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From June 7 to 11, 2021, TSB author Janet Jones, PhD, whose HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN has become a runaway international bestseller since its release last year, was a featured presenter at HETI Seoul. Hosted by the Korea Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (KATH) and Korea Racing Authority (KRA), the 17th HETI International Congress was held as both an in-person and virtual event. Janet traveled to Seoul to speak to attendees in person.

The goal of HETI Seoul was to welcome experts and officials from all over the world to catch up on the latest trends taking place in the field of equine-assisted activity and therapy. In her presentation, Janet discussed what it is about equine brains that makes horses so good at equine-assisted therapy for humans. She introduced some of the reasons:

  • Horses have no prefrontal cortex and therefore cannot judge their human handlers.
  • Horse-and-human communication depends on nonverbal body language.
  • Horses learn and respond quickly in “pure” form with little emotional baggage.
  • Horses have little to no categorical perception and therefore notice small details.
  • The horse’s primary emotion is fear, as is common to wounded human psyches.
  • Methods that calm equine fear also help control human fear. 
  • Successful horse-and-human interaction requires mutual trust built over time.
  • Horses’ size and power requires humans to abandon techniques involving force.

During her talk, Janet explained how each of these items affects human wellness and aids in many types of therapeutic intervention (read more in her official conference abstract HERE).

*Photos above: Janet presenting six neurological reasons for horses’ excellence at equine-assisted psychotherapy; the foreign speakers, organizers, the HETI Board, and leaders of the host organizations Korea Racing Authority and Korea Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship at the Presidential Dinner held at Seoul’s Floating Island on (on top of!) the water of the Han River; Janet presenting the Best Volunteer Award to a young Korean rider who worked tirelessly to help everyone. Photos courtesy of Janet Jones.

“I enjoyed the HETI Congress immensely,” says Janet. “The organizers managed every detail, the presentations were informative, and all the complex online hybrid and translation technology worked. I met lots of interesting new people and got to discuss global and local horse industries with many of them.The presentations had simultaneous translation into multiple languages–I think simultaneous translation is pretty cool, though perhaps it is more common nowadays than I was aware! Final convention counts showed 909 participants from 37 countries—remarkable given the global pandemic at this time.”

The 18th HETI International Congress is slated for 2024 in Budapest, Hungary.

For more information about HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN or to order, CLICK HERE.

You can also follow Janet Jones, her research, and how she is applying it in her own daily horse training, on her website and blog: janet-jones.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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In this excerpt from STILL HORSE CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, Olympian and tale-teller Jim Wofford shares a formative experience with an equestrian coach that told him all he needed to know about what it takes to be a good rider.

When I first came to Gladstone in 1965, Richard Wätjen was coaching the dressage team, and I audited his lessons whenever possible. Wätjen, German by birth, was classically trained at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna after WWI and had become a coach after WWII. Tall and portly, he was a legend in the dressage world, and must have been a tough old buzzard as well. In the winter of 1966–67, Nautical Hall, the indoor riding arena at Gladstone, was one of the coldest places on Earth, but no matter how cold it was, Wätjen taught in slacks and street shoes, wearing a dark green Loden greatcoat. He was not an inspiring instructor, and his comments were brief and pungent. “More,” was one of his favorites, along with “Again,” and “No.” I never knew if teaching in a second language was a problem for him, or if it was just his style, and I was too intimidated to ask. 

He was dedicated to obtaining a correct response from his horses by establishing an inside leg to outside rein connection. One day a student remarked that he wanted to start work in half-pass. “No,” said Wätjen, in his heavy German accent. “Vee vill put him in shoulder-in for two years, und zen vee vill put him in half-pass in two days.” His point was that once the basic response was correctly established, the horse would put his forces completely at our disposal. In terms of my overall development as a horseman, I might have gotten as much from my auditing as from riding at the time. 

Once Wätjen had finished his work with the Team horses, he taught occasional outside lessons for dressage riders. A woman showed up for one lesson with a very fancy, recently imported horse reputed to have set her back a princely sum. (Given the fur coat and diamonds she was sporting, I don’t think she noticed the cost a bit.) It was obvious after she careened around the ring for a few minutes that she couldn’t get this creature even close to being on the bit. 

Then magic happened. Telling this unfortunate lady to ride in and “get down,” Wätjen turned toward the corner of the arena where Rick Eckhart and I were cowering. Pointing at us, he said, “Boys. Come here.” 

Next thing we knew, we were holding the horse while, in street shoes and gabardine slacks, Wätjen laboriously stepped aboard. He would have been in his late seventies by this time, and his beer belly indicated he wasn’t much for exercise. I knew he had been a fabulous rider in his day—a long time ago. He walked off gathering his reins, then moved into working trot. By now the horse was starting to settle into the contact and produced a few transitions from working trot to collected trot, followed by extended trot across each diagonal. This happened with no discernable aids, as Wätjen sat bolt upright in the saddle. Some canter work followed, including several flying changes remarkable for their straightness and fluidity. 

All this only took a few minutes, with no preparation or warm-up. In the meantime, the dressage rider was standing with a stupefied look on her face, and I was pretty impressed as well. Wätjen walked back to the center and gestured that we should hold the horse while he carefully stepped down, gave him a pat, and said, “Nice horse.” The owner began to babble about how grateful she was, and how impressed. “How ever did you do that?” she inquired. 

