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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLICK HERE for more information.

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

 

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

DR. BOB GRISEL

TIK MAYNARD

JEC ARISTOTLE BALLOU

KENDRA GALE

JEANNE ABERNETHY

YVONNE BARTEAU

JONATHAN FIELD

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

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

 

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NEDASymposium-horseandriderbooks

A full house at the 2018 NEDA Fall Symposium featuring Charlotte Dujardin.

TSB was, along with hundreds of others, lucky enough to attend the New England Dressage Association Fall Symposium, hosted by Mount Holyoke Equestrian Center in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Despite beginning in the rain and ending in the cold, it was a beautifully organized event. Hats off to those who planned and ran the operations, decorated the facility with fabulous flair, and ensured everyone there a positive and immensely educational experience.

We were thrilled to be able to bring Charlotte’s autobiography THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE to North America early in 2018, following its major release in her home country across the pond. Charlotte graciously signed hundreds of books for appreciative fans over the weekend in South Hadley, and the thrilled recipients of photos and autographs spilled out of the indoor at the end of each day.

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Charlotte Dujardin with TSB Managing Editor Rebecca Didier.

Of most value, though, was Charlotte’s insight when it came to riding and training, and all in the audience—whatever our age, ability, or riding level—had something to gain from watching the lessons each day. We collected 20 of our favorite quotes from the pages of notes we took to share here.

And yes, she really did mention transitions that many times (it was actually many, many more!)

THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE. CLICK HERE for more information.

20QuotesfromCharlotteDujardin-horseandriderbooks

“Does it mean you will ‘make it’ if your horse is big or small or long or short? No, none of that should really matter.”

“Every transition you ride should be a good one, because this is your foundation.”

“Every person is able and capable, whatever horse you ride, of riding good transitions. It is just about being willing to work on it.”

“For young horses, 20 minutes of work is enough. This is hard for one-horse riders because you feel you should do more.”

“Learn to love your right rein as much as you love the left one.”

“We get so ‘precious,’ we are overthinking ‘doing’ dressage, we end up too busy, when all you need to do is get the horse to think forward.”

“How many transitions should you ride in a session? Hundreds.”

“Don’t override. Let your horse make a mistake, then correct it.”

“People say so many things and make dressage so complicated, but it really isn’t. Half-halt and the horse should come back. Touch with the leg and he should GO. It is black and white.”

“It’s not difficult to make good transitions; all it is is discipline.”

“Hot horses need your legs on and easy horses need your legs off, and it is terribly difficult to do.”

“I tend to go for horses that look really basic and normal, but when I get on, I get that feeling…”

“There are four kinds of canter. Why do we get stuck in one kind? We’d rather feel safe.”

“Can I bend it, can I stretch it, can I straighten it, can I collect it? That’s a supple horse.”

“Training never just goes up. It goes up and down continuously.”

“The best stretch you get from the horse is at the end of the session.”

“That’s what we call slap the rider, pat the horse.”

“A good horse has to be able to do two things: sit and push.”

“People are so quick to want to teach the tricks, and then simple things, like cantering the centerline to a square halt can’t be done correctly.”

“The tricks are the easy part. The basics are the things that bite you in the bum all the way out.”

Read more from Charlotte in her book THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE, available 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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DressageTrainingInHandMain-horseandriderbooks

Kathrin Roida is a classical dressage devotee who has learned the value of using groundwork to prepare youngsters for later work and foster the proper, conscientious development of older horses in training. Gymnastic work in-hand is now her specialty, and her new book DRESSAGE TRAINING IN-HAND shares her techniques, exploring how they help horses of different ages, breeds, and training backgrounds.

“Over the course of my riding life, I’ve become more and more convinced of the value of gymnastic work in hand,” says Roida. “This applies both to young horses, who develop good body awareness and the balance necessary to prepare for being ridden, and to older, trained horses where I’ve reached a plateau in their schooling under saddle. In-hand work is also extremely valuable when working with ‘project’ horses that are being retrained or rehabilitated—sometimes, it’s the only way for these horses to get sound again.”

Roida’s work doesn’t stop with the traditional in-hand exercises; she is a proponent for liberty work as a complement to daily training routines, whatever your horse’s “job” might be.

“When working at liberty,” she explains, “all that was learned in hand can be called upon, without even a bridle. This work is a mirror reflecting your relationship with the horse.

