One of our favorite things at TSB is when our amazing and inspiring authors connect. What better than to see the people we know, admire, learn from, and care about find common ground in their love for the horse? That’s what happened with our friend and author, Jane Savoie, who we lost to cancer in January this year, and our friend and author Lynn Palm. They appreciated and learned from each other over many years as they both wrote several books, taught thousands of people, and strove to teach riders how to be the equestrians they want to be–whether just riding at home or competing at the highest levels.
Lynn wrote this moving tribute to Jane, and we asked if we might share it with you:
We will all miss the spirit, talent, teaching ability, inspiration, honesty, and passion for horses that was Jane Savoie.
I first met Jane on the phone, and I was so impressed with her positive energy. An international “queen” of dressage (though she never acted like it), she reached out to interview me on classical training for a series of cross-training books she was writing. [Editors Note: These would later be bound together in what is today JANE SAVOIE’S DRESSAGE 101.] Jane had learned that I did hunters, Western riding, and driving (to produce “All-Around” horses) with my Quarter Horses. She was the first in the dressage world to recognize the I was using dressage training with my horses. She sent me her first book to read: THAT WINNING FEELING!, and I read it before my next Quarter Horse Congress competition. I was amazed how I could turn every negative thought in my mind before competition into a positive. I succeeded more than I expected that year and became a Jane Savoie follower from then on! When she asked me to write the foreword for her first cross-training book, I was honored!
As I collected all Jane’s books and always found new things to learn in them–for my horses or students or my own riding–I asked Jane to be a part of three events I created under the name Women Luv Horses. I hosted them in North Carolina, California, and Florida. I asked Jane, along with the top women trainers, competitors, and instructors in the dressage, reining, working cow horse, barrels, and English/Western All-Around disciplines to join me. Jane’s classes were always the best attended and always kept the audience mesmerized. Not only did Jane bring positive education to equine enthusiasts, she brought fun as she shared her passion of understanding the horse.
I will always remember my lessons on tempi changes with Jane as we prepared my Rugged Painted Lark for his bridleless exhibitions at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. She could articulate her teaching so that it was easy to understand, and she could always come up with an exercise to improve a goal. I remember that straightness of the forehand gives the perfect balance I needed for the tempi changes to be more consistent. I hear her in my mind many times when I ride!
We will all miss Jane. I know that she will continue to ride with all the thousands of people who followed her, as I know she rides with me nearly every day.
Love you Jane. Thanks for all you have done for people and horses!
The TSB 2021 Horse Books & Videos Catalog is now available to download (see below link) or request by mail from our website (click here for a print copy). Our cover model this year is the stunning Eddie–some of you have already heard his amazing story, but in honor of Valentine’s Day, we wanted to share a little about his new family, because it is a love story of a special nature.
In 2018, TSB author Yvonne Barteau’s rescue Horses Without Humans in Bell, Florida, received in 19 horses in devastating condition. Dubbed “The Bone Yard” by volunteers and followers on social media, this remarkable group of animals defied dire predictions that it was unlikely they would all find their way to health.
Miraculously, all of them survived, and one by one, they are being rehabilitated and retrained prior to finding them caring homes. Our cover boy, Eddie, was one of The Bone Yard herd in the worst condition when he was surrendered. Today he shines with health and contentment…and, maybe best of all, he has found a new home with a loving family:
“We moved to Florida from New York in 2016 for work,” says Dr. Dan Dickinson, who along with his wife, Theresa, adopted Eddie in 2020. “At that time, if you had asked me what my wife was really passionate about besides nursing (now she is a nurse practitioner), I would not have been able to tell you. We sent my eight-year-old daughter, Paris, to a horseback-riding camp, locally, and my wife just started spending time with the other horses and learning about them. Then she started taking riding lessons on her own (even when Paris lost interest!).
“Theresa’s passion grew and grew, so in October of 2019, we adopted Dolly, a Gypsy Vanner that Theresa fell in love with. Unfortunately, where Dolly was, the farm hands were scared of her and didn’t give her great care, so we relocated Dolly, boarding her at Yvonne’s place in Bell.
“It was there that we learned Eddie’s story and saw the pictures of him before Yvonne and her awesome team rescued him. My wife fell in love with Eddie, (and soon after, we all did, very very easily!), and so we adopted him! We actually moved out of our house into a slightly smaller house with more acreage so we could have our horses on our own property–we now live on a 9.9-acre horse ranch in northern Gainesville. We love it. Eddie has a voracious appetite, and loves carrots, apples, and just about any horse treats from our local store, Bits & Spurs. He and his sister, Dolly, chase each other and run around like mad in their pasture. And if you ask Paris, Eddie is her horse!
“The story of Eddie’s new life comes largely from the story of Theresa–the most hardworking, compassionate nurse, who I met, fell in love with, and married ten years ago this month. Now everyone knows what her passion and her hobby is. (We adopted an 18-year-old mare named Neigh Neigh this past Christmas season!) I can say it adds to our marriage, as we both take care of and ride these three amazing horses. We have two small kids…and three very very large kids to take care of, too.”
