Welcome to the Schmidt Show: 24 Hours with Dressage Trainer and Equine Cartoonist Morgane Schmidt

One of our favorite things about my job is that I get to know the most fun and fascinating people. Our authors come from so many parts of the world and with so many different life experiences, a day doesn’t pass where I don’t wish I lived closer to one or all of them so we could hang out on a regular basis. Luckily, many are willing to give us a peek behind the curtain and into their lives so we can see what it’s like being in their shoes for a day. Trainer and cartoonist Morgane Schmidt, author and illustrator of the hilarious comic treasury LIFE WITH HORSES IS NEVER ORDERLY, recently shared one of her typical dog days of summer, where there is much latte, quite a bit of maid service, and even some dressage.

“I found myself laughing out loud as I turned the pages of Life with Horses Is Never Orderly. Morgane Schmidt has explained just about every experience I have had in my many years in the horse world and put just the right spin on it. Everyone who needs a laugh (and don’t all equestrians?) should read this.” —Lendon Gray, Olympian, Dressage Coach, and Founder of Dressage4Kids


3:15 am Awaken to Goblin sitting on my head and Bowie standing next to the bed, over me, breathing. Heavily. I usually groan, chuck a pillow at Bowie and shove Goblin into his bed on the floor all while regretting the ONE time I let them out at this ungodly hour.

The face of evil.

5:43 am Startle into wakefulness because Bowie is now sitting all 165 pounds of his fuzzy ass on my legs, cutting off circulation. Goblin is also farting. I acquiesce and get up to let them out and feed them. Usually, I put Goblin’s food in his crate and lock him in it so I can go lie back down for a few moments unmolested. Bowie tends to saunter in after his breakfast to begin his very early morning nap that generally lasts until about 9:00 am. Lucky sod.

6:30 am These days, this tends to be when I get up in earnest. Before returning to The Swamp (aka Florida), I started the day quite a bit earlier by necessity as I was trying to work horses before sitting down to my actual desk job. Now that I am not juggling multiple training horses, I suppose I’ve gotten lazy—that or I need the extra few minutes of sleep since my dogs are jerks. At any rate, this is when I start mainlining coffee. Then I meditate and do some special yoga for riders…just kidding. I just drink coffee, eat oatmeal with chocolate chips (like a REAL adult), and mindlessly play on my phone.

That’s me, double fisting it.

7:00 am – 9:00 am Once I am somewhat among the living (usually three or four espresso shots in), I head out and provide room service and hospitality to my generally ungrateful herd. There’s often a bit of huffing about there not being enough alfalfa, but I’m immune to their grousing. At the moment, it’s just Wilson and Milona at the farm, so barn chores are generally pretty quick.

After breakfast, maid service, and a general wellness check to ensure no one has succeeded in maiming or offing themselves, I tack Wilson up to ride. As he is the elder beast, and the least likely to chuck me into the bushes before I am fully awake, he gets harassed first. Honestly, this is probably my favorite part of the day. It’s beautiful out—a light breeze, birds chirping, gators still sleeping—it’s perfect.

You can almost hear the birds chirping…the ones the gators haven’t eaten anyway.

Wilson, who I used to call “The Beastlet” when he was younger and more fractious, is quite the trustworthy soul these days. If anything, he could benefit from being a tad more forward-thinking. We are continually working to help him be quicker with his hind leg and maintain his balance. He’s such a big, elastic mover that sometimes coordinating everything with balance AND impulsion can be tricky. Rather than getting hot or explosive he just…stops. He does a very good rock impression. Super zen-like. It makes for an incredibly frustrating FEI test though.

Interestingly, the tricks are easy for him. He loves changes and can really sit in a pirouette. Collected trot though? What’s that nonsense about?!

Wilson, ever the charmer.

9:00 am After warming myself up with Wilson, I tackle Milona, the “Red Dragon.” She has many opinions. As long as she voices them respectfully, rather than taking me for a self-guided field trip from the scary corner in the arena to the other end in three strides, I count it as a win. In all seriousness, she’s a lovely youngster, bright red mare that she is. She loves to work and entirely believes that the world is there to admire her greatness (I suspect she may not be wrong if she develops as I think she will). While she doesn’t often have tantrums, she is a mare and she is currently in the “Fabulous or ‘Eff You’ Fives,” so there are questionable moments, and those moments can be quite *exciting* given her athleticism. As a result, I’ve enlisted the help of a fabulous friend and trainer, Alejandro Salazaar. He’s like some sort of riding savant; he’s one of the few riders I’ve worked with who is equally as talented with youngsters as FEI horses. Milona, of course, adores him.

Milona in a non-flight moment.

10:00 am – Sometime in the Late Afternoon After my early morning barn sabbatical, it’s time for me to head inside for my *real* job. I currently work for a tech company based in Boulder, Colorado. We offer speech recognition for the Healthcare industry, specifically home health and hospice. I work remotely as a marketing manager. This means that I do things like help develop collateral, outreach campaigns, website and social media content, as well as manage Google AdWords and other lead-driving initiatives.

Sounds sexy, right? Well, it is! In news that will shock no one, the horse industry is a tough one to make a living in. As much as I love training and teaching, for a multitude of reasons I’m not cut out to do it full time. I also find that having a job in an entirely unrelated field helps keep my brain sharp(er). And while any office job has its fair share of “meetings that could have been emails,” I do really enjoy mine and the people I work with.

As I work from home, my day sort of varies and is generally built around whatever meetings I have scheduled and what projects we have going that I’m working on. In the middle of that though, I generally head out around lunch to check once again that no one has committed hari-kari on a fence post, or anything similarly stupid, and to reward them with more snacks for avoiding vet bills. If time permits, I do another round of maid service.