“At Frédéric Pignon’s farm in France, I got my first glimpse of liberty work. It brings me great pleasure when I can call upon these exercises without the use of bridle or halter…. In liberty work, shoulder control is the be all and end all. One must be able to control the horse using the whip and body language.

“It’s important to me that the horse does not get dull. I like to see a spark in the horse’s eye during this work—not a dull horse that’s eye gives the impression that he’s trying to be ‘so good.’ Just as with any other type of work, liberty work must be done in the right amount, otherwise the horse will get tired of it and, despite the freedom, it becomes forced. Accomplishing this is an art that only few people understand. In my mind, Frédéric Pignon and Magali Delgado are two such people, and I consider the way they handle and relate to their horses the ideal example. I hope to someday reach their level, so I continually work on myself.

“We trainers, especially, must constantly remind ourselves not to allow our work to settle into a ‘day in, day out’ routine. We can’t just follow a routine, executing our ‘agenda’ for one horse after the next. When this occurs, it’s our relationship with our horses that suffers.

“With occasional liberty work, our horse has the chance to show us, with unmistakable clarity, what he thinks about our relationship. Then, we need, again, to self-reflect, asking how we can work on ourselves. My personal goal is to always see and reflect upon the mirror the horse provides me, and in doing so, to maintain the sparkle in his eye.

“As long as you have the possibility to work with horses, you should see it as a huge opportunity to also continue your own personal development, never ceasing to learn new things or believing that you already know it all. A good trainer sees her horses as a mirror and will continue to confront her own weaknesses over the course of her lifetime. Our horses offer us an incredible opportunity to build character!”

DRESSAGE TRAINING IN-HAND by Kathrin Roida 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 DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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FutureIsthePast-horseandriderbooks

In 2017 and together with Kenilworth Press in the UK, TSB released the book SPORT HORSE SOUNDNESS AND PERFORMANCE by Dr. Cecilia Lönnell. George Morris was an enthusiastic supporter of the premise of Dr. Lönnell’s book, and so wrote a detailed foreword that makes many points that are of great value to all of those within the horse industry who are striving to do better by the horses we ride, train, and love. Here, in its entirety, is George’s foreword:

I’ve known Cecilia Lönnell for a long time, having shown extensively in Sweden and taught many, many clinics there over the years. I’m very fond of her and fond of that country. To be asked to participate in a book that also features such an illustrious young group of equestrian superstars is a great honor.

What Cecilia has done here is she’s gone back to the past and at the same time shown how knowledge from solid experience is supported by modern equine veterinary research. Nothing here is new, and that, with horses, is always better. I never in my life spent in equestrian sport pretended to reinvent the wheel. I was a copier. I copied Bert de Némethy. I copied Gordon Wright as a teacher. I copied Bill Steinkraus. To this day my whole day is spent trying to understand old, classic principles. Be it teaching, be it riding, be it training, be it care of the horse – that is all I try to do, every day of my life. Gordon Wright used to say, “Nothing is new, we just do it better and quicker than we used to.” And that’s what we get from the best horsemen – it isn’t new, it just might be better and quicker.

Here, Cecilia has encapsulated all the points it takes to produce a horse – be it a pleasure horse or an Olympic horse, it doesn’t matter. The points laid out on these pages are about what is best for the horse. Often in competitive riding, in all disciplines, we go off on tangents that are contrary to the best interests of the horse. Artificial devices, artificial footing – this is not what’s best for the horse.

 

When you talk about horses and you talk about horse sport as Cecilia is, your first consideration is the management of the horse. If you buy a Hickstead or an Azur and send him to a third-rate boarding house, in about two seconds, you’re going to have a third-rate horse. The most important thing is what the great old Virginia horsewoman and trainer of Conrad Homfeld and Joe Fargis Frances Rowe used to call “beautiful care”: how the barn is set up, the bedding of the stall, the feed programme, the vet, the equine dentist, the farrier, the quality of the grooming – it all should be  beautiful care. Many of the riders quoted in this book are more hands-on in terms of stable management than I ever was, but our mission is the same: to give our horses  beautiful care.

