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Pod1FB

Alois Podhajsky with Norman.

 

Colonel Alois Podhajsky was an Olympian and Director of the the Spanish Riding School in Vienna for 26 years. Podhajsky was known to bring out the best in each horse he rode, and to rely on patience, understanding, and affection in the training process.

Podhajsky detailed his riding, training, and competitive experiences in the renowned book MY HORSES, MY TEACHERS, which was first published in English in 1968. By sharing the stories of each of the horses he worked with over the course of his career, we learn his methods, mistakes, and discoveries. One horse he writes of was an eight-year-old, part-Trakehner gelding named Norman, who helps us learn the lesson that sometimes we have to go back in order to go forward.

Norman had been taught quite a number of things by his breeder in Germany. He knew how to perform lateral work, flying changes, and even some sort of passage…most of it was superficial…. Once again I met in Norman a horse without sufficient urge to go forward unless pushed and often he offered a passage without its being demanded. But his passage was not the artistic solemn movement but a tense sort of hovering trot which had its origin in his reluctance to go forward. It is a great temptation for the rider to accept an exercise that the horse offers but would have a very negative effect on the rest of the training. The idea of dressage is to cultivate and improve the natural movements of the horse so that he executes them upon the slightest aids of the rider. If he anticipates these aids he proves that his obedience is not sufficiently well established. Besides, a horse will anticipate only to make work easier for himself and execute the exercise incorrectly. Consequently the standard of work will decline. If this is the case the rider must interrupt his present work and go back again to the basic training until it is well consolidated. 

We had the greatest trouble making Norman strike off into the canter from the trot. Either he tried to run away or he offered his “passage.” He had been taught to strike off into the canter exclusively from the walk and became nervous and excited upon this unusual demand. However, it is a very important exercise which improves suppleness and helps achieve the correct activity of the hind legs in response to the actions of the reins. It also furthers the will to go forward and establishes obedience and is therefore a necessity in thorough gymnastic training. Besides, it is much more natural and easier for the horse to strike off into the canter from the trot. Nevertheless it took quite a long while until Norman understood this unaccustomed exercise and I had to allow him his lapse of time because I did not want to confuse him or make him nervous.

 

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Walking Norman on a loose rein.

 

Once again I relied on my proven remedy—good for anything and everything, one might say—which is to teach the horse to move correctly and with suppleness and balance, to make him understand his rider and follow him without reserve. I began to take Norman on the same course of training I pursued with my young horses, with the exception that I spent less time on the various phases. That is, I moved on when I saw that he had understood and was able to execute my demands. Of course I observed him closely all the time and found that I could establish his confidence much more quickly after a few rounds at the walk on a loose rein at the beginning of work and that he paid much less attention to his surroundings than if I had had begun our daily session with the reins applied.

In this way, Norman had a chance to look around in the open-air arena and the adjacent paddocks, and when he was satisfied with what he had seen, he would concentrate entirely upon his work. The rider should always give his horse a chance to look around before beginning serious training. His horse will never become “fed up” with dressage if the rider respects his particularities and allows the freedom of mind necessary for concentrated work.

MYHOMY

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You can read more of Alois Podhajsky’s stories in MY HORSES, MY TEACHERS, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

CLICK HERE to order now.

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

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Raymond is one of the 10 horses that star in Yvonne Barteau’s THE DRESSAGE HORSE MANIFESTO. Photo by fireandearthphoto.com.

If horses could talk, what would they say about the exercises we ask them to do and the movements we have them perform? Grand Prix dressage rider and popular equestrian performer Yvonne Barteau has wondered this throughout her lifelong career with horses, and so she has tried very hard over the years to learn to see and understand things from the equine perspective.

In her incredibly fun-to-read book THE DRESSAGE HORSE MANIFESTO, Barteau guides us through the dressage levels from the horse’s point of view. Her humor and well-honed sense of how the equine mind works provides a valuable and very different look at what it means to train and ride a dressage horse.

