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24HoursKendraGale

Winter is not just coming…for those of us in many parts of North America, it is completely, frigidly, and snowily upon us. Any horse person knows that things just get a bit, well, harder when the temp dips below zero. It doesn’t matter what size the manure pile—it all freezes to the ground.

Kendra Gale has been breeding, raising, and training Miniature Horses in Alberta, Canada, for decades, so she’s no stranger to ice in the water trough. Gale is the author of THE BIG BOOK OF MINIATURE HORSES, where she shares sage advice for keeping Miniatures as best suits their equine nature, as well as competing them at the highest levels. Her book is the perfect primer for the horse lover new to Miniatures, or the first-time horse owner, period.

In this segment of TSB’s “Horseworld by the Hour” series, Gale gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to walk a long (but satisfying) day in her winter boots.

***

6:30 am It’s winter in Alberta, so while I usually get up about now, it’s not the “jump out of bed and get going” it might be on a summer day with lessons or workshops or competitions on the schedule. After all, the sun won’t be up for a couple hours yet!

First priority is, of course, to let my Chihuahua, Clara, out to pee. Depending on the amount of snow or degree of Arctic temperatures, sometimes I’m successful in convincing her, sometimes not. In the summer she spends a lot of the day at the barn with me. In the winter, she opts out of the outdoors as much as possible. To be fair, the snow is sometimes deeper than she is tall!

7:00 am Breakfast and I jump onto the computer for a bit. Check emails, Facebook, and any concerns with my online classroom (www.MiniatureHorsemanship.com). Depending on how it goes, I might get some work done, editing videos or building slideshows, or maybe some writing.

8:00 am The sun starts peeking up between now and 8:30 am this time of year, and I usually wait for it before I head out to start chores. I like being able to see my horses in the daylight. They’re Miniature Horses, and lots of them are black…on days when I have to feed in the dark, I’ve been known to literally trip over them.

Before I go outside, I fill my big pail of hay cubes and senior feed with hot water to make a breakfast of mush for my collection of geriatric Miniature Horses. Then it’s time to layer up to head out—the number of layers is directly proportional to the cold. We have a wide range of winter temperatures here, and it could be above freezing, or it could be 40 below, and those two extremes could be in pretty close proximity to each other. Layers are key!

Image, my blind, one-eyed, 28-year-old, is the first to greet me when I get to the barn, with a hungry nicker and a big “downward dog” stretch. Image, along with Robin (age 27, a retired broodmare) and Valdez (age 29, sire of many of the horses on my farm), spend their nights inside in the winter, and their days, too, in nasty weather. Miniature Horses handle the cold really well, but these old folks do better with some extra spoiling.

With warm mush in their bellies, I head outside to feed the rest of the mush to my pen of slightly-less-old geldings (Knight Rider, 26, Spook, 22, and Paco, 21) and dole out some complete feed for some hard-keepers and the two weanlings, eight-month-old Victor and Vodka.

Next, it’s to the hay stack to collect a couple bales onto my calf sled. Currently I’m feeding about a bale and a half, morning and night, except when it’s colder than -20—then I feed more to help the horses stay warm. I distribute hay to the herd, checking everyone as I go to make sure no one is cold, or sick, or losing weight. I touch each horse every day—that’s 32 miniature equines in total.

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The herd. Photo by Kendra Gale.

8:30 am With all the beasties enjoying their breakfast, I love to stop and stand for a moment and enjoy the peace and morning light…unless it’s storming or something.

Next on the list I feed and water my birds. I keep Partridge Chantecler chickens and some mixed-breed ducks that never fail to make me laugh. The birds all do really well in the winter. I check to make sure their heated water dishes are all working and collect any (hopefully not-yet-frozen) eggs.

9:00 am Last week it was -36 and one of my heated, automatic waterers gave up the ghost. Of course, it was the one that the most horses drink from, and with the most run-in sheds in that pasture, I couldn’t move too many horses to other waterers. We got some heated pails to plug in for the herd so they all always had access to that all-important unfrozen water, but it means that next on my to-do list is hauling water: I do about six pails from the hydrant each morning to fill everything up for them.

