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Posts Tagged ‘equestrian’

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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HorseSpeakZeke-horseandriderbooks

Sharon Wilsie, founder of Horse Speak™ and author of the books Horse Speak: An Equine-Human Translation Guide (with Gretchen Vogel) and Horses in Translation, provides a guest post this week. Her books are available from the TSB online bookstore (click HERE) and watch for her new DVD, coming in November 2018.

I like coffee. Strong coffee. The kind of coffee that sends an aroma out, wafting through the house and creeping under the bedroom door around 6:00 a.m. when the automatic coffee maker has brewed the liquid gold. More often than not, the urge to get just “one more minute” is corralled by the opposite urge to get my first cup of that delicious stuff.

I am one of those “animal people” who finds themselves living amidst a slew of furry friends. Slumping toward the kitchen, I have to be careful to step around a sleeping dog and not to trip over the purring kitty convinced that the best thing to go with coffee is a can of cat food.

It’s late summer here in Vermont, and from our patio I can still enjoy the early morning sunrise through the deep mists of the forest surrounding our home. There are mountains to the south and a “good hill” to the north, where we can currently spy ducks and geese practicing their flight patterns.

The horses shift and snort down below in the little valley they call home. They live in total turnout, with run-in shelters to go into when the sun is high or the bugs are too intense. We have one intrepid escape artist, so the herd has to be locked behind a gate at night where the shelters are. But the “old man” is left loose, and he usually saunters up to enjoy my morning coffee with me.

Zeke stares at me now, as though he would like to fill me in on all the goings-on that took place during his night watch. Seems a raccoon got into the garbage bin again. Zeke let’s me know by staring toward the mess, which I had not noticed yet. I lift my cup to him, and nod my head, certain he chased the varmint away. He nods his head and lets out a prolonged snort. Zeke likes things to stay tidy around here. I have seen him pin his ears at a moose when it had the audacity to wander into the back acres.

The newest member of our family, a one-year-old lab mix named Willow, has been digging, bouncing, and sniffing around, and now sneaks up toward Zeke’s nose. He sniffs her, too, then for good measure pins his ears and looks away. She takes this as a signal to run at top speed around and around him for a few minutes while he stands still, looking very annoyed—but I suspect he secretly enjoys it, because they do this every day. She loves to go trail riding with us, and even though due to his advanced age Zeke is restricted to a 20-minute walk down a very level trail, he seems to prefer it if she comes along.

Because of his senior status, I had chosen not to ride him this summer, but he got steadily depressed. One day, when I was tacking up another horse in the riding ring, he sauntered up to the saddle, which was placed on the split-rail fence, and stood alongside it, perfectly still. I smiled at him but went ahead with riding the other horse. When we were done, he lay down in front of the riding ring gate. Immediately, I assumed he was sick and went to him. Upon standing up, he walked over to the saddle again, and put his nose on it.

Well! What was I to do?

I put the other horse away, and saddled Zeke. He marched me over to the trail head and insisted on trotting every chance he got.

Since then, I take him out once or twice a week. He has even opted to go up the dirt road near our home a few times. I try not to ride him more than 20 minutes at a time, but it is always my choice to dismount, he seems to be perfectly happy to keep going.

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Sharon and Zeke. Photo by Rich Neally

Our property has different levels of fencing on it for various turnout, but Zeke has the run of it most days. Sometimes in the early morning, he will walk up to the bedroom window and get the dog barking. When we look out the window and see his enquiring nose, we know he wants something, and its time to get up. This was the case one morning when the trash men came a little earlier than usual. Our driveway is more like a short road, and Zeke came to our window to wake us, then stood in the yard, facing the sound of the oncoming trash truck. We jumped up just in time to get the barrels up the driveway, and he even sauntered halfway up the lane to watch us transport the barrels out of the back of our pickup truck and into the garbagemen’s hands. We thanked Zeke for the wake-up call and scratched his belly—his favorite spot. Then he received his morning rations of soaked senior grain and hay stretcher, right next to the back patio where we typically have our morning coffee and enjoy the first light of the day.

I have known of many people who have a senior “lawn horse.” Zeke’s records are lost, so we don’t know exactly how old he is—but there are many years under his belt. I feel that his long career as a circus vaulting horse, a carriage horse, and a therapeutic riding horse have earned him the right to live a life of liberty and the pursuit of his own happiness. Each time I invite him to go riding, it starts with simply placing the saddle on the rails. If he wants to go, he walks over and puts his nose on it. If he is not in the mood, he doesn’t.

