) by Andrea Monsarrat Waldo

Andrea Waldo reads her bestselling book, teaching you how to handle uncomfortable emotions, such as fear, anger, anxiety, and embarrassment; hone your mental game, focus your riding time to get the most out of your hours in the saddle; and care for your emotional injuries.

May

What Horses Really Want by Lynn Acton

Horsewoman Lynn Acton explains the importance of Protector Leadership when working with horses, because being the “protector” is the foundation of a trust-filled, stress-free relationship.

June

Stride Control by Jen Marsden Hamilton

After coaching countless riders and horses around the world in the striding techniques that brought her success during her own impressive competitive career, Jen Marsden Hamilton has compiled her knowledge in a concise book of exercises and insightful strategies. 

June

The Ultimate Guide for Horses in Need by Dr. Stacie Boswell

Dr. Stacie Boswell details proactive methods of handling common medical problems and health issues in horses in transition, from nutrition and dentistry to deworming and hoofcare to traumatic injury and emergency rescue scenarios. 

June

Horse Brain, Human Brain by Janet Jones, PhD

Brain scientist and horsewoman Janet Jones describes human and equine brains working together. Using plain language, she explores the differences and similarities between equine and human ways of negotiating the world. 

August

Yoga for Riders by Cathy Woods

Yoga teacher and horsewoman Cathy Woods shows you how to achieve present moment awareness; find body, breath, and energy awareness; breathe through challenges; listen to your inner voice; slow down; and develop balance and symmetry in the saddle.

August

Anne Kursinski’s Riding & Jumping Clinic by Anne Kursinski with Miranda Lorraine

Olympian Anne Kursinski’s acclaimed book on riding horses over fences delivers on-target counsel and the kind of sophisticated, quality instruction you can only get in top barns around the world. Updated with over 300 full-color photos.

September

Dressage Between the Jumps by Jane Savoie

Master motivator Jane Savoie breaks down the six most common problem areas she sees when horses jump, then fills the rider’s toolbox with targeted exercises on the flat—simple solutions to the nagging problems that prevent riders and horses from doing their best over all kinds of obstacles.

October

Distant Skies: An American Journey on Horseback by Melissa A. Priblo Chapman

When she was 23, carrying a puppy named Gypsy, Melissa Chapman climbed aboard a horse and rode away from everything, heading west. Part American road trip, part coming-of-age adventure, and part uncommon love story—a remarkable memoir that explores the evolution of the human-animal relationship, along with the raw beauty of a life lived outdoors.

October

It’s Been 20 Years, Fergus (and You’re Still Spooking at That Thing?) by Jean Abernethy

Fergus the Horse, the creation of artist Jean Abernethy, has been entertaining audiences—young and old, in print and online—with his comedic adventures for the past 20 years. Abernethy celebrates his age—and the wisdom that should come with it—with an all-new selection of horsey humor, including many cartoons fans have never seen before.

October

Kinesiology Taping for Dogs by Katja Bredlau-Morich 

Canine and equine physiotherapist Katja Bredlau-Morich, author of Kinesiology Taping for Horses, is a pioneer in bringing the method to the dog world. She believes that dogs can benefit hugely from taping techniques, and even better, dog owners and trainers can learn practical steps to using kinesiology tape themselves. 

November

The 5 Horse Types by Dr. Med. Vet Ina Gösmeier

Dr. Ina Gösmeier is a veterinarian who supports her Western medical practice with knowledge gained through the study of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This handbook provides a basic introduction to the guiding principle of determining a horse’s TCM type before making decisions about handling, care, training, or treatment.

December

How Two Minds Meet: The Mental Dynamics of Dressage by Beth Baumert

In the follow-up to her bestselling WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN, Beth Baumert explains how to optimize the use of the “thinking mind” in order to become a better learner in the saddle and provides techniques for maximizing mental and emotional harmony with the horse.

We are so grateful for all our authors, and for the readers and viewers whose support is essential to our company’s survival. Wishing everyone a safe and peaceful New Year.

The TSB Staff

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

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It’s true…doing what we do means we get to read A LOT of horse books. Books for different disciplines, different breeds, different techniques and modalities. There definitely is a book out there for just about everyone. What is harder is to find horse books for ANYone…that is, books with crossover appeal or applicability. But these three 2020 equestrian releases hit that mark, all for different reasons.