9:30 am Some days I might head out to teach lessons at a client’s place, or spend the morning working on computer stuff, but today it’s farrier day. I see which horses are due for a trim and bring them into the barn. My farrier comes every two to three weeks and does six Miniatures at a time, which works out to a pretty good rotation. With a little luck, I get them in with enough time to dig the packed snow out of their feet and give them each a quick groom before the farrier arrives.

11:30 am It’s a trickier day for trims—most of the herd is easy, but we’ve got the weanlings on the list today. Victor is perfect, but Vodka used up all his “Good Boy” during treatment for an eye injury earlier this year and is going through a rebellious stage. We’re patient with him and he decides he’ll be a good citizen in the end. The big challenge today is Bentley, my new Miniature Mule: He’s only lived here a few months and is nervous of strangers, especially strangers who want to pick up his feet while holding tools. It takes some time, but it ultimately goes well. The farrier and I are pleased with his progress, and he gets lots of treats for his bravery. Luckily, the other three we trim today are old pros (that’s enough excitement for us for one day). They all get cookies and go back out with their friends to finish their breakfast. At this point, it doesn’t have to be very cold for me to still feel frozen solid—it’s definitely time to get back in the house for a bit!

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Clara and Victor. Photo by Kendra Gale.

12:00 pm I grab some lunch (and probably some hot tea!) and get back on the computer for a while. Time to get to work on whatever project I’m working on. Currently, I’m organizing a clinic/conference event, preparing for a clinic I’m teaching up north in a few weeks, and building a webinar and a couple promos for my online classroom.

1:30 pm I’m wrapped up in what I’m working on and would love keep at it, but the sun is shining so I head back outside. Time to clean stalls while the old folks are out enjoying some winter sun. Stall cleaning gets more complicated the colder it gets: frozen poop balls bounce away when they fall off the fork, and at times I take the pee spots out in one big frozen chunk, kind of like clumping cat litter. I also haul more water—another six pails midday (I’ll never take my automatic waterers for granted again after this…)

2:00 pm I want to get Rocky’s tail put back up—he’s my breeding stallion (Victor and Vodka’s daddy) and one of my favorite driving horses. I love his long tail and usually keep it up in a sock to protect it. This fall I let it down during fly season, and then I never got it put up again. After the last big snowfall I was laughing at the funny trail it left in the snow, but I’m sure that was pretty hard on it. Now that the weather has improved I’m going to get it up before the next snow and cold snap is scheduled. I set up my video camera so I can make a quick tutorial of the process for my YouTube channel.

2:30 pm Since I have Rocky in, I set up some of the obstacles for the January online Horse Agility competition. Rocky’s been off for a while, so it’s a good refresher for him. I set up the obstacles inside the barn. My barn is a good-sized tent building so I’m able to squeeze in a full agility course if I’m creative. It’s nice to work in out of the wind, and I’m paranoid about my horses slipping on poor footing outside in the winter. I also never drive in the winter, unless there is no snow or ice at all. Luckily, while driving is my favorite discipline, there are lots of other fun things to do with my Miniature Horses, and agility is one of my preferred wintertime activities.

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Rocky with a frosty forelock. Photo by Kendra Gale.

3:00 pm  Now I’ve got the obstacles set up, and I let Johnnie in to play. He does his agility at liberty. Johnnie is coming four, and while he’s one of my tiniest in stature at not quite 31 inches, he’s the biggest personality. I don’t dare practice any obstacle too many times, or he gets bored and invents new ways to do them. We work on standing and waiting until I ask him to come toward me, practice his sidepassing, and then move on to something else. Johnnie has been trained using positive reinforcement. I also want to start him in harness, so today I have a sidepull I’m going to use on him—I’ve driven Rocky bitless some, but I’m really looking forward to starting Johnnie bitless right front the start. We practice giving to pressure on the sidepull, first using a target to help him understand. It’s a fun new game for both of us! I’ve got the video camera running again, as one of my online courses is on starting your Miniature Horse in harness, and I want to add the bitless training process to the content. The toughest part with Johnnie is always convincing him to leave when I’m done playing with him…after demonstrating all kinds of skills at liberty, I actually have to put a halter on him to lead him back out to be with his friends!