Sometime late afternoon I take some time to meditate. Just kidding. I still don’t do that. But it is a goal! Eventually. I do make another latte though. That seems like healthy self-care.

Sometimes one must give the kids something to entertain themselves so actual work can get done.

Evening When my work calls are done for the day, I do a final round of ration-dispensing and maid service. The doggos kindly provide me with entertainment both in the yard beforehand as well as while I cook dinner. Usually something super fun like ricocheting from the couch to the ottoman and then onto the dining room table. It’s mildly funny when Goblin does it. It’s borderline tragic when Bowie attempts it.

During the week I occasionally have an evening lesson or two to teach. I have been fortunate in that I have some super-fun horses and people that I get to work with. Some are strictly dressage riders and others are eventers.  As a former eventer (I gave that goal up after I figured out that continually barfing in the start box wasn’t a thing), I love being around the sport, particularly now that I’m not the one doing that whole hurtling over immovable obstacles part.

The neighbors aren’t impressed with Bowie’s antics.

7:00 pm – 10:00 pm After one final barn check, I usually settle into art/writing/computer projects in the evening. As someone who is hardwired as a night owl but reprogrammed as a morning person due to horses and the gross reality that it’s hard to get a productive ride in after dark, I find that I’m most creative at night. This works well with the fact that I am also a procrastinator. While I do keep a running list of comic ideas—usually gleaned from conversations with friends and fellow equestrians or sparked by memes or other internet rabbit holes—the actual drawing and creation of the comic usually happens sometime after 8:00 pm Tuesday night (because it’s due Wednesday morning).

If I don’t have a comic that I’m working on, I often use this time to work on other art projects or articles. Most of my artwork is equine or dog related though I have been known to attempt people on occasion. I currently have a watercolor of The Goblin King going that is screaming to be finished.

Where the magic happens?

10:00 pm Reading and internet rabbit-hole time! I would like to say that I go to bed by 10:00 pm but that would largely be a lie. In theory—because sleep is important—I would like to be in bed and sleeping by 10:00, but in practice I sometimes find that hard to manage. My dogs also do not go to bed by 10:00 so there’s that too. I have made a concerted effort to do more reading of actual books rather than reading on my phone though. For the curious, I currently have five books in various stages of completion on my nightstand: A Grave for a Dolphin, Good Omens, David Sedaris – the Best of Me, The Chronicles of Between, and Beyond Biocentrism. I’m only a little eclectic.

11:00 pm The hellhounds get one more freedom run through the yard so they can track all sorts of glorious debris into the bed. Then bedtime. Maybe.

All photos courtesy of Morgane Schmidt.

You can find Morgane’s hilarious comic treasury LIFE WITH HORSES IS NEVER ORDERLY at the TSB online bookstore and wherever horse books are sold.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

Enjoy this? Check out other author interviews in the “24 Hours” series:

Sally Batton
Sandra Beaulieu
Dr. Stacie Boswell
Cathy Woods
Dr. Jenni Grimmett
Dr. Bob Grisel
Tik Maynard
Jec Aristotle Ballou
Kendra Gale
Jean Abernethy
Yvonne Barteau
Jonathan Field
Emma Ford
Jochen Schleese
Heather Smith Thomas
Lynn Palm
Daniel Stewart
Doug Payne
Janet Foy

We’re Counting Down to Buy A Horse Book Day!

Only 5 days left until #BuyAHorseBookDay ! Join TSB and Heels Down Media to celebrate horse books—and all those who write them, read them, and make them!

When?

Tuesday, May 10

What Do I Do?

Buy a horse book at your favorite tack or bookstore, take a selfie, post about your favorite horse books, tell others your reading recs (or what you’ve written!), and tag your post #BuyAHorseBookDay (and don’t forget to include @horseandriderbooks and @heelsdownspark for added likes, shares, and chances to win!)

What Can I Win?

Every order from our online bookstore www.HorseandRiderBooks.com on May 10 is automatically entered to win a $100 shopping spree at our online bookstore, plus books will be given away to our favorite social posts throughout the day! Watch social for author and media contests and giveaways, too.

What’s the Point?

Horse books are not only fun to read, but they educate and inspire, and buying them supports SO MANY independent creators and small businesses. Let’s join together and make this an annual event that is positive, exciting, and inclusive!

What Else Should I Know?

Sign up for the Heels Down Spark, the only daily equestrian newsletter (and our FAVORITE at TSB), for reviews of some of Heels Down’s favorite horse-themed books and for their discounts and giveaways during the week of May 10.

CLICK HERE to sign up for Heels Down Spark

PLUS, TSB is running a sitewide sale on May 10 in honor of Buy A Horse Book Day! Enjoy 20% off plus FREE SHIPPING in the US!

CLICK HERE to visit our online bookstore now.

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

A Maine Horseman on Loving the American West, Avocados, and Watership Down

It isn’t uncommon to have an experience that marks a major life change–a dramatic meeting, a sudden loss, an unexpected epiphany…all of these can inspire a re-evaluation of who we are and what we are doing with our lives. When Chris Lombard suffered a breakup that upended his life and left him searching for meaning and purpose, he headed west to learn how to work with and ride horses–something he knew nothing about. We caught up with Chris and talked to him about the book that tells his story, LAND OF THE HORSES, and how a single moment can herald seismic events.

TSB: Your book LAND OF THE HORSES explores a year you spent traveling the West, searching for opportunities to be with and work with horses, having never done so before. What inspired you to share this particular story with the world? 