Zeke has had a series of mouth tumors over the past two years. He has lost two teeth and regularly deals with having the vet remove the bulk of a tumor when it interferes with his chewing. However, he barely even needs sedation for any of this and appears grateful to receive the aid. He suffered a serious hind-end injury somewhere in his past, because he has scars up and down his hind legs, and his rear ankles are quite enlarged. Despite this, he loves his life. He loves Dakota, the half-blind mare he lives with when we put him in a paddock when we need to leave the house. He whinnies and even canters around if I take her out for a ride. When Zeke first came here, he was in a lot of pain, and had become a serious biter. He was going to be put down, and I offered to adopt him instead. Dakota claimed him and became his “alpha mare” in about two minutes, and they have been together ever since. She even taught me how to work with and around him safely.

Even though I am the author of two books, Horse Speak (with Gretchen Vogel) and Horses in Translation, I am still learning the intricateness of the language of equines. Having an elder wiseman such as Zeke gives me much to think about. He challenges me to communicate directly with him (like drawing my attention to the garbagemen, or the raccoon), and he makes me dig deeper to find connection with a horse that many people would have written off.

 

I like to ride my horses, but I love to sit and learn from them even more. Each time I am around them doing chores, brushing them, or just sitting with them as they graze, I seek to allow myself to go into what I call “Zero”—the inner state of stillness. From there, I can watch and observe their communications. There is a rhythm to Horse Speak; it’s like a timeless dance, moving to the music of “crunch-munch-munch” as the horses swish at a fly or chew their food. Step, chew, swish, step—lift the head, lower the head—chew, step swish. I am reminded of bees doing their “flower dance” and communicating to the rest of the hive where the best pollen is. Or fish, moving in tandem under the dock at Woods Hole, Cape Cod, at my friend’s house. Sitting on the dock, witnessing the movements of cormorants diving or seals swimming out of the harbor, I am reminded that life does this natural thing, this rhythm of movement, sound, feel, and breath. The waves crash into shore, the waves recede out.

Horse Speak is a gift. It is as old as the hills and as new as the message today from Zeke, saying, “Hey, don’t just sit there, come with me into the woods…. Sit on my back and feel my rhythm.”

And I will.

 

HorseSpeakSetSharon Wilsie’s books HORSE SPEAK and HORSES IN TRANSLATION are 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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WEGFLO-horseandriderbooks

The Opening Ceremonies for the FEI World Equestrian Games at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina, are set to begin this evening, Tuesday, September 11, at 6:00 pm EST. The World Equestrian Games, or WEG, are held every four years in the middle of the Olympic cycle. And here’s the thing…they are a REALLY BIG DEAL. Why? Because WEG combines eight World-Championship-caliber equestrian events in one place with competitions spanning 13 days: dressage, show jumping, eventing, reining, driving, endurance, para-dressage, and vaulting. We’re talking the VERY BEST equestrians in the world, and the top horses in all these disciplines, here, in the United States, for two weeks.

The importance of WEG to the equestrian industry, and the significance of it being held here in the US this year, rather than in Europe, makes it a little surprising that of all the press suddenly devoted to the Carolinas and a certain imposing Madame Hurricane, little has been mentioned of this major event and how Florence will likely impact it. The athletes from participating countries and their horses have already arrived and are preparing for competition to begin (with dressage, reining, and endurance on Wednesday, September 12), but hundreds of thousands of individuals planning to attend all or part of the competition as spectators have yet to head out by road, air, or rail. It’s like this big communal breath is held as we wait to see where Flo will track and how mean she plans to be. Mill Spring, North Carolina, is on the western side of the state, and the National Weather Service has a station on site at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, keeping close watch on the hurricane as she develops. All efforts are being made to keep the riders, their horses, and their support teams, safe, whatever the days ahead bring in terms of weather. Of course, the rest of us still have to ask if it makes any sense at all to fly toward a hurricane, when millions under mandatory evacuation order along the coastline are trying to get away?

With that pressing question set momentarily aside, we at TSB have been truly excited in the months leading up to WEG to not only attend, but to have the opportunity to support our many wonderful, talented authors who are judging, competing, performing, speaking, and signing books during the event, including: Anne Gribbons, Ingrid Klimke, Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester, Phillip Dutton, Doug Payne, Emma Ford, Dan James, George Morris, Yvonne Barteau, Tik Maynard, and Dr. Bob Grisel.

