Horseman Tik Maynard on Loving Strong Women

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.

 

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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.

***

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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.”

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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.

The Olympics Are Postponed, But Your Dreams Don’t Have to Be

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Photo by Cathy Lynn Cimino, Equine Info Exchange

I love watching the Olympics—winter and summer. Pick a sport and I’m into it, willing to admire the athletes, agonize over the losses, celebrate the successes, and even puzzle over the “rules of the game” when it comes to contests unfamiliar to me. I grew up an athlete, and I can identify with the ambition, the guts, and the honor of being an Olympic competitor. Even though it will never be me on a balance beam, ski jump, or podium, I still get a rush seeing others reach such a goal—the kind of goal that requires much sacrifice, hours upon hours upon days upon years, for a few moments of complete and utter validation.

RFTTPin-horseandriderbooksSo with Tokyo 2020 postponed until July 2021, I’m all about finding a new way to get my Olympic fix. One way is by reading the profiles in RIDING FOR THE TEAM: INSPIRATIONAL STORIES OF THE USA’S MEDAL-WINNING EQUESTRIANS AND THEIR HORSES. 

The great thing about these stories is that they are all over the spectrum in terms of equestrian sport (all 8 FEI disciplines are included) and individual voice. Each rider, driver, and vaulter contributed a first-person account of what it took to rise to the highest levels of dressage, show jumping, eventing, reining, para dressage, driving, vaulting, and endurance. We get to hear the fascinating bits and pieces that helped make our equestrian stars great, and man, it makes for great trivia! For example, did you know:

  • Margie Engle didn’t own her own horse until she was 25?
  • Michelle Gibson got the ride on Peron after an article about her time as a working student in Germany appeared in the local newspaper?
  • Boyd Martin has always competed in his high school’s blue-and-white rugby jersey?
  • Suzy Stafford switched from eventing to driving after she bought driving lessons for her father?
  • Becca Hart works as a head barista at Starbucks when she isn’t on the road competing?
  • Andrea Fappani grew up with a classical riding background in an English saddle?
  • Valerie Kanavy paid $150 for her first horse, Princess, with savings from her piggy bank?
  • Megan Benjamin Guimarin could only eat bread pieces dipped in Nutella before competing for the World Championship?
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Boyd Martin in outgrown jodhpurs and his school’s blue-and-white ruby jersey On Lenny’s Loss. Photo courtesy of Boyd Martin from RIDING FOR THE TEAM.

There are 47 contributors in RIDING FOR THE TEAM, and as a rider—even one who no longer competes—I enjoyed discovering how each one decided representing the US in international competition was what they aspired to, and then how each pursued and accomplished that goal. Some came from humble means, some had a leg up with families in the horse business or money that helped pave the way, but all of them struggled at points…and still prevailed. 

These lessons are the best kind right now. #LetTheDreamsBegin

Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor, TSB

RIDING FOR THE TEAM 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.

 

 

We Love Horses! So Here’s a Valentine’s Day Sale That Spreads the Love

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We love horses and we love what we do, so we want to share our horse books with all of you! In celebration of Valentine’s Day, you’ll get 20% off plus FREE SHIPPING when you order books or videos from our online bookstore http://www.horseandriderbooks.com.

Not sure this is the Valentine’s gift you want? Well, check out these staff recommendations:

WHAT’S NEW

MUSTANG: FROM WILD HORSE TO RIDING HORSE

Follow along as one trainer and a young Mustang mare discover partnership and trust while they prepare for the Mustang Makeover in Germany. For 90 days, biologist and horsewoman Vivian Gabor recorded her experiences with Mona, the wild horse that had crossed a continent and an ocean to find a new home. Through words and wonderful color photographs, Vivian shares the ups and downs as she progresses with Mona’s training, discovering new insights about horses and their true nature along the way. Informational sidebars on the science behind the process of horse training help explain Vivian’s reasoning for the methods she chooses to follow when working with a Mustang. Steps for patiently and naturally introducing groundwork, liberty work, and first rides are vividly illustrated. But it is the resulting friendship between woman and horse that most resonates, providing all readers an opportunity to imagine what it might be like to train a Mustang of their own. 