CL: Well, first off, I just enjoyed writing about it. It was fun to revisit it all. In the writing I would remember the beauty, the adventure, the inspiration. And also the little moments. Moments that meant a lot back then, but also moments that only upon further reflection did I realize how meaningful they were to me. To put this time of my life into a story—into something tied together into one cohesive journey—has been a gift to me. And, as I’ve learned, the best thing to do with a gift is to give it away to others. 

CLICK FOR MORE INFORMATION

TSB: In your book, there are a number of themes, including what can or can’t be seen in someone’s eyes. What is it about the eye, and in particular the horse’s eye, that you find profound?

CL: In the eyes—our eyes or an animal’s eyes—is truth. It’s a common truth that is inherent to us all, ties us together, and unites us. The look and feeling in our eyes also speaks more clearly than any words or sentences or whole books ever could. The eyes give us a look into the soul, and how that soul feels, and what it truly wishes to communicate to the world. And this is not so much something that is learned or practiced or trained—it’s something always there, and we just have to get ourselves and our mind and our thinking out of the way of it. In the eyes is where we can best see and feel the unseen world of the soul.  

TSB: You are lucky to meet many horses as you learn to ride and strive to become a horseman. Tell us about one of the horses that had an impact on you during that time. 

CL: Cheyenne, a Mustang mare. She was thirteen when I met her. She had lived in the wild until the age of two, was rounded up, then adopted. But never tamed. She spent the next eleven years of her life successfully fending off any attempts at domestication. She was the most challenging horse I have ever worked with. She helped me to learn and feel what my entire being was saying and doing when around horses. She taught me how to slow down, believe, to love unconditionally, and that trust is never, ever made to happen. And that with trust is the ONLY way a horse can and should be led.    

TSB: You are from Maine but admit a distinct love for and connection to the American West. What is it about the West that you love? What is it about the West that makes it a place you cannot stay but can only visit? 

CL: I sure do love the West. The land feels wise, wild, and ancient. It’s deep, magical. I am also very tied to the indigenous people’s ways of living and being, so that holds me there. And also the horses—it’s no mistake that most wild horses on this continent have settled around that area of North America. It’s the type of land that they are most comfortable living on. But Maine is home. At the end of the day, Maine has a wonderful variety of land, and the ocean. And I love the people there. So Maine is home, but I will always adventure and journey into the West. 

Photo Courtesy of Chris Lombard

TSB: What is one lesson you hope readers will take away from your book?

CL: That we all have a passion, a love, that is inside us that is uniquely our own. For me, I need to have horses in my life. For others it’s the piano, or gardening, or painting, or cooking, or something else. And when we are following our passion, it gives love to us, arising naturally from within us. We’re happy. And this unique passion we have turns to a gift that we can give to the world. And then in the giving of it we are happy. It seems we are all given a part to play in this great world, and when we find that part, when we play it, it gives back to us in all ways.   

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?

CL: A Mustang and Watership Down by Richard Adams.

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

CL: Ride with Rocky across the country bareback and bridle-less, even with no halter and lead-rope for when I get down to lead him…. Impossible? I think about it all the time.

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

CL: Trust. Common answer, and there’s a good reason why. 

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

CL: Horse-ness. Horse happiness. Free to be themselves. 

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

CL: That I won’t “get myself out of the way of myself” enough to fully give everything I want to give to the world.

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

CL: Avocados!

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

CL: I would like to slow down in many ways that would allow me to do more with the life I have.

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

CL: Broccoli.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

CL: To recognize in every moment how much love and beauty there is all around us.

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

CL: Caga Mato Wanbli, also known as Frank Fools Crow, an Oglala Lakota holy man. 

TSB: What is your motto?

CL: Live from your love within.

LAND OF THE HORSES is available now in print and eBook format from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

What they’re saying about LAND OF THE HORSES:

“A well written and heartfelt book that demonstrates the positive and often life changing promise that horses have to offer—when we let them.” —Mark Rashid, author of Journey to Softness, Finding the Missed Path, and Horses Never Lie

“This book gave me pause. I was absorbed in Chris Lombard’s words of wisdom about being with and connecting with the horse. His thoughts on horses and life resonate truth. They are simple, yet profound. It made me want to run out to my barn to work with a small and troubled horse that is new to my farm and seems angry at the world. I slowed down with him and started seeing a shift and a softer eye. Land of the Horses is definitely worth the read!” —Cindy Meehl, Cedar Creek Media, Director and Producer of Buck7 Clinics with Buck Brannaman, and The Dog Doc, and Executive Producer of Rewind, The River and the Wall, For the Birds, UnbrandedTrapped, and Dogs on the Inside

“This book needs to be read. I am changed by it. It has a quietly powerful way of bringing home the connection between the human and the horse.” —Joe Camp, author of The Soul of a Horse

“I love linear timeline books such as this…narratives that take you on an emotional and physical journey while periodically dropping you into very different worlds along the way. Chris Lombard’s story is told with an adventure essence that kept me connected the entire time—from teaching children in a school to guiding night rides in Los Angeles to working with dudes in Arizona. It’s a story of adventure steeped with the discovery of finding oneself—and the horse serving as the catalyst for that discovery.” —Bud Force, Co-Director, Producer, and Director of Photography for the feature film Cowboys: A Documentary Portrait 

The Best Horse Books of 2021

If you have ever been involved in the publication of a book, then you know that while there may be a clear beginning–that moment when the inspiration found you or you actually sat down and started typing–there is no real end. Once through the various phases of gestation and birth (editing, re-editing, layout, proofreading, indexing, more proofing, printing, distributing, and then, oh yes, marketing) there is only ever more that could be done to spread the word and share the book with as many readers as possible. In more ways than one, a book is the gift that keeps on giving–at every stage, it gives you plenty to do!