The greatest horsemen in the world – and I’m not necessarily talking about riding here – are the English. They always have been. Now I’m not saying the French, the Germans, the Swedes, the Dutch aren’t good horsemen – they’re all great and each is different – but I’ve traveled just about every country in the world and as far as the care and management of the horse, the greatest horsemen in the world are the English. That’s why all the continental riders get English grooms to take care of their horses – horse care is in their blood. Being an American from the Northeast part of the country, I grew up with an offshoot of English horsemanship, and the whole thing is based on  natural: turning horses out, riding through the country. Carl Hester revolutionized dressage because he approached it from a technical, scientific point of view, but allowed his English horsemanship to take it to a different level. We all know he is, yes, a very talented rider, but what really “woke up” the dressage world is that he hacks his horses out, turns his horses out, shows that dressage horses should not be circus animals confined in stalls. He, and many other contributors to this book, assert that this should be the standard.

Bert de Némethy, who was a Hungarian trained in Germany, managed the US equestrian team beautifully during his tenure, and he always had us work our horses on different surfaces – something that Beezie Madden notes as key in this book and is also supported by scientists. We would base at Aachen and Bert would have us ride gymnastics on the turf fields (which are now some of the warm-up rings) but often we also rode in the old dressage ring where the footing was quite deep. I would cheat with my hot horses that were above the bit – I would get them on the bit by tiring them out in that deep sand. But we rode on the roads, we rode on the turf, we rode in sand. Today too many horses are always worked on the same artificial “perfect” footing, as some call it.

After management of the horse, the next most important consideration is selection of a horse for his rider and for his “job.” And this is just as applicable to a school horse as it is to Big Star. The school horse is just as valuable as Big Star. Actually, everyone knows there’s nothing as valuable as a top school horse! Selecting the right horse for a particular rider and a particular job depends on a mix of experience and instinct – some people, even laymen who maybe aren’t so experienced, they have an eye for a horse, whether the best fit for an amateur hunter rider, a top dressage rider, a four-star eventer, whatever. The great thing about this book is that Cecilia has included this kind of information, and it is dispensed by individuals who are current, they are champions, people know them. They’re not people like myself, out of the dark ages. Their advice is all very relevant, and they are all saying the same thing.

Next you get to my pet peeve: the way people ride their horses. The United States historically has always been very weak in dressage. It is an afterthought. In the early days we had Thoroughbred horses that were so courageous and so special that we fudged dressage. Now we’ve finally caught up, and England has caught up, but “fudging dressage” is still haunting the world, because I go all over the world and people are faking it everywhere. Faking it and tying horses down is crippling horses. There was a great about-face five  or six years ago because of Rollkur. Overflexing horses is very damaging to the horse, and luckily, it has taken a swing for the better. However, it is not good enough, especially in the jumpers – event horses and dressage horses have to more or less stay to the correct line because they are judged, but jumpers, they just strap them down, tie them down, put this on them, that on them, and away they go. The sport community – jumpers, eventers, dressage riders, and I mean in every country – must address how we work the horse, that whatever the discipline, it should be according to classical principles. The dressage work for sport horses has been a weak link, probably throughout history. And it still is a weak link. And I will speak up about it. It’s not rocket science. There are books hundreds of years old that tell you how to work a horse!

ARHORS

Like this one!

In addition to not fudging dressage, great riders don’t overjump. The two cripplers of a horse are footing and jumping. Knowing this, all the great riders don’t overjump. We work a horse every day for condition, for discipline, for rideability. A friend of mine, Peder Fredricson (a Swede), he works the horse beautifully, so I will pick him out. He works a horse without auxiliary reins, he’s had a vast background in correct dressage, and I watched him at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where his quality of work was rewarded as he won individual silver. I am closely aligned to Beezie Madden – I know she’s not an overjumper. Laura Kraut is definitely not an overjumper. John Whitaker, my idol of all the people I’ve ever seen, since I started riding – he’s my idol of idols – he hacks out, he walks on roads, he doesn’t overjump his horses. I was a driller when I was young. I drilled horses and was a culprit of overjumping. That’s how I know that overjumping is the kiss of the death. At best a horse gets stale, at worst he gets sore or lame.

