Try This Pilates Stretch for Your Horse

Eleven years ago, about a year after having my son, I gave Pilates a shot, and WOW! All I can say is it did amazing things for my body and my riding. I’m a fan.

TSB author Laura Reiman has been practicing Pilates since 2007. She completed her Comprehensive Teacher Training Course with BASI Pilates (Body Arts and Science International) in New York, then spent six months in Brisbane, Australia, teaching and continuing to learn from BASI faculty members before opening her own studio in Alexandria, Virginia. Well, Laura is also an eventer, and when her When her young horse was diagnosed with extreme back pain and a neurological disease, she turned to her knowledge of Pilates—the method she’d used to ease back pain in human clients for years—for help. She began to find ways to “bridge the gap” between the horse’s mind and body to help increase his body awareness and core engagement.

In Laura’s new book PILATES FOR HORSES, she shares the Pilates-inspired exercises she determined can offer the horse the same benefits they offer humans. They can be taken in parts or as a whole and seamlessly incorporated into an existing training program to be a preventive tool to increase the horse’s strength, balance, mobility, and stability, or a framework for a new program to help ease a horse back into work following an injury or time off.

Here, Laura shares one of the stretches from her program:

Human athletes know that stretching is an invaluable part of any training program to keep muscles elastic, and a tight muscle is more prone to injury. Stretching helps to improve circulation, range of motion, and overall health of your horse’s muscles, while also decreasing muscle soreness and fatigue. As an added benefit, spending a few minutes stretching your horse can help create a stronger bond.

Also known as “carrot stretches,” incentive stretches use treats or a clicker to ask your horse to stretch himself through flexion (rounding), lateral bending (side to side), and even extension (hollowing or reaching). Try this incentive stretch called “Chin to Chest” as an easy way to start incorporating stretches in your routine on a regular basis.

WHAT

Ask your horse to bring his nose toward the center of his chest using a treat, creating flexion and stretch in the upper neck muscles.

WHY

l Increases mobility in the upper and middle neck muscles including the trapezius cervicis, cervical rhomboids, and splenius muscles.

HOW

1 Stand beside your horse, facing forward.

2 Offer a treat near the horse’s nose to get his attention.

3 Slowly move your hand back toward the center of the horse’s chest, covering the treat so he cannot grab it.

4 Make sure the horse’s neck is straight and his nose is pointing down.

5 When using a clicker, activate it right at the center of your horse’s chest.

6 Hold the stretch for 5 seconds to start, working up to 10–20 seconds over the course of several weeks.

7 Repeat 2–4 times, changing sides each time so your horse’s head doesn’t begin to tilt to one side in anticipation.

WHEN

Every day, after your horse is warmed up. Hold for 10–20 seconds and repeat 2–4 times.

Learn more stretches, in-hand exercises, and ridden lessons to help build and maintain a solid foundation of strength and comfort for your horse in the book PILATES FOR HORSES by Laura Reiman.

CLICK HERE for more information and to download a free chapter.

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

Early Morning Writing, COVID Vetting, and a Vomiting Princess: 24 Hours with Dr. Stacie Boswell

One of the things we have been incredibly thankful for during this strange year is the contact we have been able to maintain, albeit virtually, with the TSB authors with whom we are so lucky to work. But in the midst of editorial, production, or the initial marketing push for a new book, we don’t often have time to trade details about our daily lives. So when Dr. Stacie Boswell, author of THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR HORSES IN NEED, shared 24 hours of her life as a vet in 2020, we loved getting this chance to peek into her typical day on the job as a rural vet. And OH MY GOSH we learned so much!

5:00 am I’m trying hard to be awake. 

Even my dogs are not awake yet. Peso El Guapo is still cuddled under his blanket on the bed. He doesn’t move when I get up, but Tia gets up off her dog bed and follows me. We found Peso while out trail riding, and I kept him because he has a severe heart problem that will shorten his lifespan considerably. Tia is pathologically attached to me. I acquired her as a job hazard from working in mixed animal practice. She was morbidly obese, weighing in at 30.8 lbs. Her previous owner brought her in to be euthanized because she couldn’t walk. For a year we worked on diet and exercise, and she now stays a much healthier 11 lbs. She has lots of extra skin, but also significantly more pep in her step. 

It’s early dawn gray right now, and while I make some coffee, I watch my two yearling mules chase a mule deer doe and fawn across our pasture.  This morning, I have three recommendations to write for capable young women applying for admission to veterinary school. Like many people who write, this early time of day is my best time. My brain isn’t crowded yet, and the quiet in the house is advantageous for my focus. I want my recommendees to succeed, so I definitely want to write the best possible letters that I can.

6:30 am The other dogs are finally up. It’s exciting — breakfast!! I also wake my husband, Sid, and get ready for work.  

7:30 am And we’re off!!!! My appointments begin. During COVID-19, veterinary practices have been extremely busy. We aren’t sure why this is the case, but it may be that people are home observing their pets (or stressing them out), or that veterinarians are more welcoming and feel safer than human hospitals. The New York Times wrote about this topic in August.

Most of my morning appointments are vaccines or minor problems, but I feel like I’m early in the marathon of the day and I’m already trying to catch my breath. We are doing curbside service to reduce client and staff possible exposure to COVID-19, and that also adds a layer of challenge to communication, and an additional time commitment to each appointment.

10:30 am Yep, now we begin to rearrange the day to accommodate true emergencies. A very nice but worried mom drops off her seven-year-old daughter’s cat, Princess Jingles. Princess Jingles has been vomiting for about a week, and although she is still eating, she has lost a significant amount of weight. About a year ago, she vomited some hair ties, but recently it’s been mostly food and bile. Princess Jingles is a cute, long-haired calico cat. I palpate her, and in the cranial (forward) portion of her abdomen, I can feel a lump that shouldn’t be there. The cat mews—she’s uncomfortable. Apparently, I make a face that’s obvious even with my mask on; my assistant asks, “What are you feeling?” I’m worried that it’s hair ties (again) in Princess Jingles’s stomach. I call her owner and discuss doing X-rays.

11:30 am X-rays are done. For sure there is something in the cat’s stomach that shouldn’t be there. There is also a small area in the colon that is suspicious. These are outlined in the yellow arrows on the X-ray below.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Stacie Boswell

I’m a large-animal surgeon but really love all surgery. An abdominal exploratory will be necessary for Princess Jingles. I always think of this procedure like it is a box of chocolates: “You never know what you’re gonna get.” That makes it fun for me. This time, I’m pretty sure it will be hair ties. I call my afternoon appointments and rearrange my day to accommodate the procedure. One of my colleagues is gracious enough to take over an overlapping early afternoon appointment. 

12:30 pm I finish my morning appointments, and our wonderful technicians get everything set up and ready for surgery.

1:00 pm Princess Jingles is anesthetized and “on the table.” My practice has a visiting fourth-year veterinary student, Alyssa, getting some hands-on real-world experience. She scrubs in with me, and it is so nice having an extra set of capable hands who can retract the stomach as I cut it open and extract ten hair ties and two pieces of yarn. After removing the foreign objects, I close the cat’s stomach. All the other bowel and internal organs are evaluated. There is another hair tie in the colon, but I avoid opening the dirty, bacteria-filled colon during surgery and instead massage the hair tie as far toward the “exit” as I can.

1:40 pm I close the deepest layer of the incision, and then pass the finish off to capable Alyssa. I call Princess Jingles’s people with an update. They are relieved and happy to hear that surgery went smoothly.

Post-operatively, we take two more X-rays to make sure we removed everything. I know from surgery that I did, but I also want to show Alyssa and our other future veterinarians what a “pneumoabdomen” (air in the abdominal cavity) looks like, so the X-rays are a learning opportunity.

We give Princess Jingles an enema to remove that final hair tie. It’s the pink one!

Photo courtesy of Dr. Stacie Boswell

2:30 pm I work on finishing a little paperwork while scarfing cheese and crackers for lunch.