It always helps us keep looking forward to what’s next if we take the time to look back. Considering the books we published in 2021 reminds us of all the talented people, exceptional information, and amazing stories we’ve had in our lives the past 12 months. And it gets us excited to do what we do for another year!

In 2021 we:

All in all, not a bad year…

We hope you get a chance to enjoy what our amazing authors had to share in 2021…everything we publish changes us a little bit for the better. It can do the same for you.

Happy 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.

Come See Us at Equine Affaire!

This is the week! Equine Affaire in West Springfield, Massachusetts, is happening Thursday 11-11 through Sunday 11-14, 2021. Come see us at Booth 846-847 in the Better Living Center at the Eastern States Exposition and find all our newest books and hottest sellers, as well as amazing sale bins, author book signings, and chances to win great prizes. We all know that this year’s holiday shopping is going to be frantic and frustrating due to the ongoing supply chain nightmare and shipping issues, so we’re going to be ready to make it easy for you to get it all done, in person, at special event prices.

EA has an all-star lineup of TSB authors presenting this year, including:

LYNN PALM
Author of THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION and YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO WESTERN DRESSAGE

DAN JAMES
Author of LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP

JIM WOFFORD
Author of STILL HORSE CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, MODERN GYMNASTICS, and CROSS-COUNTRY WITH JIM WOFFORD

WENDY MURDOCH
Author of 50 5-MINUTE FIXES TO IMPROVE YOUR RIDING and 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES

SHARON WILSIE
Author of HORSE SPEAK and HORSES IN TRANSLATION

SALLY BATTON
Author of THE ATHLETIC EQUESTRIAN

DR. JOYCE HARMAN
Author of THE HORSE’S PAIN-FREE BACK AND SADDLE-FIT BOOK and THE WESTERN HORSE’S PAIN-FREE BACK AND SADDLE-FIT BOOK

JANET JONES
Author of HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN

PLUS, we’ll have special guest appearances from Northeasterners Melissa Priblo Chapman, author of DISTANT SKIES, Chris Lombard, author of LAND OF THE HORSES, and the annual giant FERGUS THE HORSE photo-op.

Follow us on FB, IG, and Twitter for updates during the show about book signing times and Q & A sessions with authors! And please swing by Booth 846-847 in the Better Living Center to say hello. We love to talk about books and horses.

Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HorseandRiderBooks   
Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TSBbooks   
Check us out on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/horseandriderbooks/  

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

Horse Brain, Human Brain at HETI Seoul

From June 7 to 11, 2021, TSB author Janet Jones, PhD, whose HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN has become a runaway international bestseller since its release last year, was a featured presenter at HETI Seoul. Hosted by the Korea Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (KATH) and Korea Racing Authority (KRA), the 17th HETI International Congress was held as both an in-person and virtual event. Janet traveled to Seoul to speak to attendees in person.

The goal of HETI Seoul was to welcome experts and officials from all over the world to catch up on the latest trends taking place in the field of equine-assisted activity and therapy. In her presentation, Janet discussed what it is about equine brains that makes horses so good at equine-assisted therapy for humans. She introduced some of the reasons:

  • Horses have no prefrontal cortex and therefore cannot judge their human handlers.
  • Horse-and-human communication depends on nonverbal body language.
  • Horses learn and respond quickly in “pure” form with little emotional baggage.
  • Horses have little to no categorical perception and therefore notice small details.
  • The horse’s primary emotion is fear, as is common to wounded human psyches.
  • Methods that calm equine fear also help control human fear. 
  • Successful horse-and-human interaction requires mutual trust built over time.
  • Horses’ size and power requires humans to abandon techniques involving force.

During her talk, Janet explained how each of these items affects human wellness and aids in many types of therapeutic intervention (read more in her official conference abstract HERE).

*Photos above: Janet presenting six neurological reasons for horses’ excellence at equine-assisted psychotherapy; the foreign speakers, organizers, the HETI Board, and leaders of the host organizations Korea Racing Authority and Korea Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship at the Presidential Dinner held at Seoul’s Floating Island on (on top of!) the water of the Han River; Janet presenting the Best Volunteer Award to a young Korean rider who worked tirelessly to help everyone. Photos courtesy of Janet Jones.

“I enjoyed the HETI Congress immensely,” says Janet. “The organizers managed every detail, the presentations were informative, and all the complex online hybrid and translation technology worked. I met lots of interesting new people and got to discuss global and local horse industries with many of them.The presentations had simultaneous translation into multiple languages–I think simultaneous translation is pretty cool, though perhaps it is more common nowadays than I was aware! Final convention counts showed 909 participants from 37 countries—remarkable given the global pandemic at this time.”

The 18th HETI International Congress is slated for 2024 in Budapest, Hungary.

For more information about HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN or to order, CLICK HERE.

You can also follow Janet Jones, her research, and how she is applying it in her own daily horse training, on her website and blog: janet-jones.com

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

30 Years Practice: An Excerpt from Jim Wofford’s Autobiography

In this excerpt from STILL HORSE CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, Olympian and tale-teller Jim Wofford shares a formative experience with an equestrian coach that told him all he needed to know about what it takes to be a good rider.