These three important points – management, selection, and how we ride – are the topics Cecilia has pulled together in this book under the auspices of the superstars and scientists of today, giving old information credibility. And in some ways it’s all old news…but it’s forgotten news. Lots of young people today, they’re so competition-oriented, they forgot the whole point. Horse show horse show horse show. Ranking ranking ranking. I wouldn’t still be doing this sport the way I still do it, teaching and riding, if that was all it was. That is very, very limited. These “desperate housewives” and “weekend warriors,” as I call them, have not yet been influenced to understand the point. And that is the point of this book. When I was under the tutelage of Bert de Némethy, we were a very classy group of young guys – we could afford to live well. But we learned from him and our other trainers in those days, the point was the daily work, the dressage, the beautiful care. The horse show was just an occasional test that showed us where we were in relation to the other people; then we went home and took care of our horses, schooled our horses. But a lot of people at horse shows today, all over the world – it’s not just one country – they’ve lost the plot of what this is about. It’s not just about rankings, points, and selection for championships – that’s the icing on the cake.

Cecilia has done a great service to the sport: What she has gathered here is so correct, all going back to the past, but couched in modern perspective. People say about me, “Oh, he’s old fashioned. The sport has passed him.” Well, the greatest compliment I can get as a horseman is that I’m old-fashioned. The sport has not passed me; there’s nothing different about working a horse the classical way, about caring for him as suits his nature. The future is the past.

–George H. Morris

 

SportHorseSoundnessFinal-horseandriderbooksSPORT HORSE SOUNDNESS AND PERFORMANCE is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE. 

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

And if you are interested in more from George Morris, UNRELENTING, his bestselling autobiography, is also available.

CLICK HERE to read more George. 

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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HorsemanTikMaynard-horseandriderbooks

Tik Maynard spent several months learning from Bruce Logan in Loving, Texas.

In his new memoir IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN, TSB author Tik Maynard tells a story about how he submitted his first query letter to a publisher:

I spent weeks writing, editing, and re-editing my query letter to them. I finally took a deep breath, and hit send.

Opened a vein.

I did not hear back from them.

Not for four-and-a-half years.

In 2016 we reached out to Tik, having read a piece he wrote for Practical Horseman Magazine. We were impressed by his writing and inquired as to whether he was interested in writing a book. Needless to say we were pretty horrified to discover that he had actually submitted a concept to us years before, and somehow we had not responded in any way, shape, or form! Explanation as to how this faux pas might have occurred aside, we were thrilled to eventually sync up, and the result, we at TSB feel, is something pretty special.

IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN chronicles Tik’s experiences—good and bad—as a working student in the horse industry. This unglamorous “apprenticeship” position is never a walk in the park, and Tik had his share of frustrating and demoralizing episodes. But they were balanced by a steady progression in knowledge and understanding of what it takes to train, ride, and care for horses. Readers find themselves transfixed, following along as one year becomes three, what began as a casual adventure gradually transforms, and a life’s purpose comes sharply into focus.

We recently caught up with Tik—who is not only on the road teaching clinics and promoting the release of his book, but is also expecting a baby with wife Sinead Halpin in the fall. With such a big year ahead, we thought it best to ask him some of life’s most important questions.

 

TikMaynard-horseandriderbooks

Exploring the world of eventing on his horse Sapphire.

 

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?

TM: First, lets hope its a big island with lots of grass and fresh water for the horse.

As for breed, I like all horses, so probably something useful for whatever type of island I’m on. Like maybe a heavy horse so I can pull logs to make a boat? Or a Thoroughbred if it was a big island and I had to get around a lot.

As for a book: The Grapes of Wrath.  

 

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

TM: Compete in Road to the Horse.

 

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

TM: That we can laugh at jokes and laugh at ourselves.

 

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

TM: I’m kind of weird; I like all horses. But wait, is soundness a quality? I would want a really healthy, sound horse. I have a lot of patience with horses, but rehabbing horses can stretch it.

 

TikMaynard2-horseandriderbooks

Tik laughing with his wife (and best friend) Sinead.

 

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

TM: Right at this moment, that something will happen to my wife or my kid during the next few months. If that is too serious for this Q-and-A, then total baldness.

 

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

TM: My walnut desk, made in the United States, and the merlot-red leather chair that I bought at the same time. It easily cost three times what I would have spent on desk—I could probably have gotten one at a garage sale—but I love it so much. My father-in-law paid for it, and I will always remember him when I sit at it to write.

 

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

TM: Well, I love singing, and I always say that singing should be judged based on enthusiasm rather than skill. But secretly I have always wished that when I sang all my notes didn’t sound the same to other people.