3:00 pm I start my afternoon with horses. Today, I am seeing Bronwynn, a Warmblood mare I’ve seen since she was a foal. She is now six years old. I see her about twice a year, and every time she has grown larger. I think she is about 17 hands at this point. I really love getting to know my clients and their animals over time.

Bronwynn’s person, Joella, really wanted a lovely Warmblood for dressage, and so she bred the mare she had (Bronwynn’s dam). A caretaker was looking after her pregnant mare, but something went wrong, and when Bronwynn was born, the filly was found stuck and frozen in the mud shortly after birth, and was severely hypothermic with a core body temperature of 87oF (normal foal body temperature should be 100oF to 102oF).

The areas of skin injury from the frostbite Bronwynn suffered are now scars. Because of her injury, her right hind leg is somewhat weaker and not as conformationally correct as her left hind, so keeping her foot balanced is challenging. Today I am taking X-rays of her feet to help optimize her hoof trims and keep her foot as straight and balanced as possible.

4:30 pm  My next appointment is Jennifer, who is bringing in her new off-the-track Thoroughbred, Mike. She was able to come in now instead of her originally scheduled time of 2:00 pm. Jennifer runs a boarding facility and has quite a few horses of her own. She ended up with Mike after his racing-career-ending injury. He’s a sweet horse, and she hopes to make a trail horse out of him. 

Mike’s left front foot is more upright, with a small scar and marks from freeze-firing. This information tells me that the left forelimb has some chronic pain and lameness problems.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Stacie Boswell

Freeze-firing has replaced pin-firing (which used heat) as a treatment for bowed tendons, bucked shins, or splint problems. The use of pins makes scars, which can be seen on the skin overlying the injury. Advocates for the procedure use a different depth and pattern of firing for different primary injuries.

The theory is that the counter-irritation of the firing speeds the healing of the primary problem. It was first used in about 500 AD, and even then there were doubts about its efficacy. Now, 1,500 years later, there is very little science-based evidence for it, and it is not taught in veterinary curricula in the United States. Many veterinarians frown upon its use as a treatment.

I like the way Dr. Doug Thal phrases it on HorseSideVetGuide.com, “If pin-firing is suggested as a treatment, you should question the logic of using this age-old treatment. Surely there are other treatments that are superior and cause less pain and suffering to the horse.”

But back to Mike… although someone at the track took X-rays of his more recent injury, Jennifer doesn’t have access to them, and she wants to know if there is any healing. She knows the injury involves a right front sesamoid (the small bones at the back of the ankle or fetlock). She has managed Mike on stall rest for the last six to seven weeks.

I examine Mike, and he is baseline lame on his right forelimb. His range of motion of his fetlock is reduced by at least 50 percent. The X-rays show a fractured sesamoid bone. This bone serves as an attachment for the suspensory branches and is part of the boundary for the fetlock joint. 

Small bones in the body are also generally termed “sesamoids.” They are located at joints and are embedded within a ligament, tendon, or muscle, and serve as a fulcrum over a joint. These include the navicular bone in horses’ feet, and the patella (also known as the “kneecap” in people). Humans have sesamoids in the joints of our knuckles and feet. When horses’ sesamoid bones are fractured, healing will not be apparent on X-rays because the bone fragments are always pulled apart by the stress of the suspensory ligament, which basically continually pulls the two bone pieces apart. This concept of healing holds true for the navicular and the patella as well, as they also get pulled in two directions.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Stacie Boswell

Most likely, Mike had an injury of his left forelimb. He then compensated by over-using his right forelimb, which resulted in his right forelimb not holding up. A fractured sesamoid with concurrent damage to the suspensory ligament is one stage of breakdown injury in racehorses. Jennifer and I talk at length about a variety of treatment options and costs. Ideally, the smaller bone fragment at the top of the sesamoid should be removed arthroscopically. It sounds like a previous veterinarian had also talked to Jennifer about trying to repair the facture (which could involve a screw or a wire and would be much more difficult and expensive), or simply resting (which she has already done, and won’t actually repair the primary damage).

6:00 pm I started my day helping future veterinary students with recommendation letters. As my day begins to wind down, I will say goodbye to Kayla—she is starting veterinary school on Monday. We are sad to see her go but already so proud of her future.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Stacie Boswell

7:30 pm At the end of the day, I have a euthanasia at home for a 31-year-old horse whose people are also aging out of horses and horse care. Montana has some tough weather in the winter, making it extremely difficult for an older horse with dysfunctional knees to make it through the snow. He also has dysfunctional teeth, and making wet mashes to feed him in the winter here, as you can imagine, quickly ends up as popsicles. It’s not winter yet, but these nice folks have re-homed their two younger horses and don’t want their beloved old man to be alone when the others leave the farm this weekend.

I have a 35-minute drive from my office, so I take my dear husband, Sid, as my technician. It’s been busy, so I haven’t seen him much this week, and I’d like a chance to talk to him and catch up. Sid only knows how to tech for nighttime emergencies such as down horses, colics, and euthanasias. Lacerations are tougher…the blood makes him queasy.

I pick him up and call to coordinate with the local company that takes care of burial and cremation options for pets.

Sid and I arrive just before the person who will pick up the old horse’s body. I hug the wife and console the husband. I then sedate their horse. When I give the final injection, he goes down quietly. I then cut his tail to wash and braid with ribbon so his people can remember his long life and the good times they had together. They really loved him.

10:00 pm  We arrive back home. Tia is ecstatic to see us. After a quick dinner, I fall into bed. Peso is already there underneath his blanket.

I hope I can get some writing done tomorrow morning!

Dr. Stacie Boswell’s book THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR HORSES IN NEED 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.

A Guide to Quarantine…for Your Horse

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We of course all know a bit too much about quarantine these days. In fact, I’m pretty sure we’ve had just about enough of it. But if bringing home a new horse–perhaps a rescue, an adoption, or even just a spontaneous purchase from the place just down the road–is a possibility anytime in your future, then understanding the ins and outs of proper equine quarantine procedure is a must to protect other horses on your property or in your boarding facility.

In her book THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR HORSES IN NEED, large animal veterinarian Dr. Stacie Boswell provides the basics of what we need to know to quarantine properly.

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Photo by Zahaoha from Pexels.

Quarantine Basics

Quarantining a rescue horse is important for reducing the chance of contagious diseases and parasites spreading.

Depending on the circumstances, you may not know much about your newly acquired horse. He may have an uncertain vaccine status. Travel exposes him to contagious diseases, especially if he commingled with others at a livestock auction or other holding area.

A new horse should be quarantined from your other horses for at least three weeks. Quarantine distance should be a mimimum 40 feet, which is based on a horse’s ability to sneeze or cough and spray droplets up to 15 feet, and accounts for additional wind dispersal. Another way respiratory diseases are spread is carriage by fomites—objects such as buckets, brushes, or clothing that have come into contact with infected horses.

Quarantine time period and distance recommendations are designed to prevent contagious respiratory diseases such as Equine Herpes Virus (rhinopneumonitis), influenza, and strangles (Streptococcus equi ssp. equi) from infecting the established herd. During the quarantine period, you should monitor the temperature of your new horse each day because a fever sometimes occurs before obvious disease. Spread of other contagious diseases that cause diarrhea (such as Salmonella spp.) are minimized by using proper quarantine procedures.

Finally, quarantine protects your established herd from both external and internal parasites such as lice or strongyles.

Ultimate Guide to Horses in NeedDuring quarantine, you should implement biosecurity measures, including a sanitizing foot bath and protective barrier gear, such as gloves, disposable barrier coveralls or gown, and a hat or mask, especially if there are any signs of illness. A horse can sneeze or breathe into the caretaker’s hair, and the virus particles can then be carried to other horses.