 

WHAT’S INSPIRING

RIDING FOR THE TEAM

From playing with plastic ponies and taking their first riding lessons, to finding success in the arena, thousands of horse lovers hope they can one day represent the United States in international competition. Riding for the Team chronicles the lives of those who dreamed about competing for their country and “made it,” sharing inspirational stories from the international governing organization’s eight equestrian disciplines: show jumping, dressage, eventing, driving, vaulting, reining, endurance, and para-dressage. Readers are immersed in the fascinating histories of the medal-winning riders, drivers, and vaulters who have dominated American equestrian sport over the past 28 years, such as McLain Ward, Karen O’Connor, Debbie McDonald, and Tim McQuay. Get the inside scoop on legendary horses who have become household names, including Flexible, Biko, Verdades, and Gunners Special Nite. Offering exclusive insights, this book gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the world of top-level equestrian sport. Athletes tell their stories and those of their horses during the years they honed their talent and dedicated their lives to representing their country in the Olympics, World Equestrian Games, World Championships, and Pan American Games. Beautifully illustrated with breathtaking photographs from prestigious competitions held around the world, Riding for the Team not only provides a dazzling record of American equestrian accomplishment, it promises to inspire the next generation of champions.

 

WHAT’S FOR FUN

THELWELL’S PONY PANORAMA

Following the 1953 publication of British artist Norman Thelwell’s first pony cartoon, his name became synonymous worldwide with images of little girls and fat hairy ponies. In 2017 Thelwell’s Pony Cavalcade, featuring many of the earliest Thelwell cartoons, was re-released in North America, reviving the artist’s fervent fandom and initiating calls for more. Now, in this second hilarious collection, readers are treated to three additional Thelwell classics: Thelwell Goes West, and Penelope. Those new to Thelwell will fall in love with his uniquely irreverent-yet-informative view of the equestrian world, while long-time enthusiasts can indulge in a delightful dose of equine-friendly nostalgia. Sure to please anyone with a pony-littered past or a horse-crazy present.

 

CLICK HERE to shop our Valentine’s Day Sale!

Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at TSB.

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

Olympian Isabell Werth Dishes on Rollkur

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German Olympian Isabell Werth is one of the most successful horsewomen in the world. With six Olympic gold medals and scores of championship titles to her name, there are few her equal on paper.

In Werth’s authorized biography FOUR LEGS MOVE MY SOUL, readers get the inside scoop when it comes to the dressage rider’s amazing accomplishments—and her failures, too. In this exclusive excerpt, Werth shares her personal thoughts regarding one of the biggest controversies to rock the dressage world: Rollkur.

Rollkur for me is the forced “screwing in” and “rolling up” of the horse’s neck in front of his chest. The horse is held in this too-tight position for a certain time. When this happens, the necessary stretching and lengthening of the neck is completely neglected. It doesn’t correspond to my understanding of dressage training at all. Truly gymnasticizing a horse is something completely different. The templates are out of place in every respect. Xenophon’s standard still holds true today: A horse’s nose should ideally stay in front of the vertical. Yes, but the way to this ideal has to be adjusted to each horse. For example, when I am starting a young horse whose body is not yet trained or muscled, I want to form that horse into an athlete with appropriate gymnasticizing. This means that, among other things, the horse is made more supple and elastic through frequent bending of his neck and stretching of his entire body.

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Isabell Werth and Gigolo winning gold at the 1996 Olympics. Photo by Jacques Toffi

This, however, has nothing to do with rollkur. The aim of the right kind of gymnastic training is that the horse can use his body elastically and be supple, just like a high-performance athlete, a gymnast, or a figure skater.