When I first came to Gladstone in 1965, Richard Wätjen was coaching the dressage team, and I audited his lessons whenever possible. Wätjen, German by birth, was classically trained at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna after WWI and had become a coach after WWII. Tall and portly, he was a legend in the dressage world, and must have been a tough old buzzard as well. In the winter of 1966–67, Nautical Hall, the indoor riding arena at Gladstone, was one of the coldest places on Earth, but no matter how cold it was, Wätjen taught in slacks and street shoes, wearing a dark green Loden greatcoat. He was not an inspiring instructor, and his comments were brief and pungent. “More,” was one of his favorites, along with “Again,” and “No.” I never knew if teaching in a second language was a problem for him, or if it was just his style, and I was too intimidated to ask. 

He was dedicated to obtaining a correct response from his horses by establishing an inside leg to outside rein connection. One day a student remarked that he wanted to start work in half-pass. “No,” said Wätjen, in his heavy German accent. “Vee vill put him in shoulder-in for two years, und zen vee vill put him in half-pass in two days.” His point was that once the basic response was correctly established, the horse would put his forces completely at our disposal. In terms of my overall development as a horseman, I might have gotten as much from my auditing as from riding at the time. 

Once Wätjen had finished his work with the Team horses, he taught occasional outside lessons for dressage riders. A woman showed up for one lesson with a very fancy, recently imported horse reputed to have set her back a princely sum. (Given the fur coat and diamonds she was sporting, I don’t think she noticed the cost a bit.) It was obvious after she careened around the ring for a few minutes that she couldn’t get this creature even close to being on the bit. 

Then magic happened. Telling this unfortunate lady to ride in and “get down,” Wätjen turned toward the corner of the arena where Rick Eckhart and I were cowering. Pointing at us, he said, “Boys. Come here.” 

Next thing we knew, we were holding the horse while, in street shoes and gabardine slacks, Wätjen laboriously stepped aboard. He would have been in his late seventies by this time, and his beer belly indicated he wasn’t much for exercise. I knew he had been a fabulous rider in his day—a long time ago. He walked off gathering his reins, then moved into working trot. By now the horse was starting to settle into the contact and produced a few transitions from working trot to collected trot, followed by extended trot across each diagonal. This happened with no discernable aids, as Wätjen sat bolt upright in the saddle. Some canter work followed, including several flying changes remarkable for their straightness and fluidity. 

All this only took a few minutes, with no preparation or warm-up. In the meantime, the dressage rider was standing with a stupefied look on her face, and I was pretty impressed as well. Wätjen walked back to the center and gestured that we should hold the horse while he carefully stepped down, gave him a pat, and said, “Nice horse.” The owner began to babble about how grateful she was, and how impressed. “How ever did you do that?” she inquired. 

Gesturing with his hand toward her shoulder, Wätjen said, “Vell, you must sit mit a straight line from shoulder, to hip, to heel.” She replied eagerly, “Yes, yes, I am doing that.” Wätjen continued, “… und zen you are riding mit a straight line from elbow to horse’s mouth.” The lady pounced on this statement with glee, “Yes, yes. I have been doing this.” “Goot!” said Wätjen. “Now you must practice for 30 years.” I started to crack up at what I thought was a masterful put-down, but I happened to take a look at Wätjen’s face. He wasn’t putting her down, or kidding. He was serious.

STILL HORSE CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS (If It Didn’t Happen This Way, It Should Have) is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

Celebrating Our Local Vermont Bookstores for Independent Bookstore Day

Tomorrow, Saturday, April 24, 2021, is Independent Bookstore Day, a day to celebrate the small but mighty independent bookstore–your local source for books, events, and most importantly, community! Indie bookstores suffered terribly over the past year as lockdowns and changes in purchasing habits during the pandemic devastated their bottom lines. As an independent book publisher, fighting hard for every sale is a familiar struggle, so we ask you to join us tomorrow and show your support for your favorite local bookstore.

We are very lucky to have three independent bookstores our staff frequents (and who carry select TSB books!) in locations near our main offices in North Pomfret, Vermont. We checked in with each shop to see how they are doing and what their reopening plans are–if you are in the area, we urge you to stop by and visit these stores, and if you aren’t, please consider placing an order online!

NORWICH BOOKSTORE

291 Main Street, Norwich Vermont

Liza Bernard and Penny McConnel met in 1988 at a book study group. Penny was working at the Dartmouth Bookstore, then one of the oldest independent bookstores in the country. Liza was supporting herself designing and making hand woven and knit clothing, and later as an independent art consultant and graphic designer. 

In the early 1990s both Penny and Liza were approaching work transitions, and imagining what might come next. Always envious of Penny’s position being surrounded by books and the people who loved them, and knowing their work styles were complementary, Liza broached the idea of opening a bookstore together.

Here we are almost 30 years, and one pandemic, later, and the Norwich Bookstore continues to be a favorite destination for families and a hot shopping spot for locals (their complimentary gift wrapping is legend!).

“Since we opened the doors on August 1, 1994, we have enjoyed bringing writers and readers of the vibrant Upper Valley community together,” says Liza, “from offering personalized recommendations to hosting internationally acclaimed author events.” 

PHOENIX BOOKS

2 Carmichael Street, Essex Jct, Vermont | 191 Bank Street, Burlington, Vermont | 2 Center Street, Rutland, Vermont

With 20 years of bookstore ownership behind them (Mike and Renee owned The Book Rack and Children’s Pages in Winooski, Vermont, from 1993-2003), Mike DeSanto and Renee Reiner opened the first Phoenix Books in Essex, Vermont in 2007. With support from the community, they then opened locations in Burlington in 2012 and Rutland in 2015.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to provide books and to foster a love of reading in our communities,” says Social Media Manager/Floor Manager Katie DeSanto. “It’s why we’re here!”