Another technique is to care for your established horses first, and then the new horse. Washing your hands between horses or groups is an easy and effective way to reduce the spread of infectious agents. You should attend to the healthy horses first, then any horses possibly exposed to illness or disease that are not yet showing signs. Take care of sick horses last.

A horse should be fully vaccinated and medically cleared before being moved from quarantine to general housing. A very thin or sick horse may remain in quarantine for a longer period of time. Quarantine should also account for a horse’s mental well-being. Maintain previously established groups, if possible. For instance, if a group of yearlings arrive together, they should continue to live together. Spend time haltering, brushing, petting, and bonding with your new arrivals. Quarantine pens are typically small, so if you have an untrained, untouchable horse, this is a great time to befriend him and begin the halter-training process. When you consistently provide food and water to a horse who has been neglected, this is the first step to showing him that you are trustworthy.

A horse who lives alone may feel stressed out. This is not ideal as stress weakens the immune system. When you adopt a single new horse into your group, he may need a companion during the quarantine time. A fully vaccinated, mature gelding with a steady personality can be used as a quarantine companion. Remember, the “companion” horse cannot be returned to the established herd until the quarantine period is over. A mare is not ideal as she could be impregnated by a newly rescued colt that has not been gelded. A goat can also be used as a companion, without the risk of contracting an equine respiratory disease.

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR HORSES IN NEED by Dr. Stacie Boswell is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

The Horse Can Detect the Weight of Three Grains of Sand–Here’s How That Matters to EVERYTHING

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:

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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. 

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.

Horse Training…from Both Sides, Now

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Who didn’t learn it that way? One of the very first lesson we all absorb as tiny horse-crazy tots is to approach and handle the horse from the left side. I once went on a dude ride (no really, it’s true) and the four things that were explained to all the tourists in tennis shoes before they got on were whoa, go, “don’t let him eat on the trail,” and “lead him from the left.”

In her new book TRAINING AND RETRAINING HORSES THE TELLINGTON WAY, legendary horsewoman Linda Tellington-Jones counters this traditional lesson in basic equestrianism, arguing for ambidexterity on the part of both horse and handler.

 

Why All Left Isn’t Right

Why is it considered “correct” to lead a horse from the left? Anyone who has gone through Pony Club or 4-H knows that leading a horse from the “far” or right side is considered incorrect.

HandleYourHorsefromBothSides-horseandriderbooksHorses are to be handled primarily from the “near” or left side. Unfortunately, this leftover military tradition is not particularly useful for your horse’s overall straightness, flexibility, and balance. Leading horses from the left originated from the righthand dominant military tradition of having the sword scabbard on the left side of the body. Leading and mounting horses from the left side meant that the sword was not in the way.

The result is that many horses are very one-sided and have a difficult time stopping without a left bend, or they might not be able to be led from the right at all. This tendency can be seen in unhandled foals, as they mimic their dam’s posture, and is reinforced as they are primarily handled from the left side. Horses that rush on the lead will generally be turned in a circle as a way to slow them down, which increases imbalance to the left and often results in a tendency to drop the left shoulder and fall toward the handler.

Practicing leading and handling from both sides will go a long way to improve overall balance in posture and mentally accustom your horse to having a person on either side. It is also an excellent non-habitual exercise for handlers who, more often than not, are much less comfortable leading from the right.

 

World-renowned equine expert Linda Tellington-Jones’ healing equine bodywork and innovative training methods have revolutionized the horse training landscape over the last 50 years. Her unique blend of hands-on TTouch (a collection of circles, lifts, and slides done with the hands over various parts of the horse’s body), combined with humane groundwork and under-saddle exercises, has helped solve training and behavioral problems for horses of every breed, every discipline, every age, and all levels. In TRAINING AND RETRAINING HORSES THE TELLINGTON WAY she presents a thoughtful recipe for starting the young horse without stress, helping to establish the very best beginning, in hand and under saddle. Unfortunately, not all horses have the benefit of the right foundation, which can lead to misunderstanding, mistreatment, and unhappiness for both human and horse. With this in mind, Tellington-Jones also curates her own experience working with older horses ready for a second chance at life, providing the necessary tools for filling in training “holes” and reconfirming lessons that may have been poorly taught or forgotten. The result is book with all the right ingredients and its heart in the right place: Whether starting right or starting over, Tellington-Jones’s field-tested, compassionate answers are an excellent way to find connection while ensuring the horse a lifetime of success in the company of humans.

TRAINING AND RETRAINING HORSES THE TELLINGTON WAY is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

Yoga, Nutella, and Passier Saddles: Getting to the Core of It with Horseman Simon Cocozza

GettingtotheCoreofIt-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Jaana Maari Partanen.

Equine core muscles are very difficult to isolate with the traditional training techniques common to horse sports. However, by examining what we do with the human body when faced with a weak core, we can find new methods for conditioning these areas of the equine body. In his new book CORE CONDITIONING FOR HORSES, Visconte Simon Cocozza has taken principles of the human practice of yoga and used them to develop novel ways of reaching deep within the horse’s body and gently “unlock” areas that may be a little “rusty,” improve core fitness, and even relieve pain related to conditions such as kissing spine. In this book, he provides step-by-step instruction explaining easy mounted exercises that enhance the horse’s posture and boost his confidence in his body and movement, making him easier to ride, and ultimately, the dance partner you’ve always imagined.

We caught up with Simon and found out a little more about his exciting core conditioning techniques…as well as discovering he has a penchant for chablis.

CoreConditioningforHorses-horseandriderbooksTSB: Your book CORE CONDITIONING FOR HORSES provides a collection of yoga-inspired ridden exercises for the horse that warm him up and strengthen his core. How did you determine that these particular exercises were of such key benefit to the horse?

SC: Well, training the inside of the horse is rather new territory, so it was a combination of researching our current understanding of equine biomechanics and good, old-fashioned scientific method. The anatomical composition of the horse is very well understood, of course, but core motion dynamics and how it all interacts are still largely theoretical. It helped me to look at the mechanical properties of the skeleton in the real world—in motion and under the rider rather than simply it’s construction. When the weak areas and their ridden causes became clear, it was a case of addressing them one by one. Yoga showed itself as a solution early on as it aims to restore natural alignment to the vertebrae in a calm and kind way, which really resonates with horses. With some adjustment for anatomical scale and the addition of the rider to the mechanism as a whole, I found that it was possible to use yoga’s slow, low-impact movements to isolate the weak areas quite quickly and easily. When this presented itself, I was quite surprised.

 
TSB: Do you practice yoga? If so, what are the benefits you have found it has made in your own life? How does it affect your riding and horsemanship?

SC: Ha! I was hoping nobody would ask me this! The yoga instructor I consulted with for the book is the amazing Alison Robertson, based in France. Alison has kindly taken pity on me and is helping me learn what our horses feel like when asked to bend rusty body parts! Despite being a plank of wood, it is definitely helping me feel looser in the back, and in particular I have noticed yoga  “evening up” the two sides of my body around a (semi) flexible spine, which is definitely helping my symmetry in the saddle. However, it is not as easy as I had imagined!
 
TSB: How do your core conditioning exercises fit into other training and conditioning programs? Can they be used in concert with other techniques and training schedules?

SC: This is an important point and something I was not prepared to compromise. We desperately needed a simple way of helping all horses feel better in themselves and develop their optimal spinal function, no matter their given discipline, age, breeding, or temperament. For this reason, there are different exercise plans in my book to help the horse owner develop a core conditioning warm-up exactly for the individual horse in question. I think this been achieved with the warm-up plans I present (Wellness, Flexibility, Connection, or Agility)—the exercises can be tailored to fit any horse, whether a light, young, Thoroughbred racehorse or a seasoned, heavier dressage horse. At the spinal level, function is identical, yet the approach needs to be just right for that individual horse’s type and lifestyle.
 
TSB: One of the benefits of your core conditioning exercises is they can help horses that have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having kissing spine. Can you tell us how your techniques alleviate pain and improve a horse’s chances of recovering from this issue?