 

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

TM: Everything I like gets eaten, and it’s all the stuff I don’t like that is in my refrigerator all the time—like the blue cheese somebody bought for us at Christmas. Or the deli meats that my wife bought before she went away for five days to teach a clinic. I don’t eat most meats, so I usually end up giving them to Zeppo, our perfect, black-and-white dog. 

Growing up with two brothers, I learned quick to eat the good stuff right away. I love chocolate milk, for example, but that never lasts.

 

 

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

TM: Having just the right number of projects in my life. Too many and I get stressed, too few and I feel unproductive.

Also of course, the right kinds of projects. I loved writing this book, but at the same time I was working on my Green Card application, which was not a fun thing to do on a rainy afternoon.  (And yes, I just got my Green Card! I’m from Vancouver, BC, originally.)

 

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

TM: Most of the famous people I admire probably aren’t great conversationalists.  Legends from the horse world, like Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Reiner Klimke, well… I guess I would rather watch them ride, or ride with them, than sit down for a chat with them. 

And writers are often known for being better at writing than speaking. I love Steinbeck—I could read his books all day!—but I don’t know if I would want to meet with him. It might take away from how cool he is in my mind.  

I guess if I were to have a conversation with somebody famous, I would probably choose somebody good at talking, somebody funny…. Maybe Ellen Degeneres?

 

TikMaynard3-horseandriderbooks

Tik (on the bike) with his brother Telf, father Canadian show jumper Rick Maynard, and Honey.

 

TSB: What’s your motto?

TM: “What’s a motto?”

“Nothing. What’s a motto with you?”

LOL. That (obviously) is Pumbaa, Simba, and Timon.

I don’t really have a motto, but what I’m most excited about right now is Sinead and I are having a son—due in September—and I’m really looking forward to watching kids’ movies. The Lion King, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles. And my favorite: The Sound of Music! I could watch The Sound Of Music over and over.

 

TSB: You didn’t answer the question.

TM: Okay, if you really push me for a motto it would be something in between two mottos that I like. “Do your best,” is the first, and “Give yourself permission to not be perfect, so you can be great,” is the second.

Which brings us full circle, because in the middle are the horsemen.  

 

In the Middle Are the Horsemen-horseandriderbooksTik Maynard’s new book IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN 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.

 

In the Vancouver area? Check out Tik’s book launch party at the Southlands Riding Club clubhouse, Friday, June 22, beginning at 6:30 pm. All are welcome!

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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GirlandtheDancingHorse-horseandriderbooks

Charlotte Dujardin and her charismatic horse Valegro burst onto the international sports scene with their record–breaking performance at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The world was captivated by the young woman with the dazzling smile and her dancing horse. The YouTube clip of their Freestyle performance has since had over 1.7 million views, and Dujardin is considered the dominant dressage rider of her era. When Valegro (affectionately called “Blueberry”) retired from competition at the end of 2016, his farewell performance at the Olympia Grand Hall sold out and the dark bay gelding received a standing ovation.

But what about “before” the stardom? Dujardin’s journey began at the age of two when she first began riding her family’s ponies, and Valegro’s on July 5, 2002, when he was born on Burgh Haamstede, an island in the Netherlands, of dressage horse lineage. Dujardin’s autobiography THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE shares how their two paths would eventually meet, and become one high road to unparalleled success.

Here, in Dujardin’s words, are what she remembers about the first (and second!) time she saw Valegro:

The first time I saw Valegro was at Addington in the summer of 2006. He was being ridden by Carl [Hester], who also owned him, and I can honestly say I was blown away. His canter was huge, absolutely huge, and even though it looked a bit out of control, he looked like he’d be so much fun to ride.

One of the things that immediately jumped out about him was the way he was built: he was a complete and utter powerhouse. Nowadays you see a lot of thoroughbred-type dressage horses with very elegant, long legs, but Valegro was much more of an old-fashioned, stocky stamp – a real-leg-in-each-corner type. He completely filled your eye, but he also had a pretty, dished face like a seahorse’s, and even then he looked like he only wanted to please.