We are over-the-moon happy for Eddie…and Dolly and Neigh Neigh and their amazing human family. The Dickinsons and their herd are providing an inspiring example of how every horse deserves a second chance…and the love of a family.
Horses Without Humans (HorsesWithoutHumans.org) partners with The Right Horse (TheRightHorse.org). TSB is proud to support both of these worthy organizations and invites you to learn more about their efforts to help horses in transition.
Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.
In her new book, HOW TWO MINDS MEET: THE MENTAL DYNAMICS OF DRESSAGE, Beth Baumert explains how to optimize the use of your “thinking mind” in order to become a better learner in the saddle and provides techniques for maximizing mental and emotional harmony with your horse. Here she tells us why we need to have “the will” to achieve every task, every movement:
Horses don’t understand negatives. They do not understand I hope she doesn’t…, I wish she wouldn’t…, Don’t do this…, I’m afraid that…. They don’t understand mental or emotional garbage—for example, I hope he doesn’t refuse the fence, because I want to get out of this alive and I’m afraid I’ll fall off like I did last week. This is a message that is negative, emotional, and convoluted. It’s usually accompanied by a dreadful mental image that the horse has no trouble reading, and we all know how that story ends.
Since the horse doesn’t understand the negative aspect of the message, he gets a message that goes like this: Refuse the fence as I have in the past. Do it eagerly. My rider may end up on the ground. Even the boldest, most willing jumper would, at least, become distracted or confused by his rider’s message.
The rider must think positively.
German trainer Conrad Schumacher often told his dressage students, “You must have the WILL.” He was usually referring to a line of tempi changes, and he often asked his rider to verbally call out “I WILL” when riding each change. The rider must know what she wants and have a very clear plan for achieving it. Horses train people to think clearly and positively.
For example, to jump a vertical fence or to ride a lengthened stride on the diagonal, the rider might go through these steps:
• Half-halt before the turn and balance through it.
• Half-halt again after the turn to straighten.
• Establish the length of stride you want and ride the line.
• Half-halt to rebalance after the lengthening or the fence.
It is always so interesting what we bring to our horse lives in terms of experience. Our pursuits or interactions with the world outside the barn are destined to impact those inside it. Consider what an argument with a colleague can mean to your lesson later that day, or how traffic can add tension to an already tight schedule between work, horse, and home. Yoga teacher and horsewoman Cathy Woods says that making yoga a part of your horse life offers wonderful benefits, in and out of the saddle. We caught up with Cathy to talk about why she feels yoga and horsemanship aren’t so different from each other and her new book YOGA FOR RIDERS.
TSB: Your book YOGA FOR RIDERS provides a number of parallels you have designated as illustrative of the similarities between yoga and horsemanship. How do these parallels provide horse lovers a new or different path to better horsemanship and/or improved riding?
CW: Many people seem to view yoga as a form of stretches done on a mat, but when true yoga is examined deeper, it becomes clear that it’s really a way of life – a way to live with greater awareness. There are 8-limbs/aspects to yoga which teach us how to better interact with our inner and outer world. This enhanced way of living can apply to horsemanship as well as other areas of life. In essence, the parallels are things we should be doing in our yoga practice but also principles we’d want to apply to good horsemanship. Some parallels include: slowing down; mindfulness; and becoming body, breath, and energy aware, to name a few. These can deepen our experience with horses, expand our learning on the ground and in the saddle, and enrich our relationship with our horses and other sentient beings, which enhances personal growth and adds richness to life. It’s a win/win!
TSB: Were you a yogini or a horsewoman first? What made you first connect the two pursuits?
CW: As odd as it may sound, I was born a yogini (a female drawn to and dedicated to yogic tradition). I had an inner pull toward yoga and had yogic awareness from a very young age and long before I was formally introduced to the practice. I quickly realized that being a yogini was not separate from anything thing else, such as my dance and fitness interests and my horsemanship. Being a yogini is a way of life – “How you do anything is how you do everything.” It has put me in touch with subtle energies, and equestrians know how important that can be in horsemanship, from energy shifts to intuition. I clearly saw that applying a yogic attitude to my horsemanship made a positive difference. Things like being “present,” or what head and energy space I was in when I went to the barn, factored in to what my experience with my horse was on a given day. I organically came to realize that yoga and horsemanship were not so different from each other and instead, actually, a likely pairing.
TSB: You teach people a combination of postures, breathing, and meditative exercises, on the mat and in the saddle. Is there a balance to strike between yoga practice off the horse and yoga practice on the horse? Which do you prefer?