3:45 pm I’m cold again, so it’s back in for more tea (Earl Grey with milk and a dribble of maple syrup—my friend named it a “Canadian Fog”) and to download my videos onto the computer. I get started on video editing and laugh at Johnnie’s antics. The bloopers are always my favorite, and if I don’t leave them in, I save them for future amusement.

4:45 pm I haven’t quite warmed up, but it’s getting dark, so I’m back out to start the evening chores. I bring in the old folks and and feed everyone just like in the morning. It’s supposed to extra cold overnight, so I give everybody some additional hay to help them stay warm. I turn on a podcast while I work: I like to listen to Horses In The Morning or Star Trek: The Next Conversation.

5:30 pm The sunset over the mountains is my favorite. I often pause my chores to take photos if it’s particularly spectacular.

I give Robin and Image their medication (Cushings medication for both, and anti-inflammatory for Robin) and haul another six or eight pails of water (I really can’t wait til that waterer is fixed…) before I say goodnight to everyone, close up the coops for the night, and head for the house. I check that the security camera is working in the barn—if anything seems amiss, I can see the stalls from my phone. It’s especially handy during foaling season.

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Another day done. Photo by Kendra Gale.

6:00 pm It’s back to the house for the evening. A couple times a month I teach a live webinar in the evenings, but most of the time I curl up on the couch with my laptop, enjoying some TV while I keep working away on my current projects. Or I might head over to my grandparents house to watch the game on TV…Go Flames Go!

10:00 pm I let Clara out one last time and we head for bed—a Chihuahua’s favorite time of day!

Kendra Gale’s book THE BIG BOOK OF MINIATURE HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

Click below to watch the trailer:

Be sure to read the other installments in the TSB “Horseworld by the Hour” blog series:

JEANNE ABERNETHY

YVONNE BARTEAU

JONATHAN FIELD

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

CLINTON ANDERSON

 

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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ColdWeather

It’s cold outside (don’t try to deny it!)…even Florida is in a deep freeze, relatively speaking. This means that not only do we need to bundle up, but our horses—especially those who live outside or with free-choice shelter—need added warmth, as well.

51V8Gm0RiaL._AC_US436_QL65_According to veterinarian Dr. Nancy Loving in her book ALL HORSE SYSTEMS GO (available in Kindle and epub formats), the horse’s nutritional needs increase about 5 to 10 percent for every degree below freezing. For every 10-degree-Fahrenheit drop below the critical temperature (the temperature below which a horse begins to burn calories to keep himself warm), a horse may require up to 20 percent more feed. The less flesh a horse has on his frame, the less insulation he has to fend off cold temperatures.

“Consider how it feels to go out in the cold weather wearing no more than a thin jacket,” says Dr. Loving. “Your body works harder to stay warm than it does when wearing an insulating down coat.”

Here are her three main tips for feeding during cold weather:

1 Offer roughage for warmth.

Offer good quality grass hay free-choice, which through fermentation by the microflora in the large intestine will generate heat from within, much like an internal combustion chamber. During cold, wet snaps, it is best to feed more hay to help a horse stay warm rather than to load him with extra grain. Over time, grain is helpful to put weight and fat on a horse’s frame but does little for an immediate need for warmth. An exclusive diet of hay may not be enough to support additional climatic demands. Roughage is filling, so a horse may only consume a limited amount. Estimation of how much hay a horse consumes each day must also account for wind losses and any loss from trampling of hay into the ground or spreading it around so it’s rendered unpalatable.

2 Provide ice-free water.

A major concern during wintertime is to ensure that a horse has plenty of fresh, clean, and ice-free water available at all times. A horse that stops drinking is more likely to suffer from impaction colic, or may decrease his feed consumption. If a dominant herd member won’t allow others access to the trough for extended periods, then add another water tank to ensure equal opportunity.