PICK #1

HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN:
THE NEUROSCIENCE
OF HORSEMANSHIP
by Janet Jones, PhD

WHY IS THIS A GREAT GIFT FOR ANY HORSE PERSON?

The book is a game changer, whatever discipline you ride and whatever experience you have with horses. It clarifies training choices and techniques with how the horse’s brain functions in mind. Released in June of 2020, is already an international bestseller with foreign editions in a number of countries due out in the coming year. A review in American Farriers Journal said: “HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN completes my trifecta of horsemanship references, which includes Tom Dorrance’s True Unity and Ray Hunt’s Think Harmony with Horses. Dr. Jones’ book presents facts that are supported by real-time scientific research. It is written so perfectly that virtually anyone can use it as a tool to understand how horses view the world.” (Click here to order.)

PICK #2

DISTANT SKIES:
AN AMERICAN JOURNEY ON HORSEBACK
by Melissa A. Priblo Chapman

WHY IS THIS A GREAT GIFT FOR ANY HORSE PERSON?

In a year when we couldn’t travel, this book takes you across the country. In a time when we feel divided and distrustful, Melissa’s story reminds us that most people are good people who will go out of their way to help a stranger in need. Just when we need a story of simplicity and beauty that both takes us places and reassures us that things will get better, this book shares the tale of a young woman who, in 1982, before cell phones and GPS, rode from New York to California, alone but for her animal companions. “In Melissa Chapman’s debut memoir, we meet characters that are always interesting, and almost without fail, kind,” writes horseman Tik Maynard, author of IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN. “We read writing that is succinct and evocative. The author’s relationship with her animals and love for the land does what Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley in Search of America did for me—it inspires both thoughtfulness and action—and that is my favorite kind of book. This girl, riding bravely across the continent, reminds us to appreciate the journey—for the end comes all too soon.  DISTANT SKIES will move you, guaranteed.” (Click here to order.)

PICK #3

YOGA FOR RIDERS:
PRINCIPLES AND POSTURES TO
IMPROVE YOUR HORSEMANSHIP
by Cathy Woods

WHY IS THIS A GREAT GIFT FOR ANY HORSE PERSON?

Billions of people around the world embrace the practice of yoga. Its lessons in breath control, simple meditation, and specific bodily postures are widely regarded as a means to achieving health and relaxation. Yoga teacher and horsewoman Cathy Woods says that’s not all: She believes the meditative, mindful breathwork and lifestyle aspects of the tradition, as well as the postures, can be profoundly helpful in our interactions with horses. Her unique program is presented here in the form of highly illustrated instruction, guiding you through the steps to achieving present moment awareness; finding body, breath, and energy awareness; breathing through challenges; listening to your inner voice; slowing down; and developing balance and symmetry in the saddle. “While cleverly disguised as a ‘yoga for riders’ book, this text contains the secret sauce to having the ultimate connection and communication with your horse,” says worldwide clinician Warwick Schiller. “Creating the human mind/body connection is not only a spiritual practice, but the key to better horsemanship. I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking to deepen their relationship with their horse.” (Click here to order.)

These books are all available from the TSB online bookstore, where you get 20% off your purchase through 12/24/20! We have print books, eBooks, audiobooks, videos, and streaming.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP OUR SALE NOW

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

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Photo by Amber Heintzberger

There are many reasons November is my most unfavorite month of the year. In Vermont, it means needing a flashlight to find the car when I get out of work. It means cold but no snow to play in. It means short days but just as much to do.

In our horsey world, this time of year also means No Stirrups November, a form of self-torture in the name of improvement. The thing is, as much as it may leave you hobbling around the next day, riding sans stirrups really IS an effective way to find a better feel and a more balanced seat.

In her classic book ANNE KURSINSKI’S RIDING & JUMPING CLINIC, Olympian Anne Kursinski discusses the importance of regularly schooling without stirrups, not only on the flat, but over jumps, too.

“Jumping without stirrups is an exercise I recommend for two reasons,” she says. “One, of course, is that it’s an insurance policy. Everybody loses a stirrup at least once or twice in a riding career; if it happens, you want to be able to continue riding without losing your position, your composure, or your chance at a ribbon if you’re in the show ring (where, in observance of Murphy’s Law, you just might be). But the other—and the really important reason—is what it does for your balance. Like riding your horse on the flat without stirrups, jumping without stirrups is a great way to solidify your balance, so that you never find yourself getting ahead of your horse and jumping up his neck.

