Welcome to the Schmidt Show: 24 Hours with Dressage Trainer and Equine Cartoonist Morgane Schmidt

One of our favorite things about my job is that I get to know the most fun and fascinating people. Our authors come from so many parts of the world and with so many different life experiences, a day doesn’t pass where I don’t wish I lived closer to one or all of them so we could hang out on a regular basis. Luckily, many are willing to give us a peek behind the curtain and into their lives so we can see what it’s like being in their shoes for a day. Trainer and cartoonist Morgane Schmidt, author and illustrator of the hilarious comic treasury LIFE WITH HORSES IS NEVER ORDERLY, recently shared one of her typical dog days of summer, where there is much latte, quite a bit of maid service, and even some dressage.

“I found myself laughing out loud as I turned the pages of Life with Horses Is Never Orderly. Morgane Schmidt has explained just about every experience I have had in my many years in the horse world and put just the right spin on it. Everyone who needs a laugh (and don’t all equestrians?) should read this.” —Lendon Gray, Olympian, Dressage Coach, and Founder of Dressage4Kids


3:15 am Awaken to Goblin sitting on my head and Bowie standing next to the bed, over me, breathing. Heavily. I usually groan, chuck a pillow at Bowie and shove Goblin into his bed on the floor all while regretting the ONE time I let them out at this ungodly hour.

The face of evil.

5:43 am Startle into wakefulness because Bowie is now sitting all 165 pounds of his fuzzy ass on my legs, cutting off circulation. Goblin is also farting. I acquiesce and get up to let them out and feed them. Usually, I put Goblin’s food in his crate and lock him in it so I can go lie back down for a few moments unmolested. Bowie tends to saunter in after his breakfast to begin his very early morning nap that generally lasts until about 9:00 am. Lucky sod.

6:30 am These days, this tends to be when I get up in earnest. Before returning to The Swamp (aka Florida), I started the day quite a bit earlier by necessity as I was trying to work horses before sitting down to my actual desk job. Now that I am not juggling multiple training horses, I suppose I’ve gotten lazy—that or I need the extra few minutes of sleep since my dogs are jerks. At any rate, this is when I start mainlining coffee. Then I meditate and do some special yoga for riders…just kidding. I just drink coffee, eat oatmeal with chocolate chips (like a REAL adult), and mindlessly play on my phone.

That’s me, double fisting it.

7:00 am – 9:00 am Once I am somewhat among the living (usually three or four espresso shots in), I head out and provide room service and hospitality to my generally ungrateful herd. There’s often a bit of huffing about there not being enough alfalfa, but I’m immune to their grousing. At the moment, it’s just Wilson and Milona at the farm, so barn chores are generally pretty quick.

After breakfast, maid service, and a general wellness check to ensure no one has succeeded in maiming or offing themselves, I tack Wilson up to ride. As he is the elder beast, and the least likely to chuck me into the bushes before I am fully awake, he gets harassed first. Honestly, this is probably my favorite part of the day. It’s beautiful out—a light breeze, birds chirping, gators still sleeping—it’s perfect.

You can almost hear the birds chirping…the ones the gators haven’t eaten anyway.

Wilson, who I used to call “The Beastlet” when he was younger and more fractious, is quite the trustworthy soul these days. If anything, he could benefit from being a tad more forward-thinking. We are continually working to help him be quicker with his hind leg and maintain his balance. He’s such a big, elastic mover that sometimes coordinating everything with balance AND impulsion can be tricky. Rather than getting hot or explosive he just…stops. He does a very good rock impression. Super zen-like. It makes for an incredibly frustrating FEI test though.

Interestingly, the tricks are easy for him. He loves changes and can really sit in a pirouette. Collected trot though? What’s that nonsense about?!

Wilson, ever the charmer.

9:00 am After warming myself up with Wilson, I tackle Milona, the “Red Dragon.” She has many opinions. As long as she voices them respectfully, rather than taking me for a self-guided field trip from the scary corner in the arena to the other end in three strides, I count it as a win. In all seriousness, she’s a lovely youngster, bright red mare that she is. She loves to work and entirely believes that the world is there to admire her greatness (I suspect she may not be wrong if she develops as I think she will). While she doesn’t often have tantrums, she is a mare and she is currently in the “Fabulous or ‘Eff You’ Fives,” so there are questionable moments, and those moments can be quite *exciting* given her athleticism. As a result, I’ve enlisted the help of a fabulous friend and trainer, Alejandro Salazaar. He’s like some sort of riding savant; he’s one of the few riders I’ve worked with who is equally as talented with youngsters as FEI horses. Milona, of course, adores him.