Total obedience, the achievement of so-called “blind obedience,” is an essential aim of rollkur. With this in mind, I have also pondered how such an exaggeration of position might relate to other exaggerations in training, such as remarkably frequent repetitions of movements. I have asked myself why a pirouette is constantly repeated, even after it has been carried out successfully several times before. Even in the time of Xenophon it was said that praise for the horse doesn’t only mean patting his neck or giving him a treat. “Calling it a day” when something goes well is another reward through which the horse learns to identify when he has done something right. That is a guide post that Dr. Schulten-Baumer firmly installed in me: If it goes well, it’s “home time.” The only explanation that I can find for the constant repetitions we so often see in dressage schooling is that they are hoped to lead to an automatization of the horse. People must feel that mistakes can be eliminated this way.

I principally respect my competitors’ achievements and don’t want to denounce anyone. My goal is to advance myself. But the great pleasure I take from my work mainly results from the fact that I work together with animals that have their own personalities, that are confident, and that I am on par with. A horse may and must live his own personality. Of course, I expect obedience, I wish to be in control, and I want to be the one who decides what happens when. But, my horses are also allowed to resist; they are allowed to tell me what they think. Live and let live. I have to lead my horse so skillfully over the years he is in my barn that he plays along voluntarily and has fun doing it…. Only a horse that has fun can develop the kind of charisma that captivates people in the show ring. The foundation of what connects us to our horses every day is affection and respect. It helps us see through all phases of doubt.

Read more of Werth’s personal thoughts on the world of international dressage, including the Totilas controversy and her long rivalry with Dutch Olympian Anky van Grunsven in FOUR LEGS MOVE MY SOUL, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE. 

CLICK HERE to find out more.

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

The Decade in Horse Books

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Here we are on the cusp of not only a new year but a whole new decade. This gives us a chance to look back across the last 10 years and consider what we’ve done with our time…

Here at TSB, we’ve published a whole lotta horse books.

We are so lucky to be able to work with the committed and talented horse people who write our books! Thank you to each and every one of them for choosing to partner with us in the production of quality education for the equestrian community…and for the good of the horse.

And so, let’s consider the decade in horse books.

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We’ve had many highlights along the way:

2010: 50 5-MINUTE FIXES TO IMPROVE YOUR RIDING by Wendy Murdoch and HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD by Denny Emerson

2011: JANE SAVOIE’S DRESSAGE 101 by Jane Savoie and BEYOND HORSE MASSAGE by Jim Masterson

2012: DRESSAGE FOR THE NOT-SO-PERFECT HORSE by Janet Foy and HOW TO SPEAK HORSE by Andrea and Markus Eschbach

2013: PRESSURE-PROOF YOUR RIDING by Daniel Stewart and 3-MINUTE HORSEMANSHIP by Vanessa Bee

2014: WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN by Beth Baumert and THE ART OF LIBERTY FOR HORSES by Jonathan Field

2015: WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES by Cat Hill and Emma Ford and THE ESSENTIAL FERGUS THE HORSE by Jean Abernethy

2016: JOURNEY TO SOFTNESS by Mark Rashid and HORSE SPEAK by Sharon Wilsie and Gretchen Vogel

2017: TRAINING HORSES THE INGRID KLIMKE WAY by Ingrid Klimke and THE ESSENTIAL HOOF by Susan Kauffmann and Christina Cline

2018: IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN by Tik Maynard and KNOW BETTER TO DO BETTER by Denny Emerson

2019: CORE CONDITIONING FOR HORSES by Simon Cocozza and RIDING FOR THE TEAM from the United States Equestrian Team and edited by Nancy Jaffer

And thank you to all our readers, who choose to support great authors, small companies, and are always striving to learn one more thing to be better riders, trainers, and caretakers of the horse.

Happy New Decade,

The TSB Staff

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

5 Horse Books for the Holidays

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If you’re searching for gifts for the horse lover in your life, consider this: Reading a book about horses is almost as good as the real thing.

Bibliotherapy is a type of therapy that uses literature to support good mental health. “A 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology, based on analysis of fMRI brain scans of participants, showed that, when people read about an experience, they display stimulation within the same neurological regions as when they go through that experience themselves,” writes Ceridwen Dovey in the 2015 New Yorker article “Can Reading Make You Happier?”