Here is an exercise from one of the 10 real-life horse stars of Barteau’s book: Raymond is a worrier-type, seven years old, and only showing Training and First Level, although he knows and practices all kinds of FEI movements. He likes to work and this is one Second Level lesson in counter-canter that is a particular favorite.

Raymond says:

Counter-canter, counter-flexion teaches us to balance and stay true to our lead, rather than associating a change in flexion with a change in lead. This exercise is designed to both gymnasticize us, and make us totally obedient to your aids by counter-cantering, and then changing the flexion away from the lead we are on. For example: left lead, traveling right, but flexed to the right, and right lead, traveling left, flexed to the left.

How to Do It
1 In counter-canter going to the right (you are on the left lead, traveling on the right rein) start with your right leg in its slightly back position to add sideways pressure until you start to get into a sort of renvers (haunches-out) positioning.

2 Keeping a “conversational” and pulsing kind of leg aid with that same right leg, allow us to connect to the left rein more as an outside rein (rather than as an inside flexion rein), and begin to flex us bit by bit to the right with your right (suppling) fingers (counter-flexion).

3 Be careful to keep the impulsion and “jump” in the canter with that same right leg while not doing too much with your left leg (which should still be up by the girth). If things go really well, you will feel almost as if you are in counter-canter, counter-shoulder-in with your horse’s weight more over his outside limbs (in this case, the left) and less over his inside (in this case, the right). Your horse needs to get comfortable and balanced in this positioning on either lead, and be able to go back and forth from counter-canter, true-flexion to counter-canter, counter-flexion in preparation for the lead changes to come.

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It will feel SO good when you and your horse get this exercise right! Photo by fireandearthphoto.com.

When It Goes Wrong
It takes time to get good at this exercise—it challenges both horse and rider—and if you or your horse starts getting confused or frustrated, just back off and review something easier. Don’t come back to this exercise until you are both relaxed and in harmony again.

 

Get more guidance straight from the horse’s mouth in THE DRESSAGE HORSE MANIFESTO, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Yvonne Barteau is judging the all-women edition of Road to the Horse, which starts tomorrow! You can watch the live broadcast here.

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

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walkthisway

Arthur Kottas-Heldenberg was accepted as a student at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna in 1960 and rose rapidly under the tutelage of Colonel Alois Podhajsky to become the youngest ever First Chief Rider in the history of the school. Internationally respected, Kottas has successfully trained many horses and riders to Olympic standard in dressage. Here he provides easy-to-try solutions for three of the most common problems found with the horse’s walk.

 

Problem 1: Breaks Rhythm (Pacing)
Common cause: Tension in the back.

Solutions

  • Using poles or low cavalletti can encourage freer steps and regularize the rhythm. An average distance between poles for walk work is 0.9m, but be prepared to alter this to suit the horse’s stride length.
  • The rider needs to be able to feel what is going on in his horse, otherwise the timing of the aids depends on luck, and this can affect the clarity of the gait. If the rider does have difficulty feeling the movement, he can practice calling out the leg sequence. Riding without stirrups and with a deep seat will help the rider to feel the horse’s motion and leg sequence clearly.
  • Riding up and down hills is useful. A forward stride downhill normally improves the walk to four clear beats.
  • Ride transitions from free walk to medium and to free walk again. This will encourage relaxation of the horse’s back muscles. (Note the rider must take care to retake the rein contact carefully, so as to keep the relaxed quality in the medium walk. Taking a strong hold will create tension that will affect the walk rhythm.
  • Riding a walk shoulder-in is a good way to clear the pace to a correct four-beat rhythm.
  • If the gait is very hurried, this can cause the walk to become lateral. Try slowing the walk right down until the walk becomes four-beat again.

 

upanddown

Walking up and down hills can help fix rhythm issues in the walk. Photos from the book DRESSAGE SOLUTIONS by Arthur Kottas.