CW: I personally find it quite enjoyable and beneficial to do some gentle yoga poses, breathing techniques, and meditation in motion on horseback. However, I would say the mat practice is more important. I like to think of the mat and meditation cushion as a training ground for life – a place for personal groundwork and collection. Once skills are honed or mastered there, we naturally begin applying them to our horsemanship and other life situations – things like, breathing through challenges, heightened focus, body awareness, and the ability to self-correct when out of alignment or tense. We learn these skills best when practiced regularly on the mat. Then they become second nature off the mat as well.
TSB: If you had to name one, most important benefit of exploring yoga in order to improve your horsemanship, what would it be?
CW: The heightened self-awareness that comes from practicing yoga, along with becoming more mindful and present. “Yoga is an awareness practice” – we become more keenly aware of ourselves on all levels, including our inner workings. This also translates to tapping in to inner wisdom, making decisions and choices from a clear, centered place. We also gain the ability for improved situational awareness, which is paramount in horsemanship.
TSB: What is one lesson you hope readers will take away from your book?
CW: That true yoga is SO much more than just twisted, contorted poses on a mat! It is really a practice for living well and a path for self-realization. It’s a means to spend integrated, quality time with all aspects of ourselves — body, mind, and spirit – and then carry that integrated awareness into all that we do.
TSB: You are based in the Smoky Mountains. What is the best part about where you live and where you ride?
CW: There is so much I love about this region, but one of the best parts is the sacredness of these ancient mountains (they are the oldest in the world). They feel deep-rooted, comforting, and safe. We have no crowds, and we get to live very close to nature. As far as riding, the Smokies have endless and diverse trails – everything from vistas, beautiful creeks and rivers, lovely lakes, and amazing vegetation, to abundant wildlife and rich Appalachian history. I’ve traveled and ridden in many parts of the United States, yet I’m always amazed at what the Great Smoky Mountains have to offer in comparison. Though rugged, it’s truly some of the best riding ever!
TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?
CW: The horse breed is easy: I’d go with a Quarter Horse. In my opinion, they are the best, all-around breed. A Quarter Horse could be a good companion, a leisure horse, or a working horse. As far as a book, a survival book would likely be a smart choice, but I’d probably go with The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In a nutshell, the Yoga Sutras are a collection of 196 short verses that serve as a guide to attain wisdom and self-realization through yoga. What better to do if trapped on a desert island than to become self-realized and extrapolate Universal Truth!
TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?
CW: A European or Icelandic village to village, several-day ride/tour with my good friend and program assistant Amanda – we travel well together and have had many great adventures.
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?
CW: Good sense.
TSB: What is your greatest fear?
CW: Loss and dying. Clearly if these are issues to me, I’m not yet an Enlightened Yoga Master (nor do I claim to be). I’m also a bit of a germaphobe – getting sick or injured scares me a bit, so I try to use these concerns to make good choices.
TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?
CW: I love owning and residing on 30+ acres in the Smoky Mountains. Though it may sound extravagant, it’s actually pretty rustic, and it really allows me to live simply.
TSB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
CW: I’d love to be calmer and more patient. I’m not naturally wired that way, and it’s a constant practice for me. One might think being a yogini I’d be super chill, but that’s one of the reasons I practice yoga – it’s a tool that helps bring balance to the imbalances.
TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?
CW: Cheese! I like to think I have no addictions, but I might be slightly addicted to cheese 😊
TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
CW: Being soul-content in all life’s situations.
TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?
CW: That’s a tough question, because I miss my parents greatly, and they were full of good, practical wisdom – I’d love to converse with them again. But a bit more outside the box, probably Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian monk and guru who died in 1952. There was something special about him (some deemed him a saint), not to mention his profound understandings and teachings about life, death, and beyond. I am drawn to adept individuals with this kind of life-knowledge and wisdom.
TSB: If you could go back to December 2019 and go one place anywhere in the world with as many or as few people as you would like, where would you go, who would you bring, and what would you do?
CW: My husband Robert and I enjoy taking extended RV trips. Though I’ve traveled to many places in the US and abroad, I’ve still not made it to the Red Rock Parks of Utah (Bryce, Zion, etc.). This was on our 2020 travel list, which was of course postponed. We’d sightsee, spend time in nature, hike, and make more good memories! The trips we enjoy most are to natural destinations and just the two of us (and our cats)!
TSB: What is your motto?
CW: Live well, live creatively, live deliberately, and live in a balanced way. Be present and take journeys (inward and outward)!
Cathy’s book YOGA FOR RIDERS is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
I first met Jane Savoie when I was 19. I was home from college and looking for a horse job to counter the nights I spent waitressing. Jane needed a groom. She had Eastwood, aka “Woody,” then–a big chestnut with lots of chrome.
It was a long time ago but certain moments are still incredibly clear in my memory: Jane and I standing side by side outside Woody’s stall, watching him, curled up like a big dog, napping. Jane, all business, firmly correcting my mistakes as I learned to meet her high standards for her horse’s care and turnout. Jane, with her sweet dog, Emma, power-walking along the trail that ran behind the barn as I bathed Woody in the sunny wash stall.