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TSB author and FEI 5* judge Anne Gribbons is President of the Ground Jury for the dressage competition at WEG 2018. Photo by Sharon Packer.

To find most of our books and related book signings at WEG, visit The Chronicle of the Horse (Booth C3-4 in the World Equine Expo Area). Book signings will be arranged as competitors’ schedules allow.

In addition, those visiting with children can find TSB children’s books to explore and enjoy in the BrookeUSA activity area, as well as for sale in the BrookeUSA Shop (Booth B8). 50% of the proceeds from the sales of these books will go to support the mission of BrookeUSA and its sister charity, Brooke, the official charity of the WEG. Brooke is the world’s largest international working equine welfare charity dedicated to improving the lives of horses, donkeys, mules and the people who depend on those animals in the developing world.

Credit Brooke

TSB author and dressage competitor Charlotte Dujardin is a Brooke Ambassador. Her autobiography THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE will be available at The Chronicle of the Horse Shop at WEG. Photo courtesy of Brooke.

TSB author and former Chef d’Equipe of the US Show Jumping Team George H. Morris will be speaking on two occasions on the WEG grounds:

Saturday, September 15, at 10:00 am, at the Equus Theatre.

Saturday, September 22, at 12:00 pm, on the Coca-Cola® Stage.

George Morris will be signing copies of his book UNRELENTING following each talk, with 50% of the proceeds going to support Brooke.

Fans can also meet George at a special celebration of the George Morris Collection and book signing at Dover Saddlery in Mill Spring on Tuesday, September 18, from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm.

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TSB author George Morris will speak on two occasions at WEG, as well as participate in a meet-and-greet at Dover Saddlery in Mill Spring. Photo by Tyler Gourley Pictures.

And be sure to stop by the GetSound® Booth (B7-6) to meet Dr. Bob Grisel and hear about his new App to help diagnose lameness in horses, as well as get a copy of his amazing new book EQUINE LAMENESS FOR THE LAYMAN.

We plan to post updates about competition results, author events and signings, and other news here, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—so watch this space! Of course, all of this is pending a crazy-plane-ride toward a hurricane…

See you in Tryon…maybe?

 

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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It’s been a pretty big year for TSB author Tik Maynard. In June we released his hit memoir IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN, and we are very excited to now congratulate Tik and his wife eventer Sinead Halpin on the birth of their son, Brooks Tobin Maynard, born September 4, 2018.

We caught up with Tik and Sinead BEFORE the baby arrived and asked if they would share a little about Tik’s typical day at Copperline Farm in Citra, Florida. (Note: The way it was BEFORE the new addition…we promise to follow up in a few months and see how it all rolls with BTM in tow!) With plenty of change surely in store, this is Sinead’s take on “A Day in the Life of Tik,” pre-fatherhood…

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Our days here at Copperline are a little different right now, considering we are expecting our first child in about four days! With that being said, Tik is doing the work of two while I am stuck at home on “stall rest.” I saw this “Day in the Life” assignment on Tik’s to-do list and figured I was up to the task…AND I would tell the truth, while Tik might insert visions of some superhero or the Lone Ranger in your head. While Tik might be a mix of both these characters, they do not show up until he gets into the groove of his day. He is more like Eeyore before mid-morning!

5:45 am We live in Florida all year round, so the mornings in the summer start before dawn. Tik is on his first horse by 6:30, which is a little before the sun comes up. The alarm goes off around 5:45 am, which is normally followed by me getting up, turning on the kettle, the puppy attacking Tik, and then a lot of groans from the not-morning-person. The phrases “you don’t understand” and “it’s the middle of the night” tend to whine out from the bedroom. He eventually manages to scuffle into his britches, pour some coffee from the French Press into his Yeti, and sloppily apply sunscreen to his face (not-at-all-rubbed-in, for dramatic effect), then out the door he goes, with a very happy pup scampering behind him.

We have a Ride Board that has every horse (23 currently) listed and all the days of the week. We try and fill this out at the beginning of the week so gallops, cross-country schools, and lessons can be scheduled and everyone knows the plan. When Tik pulls up to the barn, tack is already on the first horses. The girls in the barn often set the order in which the horses are worked so it collaborates with turnout, farriers, vets, and any other goings-on that they manage. Tik has anywhere from 8 to 14 horses on his list a day.