Milona in a non-flight moment.

10:00 am – Sometime in the Late Afternoon After my early morning barn sabbatical, it’s time for me to head inside for my *real* job. I currently work for a tech company based in Boulder, Colorado. We offer speech recognition for the Healthcare industry, specifically home health and hospice. I work remotely as a marketing manager. This means that I do things like help develop collateral, outreach campaigns, website and social media content, as well as manage Google AdWords and other lead-driving initiatives.

Sounds sexy, right? Well, it is! In news that will shock no one, the horse industry is a tough one to make a living in. As much as I love training and teaching, for a multitude of reasons I’m not cut out to do it full time. I also find that having a job in an entirely unrelated field helps keep my brain sharp(er). And while any office job has its fair share of “meetings that could have been emails,” I do really enjoy mine and the people I work with.

As I work from home, my day sort of varies and is generally built around whatever meetings I have scheduled and what projects we have going that I’m working on. In the middle of that though, I generally head out around lunch to check once again that no one has committed hari-kari on a fence post, or anything similarly stupid, and to reward them with more snacks for avoiding vet bills. If time permits, I do another round of maid service.

Sometime late afternoon I take some time to meditate. Just kidding. I still don’t do that. But it is a goal! Eventually. I do make another latte though. That seems like healthy self-care.

Sometimes one must give the kids something to entertain themselves so actual work can get done.

Evening When my work calls are done for the day, I do a final round of ration-dispensing and maid service. The doggos kindly provide me with entertainment both in the yard beforehand as well as while I cook dinner. Usually something super fun like ricocheting from the couch to the ottoman and then onto the dining room table. It’s mildly funny when Goblin does it. It’s borderline tragic when Bowie attempts it.

During the week I occasionally have an evening lesson or two to teach. I have been fortunate in that I have some super-fun horses and people that I get to work with. Some are strictly dressage riders and others are eventers.  As a former eventer (I gave that goal up after I figured out that continually barfing in the start box wasn’t a thing), I love being around the sport, particularly now that I’m not the one doing that whole hurtling over immovable obstacles part.

The neighbors aren’t impressed with Bowie’s antics.

7:00 pm – 10:00 pm After one final barn check, I usually settle into art/writing/computer projects in the evening. As someone who is hardwired as a night owl but reprogrammed as a morning person due to horses and the gross reality that it’s hard to get a productive ride in after dark, I find that I’m most creative at night. This works well with the fact that I am also a procrastinator. While I do keep a running list of comic ideas—usually gleaned from conversations with friends and fellow equestrians or sparked by memes or other internet rabbit holes—the actual drawing and creation of the comic usually happens sometime after 8:00 pm Tuesday night (because it’s due Wednesday morning).

If I don’t have a comic that I’m working on, I often use this time to work on other art projects or articles. Most of my artwork is equine or dog related though I have been known to attempt people on occasion. I currently have a watercolor of The Goblin King going that is screaming to be finished.

Where the magic happens?

10:00 pm Reading and internet rabbit-hole time! I would like to say that I go to bed by 10:00 pm but that would largely be a lie. In theory—because sleep is important—I would like to be in bed and sleeping by 10:00, but in practice I sometimes find that hard to manage. My dogs also do not go to bed by 10:00 so there’s that too. I have made a concerted effort to do more reading of actual books rather than reading on my phone though. For the curious, I currently have five books in various stages of completion on my nightstand: A Grave for a Dolphin, Good Omens, David Sedaris – the Best of Me, The Chronicles of Between, and Beyond Biocentrism. I’m only a little eclectic.

11:00 pm The hellhounds get one more freedom run through the yard so they can track all sorts of glorious debris into the bed. Then bedtime. Maybe.

All photos courtesy of Morgane Schmidt.

You can find Morgane’s hilarious comic treasury LIFE WITH HORSES IS NEVER ORDERLY at the TSB online bookstore and wherever horse books are sold.