YANKEE BOOKSHOP

12 Central Street, Woodstock, Vermont

Vermont’s oldest continuously operated independent bookshop first opened in November 1935 and has been serving Woodstock and the surrounding towns ever since. Yankee offers a terrifically curated collection of books, as well as vinyl, stationery, gifts, and awesome puzzles (I bought MANY in 2020!).

The shop’s eighth and current local owners are Kari Meutsch and Kristian Preylowski who purchased the shop in February of 2017 with the help of the owners of Phoenix Books: Michael DeSanto and Renee Reiner.

But the past year undoubtedly challenged the usual ways our independent bookstores could interact with their customers, and seeing as that interaction is such a huge part of the connection we feel as neighbors and customers, we asked our locals how they felt the events of 2020 strengthened their place in our community. 

“From how-to-knit to thrilling mysteries, people are turning to books to learn and to be entertained,” says Liza Bernard from Norwich Bookstore, “so we quickly pivoted from in-store browsing to recommending books by phone, email, and via our website for pickup from the porch. We turned to zoom for author events and book discussions! While not as up-close and personal, online events have the advantage that we can easily accommodate many more in the audience–and from all over the world. And we can host authors from far away such as when Nuala O’Connor signed in from Ireland to talk about her book, Nora. The challenges have underscored how important collaborations are! We have always partnered with other organizations and forged new connections in 2020.”

“Like so many other small businesses, we had to ensure our customers and booksellers worked and shopped in a safe environment,” Phoenix’s Katie DeSanto says. “We’ve heard many times from our customers over the last year that they feel comfortable shopping with us because of the safety precautions we continue to adhere to. It’s absolutely our number one priority.

“Also, in-person events and story times have always been at the core of our business, and one of our roles in the community. That changed in March of 2020. We quickly began hosting virtual events in April 2020 (even though we were all a little camera-shy at the time) and have enjoyed it immensely since. They’re actually a lot of fun! We are grateful that our customers have embraced the online format wholeheartedly. It’s remarkable that our Events Coordinator, Michele, began her position in January of 2020 and has successfully navigated this brave new world of online author events with the grace and ease of someone who has been doing it for years!” 

We asked if any specific out-of-the-box ideas helped our local indies get through 2020. Liza and Penny at Norwich Bookstore had a Porch Pop-Up Shop when weather cooperated, where they offered cards, puzzles, face masks, and sale books, even during the times when in-store shopping was unavailable. When shutdown began, Phoenix immediately mobilized one- or two-person teams in each store and focused on providing web fulfillment and curbside pickup to their communities. Puzzles and games were big for all three stores.  

As small, locally owned businesses, what have we learned in the past year?

“The understanding of the importance of shopping, banking, and dining ‘local first’ has been growing and hopefully will continue as we slowly reopen,” offers Liza. “When we shop locally, we are making an investment in our own towns and villages; our family and neighbors.”

“Communities have always valued their neighborhood businesses,” adds Katie. “The pandemic highlighted how valuable small businesses are economically, socially, and culturally to neighborhoods. Every book, every meal out, every snow shovel, and every roll of paper towels matters to your local businesses. Keep shopping local, everyone!” 

Norwich Bookstore, Phoenix Books, and Yankee Bookshop all carry select Trafalgar Square titles, as well as wonderfully curated collections of books from all genres. All offer online ordering and curbside pickup. And as of tomorrow, Independent Bookstore Day, all will be open for in-store browsing with protocols specific to each location in place. Please visit their websites for details regarding hours and safety protocols:

NORWICH BOOKSTORE: https://www.norwichbookstore.com/

PHOENIX BOOKS: https://www.phoenixbooks.biz/

YANKEE BOOKSHOP: https://www.yankeebookshop.com/

Thank you to all the independent bookstores for keeping us reading in 2020!

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

TSB Author Jen Marsden Hamilton on Striding, Convertibles, and Cats on the Beach

There are some authors who inspire us, even out of the saddle. Jen Marsden Hamilton is one of those. She always seems to reach out just when we at TSB need a shot in the arm and encouragement to keep on, keeping on. We connected with Jen recently to talk about her book STRIDE CONTROL, what’s it’s like to own a field of sunflowers, and what Mark Twain has to teach all of us.

TSB: Your book STRIDE CONTROL provides exercises and advice for practicing striding at home so you can perform your best. Why is stride control integral to jumping success, both in the ring and cross-country?

JMH: The average hunter course is about 100 strides and 8 jumps. Jumper courses, depending on the size of the arena, could be 150+ strides and up to maybe 16 jumps. The cross-country count can be 12 to over 30 over several miles, with lots of jumps and combinations.  

Obviously, on a course the rider/horse spend more time on the ground than in the air. Best to spend that time wisely.

The ability to control the horse’s stride to a jump and within lines enables the horse to do his job—jump!

TSB: In your book, you describe yourself as a “watcher” who copied her heroes when you first rode and competed in the fifties. What is the benefit of being a “watcher”? Should young riders learn in this way today?

JMH: In the old days, riding lessons taught a very basic position, how to post to the trot, and how to canter. Basically how to “go” and “whoa” and not fall off.

One of the best ways to learn is to watch the best of the time. Your choice is to do that or remain stagnant.

Of course I think young riders should watch the best. Watching the best inspires! But one must never forget the progression of skill development to greatness.

