Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Recently Published’ Category

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


 
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.

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Survivors of trauma, loss, illness, abuse, stress, and depression can face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But today, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that horses play a crucial role in therapy for those struggling with significant psychological and emotional challenges. Horses respond to angry, inhibited, heartbroken, defiant, terrified clients in many different ways, often breaking through defensive barriers via their physical presence, or by pointing to areas of psychological distress not immediately apparent. The horse’s response guides the treatment team, as well as the client, in the healing process.

Consider these true stories:

Ashley was locked in closets as punishment, and physically and sexually abused, resulting in an angry and violent child who threatened her adoptive family—until she met Cocoa and Radar, the horses that helped her learn to trust again.

Brenda was diagnosed bipolar and lived through humiliating domestic abuse, but three horses—Delilah, Wiscy, and Diesel—helped her establish a sense of self-worth, hope for the future, and ultimately, the will to go on.

Nick was angry, suicidal, and a veteran with combat PTSD, who now says, “Horses literally saved my life.”

Inspired by her own childhood trauma when she spent seven days in a coma, awakened to a severely compromised body and brain, and rebuilt her life with the help of a horse, Michelle Holling-Brooks founded Unbridled Change, a non-profit Equine-Partnered Therapy organization that helps match horses to individuals in need. In her book THE HORSE CURE she shares amazing stories of the people she’s worked with and the “horse cure” that changed their lives. We had a chance to catch up with Michelle and ask her a little about her incredible organization and the dramatic life circumstances that led her to founding it.

 

TSB: What is the purpose of the organization Unbridled Change and why did you start it?

MHB: Unbridled Change is a non-profit mental health organization whose mission is to provide a place for our clients to find the hope, healing, and growth they have been searching for through the partnership of horses. The way we complete our mission to help our clients is mainly through providing Equine-Partnered Psychotherapy and Coaching. We take mental health therapy out of the office and into the arena or paddock with the horses.

The reason I started Unbridled Change was because I know firsthand the healing that can happen when you work with horses. Life can change in an instant and you can lose trust in yourself, others, and the world around you when it does. Sometimes when that trust is broken it can be hard to accept help from another human; however, we might be willing to accept support from an animal. Horses did that for me. They helped me “cure” myself on many different levels. I wanted to provide a space and program where I could share and others could experience what helped me learn how to heal.

TSB: In your book THE HORSE CURE you share the story of how you survived a dramatic illness, which left you in a coma for seven days, and when you did wake, you were faced with severe damage to your motor skills, vision, hearing, language, and understanding, as well as being paralyzed from the waist down. How did this traumatic event in your life prepare you for the role you now play as the founder of Unbridled Change?

MHB: I don’t think I would be who I am or doing what I do every day at Unbridled Change without that illness. The moment I was wheeled back into the barn and found comfort in a horse’s embrace was the moment my life purpose was born. By the time I was a senior in high school, I knew that all I wanted in life was to help others find the same sanctuary and healing that I had found with horses. I knew that the amazing impact horses had on me could also help others.

I think the experiences I had because of that illness also gave me another gift that took me longer to really understand. That illness gave me a gift of knowing and understanding. I know what it is like to feel lost in a body that will not respond. I know what it feels like to be left without a way to communicate what you need or want on even the smallest level. I know what it feels like to be so angry at the world that you end up feeling nothing. I know what it feels like to not want to be alive because the pain (physically and emotionally) is too bad. And I also know what it feels like to find your way back to willingness, connection, and love after all that pain. Horses gave me a lifeline through that wild sea of despair, pain, and trauma.

Now, as the founder of Unbridled Change, I can offer that same lifeline to our clients so that they too can heal.

TSB: In THE HORSE CURE, you share some of the experiences you’ve had with clients and the horses that are a part of the Unbridled Change herd. Why do you feel it is important to tell these stories?

MHB: I think the power of sharing these stories is that they give the reader hope. The stories let the reader see little bits and pieces of themselves reflecting back through the pages. I also feel that the stories and pictures in The Horse Cure give the reader the opportunity to feel and see what partnering with horses for human healing can really look like. By sharing these stories, we can take the mystery out of this type of therapy.

Hopefully these stories will open the door for more people to think about working with horses to help them heal.

