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.

Riders Must Have “the Will”

Photo by Arnd Bronkhorst

In her new book, HOW TWO MINDS MEET: THE MENTAL DYNAMICS OF DRESSAGE, Beth Baumert explains how to optimize the use of your “thinking mind” in order to become a better learner in the saddle and provides techniques for maximizing mental and emotional harmony with your horse. Here she tells us why we need to have “the will” to achieve every task, every movement:

Horses don’t understand negatives. They do not understand I hope she doesn’t…, I wish she wouldn’t…, Don’t do this…, I’m afraid that…. They don’t understand mental or emotional garbage—for example, I hope he doesn’t refuse the fence, because I want to get out of this alive and I’m afraid I’ll fall off like I did last week. This is a message that is negative, emotional, and convoluted. It’s usually accompanied by a dreadful mental image that the horse has no trouble reading, and we all know how that story ends.

Since the horse doesn’t understand the negative aspect of the message, he gets a message that goes like this: Refuse the fence as I have in the past. Do it eagerly. My rider may end up on the ground. Even the boldest, most willing jumper would, at least, become distracted or confused by his rider’s message.

The rider must think positively.

German trainer Conrad Schumacher often told his dressage students, “You must have the WILL.” He was usually referring to a line of tempi changes, and he often asked his rider to verbally call out “I WILL” when riding each change. The rider must know what she wants and have a very clear plan for achieving it. Horses train people to think clearly and positively.

For example, to jump a vertical fence or to ride a lengthened stride on the diagonal, the rider might go through these steps:

• Half-halt before the turn and balance through it.

• Half-halt again after the turn to straighten.

• Establish the length of stride you want and ride the line.

• Half-halt to rebalance after the lengthening or the fence.

• Reward! (Great job!)

• Rebalance and repeat….

Horses understand these positive, clear messages.

For more from HOW TWO MINDS MEET: THE MENTAL DYNAMICS OF DRESSAGE, including a free chapter download, CLICK HERE.

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

TSB Author Cathy Woods on Yoga, Riding in the Smoky Mountains, and Finding the “Super Chill”

Photo by Dell Hambleton

It is always so interesting what we bring to our horse lives in terms of experience. Our pursuits or interactions with the world outside the barn are destined to impact those inside it. Consider what an argument with a colleague can mean to your lesson later that day, or how traffic can add tension to an already tight schedule between work, horse, and home. Yoga teacher and horsewoman Cathy Woods says that making yoga a part of your horse life offers wonderful benefits, in and out of the saddle. We caught up with Cathy to talk about why she feels yoga and horsemanship aren’t so different from each other and her new book YOGA FOR RIDERS.

TSB: Your book YOGA FOR RIDERS provides a number of parallels you have designated as illustrative of the similarities between yoga and horsemanship. How do these parallels provide horse lovers a new or different path to better horsemanship and/or improved riding? 

CW: Many people seem to view yoga as a form of stretches done on a mat, but when true yoga is examined deeper, it becomes clear that it’s really a way of life – a way to live with greater awareness. There are 8-limbs/aspects to yoga which teach us how to better interact with our inner and outer world. This enhanced way of living can apply to horsemanship as well as other areas of life. In essence, the parallels are things we should be doing in our yoga practice but also principles we’d want to apply to good horsemanship. Some parallels include: slowing down; mindfulness; and becoming body, breath, and energy aware, to name a few.  These can deepen our experience with horses, expand our learning on the ground and in the saddle, and enrich our relationship with our horses and other sentient beings, which enhances personal growth and adds richness to life. It’s a win/win! 

TSB: Were you a yogini or a horsewoman first? What made you first connect the two pursuits? 

CW: As odd as it may sound, I was born a yogini (a female drawn to and dedicated to yogic tradition). I had an inner pull toward yoga and had yogic awareness from a very young age and long before I was formally introduced to the practice. I quickly realized that being a yogini was not separate from anything thing else, such as my dance and fitness interests and my horsemanship. Being a yogini is a way of life – “How you do anything is how you do everything.” It has put me in touch with subtle energies, and equestrians know how important that can be in horsemanship, from energy shifts to intuition. I clearly saw that applying a yogic attitude to my horsemanship made a positive difference.  Things like being “present,” or what head and energy space I was in when I went to the barn, factored in to what my experience with my horse was on a given day. I organically came to realize that yoga and horsemanship were not so different from each other and instead, actually, a likely pairing. 

TSB: You teach people a combination of postures, breathing, and meditative exercises, on the mat and in the saddle. Is there a balance to strike between yoga practice off the horse and yoga practice on the horse? Which do you prefer? 

CW: I personally find it quite enjoyable and beneficial to do some gentle yoga poses, breathing techniques, and meditation in motion on horseback. However, I would say the mat practice is more important. I like to think of the mat and meditation cushion as a training ground for life – a place for personal groundwork and collection. Once skills are honed or mastered there, we naturally begin applying them to our horsemanship and other life situations – things like, breathing through challenges, heightened focus, body awareness, and the ability to self-correct when out of alignment or tense. We learn these skills best when practiced regularly on the mat. Then they become second nature off the mat as well. 