TSB: You use the word “strategy” in your book to describe the plan you provide for each of your exercises. How does one devise a strategy for developing new skills and practicing new exercises without the benefit of a coach and when working on one’s own?

JMH: Read STRIDE CONTROL! Anyone can have a plan: Find exercises to take you toward your goals and follow the strategies to promote learning. Over time, your exercise strategies can be fine-tuned to your personal needs.

TSB: One of your catch phrases is “Be a star!” When did you first start saying this to your students and what does it mean to you?

JMH: I can’t remember when “Be a star” became my thing, but it has lasted over time and is so meaningful to so many in different ways. 

Rapport allows for personal interpretation and positive affirmations. 

Jen flaunting her catch phrase.

TSB: What is one lesson you hope readers will take away from your book?

JMH: Teacher-directed lessons are great and at times essential when introducing new skills, but nothing replaces personal practice time to develop your feel and how to read a situation.

When the in-gate closes, you’re on your own. Internalized skills need to kick in. Take responsibility for the ride.

The exercises in STRIDE CONTROL promote self-directed positive learning in a non-threatening situation. It’s more than okay to self-train over valid exercises that promote correct and safe learning.

Jen using the sand to clarify a lesson.

TSB: You are based in beautiful part of Nova Scotia and have your own field of sunflowers that blooms in the summer. Why sunflowers? And how did that field come to be?

JMH: My husband Brian is a fixer not a “throw-it-outer.” During the COVID lockdown, he refurbished a 100-year-old seed spreader.

Lots of land + working seeder + 2 bags of sunflower seed = a lovely field of yellow.

Being on the top of a hill the yellow could be seen from a distance. People enjoyed our field and many came for a big handful.

Husband Brian and his antique seed-spreader above…and the heavenly result below.

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?

JMH: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett:  My favorite book, and it’d take a long time to read.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White:  The story of true friendship.

Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne:  I could entertain myself and talk to myself, reciting the lovely stories and rhymes.

No horse. I’m taking a cat!

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

JMH: Go swimming bareback in the ocean.

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

JMH: Truthfulness to help me maintain personal balance and someone to laugh and cry with. A tall friend to reach the top shelf is also useful.

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

JMH: I love honest horses. Horses who try their best based on ability. The horse that would be the McDonald’s “Employee of the Month.”

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

JMH: The loss of hope.

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

JMH: I have a retro 2002 Inspiration-Yellow Thunderbird. Whenever I’m at a stoplight next to some young pups and they look over and think, “What a waste!” I gun it and leave ‘em in my dust!

Jen, going topless!

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

JMH: Since I can remember, I’ve asked for both my birthday and Christmas to wake up TALL and THIN. I’ve always been disappointed! I’ve learned to embrace/accept terms like RUGGED and STURDY, but really it is body shaming.

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

JMH: Milk, peanut butter, and red jam.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

JMH: I think the lyrics of “Happiness—You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” sums up happiness beautifully. If you don’t know the song, have a listen, then sing along, and enjoy. It will bring back memories and help you enjoy the present.

Really, it’s all about smiles and laughter. Smiles of greeting, love, safety, and personal and shared accomplishments.  Laughter related to joy and memories, and just shared laughter with family and friends.

I can’t wait to have our whole family back together again! The smiles and laughter will be wonderful!

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

JMH: Mark Twain. He was the ultimate watcher and commentator on society. I love his quotes. In fact, I’m living by one of his quotes: “I have achieved my 70 years (74 now) in the usual way: by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else.”

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?

JMH: In December 2019, I was planning and booking a trip to Kenya for Brian and me, our daughter, her husband, and our three grandchildren. I have been lucky to teach in Kenya several times and make friends there. I wanted to take everyone on safari and meet our friends before the “grand-ones” were too old and grumpy.  

Hopefully, by the time the world opens our family will still want to travel with us and we won’t be too lame or jaded.

TSB: What is your motto?

JMH: Whatever you do, do it with total conviction and be a star!

Jen Marsden Hamilton’s book STRIDE CONTROL is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

Looking for the New Horse…Who Could Never Replace the Old One

We are a small, in-house staff at TSB, and being horse people makes the job of publishing equestrian books a highly personal pursuit. The cool thing is, many of the freelancers we work with are “horsey,” too.

Andrea Jones has been indexing for us for many years. If you buy TSB books, chances are, you’ve looked up a name or subject in one of her indexes before. Andrea has a super appreciation for the kinds of ways an index should be formatted to best feature the information our readership will want at the tips of their fingers. And one of the reasons she does this so well is that she is a horse owner.

Upon losing her horse of 17 years, Moondo, in 2020, Andrea found herself in that heartsick place of mourning the passing of a wonderful friend and knowing that her second horse, Jake, needed a herd mate. Andrea’s story of what it is like to search for and find a new horse when you really weren’t planning on it reminds us of the sweet surprises that can await on the other side of sadness.

If you like what you read, you can follow Andrea’s blog Between Urban and Wild by clicking here.

Although we knew for months that sweet Moondo would not be with us much longer, I couldn’t face the prospect of looking for a new horse while he was alive.

I had no regrets about spending focused time with Moody in his final weeks, but if we were to continue to have horses in our lives, Jake would need a companion, so late July and early August were an unsettling mix. The raw emotions of loss were shadowed by brain-numbing online searches broken up with phone calls and emails punctuated by an occasional venture into the pandemic summer to look at prospects. I didn’t feel good about any of it. There could be no “replacing” Moondo, of course, but I’ve also never been a fan of getting on horses I don’t know. Then there’s the fact that looking for a horse is like the worst kind of blind dating, in which the one who turns out to be an asshole can dump you in the dirt.