By that summer of 1997, Jane had already competed as a member of the U.S. Equestrian Team and written a book, THAT WINNING FEELING!, which was published by Trafalgar Square Books in 1992. She was hard at work on a new project–what would become Cross-Train Your Horse: Books One and Two (and later JANE SAVOIE’S DRESSAGE 101)–writing and rewriting her words with the help of publisher Caroline Robbins, striving to provide a truly clear how-to description of every basic dressage movement. Her aim to empower the amateur rider would become a driving force later in her life as the educational materials she was moved to create multiplied.
More recent memories of Jane are clear, too: Laughing with her and her husband, Rhett, as she related stories from the road over dinner in Wellington. Watching her dance lesson in a slick Florida studio, sensing her absolute commitment to every step. Visiting her when she first got sick, walking with her and our Managing Director Martha Cook, and brainstorming “what’s next?”
During an early treatment for her rare form of blood cancer, Jane had to stay in isolation. Never one to be idle, she decided to finish recording the audio version of her sport psychology book IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS from her hospital bed. “It is so easy to lose yourself in the physically excruciating process of battling back from illness or injury,” she said in her introduction to the audiobook. “I realized, as I forced myself to walk, IV rattling beside me, the 40 laps around the nurse’s station that would mean I’d gone a mile, that it was techniques I talk about in this book—those habits formed over a lifetime—that got me out of bed and placing one foot in front of the other, determined to get strong enough to go home.”
That was in 2016. We were all incredibly lucky she was so determined. Jane’s fight and drive, the building blocks of “her” that helped her attain her riding goals, against the odds, gave her the strength to stay with us another four years, against the odds. We had a chance to share more laughs; we had a chance to watch her dance.
Receiving the call last week, being told she was gone, was an unbelievable blow to all of us at Trafalgar. THAT WINNING FEELING! was one of the first horse books published by Caroline; it was one of the first books Martha worked on when she came to TSB after college. Jane and her passionate, innovative ideas are an integral part of the foundation for what our small company has become. But more profound is the vast impact a friendship of 30 years has–how Jane’s evolution, my evolution, and Martha’s and Caroline’s, were all interwoven. Losing a piece of that is losing a piece of ourselves.
When I first met Jane, at 19, I had no idea she would become such a force in my life. I guess we can never know that about the people we meet. But aren’t we lucky when it happens.
–Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor
Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.
What saved us in 2020? We had books to publish. The ever-present routine that is our (often overwhelming) publication schedule actually kept us sane: In March, while some titles idled at printers when the world shut down, we were deep in editorial for books that would (hopefully) come out later in the year, designing covers for those already in the proofreading stage, and brainstorming marketing plans for the titles we expected to arrive in our warehouse in the coming weeks. As the months opened and closed, each marked by challenging events and difficult news, we focused on the books in our care and the hope and excitement that each new one always brings.
Of course, the impact of the pandemic affected all stages of a book’s usual evolution. Authors’ lives were upended and so manuscripts were delivered late. Photo shoots had to be rescheduled. Printers were shut down and shipping delays became the norm. Events were canceled, book and tack shops were closed, and publicity and sales efforts moved almost entirely online. And so, the year has been a course in both “steady as she goes” and “think outside the box.”
As we turn the page on 2020 and head into our 36th year as equestrian book publishers, we want to take a look back at the titles we released in the past 12 months. In a year marked by turmoil, the publication of each of these reminded us that, no matter what, we could still count on books to keep us going.
Andrea Waldo reads her bestselling book, teaching you how to handle uncomfortable emotions, such as fear, anger, anxiety, and embarrassment; hone your mental game, focus your riding time to get the most out of your hours in the saddle; and care for your emotional injuries.
After coaching countless riders and horses around the world in the striding techniques that brought her success during her own impressive competitive career, Jen Marsden Hamilton has compiled her knowledge in a concise book of exercises and insightful strategies.
Dr. Stacie Boswell details proactive methods of handling common medical problems and health issues in horses in transition, from nutrition and dentistry to deworming and hoofcare to traumatic injury and emergency rescue scenarios.
Brain scientist and horsewoman Janet Jones describes human and equine brains working together. Using plain language, she explores the differences and similarities between equine and human ways of negotiating the world.
Yoga teacher and horsewoman Cathy Woods shows you how to achieve present moment awareness; find body, breath, and energy awareness; breathe through challenges; listen to your inner voice; slow down; and develop balance and symmetry in the saddle.
Olympian Anne Kursinski’s acclaimed book on riding horses over fences delivers on-target counsel and the kind of sophisticated, quality instruction you can only get in top barns around the world. Updated with over 300 full-color photos.
Master motivator Jane Savoie breaks down the six most common problem areas she sees when horses jump, then fills the rider’s toolbox with targeted exercises on the flat—simple solutions to the nagging problems that prevent riders and horses from doing their best over all kinds of obstacles.