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.

Enjoy this? Check out other author interviews in the “24 Hours” series:

Sally Batton
Sandra Beaulieu
Dr. Stacie Boswell
Cathy Woods
Dr. Jenni Grimmett
Dr. Bob Grisel
Tik Maynard
Jec Aristotle Ballou
Kendra Gale
Jean Abernethy
Yvonne Barteau
Jonathan Field
Emma Ford
Jochen Schleese
Heather Smith Thomas
Lynn Palm
Daniel Stewart
Doug Payne
Janet Foy

Snorkeling, Horses Who Wear Hats, and Very Scary Rocks: 24 Hours with Collegiate Riding Coach Sally Batton

It is a privilege at TSB to get to know so many horse people from such a variety of backgrounds. The common thread is that ALL of them are busy, with days full of teaching, training, and expanding their own understanding of horses and horse sport. More often than not there’s some travel thrown in there, too. We asked former Dartmouth Equestrian Coach Sally Batton, author of THE ATHLETIC EQUESTRIAN, to share one of her clinic days with us, and we hit the jackpot with a glimpse at a day in her life while visiting the oh-so-beautiful Hawaii.

6:00 am  After a long day of travel yesterday, I wake up to the sounds of blowing palm fronds and exotic bird calls that we don’t have back home in New Hampshire. It’s my eighth trip to teach clinics on Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands. I started my trips to Oahu when a prospective student visited Dartmouth and went home and told the Hawaii Pony Clubs and various barns that I was willing to travel to Hawaii to teach. (I know, I know–tough gig!)  I’m staying in Honolulu at a private home with a rooftop view of Diamond Head and an easy walk to the beach. I come downstairs to a beautiful display of fresh fruit put out by my host and friend Sherry, and accompany it with my usual rice cakes with almond butter. Oh, and I don’t drink coffee…my morning caffeine-delivery system is in the form of Coke Zero! 

7:00 am  I spend about 30 minutes by the pool at the house on my computer. Most of my clinics on the mainland are planned by the clinic hosts, and they do all of the scheduling and organizing for my clinic days. My Hawaii clinics are a bit different…I do all of the day and time organization myself, so the half-hour on my computer is for any last-minute questions and add-on clinic times.

Breakfast! Photo courtesy of Sally Batton

7:30 am I clinic at all three Hawaii Pony Clubs–Lio Li’i, Malu’Olu, and Na Lio Kai–as well as the farms/ranches where the Pony Clubs are located and many of the private clients at each farm/ranch. I jump into my car and drive the 15 minutes to my first clinic location along the southeast shore of Oahu, passing Hanauma Bay and the Halona Blowhole, two famous tourist spots on Oahu. Although the temperatures are in the 70s and low 80s, my New-England-pale skin is covered head to toe in a wide-brimmed hat,  a UPF 50+ long-sleeved shirt, yoga-style breeches, and my Hoka hiking boots…oh, and SPF 50 sunscreen that gets applied throughout the day!

Halona Blowhole view. Photo courtesy of Sally Batton

8:00 am I arrive at Koko Crater Stables located near Hawaii Kai off the Kalanianaole Highway.  Koko Crater has a rich history dating back to 1960 and sits on 8.5 acres inside the Koko Crater. Koko Crater Stables is a municipal facility owned by the City of Honolulu and operated by Horse Haven. I teach Lia, a youth rider new to me, for an hour in the sand arena, which is made of black sand due to the volcanic nature of the area. I start every clinic explaining that I teach my clinics similar to how I taught my varsity Dartmouth Equestrian Team for 30 years. I work on my coaching principles such as Attention to Detail, Mental Toughness, Ride at Show Attention, as well as introduce my various teaching tools and work on position at all three gaits. I also introduce Lia to working on her two-point position with no stirrups, an exercise that I feel is invaluable to all riders to increase their riding fitness.