SC: Well, “kissing spine” is rather more common than we thought, unfortunately, yet despite the problems it causes, it is a relatively simple engineering problem. The spine is a finely tuned piece of equipment and only operates correctly when aligned properly—and then its complex design works really, really well. Unfortunately, if the angles are off even slightly, like a bent pair of scissors or a rusty lock, the mechanism catches on itself and causes damage to the delicate structure it relies upon to do its job. To make matters more complicated,  it is covered in nerves, making the horse tense up when s/he feels a pinch anywhere along the back. These tensions unfortunately feel like training or even behavioral problems, which is why they are not diagnosed very quickly, making them become habitual and limiting performance and quality of life. The solution is thankfully very simple, involving strengthening the muscles that are already under the spine to redress and realign the horse’s back. The body knows what is good for it, and when activated, these structures spring into action and everything starts to work properly again.

 
TSB: You were born in Italy, were educated in England, and live in France. How did your background influence your decision to become a professional horseman and devote your time and energy to improving the horse’s health and well-being?

SC: I have been very lucky that my family has a strong history with horses, which has helped enormously. My mother is an instructor, so I was brought up around, on, and under horses, and my Italian family has been composed of almost all swashbuckling military horsemen and women for millennia. Perhaps it is simply in the DNA? Although I am a nerd and wanted to be a scientist, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to work with horses. After a few years working in the commercial side of the horse industry, I became uncomfortable using some of the restrictive and insensitive methods that we employ without question in European training. Restraint and force did not seem to be necessary with such a highly complex and essentially perfectly designed creature as the horse, and I strongly felt that there had to be better way. So I spent a few decades trying to understand how it all worked. This work has, of course, all been done before, long ago, yet I feel I may have reiterated some forgotten knowledge that may allow us to smooth off some of our modern corners.
 
TSB: What is one lesson you hope readers will take away from your book?

SC: By far, it is to put ourselves in the horses’ hooves. When working with these sensitive beings that worry and tense up so easily, we really must show them our love in every moment of our work together, especially when we run into problems. This is when they need us the most.  They are so very, very emotional, and we should remember that there is always an innocent reason for their actions, even if it looks otherwise.

 
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?

SC: Oh, I think it would have to be a Pura Raza Espagnol, an Andalusian. These horses are like generous people, that is why we use them in movies, for the High School, such as in Vienna, and for tricks like dancing, performances, and stunt work. Try that sort of thing with a Warmblood and he will just walk away!

I am tempted to say I would read Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Dafoe, but that is a bit obvious, so it would have to be Douglas Adams’ quadrilogy of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which I feel sure the PRE would enjoy me reading to her/him, too.
 
TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

SC: I am fascinated with Working Equitation, and I love watching it. It has so much potential for perfection and looks like dressage meets “handy pony” meets gymkhana, but for grown-ups. I mean, they gallop over a bridge and carry a spear!
 
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

SC: Integrity. Without that, nothing else matters.
 
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

SC: Focus. Some of them look at you and say with their eyes, “Hi! Lets interact!” and they hold focus on you. Time stands still when that happens, and no matter what package s/he is in, your souls connect. This is the essence of a great relationship and the first thing I look for.

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TSB: What is your greatest fear?

SC: A global shortage of olives, Nutella, garlic, or Chablis, in that order. I suppose I ought to say world war, although the former would surely trigger the latter.
 
TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

SC: I have an unreasonably large collection of Passier saddles. I love them, especially the old ones. They are masterpieces of craftsmanship and each one rides a little differently. I am not even ashamed of this and have instructed my family to bury my favorites with me…preferably after I have died, though.
 
TSB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

SC: I would like to be able to fly. But that’s not very realistic. In “Real Life” I would like to be a little taller. When in Germany and Holland I feel child-size—in fact, their children are often taller than me! A short stay (pun intended) in Italy or Portugal usually puts that right.
 
TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

SC:  Landjaeger sausage. It’s like the Holy Grail of bacon. 
 
TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

SC: Oh, there are so many answers to this one! If I had to choose one it would be waiting, at dusk, for the Spaghetti alle Vongole to come to the table at a little waterside trattoria on the Amalfi Coast, surrounded by people I love.
 
TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

SC: Without question, the physicist Nikola Tesla. He was the twentieth century’s da Vinci. He almost changed the world. Almost!
 
TSB: What is your motto?

SC: May I suggest a quote instead?

“A learning experience is one of those things that says, ‘You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.” ― Douglas Adams

Simon Cocozza’s book CORE CONDITIONING FOR HORSES 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 DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

 

Summer Craft for Horse Kids: Horse Shoe Picture Frame and “Luck Catcher”

Horse Shoe Picture Frames and Luck Catchers in Horse Fun

Do you know kids who dream of having a horse of their own? A four-legged friend who comes when they call and nickers when they’re nearby? Who doesn’t judge or pick favorites? Who always listens quietly when they need someone to talk to? When a real horse or pony is still in the future and not in the barn outside, playing with plastic horses, doing horsey crafts, and learning about how to ride and care for horses is the next best thing.

Horse Shoe Luck CatcherHere are two simple fun summer projects to make when horses are your favorite thing: a horse-shoe picture frame and a “luck catcher.” Both of these craft ideas are easy and don’t require a lot of set-up or clean-up. They are two of the many projects featured in the book HORSE FUN by Gudrun Braun and Anne Scheller with artwork by award-winning Manga artist Anika Hage.

CLICK HERE to download your FREE PDF instructions!

HORSE FUN is for all horse-crazy kids, whether they ride “now” or “not yet,” combining real horse knowledge with super-fun games, quizzes, crafts, and activities. It teaches the basics of horse care and equitation while keeping learning interesting with equine trivia. Plus, there are lots more craft projects to try! Make tote bags, jewelry, and even a hobby horse to compete in hobby horse shows (all the rage)!

Here’s what one young reader said about HORSE FUN:

Horse Fun Book Review Girl on Mustang

 

HORSE FUN 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.

The Best Horse Books & DVDs of 2018

W.O.W.

The year is almost over.

It always hits as a touch unbelievable. And yet here we are, a few days from 2019. It’s cold outside, with enough white stuff to validate the Vermont address. The Prosecco is chilling in anticipation of the celebration ahead. We have some truly exciting projects in the works with wonderful and inspiring movers and shakers from the equestrian world. This means the New Year promises to be incredibly busy, so before we get caught up in what lies ahead, we want to take this moment to cast a glance back at what we published this year.

We studied the art of taping for equine wellness, and found new ways to provide visual video tools in educational books. We told the stories of regular girls who got the big break and young men who traveled the world, looking for one. We got tricky on the ground and balanced in the saddle. We tried to ride better, know better, and do better.

Thank you to all of those who supported us and our authors in 2018. We hope you come back for more in the New Year.

OUR YEAR IN HORSE BOOKS & DVDS: 2018

 

Kinesio Taping for HorsesKinesiology Taping for Horses (January 2018)

Kinesiology taping on human athletes is all the rage: widely used by physical therapists, chiropractors, and personal trainers, we see it on Olympians, runners, basketball players—on amateurs and professionals. Our equine athletes can benefit hugely from taping techniques, too, and this terrific guidebook provides the ultimate reference for understanding both the uses of kinesiology tape and its numerous applications.

 

Ride Better with Christoph HessRide Better with Christoph Hess (February 2018)

Christoph Hess, a Fédération Equestre International (FEI) “I” Judge in both dressage and eventing, is highly respected around the world as a teacher of riding and the development of the horse according to classical principles. Here he collects some of his very best riding and training tips along with well-honed insight related to the topics that he finds most often challenge equestrians and their equine partners.