When she was 23, carrying a puppy named Gypsy, Melissa Chapman climbed aboard a horse and rode away from everything, heading west. Part American road trip, part coming-of-age adventure, and part uncommon love story—a remarkable memoir that explores the evolution of the human-animal relationship, along with the raw beauty of a life lived outdoors.
Fergus the Horse, the creation of artist Jean Abernethy, has been entertaining audiences—young and old, in print and online—with his comedic adventures for the past 20 years. Abernethy celebrates his age—and the wisdom that should come with it—with an all-new selection of horsey humor, including many cartoons fans have never seen before.
Canine and equine physiotherapist Katja Bredlau-Morich, author of Kinesiology Taping for Horses, is a pioneer in bringing the method to the dog world. She believes that dogs can benefit hugely from taping techniques, and even better, dog owners and trainers can learn practical steps to using kinesiology tape themselves.
Dr. Ina Gösmeier is a veterinarian who supports her Western medical practice with knowledge gained through the study of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This handbook provides a basic introduction to the guiding principle of determining a horse’s TCM type before making decisions about handling, care, training, or treatment.
In the follow-up to her bestselling WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN, Beth Baumert explains how to optimize the use of the “thinking mind” in order to become a better learner in the saddle and provides techniques for maximizing mental and emotional harmony with the horse.
We are so grateful for all our authors, and for the readers and viewers whose support is essential to our company’s survival. Wishing everyone a safe and peaceful New Year.
The TSB Staff
Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.
It’s true…doing what we do means we get to read A LOT of horse books. Books for different disciplines, different breeds, different techniques and modalities. There definitely is a book out there for just about everyone. What is harder is to find horse books for ANYone…that is, books with crossover appeal or applicability. But these three 2020 equestrian releases hit that mark, all for different reasons.
HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN: THE NEUROSCIENCE OF HORSEMANSHIP by Janet Jones, PhD
WHY IS THIS A GREAT GIFT FOR ANY HORSE PERSON?
The book is a game changer, whatever discipline you ride and whatever experience you have with horses. It clarifies training choices and techniques with how the horse’s brain functions in mind. Released in June of 2020, is already an international bestseller with foreign editions in a number of countries due out in the coming year. A review in American Farriers Journal said: “HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN completes my trifecta of horsemanship references, which includes Tom Dorrance’s True Unity and Ray Hunt’s Think Harmony with Horses. Dr. Jones’ book presents facts that are supported by real-time scientific research. It is written so perfectly that virtually anyone can use it as a tool to understand how horses view the world.”(Click here to order.)
DISTANT SKIES: AN AMERICAN JOURNEY ON HORSEBACK by Melissa A. Priblo Chapman
WHY IS THIS A GREAT GIFT FOR ANY HORSE PERSON?
In a year when we couldn’t travel, this book takes you across the country. In a time when we feel divided and distrustful, Melissa’s story reminds us that most people are good people who will go out of their way to help a stranger in need. Just when we need a story of simplicity and beauty that both takes us places and reassures us that things will get better, this book shares the tale of a young woman who, in 1982, before cell phones and GPS, rode from New York to California, alone but for her animal companions. “In Melissa Chapman’s debut memoir, we meet characters that are always interesting, and almost without fail, kind,” writes horseman Tik Maynard, author of IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN. “We read writing that is succinct and evocative. The author’s relationship with her animals and love for the land does what Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley in Search of America did for me—it inspires both thoughtfulness and action—and that is my favorite kind of book. This girl, riding bravely across the continent, reminds us to appreciate the journey—for the end comes all too soon. DISTANT SKIES will move you, guaranteed.” (Click here to order.)
YOGA FOR RIDERS: PRINCIPLES AND POSTURES TO IMPROVE YOUR HORSEMANSHIP by Cathy Woods
WHY IS THIS A GREAT GIFT FOR ANY HORSE PERSON?
Billions of people around the world embrace the practice of yoga. Its lessons in breath control, simple meditation, and specific bodily postures are widely regarded as a means to achieving health and relaxation. Yoga teacher and horsewoman Cathy Woods says that’s not all: She believes the meditative, mindful breathwork and lifestyle aspects of the tradition, as well as the postures, can be profoundly helpful in our interactions with horses. Her unique program is presented here in the form of highly illustrated instruction, guiding you through the steps to achieving present moment awareness; finding body, breath, and energy awareness; breathing through challenges; listening to your inner voice; slowing down; and developing balance and symmetry in the saddle. “While cleverly disguised as a ‘yoga for riders’ book, this text contains the secret sauce to having the ultimate connection and communication with your horse,” says worldwide clinician Warwick Schiller. “Creating the human mind/body connection is not only a spiritual practice, but the key to better horsemanship. I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking to deepen their relationship with their horse.” (Click here to order.)
These books are all available from the TSB online bookstore, where you get 20% off your purchase through 12/24/20! We have print books, eBooks, audiobooks, videos, and streaming.