Gesturing with his hand toward her shoulder, Wätjen said, “Vell, you must sit mit a straight line from shoulder, to hip, to heel.” She replied eagerly, “Yes, yes, I am doing that.” Wätjen continued, “… und zen you are riding mit a straight line from elbow to horse’s mouth.” The lady pounced on this statement with glee, “Yes, yes. I have been doing this.” “Goot!” said Wätjen. “Now you must practice for 30 years.” I started to crack up at what I thought was a masterful put-down, but I happened to take a look at Wätjen’s face. He wasn’t putting her down, or kidding. He was serious.

STILL HORSE CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS (If It Didn’t Happen This Way, It Should Have) 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 company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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In her memoir DISTANT SKIES: AN AMERICAN JOURNEY ON HORSEBACK, a book reviewers rave is “uplifting, inspiring, poignant, and poetic,” Melissa Chapman shares the story of a remarkable journey she took when she was 23 years old—a young woman who had long dreamed of traveling solo across the United States on horseback, and who had the guts, and the faith, to go for it.

There are many ways her youthful adventure marked her life, and here Melissa shares with us one annual tradition that keeps her connected to all that transpired all those years ago.


We’ve all heard it’s not healthy to live in the past. But touching the past, re-visiting it, can stir our soul and remind us of lessons we learned and help us reconnect with things that are important to us.

Every May First, since 1982, I have traveled back over the beginning miles of my solo horseback journey of 39 years ago. 

The First of May has had significant meaning to me ever since my animals and I set out on our cross-country trek. When the very first anniversary of that departure rolled around, I had only been home a few months since the completion of the trip. I felt like a lost soul. I didn’t really know where I belonged. The nomadic, outdoor life had grown into more than a journey, it had become a way of life for me. I understood that riding and living outdoors and on the road was not something I could or should do forever, but it was not clear to me where to go from there. So, I did the one thing that always seemed to give me balance and clarity. I saddled up my horse Rainy, and with my dog Gypsy, rode to a spot I knew called Gregory’s Flat—a clearing off a trail with flat land along the creek—where we camped for the night. 

As time went on, I eventually adjusted and moved forward, as is usually the way. But that first anniversary ride and camp out steadied me. It reminded me that I always felt direction and solace around the animals and outdoors, and it was the furthering of the lessons I’d learned on our cross-country journey.

The following year, when May First came, I did the same thing, and again for several more years after that. It became my own tradition. I learned to surround myself with what I loved, and though my life eventually became far from wild or adventurous, I managed to keep one foot firmly planted in the world of nature.

As time went on, I had a family and no longer took Rainy and camped on May First, though he and I would always ride out. The tradition grew and became a part of my life like a holiday or any other long-honored ritual. In recent years, when that date rolls around, I ride in the morning, then go for a drive. Sometimes I go as far as Amish country and meet with old friends I met on my journey. Often, I roam the back roads and hike at some of the places we rode and camped all those years ago. I pay close attention to what is around me and how it makes me feel.

What it makes me feel is connected. It reminds me how beautiful it is to spend an entire May day (or several) free and wandering. When I see the steep winding roads where I started my trip with Rainy and Gypsy all those years ago, I am reminded once again how incredible Rainy was, and how blessed we were on that journey.

This year, 2021, has been an extra special time to revisit these places, as that horseback adventure has come to the forefront of my life again with the release of my book, DISTANT SKIES: AN AMERICAN JOURNEY ON HORSEBACK. It was also a timely reminder for me. Because though the farms and back roads I visited did not disappoint with their beauty, this May First, at certain spots along the way a memory would come back to me, and many of those early day’s memories are about how hard the beginning of my trip was, what a difficult adjustment it was for me to walk away from “normal life” and put myself out on a limb, both physically and emotionally. It’s good to be reminded that beginnings are not always easy, even when you are doing something of your own choosing. Maybe even more so when it’s following a dream. Because you’ve followed that dream for a reason and sometimes the reason can seem difficult or out of reach. I started out on that long ago horse trip to find freedom and joy and to ride and to be outside. I had all that, and it was still difficult. 

Here’s why I am sharing this with other horse people. Because like normal life, our “horse lives” are full of all kinds of beginnings. Horse people seem to be kind of a forward-thinking bunch and are usually up to a new challenge. The first canter, the first jump, trying a new discipline, sitting on a young horse for the first time, returning to riding as an adult after a long time away. The list of how many new beginnings there are with horses could go on and on. I’m going through a version of that right now. I have a new horse and she’s proving to be a bit more of a challenge than I had anticipated. 

Heading out on the old steps of our cross-country journey was a good reminder to me that though beginnings are not always easy, they are often worth the effort. If you believe in yourself and in the goal you are pursuing, if it’s the right time and place and the right challenge for you, you will adjust, and it will be worth it…whether it’s a new horse or a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Whenever I visit them, those Pennsylvania trails and hills remind me of important lessons I learned there: You can handle whatever comes up. You’re doing this because it’s the path to what you want. And that when things get hard, you just keep going

So whether you find yourself facing a new challenge or if you just need a way to “center,” as they call it, consider taking a page from my little tradition and head outside. Whether it’s by foot or by horseback or driving on a country road, there’s something cleansing and clarifying about wandering. Even if it’s just to get out and think and appreciate where you are. Here in the Northeast, for a little while in May, the air smells like lilacs, the creeks are full and flowing, and the birdsong is incredible. No matter the reason, it’s just good to get out there. And maybe you’ll find in yourself a new resolve and new ideas for whatever challenge (horse life or otherwise) you are about to take on.

—Melissa A. Priblo Chapman, 2021


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

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MC: This is an important question to me.

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

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

You just have to keep going.

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

CLICK HERE to order now.

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

Tik Maynard,
Author of In the Middle Are the Horsemen

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

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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.

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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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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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