 

Girl on Dancing HorseThe Girl on the Dancing Horse (March 2018)

Charlotte Dujardin and her charismatic horse Valegro burst onto the international sports scene with their record–breaking performance at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Dujardin began riding horses at the age of two, but dressage was the domain of the rich–not the life a girl from a middleclass family was born into. Her parents sacrificed to give her as many opportunities as they could, and she left school at 16 to focus on equestrian competition. It was at 22, when she was invited to be a groom for British Olympian Carl Hester, that she met the equine partner that would change her fortune. This is Dujardin’s autobiography: the story of an outsider, an unconventional horse, and the incredible bond that took them to the top.

 

Equine Lameness for the LaymanEquine Lameness for the Layman (April 2018)

Dr. Bob Grisel has created a book unlike any other. With color illustrations, dozens of charts, and hundreds of links to online videos of explanatory case studies that you can scan with a touch of your smartphone, readers are given a complete course in observing, identifying, and decoding equine lameness. Dr. Grisel helps you interpret what is seen, plain and simple (no need for medical knowledge of equine anatomy and pathology).

 

Horses in TranslationHorses in Translation (April 2018)

In the much anticipated follow-up to her international bestseller HORSE SPEAK, Sharon Wilsie uses true stories to relate examples of “problems” and how they were solved using Horse Speak. Her engaging narrative introduces readers to dozens of real life scenarios from different barns, various disciplines, and riders and handlers with contrasting experiences and backgrounds. Wilsie highlights her Horse Speak process, the clues that point to the best course of action, and the steps she takes to connect with horses that have shut down, grown confused, or become sulky or aggressive for any number of reasons.

 

55 Corrective Exercises for Horses55 Corrective Exercises for Horses (May 2018)

In this collection of mounted and unmounted corrective exercises, Jec Aristotle Ballou demonstrates how we can actively work to improve the horse’s posture and movement, whether he is an active performance or pleasure mount, an aging or older horse that benefits from gentle exercise, or one being rehabilitated following injury, illness, or lack of conditioning. Ballou’s positive cross-training techniques are free of shortcuts, and her guidelines for analyzing the horse’s posture and way of going help readers gain a new awareness of the equine body.

 

Dressage the Cowboy WayDressage the Cowboy Way (May 2018)

The founder of Cowboy Dressage®, Eitan Beth-Halachmy, explains the development of the Western dressage horse using his methods. Beginning with the basics of body language, use of the aids, and a discussion of the Training Pyramid, Beth-Halachmy then provides guidelines for foundational groundwork and progressive dressage schooling under saddle, such as developing cadence and consistency in the gaits, understanding and requesting correct bend, choosing and using lateral maneuvers, and advancing self-carriage and collection.

 

In the Middle Are the Horsemen-horseandriderbooksIn the Middle Are the Horsemen (June 2018)

In 2008, 26-year-old Tik Maynard faced a crossroads not unlike that of other young adults. A university graduate and modern pentathlete, he suffered both a career-ending injury and a painful breakup, leaving him suddenly adrift. The son of prominent Canadian equestrians, Maynard decided to spend the next year as a “working student.” Here Maynard chronicles his experiences–good and bad–and we follow along as one year becomes three, what began as a casual adventure gradually transforms, and a life’s purpose comes sharply into focus.

 

RidingwithOliveiraRiding with Oliveira (July 2018)

Over several years Dominique Barbier had the unique opportunity to form an intimate relationship with the revered Portuguese equestrian Nuno Oliveira. In this deeply personal book Barbier chronicles their time together. Beginning in a tiny, dimly lit riding hall in Póvoa de Santo Adrião, Portugal, where seminal moments of Barbier’s riding education dawned under the watchful eyes of many luminaries of the European riding elite, the book then explores what came later when Barbier studied with the Mestre in Avessada and traveled with him to Belgium. Barbier’s recollections are complemented by those of three other equestrians who learned from the Mestre: Dany Lahaye, Bettina Drummond, and Luis Valença.

 

Tug of War NETug of War (September 2018)

A paperback edition of Dr. Gerd Heuschmann’s international bestseller: an intelligent and thought-provoking exploration of both classical and “modern” training methods, including “ hyperflexion” (also known as Rollkur), against a practical backdrop of the horse’s basic anatomy and physiology.

 

Fergus and the Night Before Christmas FinalFergus and the Night Before Christmas (September 2018)

Fergus, the world’s most popular cartoon horse, shares an epic holiday adventure inspired by the classic tale ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. With colorful, light-hearted comedy on every page, Fergus and his motley group of equine teammates bravely take to the skies to give St. Nick the sleigh ride of his life. Can Santa manage his ungainly hitch and deliver the perfect gift on the most magical night of the year? Fasten your seatbelt! Recommended for ages 5 to 95.

 

Beyond the Track NE REVBeyond the Track (September 2018)

In this fully updated edition of the book that Thoroughbred and horse training experts have called “breakthrough racehorse literature,” “superior,” “a winner,” and “the ultimate in training manuals,” readers learn everything they need to transition an OTTB from life at the track to life out back. Author Anna Ford, Thoroughbred Program Director at New Vocations Racehorse Adoption, begins by discussing the typical Thoroughbred’s early years, then explains reasons for retirement, common injuries and health issues, basic feeding and nutrition, and safe handling. She goes on to provide step-by-step instructions for building the solid educational foundation the OTTB needs to excel in a new career, whether as a highly trained competitor or a pleasure mount.

 

Dressage Training In-HandDressage Training In-Hand (October 2018)

Kathrin Roida details her in-hand training methods, sharing the stories of a number of horses of different ages, breeds, and training backgrounds, and demonstrating the steps to teaching them: shoulder-in, travers, renvers, pirouettes, half-pass, piaffe, passage, canter work, the Spanish walk, and much more. Throughout her conscientious attention to what is best for the horse ensures that not only do the lessons result in a horse that is healthy in body but also one that is healthy in mind and happy in his work.

 

THE RIDER'S BALANCEThe Rider’s Balance (October 2018)

Sylvia Loch provides an image-driven visual guide that shows how each tiny shift of the rider’s weight affects the horse’s balance. With the help of dozens of illustrations and fabulous color photographs, she demonstrates the minute changes in rider position that determine a horse’s comprehension of instruction as well as his physical ability to perform.

 

Cavalletti 4th EditionCavalletti: 4th Edition (October 2018)

Each horse, no matter the riding discipline, benefits from working with cavalletti. Dressage and eventing rider extraordinaire Ingrid Klimke explains how training with ground poles and cavalletti is one of her secrets of success. This newly revised editionshows cavalletti work on the longe, provides valuable new ideas specifically for dressage work, and numerous updated diagrams for jumping gymnastics, along with all new color photographs.

 

Horse Speak DVDHorse Speak: First Conversations DVD and Streaming (November 2018)

In this DVD or streaming video, learn an easy, practical system for “listening” and “talking” to horses in their language instead of expecting them to comprehend ours. Horse Speak can be used by any individual who works with horses, whether riding instructor, colt starter, recreational rider, or avid competitor. It promises improved understanding of what a horse is telling you, as well as providing simple replies you can use to tell him that you “hear” him, you “get it,” and you have ideas you want to share with him, too. The perfect complement to HORSE SPEAK the book and HORSES IN TRANSLATION.

 

Handy Book of Horse TricksThe Handy Book of Horse Tricks (November 2018)

Groundwork and trick training specialist Sigrid Schöpe has found great success teaching her own horses tricks, which they enjoy doing as part of their regular groundwork and under-saddle schooling routines. Here she shares her techniques, using positive, conscientious methods that are easy to follow–and a whole lot of fun! By following the simple steps and clear color photos, readers will find their horses will learn over 20 of the world’s most popular tricks in no time, including: bowing, kneeling, lying down, sitting, rearing on command, performing the Spanish walk, standing on a pedestal, taking a blanket off, crossing their legs, carrying a lead rope, stacking cones, playing soccer, and more!