One of the things we have been incredibly thankful for during this strange year is the contact we have been able to maintain, albeit virtually, with the TSB authors with whom we are so lucky to work. But in the midst of editorial, production, or the initial marketing push for a new book, we don’t often have time to trade details about our daily lives. So when Dr. Stacie Boswell, author of THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR HORSES IN NEED, shared 24 hours of her life as a vet in 2020, we loved getting this chance to peek into her typical day on the job as a rural vet. And OH MY GOSH we learned so much!
5:00 am I’m trying hard to be awake.
Even my dogs are not awake yet. Peso El Guapo is still cuddled under his blanket on the bed. He doesn’t move when I get up, but Tia gets up off her dog bed and follows me. We found Peso while out trail riding, and I kept him because he has a severe heart problem that will shorten his lifespan considerably. Tia is pathologically attached to me. I acquired her as a job hazard from working in mixed animal practice. She was morbidly obese, weighing in at 30.8 lbs. Her previous owner brought her in to be euthanized because she couldn’t walk. For a year we worked on diet and exercise, and she now stays a much healthier 11 lbs. She has lots of extra skin, but also significantly more pep in her step.
It’s early dawn gray right now, and while I make some coffee, I watch my two yearling mules chase a mule deer doe and fawn across our pasture. This morning, I have three recommendations to write for capable young women applying for admission to veterinary school. Like many people who write, this early time of day is my best time. My brain isn’t crowded yet, and the quiet in the house is advantageous for my focus. I want my recommendees to succeed, so I definitely want to write the best possible letters that I can.
6:30 am The other dogs are finally up. It’s exciting — breakfast!! I also wake my husband, Sid, and get ready for work.
7:30 am And we’re off!!!! My appointments begin. During COVID-19, veterinary practices have been extremely busy. We aren’t sure why this is the case, but it may be that people are home observing their pets (or stressing them out), or that veterinarians are more welcoming and feel safer than human hospitals. The New York Times wrote about this topic in August.
Most of my morning appointments are vaccines or minor problems, but I feel like I’m early in the marathon of the day and I’m already trying to catch my breath. We are doing curbside service to reduce client and staff possible exposure to COVID-19, and that also adds a layer of challenge to communication, and an additional time commitment to each appointment.
10:30 am Yep, now we begin to rearrange the day to accommodate true emergencies. A very nice but worried mom drops off her seven-year-old daughter’s cat, Princess Jingles. Princess Jingles has been vomiting for about a week, and although she is still eating, she has lost a significant amount of weight. About a year ago, she vomited some hair ties, but recently it’s been mostly food and bile. Princess Jingles is a cute, long-haired calico cat. I palpate her, and in the cranial (forward) portion of her abdomen, I can feel a lump that shouldn’t be there. The cat mews—she’s uncomfortable. Apparently, I make a face that’s obvious even with my mask on; my assistant asks, “What are you feeling?” I’m worried that it’s hair ties (again) in Princess Jingles’s stomach. I call her owner and discuss doing X-rays.
11:30 am X-rays are done. For sure there is something in the cat’s stomach that shouldn’t be there. There is also a small area in the colon that is suspicious. These are outlined in the yellow arrows on the X-ray below.
I’m a large-animal surgeon but really love all surgery. An abdominal exploratory will be necessary for Princess Jingles. I always think of this procedure like it is a box of chocolates: “You never know what you’re gonna get.” That makes it fun for me. This time, I’m pretty sure it will be hair ties. I call my afternoon appointments and rearrange my day to accommodate the procedure. One of my colleagues is gracious enough to take over an overlapping early afternoon appointment.
12:30 pm I finish my morning appointments, and our wonderful technicians get everything set up and ready for surgery.
1:00 pm Princess Jingles is anesthetized and “on the table.” My practice has a visiting fourth-year veterinary student, Alyssa, getting some hands-on real-world experience. She scrubs in with me, and it is so nice having an extra set of capable hands who can retract the stomach as I cut it open and extract tenhair ties and two pieces of yarn. After removing the foreign objects, I close the cat’s stomach. All the other bowel and internal organs are evaluated. There is another hair tie in the colon, but I avoid opening the dirty, bacteria-filled colon during surgery and instead massage the hair tie as far toward the “exit” as I can.
1:40 pm I close the deepest layer of the incision, and then pass the finish off to capable Alyssa. I call Princess Jingles’s people with an update. They are relieved and happy to hear that surgery went smoothly.
Post-operatively, we take two more X-rays to make sure we removed everything. I know from surgery that I did, but I also want to show Alyssa and our other future veterinarians what a “pneumoabdomen” (air in the abdominal cavity) looks like, so the X-rays are a learning opportunity.
We give Princess Jingles an enema to remove that final hair tie. It’s the pink one!
2:30 pm I work on finishing a little paperwork while scarfing cheese and crackers for lunch.
3:00 pm I start my afternoon with horses. Today, I am seeing Bronwynn, a Warmblood mare I’ve seen since she was a foal. She is now six years old. I see her about twice a year, and every time she has grown larger. I think she is about 17 hands at this point. I really love getting to know my clients and their animals over time.
