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HorsesLikeHelicopters-horseandriderbooks

“Softness” is about having the sensitivity we need in order to feel when and if the horse tries to “give.” It is about developing the kind of awareness and feel it takes to know when we are working against our horses, rather than with them.

In his book JOURNEY TO SOFTNESS, renowned horseman and storyteller Mark Rashid shares methods and techniques he has gleaned from decades of work with horses, horse people, and martial artists. In addition, he asked friends, all with different backgrounds, from different walks of life, and from different parts of the country, if they would be willing to contribute thoughts on how the practice of softness has helped them in their respective occupations, as well as with their horsemanship. In this piece by Lee Cranney, an airplane and helicopter pilot of 47 years, we discover how—surprisingly!—horses are like helicopters:

I fly the Sikorsky Firehawk helicopter for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. We fight wildland fires; rescue lost hikers, climbers, and the occasional horse; and fly patients from accident scenes to hospitals.

Even after almost five decades, I continue to enjoy every minute of it. As we fortunate few who get to do what we love are fond of saying, “It sure beats working for a living.”

I have been hanging out with horses for less than a quarter of the time I’ve been flying, and most of that has been with my buddy, Dude, but I have loved every single second of it. If you had suggested to me ten years ago that I would fall in love with a horse, let alone horses plural, I likely would have said you were nuts. When Dude was offered to me free of charge as a two-year-old, I was told that he had “issues.” My first question was, “What’s an issue?” Today, I would take a bullet for him, and I think he knows it.

A lot of what I have spent my life learning does actually apply in many ways to getting along with horses. I would like to share some of that with you.

In my opinion, really good helicopter pilots spend their flying time secure in the knowledge that they can handle whatever is about to go wrong. I believe the same can be said of really good horsemen (not that I am or likely ever will be one). Constantly feeling the whole horse, constantly aware of what holds his attention, intention, and thoughts, his movements, feet, weight, and balance, secure in the knowledge they can handle whatever is about to go wrong.

The similarities between flying helicopters and working with horses are both more basic and much more complex. Helicopters, like all aircraft, have a design gross operating weight that depends on several flight weather conditions, including altitude, temperature, and wind.

From day one of flight school, helicopter pilots have instilled in them the concepts of control touch and pilot technique. These two concepts are, in practice, identical to softness and feel; if I move the cyclic control (the “joy stick” or simply the “stick”) a minutely small amount, the commensurate effect on the main rotor is significantly more. This gives the helicopter amazing maneuverability and versatility but makes it extremely touchy (“squirrelly,” if you will). Experienced pilots will typically rest their right hands on their right thighs and make small, almost imperceptible inputs to the cyclic to achieve desired changes (sounds somewhat like horsemanship, don’t you think?). And, just to make it a little more interesting, any input in any one of the five controls requires a compensating corrective or offsetting control input in all of the others: “Rub your belly, pat your head.”

To illustrate: an average pilot can take off from a hover with the aircraft at the design gross weight for that altitude, temperature, and wind condition. If he ham-fists or over-controls during the maneuver, the aircraft will actually settle back to the ground rather than take off. Normally (and if the pilot in command has ensured that the aircraft is loaded for the conditions), there is a built-in “fudge factor” of power available to compensate and still allow an average pilot to make the takeoff. A pilot who cultivates control touch (softness) and pilot technique (feel) can, in fact, get the same aircraft off the ground smoothly and with less power. Inevitably, in the life of a working helicopter pilot, there will come a time when he needs that control touch and pilot technique to save the aircraft and all on board. Consequently, softness and feel are drummed into us as the way to get the most from our machines in the worst conditions.

Imagine my astonishment when much, much later, I began to experience, on a horse, the effortless beauty of asking for a soft feel, or change of gait, or turn with no touch at all; simply thought, connection, and breath and then we do it. Together. As one. Doesn’t happen all the time, of course, but when it does, it is truly amazing. And almost enough to make a grown man bawl. So, softness and feel equate to pilot technique and control touch. Okay. Makes some sense.