TikMaynardandSineadByLaurenDeLalla-horseandriderbooks

Tik and Sinead at Copperline.

10:00 am The more schooled horses and horses requiring a bit more time tend to go first thing, also those that don’t have owners coming to watch their training. Normally 4 to 5 horses are schooled by around 10:00 am, and by that point it is also necessary for Tik to have another Yeti full of coffee or a snack! Around this time Tik is also becoming able to carry on conversations with humans as well as horses, and the one-liners and puns start rolling in. (To Lauren, grooming a pony: “Are you sick? Cause it looks like you’re feeling a little hoarse.” To Rain, as she brushes a tail: “That tail looks rough. Oh well, might make a good tale.” And when Abby tells Tik about the stray pregnant cat that has set up shop amongst our winter blankets: “Oh my cat, you have got to be kitten me.”)

After the coffee break, Tik carries on with the list. The working students start hopping on horses once morning chores are wrapping up. Often the next group of horses are slightly greener, and it’s good for them to stand in the tack while Tik teaches, or he schools while keeping an eye on the others.

TikMaynardandCrewByLaurenDeLalla-horseandriderbooks

The Copperline Crew.

TikMaynardbyLaurenDeLalla-horseandriderbooks1:00 pm Around now, if Tik doesn’t get some food, the language and focus skills start waning, so he makes a quick run back to our house for a sandwich and often a wardrobe change. He gets really sweaty here in the summer! The afternoon is often filled with horses that need to be worked on the ground and lessons that need to be taught, so it’s normally to everyone’s relief that a full-stomached, re-motivated, freshly clothed Tik  returns to the farm. Tik is probably one of the happiest and most laid-back people I have met … as long as he is fed and has coffee 😊.

3:00 pm Hopefully horses and riders and lessons are wrapping up around 3:00 or 4:00 pm, at which point Tik tends to hop on the zero-turn mower for a few hours to make sure the farm is looking good. We have some part-time maintenance help a few days of the week at the farm, but Tik loves his mower, and to be honest, we have had some arguments over who he prefers spending more time with… John Deere or me!

6:00 pm When the door opens at home the end of the day, I have to carefully guide Tik toward the bathroom as he starts filling me in. He is like a five-year-old and starts stripping off layers of dirty clothes before the door shuts. If I am not careful, he ends up stripped to his boxers before he has reached the kitchen, with a trail of clothes, dirt, and horse and dog treats falling from his pockets marking his progression. (Enjoy Yums are the horse treat of choice!)

Next, I normally hear a yell from the bathroom because he has forgotten to grab a towel and is conflicted about what to do, ask for help or scoot to the bedroom. I usually come to his aid, as I get equally upset when he leaves pools of water across our bedroom floor….

One day he will be trained.

7:00 pm Tik usually spends the next few hours answering emails, writing for Off-Track Thoroughbred Magazine, or working on his next book, but first the question that must be answered is normally brought up at lunch, and that is: “What are we doing for dinner?” We tend to cook something easy at home and catch up on the day, or Tik heads to play basketball at the local YMCA a couple days a week with his friend Zach Brandt.

 

TikMaynardBBallByLaurenDeLalla-horseandriderbooks

10:00 pm Depending on the scope of the day, the lights normally get turned off after vegging a bit or reading a Jack Reacher novel. On lighter days he will read maybe a horsemanship book, like one by Mark Rashid, or sometimes a book he picked up at the airport—he just finished The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony. He is also working his way through Animal Training 101, which was written by Jenifer Zeligs, a lady from California that trains sea lions!

With owning a farm and running a horse business, there is never a dull moment. But Tik and I often joke that even if we won the lottery tomorrow, we would still do the same thing…with a few improvements to the property, and—you guessed right—a live-in chef!

 

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Tik, Sinead, and Brooks (Selfie by Tik)

Thank you to Sinead Halpin for her willingness to share a glimpse of her life with Tik, and congratulations to them both on the birth of Brooks. We’re guessing they’ll need twice as many snacks in the house, now!

 

Thank you to Lauren DeLalla for the use of her photographs.