Bronwynn’s person, Joella, really wanted a lovely Warmblood for dressage, and so she bred the mare she had (Bronwynn’s dam). A caretaker was looking after her pregnant mare, but something went wrong, and when Bronwynn was born, the filly was found stuck and frozen in the mud shortly after birth, and was severely hypothermic with a core body temperature of 87oF (normal foal body temperature should be 100oF to 102oF).
The areas of skin injury from the frostbite Bronwynn suffered are now scars. Because of her injury, her right hind leg is somewhat weaker and not as conformationally correct as her left hind, so keeping her foot balanced is challenging. Today I am taking X-rays of her feet to help optimize her hoof trims and keep her foot as straight and balanced as possible.
4:30 pm My next appointment is Jennifer, who is bringing in her new off-the-track Thoroughbred, Mike. She was able to come in now instead of her originally scheduled time of 2:00 pm. Jennifer runs a boarding facility and has quite a few horses of her own. She ended up with Mike after his racing-career-ending injury. He’s a sweet horse, and she hopes to make a trail horse out of him.
Mike’s left front foot is more upright, with a small scar and marks from freeze-firing. This information tells me that the left forelimb has some chronic pain and lameness problems.
Freeze-firing has replaced pin-firing (which used heat) as a treatment for bowed tendons, bucked shins, or splint problems. The use of pins makes scars, which can be seen on the skin overlying the injury. Advocates for the procedure use a different depth and pattern of firing for different primary injuries.
The theory is that the counter-irritation of the firing speeds the healing of the primary problem. It was first used in about 500 AD, and even then there were doubts about its efficacy. Now, 1,500 years later, there is very little science-based evidence for it, and it is not taught in veterinary curricula in the United States. Many veterinarians frown upon its use as a treatment.
But back to Mike… although someone at the track took X-rays of his more recent injury, Jennifer doesn’t have access to them, and she wants to know if there is any healing. She knows the injury involves a right front sesamoid (the small bones at the back of the ankle or fetlock). She has managed Mike on stall rest for the last six to seven weeks.
I examine Mike, and he is baseline lame on his right forelimb. His range of motion of his fetlock is reduced by at least 50 percent. The X-rays show a fractured sesamoid bone. This bone serves as an attachment for the suspensory branches and is part of the boundary for the fetlock joint.
Small bones in the body are also generally termed “sesamoids.” They are located at joints and are embedded within a ligament, tendon, or muscle, and serve as a fulcrum over a joint. These include the navicular bone in horses’ feet, and the patella (also known as the “kneecap” in people). Humans have sesamoids in the joints of our knuckles and feet. When horses’ sesamoid bones are fractured, healing will not be apparent on X-rays because the bone fragments are always pulled apart by the stress of the suspensory ligament, which basically continually pulls the two bone pieces apart. This concept of healing holds true for the navicular and the patella as well, as they also get pulled in two directions.
Most likely, Mike had an injury of his left forelimb. He then compensated by over-using his right forelimb, which resulted in his right forelimb not holding up. A fractured sesamoid with concurrent damage to the suspensory ligament is one stage of breakdown injury in racehorses. Jennifer and I talk at length about a variety of treatment options and costs. Ideally, the smaller bone fragment at the top of the sesamoid should be removed arthroscopically. It sounds like a previous veterinarian had also talked to Jennifer about trying to repair the facture (which could involve a screw or a wire and would be much more difficult and expensive), or simply resting (which she has already done, and won’t actually repair the primary damage).
6:00 pm I started my day helping future veterinary students with recommendation letters. As my day begins to wind down, I will say goodbye to Kayla—she is starting veterinary school on Monday. We are sad to see her go but already so proud of her future.
7:30 pm At the end of the day, I have a euthanasia at home for a 31-year-old horse whose people are also aging out of horses and horse care. Montana has some tough weather in the winter, making it extremely difficult for an older horse with dysfunctional knees to make it through the snow. He also has dysfunctional teeth, and making wet mashes to feed him in the winter here, as you can imagine, quickly ends up as popsicles. It’s not winter yet, but these nice folks have re-homed their two younger horses and don’t want their beloved old man to be alone when the others leave the farm this weekend.
I have a 35-minute drive from my office, so I take my dear husband, Sid, as my technician. It’s been busy, so I haven’t seen him much this week, and I’d like a chance to talk to him and catch up. Sid only knows how to tech for nighttime emergencies such as down horses, colics, and euthanasias. Lacerations are tougher…the blood makes him queasy.
I pick him up and call to coordinate with the local company that takes care of burial and cremation options for pets.
Sid and I arrive just before the person who will pick up the old horse’s body. I hug the wife and console the husband. I then sedate their horse. When I give the final injection, he goes down quietly. I then cut his tail to wash and braid with ribbon so his people can remember his long life and the good times they had together. They really loved him.