 
Problem 2: Walk Too Fast (Breaks into Jog)
Common cause: A nervous or excitable horse.

Solutions

  • Be very patient and spend long periods in walk on a long rein to relax the horse.
  • The rider must sit very still and quietly, so that eventually the horse tunes into the rider’s calm state and begins to relax, too.
  • Some horses become tense when they feel the rider’s legs on their sides. Keep your legs very light, so that he will gradually accept them without becoming tense.
  • Some young or cold-backed horses benefit from being longed before ridden work. This gives them time to relax without the disturbance of the rider’s weight on their back.
  • Use half-halts and frequent transitions to a square halt and walk again to gradually settle the walk.

 

Problem 3: Lazy Walk
Common cause: Dullness to the aids; poor rider position or aiding.

Solutions

  • Try giving alternate leg aids, coordinated with each hind leg stepping forward. You should feel the moment through your seat bones. Apply the leg just before the hind foot on the same side leaves the ground.
  • It is important that the rider is not tense or stiff in his back, or it will inhibit the horse’s freedom to walk forwards freely.
  • Strong rein contact can have the same effect. Try making small forward yields in the reins and keeping the wrists relaxed, to remove the “handbrake.”
  • Legs that constantly kick or grip tightly will dull the horse and make the walk feel lazy. The rider should keep a light touch with his legs on the horse’s sides and use the aids sparingly, supported by a touch from the whip if necessary. When the horse responds, the rider must cease the aid and sit quietly with relaxed legs that “drape” around the horse’s sides.
  • Riding over ground poles can improve the activity of the walk. Once the horse is negotiating them calmly, the distance between them can be slightly lengthened to encourage a longer stride. Pole work or low cavalletti can introduce some variety into the schooling and many horses enjoy this and we can therefore achieve improvements and give the horse some fun in his work.
  • Making frequent transitions up and down will help bring the horse onto your aids more attentively.

For more training and riding advice from Arthur Kottas, check out DRESSAGE SOLUTIONS, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

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

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Horsepower…it’s what revs that Ferrari’s engine and makes the chainsaw growl. The term is said to have been invented by the engineer James Watt who was famous for his work to improve the performance of steam engines. He determined that mine ponies could move a certain amount of coal in a minute and used this to come up with an arbitrary unit of measure (the rate at which “work” is done) that has made its way down through the centuries.

Those of us who ride know the true meaning of “horsepower.” The energy generated by our horses is what propels us over a jump, after that cow, or down the centerline with pizzazz. We learn how to “energize” our horses (ask them to work harder) and “quiet” them (calm them, relax them). Of course, some horses seem to need to be influenced more one way or the other. And it can take time and experience for us to learn how to figure all that out.

“Imagine the energy scale like the flame of a gas stove,” writes dressage trainer Beth Baumert in her bestselling book WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS. “You can regulate the energy by turning it up or down. Your seat, leg, and hand regulate the horse’s energy: The lower leg and seat, together with a following torso and hand, ask for more energy. The seat that pushes against the fixed hand in a half-halt asks for less. Brilliance comes from increasing the power, but too much energy, or misdirected energy, makes tension and lack of feeling.”

So how do you know when your horse has the right amount of energy?

energy1

Flame too low: not enough energy.

3 Signs There’s Not Enough Energy

• The contact might feel inconsistent like lights that are flickering or sometimes even going out.
• Half-halts don’t work because his energy doesn’t reach your hands.
• Instead of feeling that the walk, trot, and canter are self-perpetuating, your horse feels like a wind-up toy that winds down too easily. Whereas some “reminding aids” are always necessary, you shouldn’t need to remind your horse constantly.

If your horse doesn’t have enough energy, focus on upward transitions that add horsepower. Do exercises that include lengthenings and medium paces. Combine them with suppling exercises—circles, lateral work, half-halts, and downward transitions that help close your horse’s frame and recycle the energy so he’s in a better position to do the forward, energy-producing exercises. Use of cavalletti can achieve the right amount of energy without losing relaxation.