Tik’s memoir about his life as a working student turned professional horse person IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

 

 

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

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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24HoursJecBallou-horseandriderbooks

Professional horse trainers and riding instructors have mind-blowingly busy lives—that’s why it is so amazing to hear how they make it all work. The layers of scheduling, the early mornings, the sacrifices when it comes to friends, family, and personal interests…. That can be the story, but sometimes, a balance is struck, and it all clicks.

We caught up with TSB author and horse trainer Jec Aristotle Ballou and asked her how she spends her typical day, and wouldn’t you know, it sure sounds like she’s found the same physical and emotional balance she strives to establish in each of her horses. Here’s a glimpse at her life as a professional, in 24 hours:

5:15 am I wake up and begin my morning ritual of coffee and writing in my journal. Inspired to keep a creativity habit, I started writing three ‘Morning Pages’ in a notebook every morning 20 years ago and I still do it! Sometimes I write good stuff, other days it’s drivel. But what counts is that it happens.

6:30 am I meet some of my running teammates for a 7- to 10-mile run. I started running ultra-marathons a few years ago and now I can’t seem to stop (pun intended). It is a glorious way to cleanse my mind and open the day. Even when I travel around the country to teach clinics, I like to get in my morning run before embarking on a busy day.

8:00 am Most days, I arrive at the barn by now. Like many trainers in California, I don’t own my own farm. The horse property I lease is a 20-minute drive from my house. Some days I commute by bike, other times I drive while listening to podcasts like Dressage Radio Show where—yeah!!—my book 55 CORRECTIVE EXERCISES FOR HORSES was recently featured in an episode. During my commute, I ponder the advice my past teacher Manolo Mendez gave me: You have to know with each horse where you want him to be in his training next week, next month, next year. I assess what seems to be working, what might not be working so well, and if I’m honestly on track for what each individual horse needs.

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Click the image above to listen to Jec on Dressage Radio Show, Episode #479!

8:00 am–12:00 pm Before it gets too hot, I ride my training horses. Most of the horses that come to me for training are in need of learning how to use their bodies better or overcome some kind of physical restriction or compromised movement. I work with a diverse spread of breeds. Right now, we have three Icelandics, a Thoroughbred, a Halflinger, a Quarter Horse, an Arabian, a Missouri Foxtrotter, a couple of grade mares, and my own Andalusian. During the morning hours, I rotate between riding in the arena, my large gallop track, and our trails. I am an enormous advocate for cross-training; all the horses here follow that program. A few days a week, I have a helper who prepares the horses for me to ride; other days I do everything myself (these are the days I’m exhausted by 5:00 pm!) Around noon, students start showing up for lessons. 

1:00 pm–4:00 pm Usually during the afternoons on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday I’m teaching group and private lessons, trying my best to stay under a floppy hat and out of the sun, while simultaneously eating some bites of sustenance when I can. 

5:00 pm I often stop at the gym for a short weight-lifting session on the way home so I can be back at the house around 6:00 pm and spend an hour replying to emails and writing articles for the equine magazines I contribute to. This computer work usually overlaps with making dinner. I’m mostly vegan, which means I spend a lot of time planning and preparing things to eat. And because I run/workout so much, I eat a lot!

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8:00 pm My partner and I often walk the Jack Russell along the cliff overlooking the ocean before we wind down for the evening. 

9:30 pm I’m in bed “reading,” which is usually a euphemism for falling asleep with a book on my face. When I succeed at staying awake, I love to read. Typically, I read three or four books a month, devouring non-fiction, poetry, fiction, and anything else that can make me think, teach me something, or wake up my senses in some way. 

 

55 Corrective Exercises for HorsesJec’s new book 55 CORRECTIVE EXERCISES FOR HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a FREE sample chapter or to order.

Photos appearing in this blog are courtesy of Jec Aristotle Ballou.

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

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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HorsesLikeHelicopters-horseandriderbooks

“Softness” is about having the sensitivity we need in order to feel when and if the horse tries to “give.” It is about developing the kind of awareness and feel it takes to know when we are working against our horses, rather than with them.

In his book JOURNEY TO SOFTNESS, renowned horseman and storyteller Mark Rashid shares methods and techniques he has gleaned from decades of work with horses, horse people, and martial artists. In addition, he asked friends, all with different backgrounds, from different walks of life, and from different parts of the country, if they would be willing to contribute thoughts on how the practice of softness has helped them in their respective occupations, as well as with their horsemanship. In this piece by Lee Cranney, an airplane and helicopter pilot of 47 years, we discover how—surprisingly!—horses are like helicopters:

I fly the Sikorsky Firehawk helicopter for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. We fight wildland fires; rescue lost hikers, climbers, and the occasional horse; and fly patients from accident scenes to hospitals.