“Don’t try jumping without stirrups before you’re ready, though,” Kursinski warns. “If the idea terrifies you, just continue with your regular work for a while longer. Eventually you’ll build the confidence to give it a try.

“A good way to begin is to go down a line using your stirrups, and then drop them after the last fence, so that you ride your turn or circle without irons. The moment you take your feet out of the irons, you’ll feel yourself riding more ‘with’ your horse, the best antidote in the world for riders who habitually want to make a move up the neck. Your hips and seat will relax and begin following his back better. Your legs will feel longer, and your lower leg will stay quieter at his side.

“Ride just the turn or circle without irons until you’ve established your balance enough that you feel secure. Then remove the stirrups from your saddle, so that they don’t bang your horse’s sides, and try a single fence without them. As you feel more confident, you can increase the number of fences.

“Start with a simple, straight line. Ride the line once with your stirrups and drop them as you land from the second fence. Immediately you’ll sink into the saddle and have a following seat. This really helps your balance. Circling after the fence will help you bring your horse together. Feel how much more effective you are when you’re sitting down on him this way. My horses usually go better when I ride without stirrups, because I naturally sit more correctly.

“When I jump a fence with the stirrups removed, my balance and my firm leg keep my position secure; I don’t need to lean on my horse’s mouth to pull me over the fence. My position looks the same with or without stirrups.

“Gradually work up from a single fence to a simple line and then to the more complicated ones. Finish by jumping a small course without stirrups, as riders in equitation classes are sometimes asked to do. The more you can feel that your balance and your ability to stay with your horse are all yours, not dependent on supports like stirrups and reins, the more secure and effective a rider you’ll be.”

ANNE KURSINKSKI’S RIDING & JUMPING CLINIC has just been released in an updated edition with full-color photographs. Order it now from the TSB online bookstore, and you’ll receive 20% off plus free shipping in the US!

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

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Photo by The Untamed Image

In June of 2020, TSB released a book that, as lifelong horse people, we feel is a game-changer. In HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN, brain scientist and horsewoman Janet Jones uses plain language to explore the differences and similarities between equine and human ways of negotiating the world. Mental abilities—like seeing, learning, fearing, trusting, and focusing—are discussed from both human and horse perspectives. Things you might have intuitively understood about your horse, like the fact that he’ll spook at a garden hose (as one example), are now examined through the lens of how the equine brain functions. Other things you might have long puzzled over, like why he spooks at the same garden hose every time he sees it, are finally broken down into understandable reasons for behavior you can address in fair and safe ways.

HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN is changing horsemanship, worldwide. Rights have already been sold to Germany, Japan, and Poland, as more people are hearing about the knowledge of brain science that can be easily applied to their equine activities, immensely improving their handling, training, and riding, whatever their skill level, whatever their discipline.

“The book the horse world has been waiting for.”
TIK MAYNARD, author of In the Middle Are the Horsemen

We recently caught up with author Janet Jones and asked her a little about her book, as well as what she hopes equestrians will gain from it.

Photo by The Untamed Image.

TSB: Your book HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN uses plain language to explain the differences in how the horse’s brain functions versus the human brain. When did it become clear to you that understanding equine perception and brain function was integral to sound horsemanship?


JJ: It became most clear during the unplanned dismounts, especially in that moment between leaving the saddle and hitting the ground.

TSB: You relate a story of a fall as a teenage rider that resulted in bouts of amnesia that lasted for years, noting that this experience is what led you to the world of brain science. What was it about that period following the fall that made you want to know more, so much so that you eventually taught the subject at the collegiate level?

JJ: Wow, I must have banged my head really hard to have set brain science as my teenage goal.

TSB: You share many eye-opening realities related to the horse’s senses in your book. Which is the one that you or your horsemanship was most changed by once you had learned it?


JJ: The horse’s amazing double-sense of smell, which we humans tend to ignore completely because we don’t have one.

Photo courtesy of Janet Jones.


TSB: You speak convincingly of what the term “horsemanship” should mean in your book. It has long been called “the art of horsemanship,” and many would argue or acknowledge that emotion and intuition play a significant role in our day-to-day dealings with our horses. How should this traditional view of horsemanship be changed by the science you explore?

JJ: Emotion and intuition are still very important; we just need to add brain science to them. Science helps to drive the desire to put the horse first, which is my definition of true horsemanship. Once we realize the huge differences in how horses and humans experience the world, we can feel empathy for our animals and try to help them understand how the human world works.


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

JJ: Don’t poke the bear!