TSB: You had your own experience with the healing power of horses, and now you’ve witnessed it again and again. What do you feel it is about horses that helps people struggling with trauma, loss, abuse, stress, and depression? Why are they such an integral part of the therapeutic process?

MHB: Horses are, by nature, sentient beings that want to be in relationship and balance with the world around them. When I was recovering from my illness at 13, I didn’t understand humans. They didn’t make sense to me because they would say one thing and do something different.

I felt at odds with the human world because most of the time nothing “matched.” I couldn’t trust it. But I could trust horses. They acted in alignment with the world around them. They didn’t lie to me. They didn’t judge me for being in a wheelchair or talking differently. They didn’t care that I had crazy frizzy hair, was too skinny, or about what I was wearing. They only cared and judged me on one thing: how did I treat them and myself. If I was willing to be trustworthy and respectful with them, ask for my needs fairly and without hurting them, I found out they actually wanted to be around me!

I think this natural trait is why horses are such great partners for the therapeutic process. People have the same basic desire to be a part of a “herd.” We, like horses, are not designed to be alone and without connections. Like horses, we also want to feel safe in that connection.

When you combine the therapeutic process with building a relationship with a horse based on trust, respect, and willingness, you have a way for the client to actually see their own patterns in relationships. In these interactions, the client has a chance to discover any “blocks” that might be preventing them from stepping into a healthy relationship. Additionally, they have the option to practice their skills by working through those blocks. The “therapy” then happens organically, in the moment based on the horse interaction and then processing with the mental health professional on the team.

You can read some of the many miraculous stories of horses helping humans in THE HORSE CURE, 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. 

 

Read Full Post »

RidersPainFreeBack-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Charles Hilton.

Apparently, equestrians played a key role in popular bar design. Never mind the obvious (sometimes a horse girl needs a drink)—theory has it, back pain, likely related to hours in the saddle, was the key influencer in this equation.

Riders Pain-Free Back-pb

Click for info.

“Back pain affects four out of five people at some time during their lives,” explains retired neurosurgeon and horseman Dr. James Warson in his book THE RIDER’S PAIN-FREE BACK. “It is the leading cause of disability for people between the ages of 19 to 45. Back pain is second only to the common cold for causing adults under 45 to miss work. Furthermore, as we age, low back pain becomes more and more common—affecting half of the population older than 60 at any given time.”

Uplifting, right? But the kicker is, whatever causes the back pain—be it sources outside or within our equestrian pursuits—it ultimately affects our ability to ride, as well as our enjoyment of it. And that, my friends, would surely drive a man to drink.

Drunk Bojack Horseman GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

So what does all of this have to do with bars?

RidersPainFreeBackpin-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Charles Hilton.

“A posture characteristic of people who have spine problems or pain is a tendency to flex the hips and knees somewhat,” says Dr. Warson. “This takes traction off the nerves—particularly the sciatic nerve—and makes them a little bit more comfortable. Extending the back—especially when standing with a straight leg—may irritate the nerves. This is why people who have severe back problems tend to bend forward somewhat, as well as flexing their hips and knees, in order to get some relief.

“In the ruins of Pompeii are a staggering number of saloons, bordellos, and bathhouses. Each of these entertainment places featured a long, low, stone step that ran in front of what was the equivalent of the bar. Since most of the people who rode horses in that era were either soldiers or politicians, and since the proprietors of the various establishments wanted to keep their elite clientele happy, the low step encouraged the power players to gather around the bar. Riders were generally wealthy and worthy of courting as patrons. Long hours in the saddle, however, contributed to a host of chronic back problems. The low step allowed clients to flex the hip and knee. It would alleviate their pain somewhat, enabling them to stay at the establishment longer—and spend more money.

RidersPainFreeBack2-horseandriderbooks“The bar owners knew that the people who rode in on horseback were probably hurting. They also knew that flexing the hip and knee would make them more comfortable. People standing at the bar could rest their feet on the step and ease some of their chronic pain. If the patrons were feeling no pain, they would tend to hang around longer, and they’d tend to drink more.

“Later on, especially in Europe, the stone steps were replaced with a brass rail, which is commonly seen and still used today at the base of bars almost everywhere.”

There you are, folks…a rider’s reason for that foot rest at the bar. Party people everywhere have equestrians to thank for their hours of comfort, belly-up.