Working with Lia at Koko Crater Stables. Photo courtesy of Sally Batton

9:00 am I finish up at Koko Crater and head to my next clinic, which is 15 minutes farther up the coast road to Malu’Olu Ranch in Waimanalo. Malu’Olu has some of the most stunning backdrops to their outdoor, lighted arena. Almost all arenas on Oahu are fully outdoors with only a couple that offer covered arenas. The general rule is that if it rains, we all get wet and the clinic carries on!  Luckily for me this trip had beautiful weather, mostly sunny, with gorgeous trade winds that blow in off the ocean and keep both me and the riders and horses cool! At Malu’Olu I’m teaching a couple of youth riders who I’ve taught for years. My first session is with Quinn and her horse Romeo, who has a penchant for hats…yes, I said hats!  Apparently he has quite the selection of hats that have been converted with ear holes and a string to keep them on his head, even while jumping! Quinn and I focus her session on what it will take to do well at collegiate team tryouts when she’s ready to head to college in a year. We also work on keeping Romeo working forward off her leg over jumps to prepare for an upcoming Hawaii Horse Show Association (HHSA) Hunter/Equitation show.

10:00 am Still at Malu’Olu, I also teach Hope, who moved up from a pony to a horse last year, and we’ve been working on getting The Governess to land on the correct leads in courses since her flying changes aren’t quite reliable yet. We work on keeping her moving forward and also the coordination of the aids to ask for the new lead.  Hope’s family brought “Guvvy” over from Maui a year ago. Some riders in Hawaii are able to import horses from the mainland, but many are bought and sold either on Oahu or from one of the neighboring islands, and they come across by boat. 

11:00 am  I leave Malu’Olu and pick up a quick vegetarian lunch at the Ohana Grill and sit and eat on the Waimanalo beach overlooking Manana, or Rabbit Island. I then head farther north and inland to Maunawili in Kailua. The majority of my sessions for this trip will happen at Maunawili; they have a thriving boarder and share-boarder population of riders, as well as numerous trainers and the Lio Li’i Pony Club.  Maunawili is located over the Ko’olau Range on the windward (or eastern) side of Oahu, and tends to be wetter and greener.  Driving to Maunawili is like driving through a lush, tropical rain forest with beautiful and exotic vegetation and flowers. 

12:00 pm I teach a couple 30-minute sessions to Maunawili riders, including one with Lynne and her new four-year-old OTTB “Boss.” Lynne was my host and clinic scheduler on my very first Oahu tour and has become a good friend. I work with Lynne and Boss unmounted, simply working on leading and various scenarios that could cause alarm in a young horse and best practices to deal with them when they occur. For the most part, I’m impressed with Boss’s calm nature and can tell that there’s already a bond between him and Lynne, even though she only imported him from the mainland six months ago. When we come across a grouping of large rocks in a circle, Boss startles and then won’t go forward. I teach Lynn to turn his head away from the rocks, tell him to “walk on,” and then circle the rocks about five or six times until they become “boring” to him, and he can walk around them on a loose lead.  

Lynne and her OTTB “Boss.” Photo courtesy of Sally Batton

1:00 pm I leave Maunawili and drive the hour north to North Shore Oahu to Kawailoa Ranch in Haleiwa. Although it isn’t the norm for me to hit all four of my usual clinic spots in one day, it takes less than an hour to drive from Kailua to the North Shore, and there are few highways so I don’t usually get lost! My usual clinic pattern is to teach the southern and southeast clinics for a few days and then teach on the North Shore for a few, and then back down to another spot for a few, but occasionally I have days where I hit them all. The North Shore has acres and acres of pineapple fields and abandoned sugar cane fields, with the sugar industry shutting down on Oahu due to the mechanization in mills on the mainland. North Shore is also famous for the surf breaks at Sunset Beach and the famous Pipeline. I’ve spent many lunch hours on the beach at Pipeline, watching the brave surfers and listening to the pounding surf!

2:00 pm I teach both youth and adult members of the Na Lio Kai Pony Club, including sessions preparing Mahea for her Pony Club C3 rating at the end of the summer and getting the others ready for the HHSA horse show. I’ll teach Minnie in the upcoming days for two to three hours each day, since she has three horses, including an OTTB that she has just started working with. Minnie also exercises up to five polo horses on any given day for members of the Hawaii Polo Club who hold their matches on the Mokuleia polo field adjacent to the beach.  

4:00 pm When the last lesson wraps for the day, I sign copies of my new book THE ATHLETIC EQUESTRIAN and answer rider questions.

5:00 pm I change into my swim gear, head south to the Honolulu area, and arrive at Waikiki Beach to get on a sunset cruise…it’s not all work on my clinic tours! I do manage to get in some “play,” too. As much as I can on my Hawaii tours, I’ll hit the local snorkel spots to view the beautiful tropical fish and my favorites, the “Honu” or green sea turtles. Honu are a protected species and it’s illegal to go within eight feet or them or touch them, and many Oahu beaches have groups of volunteers that rope off areas of turtle nests from tourists. My sunset tour starts off with a crew member blowing through a conch shell, and once we get well away from the beach, they hoist the sails and we’re off! We sail for about an hour with amazing views of Honolulu and the Waikiki hotels and also Diamond Head, Hawaii’s most recognized landmark, and take in the beautiful sunset.  

8:00 pm After a full day of teaching and sailing, I meet my host Sherry at a beachside restaurant where we enjoy drinks and pupus (appetizers), and I have fresh fish for dinner. We enjoy the tiki torches and the sounds of the surf and a local musician playing Hawaiian favorites.

9:30 pm After we return to my host’s home, I tell Sherry “mahalo”(thank you) and then head to bed, exhausted but ready to get up tomorrow and do it all again!

Dinner view. Photo courtesy of Sally Batton

 


Sally’s book THE ATHLETIC EQUESTRIAN, written with Christina Keim, is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order now.

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

6 Facts About “The Golden Boy of the Horse World”

This week we were so pleased to release HAPPY TRAILS: A PICTORIAL CELEBRATION OF THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ROY ROGERS AND DALE EVANS by Howard Kazanjian and Chris Enss. This book, highly illustrated with rarely seen memorabilia, is a unique and captivating collection of photographs and stories chronicling the lives of the King of the Cowboys and the Queen of the West.

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans made their first movie together in 1944, and so began a dazzling partnership with a devoted public following that lasted 52 years. But for most, Roy Rogers was a huge star already, in part thanks to his famous Palomino Trigger. Here are six facts about “The Golden Boy of the Horse World” from HAPPY TRAILS.

From the book HAPPY TRAILS

FACT: Billed as “the smartest horse in movies,” Trigger was Roy’s riding partner in eighty films and one hundred television shows.

FACT: Roy purchased Trigger in 1938 from Hudkins Stables in Los Angeles for $2,500. He knew Trigger was a special horse the moment he saw him trotting through a field.

FACT: With the help of expert horse trainer Glenn Randall, Roy worked with Trigger to teach him a myriad of tricks, including counting, writing, and bowing to an audience.

FACT: Trigger was a star with four stand-ins. He made $750 a week and received 200 fan letters a month.

FACT: In the mid-1940s Roy received a substantial offer from a wealthy Texan to purchase Trigger. Roy refused the $200,000 sum and promised worried fans that he “wouldn’t sell Trigger for all the money in Texas.”

FACT: Trigger died in July 1965, having reached the age of thirty-three. Roy grieved for a long time over the loss of his old friend. A look-alike, Trigger Junior, took the famous palomino’s place in rodeos and state fairs.

Watch the HAPPY TRAILS book trailer.

HAPPY TRAILS transports nostalgic readers back to a time when the good always save the day and lovers ride off together into the sunset to the now-famous tune written by Dale Evans that would become the couple’s theme: “Happy Trails.” It is both a classic reminder for aficionados and a beguiling introduction to new fans, demonstrating how even when both career and family are in the limelight, they can still be well-lived.

HAPPY TRAILS 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 Best Horse Books of 2021

If you have ever been involved in the publication of a book, then you know that while there may be a clear beginning–that moment when the inspiration found you or you actually sat down and started typing–there is no real end. Once through the various phases of gestation and birth (editing, re-editing, layout, proofreading, indexing, more proofing, printing, distributing, and then, oh yes, marketing) there is only ever more that could be done to spread the word and share the book with as many readers as possible. In more ways than one, a book is the gift that keeps on giving–at every stage, it gives you plenty to do!

It always helps us keep looking forward to what’s next if we take the time to look back. Considering the books we published in 2021 reminds us of all the talented people, exceptional information, and amazing stories we’ve had in our lives the past 12 months. And it gets us excited to do what we do for another year!