A horse consumes 5 to 10 gallons of water per day in cold weather, and more when exercised. A warm bran mash may increase water consumption. If necessary, use stock-tank heaters to prevent ice formation, but beware of electrocution possibilities from floating heaters. Those heaters with heating elements that are totally immersed are safest. Check to make sure a heater is not shorting out in the water and thereby discouraging drinking. (If you see a horse standing near the tank, seemingly interested in drinking but not doing so, there may be an electrical short that is shocking him when he touches the water.) Protect electrical cords by running them through PVC pipe so a horse doesn’t accidentally chew on the cord.

3 Assess body condition.

A furry winter coat can mistakenly hide a gaunt frame. Run your fingers across a horse’s thorax periodically to make sure he is holding flesh on his body. Ideally, the last two ribs should be barely felt when fingers are run lightly across the rib cage. If greater caloric intake is needed to maintain or increase body condition, supplement grass hay with alfalfa hay, beet pulp mash, and/or fat, and/or grain.

Coldweather2

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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Believe it or not, in the TSB offices, shuttered from the frigid air that currently has central Vermonters cornered by a deep freeze, we’re already working on the horse books and DVDs we’ll be releasing Fall of 2018. In an industry where the production calendar races to meet an aggressive series of deadlines and it is necessary to plan new titles well in advance, you often wonder where the time goes… (what DID we do over the last year???) It helps to take a moment before the ball drops (on New Year’s Eve, that is) to revisit the projects of the past twelve months and remind ourselves of the books and DVDs we were proud to publish in 2017.

 

 

EQUUS LOST

A provocative treatise that dares to ask if much of what we think we know about horses is indeed wrong.

50 BEST ARENA PATTERNS AND EXERCISES

A terrific collection of upbeat ideas for essential schooling, adding variety and challenge to everyday workouts.

COLLECTION OR CONTORTION?

Dr. Gerd Heuschmann’s follow-up to his international bestseller Tug of War: A critical examination of flexion and bend on horseback.

THELWELL’S PONY CAVALCADE

An Anniversary Special Collection, featuring three classic books from cartoonist Norman Thelwell.

IS YOUR HORSE 100%? (BOOK)

An introduction to Conformation Balancing (fascia work for horses).

TRAINING HORSES THE INGRID KLIMKE WAY

Olympian Ingrid Klimke’s personal system of bringing a horse along through the stages of progressive development.

THE NEW ANATOMY OF RIDER CONNECTION

Biomechanics pioneer Mary Wanless explores the characteristics of the body’s fascia and  how it not only improves a rider’s balance and coordination, but also enhances “feel,”

THE DRESSAGE SEAT

Classical dressage authority Anja Beran breaks down the physical requirements of the rider’s seat on the horse, as well as its responsibilities during various movements.

SUFFERING IN SILENCE (NEW EDITION)

A revised new edition of Certified Master Saddler and Saddle Ergonomist Jochen Schleese’s book explaining how much better we could ride and how much better our horses could perform if our saddles fit optimally.

THE BIG BOOK OF MINIATURE HORSES

Experienced Miniature Horse breeder Kendra Gale of Circle J Miniature Horses provides the most complete Miniature Horse resource available.

THE ESSENTIAL HOOF BOOK

The first resource of its kind to combine the most current and useful information available, gleaned from the research and wisdom of top hoof experts around the world, with a unique “hands-on” approach.

OUR HORSES, OURSELVES

Dancer and choreographer Paula Josa-Jones offers new insight as to how to achieve a soft, fluid connection with our equine partners.

FERGUS AND THE GREENER GRASS

The opinionated cartoon horse and bona fide social media star is back in an all new comic adventure.

SPORT HORSE SOUNDNESS AND PERFORMANCE

Relying on her veterinary background, in-depth research, and dozens of interviews with top riders and trainers from around the world, Dr. Cecilia Lönnell provides guidelines for nurturing a happy, healthy equine athlete.

HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST

In his autobiography, renowned equestrian coach Jack Le Goff tells the whole story, from impoverished beginnings in Morocco, to the tragic death of his father, to his successes as a competitive equestrian.