In other words, maybe you can’t buy your horse-crazy friends or family members a pony, but you can give them the same elated feeling with a good book!

Here are our Top 5 Recommended Horse Books for this holiday season: 

1

Riding for the TeamRIDING FOR THE TEAM from the USET, edited by Nancy Jaffer

A dazzling, behind-the-scenes look at the incredible equestrian athletes and horses who compete and win for the USA, with 47 riders, drivers, and vaulters from all 8 FEI sports sharing their stories of how they “made it.” “Not only informative but extremely captivating…. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed,” says Jumper Nation in their review.

 

2

Fergus and the Night Before Christmas FinalFERGUS AND THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Jean Abernethy

Could be THE best holiday horse book EVER! Fergus, the world’s most popular cartoon horse, shares an epic holiday adventure inspired by the classic tale ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Recommended for ages 5 to 95. “Jean Abernethy once again provides readers of all ages with another adorable account of the famous cartoon horse Fergus,” said Equine Journal in their review. “An adventure that will make any horse lover’s heart swell.”

 

3

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

Adrift after college, Tik Maynard decided to become a working student, and here he shares how he evolved under the critical eyes of Olympians, medal winners, and world–renowned figures in the horse world, including Anne Kursinski, Johann Hinnemann, Ingrid Klimke, David and Karen O’Connor, Bruce Logan, and Ian Millar. Through it all he studied the horse, and human nature, and how the two can find balance. And in that journey, he may have found himself. “A must-read for every horse lover out there,” Horse Journals said in their review. “An inspiring story about horses, life, and everything in between.”

 

4

HowGoodRidersGetGood PBHOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD by Denny Emerson 

Discover the 9 key character traits of successful riders and how you can learn to call each one of them your own in this revised paperback edition of Denny Emerson’s bestseller. Plus, read the stories of 23 of the world’s top riders from different disciplines and sports and how they “got good” despite facing the same kinds of challenges and setbacks you face in your own day-to-day riding. “Anyone searching for a positive boost in a quest to better himself will find Emerson’s perspective, analysis, and advice valuable,” wrote The Chronicle of the Horse in their review. 

 

5

Thelwells Pony PanoramaTHELWELL’S PONY PANORAMA by Norman Thelwell

Following the 1953 publication of British artist Norman Thelwell’s first pony cartoon, his name became synonymous worldwide with images of little girls and fat hairy ponies. In 2017, THELWELL’S PONY CAVALCADE, featuring many of the earliest Thelwell cartoons, was re-released in North America, reviving the artist’s fervent fandom and initiating calls for more. Now, in this second hilarious collection, readers are treated to three additional Thelwell classics: Gymkhana, Thelwell Goes West, and Penelope. “Equestrians of all ages will delight in this classic collection of Norman Thelwell’s artwork,” said Northeast Equestrian Life in their review. “Pick up an extra copy (or two) as you will find yourself wanting to share the fun.” 

 

5HorseBooksfortheHolidaysPin-horseandriderbooksOrder by today, December 11, 2019, and you will still get FREE SHIPPING with delivery in time for Christmas!

Want a horse book but don’t see one here that’s just right? BROWSE OUR STORE to find books and videos for every equestrian.

Thank you for supporting small business and independent publishing!

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

47 True Stories of Winning, Losing, and “Achieving the Dream” from 8 Equestrian Sports

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“To win for the USA.” Many young athletes grow up with a goal of reaching the Olympics and the glories of their sport’s highest levels. It is no different for equestrians, whether they ride English, Western, vault, or drive a carriage. From playing with plastic ponies and taking their first riding lessons, to finding success in the arena, thousands of horse lovers hope they can one day represent the United States in international competition.

RIDING FOR THE TEAM, the new book from the United States Equestrian Team Foundation and edited by Nancy Jaffer, chronicles the lives of those who dreamed about competing for their country and “made it,” sharing inspirational stories from the FEI’s eight equestrian disciplines: show jumping, dressage, eventing, driving, vaulting, reining, endurance, and para-dressage.