10:00 pm We arrive back home. Tia is ecstatic to see us. After a quick dinner, I fall into bed. Peso is already there underneath his blanket.
I hope I can get some writing done tomorrow morning!
There are many reasons November is my most unfavorite month of the year. In Vermont, it means needing a flashlight to find the car when I get out of work. It means cold but no snow to play in. It means short days but just as much to do.
In our horsey world, this time of year also means No Stirrups November, a form of self-torture in the name of improvement. The thing is, as much as it may leave you hobbling around the next day, riding sans stirrups really IS an effective way to find a better feel and a more balanced seat.
“Jumping without stirrups is an exercise I recommend for two reasons,” she says. “One, of course, is that it’s an insurance policy. Everybody loses a stirrup at least once or twice in a riding career; if it happens, you want to be able to continue riding without losing your position, your composure, or your chance at a ribbon if you’re in the show ring (where, in observance of Murphy’s Law, you just might be). But the other—and the really important reason—is what it does for your balance. Like riding your horse on the flat without stirrups, jumping without stirrups is a great way to solidify your balance, so that you never find yourself getting ahead of your horse and jumping up his neck.
“Don’t try jumping without stirrups before you’re ready, though,” Kursinski warns. “If the idea terrifies you, just continue with your regular work for a while longer. Eventually you’ll build the confidence to give it a try.
“A good way to begin is to go down a line using your stirrups, and then drop them after the last fence, so that you ride your turn or circle without irons. The moment you take your feet out of the irons, you’ll feel yourself riding more ‘with’ your horse, the best antidote in the world for riders who habitually want to make a move up the neck. Your hips and seat will relax and begin following his back better. Your legs will feel longer, and your lower leg will stay quieter at his side.
“Ride just the turn or circle without irons until you’ve established your balance enough that you feel secure. Then remove the stirrups from your saddle, so that they don’t bang your horse’s sides, and try a single fence without them. As you feel more confident, you can increase the number of fences.
“Start with a simple, straight line. Ride the line once with your stirrups and drop them as you land from the second fence. Immediately you’ll sink into the saddle and have a following seat. This really helps your balance. Circling after the fence will help you bring your horse together. Feel how much more effective you are when you’re sitting down on him this way. My horses usually go better when I ride without stirrups, because I naturally sit more correctly.
“When I jump a fence with the stirrups removed, my balance and my firm leg keep my position secure; I don’t need to lean on my horse’s mouth to pull me over the fence. My position looks the same with or without stirrups.
“Gradually work up from a single fence to a simple line and then to the more complicated ones. Finish by jumping a small course without stirrups, as riders in equitation classes are sometimes asked to do. The more you can feel that your balance and your ability to stay with your horse are all yours, not dependent on supports like stirrups and reins, the more secure and effective a rider you’ll be.”
ANNE KURSINKSKI’S RIDING & JUMPING CLINIC has just been released in an updated edition with full-color photographs. Order it now from the TSB online bookstore, and you’ll receive 20% off plus free shipping in the US!
He has hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook and a surging presence on Instagram.
Each day, he and his diverse group of friends share their mishaps, their successes, and their innermost thoughts with the world.
He is seemingly ageless, looking even better now than when his ascent to fame began.
Who is this intriguing Internet celebrity?
Fergus the Horse (Equus hilarious), the creation of artist Jean Abernethy, has been entertaining audiences—young and old, in print and online—with his comedic adventures for the past 20 years. His rise to fame was documented in the epic equine comic collection THE ESSENTIAL FERGUS THE HORSE, and now, Abernethy celebrates his age—and the wisdom that should come with it—with an all-new selection of horsey humor, including many cartoons fans have never seen before, created exclusively for an all-new book.
With a genuine appeal that crosses boundaries of breed, discipline, and geographic location, Fergus unites anyone with an eye for a horse and a need for a laugh. Readers of all ages—from 5 to 95—will be delighted by his wit, honesty, and profoundly funny observations on horses, humans, and the life they strive to live together.
“The first time I heard someone say to me, ‘I grew up reading Fergus!‘ I was taken aback. The speaker was young, but a grown-up! Had it been THAT long?” remarks artist and Fergus creator Jean Abernethy.
“But, yeah, there we are. Fergus was born in my sketchbooks 20 years ago. When I look back now over those early drawings, I’m amazed by the evolution of the artwork. The natural progression of the artwork that I have seen in other cartoonists’ work, I can now see in my own. Only time can do that.
“I’m so happy to share Fergus’s 20th anniversary book with equestrians worldwide. What I cannot share online or in the book, is the memories of all those quiet hours alone, drawing…or those moments mucking stalls, when a funny idea would come to me. There were so many times, when the work seemed so discouraging, that I questioned the wisdom of carrying on. Then an email would come in from some publication or writer, asking for a comic, or if I could make a custom drawing of Fergus for some purpose or another, assuring me how much they loved the silly bay horse, and confirming how popular he was. So, with gratitude, I kept drawing.