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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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CharlotteDujardin-horseandriderbooks

We at TSB are simply thrilled to be the US publisher of Charlotte Dujardin’s autobiography THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE, which will be released in the States on Friday, March 16, 2018.

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.

Dujardin began riding horses at the age of two, but dressage was the domain of the rich–not the life a girl from a middleclass family was born into. Her parents sacrificed to give her as many opportunities as they could, and she left school at 16 to focus on equestrian competition. It was at 22, when she was invited to be a groom for British Olympian Carl Hester, that she met the equine partner that would change her fortune.

THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE shares this story, beginning with Charlotte’s early years restarting naughty ponies and following her equestrian evolution, which eventually led to the Olympic arena and gold medals, as she competed against the best in the world. Readers get an honest look at the road Charlotte took to reach the top, and along the way they gain an intimate understanding of who she is and why she and Valegro were able to connect with each other and develop such an unparalleled partnership.

There are many fascinating details readers learn in the pages of Charlotte’s autobiography. Here are 10 you probably (maybe) didn’t already know:

1 Charlotte grew up battling dyslexia, which led to anxiety at school. But as much as she feared a spelling test, as a child she was never nervous at a horse show. The bigger the crowd, the better. (That changed when she had to memorize dressage tests!)

2 Early in her development as a dressage rider, Charlotte struggled with her sitting trot. So she took up swimming to help develop her core strength, clocking in 50-70 lengths each morning before heading to the barn.

3 Charlotte wears false nails because she wants to disguise her “old lady hands” and arthritic knuckles from years of working and riding outside in the wet and cold.

4 At the barn where she rode with Carl Hester, there was a long concrete driveway that riders would walk the horses up before and after work, and when Charlotte first started at Carl’s, she would always try and finish schooling at the same time as him so they could ride up the driveway together and she could work up the courage to talk to him.

5 Charlotte never rode in a helmet at home and wore a top hat to show until she was bucked off into the wall of the arena one day and ended up in the hospital with a skull fracture. Now she schools and shows in a helmet.

6 Charlotte’s fiancé went to the horse show where they first met intending to find himself a girlfriend. He thought it a likely venue for available young women!

7 The first time Charlotte and Valegro competed against Carl was in a Prix St Georges class at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in May 2009. Charlotte and Valegro won.

8 In 2010 Charlotte lost a bet (by winning a test with Valegro) and had to jump into a hot tub in her riding clothes.

9 Valegro loves performing. There are never monsters lurking in corners or waiting in the flowerpots to get him. He’s always focused and always reliable.

10 Before the Olympics in Rio, Charlotte had a feeling it should be Valegro’s final competition. She wanted him to finish at the top where everybody would remember him as the best horse there was. She didn’t want him to end his career as an older horse, not able to give what he once could. Retiring him while he was still at his best was what she felt was the right thing to do.

Girl on Dancing HorseThe first 100 people to order THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE from the Trafalgar Square Books online bookstore will receive an autographed copy! Plus, shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to order your copy now.

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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JLG-Genius

Before we published HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST, I knew of Jack Le Goff. I knew of him the way any once-young-and-aspiring eventer would: through stories shared by the trainers I rode with through the years, as well as those very fine horsemen and women I’ve had the honor of working with during my tenure at TSB. He existed in my mind as a formidable individual, one who hesitated not in turning the screw in order to elicit improved performance. I knew he was a great coach, but his name caused the same quake-in-my-boots fear that George Morris’s always did…and it also raised the question that any rider with even a smidgeon of self-doubt will admit: Had I been born at the right time under the right star and found myself under his tutelage, would I have found the resolve and personal strength to flourish…to become truly accomplished in the saddle?

In HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST, we hear of plenty who did flourish with Le Goff as their guide and coach. But what helps is not that they succeeded where I admittedly think I would likely have failed (in that fantasy where I am an elite rider during the heyday of US eventing), but that Le Goff shares his strategies: how and when he chose to be hard or soft, why he’d settle on keeping or losing his temper, and what his reasoning was behind decisions he made concerning coaching and the teams he led. So now we see the path to the medal, but we don’t just hear about the fences cleared, we also know about the tears, the injuries, the heartbreak. The times riders tried, and failed, and tried again. And we come to understand the passion for the horse felt by all involved, perhaps most profoundly Le Goff’s own.

Larger lessons aside, there are also hundreds of fascinating facts and historical notes throughout the book. Here are 10 that stayed with me:

1 In the notoriously hard 9-month course at the Cadre Noir, “students rode eight horses a day for a total of eight hours or more.” Le Goff writes. “For the first three months, six of those eight hours were without stirrups, so the breeches were more often red with blood than any other color…. In the evening, we had to do book work, and we all spent that time sitting in buckets of water with a chemical in it to toughen the skin.”

2 At the Olympics in 1956, the Russian eventing team only had one helmet for three riders, and passed it from one to the other after each performance.

3 Britain’s Sheila Wilcox won Badminton three times and in 1957 at the age of 21 became European Champion, but was never allowed to compete in the Olympics because she was a woman.

4 American rider Kevin Freeman helped save a horse from drowning by holding his head up in a flooded river at the Olympics in Mexico in 1968.

5 Bruce Davidson didn’t know what a diagonal was when he first started riding with Le Goff. Two years later he competed in the Olympic Games.

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Tad Coffin with his copy of Le Goff’s autobiography.

6 You should walk a cross-country course as if that is the ONLY time you’ll be able to walk it. You should have total concentration and envision how you will ride it. A walk simply to get a first impression is a wasted walk.

7 Today, people learn to compete before they learn to ride, and that makes it difficult for them to be truly competitive and to progress to other levels.

8 There is no instant dressage like instant coffee. You can go out and buy a top-level horse if you have enough money, but the true rider should be able to “make” his or her own horse. In eventing, there are often “pilots” who “fly” or ride the horse, and mechanics who prepare him, train and condition him. But the true horseman does both.

9 Although he was a brilliant rider, Tad Coffin did not believe how good he was, so while Le Goff would intentionally infuriate some riders to get them to perform, he would instead look for ways to give Tad confidence.

10 The riding coach who is looking to be popular will not produce the desired results, and the rider who does not accept discipline “may be better suited to another pursuit,” Le Goff writes. “Crochet comes to mind!”

I’m certain you’ll find many other tidbits that motivate you or make you laugh or look at your riding differently in this book. Most importantly, by reading Le Goff’s book, you, too, will be able to share his stories and spread his philosophy. And through us all, the best of Jack Le Goff, the man George Morris called “a genius,” will live on.

 

 

HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST is available from the Trafalgar Square Books online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

—Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor

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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CDTransitions

In Jessica Black’s book COWBOY DRESSAGE, she explains Eitan Beth-Halachmy’s riding and training philosophy. One point they do an excellent job clarifying involves transitions: what they are, how to prepare for them, and how to make them good.

Anytime the horse changes his gait or frame, he performs a transition. Going from the walk to the jog is a transition, for example; changing the frame, as in working jog to free jog, is also a transition. The goal for any transition is to make a smooth change of gait or frame (without altering the rhythm). This means staying straight or remaining on a bend, and keeping the back supple and the head and neck relaxed with light contact.

The horse should be engaged: all transitions start in the hindquarters, thus keeping the front end light. Transitions are an opportunity for the rider to bring the horse back into frame. It is particularly important not to over-train with transitions; always stop after one or two good executions.

Teaching transitions starts on the ground as part of building the foundation through leading, lunging, long-lining, and ground driving. These will establish a pattern of obedience that carries over to work under saddle. Even at the earliest stages of training, procure that the horse stay relaxed and supple. Don’t set your horse up for failure by asking too much. This is true for work under saddle as well as on the ground. If the horse does not understand, encourage him to move forward before asking for transitions again. Sometimes it can even be a good idea to put the horse up, and continue the next day.

Teaching transitions is not something you suddenly decide to do one day; you teach them all the time. Keep in mind that every communication with your horse is a teaching moment. The Cowboy Dressage emphasis on lightness will help make each transition work toward a better partnership.

Soft Feel, with its four facets, is an ideal approach to transitions:

Preparation, that is, asking the horse clearly what you want him to do.

Execution, that is, the horse’s interpretation of your requests.

Release, that is, the reward for the horse’s compliance.

Relaxation, that is, the result of effective communication with the horse continuing calmly to the next movement.

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Let’s consider transitions between gaits. The most important point to remember about changing gaits is that the change starts in the back of the horse, which moves forward into the transition. This will mean shortening the frame slightly in order to bring the horse together before executing the transition. The horse should make the transition smoothly and calmly. In general, if the horse is on a straight line or a bend when you start the transition, he should be on (the same) straight line or bend when he finishes it.

Sometimes you will want to change the gait at the same time you change direction (straightness/bend). This can be useful for practicing transitions: changing to a bend can make it easier to pick up the lope, for example. Cowboy Dressage tests may ask for changes of gait or frame at the same time that you go from straight to bend, or vice versa.

One of the best things a rider can do to ensure good transitions is become familiar with the gaits, and pay close attention to the pattern of hoof beats. Familiarize yourself with the walk, jog, and lope, by looking at the many diagrams available that demonstrate each step. Videos can also provide clear demonstrations of how the horse moves at each gait. Once you are familiar with how each movement should look, spend time watching horses move. Observing your horses play is not only good for the soul, it is good for the rider’s brain. Watching horses move freely in the pasture can help you become familiar with gaits, and this familiarity will make teaching them under saddle easier.

When you ride, feel the movement of the horse as his hooves strike the ground. Practice identifying where each foot is at the walk, jog, and lope. At the free jog, it can be very useful to post, paying attention to your diagonal (the horse’s  front foot with which the rider rises when posting). As you rise, the opposite hind foot is coming forward. Learn to recognize the diagonal movement of the horse’s feet at the jog. All these details will inform your decisions about where and how to ask your horse to change gaits.

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COWBOY DRESSAGE is available 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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