TSB: Just before your book was published, you acquired a three-year-old Dutch Warmblood, who you are starting using brain-based training methods (and blogging about on your website). What inspired you to starting a young horse now, and what are your goals with this new and exciting project?


JJ: Working with young green horses is my version of taking a nap on a rainy day; it’s pure pleasure. I’m fascinated by the way they think. My primary goals are to 1) stay on, 2) avoid spins, bolts, and bucks, 3) earn the horse’s trust, and 4) did I mention stay on?


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?


JJ: Oh, such a hard question! If forced, I guess I’d have to choose a tall hot leggy Thoroughbred and a blank book so I could write about him in it.


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


JJ: Find the invisible “Perfect” button.

Photo courtesy of Janet Jones.

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

JJ: Openness.

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

JJ: Honesty.

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

JJ: That someone will make me choose only one horse and one book on a desert island.

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

JJ: That’s easy: $$$horses$$$. Books are a close second, but they cost less to feed.

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

JJ: I’m full of faults and flaws, but I am me. For that reason only, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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

JJ: Ice wraps.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

JJ: To be with the people and animals who love me and whom I love. Also, not to have to decide between “who” and “whom.”

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

JJ: Secretariat. Okay, he’s not a person, but what a story he could tell.

TSB: If you could go back to December 2019 and go one place anywhere in the world with as many or as few people as you would like, where would you go, who would you bring, and what would you do?

JJ: I would go to a warm ocean with my best friend. We would ride beautiful horses and swim the waves every morning, laugh all afternoon (between reading and naps), and enjoy good dinners together every evening. After a week of that, I’d be ready to go home and write more books.

TSB: What is your motto?

JJ: If your Nerve deny you—
Go above your Nerve—”
(Emily Dickinson, 1862)

HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order now.

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

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The winter months are ahead and wouldn’t it be FAB if you could train with renowned coach and master of motivation Jane Savoie and Olympian Anne Kursinski, all for less than the cost of a week’s worth of Starbucks lattes?

The good news is YOU CAN!

Photo by Amber Heintzberger

JANE SAVOIE’S DRESSAGE BETWEEN THE JUMPS and ANNE KURSINSKI’S RIDING & JUMPING CLINIC have just arrived in the TSB warehouse, and these books have oodles of exercises and training tools to sharpen your skills and hone your horse before what we are all hoping will be a busy and exciting 2021 show season.

In DRESSAGE BETWEEN THE JUMPS, make every jump better with targeted exercises on the flat:

  • BUILD skills without stressing your horse’s body.
  • FIND simple solutions to problems you tend to have on course.
  • IMPROVE time, turns, adjustability, and responsiveness.
  • TRAIN and condition a tuned-in competitor with greater longevity.
Watch the book trailer!

In RIDING & JUMPING CLINIC, find the kind of sophisticated, quality instruction you can only get in top barns around the world:

  • EXERCISES to improve your position, your “feel,” and your overall understanding of how to confidently and successfully master a jump course.
  • TOP-NOTCH EDUCATION in basic flatwork and jumping, including bending, adjusting stride length, moving laterally, riding straight lines and curves, jumping without stirrups, and flying changes. You’ll also learn advanced flatwork and jumping, with lessons in flexion and collection, counter-canter, half-pass, ways to perfect distances and count strides, and tips for riding different kinds of combinations, bigger jumps, and natural fences.
  • DISCUSSION of Hunter Derbies and how to ride derby-style courses.
  • HUNDREDS OF COLOR PHOTOS with Kursinski herself demonstrating in the tack.
Watch the book trailer!

These books (and hundreds more in print and digital formats!) are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to see all our newest releases.

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

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Proprioception. It’s a big word that’s bandied about a lot in equestrian circles. And though it sounds like a massive concept, really it just means your perception or awareness of the position of and movement of your body—and of course as riders and trainers we all know what a huge role that plays when working with horses, on the ground or in the saddle.

In HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN, the book that is taking the equestrian world by storm with its game-changing explanations of the neuroscience of horsemanship, brain scientist and horsewoman Janet Jones explains in plain language how important our proprioception is to achieving effective and fair communication with our horses.

Read on:

HorseBodyAwareness-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Markus Spiske

Why do riders have to address small discrepancies in proprioception? If your brain thinks your left shoulder has moved back 1 inch, same as your right one, but in fact it’s moved back 2 inches, so what? The answer is that we need to match our horse’s proprioceptive sensitivity if we hope to achieve brain-to-brain communication. And horses are exquisitely sensitive animals when it comes to body awareness.

Flygirl is a Holsteiner built like a tank, black with a sprinkling of socks and some grey hair on her face. After a lifetime of Grand Prix jumping in the United States and Europe, she’s now a late-twenties school horse who teaches equitation to beginning and intermediate hunt seat riders. One afternoon long ago I was working on flying changes with her and noticed how sensitive she was to my aids. To request a lead change on a straight line, all I had to do was shift my head slightly to the side corresponding to the new lead. She changed instantly. The same was true over fences. To turn left in the air, I just barely looked left.

YourHorseKnowsPin-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Matthias Zomer

Nearly every trainer will tell you that when riders look left, our hands, shoulders, hips, and legs unconsciously shift left. Horses could be picking up many bodily cues aside from head position—and indeed it’s unlikely they would notice a 10-degree turn of the head. They can’t even see us up there! So I experimented with Fly, holding every part of my body true north while shifting only my head slightly to the northwest. I tried this in all directions, at various locations, over fences and on the flat, at all gaits and unexpected moments over a month or so. She turned every time. She also matched the degree of her bodily turn to the degree of my head turn.

Even if she was picking up some form of unconscious directional change in my body, that level of sensory discrimination is sick—in the very best way.

Can a huge animal be sensitive? Well, the average horse weighs 50 million times more than the average fly, but immediately feels the pest settle on his body. A hypothetical human with that degree of sensitivity would feel the weight of five unseen dandelion seeds—something real humans can’t do. Trained horses can detect from two yards away a nod of the human head that measures only 8/1000 of an inch in displacement. That’s two-and-a-half times more susceptible to visual displacement than we are. Faced with the same nod, humans wouldn’t even know it had occurred.

close-up-photography-of-white-dandelion-seed-101538

If we were as sensitive as horses, we’d be able to detect the weight of five dandelion seeds.

One more statistic: at the withers, a horse can detect 3/10,000 of an ounce of pressure from one nylon filament—the weight of about three grains of sand. Poke the same filament into a human fingertip, and we have no idea it’s there.

With this level of sensitivity, horses notice the difference between 1 inch of shoulder movement and 2 inches. And they’re trying to figure out what it means. If we fail to train our brains proprioceptively, our horses suffer confusion in the face of mixed messages.

A secondary issue is at work here, too: Vision, while a tremendous boon for daily life, often interferes with proprioception. For example, asked to walk at a normal pace and stop with both feet toeing an imaginary line, most people will look at their feet to accomplish the task. Just for fun, hop up and try that, then practice a few times without looking. You might be surprised at how close you come to the line that your eyes can’t see. Our brains can direct our bodies without eyesight, if we let them. Vision cheats our proprioceptive system of the chance to do its work.

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Walk and stop with your feet on an imaginary line, without looking. Your brain can do it if you let it. Photo by Amine M’Siouri.

So, equestrians hone proprioception not only because our mounts are super-sensitive, but also because we can’t watch our bodies or our horses while we ride. We have no choice but to ride by feel. Proprioceptive training teaches our brains to align our joints, maintain balance, isolate muscles for independent use, and regulate their flexibility and strength in ways that promote direct communication between horse and rider.

HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN by Janet Jones is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

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FathersDay2020-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Ladd Farm Photography

We’re celebrating fathers this weekend. Thank you to eventer, trainer, horseman, and author of IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN Tik Maynard for this original essay.

God, I’m turning into my dad. I forget where I put the car keys, my wallet. I wear riding pants to the grocery store. I can’t find the milk—it’s right in front of me! I only listen to music I know the words to. My wife has to repeat herself.

Every year my dad hears my mum less and less. Recently she spent weeks deliberating how to tactfully suggest he go in for a hearing test. “Maybe he just needs a hearing aid?” she said. “It’s his happiness I’m worried about,” she explained.

After the test, the doctor sat my dad down.

“So your wife says you don’t hear her anymore?”

Dad, a little embarrassed: “That’s what she says.”

Doctor: “Well, Rick, I don’t know what you’re going to tell her…. Your hearing is fine.”