 

Know Better to Do BetterKnow Better to Do Better (November 2018)

In this smart, honest book chock full of valuable takeaways, gold medalist and renowned rider and coach Denny Emerson uses stories of the standout horses from his own riding career, which spans almost 70 years, to detail some of the things he wishes he’d known “then” that he knows now. With a candid willingness to share mistakes he’s made over the years and clearly articulated ideas on how others can avoid them, he commits himself and those reading to finding more conscientious ways to ride, train, and work with horses.

 

DressageSchoolNEDressage School (December 2018)

In this updated edition of the bestselling reference, readers discover the what, the how, and–most importantly–the why of more than 100 dressage movements. Color photographs of riders of various levels and on different breeds of horse show how each movement should look when ridden correctly. Not only is each movement clearly defined, but explanations include common mistakes and how to avoid them, as well as the benefits of each exercise and how it contributes to the “bigger picture” of the dressage training scale.

TrafalgarSquareFarm-horseandriderbooks

Our very best wishes for a safe, peaceful, and very happy New Year.

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

Here’s what we published in:

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

Rainbow-horseandriderbooks

Rainbow, one of the Trafalgar Square Farm horses.

Crowdsurfing Rams, Drug Deals, and Very Annoyed Little Holstein Cows: 24 Hours with Dr. Jenni Grimmett

One of the great pleasures we have at Trafalgar Square Books is working with equine experts from fields far different than our own desk-centric sort. This is not only a source of continuing education that we wholeheartedly welcome but a reminder of the amazingly different kinds of roles people play in the lives of horses and the humans who love them.

A couple weeks ago we had a chance to spend 24 hours with Dr. Bob Grisel, author of EQUINE LAMENESS FOR THE LAYMAN, whose practice is based in Atlanta. Today we hear from Dr. Jenni Grimmett, co-author of DRESSAGE THE COWBOY WAY with Eitan Beth-Halachmy–she is a large animal mobile veterinarian in rural North Idaho, and according to her, she’s never seen a “typical day.”

24HoursJenniGrimmett-horseandriderbooks

“Our days are often unpredictable and can change course at a moment’s notice,” says Dr. Grimmett. “That is one of the things I both love and hate about this lifestyle. I can’t really call veterinary medicine a job. It isn’t what I do, it’s who I am, and it’s a big responsibility to take on as you are servicing animals and the people that may depend on your services for their livelihood. Being a small part in the larger cog that is our agricultural community is very important to me, and I take it very seriously. It’s the main reason that I still provide services for the other livestock species (besides horses, I mean) because we sure don’t do it for the awesome pay or fabulous work environment!”

Here’s a glimpse at 24 hours in the life of Dr. Grimmett:

5:30 am We have an extra early start today, especially for this time of year. The truck, which is our livelihood, was down unexpectedly yesterday. When you are a mobile veterinarian who suddenly finds herself non-mobile it can throw a serious wrench into the day. Luckily, we didn’t have anything too urgent on the schedule and were able to move our appointments out a day or two. But, that also means that we are planning on a 12-hour day today…if things go smoothly. 

So, after rolling out from under the three large Irish Setters who sleep on the bed with us, I’m starting my day by checking messages and drinking some caffeine while my brain begins to un-fog. Gone are the days I could roll out of bed 10 minutes before walking out the door to head to school. One of the blessings and curses of the aging process is that I must plan some time to actually wake up in the morning.  

6:30 am  I pick up my able-bodied right-hand woman, Carolyn, on the way to our first call of the day. I couldn’t do what I do without Carolyn. She keeps the truck stocked and ready to roll, assists me in every task throughout the day, and usually drives so that I can do paperwork, answer calls, or work on the computer between clients. Without that drive time between calls I could have never written DRESSAGE THE COWBOY WAY with my friend Eitan Beth-Halachmy last year. Most of my Cowboy Dressage organizational time is done between veterinary calls on the road, as well. Carolyn also used to be my traveling companion, groom, and caller when I attended Cowboy Dressage Gatherings.  She just had a baby this summer and is back at work after a few months maternity leave. I missed her dearly and couldn’t be happier that she is back by my side. 

7:15 am  We arrive at our first call. It’s chilly this morning, and you can feel the fall in the air. I notice a gorgeous red maple tree that is already starting to turn but also notice that red maple is planted right next to the fence, dropping delicious red maple leaves right into the area where the horses are eating. I make a mental note to mention that to my client as maple leaves can cause cardiac problems in horses. I lost an older horse a few falls ago that was out grazing on the lawn and picked up too many red maple leaves. 

Our patient this morning is a Quarter Horse gelding that is due for his fall vaccinations and is also in need of a respiratory checkup. We had another terrible fire season this year, and the air quality for the past month has been in the hazardous zone. We’ve seen many horses with coughs and runny eyes. After a rebreathing examination we determine there is no respiratory compromise on Buster and convince him his intra-nasal vaccination isn’t that big of a deal. I feel an equine veterinarian has a responsibility to handle each patient as if he was her own, and I try my best to make even unpleasant experiences tolerable for the horses. While it takes more time, it pays off in dividends as these animals become lifelong patients. 

As we are discussing the red maple tree and Carolyn is readying the invoice, I look down at the little Terrier in her hot pink “jacket,” bouncing around on this chilly morning. A perk of being a mobile vet is the extra animal personalities we get to meet on the road. This jaunty, well-dressed Terrier puts a smile on my face.

8:00 am  We stop at the gas station to meet up with a client that is driving a horse across the state line to Seattle this morning. I pulled blood for an Equine Infectious Anemia (Coggins) test and completed the health certificate last week. My client needs that paperwork in hand to legally transport the horse. Regulatory work is a large part of what we do. Health certificates and testing of animals for interstate travel is an important part of keeping our national populations healthy. While many owners are frustrated by the process and testing required, I see it as a way to be sure we are preventing the spread of disease at shows, rodeos, and other events across the Northwest.

JenniGrimmett-horseandriderbooks

8:15 am  We arrive at our next appointment, which is a busy show and breeding barn for both Quarter Horses and Paints. We have two mares that were serviced by the ranch stallion this spring that they haven’t checked in foal yet. Both mares are large-bodied halter mares that I palpate in the field to confirm pregnancy. I would like to have ultrasounded the mares at this stage of their gestation for placental thickness and to catch early placental separation, but my ultrasound machine went in for repairs last week. So, it’s the old-fashioned palpation. The owners were concerned that the mares would require sedation, but I find that, in most cases, if I just take my time and go slow, I can palpate mares without. I prefer not to sedate as long as I can safely do the palpation because I don’t feel sedation is good for the foal. 

Unfortunately, at this call we also have to perform a humane euthanasia on a broodmare that has become too lame to safely go through winter. She was able to carry and feed her last foal who was recently weaned, but an old injury finally caught up with her. I’m sure that other veterinarians in northern climates are familiar with the rush of fall euthanasias. It’s a necessary but so-difficult part of our job, and as we move further into the fall, we will be doing more and more of them. I often envy the southern veterinarians that don’t have winter challenges to deal with. It’s tough to have a “season” for euthanasia.

9:00 am We are off to see a Jersey cow that is due to calve any day. We have a lot of backyard milk cows in our area. Some of the families use the milk themselves, but many of them take advantage of the Rural Milk Certification Program offered by the Idaho Dairy Council. In order to be compliant for the sale of raw milk, you must have your cow tested annually for tuberculosis (TB). TB testing in cows and goats is done by injecting a small dose of TB test medium into the tail head of the animal, and then coming back 72 hours later to “read” the test for a reaction. Reading the test means that you digitally feel each side of the tail head for a reaction. A positive (or false positive) animal will have distinct swelling at the tail head. 