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Flame too high: too much energy.

3 Signs There’s Too Much Energy 

• Your horse is lacking a clear rhythm: it feels hurried or hectic.
• He is too strong in the hand and stiff in downward transitions.
• You feel as if your horse is zooming out from underneath you—moving away from your seat rather than staying balanced under it.

If your horse’s energy is coming from the front-pulling engine, use exercises that will help your horse think about and use his hindquarters. Circles and voltes shape him in bend. Downward transitions, half-halts, corners, and turns make him softer and better balanced. Leg-yield, turn-on-the-forehand, shoulder-fore, turn-on-the-haunches, and lateral exercises encourage looseness and connection from behind. The turn-on-the-forehand reminds the horse that the leg aid influences the hindquarters, not his forehand.

energy-3

Flame just right: ideal energy.

3 Signs The Amount of Energy Is Ideal

• The energy and the rhythm are both self-perpetuating. Your horse doesn’t become slower or faster on his own, and he doesn’t gain or lose energy on his own. 
• You have control of the length of stride. Your horse doesn’t lengthen or shorten the stride on his own. As a result, you have control of the speed or ground coverage.
• Your horse is balanced enough so the “Whoa” and “Go” buttons work equally well. He should have the power and suppleness to go forward promptly and to slow down easily. You feel you’re being carried forward.

 

For more information on creating and containing the right amount of energy under saddle, check out WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

 

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

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uta9tips

German Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer Uta Gräf has made a name for herself in international dressage circles, not only for her cheerful nature and wild hair, but also for her beautifully ridden, content, satisfied horses.

Now Gräf lets us in on all her training secrets in her new book UTA GRÄF’S EFFORTLESS DRESSAGE PROGRAM. She shares her schooling exercises, as well as the techniques she uses to incorporate groundwork, long-lining, trail riding, creative play, bombproofing, and turnout in her training plans. In the excerpt below, Gräf breaks down 9 quick tips for achieving better flexion and bend in your horse—first the “classical” way, and then her own helpful ideas to add to the mix that adds up to success.

 

 

9 Tips for Better Flexion and Bend

The Classical Way

⇒ Develop the horse’s foundation and improve straightness through lateral movements: leg-yield, shoulder-fore, shoulder-in, and travers.

⇒ Ride on curved lines: serpentines, spiral-ins and spiral-outs, voltes, figure eights.

⇒ Ride corners carefully, especially in counter-canter, taking care that the “jump” of the canter isn’t lost.

⇒ For lateral movements, carry the flexion and bend out of the corner or the volte and keep it without having to adjust it.

⇒ End a lateral movement as soon as you lose flexion and bend: Ride voltes or serpentines to get it back; then start again.

⇒ Ride shoulder-in or leg-yield when you are losing the quality of flexion and bend; then start over again.

 

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And, Give This a Try

⇒ Ride around cones or jump standards (voltes, figure eights, or serpentines).

⇒ Ride squares away from the wall: half-pass alternating with leg-yield. Reduce the square as you ride leg-yield; enlarge the square with half-pass. When the horse responds well to the leg, ride with flexion and bend into the half-pass. Don’t lose flexion and bend as you get to the wall or the half-pass doesn’t actually get finished. It’s better to end the diagonal with a leg-yield or ride the second track in renvers. The horse must still cross his legs well without “bogging down” the half-pass.

⇒ Alternate riding a steep or shallow half-pass.

 

UTA GRÄF’S EFFORTLESS DRESSAGE PROGRAM is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter.

 

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

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PILATESDR10

A lot of things can happen in 10 years of riding. Common goals shared by most riders are to have improved their seat; advanced the training of their horses while maintaining soundness; and nurtured connection and communication with their equine partners—that is, find harmony.