My parents met in 1957. My mother was eleven. My dad was fifteen. They both grew up in Southlands, a neighborhood in Vancouver. They both loved horses. My mother took lessons at his grandparents’ farm. (His parents, and grandparents, rode; hers did not.)  Recently I asked my mother about how they met:

“Rick was getting into trouble (rolling cars with his girlfriend, amongst other things) so he and his parents [Rick is an only child] moved back in with his grandparents. That’s when I started getting to know Rick better, but as I was fourteen and he was eighteen, and he had a steady girlfriend, there were no expectations on my part. But we used to go up the UBC trails a lot, and at one point, as we were galloping along the beach at Spanish banks, he said, ‘You are so much more fun than Sally!’ So I guess that is when I started getting a bit of a crush.

“That was how we met. How he proposed is funny, too. I was about eighteen, and he was twenty-two. We did a lot of fun stuff together: riding up trails; hikes; swimming; flying around the province in the two-seater Luscombe that was provided by Pitt Meadows Flying Club. It was Valentine’s Day, I forget the year, probably 1965 or ’66, and we went canoeing on the Squamish River. It was kind of cold and rainy and neither of us really had canoeing skills. We started to go sideways and hit a bridge overpass and capsized. The river was shallow enough that we could stand up and drag the canoe to shore. Rick’s movie camera got soaked. We aborted the trip and went home. He lit a fire and we got warmed up. At that point he produced the ring which had been in his pocket the whole day waiting for the romantic moment! But that was years before we actually got married, in 1968. We picked the date of August 29 because Gramps was the official photographer at the Pacific National Exhibition Horse Show, and in those days the PNE was divided into three sections. Your horse had to stay for the whole section, and in between there was a ‘changeover day’ where the horses went out, and the next section of horses came in. On that day there was no photographer needed, so Gramps had the day off. August 29, 1968, was changeover day at the PNE. And Gramps was the official photographer at our wedding.”

This August that will be fifty-two years.

My parents, like most couples I assume, but don’t know for sure, argued. Sometimes with my mother losing her patience. Often with my father leaving the room. But never once in my entire life did I hear the words “breakup” or “divorce.” Their relationship gave me a powerful faith in marriage, loyalty, and family.

My faith in our “family unit” was so strong it might be called blind—and this ability to weather any storm, together, is what I want to give my own family and son.

 

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Photo courtesy of Tik Maynard

 

My dad also gave me a love for animals. Far beyond that, he gave me an empathy for animals. He became a vegetarian in 1959, before it became a big fad in Vancouver. And I was born a vegetarian. I eat dairy and fish, but I can count on one hand the number of times I have tried red meat. (What we are doing to the oceans has convinced me to be more careful about fish now, too.)

I can’t imagine it was easy for my dad to tell his parents and his friends he had given up meat. Today he is just as strong in his convictions. This is how it began, again in my mother’s words:

“In 1959 Rick was living in Maple Ridge on a farm. He was in Pony Club and was selected for the Inter-Pacific Rally in Australia. The other two team members were Tom Gayford, and I think Jim Elder, but I’m not sure about that. They both flew to Australia, but the Maynards had no money, so Rick got passage on a freighter. [The MV King Arthur, carrying lumber, on the way there. The SS Suva, with a load of Sugar from Fiji, on the way back]. I think it took six weeks to get there. Anyhow, some time before he left they got a couple of piglets. Higgledy and Wiggles. ‘Large Pink’ or ‘Yorkshire’ animals. When Rick came back from Australia they were in the freezer! Trauma!”

So my Dad was seventeen when he made this seemingly small decision to act on his own beliefs rather than those of the society around him. But that decision has caused me, and many others that have met my dad, to question their own beliefs. My dad still remembers those pigs. They were intelligent. Each had a character unique to them. And both were “pink with lovely floppy ears.”

For my father to imagine an animal suffering is for him to suffer as well.

I try to carry that thoughtfulness into my career with horses. This started me down the road of learning “natural horsemanship,” and then to understanding “positive reinforcement,” and now to new ideas where I see the similarities between horses, dogs, children, even myself.

My dad taught me to ride; now it is my lifestyle and career, the same as it is for him. And my dad taught me all that by never telling me what to do.

 

 

My dad always speaks to me as if I understand. He always listens to my opinion. He lets me make mistakes. He taught me at home but always encouraged me to take lessons and clinics from other professionals. My dad has attended over 250 clinics, and he has gotten “…at least one very useful idea out of every one.”

I cannot imagine a more humble student of equestrianism than my father. He has coached riders that have gone on to Grand Prix and the Olympics. Recently he has been approached about coaching show jumping for the Canadian Modern Pentathlon Team at the next Olympics. (He has already coached that team at the Olympics twice!) Yet still, at every clinic, he makes notes. Lately he has come to some of my clinics, and he watches and asks questions.