This particular Jersey has already seen me twice in the past month for her vaccinations.  She remembers me well and is not too happy to see me again. Our restraint consists of a post in the field to which she is tied. She is owned by a lovely family trio of mom and her two daughters, all very involved with the animals on their small farm. Her three owners try valiantly to slow the spinning around the post as I perform the quick injection into the tail head. She’s mad but recovers quickly when they pull out the alfalfa cubes as an apology. Since the only time the cow is tied to this post is for veterinary examinations, I encourage them to do some “post desensitizing” and alfalfa-cube-feeding before my next visit to read the test. The cow is no dummy, and she is not appreciative of the “post torture routine”!

My client (the mom) whips out her ever-present list of questions about all things dietary, calf, and milk related. This will be their first milking experience, and they are anxious to get everything right. I remember when we were in vet school there was a movement that tried to make oral examinations part of our curriculum. The student body was appalled at the thought, but I don’t think anything could have been more appropriate now that I have been in practice for 16 years. The ability to field a barrage of questions and think on your feet while dodging your patient’s attempts to distract you is a skill that every veterinarian must have. 

9:30 am The 30-minute drive to the next call allows me time to return calls, and check text messages, Facebook messages, and emails. The multiple ways for folks to communicate now make it even easier for people to check in with me about treatments, wound care, prescription refills, and ask questions that would take more time over the phone. However, these grand new options in communication mean I may be having three conversations at once. Keeping it all straight and fielding phone calls at the same time can eat up a 30-minute drive in no time! 

10:00 am The next call is to see a patient that I have a soft spot for. Buckskin (as she is lovingly called) is a six-year-old AQHA mare, heading off to training this fall. As a four-year-old she suffered a catastrophic wound to the dorsal cannon bone in her right hind leg. At least 50 percent of that bone was exposed, and by the time we saw the wound for the first time, it was at least four days old, full of contamination, and very painful. With diligent and thorough debridement and very careful and attentive care by the owner, she is left with a nice clean scar on that leg with no proud flesh and no lameness. She is stout and gorgeous and is going to be a good one. The mare’s owner is one of my favorite clients, an Idaho State Patrol woman who has some great road stories to tell. We often compare the horrors and challenges in our jobs—I sure wouldn’t want hers and she feels the same about mine! I float Buckskin’s teeth to make sure her mouth is comfortable, and she is ready to concentrate when the trainer puts a bit in her mouth next month. 

10:45 am Another gas station meeting, this time for some prescription drug refills. As a mobile veterinarian, it can be challenging for my clients to get refills for the medications they need. So, we do an awful lot of “drug deals” in local parking lots. We service two counties and 15 zip codes: It’s a large area, and we average 200 miles on the truck every day. Catching up with clients for refills takes effort from both parties. 

11:00 am We have an hour’s drive to our next appointment, so more time to return calls and schedule other appointments. I’ve had three calls from folks scattered over two counties that would still like an appointment today. Since we already have a 12-hour day on the schedule, it’s tough to fit them in, but we promise to add the urgent ones to the list, hoping we finish some of our calls a little early.   

The driveis also how we spend our lunch time. We don’t ever actually stop for a lunch break. We only stop to refuel. Patrick, my male Irish Setter, always eats with us, and he insists on his share of whatever is for lunch that day. We refer to that as “Paddy Tax”—we are liberally taxed daily. 

We made a quick stop to pick up mail and drop off samples being shipped out to the lab, then off to the next zip code. On the rare days when we are doing lots of “windshield time” with no cell service, Carolyn and I will listen to audiobooks. We’ve been through the entire James Herriot series and always listen to the Harry Potter series at least once a year. Generally this is a winter activity as the phone is just too busy in the summer months. Lately we have been searching and selecting music when we get a lull in the phone calls. The search for good freestyle music never stops!

12:00 pm  We arrive at our farthest and largest appointment for the day. We have a herd of cattle to work through the chute for vaccinations, ear tagging, and castration. These cattle are range cattle that only get worked once a year, if we are lucky. They are wild as deer, and it’s a mixed bag of 4- to 18-month-old heifers and bulls. The oldest ones are part of a bunch that jumped the gate and headed for open country midway through last year’s gather.  The rancher’s wife, who scheduled the appointment, thought we had about 10 heifers and 10 bulls, but when we arrive there are closer to 30 head in the pen, and they are already milling restlessly.

Before we can get started, the owner has a couple of horses he wants me to look at. The first is a young Curly Horse that was pushed through the barbed-wire fence by his pasturemates sometime the day before. I’m told to just take a look at the wound, but it’s obvious that it needs some serious attention beyond the ointment and vet wrap the owner applied yesterday. Due to the advanced stage of the wound, it is a challenge to close it, and I reach for my standard tension-relieving trick, using dollar-store buttons I keep in the truck. These are always a big hit with the client and are a must for wounds that have retracted and require a bit of muscle to put back together. 

Once the Curly is repaired, we move on to two more horses at the other end of the property. One is a mare that is likely foundered and has been lame for somewhere between three weeks and four months, depending on which side of the he said/she said conversation you choose to listen to. I recommend x-rays and schedule another appointment later in the week for that. The other horse is an older POA that unfortunately has developed a cancerous growth on his penis. It is about the size of a silver dollar and non-painful at this time. We discuss multiple treatment options, but due to budget and the inability to get him to a surgical facility, it looks like we’ll just be keeping an eye on it, hoping it doesn’t get too aggressive, too fast.

Rural medicine means that not every patient gets state-of-the-art treatment. Real-life budgetary constraints and environmental limitations are a constant factor in all our medical decisions. I consider it my job to offer all the available options along the entire scale and allow the owners to decide what they are comfortable with. It’s tough, especially when I know I could save an animal if given the opportunity, but I try to remain neutral. It’s a tough decision for families who love their animals. 

We move on to the cattle. There are four of us working the herd, one in the pen, one at the head gate, one pushing in the alleyway, and one dropping the tail gate. The cattle are wild, and the sorting and pushing setup is not ideal, resulting in copious amounts of shouting, whipping, and hot-shot usage. (I don’t know if it is a common method of cattle handling in other parts of the country, but here in Bonner county, the buggy whip is king for moving feisty cattle. I can imagine Temple Grandin cringing if she were watching from the sidelines.) As an added treat for me, the chute has fencing on either side of the head catch, so the only place to stand to ear tag and tattoo the heifers is right in front of them, giving them a very good shot at breaking my arm when I reach for an ear. The four-month-old heifers aren’t bad, but the older ones are a bit tougher.

Luckily I have 16 years experience in not getting my arm broken, and all goes fairly smoothly…that is, until we get a large heifer (I swear this one is closer to 18 months!) in the chute that happens to have a rather large set of horns. The owner is sending her to the auction in November and knows that he will get a better price on her without horns, so the things have to come off. I like to do my dehorning on heifers that are about 120 pounds under full sedation with local anesthesia. That’s my favorite method. The old-time cattleman’s “lop ‘er off in the chute” method is not. It’s quick and it’s effective, but it’s painful and bloody, and there HAS to be a better way. So, we compromise, electing to nerve block and restrain the heifer while I figure out a good position in this boxed-in head catch to try to remove these horns. They are too big for my loppers so I have to use my wire saw. It works great but is exhausting and requires just the right angle to be effective. Imagine a Nordic Track exercise machine or a rowing machine that is trying to thwart all your efforts at establishing an effective rhythm. 

Try as we might we cannot get this heifer in a position that allows for a good angle for the wire saw.  The solution? We put 2×4 boards across the fencing on either side of the chute so I can stand on them up above her, sawing those horns off while three people hold ropes to stabilize her head. The block works and she feels next to nothing, but a wild heifer is still not likely to enjoy having her head restrained, and she definitely does not! There are relatively few spurting blood vessels, and I am able to get them cauterized quickly. Unfortunately, when we take the ropes off her head after the second horn, we realize that one of the ropes had been creating a tourniquet, masking the spurting from that horn. The rancher jumps back, screaming as the heifer sprays him across his chest. Of course, now I have to try to cauterize with her head unrestrained and flinging blood everywhere. She sure didn’t appreciate me wielding a red-hot dehorning iron and tried her best to ram me with her head.   