TSB: If you had to name one, most important benefit of exploring yoga in order to improve your horsemanship, what would it be? 

CW: The heightened self-awareness that comes from practicing yoga, along with becoming more mindful and present.  “Yoga is an awareness practice” – we become more keenly aware of ourselves on all levels, including our inner workings. This also translates to tapping in to inner wisdom, making decisions and choices from a clear, centered place. We also gain the ability for improved situational awareness, which is paramount in horsemanship. 

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

CW: That true yoga is SO much more than just twisted, contorted poses on a mat! It is really a practice for living well and a path for self-realization. It’s a means to spend integrated, quality time with all aspects of ourselves — body, mind, and spirit – and then carry that integrated awareness into all that we do.  

TSB: You are based in the Smoky Mountains. What is the best part about where you live and where you ride? 

CW: There is so much I love about this region, but one of the best parts is the sacredness of these ancient mountains (they are the oldest in the world). They feel deep-rooted, comforting, and safe. We have no crowds, and we get to live very close to nature. As far as riding, the Smokies have endless and diverse trails – everything from vistas, beautiful creeks and rivers, lovely lakes, and amazing vegetation, to abundant wildlife and rich Appalachian history. I’ve traveled and ridden in many parts of the United States, yet I’m always amazed at what the Great Smoky Mountains have to offer in comparison.  Though rugged, it’s truly some of the best riding ever! 

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? 

CW: The horse breed is easy: I’d go with a Quarter Horse. In my opinion, they are the best, all-around breed. A Quarter Horse could be a good companion, a leisure horse, or a working horse. As far as a book, a survival book would likely be a smart choice, but I’d probably go with The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In a nutshell, the Yoga Sutras are a collection of 196 short verses that serve as a guide to attain wisdom and self-realization through yoga. What better to do if trapped on a desert island than to become self-realized and extrapolate Universal Truth! 

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

CW: A European or Icelandic village to village, several-day ride/tour with my good friend and program assistant Amanda – we travel well together and have had many great adventures.  

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

CW: Authenticity. 

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

CW: Good sense.

Photo by Dell Hambleton

TSB: What is your greatest fear? 

CW: Loss and dying. Clearly if these are issues to me, I’m not yet an Enlightened Yoga Master (nor do I claim to be).  I’m also a bit of a germaphobe – getting sick or injured scares me a bit, so I try to use these concerns to make good choices. 

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

CW: I love owning and residing on 30+ acres in the Smoky Mountains. Though it may sound extravagant, it’s actually pretty rustic, and it really allows me to live simply.

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

CW: I’d love to be calmer and more patient. I’m not naturally wired that way, and it’s a constant practice for me. One might think being a yogini I’d be super chill, but that’s one of the reasons I practice yoga – it’s a tool that helps bring balance to the imbalances. 

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

CW: Cheese! I like to think I have no addictions, but I might be slightly addicted to cheese 😊

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

CW: Being soul-content in all life’s situations. 

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

CW: That’s a tough question, because I miss my parents greatly, and they were full of good, practical wisdom – I’d love to converse with them again. But a bit more outside the box, probably Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian monk and guru who died in 1952. There was something special about him (some deemed him a saint), not to mention his profound understandings and teachings about life, death, and beyond. I am drawn to adept individuals with this kind of life-knowledge and wisdom. 

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?

CW: My husband Robert and I enjoy taking extended RV trips. Though I’ve traveled to many places in the US and abroad, I’ve still not made it to the Red Rock Parks of Utah (Bryce, Zion, etc.). This was on our 2020 travel list, which was of course postponed. We’d sightsee, spend time in nature, hike, and make more good memories! The trips we enjoy most are to natural destinations and just the two of us (and our cats)! 

TSB: What is your motto?

CW: Live well, live creatively, live deliberately, and live in a balanced way. Be present and take journeys (inward and outward)! 

Cathy’s book YOGA FOR RIDERS 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.


What Got Us Through 2020

What saved us in 2020? We had books to publish. The ever-present routine that is our (often overwhelming) publication schedule actually kept us sane: In March, while some titles idled at printers when the world shut down, we were deep in editorial for books that would (hopefully) come out later in the year, designing covers for those already in the proofreading stage, and brainstorming marketing plans for the titles we expected to arrive in our warehouse in the coming weeks. As the months opened and closed, each marked by challenging events and difficult news, we focused on the books in our care and the hope and excitement that each new one always brings.

Of course, the impact of the pandemic affected all stages of a book’s usual evolution. Authors’ lives were upended and so manuscripts were delivered late. Photo shoots had to be rescheduled. Printers were shut down and shipping delays became the norm. Events were canceled, book and tack shops were closed, and publicity and sales efforts moved almost entirely online. And so, the year has been a course in both “steady as she goes” and “think outside the box.”