IS YOUR HORSE 100%? (DVD)

The DVD companion to the book by the same name, introducing Conformation Balancing (fascia work for horses).

FIT & FOCUSED IN 52

Coach Daniel Stewart combines his popular rider mental conditioning techniques with ideas for physical conditioning, giving readers quick-hit recommendations for one exercise for the mind, and one for the body, for every week of the year.

CREATIVE DRESSAGE SCHOOLING (NEW EDITION)

Offering a wide variety of ideas to spice up training routines, this paperback edition of the bestselling handbook provides fresh exercises for practicing classical-riding basics.

NEWYEAR17

 

Our very best wishes for a safe, peaceful, and very happy New Year.

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

Here’s what we published in:

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

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HorseBookGift

My grandmother loved books. My mom loved books. And I, necessarily, learned to love books, too. I read voraciously—everything I could get my hands on—but even my earliest memories of finding books in the children’s section of the library involved something else: horses.

Every year at Christmas I would ask my parents, and Santa, and God, for a pony. Our small suburban Florida home with the sandy backyard and neighbors seemed to me plenty big…we had a toolshed I imagined to be perfect for the right-size equine, and I was undeterred by the prospect of riding up and down our paved streets and sidewalks. Of course my parents, Santa, and God all knew better, and so the real pony never materialized, but I still got horses for Christmas every year…in the form of books.

Unknown-1One of the first horse books I vividly remember receiving was The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble. My grandmother gave me the book when I was four or five (I still have it), and I remember gazing at the beautiful illustrations for hours, knowing that I loved horses just as much as the girl in the story…so much that maybe one day I would turn into a horse, like her.

UnknownI was given A Very Young Rider by Jill Krementz the Christmas after I started taking riding lessons. It was published in 1977, the year I was born, which had little to do with why I loved the book then, but holds meaning for me now. I still have this tattered copy, too.

437364779.0.mThe Christmases came and went. I tore open copies of Marguerite Henry’s classics, Walter Farley’s, and Mary O’Hara’s. I devoured them all, and took out others from the library when I’d finished. No, I didn’t have a pony of my own in the backyard, but I had Morgans and Arabians and Mustangs. I trained and rode and cared for hundreds of horses each year of my childhood.

CERIWhen we did finally move to Vermont and I grew more serious about riding, the Christmas horse books began to change. I got the United States Pony Club Manual of Horsemanship, The Whole Horse Catalog, and eventually Centered Ridingthat was when I was 10 (I wrote about it HERE). Little did I know that one day I’d be part of the company that published this very book.

 

Second-Day and Next-Day Shipping are available through 12/21/17 at our online bookstore if you know someone who might, like me, love to find a few “horses” under the tree.

Happy Holidays,

Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor

TSB-Card-2017

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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Wouldn’t it be fabulous if when you bought gifts for the holidays, you were automatically entered to win great prizes? Wouldn’t that put a whole new spin on the Christmas shopping experience?

Oh, wait…that’s EXACTLY what we’re doing!

That’s right, during the month of December, if you buy a copy of THELWELL’S PONY CAVALCADE or LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP from the TSB online bookstore http://www.HorseandRiderBooks.com, you are automatically entered to win crazy cool prize packs!

Here’s what’s up:

Thelwell-Contest-FB

Who doesn’t love Thelwell ponies? They are fat, hairy, and smarter than all of us combined. Purchase a copy of THELWELL’S PONY CAVALCADE, which includes the classics Angels on Horseback, A Leg at Each Corner, and Thelwell’s Riding Academy, from www.HorseandRiderBooks.com (CLICK HERE) during the month of December, and you will be entered to win a hilarious set of Thelwell placemats and two pairs of Thelwell riding socks from Inkstables.com! That’s potentially four great gifts for the price of one (or one for them, three for you…).