Then there’s this: One day when I was on Dude at a Mark Rashid clinic, he said that I should “ride the whole horse.” I got the concept immediately. We learn to use all five senses to fly an aircraft. (If you wonder about using taste and smell to fly, I’d be happy to explain it to you, but it gets a little overlong.) I was able to translate that awareness of the whole aircraft to a slowly blossoming awareness of the whole horse. Each foot, which way his thoughts, energy, and weight are inclined to go next. To the degree that I can stay aware of it all, I am able to stay ahead of the horse/aircraft. Pilots whose attention stays inside the cockpit tend to be unaware of situations developing around them—weather, other aircraft, fire patterns, and so forth—which sometimes results in disaster. We refer to this as situational awareness (being aware of all around us, both near and far), and it is certainly applicable to horsemanship.

One last thought: Federal aviation regulations require pilots to perform a thorough preflight inspection. This is a fine habit we all strive to cultivate and, it seems to me, a good one for horsemen and -women as well.

JourneytoSoftnessJOURNEY TO SOFTNESS by Mark Rashid is available to order from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE. 

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

 

DID YOU KNOW…

TSB has ONLINE STREAMING options and a generous LOYALTY PROGRAM? Check them out!

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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In caring for your horse’s feet, you not only want to see how the left and right halves of the foot are balanced, you also want to evaluate the hoof’s front-to-back balance. We call this dorsopalmar balance when we’re talking about the front feet, and dorsoplantar balance when we’re talking about the hind. You may also see the term anterior/posterior balance, which is the same for both front and hind feet. Farriers and veterinarians may refer to this in shorthand as “DP balance” or “AP balance.”

TheEssentialHoofBook-horseandriderbooks

The foot on the left has poor dorsopalmer balance (DP), with much
more mass ahead of the widest part of the foot (blue line) than behind it
(green line). The foot on the right has nearly perfect DP balance.

What you ideally want to see is a foot with approximately 2/3 of its mass in the back of the foot, behind the true apex of the frog (usually located about 1/2 inch behind the front point of the frog), and 1/3 ahead of the apex. This also equates to a foot that has about 50% of its mass both ahead and behind the axis of rotation of the coffin bone, a point which corresponds to the widest part of the foot. A foot with these general proportions accomplishes two very important things. First, the foot will have a strong base of support, with the hoof set up well under the bony column of the leg, maximizing the hoof’s ability to bear weight and dissipate impact forces. Second, good DP balance allows for a point of breakover that puts minimal strain to the joints and soft tissues.

When the front part of the foot is longer than the back part, this is called dorsopalmar or dorsoplantar imbalance. An alarming number of domestic horses have this kind of imbalance, which most frequently takes the form of long-toe/low-heel syndrome. When a foot has this conformation, breakover will be delayed, which can cause a variety of problems for the horse.

 

horsewalking-horseandriderbooks

Your horse needs you to care about his feet.

Hands-On Exercise

To check out your horse’s feet for front-to-back balance, find the widest point of the foot, then draw a line across it with a marker. Next, measure from that line to the very back point of the heels that touch the ground and jot that measurement down. Lastly, measure from the line forward to the point of breakover (POB), which is the most forward point where the hoof would contact the ground if standing on a flat surface. If there is any bevel in the shoe or toe, the POB is the spot where the bevel starts.

Now compare your measurements. If you find that your horse has more mass in the front part of the foot, talk to your hoof-care provider about it. If he or she is not concerned, it might be advisable to get a second opinion from another provider or your veterinarian. Repeat this exercise on all four feet. You can also use your measurements to compare the left front to the right front, and the left hind to the right hind. Note any disparities and discuss them with your hoof-care provider as well.