I didn’t mean to, but I ended up buying the first horse I looked at. Not right away, not without seeing and riding other horses, and not without trying to talk myself out of it. But after a few weeks of looking, that first horse was the one I kept thinking about. The fact that Moondo, years ago, was also the first horse I looked at—that I had equivocated but eventually settled on him after seeing who else was out there—was a good omen, perhaps?

Harper is a ten-year-old dark bay Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred cross with a sweet splotch on her forehead and a pair of ankle-high socks. She made a charming impression when I first approached her at the barn where she was living. I was slightly nervous and wondered what horses must think about people suddenly starting to wear masks over most of their faces. I offered my hand for her to sniff, which she did—and then proceeded to lick it very very…very…thoroughly. Very.

Under saddle out on the arena, she was attentive, businesslike, and a little huffy if my cues were awkward or over-strong: she would offer clear coaching if I hoped to revive my dressage skills. We took a short trail ride, during which she was calm, sensible, and interested in her surroundings. Rather than getting worked up about the crew thinning trees around the riding facility, she veered toward the tractor and snarling chainsaws, wanting to see what was going on.

Still, I waffled. I fretted about how Jake would act around a mare. I had reservations about bringing a barn-kept horse up to our rugged high-altitude setting. I worried about her little feet and those skinny super-model-long legs. Back problems had ended her career as a hunter/jumper. But she was sound for light riding, which is all I ever hope to do. The trainer overseeing her sale thought we were a good match, too, and insisted that Harper preferred turnout to the stall. I looked at other horses, waffled some more. After going back and riding her a second time, personality won: I decided I’d be stupid to pass up such a sane and likeable horse.

When I brought Harper home a week later, she backed out of the trailer and stood assessing her surroundings for a few minutes, a slightly quizzical expression on her face. “What a strange-looking show grounds this is,” I imagined her thinking, “Where on earth are all the other horses??” We settled her in the barn pasture to start, letting her get a feel for the place before meeting Jake.

He’d been on his own for five weeks by then, and although he’d taken his isolation with admirable stoicism, he was transfixed to see her on the other side of the driveway and was no doubt excited to properly meet. We waited a few days and hoped the encounter would be uneventful, but a proper first meeting in the equine universe tends toward rude physicality. Curious nose-sniffing whirled to squealing and kicking in a millisecond. Jake landed a kick to Harper’s hindquarters with a heart-stopping thwack, but the impact was a slap against muscle and not a crack on bone. Harper did not accept the message that she would rank in second position with meek deference, gamely charging back at him butt-first.

With herd positions sorted—Jake on top but Harper drawing the line at how much shit she would take from him—the tone changed. Jake, in short, is besotted. Fortunately for household peace and for our vet bills, Harper appears to be pretty sweet on him, too. They’re both food-defensive, and bicker at feeding time, but have shown a surprising willingness to share resources, at least when the weather is mild. Out in the pasture, they hang out so close to one another it looks like they’re hitched together.

I’ve ridden some, but winter weather arrived early and then settled into repetitive freeze-thaw cycles with just enough snow thrown in to ensure a consistent abundance of ice. I’m at peace with not riding in the crummy conditions, though, and it’s not like Harper hasn’t been busy.

She’s been learning to cope with mountain weather, for starters, which started with a blizzard and nine inches of snow shortly after she arrived. She’s been working on growing her own winter coat, and now only wears her fashionista jacket when the weather is truly abysmal.

Jake has been showing her where to stand when the wind blows from what direction, and has persuaded her to try laying down in the snow. I’m not sure she’s convinced it’s worth it to get wet, but probably agrees that snowdrifts can actually be quite cushy.

Harper isn’t perfect—no horse is. To call her food-defensive is a nice way of saying she turns nasty when there’s food around, pinning her ears, swinging her head, snapping. She’s thin-skinned and touchy, and I’m still discovering her quirks, preferences, and less desirable behaviors. But the sensible and calm demeanor that attracted me hasn’t changed; every time I’ve gotten on Harper, I’ve ridden the same steady and businesslike horse.

And I continue to admire her boldness and curiosity. When I first turned her out in the big pasture, I took her on a walk to show her the loafing shed and the fences. When I turned her loose, she set off walking instead of joining Jake in grazing. She took a quick detour to investigate the braced corner of the cross-fence, but kept going, up the slope and out of the bowl that makes up most of the field. Jake followed without enthusiasm: he was ready to eat. From where I stood near the gate, I could see Harper pause atop the ridge, looking over the far fence. Then she headed out again, following the fenceline to the south.

The next morning, Doug reported that Jake was a little lethargic. We decided he wasn’t sick, just tired. Harper, I think, had worked through the night to map her new acreage. Unwilling to let his beloved out of his sight, Jake had dutifully followed.

When I opened the gate into the winter pasture a month or so later, Harper did the same thing. She set off at a purposeful march, not pausing until she could see the fence on the far side of the field. Satisfied she’d located the boundary, she dropped her head and started eating.

Like my old friend Moondo, Harper likes to know where she is, and now she’s home.

Andrea M. Jones lives with her husband and their two horses on a high ridge in central Colorado. In her essay collection, Between Urban and Wild: Reflections from Colorado, Andrea explores the realities, joys, and contradictions that come with living in the wildland-urban interface. She continues to examine these themes in her blog at www.betweenurbanandwild.com and is currently at work on a new book about scientific literacy. When she isn’t writing, hiking, riding, or gardening, Andrea works as a freelance indexer; for more information visit www.jonesliteraryservices.com.

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