Cheers.

THE RIDER’S PAIN-FREE BACK 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.

Read Full Post »

DressageforNoCountry-horseandriderbooks

In the 1970s, the sport of dressage was still in its infancy in the United States. Unlike the countries of Europe, there was neither an established tradition nor a written history to educate and inspire. A rider intent on learning the discipline had to be prepared to travel, to immerse himself in other cultures, and to care only for what those who had already mastered the art might teach him.

DressageforNoCountryPin-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Rose Caslar Belasik

Paul Belasik was this rider, intent on learning all he could about dressage methodology, and willing and able to compare and contrast the various means for achieving related goals: beautiful movement, “lightness,” connection between two beings. In his new book DRESSAGE FOR NO COUNTRY he shares a lifetime of searching and studying, both through stories of his own adventures and thoughtful essays on the subjects he has pondered during the years he has trained and ridden horses. Beginning in northern New York, and traveling to Portugal, and later, Vienna, Belasik serves as a tour guide of the various dressage “paths” he had the chance to explore, including the German system, the Portuguese art of equitation, and the revered institutions of the Spanish Riding School.

Dressage for No CountryArmed with the knowledge and experience he accrued over time, Belasik debates whether classical dressage and competition dressage are at all compatible. Then, he considers the role of mindfulness, how to become a good teacher, and how to be a good student in today’s horse world, providing the guideposts needed to take dressage–and riding, in general–the next step forward.

DRESSAGE FOR NO COUNTRY is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order, and watch the book trailer below!

Did you know? TSB is streaming some of its most popular equestrian videos! We really are! CLICK HERE to visit our streaming library where we are regularly adding new titles.

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

Read Full Post »

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is something completely timeless about a fat hairy pony, scheming to, in some way, take advantage of its naive young rider. It is a concept so familiar in size, shape, and flavor that all it takes is one word—“Thelwell—to instantly register as an image and a memory for many.

“My father bought her from a dealer near Lucan, a village to the west of Dublin,” remembers renowned trainer and coach Eric Smiley, author of TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM. “She was 12.2 hands, dark brown, and she was called Lucky Lucy. I think the ‘lucky’ bit was only to fool my father into thinking she was a good pony. But, she was very nice…until she wasn’t! She was also very good…until she wasn’t!

“Lucy had to wear a crupper to keep the saddle from sliding forward, otherwise all that could be seen in front of you was this Black Forest of mane with two tiny black tips for ears. When she put her head down to eat you were as likely as not to end up on the grass beside her.

DefinitionofThelwell-horseandriderbooks“This was my first pony and what I learned on.

“I had to avoid her teeth when I fed her and her heels when mucking out, although she was pretty good-humored standing all day at a show. My brother used to get on her and end up facing her tail; she didn’t seem to mind.

“This sort of learning you got from ‘doing.’ The only help we got was ‘Kick!’ ‘Pull!’ ‘Hang on!’ ‘Oh dear!’ This was a process totally uninhabited by technology or political correctness and one captured so wonderfully by that master of understatement: THELWELL. His cartoons captured the essence of ‘having a go’ and enjoying the process. A whole generation grew up enthralled by his insight.”

Did you grow up enjoying Thelwell’s on-point ridicule of the curious state we call equestrianism? Or perhaps you have discovered his work more recently but love its potent mix of nostalgia and irreverence just the same? Share your Thelwell Memories with us…we’d love to hear them!

THELWELL’S PONY PANORAMA, a collection including Gymkhana, Thelwell Goes West, and Penelope, is now available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information and watch the book trailer below:

Also available, THELWELL’S PONY CAVALCADE, which features Angels on Horseback, A Leg in Each Corner, and Thelwell’s Riding Academy.

CLICK HERE for more information and watch the book trailer below:

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

 

 

Read Full Post »

 

ManyBraveFools-horseandriderbooks

Switching trainers, moving from one barn to another, trying a new hairdresser…isn’t it amazing how all these things make us feel a sharp pang of guilt, like we are somehow being unfaithful? I mean, rarely is there a contract involved or even promises of fidelity, and yet…

Susan Conley’s new memoir MANY BRAVE FOOLS chronicles her discovery of riding and horses at the age of 42, and how her new passion helped her recover from years living in a codependent relationship with an addict. (Of course, horses introduced her to an addiction of her own.) In this excerpt, Conley shares the story of the first time she had a lesson barn affair and how ultimately, just like in her human relationships, her horse-life relationships were all about chemistry.