In 2021 we:

All in all, not a bad year…

We hope you get a chance to enjoy what our amazing authors had to share in 2021…everything we publish changes us a little bit for the better. It can do the same for you.

Happy New Year!

–The TSB Staff

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

Come See Us at Equine Affaire!

This is the week! Equine Affaire in West Springfield, Massachusetts, is happening Thursday 11-11 through Sunday 11-14, 2021. Come see us at Booth 846-847 in the Better Living Center at the Eastern States Exposition and find all our newest books and hottest sellers, as well as amazing sale bins, author book signings, and chances to win great prizes. We all know that this year’s holiday shopping is going to be frantic and frustrating due to the ongoing supply chain nightmare and shipping issues, so we’re going to be ready to make it easy for you to get it all done, in person, at special event prices.

EA has an all-star lineup of TSB authors presenting this year, including:

LYNN PALM
Author of THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION and YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO WESTERN DRESSAGE

DAN JAMES
Author of LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP

JIM WOFFORD
Author of STILL HORSE CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, MODERN GYMNASTICS, and CROSS-COUNTRY WITH JIM WOFFORD

WENDY MURDOCH
Author of 50 5-MINUTE FIXES TO IMPROVE YOUR RIDING and 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES

SHARON WILSIE
Author of HORSE SPEAK and HORSES IN TRANSLATION

SALLY BATTON
Author of THE ATHLETIC EQUESTRIAN

DR. JOYCE HARMAN
Author of THE HORSE’S PAIN-FREE BACK AND SADDLE-FIT BOOK and THE WESTERN HORSE’S PAIN-FREE BACK AND SADDLE-FIT BOOK

JANET JONES
Author of HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN

PLUS, we’ll have special guest appearances from Northeasterners Melissa Priblo Chapman, author of DISTANT SKIES, Chris Lombard, author of LAND OF THE HORSES, and the annual giant FERGUS THE HORSE photo-op.

Follow us on FB, IG, and Twitter for updates during the show about book signing times and Q & A sessions with authors! And please swing by Booth 846-847 in the Better Living Center to say hello. We love to talk about books and horses.

Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HorseandRiderBooks   
Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TSBbooks   
Check us out on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/horseandriderbooks/  

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

Lessons in Patience: 3800 Miles on Horseback

In 2013 at the age of 36, Jesse McNeil—at times carpenter, commercial fisherman, dabbler in real estate—decided to buy an untrained horse, make himself into a horseman, and ride all the way across the United States, from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.

A fiercely independent traveler, Jesse had navigated previous coast-to-coast trips—solo journeys by moped, bicycle, and small airplane. This time, however, he had a partner: a five-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse named Pepper. An inexperienced horseman with an equally inexperienced mount, Jesse would quickly discover the immense challenges of his new undertaking. Over the course of eight months and fourteen states—beginning in Oregon and ending on a beach in New Hampshire—he would be tested many times over as he learned not only what it took to keep Pepper safe and healthy, but the true value of qualities that he had once easily dismissed: patience and companionship.

We asked Jesse about his adventuring past and his new book ON THE HOOF, which shares his journey on horseback.


Your book ON THE HOOF tells the story of your journey across the United States, from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, with your horse Pepper. This was not your first trek across the continent. Can you tell us a little about your other trips?

My travels coast to coast first began as a stunt: I took a moped as a cheap way across the continent. It cost me only $52 in gas to putter east for three weeks to my home state of New Hampshire. A few years later I earned my pilot certificate and did the same by air in a small trainer plane. The cost was way more, but the view grander. Another journey was by an old motorcycle—this time westward back to the San Juan Islands in Washington State—which felt much like the book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I didn’t read until a year after.

It was by simpler means, a bicycle jaunt east across Canada to the Bay of Fundy in 2010, that triggered the idea of riding a horse. I was pushing down on the pedals across Saskatchewan when I saw on a horse in a pasture beside the road. It felt like it would be more real, more to the heart of traveling, to be on a horse than a flimsy bicycle.

You were not a horseman prior to buying Pepper as a green five-year-old with the trip you were planning in mind. What did you find challenging about training a horse for the first time? What did you find fulfilling?