As we turn the page on 2020 and head into our 36th year as equestrian book publishers, we want to take a look back at the titles we released in the past 12 months. In a year marked by turmoil, the publication of each of these reminded us that, no matter what, we could still count on books to keep us going.

January

Mustang: From Wild Horse to Riding Horse by Vivian Gabor

Follow along as one trainer and a young Mustang mare discover partnership and trust while they prepare for the Mustang Makeover in Germany.

February

Freestyle: The Ultimate Guide to Riding, Training, and Competing to Music by Sandra Beaulieu

Award-winning musical freestyle designer Sandra Beaulieu provides everything readers need to know to enjoy musical Freestyles of their own—whether for fun or for ribbons.

April

Brain Training for Riders (Audiobook) by Andrea Monsarrat Waldo

Andrea Waldo reads her bestselling book, teaching you how to handle uncomfortable emotions, such as fear, anger, anxiety, and embarrassment; hone your mental game, focus your riding time to get the most out of your hours in the saddle; and care for your emotional injuries.

May

What Horses Really Want by Lynn Acton

Horsewoman Lynn Acton explains the importance of Protector Leadership when working with horses, because being the “protector” is the foundation of a trust-filled, stress-free relationship.

June

Stride Control by Jen Marsden Hamilton

After coaching countless riders and horses around the world in the striding techniques that brought her success during her own impressive competitive career, Jen Marsden Hamilton has compiled her knowledge in a concise book of exercises and insightful strategies. 

June

The Ultimate Guide for Horses in Need by Dr. Stacie Boswell

Dr. Stacie Boswell details proactive methods of handling common medical problems and health issues in horses in transition, from nutrition and dentistry to deworming and hoofcare to traumatic injury and emergency rescue scenarios. 

June

Horse Brain, Human Brain by Janet Jones, PhD

Brain scientist and horsewoman Janet Jones describes human and equine brains working together. Using plain language, she explores the differences and similarities between equine and human ways of negotiating the world. 

August

Yoga for Riders by Cathy Woods

Yoga teacher and horsewoman Cathy Woods shows you how to achieve present moment awareness; find body, breath, and energy awareness; breathe through challenges; listen to your inner voice; slow down; and develop balance and symmetry in the saddle.

August

Anne Kursinski’s Riding & Jumping Clinic by Anne Kursinski with Miranda Lorraine

Olympian Anne Kursinski’s acclaimed book on riding horses over fences delivers on-target counsel and the kind of sophisticated, quality instruction you can only get in top barns around the world. Updated with over 300 full-color photos.

September

Dressage Between the Jumps by Jane Savoie

Master motivator Jane Savoie breaks down the six most common problem areas she sees when horses jump, then fills the rider’s toolbox with targeted exercises on the flat—simple solutions to the nagging problems that prevent riders and horses from doing their best over all kinds of obstacles.

October

Distant Skies: An American Journey on Horseback by Melissa A. Priblo Chapman

When she was 23, carrying a puppy named Gypsy, Melissa Chapman climbed aboard a horse and rode away from everything, heading west. Part American road trip, part coming-of-age adventure, and part uncommon love story—a remarkable memoir that explores the evolution of the human-animal relationship, along with the raw beauty of a life lived outdoors.

October

It’s Been 20 Years, Fergus (and You’re Still Spooking at That Thing?) by Jean Abernethy

Fergus the Horse, the creation of artist Jean Abernethy, has been entertaining audiences—young and old, in print and online—with his comedic adventures for the past 20 years. Abernethy celebrates his age—and the wisdom that should come with it—with an all-new selection of horsey humor, including many cartoons fans have never seen before.

October

Kinesiology Taping for Dogs by Katja Bredlau-Morich 

Canine and equine physiotherapist Katja Bredlau-Morich, author of Kinesiology Taping for Horses, is a pioneer in bringing the method to the dog world. She believes that dogs can benefit hugely from taping techniques, and even better, dog owners and trainers can learn practical steps to using kinesiology tape themselves. 

November

The 5 Horse Types by Dr. Med. Vet Ina Gösmeier

Dr. Ina Gösmeier is a veterinarian who supports her Western medical practice with knowledge gained through the study of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This handbook provides a basic introduction to the guiding principle of determining a horse’s TCM type before making decisions about handling, care, training, or treatment.

December

How Two Minds Meet: The Mental Dynamics of Dressage by Beth Baumert

In the follow-up to her bestselling WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN, Beth Baumert explains how to optimize the use of the “thinking mind” in order to become a better learner in the saddle and provides techniques for maximizing mental and emotional harmony with the horse.

We are so grateful for all our authors, and for the readers and viewers whose support is essential to our company’s survival. Wishing everyone a safe and peaceful 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.