THE ESSENTIAL HOOF BOOK by Susan Kauffmann and Christina Cline is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

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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GirlandtheDancingHorse-horseandriderbooks

Charlotte Dujardin and her charismatic horse Valegro burst onto the international sports scene with their record–breaking performance at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The world was captivated by the young woman with the dazzling smile and her dancing horse. The YouTube clip of their Freestyle performance has since had over 1.7 million views, and Dujardin is considered the dominant dressage rider of her era. When Valegro (affectionately called “Blueberry”) retired from competition at the end of 2016, his farewell performance at the Olympia Grand Hall sold out and the dark bay gelding received a standing ovation.

But what about “before” the stardom? Dujardin’s journey began at the age of two when she first began riding her family’s ponies, and Valegro’s on July 5, 2002, when he was born on Burgh Haamstede, an island in the Netherlands, of dressage horse lineage. Dujardin’s autobiography THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE shares how their two paths would eventually meet, and become one high road to unparalleled success.

Here, in Dujardin’s words, are what she remembers about the first (and second!) time she saw Valegro:

The first time I saw Valegro was at Addington in the summer of 2006. He was being ridden by Carl [Hester], who also owned him, and I can honestly say I was blown away. His canter was huge, absolutely huge, and even though it looked a bit out of control, he looked like he’d be so much fun to ride.

One of the things that immediately jumped out about him was the way he was built: he was a complete and utter powerhouse. Nowadays you see a lot of thoroughbred-type dressage horses with very elegant, long legs, but Valegro was much more of an old-fashioned, stocky stamp – a real-leg-in-each-corner type. He completely filled your eye, but he also had a pretty, dished face like a seahorse’s, and even then he looked like he only wanted to please.

I saw him again, a few months later, at the Nationals, where he won the Shearwater Four-Year-Old Championship. He left the same impression on me as last time – here was a horse that stood out from all the rest. Dez and I were entered for the Elementary class at the Nationals where we finished third, which was a good result because as we were warming up it started to rain. Not just a little bit of rain, but torrential, thundering, lightning, fill-your-boots-up-with-water rain. My boots actually did fill up with water and I could feel it sloshing all round my legs; my saddle was so slippery I couldn’t sit on it, I could hardly hold my reins, and Dez was curling up like a hedgehog because he wanted to get out of it so badly. There wasn’t a single part of me that was dry, the arenas were all underwater and everything and everybody was soaked.

I carried on warming up, trying to make the best of it, but then suddenly the class was suspended: the judges, who were sitting in their cars around the arena, had had their ignitions on so they could use their windscreen wipers, but it had been raining so hard for so long that their batteries had all gone flat.

Girl on Dancing HorseIt was brilliant timing for me. I ran back to the stables, dried Fernandez off and got him a new saddle-cloth, then tried to dry myself. My coat was too wet to put back on, but I managed to borrow someone else’s; I somehow then managed to change my breeches, empty the water out of my boots, pull myself together, get myself back on and still be in the arena by the time the judges were ready to go again. It carried on raining throughout my test and we were sloshing through puddles with water sheeting up around us the whole time – I might as well have been riding on the beach.

 

THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE is available now 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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HorsesinTranslation-horseandriderbooks

In the fall of 2017 TSB released the book HORSE SPEAK, which took the international horse world by storm. Horse trainer and rehabilitation specialist Sharon Wilsie put to paper a practical system for “listening” and ” talking” to horses in their language instead of expecting them to comprehend ours. She called her system “Horse Speak,” and has been traveling the country demonstrating how it can be used by any individual who works with horses, whether riding instructor, colt starter, recreational rider, or avid competitor.

Horses in TranslationNow, Wilsie has written the highly anticipated follow-up to her breakout bestseller—a book that not only serves as a complement and companion to HORSE SPEAK, but also an alternative entry point to the concepts she teaches. In HORSES IN TRANSLATION, Wilsie uses true stories to relate examples of “problems” and how they were solved using Horse Speak. Her engaging narrative introduces readers to dozens of real-life scenarios from different barns, various disciplines, and riders and handlers with contrasting experiences and backgrounds. Wilsie highlights her Horse Speak process, the clues that point to the best course of action, and the steps she takes to connect with horses that have shut down, grown confused, or become sulky or aggressive for any number of reasons. The result is a book full of incredible insight and exciting possibilities.