 

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In the words of Canadian show jumping team rider Brian Morton: “ Rick has been the most incredible mentor and father figure in my life. He is a man that first and foremost leads by example. Rick is one of the most naturally talented riders I’ve ever seen. He had and has the ability to win in great style on every type of horse, in every type of event. I got the pleasure to watch Rick win many times, however I’m not sure I can ever recall a boastful moment from him. He is always the first person to give credit to the horse, or to the groom or to whoever it may be that he felt contributed to his success on that day. Rick was my coach and mentor for many years, and if I won a class he was very happy for me. However, if managed to demonstrate the values of humility, perseverance, sportsmanship and patience that he holds so dear, those were the moments that I felt he was the proudest of me”

Dad, I have learned empathy, and commitment to my family from you. You have instilled in me an unrelenting-thirst-for-improvement. Sinead says I am still working on humility.

Thanks for inspiring me, Dad. Happy Fathers Day!

 

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Rick and Brooks Maynard, photo courtesy of Tik Maynard.

Horseman Tik Maynard is the author of the bestselling IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN, available in print and digital formats from the TSB online bookstore.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

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As we roll toward a summer that promises to be a bit less social than what we might be used to, having some good reading material lined up is going to be HUGE. If you love to ride or are just crazy about horses, we have 5 great equestrian eBooks to recommend.

 

In the Middle Are the Horsemen-horseandriderbooks1  IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN by Tik Maynard

For: Any rider, horse person, or individual seeking a life’s purpose. Those interested in becoming a working student. Those who enjoy travel memoir.

What the critics say: “Funny, honest, and eloquent.” (UnTacked)

 

Four Legs Move My Soul-horseandriderbooks2  FOUR LEGS MOVE MY SOUL by Isabell Werth and Evi Simeoni

For: Dressage enthusiasts. Any competitive rider. Those who enjoy athletes’ biographies.

What the critics say: “A compelling read, with refreshingly honest commentary from Isabell.” (Horse & Hound)

 

Brain Train for Riders Final-horseandriderbooks3  BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS by Andrea Monsarrat Waldo

For: Anyone struggling to surmount issues with fear, lack of confidence, insecurity, anxiety, or nerves when working with horses or competing. Those who like practical exercises for self-improvement.

What the critics say: “Life-changing, honestly.” ($900 Facebook Pony)

 

Horses in Translation-horseandriderbooks4  HORSES IN TRANSLATION by Sharon Wilsie

For: Every horse person looking to “get” what horses say to us and learn how best to respond in a language they can understand. Those who like to read true stories that impart important lessons.

What the critics say: “Wilsie is a gifted storyteller…I was enthralled.” (Horse Nation)

 

Many Brave Fools-horseandriderbooks5  MANY BRAVE FOOLS by Susan E. Conley

For: Women, those who are horse-crazy (newbie or experienced). Those new to riding or horsekeeping. Those dealing with codependency, addiction, and recovery.

What the critics say: “Revealing tale of recovery…honest and humorous.” (Equine Journal)

 

So, How Can I Order?

TSB is SUPER excited to announce that you can now buy eBook editions of your favorite equestrian titles directly from our online bookstore! We have partnered with another independent company and an app called Glassboxx for a seamless eBook order, read, and storage experience. Check out the 100 titles we offer as eBooks (CLICK HERE for a complete list) or browse our store with over 400 books and videos about horses and equestrian sport from some of the top names in the world. (Note: Our New Releases are generally available in eBook format about three months after publication.)

Orders from today until June 14 get 20% off both digital and print orders by using the coupon code EBOOKS (enter the coupon code at checkout). We have FREE SHIPPING in the USA.

CLICK HERE to shop now.

Thank you for supporting small businesses!

EbooksatTSB-FB-horseandriderbooks

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

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We’re celebrating moms this weekend. Thank you to eventer, trainer, horseman, and author of IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN Tik Maynard for this original essay.

 

Scanned Documents

Tik and his mother Jen. Photo courtesy of Rick Maynard.

Mum

My mother walks into the bank, where she has banked since she was six years old. She waits in line, shuffling her feet. She studies the patrons, alert for gossip. The teller is frowning at a young girl who keeps repeating, “I don’t think so,” and then scrolls through her phone.