Readers are immersed in the fascinating histories of the medal-winning riders, drivers, and vaulters who have dominated American equestrian sport over the past 28 years, such as McLain Ward, Karen O’Connor, Debbie McDonald, and Tim McQuay. Get the inside scoop on legendary horses who have become household names, including Flexible, Biko, Verdades, and Gunners Special Nite.

Riding for the TeamOffering exclusive insights, this book gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the world of top-level equestrian sport. Athletes tell their stories and those of their horses during the years they honed their talent and dedicated their lives to representing their country in the Olympics, World Equestrian Games, World Championships, and Pan American Games. Beautifully illustrated with breathtaking photographs from prestigious competitions held around the world, RIDING FOR THE TEAM not only provides a dazzling record of American equestrian accomplishment, it promises to inspire the next generation of champions.

RIDING FOR THE TEAM 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. 

Eventer and Coach Eric Smiley Tells Us Which Breed of Horse Is Bright Enough to Build a Boat…and Admits Two Surprising Fears

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Photo by Venkat Naryanan 

Having coffee with equestrian coach Eric Smiley is a delightful occurrence worth repeating. Certainly, a clinic with him has a similar effect. A former international event rider who represented Ireland at European, World, and Olympic level, winning team bronze medals on two occasions, he’s “been there, done that” but is also incredibly present in the here and now. His desire to ponder equestrianism, in all its minutia and across its broader themes, results in a philosophical meandering that doesn’t leave you anxious for answers—it satisfies.

We were lucky enough recently to enjoy caffeinated conversation with Smiley and talked about his book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM, what he hopes its publication might achieve, and whether there are “holes” yet to be filled in the education of those who ride, train, and work with horses.

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Photo by Venkat Naryanan

TSB: You have said that your book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM is intended to “guide riders to perform better by making their lives less complicated and more fulfilling.” How do you feel riders’ lives are complicated and in what ways do you think they could be more fulfilled?

ES: Achievement produces satisfaction. Helping people achieve by giving them a road map of “how,” gives me such a thrill.

TSB: You spent nearly 10 years in a Cavalry Regiment of the Army. How did this time and experience inspire you to make horses your profession?

ES: When I moved my in-tray to my out-tray without looking at it, and it made no difference. It was time to follow my dreams.

TSB: For 18 years you were Director of the Golden Saddle Scheme in Ireland, which identifies talented young riders and helps further their riding education. What did your experiences with the Scheme teach you about achieving success with riding and with horses?

ES: The clarity of youth, the simplicity of delivery, the naivety of what can be achieved. As adults we could learn a lot from them.

TSB: You enjoy starting your homebred horses. What is it about the training process that continues to motivate you to have horses in your life and bring them along from the very beginning?

ES: Every day is a new day. I never stop trying to find solutions to the questions that horses pose.

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Photo by Irina Kuzmina


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

ES: With hard work and a plan, anything is possible.

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?

ES: An Irish Sport Horse of course. They are enterprising, resilient, tough, and bright enough to help build a boat. The Natural World by Thomas D. Mangelsen. Photography as good as it gets.

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

ES: Ride around the world. One sees and hears things from horseback that would make this experience wonderful.

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

ES: Honesty. Say it as it is, warts and all!

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

ES: A trier. Less talented but prepared to have a go.

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

ES: Rats in the dark! And having to eat squash!

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TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

ES: Buying art.

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

ES: Being cautious about buying art!!

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

ES: Tonic and some really nice Sauvignon Blanc.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

ES: Exotic travel with my wife Sue.

Two Brains, One Aim

CLICK TO ORDER

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

ES: I would ask Claude Monet for a lesson.

TSB: What is your motto?

ES: “Go on, have a go 😁”

 

Eric Smiley’s book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

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

Food for Thought: A Scientific Argument Against Using Treats in Horse Training

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Sugar cubes. Peppermints. Carrots. Carefully sliced pieces of apple. “Cookies.” Admit it: We all have one. A favorite treat.