LR-Contest-FB

And if you are of a more serious turn of mind, how about a copy of LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP, a super introduction to valuable groundwork skills that can be used to help create a stronger connection and better communication between horse and rider before you get in the saddle. Long-reining is invaluable for starting youngsters, rehabbing after injuries, and safely dealing with training problems. Buy a copy of LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP from www.HorseandRiderBooks.com (CLICK HERE) or DoubleDanHorsemanship.com during the month of December and you’ll be automatically entered to win a set of Long-Reining with Double Dan Horsemanship DVDs, a set of Double Dan Horsemanship Long Reins, and a Lungie-Bungie! That’s a prize pack worth over $230! Woohoo!

Hurry…December (and your excuse for shopping online) won’t last forever…

thel3

CLICK HERE to order THELWELL’S PONY CAVALCADE and be automatically entered to win Thelwell swag!

CLICK HERE to order LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP and be automatically entered to win $230 worth of training gear!

#shopsmall

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

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TSF

Trafalgar Square Farm

When you are caught up in the never-ending must-dos of book publishing, you can find yourself tired, your creative and entrepreneurial energy tapped, your head spinning and your hands ready to unfurl themselves from the keyboard and (instead) curl themselves around the comforting curves of a glass of wine, fireside. But while the pressure is undeniable, there is always a steadying constant: how thankful we are to get to do what we do and learn more every day about horses, riding, and how to be better at both.

In recognition of tomorrow’s Thanksgiving holiday, here are five lessons we’re thankful to have learned this year from TSB’s amazing authors:

Lesson 1   As horse owners, we don’t have to turn control of our horses’ hoof health to our vets and farriers, and just write the checks whenever they tell us we need to do something. It is possible to gain a much more thorough understanding of the function of the hoof, which will not only help us better comprehend what is required in regular maintenance, it will also help us advocate intelligently on our horses’ behalf when they are injured or unsound. It likely never occurs to most that we can and should learn the ins and outs of the equine hoof beyond the general knowledge absorbed in early barn jobs and from 4-H and Pony Club. But Susan Kauffmann and Christina Cline’s THE ESSENTIAL HOOF BOOK is like a bright light going on in a room that has only been candlelit. It introduces a whole new world of responsible horse care.

Lesson 2  It is time to pay attention to fascia—ours and our horses. Fascia is the gossamer white tissue in the body that connects all the parts, including bones, muscles, and all the different body systems. In IS YOUR HORSE 100%?, equine bodywork practitioner Margret Henkels teaches how the warmth of your hands can release accumulated tension and strain in the horse’s body, and in THE NEW ANATOMY OF RIDER CONNECTION, biomechanics pioneer Mary Wanless explains how working with the fascial lines of the body can drastically improve your riding.

Lesson 3  Even when you reach the very top, the truly great continue to question their techniques, educate themselves, and strive to find new ways to do better by the horse. In TRAINING HORSES THE INGRID KLIMKE WAY, gold-medal Olympian Ingrid Klimke writes: “I train further, question myself, consider the views of others, and remain open to all riding styles. Anyone who cares to be a good rider must first of all work on herself: on her inner bearing, her general attitude toward horses, her physical readiness (of course), and on giving aids clearly and ‘with feel’ for the horse.”

Lesson 4  Many factors contribute to successful performance, but the most vital is discipline. In his long-awaited autobiography HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST, revered US eventing team coach Jack Le Goff discusses the discipline factor in its many renditions, from the self-discipline necessary to train your horse even when it’s cold or raining outside, to the discipline of organization and making sure you know the rules, to the discipline required to be part of a team, putting personal glory aside with the good of the group in mind. This lesson translates particularly well to every part of life.

Lesson 5  Becoming comfortable in our own skin helps us become more trustworthy and better able to soften physical and mental resistance in others—including our horses. In the singularly fascinating book OUR HORSES, OURSELVES, renowned dancer and choreographer Paula Josa-Jones shares new and unique ways of incorporating meditation and gentle exercises in our self-development as horse people, noting that conscious work to quiet our busy minds and familiarize ourselves with our bodies’ shape and movement can help us find true connection with our horses, on the ground and in the saddle.

Wishing all a wonderful Thanksgiving with lots of time for family, friends, and of course, your horses.

—The TSB Staff

 

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JLG-Genius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

—Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor

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

 

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