Even after almost five decades, I continue to enjoy every minute of it. As we fortunate few who get to do what we love are fond of saying, “It sure beats working for a living.”

I have been hanging out with horses for less than a quarter of the time I’ve been flying, and most of that has been with my buddy, Dude, but I have loved every single second of it. If you had suggested to me ten years ago that I would fall in love with a horse, let alone horses plural, I likely would have said you were nuts. When Dude was offered to me free of charge as a two-year-old, I was told that he had “issues.” My first question was, “What’s an issue?” Today, I would take a bullet for him, and I think he knows it.

A lot of what I have spent my life learning does actually apply in many ways to getting along with horses. I would like to share some of that with you.

In my opinion, really good helicopter pilots spend their flying time secure in the knowledge that they can handle whatever is about to go wrong. I believe the same can be said of really good horsemen (not that I am or likely ever will be one). Constantly feeling the whole horse, constantly aware of what holds his attention, intention, and thoughts, his movements, feet, weight, and balance, secure in the knowledge they can handle whatever is about to go wrong.

The similarities between flying helicopters and working with horses are both more basic and much more complex. Helicopters, like all aircraft, have a design gross operating weight that depends on several flight weather conditions, including altitude, temperature, and wind.

From day one of flight school, helicopter pilots have instilled in them the concepts of control touch and pilot technique. These two concepts are, in practice, identical to softness and feel; if I move the cyclic control (the “joy stick” or simply the “stick”) a minutely small amount, the commensurate effect on the main rotor is significantly more. This gives the helicopter amazing maneuverability and versatility but makes it extremely touchy (“squirrelly,” if you will). Experienced pilots will typically rest their right hands on their right thighs and make small, almost imperceptible inputs to the cyclic to achieve desired changes (sounds somewhat like horsemanship, don’t you think?). And, just to make it a little more interesting, any input in any one of the five controls requires a compensating corrective or offsetting control input in all of the others: “Rub your belly, pat your head.”

To illustrate: an average pilot can take off from a hover with the aircraft at the design gross weight for that altitude, temperature, and wind condition. If he ham-fists or over-controls during the maneuver, the aircraft will actually settle back to the ground rather than take off. Normally (and if the pilot in command has ensured that the aircraft is loaded for the conditions), there is a built-in “fudge factor” of power available to compensate and still allow an average pilot to make the takeoff. A pilot who cultivates control touch (softness) and pilot technique (feel) can, in fact, get the same aircraft off the ground smoothly and with less power. Inevitably, in the life of a working helicopter pilot, there will come a time when he needs that control touch and pilot technique to save the aircraft and all on board. Consequently, softness and feel are drummed into us as the way to get the most from our machines in the worst conditions.

Imagine my astonishment when much, much later, I began to experience, on a horse, the effortless beauty of asking for a soft feel, or change of gait, or turn with no touch at all; simply thought, connection, and breath and then we do it. Together. As one. Doesn’t happen all the time, of course, but when it does, it is truly amazing. And almost enough to make a grown man bawl. So, softness and feel equate to pilot technique and control touch. Okay. Makes some sense.

Then there’s this: One day when I was on Dude at a Mark Rashid clinic, he said that I should “ride the whole horse.” I got the concept immediately. We learn to use all five senses to fly an aircraft. (If you wonder about using taste and smell to fly, I’d be happy to explain it to you, but it gets a little overlong.) I was able to translate that awareness of the whole aircraft to a slowly blossoming awareness of the whole horse. Each foot, which way his thoughts, energy, and weight are inclined to go next. To the degree that I can stay aware of it all, I am able to stay ahead of the horse/aircraft. Pilots whose attention stays inside the cockpit tend to be unaware of situations developing around them—weather, other aircraft, fire patterns, and so forth—which sometimes results in disaster. We refer to this as situational awareness (being aware of all around us, both near and far), and it is certainly applicable to horsemanship.

One last thought: Federal aviation regulations require pilots to perform a thorough preflight inspection. This is a fine habit we all strive to cultivate and, it seems to me, a good one for horsemen and -women as well.

JourneytoSoftnessJOURNEY TO SOFTNESS by Mark Rashid is available to order from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE. 

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

 

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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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