When your horse comes trotting up in the pasture, it feels good, right? When he turns and looks over his shoulder after a square halt, your heart melts a little. When he walks, trots, and stays right at your side in the round pen or arena, all sans halter and lead rope, you feel like you’re on top of the world.

Was it just the “cookies” that made him do it?

Do you know?

In their book EQUUS LOST? ethologists Francesco De Giorgio and José De Giorgio-Schoorl argue that science says using treats to train a horse—or any animal—is a bad idea, and we should all take our hands out of the goody bag. Here’s what they say:

In today’s social media, there are countless examples of situations where food rewards are used in interaction with all kinds of animals. Dolphins, dogs, horses, cats, rabbits, zebras, tigers, and many others undergo this kind of conditioning. It might look innocent, but it has a direct impact on their limbic system (comprised of brain structures that are involved in emotions).

FoodinHorseTraining-horseandriderbooksWe can understand the severity of this impact by looking, for example, at the importance of the senses for horses, for their well-being in general and, more specifically, in their interaction with humans. If we want to improve our understanding of horses and our interaction with them, we need to be aware of how they create their own experience and leave the horse the freedom to do so.

It’s in the Nose

Horses use their olfactory system to process information coming from odors. They explore and smell in order to be connected with their environment and improve their understanding of it. For this reason, when working with horses, we must learn to be aware of how the horse uses his senses, trying to notice and understand when the horse is interested or focusing on something with his senses. It could be anything! Something on the ground, a fence, something in the air….

Some horses (like many humans!) are no longer used to using their sense of smell to improve their understanding of a situation, and as a result, miss important information that could otherwise be reassuring. This “not smelling” is due to constantly overlooking their needs in their interaction with man. When they want to stop to smell along a path, we ask them to continue walking; when they want to take in the smells of an unknown arena, we ask them to start “working,” for example.

This problem is accentuated further if horses get used to food premium rewards. By being trained to focus on food, their response is stimulated in the limbic system, and the possibility of remaining calm and explorative is almost entirely taken away. They create a strong association between anything interesting to explore and the possibility of food. Of course, the olfactory system is still working, but from a reactive inner state, with the expectation of finding food, instead of simply processing information from an object. A horse that is smelling with food expectations is easily recognizable: his nostrils pass quickly and mechanically without taking in his surroundings, his breath is superficial, and his nose immediately touches a human’s arm or object without first pausing to elaborate the information from a distance or, after slow intense breathing, stopping at a whisker’s distance, taking in all that the moment is telling his perception, to take time to build his own map of the situation. We are not used to paying attention to these kinds of details. We might never know what information the horse is getting, but we can learn to recognize his attention and signs of his elaboration.

Food premiums also have an immediate impact on daily activities. For example, when horses in shared pastures start perceiving man as mere food dispensers, the human presence will immediately trigger food expectations and, consequently, tension in the entire group. This is something we need to take responsibility for instead of trying to correct the behavioral consequences (horses become insistent or even irritated when looking for food), which we caused by using food premiums in the first place.

Can’t Buy Me Love

We often feel the urge to reward because we forget how to live in the moment. The reward becomes a substitute for actually sharing an experience born from an intrinsic interest. Yet, it is from that interest that an authentic relationship can be developed.

Living a calm, interesting life doesn’t need a premium. Life itself should give satisfaction. We live often totally unconnected with ourselves, trying frantically to find contact with the horse, using all kinds of techniques. By offering a premium, we don’t give the horse the possibility to relate to us, congruent and in line with himself.

Equus LostWe need to be aware of the fact that when we give food rewards to horses, we create such a strong magnet that we reduce their ability for free expression. Positive reinforcement is a form of operant conditioning that falls within the behaviorist framework. Today, it is high time for such an approach to human interaction with animals to be thoroughly questioned. Behaviorism completely disregards animals’ mental elaboration, emotions, and internal state.