***

I had been riding exclusively at my first barn for one year and seven months when I decided to try a different stable, one that was on my side of town, for a private lesson.

I felt like I was having an affair.

Hermes was a strong, well-built cob. He had been brought in from the field just before my lesson, and he took a moment at the open door of the covered arena, every time we passed, to call for the friends he’d left behind. He was not in the least bit interested in me, and I wasn’t managing to engage his attention. He grudgingly trotted when I asked him to, and he refused to listen to my request for the canter at all, so the instructor waved a longe whip at him.

I got distracted by her whip. Hermes leaped to the left. I slid off to the right.

“You fell?” The instructor was incredulous.

You lashed the fucking whip at him, I thought. “Yeah, well,” I said.

I had landed in a damp patch on the ground. Let’s just say it was an aromatic bus ride home.

A couple of weeks later: same (new) barn, same horse, a group lesson this time, outside riding ring. A different instructor was busily chatting with some of her colleagues, leaving the riders to make their own decisions regarding rein changes and whatnot. I was once again trying to get Hermes to canter for me. The line of riders had halted at the M marker and would individually pick up canter between C and M before heading toward the fence, which was set up at B. (I could change barns but that crazy riding alphabet seemed to be following me.) We came around the corner and Hermes was motorbiking it, cutting it sharp/sharper/ sharpest. I leaned on the outside stirrup, off-effing-balance, and started to feel the saddle slip and slip…I went down. I fell softly onto the sand, and stood right back up.

No biggie. Except that the instructor came over, shaking her head, gesturing at the saddle, now completely over on Hermes’s offside.

“See that?” She put her hands on her hips and gestured at my horse and his gear, all askew. Everyone else, waiting for their turn to jump, stared.

Yes, I saw it. Cow. “Yeah,” I said.

LessonBarnPinterest-horseandriderbooksShe proceeded to lecture me on proper lesson preparation as she released the girth and righted the saddle. I was so pissed off my anger practically vaulted me off the ground and back in the tack. I was beneath her notice until we started to jump. She raised the rails on the fence to over two feet.

“Hermes—” She hadn’t even bothered to ask my name. “—you don’t have to do this.”

“I can do it,” I responded.

We trotted. Hermes still wouldn’t canter, not until we were a few strides away from the jump, anyway, but we took it perfectly.

Showed you, I thought. I certainly wouldn’t be coming back to this place anymore. Falls three and four were the height of ignominy; though the new barn was nominally closer to home, the affair was over. I went back to where I’d started.

I didn’t fall for Kilternan, my initial lesson barn, at first sight. Sure, I liked it right away, primarily because the place was laid back, the staff didn’t mind me hanging around (sometimes for a full hour before my lesson), and nobody passed comment, even though I was dressed like a complete fool for the first few weeks, wearing jeans and those silly boots and a borrowed helmet. I did strive to get my look increasingly right: jodhpurs, paddock boots, new headgear. I toughened up, abandoned the myriad layers and woolly scarf I initially swathed myself in, riding in just a T-shirt.

Horse owners asked me to do things like mind their mounts while they ran to get a hoof pick or hold their offside stirrup while they got on. I was becoming known, even if it was for being the crazy woman who took two busses all the way from the other side of town, a million miles away.

In the case of this love affair, distance was not an issue. I was learning that if a place gave off the right vibe, then I should be careful not to muck it up. There was a world of chemistry between horse and rider, rider and instructor, between the riders within a group lesson, and indeed, between the horses and the instructors. I wouldn’t ride Maverick when Angela was teaching the lesson. He adored her and always tried to show off, bucking more than usual, pelting for the perimeter after a jump, desperate to go fast, to show his favorite person what he was made of. When Emily was instructing us, Dancer would do everything in his power to stand by her. Once, we were waiting in the middle of the arena watching others take their turns over a jump, and when he heard Emily’s voice behind him, he turned a full one-hundred-and-eighty degrees to face her.

That kind of chemistry took time to build, and I knew you didn’t just throw it away. 

***

MANY BRAVE FOOLS is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Watch the book trailer:

 

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: