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Posts Tagged ‘horse books’

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To the uneducated eye, posting the trot is just a series of silly looking, seemingly purposeless, up-down movements. But riders understand what it takes to make rising and sitting to the two-beat rhythm of the horse’s diagonal gait complement rather than hinder his movement.

“The skilled rider uses rising trot to get the tension in the horse’s fascial net in sync with her own,” writes biomechanics pioneer Mary Wanless in her newest book THE NEW ANATOMY OF HORSE AND RIDER CONNECTION, “so together they get in rhythm and ‘play the right note.’”

Here’s how Wanless helps us understand how this dynamic works:

“Imagine two people sitting opposite each other and playing a game of catch with a tennis ball. Each throw involves bouncing the ball once. This is a cooperative game, with its own distinct rhythm, in which neither person is trying to catch the other one out. ‘Bounce, catch’ mirrors ‘sit, rise’, and our analogy is essentially describing the exchange of force and energy between horse and rider.

“Imagine the human game in full swing – until one person cleverly substitutes a bean-bag for the tennis ball. When this barely bounces, it marks the end of the game! Or perhaps one person suddenly substitutes a ‘boingy’ ball, and the game immediately speeds up as the ball travels faster.

“The skilled rider maintains the equivalent of a tennis ball game, even when the horse would rather throw bean-bags or ‘boingy’ balls. It is as if the rider says, ‘Sorry horse, but whatever you attempt to throw me, I am throwing back a tennis ball,’ maintaining this resolve and technique until such time as the horse takes a deep sigh and agrees to throw tennis balls!

“Whilst some heavy horses have wonderful ‘boing,’ most ‘bean-bag’ horses are from the heavier breeds. They trot as if their legs were stuck in porridge, since the recoil energy in their tendons and ligaments – and the force transmission along their respective lines of pull – is not enough to enable them to ‘ping’ off the ground. Iberian horses can be like this too, and any horse with a ‘soggy’ fascial net will be heavy on the ground and lack the spring of elastic recoil.

“Most riders fall into the trap of throwing a bean-bag back to this kind of horse: they land heavily in the saddle and press down into it. This is incredibly instinctive, and is encouraged by phrases like ‘sit deep and drive the horse forward,’ but a heavy landing will inevitably deaden your horse. The game then becomes a vicious circle as the ‘bean-bag’ tendencies of each partner amplify those of the other. Understandably, most riders soon start to feel like a desperate, disgruntled, and thoroughly jangled bean-bag! The only answer lies in landing lightly and quickly – in a trampoline-like way – thus encouraging the horse to be lighter and quicker on the ground. The rider may also need to kick, and to tap with a whip, but she must not throw bean-bags or she will get bean-bags back.

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Pausing at the top of the rise can help you counter the “boingy” horse.

“In contrast, ‘uptight’ Thoroughbreds throw ‘boingy’ balls. The rider who gets ‘boinged’ out of the saddle by the horse’s ‘boinginess’, loses control of the tempo, and the game speeds up unless she can make a momentary pause on each landing (without becoming soggy like a bean-bag). This keeps the horse’s feet on the ground for a fraction of a second longer. If the rider can also make a pause at the top of the rise (when the other diagonal pair of legs are in mid-stance) this again will act to keep the horse’s feet on the ground for longer. This slows the horse’s tempo, and changes how his fascial net rebounds from the ground. He has no choice but to throw tennis balls back to the rider.”

For more insight into how the rider’s fascia works, how the horse’s fascia works, and ways we can influence how they work together, check out THE NEW ANATOMY OF HORSE AND RIDER CONNECTION, 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 company based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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Alois Podhajsky with Norman.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Walking Norman on a loose rein.

 

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

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

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

 

CLICK HERE to order now.

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

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KarenYesScary

Karen Robertson on Carlos at the George Morris clinic. Photo by Lisa Pleasance.

TSB author Karen Robertson shared her hopes and fears for her clinic date with The George in May (click here to read her first post). Now she’s back to tell us how it all went down.

To tell the story about what it was like for me riding with George Morris in late May, I need to start the week before the clinic, when I showed at Sonoma’s Spring Classic Show. It’s a gorgeous place and such a wonderful show, but Carlos and I had a really rough week…. It was the kind of show where the wires get crossed and each day ends with a frustrated feeling of not being strong enough or fast enough or smart enough to ride well enough in any key moment. Seven good jumps didn’t cut it when the eighth was a stop. I got in my head. I started trying different things to end the pattern of choking… a better night’s sleep, more caffeine, or more breakfast. I walked the show grounds with my ear buds in listening to badass music to get myself fired up before I got on for the next class. But at the end of the show, I drove away from Sonoma Horse Park without ever digging myself out of the rut and laying down a solidly good trip. The familiar, consistent feel I’d had all winter with Carlos had been shaken badly; my riding was full of doubt. Needless to say, it was not the kind of show you want to have just days before your first time riding in front of George Morris.

Or, maybe it was.

The eight-hour drive north from Bend, Oregon, to the clinic location went smoothly, but I was full of restless anticipation. After a quick hack in the indoor and settling the horses in for the night, waves of nerves gave me goose bumps as I watched the farm’s crew collecting piles of cut grass from the beautiful front field in preparation for the next day.

In the morning, I was washing Carlos’s legs in the wash stall at the front of the barn when I saw George pull up. I walked out for a quick hello, gave him a kiss on the cheek when he stepped out of the car, and then scurried back in again to get ready. It had been just over a year since I’d seen him last—at the Easter Wellington book signing—and saying hello settled me. I was ready to put the previous week behind me and try my best for him.

When I rode Carlos onto the field less than an hour later, George looked up at me from his perch on the golf cart, paused and said, “Oh, Karen…I didn’t recognize you with your hat on. You look pretty good.”

I nodded with a ghost of a smile as I walked by him. After all the waiting, having registered six months before, it had begun.

As soon as that familiar cadence of George’s teaching—like the lecture of a college professor weaved with pointed instruction—began on that first morning, I found my nerves had passed. I settled into a mindset that stayed with me throughout the clinic: total concentration on following his direction exactly…with a strong dose of hustle. After watching George coach so many other riders in past years, it was absolutely surreal to have his voice speaking to me. It raised my focus to a calm but primed state of being present. I tried to absorb the big picture concepts while also being alert to react quickly.

The first day I was most concerned with riding boldly and not allowing the klutzy moments that had plagued us the week before in Sonoma. Carlos felt great—a little fresh but not wild. He ogled the ditch behind an oxer when we flatted by it, but when it came time to jump it, he didn’t hesitate. I found myself breathing barely whispered “Thank you” and “Good boy” praises to him. Flatwork set us up to feel the difference in our horses and then apply that feel in jumping exercises. George immediately zeroed in on my jumping position, telling me I needed to close my hip angle and lean forward, taking weight off Carlos’s back. This was his major critique of my riding, but throughout the clinic he acknowledged my practicing the adjusted position and encouraged my work to improve.

Looking back now at those three clinic days, I’m so proud that I met the challenges. We jumped a progressively wider water jump and rode well through some difficult exercises that tested flexibility of stride length, straightness, and tight turns. By Day 2, after flatwork and jumping without stirrups, George had me leading the group in most of the jumping exercises, which was exciting because having audited so many clinics, I knew what it meant: he thought I would bring confidence to the rest of the group.

There were definitely also some clumsy moments! Carlos and I haven’t had much practice jumping a bank, and at first we had a stop when he didn’t want to jump down over the small jump set at the bigger end of the bank. After I went to the stick hard and got him off the bank, I had a fire-breathing dragon underneath me for the rest of the day. I also halted at the wrong post in the fence line after someone had already made the same mistake ahead of me…George was very annoyed—and I heard about it. Then when he had us doing rider stretches, reaching down to touch our toes without stirrups, I knocked my helmet loose and my tucked-up ponytail started to slip out. Hair disaster!

As expected, there were the steely, scathing moments of George’s rebuke directed at various riders and auditors when they did not show proper respect or effort. Comments on the degraded state of our country, our general lack of discipline and work ethic, were weaved throughout the lectures each day. One rider had a fall when her horse caught a heel on the edge of the ditch, and George walked over, pointed down at her as she lay prone in the grass, and barked, “You have to keep your leg on at a ditch or a water! You didn’t leg him!”

He was right, of course. But what a picture that rider saw as she looked up at George Morris from the ground.

George also had soft, encouraging moments for riders who struggled. And he had so many words of reward—for everyone—when something was well ridden. “Excellent flying change!” “This girl—she is an educated rider, she is precise!” “That’s it…very good!” “Yeeeeesssss, THAT’S the way to ride that bank!” “This, people, is an excellent student—she listens!”

Every time George gave a compliment to any one of us, it lifted all of us up like we had climbed another step in showing him we, as a generation of riders, were worthy of the opportunity to learn from him. There was a silent, invisible vibration among the riders in my group. Although the rules of the road require that the riders not talk to one another during the clinic or even visibly laugh at George’s jokes (I’ve seen that go badly more than once), we were in it together and rooting for one another. I could feel it.

GEORGE-FRAMED

Speaking of clumsy moments, I had one while serving as jump crew during the 1.20 meter session on Day 1. I raised the top rail two holes on the water jump and stepping back from it, tripped backward over the wing box right in front of the audience and sprawled on hands and heels in the grass. I jumped up trying to recover and blushed hard, incredibly embarrassed. George looked over and said gravely, “Oh Karen, be careful,” and then addressing the crowd, “Karen wrote my book! That’s why she’s blushing…she knows alllll my stories! She knows more about me than my own mother. She even knows the stories that didn’t make the book.”

And just like that, he had taken my flustered moment and made me into a momentary celebrity out of pure sweetness.

George did not disappoint. He never does, does he? I was freaking out about being good enough to be in his clinic and wanting so badly to keep up with the group and belong out there. Now, looking back, I think to myself, “Don’t be silly—of course I belonged out there.” But maybe that’s just the post-George Karen talking. Maybe he instilled a level of certainty in those three days that makes the pre-George Karen a little bit of a stranger.

One thing that solidified that theory was the horse show I had the week following the clinic at the Rose City Opener back down in Bend. Just three days after getting home from the clinic, we were back in the show ring…and it was the best show Carlos and I have had together. We were consistently solid over all five days. We didn’t have a moment of doubt at a single jump. We got great ribbons all week, won the Ariat Medal class, and were Reserve Champion of our Hunter Division. But it was the Derby that felt like a true application of what I had taken with me from riding with George. I had never made it to the second round of a National Hunter Derby in four tries. At Rose City, we not only made it to the second round, but in the end, we were fifth, besting some excellent professional riders.

In my pre-clinic blog post, I wrote that I had hoped for one moment during the clinic when George Morris’s voice would make me feel invincible. Instead of a single moment to take with me, his voice, carrying me through those three clinic days, created a subtle, stream-of-consciousness-George-presence in the background whenever I ride. He is just there with me. In the Derby he was telling me, “Karen, first and foremost: Get it done.”

 

Karen Robertson worked with George Morris on his bestselling autobiography UNRELENTING, which is available from the TSB online bookstore.

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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Look at this image. Can you spot the differences between the horse on the left and the horse on the right?

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Which one is a horse that is bending correctly?

If you guessed the horse on the right is bending correctly, you were right!

The horse on the left shows how in an incorrectly bent horse, the vertebral column kinks to the inside in front of the horse’s shoulder. This gives the illusion of bend to the inexperienced eye.

“Never bend the neck more than you can bend the trunk of the horse,” says Dr. med. vet. Gerd Heuschmann in his book COLLECTION OR CONTORTION? “All additional important elements of bend derive from this maxim. Only a neck that ‘grows with stability out of the shoulder’ and is stabilized by the muscles in front of the shoulder can contribute its important part to the correct bend of the trunk. If a horse has an unstable, loose, ‘wobbly neck’ in front of the withers, he can’t be ridden in the proper balance, nor can he bend, straighten, or collect. Only well-developed pushing power helps the horse’s neck become stable on its axis…. To this end, it is explicitly required to regularly ride transitions from working trot to medium trot in the horse’s first year under saddle. On the other hand, suppleness of the inside trunk and the inside hind leg leads to the development of carrying power and correct bend of the neck. Said another way, the initial bending work and the required stability of the neck promote flexibility of the hindquarters. The neck must be seen as a stable component of the body that is securely attached to the horse’s trunk. Bend runs linearly and evenly through the whole trunk from the poll to the sacrum.”

COLLECTION OR CONTORTION? is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to download a free chapter.

GOODBADBEND

 

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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How do you think your horse feels about being mounted? Does he fidget? Throw his head up? Drop his back? Root at the bit? It is easy to unbalance your horse when you mount him, and you can also unbalance him when you dismount. Learning to take your time in the process of mounting and dismounting helps everybody stay balanced and neutral.

In the book HORSE SPEAK: THE EQUINE-HUMAN TRANSLATION GUIDE, Sharon Wilsie explains how her system of Horse Speak can help ease anxiety related to mounting, ensuring your rides start off on a positive note. Here are some of her recommendations:

First, really notice how your horse reacts to being mounted. (Consider asking someone to take a photo of your horse’s face while you get on.) A stoic horse may grimace while being mounted. A sensitive horse may raise his head and show anxiety. An energetic horse moves off when you step into the stirrup. There are many possible reactions. When looking at your horse, notice his ears, eyes, and in particular, his mouth. What you have long thought was acceptance, may instead have been be acquiescence.

Your core energy broadcasts from your “center” just behind your belly button. This can cause confusion when mounting, especially with a sensitive horse. When you face the saddle from the mounting block, you may put “sending” pressure from your belly button onto the horse. He will naturally swing his head toward you and his body away, in response to the sending message your body is conveying. To clarify your body language, practice mounting with your core energy turned toward the horse’s head.

You can also diffuse your horse’s anxiety about mounting with the following Horse Speak “Conversation”: 

Horse Speak Final Cover

Click image for more information.

1  Begin by leading your horse to the mounting block and position him as if you are going to mount, but instead just sit on the block for a few minutes (retreat) and breathe with him. Breathe long enough to see your horse visibly relax next to the block. This is a good exercise some evening when you don’t have time to ride but do want to have a Conversation with your horse. Tack up in your normal routine and have a Breath Conversation at the mounting block. Try to sync your breath to his. Observe the subtle language he shows. Take really deep breaths. 

2  Show your horse affection before you mount. Before getting up on the mounting block, check in with a Knuckle Touch. Reach up and lightly scratch the Friendly Button where the forelock meets the forehead. Most horses also appreciate having each front foot picked up and moved in a gentle circle at the mounting block—it releases tension.  Rock the Baby first on his bridle while standing in front of him, and then while standing on the mounting block with your horse in position in front of you, facing the same direction as your horse with your hand closest to him on his withers. Shift your weight from one foot to the other or from one hip to the other. Remember to sync your rocking to your breath, and breathe as slowly and deeply as you can. Your horse may take a step to rebalance himself. Many horses are taught to stand still no matter how awkward and unbalanced they feel. Letting him widen his stance may be a huge relief to him. Also some horses appreciate Rock the Baby at the mounting block with one hand on the withers and one behind the saddle. 

3  Now, once you mount, dismount again immediately, and walk your horse in a medium-size circle. Bring him back to the block, breathe, and mount again. Repeat this sequence three times, paying attention to your horse’s comfort and body language. If there is any tension stop and breathe with your horse, then resume the Conversation.

4  Try a Copycat Conversation with your horse about the mounting block. Lean over him slightly as if preparing to mount, and then lean back upright or away from the horse. Repeat, syncing your leaning toward and away from the horse to your own breathing. Do this at least three times before getting on and staying on. When you repeat this Copycat every time you mount, at some point your horse may simply lean toward you as you step in the stirrup. What a wonderful way to start a ride!

Learn more Conversations in HORSE SPEAK, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to learn more.

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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EARTHDAYBLOG

The definition of “recycle” is to convert waste into reusable material. But when it comes to the idea of “recycling,” few of us think of something we waste on a regular basis around the world: perfectly good horses. Just consider how many thousands of horses every year are born and are NOT the fastest, most beautiful, most athletic, or most colorful. They are just horses, in need of a home and a chance to shine in their own individual ways.

Earth Day 2017 is Saturday, April 22, and there will be a lot of much needed talk and action when it comes to trying to make our world a cleaner, healthier place for humans and animals to inhabit. But as we pile up the returnables and separate the plastics, this is also a time to remember that there are many four-legged creatures in need of a new home and a second chance. There are dogs, cats, and indeed horses, that need to be given an opportunity to be something different for someone new. Adopting one is perhaps the ultimate act of recycling.

One example of this is the off-the-track Thoroughbred. According to the Jockey Club, an estimated 22,500 Thoroughbred foals were born in North America in 2016. A fraction of these will go on to careers on the track or as breeding stock. The rest have an uncertain fate. Luckily, the past decade has seen an uptick in the number of OTTB retraining and rehoming facilities, as well as an increase in public awareness through the efforts of organizations such as the Retired Racehorse Project and its popular Thoroughbred Makeover event. This is good news for ex-racehorses, as many of them now find new roles as trail horses, competitive partners, or even just pasture companions.

In her Brookmeade Young Rider Series, TSB author Linda Snow McLoon tells the story of a young girl that is offered the opportunity of a lifetime: to “recycle” a failed racehorse and turn him into an eventing superstar. Here’s an excerpt from the first book in the series, Crown Prince:

Crown Prince_250Sarah stood quietly, watching the horse. There was no movement as he stood facing the far corner, ignoring her. She clucked softly, but there was no response. Her hand dug deep in her pocket in hopes of finding one more carrot, but it was empty. Nothing was left, except perhaps…yes, in her other pocket she felt a peppermint candy, which she withdrew and slowly unwrapped. In response to the crinkling of the cellophane, a slim finely chiseled head turned her way, his ears pricked forward. He wore a halter, but was too far away for her to read the nameplate. She placed her outstretched hand with the peppermint over the stall door and spoke softly. “Prince—come, Prince.”

Slowly the horse turned from the rear wall and cautiously moved toward her. As he got closer, she felt delicate nostrils blow gently on her hand and then the slender muzzle lifted the peppermint away. He studied her as he chewed the candy slowly and deliberately.

He was big. Except for the enormous draft horses she had seen in pulling competitions at the state fair, this horse was larger than any Sarah had ever seen, including Chancellor. The only horse who might possibly match his size was Donegal Lad. But this horse possessed such refinement that his size wasn’t readily evident until he was close. In the dimly lit stall his dark bay coat looked almost black, and his only marking was a small white star in the center of his forehead. The deep straw bedding hid any possible white markings on his legs.

For several moments Sarah and the horse stood looking at each other. Then she lifted the stall door’s latch and let herself inside. As Crown Prince retreated to the corner, she reached back over the door to lower the latch back into position. Slowly she approached the horse, all the while talking softly. “Good boy, good Prince,” she repeated. Once by his side, she reached to touch his long neck and stroked it gently. His coat felt like sleek satin. He turned his head toward her, seeming to know she meant him no harm.

Now she was close enough to make out his halter plate. Sarah read the name in large block letters: CROWN PRINCE. Below it in smaller print his sire and dam were listed: Emperor’s Gold—Northern Princess. Yes! This definitely was the horse with the reputation of an untrainable rogue.

“You beautiful Prince,” she murmured. As Sarah stroked his neck and continued to speak in hushed tones, she felt the horse become more relaxed. His head dropped down to her and gradually his eyes softened, as he clearly enjoyed her touch and gentle voice. He offered no resistance as she gently pulled his head closer and rested her cheek on his muzzle. It was so soft. With his head lowered, she caressed his forehead, tracing the white star, and gently tugged on his ears. She felt as if she had known this horse forever.

Sarah had no idea how long she had been in the stall with Crown Prince when she became aware of a presence outside.

“Sarah, what are you doing? We’ve been looking all over for you.” It was her father’s voice. She turned to see him looking in at her, along with Jack, Sam, and Rudy Dominic. Worry and concern were written all over their faces.

“I’m fine, Dad. Don’t worry. This is Crown Prince. And he’s the horse I want.”

Her father’s jaw tightened as his eyes met Jack’s before he turned back to Sarah and the dark bay horse standing beside her. Crown Prince surveyed them all curiously, the picture of refinement and nobility. Mr. Wagner observed the horse’s beautifully shaped head, which tapered from small ears to large intelligent eyes down to a refined muzzle. His white star contrasted sharply with his deep mahogany coat. Sarah’s father shook his head, acknowledging the horse’s beauty, but anxious for his daughter’s safety.

Rudy Dominic pointed to the horse. “Isn’t he just like I said?”

Jack was too absorbed to answer. He opened the stall door and joined Sarah to get a closer look. He had seen some impressive horseflesh in his life, but this one ranked up there with the best of them. His eyes traveled from the powerful hindquarters to the pleasing topline and nicely sloping shoulder.

“Have you got a shank right there, Rudy?” Jack asked. “I want to get a better look at this fellow outside the stall.”

Rudy nodded to Sam, who left, returning in a few minutes with a lead shank, and let himself into the horse’s stall. “Come on, big horse. Let’s show off for these folks.” As he started to attach the lead to Crown Prince’s halter, the horse playfully grabbed the brass shank with his teeth. “Oh, no you don’t,” Sam said, as he pulled it away. He ran the chain through the halter’s side ring, over the horse’s nose, and attached it to the other side. Turning to Sarah, he said, “If he decided to put his head to the sky, as a short guy I’d be in trouble. But he knows me. He’s not a bad horse around the barn. It’s only when you sit on him he gets rank. I’ll bring him out so you can have a look-see at a real horse.”

Jack opened the stall door, and Sam led the horse to the open area between the barns. The backstretch was quieter now, since most grooms had finished caring for their horses and were having a late breakfast in the track kitchen. Crown Prince walked with a stately dignity and halted when asked, his coat gleaming in the sun’s rays.

Jack moved around him, thinking out loud. “Strong hindquarters, nice length of back, pronounced withers, good bone, and a lovely long neck.” He moved to stand directly in front of the horse before speaking to Rudy. “His conformation is quite correct. No toeing in or out, good width of chest, nice head. They don’t come any better than this. But I’d like to see him move.”

Rudy motioned to Sam. “Walk away and then jog him back, Sam. But be careful. He hasn’t been to the track to gallop in a while, so keep a tight hold on him.” Rudy turned to Sarah and her father. “I’m always surprised at how well behaved he is except when there’s a rider up. Then he becomes a lunatic.”

Jack positioned himself to get a good view before Sam led the horse away from him. Coming back, Prince trotted agreeably beside Sam and stopped when they reached Jack. “He’s a good mover, too—well balanced,” said Jack, “and his ground manners can’t be faulted.”

Sarah’s father was standing back but listening carefully. “He is a beautiful animal. It’s too bad his reputation takes him out of the running for being a horse for Sarah,” he said firmly.

Sarah, who up to now hadn’t taken her eyes off the horse, swung to face her father. “Dad—I don’t believe he can be as bad as Rudy says! He deserves a chance to be a different horse when he gets away from the racetrack and comes to Brookmeade Farm. Maybe he wasn’t meant to be a racehorse, but I think he will be a wonderful horse for me. I just know it!”

Mr. Wagner was quick to respond. “Sarah, this is a large and powerful animal. Above all else, I won’t let you be in harm’s way. From what I’ve heard today, this horse is dangerous. We mustn’t be so taken with his splendid appearance that we lose sight of the big picture. I can’t have you getting hurt by a horse.”

Sarah could see her father was totally serious. He was thinking only of potential disaster. She had to change his mind.

“We can start working with him on a longe line, Dad, until he knows what’s expected of him. I can turn him out in the big pasture where he can run off some energy. He’ll come to trust me. I promise I won’t even think about riding him until Jack gives the okay. You can see he’s well behaved. He’s a special horse, Dad, and he should have another chance.”

“But what about the handsome chestnut horse you like so much?” her father asked, motioning toward the other end of the shed row. “Don’t you think Code of Honor will be the perfect horse for you? And don’t you want a horse you can ride? Who knows how long it will be before you can get on this horse, if ever.”

Sarah looked at her father, her dark eyes pleading. “Dad, I know you want what’s best for me. But this is supposed to be my decision. Please don’t stand in the way. You’ve got to trust me. I want to take Crown Prince back to Brookmeade Farm more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my entire life. I know he’s the right horse for me. He’s the one I’ve been waiting for.”

Jack, who had been quietly studying Crown Prince, turned to them. “’Tis for sure we have a grand animal here. Who knows the heights he and Sarah might reach if we can turn him around? Sometimes Thoroughbreds are completely different when they get away from the racetrack.” Jack walked over and placed a hand on Crown Prince’s shoulder. He stroked the horse, deep in thought.

After a few moments he turned back to Sarah’s father. “I tell you what, Martin. Perhaps we can give this horse a trial run. If we could arrange to take him for a month, I’ll pledge to be deeply involved in his handling, and I mean every part of his care and schooling, to make sure Sarah is safe. I won’t allow her to get on him until I’ve tested those waters myself. I’ll know in thirty days if he will be a suitable mount for her. If by then we’ve made no headway and I decide he’s not the right horse, we’ll notify Hank Bolton and return him to you, Rudy,” Jack added, looking at the trainer. “If this trial scenario is acceptable to you and Hank Bolton, let’s give it a shot.” He paused and looked intently at Sarah’s father. “Martin, I’m willing to make this commitment to ensure your daughter’s safety.”

Sarah stood quietly, her gaze never leaving her father. He was solemn, as he stood deep in thought. She knew he was worried—that above all else, he didn’t want her hurt. Mr. Wagner looked hard at Jack for a few moments before speaking. “Without your encouragement, I would never even consider letting Sarah take a horse with the shady past this one has. But if you can assure me you’ll stay on top of things and manage everything that’s done with him, I’ll go along with your proposal. But remember, this is a trial. At some point in the next month I will look to you, Jack, for an answer. If Sarah is at risk at any time, the horse must go.”

Sarah threw her arms around her father. “Dad, you’re the greatest! I’ll always remember this, that you gave Crown Prince a chance.”

 

CROWN PRINCE and its sequel CROWN PRINCE CHALLENGED are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Plus, in honor of Earth Day 2017, you can download a digital copy of ECO-HORSEKEEPING for only $1.99! CLICK HERE to get hundreds of tips for going green affordably, in the barn and in the rest of your horse life!

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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LetsDance

When the circles seem to never (ever…ever) end and your horse starts spooking at his own pile of manure just for something different to do, it’s time to liven up your schooling sessions. There are many ways to make training more engaging, including imaginative uses of lateral work, props like ground poles and cones, and incorporating trail obstacles and challenges, even when you’re practicing inside the arena.

This exercise from 50 BEST ARENA EXERCISES AND PATTERNS is great for both English and Western riders and combines the turn-on-the-forehand and turn-on-the-haunches. This combination increases the horse’s agility and attention, teaching him to better respond to different positions of the rider’s leg, which in turn develops willingness and cooperation in the horse. This exercise will also help your horse become more flexible in his spine (especially in his loin area).

Are you ready to dance? Here’s what to do:

1 Tracking left, ride 3–4 feet (1–1.3 m) from the track. Choose a random point.

2 Begin, for example, with two steps of a turn-on-the-haunches to the left (no. 1 in diagram below). As you do so, lightly position your horse to the left. Shift your weight to your left seat bone. Use your right leg to drive the horse’s forehand to the left.

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 10.04.47 AM

Diagram from 50 BEST ARENA EXERCISES AND PATTERNS (www.horseandriderbooks.com).

 

3 Pause. Then, for several steps execute a turn-on-the-forehand to the right (no. 2). Using your left rein, position your horse to the left. Shift your weight to your left

4 Now, again ride a few steps of turn-on-the-haunches (no. 3) and a few steps of turn-on-the-forehand (no. 4). Conclude the exercise with a few steps of turn-on-the-haunches (no. 5).

Note: At first, pause in between each turn so that the horse stays motivated and doesn’t become overwhelmed. But, as the exercise progresses, make your pauses shorter so your movements begin to flow like dance steps.

Tip: Don’t use your rein to pull your horse in the desired direction. Guide his turn. Look in the applicable direction. As you do so, turn your head 90 degrees.

 

What is you horse learning?

  • Sensitivity to the rider’s aids (especially the leg aids).
  • Crossing with his legs.
  • Flexibility in positioning.

 

What are you learning?

  • Refinement of the aids.
  • A feel for the various turns.

 

What if your horse is losing his balance and straightness at times?

Ask yourself if your horse is overwhelmed, perhaps because the turns are coming too quickly in succession? If not, your inside leg can often be responsible for this problem. Be aware that you do not stretch your inside leg out in front of you or too far away from your horse. Your inside leg should just be a slight distance from the horse’s side.

What if your horse executes parts of the exercise, without you giving him the aids?

In order to avoid your horse anticipating the turns, include forward movement and rein-back in between them.

 

50 Best Arena Ex-REVISED LG

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

For more fun riding exercises that get results, check out 50 BEST ARENA EXERCISES AND PATTERNS, 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 company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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