Want to know more? EQUUS LOST? by Francesco De Giorgio & José De Giorgio-Schoorl is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

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

“His Confidence Was a Bit Like Porcelain: Easy to Crack.” Jonathan Field and His Horse Hal to Perform at Breyerfest 2019

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Are you packed and ready to head to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of BreyerFest? That’s right, July 12-14, 2019, marks 30 years that Breyer Animal Creations has brought to life a fabulous family festival that combines the excitement of a real horse fair with model horse activities, and this year, TSB author Jonathan Field is a featured performer, along with his wonderful horse Hal. Hal, who was one of the equine stars in Jonathan’s glorious  book THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, is coming out of retirement and making the trip to this year’s Breyerfest for a very special reason: He now has his very own Breyer model! A very limited supply of the Hal model will be available for sale at BreyerFest.

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Hal Breyer model available at BreyerFest 2019. Limited quantities so hurry! Hal model imagery courtesy of Breyer Animal Creations.

Here is Hal’s story as Jonathan told it in THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES:

 

“Hal’s my number one horse, and my best horse friend. We have been through a lot together, learned a lot together, traveled thousands of miles, and quite frankly, I owe a lot of my career to Hal.  

“A Quarter Horse gelding, Hal was given to me when he was three years old. For many reasons, he had been running into problems with training, and was subsequently bought back by his breeder. After returning home, he tried to pin his owner in his stall and threatened to kick her. He bucked when ridden and was always getting into mischief. Hal is a horse that if you don’t come up with something for him to do, he will happily come up with something of his own. And, it’s likely to be troublesome. 

“So Hal came to me to be restarted. After about a month in training, his owner came to watch me with him. After our session, she approached me with tears in her eyes. I thought I had let her down, but they were tears of happiness. She went on to tell me how much Hal had meant to her from the time she raised him. He held a very special place in her heart and she named him after her dad’s initials. The tears came because she was so elated to see Hal look as happy with a person as he had with his dam. I was taken aback, and very glad my customer’s tears were good tears! 

“That day, I thought we were doing well because of my skill, but the reality was I was a young trainer, early in my career. Looking back, I wish I could take credit for Hal making such a change, but I think we were just a good personality match. He taught me more than I taught him. 

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“I was looking for a horse at the time and Hal’s owner was so pleased with what her horse and I had done together that she said she would love to see how far our partnership could go. So she offered Hal to me that day. I accepted, and promised to make her proud of what we would do together. 

“In a lot of ways, Hal and I hit it off right from the start. He was very sensitive, but also worried. He is a ‘thinking kind of horse.’ If he’s going to buck with you, it’s because he got scared first, then says, ‘I bet I could buck this guy off.’ It is more of a plan than a true prey animal flight reaction. 

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Photo by Robin Duncan.

“In the beginning, it was like every little thing meant something too much to Hal. If he got confused or overwhelmed, he would lose confidence and want to flee. If he couldn’t run away, he would kick or buck. He took everything so personally. Even a simple thing, like how fast I approached to catch him, could put too much pressure on him. 

“Gradually, I learned that if I came toward him slowly and respectfully, he quietly waited with no problems. He was just a horse that was born wired sensitive. His confidence was a bit like porcelain: easy to crack. 

“To this day, I still see some of these attributes in Hal from time to time. Now, he is a star and has his own fan club. At the big expos and events where we perform, many people want to go to his stall and see him. Some of my horses eagerly await the attention, with their heads out of their stalls, waiting for a rub. Not Hal.  

“Then, the amazing thing is Hal and I go out to the arena at show time, and he fills the room with joy! As he gallops around looking right at the crowd, it looks like he is having the time of his life—and I believe that he is. 

“Early on, liberty was the best thing for Hal. It gave him the freedom to move and express himself, building his confidence in me and mine in him. As we started to gain some trust and communication, things changed. I began to have the benefits of a supersensitive horse, but with trust to build a partnership. It was then that my riding with him took off.”

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Photo by Robin Duncan.

Don’t miss your chance to get a limited edition model of Hal at the 2019 Breyerfest! And read more about Hal and Jonathan Field’s other horses, as well as learn his techniques for teaching a horse how to play with you at liberty in his book THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, 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.