After the dehorning/gymnastics event, we move on to the rest of the herd, which by now is thoroughly worked up from the whipping, zapping, and cussing. The smell of blood and burning horn isn’t helping to calm them or lure them into the chute either. The cattle collectively take out a panel being used as part of the alleyway and start to rear up like jumping the fence is next. In an unprecedented move, the rancher chooses to use his bulldozer to attempt to corner the unruly bunch. I look at Carolyn and ask if she has ever seen a bull jump a bulldozer because I am pretty sure it is coming right up. Sure enough, once they are cornered, about half of the cattle choose to jump the remaining panel, while the others jump the blade on the bulldozer. I have to admire their athleticism.  

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4:30 pm  By now Carolyn and I are about two hours past schedule and out of cell service so we are unable to contact any of our following clients that we attempted to add into the already packed schedule. We’d managed to inoculate about 1/3 of the herd prior to the mass exodus over the top of the bulldozer. I ask to use the house land line to let my clients know the status, and we call it a day at the ranch so we can head out to try and salvage part of the schedule that remains.

As we get back into cell service a rush of “dings” on the cell phone are testimony to missed appointments, urgent calls, and messages that we missed while chute-dogging unruly young cattle. We decide that our next call better be an ailing patient, as it is an add-on for the day and about 30 minutes away. I spend the drive time sorting through the calls and making apologies where appropriate for missed appointment times.

5:00 pm  When we arrive to see our next patient the owner reports that he is doing much better than when she called in the morning. The gelding had been running a temperature for a while but now is normal and starting to pick at his hay. The old guy is 36 this year and definitely showing his age in the dropped back, knobby knees, and gray sunken face. He has no upper teeth and precious few lower teeth. He’s on a completely pelleted and soaked diet with multiple supplements and has a nice cozy barn to live in. 

After a thorough examination, including a rectal exam, I step back and take a look at the bigger picture. These are the tough calls. This is a healthy older horse. The only thing ailing him right now is that he is 36 and the weather is rapidly changing. I have a hard talk with his owner about his age, his condition, and the plan for this winter if things don’t go the way we like. It’s my least favorite part of the job. The owner tearfully tells me she is committed to attempting to take him through the winter, and we make the necessary arrangements if things take a turn for the worse. 

5:45 pm Next we are off to see a very annoyed little Holstein cow that has been waiting for us to come and do a milk test. She’s been suffering from a recurrent mastitis problem in one quarter. The owner has attempted several at-home treatments, but the problem keeps coming back. Her bag is full and tight with the delayed appointment, and after taking my sample, she is more than ready to be milked out. She has to wait for a while, though, as we spend some time going over the milking procedure and sanitation practices the owner is using in an attempt to track down the source of the problem. 

We decide to send the milk sample off to the lab for cytology and culture, and in the meantime, I recommend a different brand of teat dip with a little better bactericidal scope. These backyard milking parlors are a testimony to the ingenuity of our rural clients. Each parlor is completely unique, and the setup generally depends on the level of cooperation for the cow in question. This particular setup includes a long rope that goes around the cow and attaches to partial wall on one side of the head catch. This cow is apparently adept at kicking the milking machine off, but with the rope, she is stymied and doesn’t even attempt to protest. 

6:15 pm We have a message waiting for us when we get back in the truck from our last appointment—they are starting to get a little worried because we haven’t made it yet.  We are only about four hours late! The other two appointments we on our schedule have been rescheduled for another (already full) day later in the week. 

We arrive in 15 minutes to do a quick blood draw on a ram that is scheduled for a sale next month. All rams have to be tested negative for brucella ovis; this ram is one from a larger group tested a few weeks ago. Occasionally we have one come back as indeterminant, which just means the test didn’t work. So, we have to retest this ram to clear him before the sale. We have plenty of time, but the sample has to be mailed out tomorrow morning if it’s going to make the lab this week. 

Luckily, this is a very experienced shepherd who has been through this drill a number of times. He wades into the flock of about 15 large rams, looking for the one that he had chalk-marked earlier in the day. Wading through sheep always reminds me of crowd surfing or maybe wrestling with live Charmin rolls. You are buffeted around by them, but it doesn’t hurt when they are in a large group like that. They sure can hurt you, to be sure, especially if they get a run at you, but wrestling them in a large group I always find kind of fun. 

The particular ram we want is more intelligent than his buddies. He knows that the shepherd catches him with a hand under the chin, so he is a “crowd diver.” As soon as he sees one of us coming for him, he plunges his head down under all his friends and starts pushing. Then the whole flock rotates through the pen and we feel like we are in a woolen blender until they land in a corner again. It takes four or five rounds before I’m able to slip a hand under his chin and block him long enough for the shepherd to wade through and grab him. Blood draws on sheep can be a bit tricky when they are fully wooled, but the shearer was here right before me, and the nice smooth neck makes the job a cinch. 

6:45 pm  We are finally back in the truck and headed home. I drop Carolyn off with plans to see her again at 8:00 am the following morning. I head for home, hoping that I just might have enough daylight left to attempt to ride my horse. Cowboy Dressage World Finals is right around the corner, and I am still attempting to choreograph my Freestyle.   I’m on call tonight so it’s a crap shoot, but I’m forever the optimist.

By the time I’ve pulled in at home, though, the sun is just on the other side of the trees, and my arena is about 10 minutes away from pretty darn dark. It’s so hard to get used to these shorter days this time of year. Besides, my horses are all sure I should be turned in for equine abuse by delaying dinner so rudely. My husband Dan usually does all the feeding, but he is out of town, so it’s my turn to do the evening chores.

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Photo from Dressage the Cowboy Way by Eitan Beth-Halachmy and Dr. Jenni Grimmett.

7:30 pm  Time to eat and do some computer work. The dogs are happily eating their dinner, and mine consists of a bag salad and a reheated “smokie.” It’s quick and simple and relatively healthy. I spend some time on the computer for my vet practice then switch gears to my other job with Cowboy Dressage. I’m working on plans for my final clinic of the year in New Hampshire in November. There is a Gathering this coming weekend that I won’t be able to attend, but we are sending a box of DRESSAGE THE COWBOY WAY over to sell. Dan will be coaching at that show but won’t have the time to take a horse along. 

9:00 pm  The Setters are sleepy and so am I. We hit the hay early tonight. It’s been a long day, and the dog-piled bed is calling my name. I go through my mental list of things that have to happen in the morning before we do it all over again. I set my alarm, reminding myself that chores are again my responsibility before I head out for calls. I have two phones by my bed side and look at them, pleading for them both to remain silent tonight.  Midnight calls this time of year aren’t as common as they are in small animal veterinary medicine. Typically, if I can get through evening checks, my patients are all tucked in for the night, and I’m safe from emergencies until morning. I am on call 50 percent of the year, which is a vast improvement from the 100 percent of the year I used to be on call.    Those first 10 years of being on call 24/7 were enough to make me question my career choice. I couldn’t pursue the other passions in my life without my fantastic work partner, and it is thanks to her coming into my life that I can be involved in Cowboy Dressage. 

As I snuggle in, trying to carve out some room between Irish Setters, my last thoughts are of my Freestyle, and I go to sleep dreaming about dancing with my own horse, hoping it’s my turn to ride tomorrow evening. 

DRESSAGE THE COWBOY WAY by Dr. Jenni Grimmett and Eitan Beth-Halachmy is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

All photos from Dressage the Cowboy Way by Eitan Beth-Halachmy and Dr. Jenni Grimmett.

 

Be sure to read the other installments of TSB’s “Horseworld By the Hour” blog series:

DR. BOB GRISEL

TIK MAYNARD

JEC ARISTOTLE BALLOU

KENDRA GALE

JEANNE ABERNETHY

YVONNE BARTEAU

JONATHAN FIELD

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

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