I saw him again, a few months later, at the Nationals, where he won the Shearwater Four-Year-Old Championship. He left the same impression on me as last time – here was a horse that stood out from all the rest. Dez and I were entered for the Elementary class at the Nationals where we finished third, which was a good result because as we were warming up it started to rain. Not just a little bit of rain, but torrential, thundering, lightning, fill-your-boots-up-with-water rain. My boots actually did fill up with water and I could feel it sloshing all round my legs; my saddle was so slippery I couldn’t sit on it, I could hardly hold my reins, and Dez was curling up like a hedgehog because he wanted to get out of it so badly. There wasn’t a single part of me that was dry, the arenas were all underwater and everything and everybody was soaked.

I carried on warming up, trying to make the best of it, but then suddenly the class was suspended: the judges, who were sitting in their cars around the arena, had had their ignitions on so they could use their windscreen wipers, but it had been raining so hard for so long that their batteries had all gone flat.

Girl on Dancing HorseIt was brilliant timing for me. I ran back to the stables, dried Fernandez off and got him a new saddle-cloth, then tried to dry myself. My coat was too wet to put back on, but I managed to borrow someone else’s; I somehow then managed to change my breeches, empty the water out of my boots, pull myself together, get myself back on and still be in the arena by the time the judges were ready to go again. It carried on raining throughout my test and we were sloshing through puddles with water sheeting up around us the whole time – I might as well have been riding on the beach.

 

THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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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IngridKlimke-horseandriderbooks

German Olympian Ingrid Klimke is an incredible horsewoman and author, and we’ve long admired her ability to balance her equestrian career with her family, as well as her commitment to educate others, just as her esteemed father Reiner Klimke always did. TSB caught up with Ingrid last month and had a chance to ask her a few questions about her new book and the year ahead.

TSB: You recently wrote TRAINING HORSES THE INGRID KLIMKE WAY, which shares many details about your training philosophy and the horses in your stable. In it, readers can really see how much each individual horse means to you. What is one lesson one of your horses has taught you that you feel has changed you, your riding, or how you work with horses?

IK: Abraxxas (“Braxxi”) taught me one really important lesson in my life: Horses, just like human beings, have strengths and weaknesses, and you have to accept that! Braxxi was always mostly great in the dressage and cross-country…but then the show jumping was not always easy. I eventually found there was no other way forward than to accept this and live with it and find other ways to make him strong. His gift to me was only one rail down in his last run at the CCI**** Burghley 2013!

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Ingrid on Braxxi with just a neck ring. Photo by Horst Streitferdt

TSB: It’s a WEG year—what are your hopes for the competition in Tryon, personally and for the German team?

IK: For sure, GOLD for the team and for Bobby (Hale Bob)!

TSB: Anyone who has tried to balance a riding life and a family will look at you with great admiration, as you compete at the very top of the international scene while still managing to be “Mom.” How do you balance your riding and training career with your family? Do you have any tips for the rest of us?

IK: Good organization is the key. With the perfect team and supporters you have the chance to make everything possible. I must give many thanks to my mum Ruth, as she is always there for me. And my barn manager Carmen, as she knows all the horses—and me—better than anybody else! #teamworkmakesthedreamwork

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Ingrid with her family: Andreas, Greta, and Philippa. Photo by Horst Streitferdt.

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?

IK: I would choose a blood horse, and I would take the book Ahlerich, which was written by my father.

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

IK: Cheese and fruit.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

IK: Perfect happiness for me is to gallop on the beach on a fast horse 🙂

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

IK: When I was two years old my mum put me on the back of a horse in the stable…

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

IK: …that same time with my mum…I fell off on the concrete!

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With daughter Philippa. Photo by Horst Streitferdt.

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

IK: I like a sense of humor. A good friend also needs to be tolerant so that we can be like we are and stay like we are.

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

IK: I like ambitious horses with personality 🙂 It’s great when they have a winning spirit. Its also very nice when they are good jumpers.

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

IK: I would love to ride across the Rocky Mountains.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

IK: Salad and pasta.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?

IK: In my perfect holiday I would love to be out in nature with wild animals, on horseback, along with great people. My partner pferdesafari fulfills this dream perfectly!

pferdesafari

Click image above to visit pferdesafari.

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

IK: Nelson Mandele.

TSB: What is your motto?

IK: Love what you do and do what you love.

 

Train Horse Ingrid Klimke

Click to Order!

Ingrid’s new book TRAINING HORSES THE INGRID KLIMKE WAY 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.

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