My mother huffs at cars that drive too fast, puffs at cars that drive too slow. She can’t teach riding, like my dad and I do, because she doesn’t “understand why they just don’t get it.” And if you are not a Democrat (in Canada a Green or NDP, or maybe a Liberal, if it is a year to vote strategically), you don’t have a prayer.

After ten minutes Mum walks up to the counter. The teller wears wire-rimmed glasses and is nearing retirement. She takes a deep breath then looks up at my mother. As Mum opens her mouth to say something, the teller speaks first. “Piss off,” she hisses.

My mother rocks back. Her eyes widen. And then she laughs. The teller smiles. They giggle. She feels honored that she is the kind of woman who can take a joke.

Mum will give it, but she can take it too. She loves that kind of thing. My mother teaches me to not take myself too seriously.

***

TikandMum3

Photo courtesy of Rick Maynard.

When I’m home in Canada we play Scrabble. Mum usually wins, which is frustrating because I want to win more than she does. She just likes getting a lot of points—the 50-point bonus for using all seven letters in her hand, or putting an X or a J on a triple-letter score. She is an expert at the small words: ZUZ, QAT, XI, XU, QI, KA, ZA, AA.

I lay down “LIB” across, which adds an “L” to “AB” to make ”LAB.”

“Great words, Tik!”

“Thanks, Mum.”

She does the math. “You’re only 85 points behind,” she says sincerely.

“Thanks, Mum.”

My mother reminds me to keep enjoying things for their own sake.

***

I wonder who else banters. It drives my dad crazy. It pushes my wife to the edge. But my mother and I can’t get enough of it.

“You shouldn’t talk on the phone while you drive.”

“It’s legal in Florida.”

“Legality is not the same as intelligence.”

“Are you calling me stupid? Because stupidly is mostly genetic.”

Scanned Documents

Photo courtesy of Rick Maynard.

“If you are going 60 miles an hour and look down at your phone for two seconds, that is like going the length of a football field without looking up.”

“Did you know 80 percent of statistics are made up on the spot?”

My mother looks at me.

“Mum, I’m just saying, did you do the math on that?”

“We can figure it out right now…”

“And have you ever compared the reaction times of someone in their thirties to some in their eighties?”

“I was born in 1946.”

“So you haven’t?”

It’s like eating potato chips. We can’t stop.

***

My wife Sinead and I have a little joke where we like to give each other backhanded compliments.  We decided to let my mum in on the game this year and sent her a gift with this written on the card:

What some might call stubborn and overbearing
we see as strong-willed and filled with love. 
Happy Mother’s Day, from Tik, Sinead, and Brooks

***

My mother taught me to appreciate stories and literature. She taught me the names of constellations and how to grow tomatoes and that science is a method and not a discipline.

She taught me to question authority. (Entirely by example.)

My mother made me realize that we are all paradoxes. We are all hypocritical. She taught me that loving someone and understanding someone are not the same thing. My mother drives me crazy.

My mother taught me to love strong women.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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Photo by Patricia Dileo.

***

You don’t have to be from a different generation to be a strong woman. Take Sinead, for example. This will be her second Mother’s Day as a mother. Our son Brooks, about 20 months old, asked me to write a few words for him:

 

“Mummy” 

I watch Mummy make me breakfast. I watch her make me lunch. I watch her make me dinner. When my diaper needs to be changed she can make that happen too: She says “Oh, Daddy. Your turn for a bit…”

Sometimes I cry, but when I see Mummy, I know it will be okay.

Mummy teaches me things: “Dogs go ‘Woof-woof.’ Cows go ‘Moooo.’ Auntie Meg goes ‘Ca-caw, Ca-caw.’”

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Brooks and Sinead. Photo by Patricia Dileo.

Mummy reads me books like Giraffes Can’t Dance. She makes a joke about Daddy, but I think he is a good dancer. “Well, he is enthusiastic,” Mummy says. I don’t understand most of the book, but I point at the things I recognize and make noises.

When Mummy sits with me on the couch I feel like a prince. Sitting with Mummy is special; not everyone gets to sit with Mummy.

Mummy rides horses. I see her with them, and she is focused and calm. It is difficult to be focused and calm.

I like hugging Mummy. Mostly I just hug her legs, but when she picks me up and hugs me that is the best.

I love you Mummy.

***

In the Middle Are the Horsemen

 

Tik’s memoir IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN is available from the TSB online bookstore. 

CLICK HERE to read a free excerpt or to order.

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

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