There was a time Janice Dulak couldn’t sit a trot. She had great riding instructors, but as one teacher put it, “You just don’t have harmony yet.” Terribly frustrated, Janice realized something was wrong. How could she, a former professional dancer, a Professor of Dance, and a Certified Romana’s Pilates Instructor, not be able to learn how to sit a trot?

 

There was a time when Janice Dulak couldn't sit the trot--all that changed when she developed Pilates for the Dressage Rider.

There was a time when Janice Dulak couldn’t sit the trot—all that changed when she developed Pilates for the Dressage Rider.

It dawned on her that a dancer’s vocabulary was much more specific than riding vocabulary. A riding instructor says, “Use your leg.” A dancing instructor says, “Turn your leg out and lift it to the side with the foot flexed and knee bent.” Exacting vocabulary to create exact movement. This “ah-ha” moment led her to begin asking her mare India “questions”: Janice would create a feeling or movement in her body and listen for India to respond. Within a week, Janice understood how she needed to use her body so her horse could be comfortable, and at last, Janice was able to sit the trot.

Janice began teaching her work to riders around the country, and PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER was published in 2006, establishing a new vocabulary that helped riders understand how to use their bodies to create a more harmonious ride. As her methods caught on, Janice was invited to teach Linda Parelli and her students, and to co-present clinics with USDF Gold medalist and Certified Instructor Sarah Martin, which propelled her to the frontlines of a new form of training that ensured happier, more comfortable horses, as well as better, more satisfied riders.

“From Intro to Grand Prix riders, I see that my work elicits change,” Janice says today, reflecting on the past 10 years. “I see horses stop swishing their tails. I see riders learn how to open their hips and stay in the saddle at the sitting trot and canter. I see horses round up without being cranked down with the hands. I see riders learn how to have a steady contact. I see happy horses. I see happy riders.

“In the 10 years since PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER was published, my riding and my life has changed. I’m now a USDF Bronze medalist, working toward the Silver this year, and with all the wonderful comments I have received on my books, DVDs, and clinics, I am inspired to continue researching and sharing what I learn. Moving up the levels, it becomes apparent that my work is not done. There is so much more to explain and teach to help riders. For all of you struggling dressage riders, there is hope.”

Janice’s Pilates for Dressage program took her from being unable to sit the trot, to within reach of her USDF Silver, as well as helping thousands of others. She gives us more than hope…she gives us a way forward.

In honor of the 10th Anniversary of PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER, the book and DVD are both 20% off from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE. (Offer good until June 15, 2016.)

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

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The inner circle of the best of the equestrian best is not a large one, and considering the length and breadth of the “horse world,” few of us will ever have the opportunity to step inside it. The responsibility to share what the experts and pros have earned over their lifetimes of hard work and devotion—wisdom gleaned from years of riding, training, and striving for horse-and-rider harmony—therefore falls to those who have earned a place at the table.

As the first editor for Dressage Today magazine, and the technical editor for most of the years since the magazine’s beginning in 1994, Beth Baumert has been in constant contact with the best dressage riders, trainers, and judges in the world. Over time, exposure, and because of her natural interest and curiosity, she has accrued a unique understanding of the practical ways riders can learn to harness the balance, energies, and forces at play when they’re in the saddle. We recently caught up with Beth and asked her about the book she has written to help disseminate all she’s learned from “the best of the equestrian best” over the years.

 

TSB: Your new book WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS is partly the result of your many years as Technical Editor at Dressage Today magazine, which gave you access to the best trainers and top riders from all over the world. What’s one memory you have of interviewing or working with a famous equestrian?

BB: My best memories are of interviewing Hubertus Schmidt. We did quite a few articles together, and he puts a lot of effort into explaining things in a way that he thinks people will really understand. His English has become extremely good over the years (and he talks faster than anyone I’ve ever interviewed). He tries to refine the nuances of our language in a very impressive way. It’s quite obvious that he cares. When I finish one of my articles with him, we go over it carefully to be sure everything is clear. Not everyone cares that much.