Simply managing the size of such an animal was intimidating, although a thousand pounds of beast held by a thin rope felt comical, too. Then, quite quickly, I realized that a horse would know if it was possible to dominate me or not. Even though I didn’t know what I was doing, I had to act as if I did, otherwise the day’s training would fall apart. I learned, too, that subtleness of pressure and positive emotional energy was extremely important, and really enjoyed exploring how precise I had to be with Pepper for her to listen to me and respect our budding relationship.

Looking back, do you feel traveling 3,800 miles with a horse changed you? If so, how? Was this trip more transformative than the other adventures you’ve had?

Yes, traveling with an animal is much more demanding than handling a piece of machinery. Building a partnership is extremely important and takes a great deal of time, and there’s no manual to follow. It’s an intuitive experience that is truly a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Patience is key. I had to learn to have more than I ever had back at the Pacific shore.


Early praise for ON THE HOOF:

“Jesse McNeil’s memoir demonstrates the hardships that happen when taking on a challenge as daunting as his coast-to-coast journey on foot, with only a horse named Pepper as his companion. It’s not for the faint of heart or those enamored with the romantic concept of ‘just being with a horse.’ For Jesse, it would become a life-changing experience with the realization he could overcome almost anything he would face in his life ahead…. The bond that develops between Jesse and Pepper cannot be explained to others, as there are no words to describe the deepness that is reached…. We as readers can feel Jesse’s emotions in the words he shares. We can also learn to apply the lessons he learns to our own journeys—to life’s good days, best days, hard days, and ‘impossible’ tests.”
—JOHN LYONS
America’s Most Trusted Horseman

“Jesse McNeil and his four-legged companion Pep remind us that even the best-laid plans require constant adjustment. But through teamwork, flexibility, and tenacity they can be navigated to an outcome that’s really special, and that’s exactly what On the Hoof is. A long walk, rhythmic trot, and full gallop that will leave you
wanting to strike out on your own unique adventure.”  
—TY GAGNE
Author of Where You’ll Find Me: Risk, Decisions, and the Last Climb of Kate Matrosova and The Last Traverse: Tragedy and Resilience in the Winter Whites

“Those of us who breed horses and write of them hope to ride vicariously on the adventures to which we send them. So it’s doubly gratifying, as the breeders and initial trainers of a horse named Pepper, to see her adventures and those of her owner Jesse McNeil poetically narrated in a book named On the Hoof.
—DAN AADLAND
Author of Sketches from the Ranch and In Trace of TR


Watch the book trailer:

ON THE HOOF is available now 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.

Horse Brain, Human Brain at HETI Seoul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also follow Janet Jones, her research, and how she is applying it in her own daily horse training, on her website and blog: janet-jones.com

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

30 Years Practice: An Excerpt from Jim Wofford’s Autobiography

In this excerpt from STILL HORSE CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, Olympian and tale-teller Jim Wofford shares a formative experience with an equestrian coach that told him all he needed to know about what it takes to be a good rider.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STILL HORSE CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS (If It Didn’t Happen This Way, It Should Have) is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

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.

TSB Author Jen Marsden Hamilton on Striding, Convertibles, and Cats on the Beach

There are some authors who inspire us, even out of the saddle. Jen Marsden Hamilton is one of those. She always seems to reach out just when we at TSB need a shot in the arm and encouragement to keep on, keeping on. We connected with Jen recently to talk about her book STRIDE CONTROL, what’s it’s like to own a field of sunflowers, and what Mark Twain has to teach all of us.

TSB: Your book STRIDE CONTROL provides exercises and advice for practicing striding at home so you can perform your best. Why is stride control integral to jumping success, both in the ring and cross-country?

JMH: The average hunter course is about 100 strides and 8 jumps. Jumper courses, depending on the size of the arena, could be 150+ strides and up to maybe 16 jumps. The cross-country count can be 12 to over 30 over several miles, with lots of jumps and combinations.  

Obviously, on a course the rider/horse spend more time on the ground than in the air. Best to spend that time wisely.

The ability to control the horse’s stride to a jump and within lines enables the horse to do his job—jump!

TSB: In your book, you describe yourself as a “watcher” who copied her heroes when you first rode and competed in the fifties. What is the benefit of being a “watcher”? Should young riders learn in this way today?

JMH: In the old days, riding lessons taught a very basic position, how to post to the trot, and how to canter. Basically how to “go” and “whoa” and not fall off.