HORSES IN TRANSLATION is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

SPECIAL EVENT

Are you in the Northeast and interested in learning more about Horse Speak and Sharon Wilsie’s new book? Join us Thursday, May 24, 2018, at 5:00 pm at Strafford Saddlery in Quechee, Vermont, for refreshments and a talk with Wilsie about her work and how it can change your relationship with your horse. We promise it will be a fun and inspiring evening!

StraffordSaddlery-HiT-FB

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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TheHowComeTrick-horseandriderbooks

I don’t know about you, but we can always use a trick or two to get our horse lives (and the rest of our lives) in order. That means get our wheels on straight and our head in the game (and the dishes done, maybe, too, to boot). Lucky for us, we have equestrian sport psychology expert Coach Daniel Stewart on call (a perk in horse book publishing) to provide all kinds of rev-your-engines-type advice. Here’s one we love from his new book FIT & FOCUSED IN 52:

You have good intentions in life, but sometimes life has a crazy way of getting in the way of your good intentions. When things like school, work, family, and a ridiculously short 24-hour day come in between you and your good intentions, it’s time for the “how come” trick.
 
If you’re like most riders, you have a few meaningful tasks you’ve been meaning to do for a while but haven’t yet gotten around to. They can be anything from cleaning your barn or house (really, when was the last time you saw the floor?) to speaking to your trainer about something that’s been worrying you. When you find the task, simply ask yourself, “How come I haven’t done it yet?” Be honest with your answer because it’ll help create the plan to finally achieve it. For example, “How come I haven’t learned to jump yet?” leads to the answer, “Because I don’t have a jump trainer, jump tack, or a jumper.” Armed with this information you can start looking for a trainer in your area with school horses and tack. Yay—the answer to your question is the answer to your problem!
 
FYI
The following “how come” questions don’t qualify for this technique:
 
– How come the word abbreviation is so long?
 
– How come the word phonetic isn’t spelled the way it sounds?
 
– How come the time of day with the slowest traffic is called rush hour?
 
– How come shipments go in cars and cargo goes in ships?
 
– How come the third hand on a watch is called the second hand?
 
Riding Focus Homework
This coming week, think of something related to your riding you’ve been putting off, and ask yourself how come you haven’t done it yet. Think about it for a while and write down your honest answers.

Then, get out of that chair and go do it!

Fit & Focused in 52_2FIT & FOCUSED IN 52 is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

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There’s nothing quite like the amazing array of George-Morris-memes that float around the internet. They are funny and harsh and thoughtful and on point…some of them are probably even true. Here are a few you may not have seen yet that George Morris actually DID say—ponder them, perhaps allow them to help improve your horsemanship. You never know…one day, he might be watching!

Number 21:

ClassGHM

 

Number 20:

AUTO

 

Number 19:

GEORGECLINIC2

 

Number 18:

GHM-HELP

 

Number 17:

precision

 

Number 16:

SITTINGPRETTY

 

Number 15:

GHM-aids

 

Number 14:

GHM-MonMot

 

Number 13: 

GHM-win

 

Number 12: 

ghmdisciplines-insta

 

Number 11:

GHMFEEL

 

Number 10:

Night Owl in Aachen - 1960

 

Number 9:

GHMinspire

 

Number 8:

GHMKICKINPANTS

 

Number 7: 

GHMYOUNGPEOPLE

Number 6:

GHMolympics

 

Number 5: 

STANDARD

 

Number 4: 

hands

 

Number 3: 

Notnatural

 

Number 2:

keepreviewing copy

 

Number 1:

LOFTYDREAM

 

UNRELENTING FINALGeorge Morris has been willing to do whatever it takes to give aspiring riders the right stuff to reach the top, and he has done it for over half a century. Those interested in the real story of his life can get the behind-the-scenes account in his autobiography UNRELENTING, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

 

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TSB-AUTHORS-EA-OH-18-horseandriderbooks

Are you headed to the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus, Ohio, for Equine Affaire this weekend? April 12-15, you’ll find a crew of TSB authors collected in one place and presenting on the subjects they know and love best, along with many other experts from across the equine industry. Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to expand your knowledge—a chance to become a better trainer, a more informed rider, and the caring partner your horse deserves.

LongReiningwithDoubleDanDan James of Double Dan Horsemanship and co-author of LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN 

Thursday, April 12

1:30 pm | Voinovich Arena: Introducing the Young Horse to the Bridle and Rein Contact

Friday, April 13

11:15 am | US Equestrian Arena: Introduction to Liberty Work: Starting the Liberty Horse

3:15 pm | Voinovich Arena: Leads & Lead Changes: Developing the Lead Departure and the Change

Saturday, April 14

3:00 pm | US Equestrian Arena: Introduction to Liberty: Teaching Your Horse the Basics of the Spanish Walk and Advancing His Training through Liberty

Sunday, April 15

1:00 pm | Voinovich Arena: The Importance of Teaching Your Young Horse to Work in a Snaffle Bridle

 

Fergus Triple Play SetJean Abernethy, artist and creator of Fergus the Horse, author of FERGUS AND THE GREENER GRASS, FERGUS: A HORSE TO BE RECKONED WITH, and THE ESSENTIAL FERGUS THE HORSE

Friday, April 13

6:00 pm | Seminar Stage Voinovich Livestock and Trade Center: The Evolution of the Horse…Artist: How to Draw Horses

Saturday, April 14

11:00 am-3:00pm | Taborton Books, Bricker Building Booth #824: Meet the Artist and Book Signing

Sunday, April 15

11:00 am-3:00 pm | CQ Equine Gifts, Bricker Building Booth #1017-1018: Meet the Artist and Book Signing

 

WorldClassGroomingFinalEmma Ford, Professional Groom and co-author of WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES

Thursday, April 12

11:00 am | Demo Ring Celeste Center: Roaching and Banging: How to Efficiently Roach a Mane and Bang a Tail

6:00 pm | Demo Ring Celeste Center: Clipping for the Health & Comfort of Your Horse: From the Cushings Horse to Scratches and Fungus

Friday, April 13

2:00 pm | Demo Ring Celeste Center: Positive Clipping: Teaching the Nervous, Scared, or Unruly Horse How to Be Clipped

 

Suffering in Silence PBJochen Schleese, Master Saddle Fitter and Saddle Ergonomist, and author of SUFFERING IN SILENCE

Thursday, April 12

5:00 pm | Demo Ring Celeste Center: Western Saddle Fit for Western Riders: Evaluating Saddle Design and Fit for both Horse and Rider

Saturday, April 14

2:00 pm | Demo Ring Celeste Center: The Impact of Ill-Fitting Saddles on the Comfort and Health of the Horse

 

Janice Dulak, Pilates Instructor and author of PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER

Pilates for the Dressage RiderThursday, April 12

4:00 pm | Demo Ring Celeste Center: Pilates for Dressage®—Path to Partnership: Exercises to Empower You to Truly Find Your Seat

Friday, April 13

10:00 am | Seminar Stage Voinovich Livestock and Trade Center: Ridermanship®—Path to Partnership Using Pilates for Dressage®: Revealing Crucial Keys to Your Posture & Seat

1:00 pm | Demo Ring Celeste Center: Path to Partnership: Pilates Exercises to Empower You to Truly Find Your Seat

 

We hope everyone has a truly wonderful, educational time (oh, and plenty of shopping!) at Equine Affaire Ohio! And we at TSB are looking forward to seeing you at Equine Affaire in Springfield, Massachusetts this November.

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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