 

TSB: You were recently interviewed on the Dressage Radio Show (Horse Radio Network) and you stated that writing WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS was something you did partly out of selfishness. Can you explain what you meant?

BB: I should probably say that gathering the information (not writing the book) was done partly out of selfishness. Interviewing the best riders and trainers was—and is—very enriching. In interviews, I never try to make the experts’ information gel with what I think. I’m always an open book because I want to learn as much as I possibly can about how to train dressage horses. The horses and riders in my barns (in Connecticut and in Florida) benefit enormously from the knowledge of these experts. I don’t think I wrote the book out of selfishness. Compiling my thoughts and illustrating them was, frankly, rather tedious, but ultimately rewarding when I hear that it’s helping riders. I never get tired of hearing that.

 

TSB: Your book describes four physical “Powerlines” that help riders become more balanced and effective in the saddle. Where did you get the idea for the “Powerlines”?

BB: It’s hard to say because I’ve thought of the positive energy of a stretchy body as “Powerlines” for a long time. It might have begun with Sally Swift when she first discovered the importance of being “grounded” as a rider. That was after her first book, CENTERED RIDING, was published.

 

Here you see all the Powerlines at work: The Vertical Powerline goes from ear, shoulder, hip, to heel; the rider uses the Spiraling Powerline as she turns slightly to the left; her elastic Connecting Powerline goes from elbow to bit; her Visual Powerline points the way. Find out more about Beth Baumert's Powerlines in her new book.

Here you see all the Powerlines at work: The Vertical Powerline goes from ear, shoulder, hip, to heel; the rider uses the Spiraling Powerline as she turns slightly to the left; her elastic Connecting Powerline goes from elbow to bit; her Visual Powerline points the way. Find out more about Beth Baumert’s Powerlines in her new book WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN.

 

TSB: You actively train horses and teach riders at your farm Cloverlea Dressage LLC. What is the most common issue you see in your riding students? What is the usual solution?

BB: Riders are inclined to treat half-halts as if they’re sort of mysterious—as if they can only be mastered by experts. Their expectations are often too low. Half-halts are not mysterious, and anyone can do one. I tell riders how to do a half-halt (I outline this in WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS), and I ask them to do them rather frequently. Then I ask: “Did that one work? No? He quit behind? Okay, no problem. Do it again with a little more seat and leg. Did that one work?” And so on.

 

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember sitting on a horse.

BB: I’m not sure I remember specifically, but I wasn’t very young. I was given a horse—a green jumper mare—when my father died. I was 16, and she helped me through a hard time. She was a great horse.

 

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember falling off a horse.

BB: I don’t remember the first time, but I remember the last time was off one of my daughter Jennifer’s horses. He dashed me into the stones below so fast that I never saw it coming. It was stunningly impressive.

 

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

BB: Honesty

 

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

BB: Again, honesty. Almost all horses are honest. When we say a horse isn’t “honest,” it often means he never learned that “this aid means that.” Lack of clarity in the riding.

 

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

BB: Butter. There’s nothing that doesn’t taste divine when it has a stick of butter in it.

 

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

BB: They say that a mother is never happier than her least happy child, and there’s some truth in that. I’m happiest when the people who are dear to me are happy and fulfilled.

 

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

BB: With family or friends by the pool in Wellington, Florida. It doesn’t matter what we’re eating, but if Jennifer cooked, it’s always good.

 

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

BB: I’m shy with famous people and feel especially distant if they’re dead.

 

TSB: What is your motto?

BB: Honesty works, even when it makes you unpopular.

 

TwoSpinesHere

Beth Baumert’s book WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS has been called “timeless” by dressage judge Axel Steiner and “desperately needed” by former US Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe George Morris. It is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

 

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

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