One of the best ways to learn is to watch the best of the time. Your choice is to do that or remain stagnant.

Of course I think young riders should watch the best. Watching the best inspires! But one must never forget the progression of skill development to greatness.

TSB: You use the word “strategy” in your book to describe the plan you provide for each of your exercises. How does one devise a strategy for developing new skills and practicing new exercises without the benefit of a coach and when working on one’s own?

JMH: Read STRIDE CONTROL! Anyone can have a plan: Find exercises to take you toward your goals and follow the strategies to promote learning. Over time, your exercise strategies can be fine-tuned to your personal needs.

TSB: One of your catch phrases is “Be a star!” When did you first start saying this to your students and what does it mean to you?

JMH: I can’t remember when “Be a star” became my thing, but it has lasted over time and is so meaningful to so many in different ways. 

Rapport allows for personal interpretation and positive affirmations. 

Jen flaunting her catch phrase.

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

JMH: Teacher-directed lessons are great and at times essential when introducing new skills, but nothing replaces personal practice time to develop your feel and how to read a situation.

When the in-gate closes, you’re on your own. Internalized skills need to kick in. Take responsibility for the ride.

The exercises in STRIDE CONTROL promote self-directed positive learning in a non-threatening situation. It’s more than okay to self-train over valid exercises that promote correct and safe learning.

Jen using the sand to clarify a lesson.

TSB: You are based in beautiful part of Nova Scotia and have your own field of sunflowers that blooms in the summer. Why sunflowers? And how did that field come to be?

JMH: My husband Brian is a fixer not a “throw-it-outer.” During the COVID lockdown, he refurbished a 100-year-old seed spreader.

Lots of land + working seeder + 2 bags of sunflower seed = a lovely field of yellow.

Being on the top of a hill the yellow could be seen from a distance. People enjoyed our field and many came for a big handful.

Husband Brian and his antique seed-spreader above…and the heavenly result below.

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?

JMH: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett:  My favorite book, and it’d take a long time to read.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White:  The story of true friendship.

Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne:  I could entertain myself and talk to myself, reciting the lovely stories and rhymes.

No horse. I’m taking a cat!

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

JMH: Go swimming bareback in the ocean.

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

JMH: Truthfulness to help me maintain personal balance and someone to laugh and cry with. A tall friend to reach the top shelf is also useful.

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

JMH: I love honest horses. Horses who try their best based on ability. The horse that would be the McDonald’s “Employee of the Month.”

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

JMH: The loss of hope.

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

JMH: I have a retro 2002 Inspiration-Yellow Thunderbird. Whenever I’m at a stoplight next to some young pups and they look over and think, “What a waste!” I gun it and leave ‘em in my dust!

Jen, going topless!

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

JMH: Since I can remember, I’ve asked for both my birthday and Christmas to wake up TALL and THIN. I’ve always been disappointed! I’ve learned to embrace/accept terms like RUGGED and STURDY, but really it is body shaming.

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

JMH: Milk, peanut butter, and red jam.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

JMH: I think the lyrics of “Happiness—You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” sums up happiness beautifully. If you don’t know the song, have a listen, then sing along, and enjoy. It will bring back memories and help you enjoy the present.

Really, it’s all about smiles and laughter. Smiles of greeting, love, safety, and personal and shared accomplishments.  Laughter related to joy and memories, and just shared laughter with family and friends.

I can’t wait to have our whole family back together again! The smiles and laughter will be wonderful!

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

JMH: Mark Twain. He was the ultimate watcher and commentator on society. I love his quotes. In fact, I’m living by one of his quotes: “I have achieved my 70 years (74 now) in the usual way: by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else.”

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

JMH: In December 2019, I was planning and booking a trip to Kenya for Brian and me, our daughter, her husband, and our three grandchildren. I have been lucky to teach in Kenya several times and make friends there. I wanted to take everyone on safari and meet our friends before the “grand-ones” were too old and grumpy.  

Hopefully, by the time the world opens our family will still want to travel with us and we won’t be too lame or jaded.

TSB: What is your motto?

JMH: Whatever you do, do it with total conviction and be a star!

Jen Marsden Hamilton’s book STRIDE CONTROL 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.