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In 2013 at the age of 36, Jesse McNeil—at times carpenter, commercial fisherman, dabbler in real estate—decided to buy an untrained horse, make himself into a horseman, and ride all the way across the United States, from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.

A fiercely independent traveler, Jesse had navigated previous coast-to-coast trips—solo journeys by moped, bicycle, and small airplane. This time, however, he had a partner: a five-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse named Pepper. An inexperienced horseman with an equally inexperienced mount, Jesse would quickly discover the immense challenges of his new undertaking. Over the course of eight months and fourteen states—beginning in Oregon and ending on a beach in New Hampshire—he would be tested many times over as he learned not only what it took to keep Pepper safe and healthy, but the true value of qualities that he had once easily dismissed: patience and companionship.

We asked Jesse about his adventuring past and his new book ON THE HOOF, which shares his journey on horseback.


Your book ON THE HOOF tells the story of your journey across the United States, from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, with your horse Pepper. This was not your first trek across the continent. Can you tell us a little about your other trips?

My travels coast to coast first began as a stunt: I took a moped as a cheap way across the continent. It cost me only $52 in gas to putter east for three weeks to my home state of New Hampshire. A few years later I earned my pilot certificate and did the same by air in a small trainer plane. The cost was way more, but the view grander. Another journey was by an old motorcycle—this time westward back to the San Juan Islands in Washington State—which felt much like the book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I didn’t read until a year after.

It was by simpler means, a bicycle jaunt east across Canada to the Bay of Fundy in 2010, that triggered the idea of riding a horse. I was pushing down on the pedals across Saskatchewan when I saw on a horse in a pasture beside the road. It felt like it would be more real, more to the heart of traveling, to be on a horse than a flimsy bicycle.

You were not a horseman prior to buying Pepper as a green five-year-old with the trip you were planning in mind. What did you find challenging about training a horse for the first time? What did you find fulfilling?

Simply managing the size of such an animal was intimidating, although a thousand pounds of beast held by a thin rope felt comical, too. Then, quite quickly, I realized that a horse would know if it was possible to dominate me or not. Even though I didn’t know what I was doing, I had to act as if I did, otherwise the day’s training would fall apart. I learned, too, that subtleness of pressure and positive emotional energy was extremely important, and really enjoyed exploring how precise I had to be with Pepper for her to listen to me and respect our budding relationship.

Looking back, do you feel traveling 3,800 miles with a horse changed you? If so, how? Was this trip more transformative than the other adventures you’ve had?

Yes, traveling with an animal is much more demanding than handling a piece of machinery. Building a partnership is extremely important and takes a great deal of time, and there’s no manual to follow. It’s an intuitive experience that is truly a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Patience is key. I had to learn to have more than I ever had back at the Pacific shore.


Early praise for ON THE HOOF:

“Jesse McNeil’s memoir demonstrates the hardships that happen when taking on a challenge as daunting as his coast-to-coast journey on foot, with only a horse named Pepper as his companion. It’s not for the faint of heart or those enamored with the romantic concept of ‘just being with a horse.’ For Jesse, it would become a life-changing experience with the realization he could overcome almost anything he would face in his life ahead…. The bond that develops between Jesse and Pepper cannot be explained to others, as there are no words to describe the deepness that is reached…. We as readers can feel Jesse’s emotions in the words he shares. We can also learn to apply the lessons he learns to our own journeys—to life’s good days, best days, hard days, and ‘impossible’ tests.”
—JOHN LYONS
America’s Most Trusted Horseman

“Jesse McNeil and his four-legged companion Pep remind us that even the best-laid plans require constant adjustment. But through teamwork, flexibility, and tenacity they can be navigated to an outcome that’s really special, and that’s exactly what On the Hoof is. A long walk, rhythmic trot, and full gallop that will leave you
wanting to strike out on your own unique adventure.”  
—TY GAGNE
Author of Where You’ll Find Me: Risk, Decisions, and the Last Climb of Kate Matrosova and The Last Traverse: Tragedy and Resilience in the Winter Whites

“Those of us who breed horses and write of them hope to ride vicariously on the adventures to which we send them. So it’s doubly gratifying, as the breeders and initial trainers of a horse named Pepper, to see her adventures and those of her owner Jesse McNeil poetically narrated in a book named On the Hoof.
—DAN AADLAND
Author of Sketches from the Ranch and In Trace of TR


Watch the book trailer:

ON THE HOOF is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

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

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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.

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In her memoir DISTANT SKIES: AN AMERICAN JOURNEY ON HORSEBACK, a book reviewers rave is “uplifting, inspiring, poignant, and poetic,” Melissa Chapman shares the story of a remarkable journey she took when she was 23 years old—a young woman who had long dreamed of traveling solo across the United States on horseback, and who had the guts, and the faith, to go for it.

There are many ways her youthful adventure marked her life, and here Melissa shares with us one annual tradition that keeps her connected to all that transpired all those years ago.


We’ve all heard it’s not healthy to live in the past. But touching the past, re-visiting it, can stir our soul and remind us of lessons we learned and help us reconnect with things that are important to us.

Every May First, since 1982, I have traveled back over the beginning miles of my solo horseback journey of 39 years ago. 

The First of May has had significant meaning to me ever since my animals and I set out on our cross-country trek. When the very first anniversary of that departure rolled around, I had only been home a few months since the completion of the trip. I felt like a lost soul. I didn’t really know where I belonged. The nomadic, outdoor life had grown into more than a journey, it had become a way of life for me. I understood that riding and living outdoors and on the road was not something I could or should do forever, but it was not clear to me where to go from there. So, I did the one thing that always seemed to give me balance and clarity. I saddled up my horse Rainy, and with my dog Gypsy, rode to a spot I knew called Gregory’s Flat—a clearing off a trail with flat land along the creek—where we camped for the night. 

As time went on, I eventually adjusted and moved forward, as is usually the way. But that first anniversary ride and camp out steadied me. It reminded me that I always felt direction and solace around the animals and outdoors, and it was the furthering of the lessons I’d learned on our cross-country journey.

The following year, when May First came, I did the same thing, and again for several more years after that. It became my own tradition. I learned to surround myself with what I loved, and though my life eventually became far from wild or adventurous, I managed to keep one foot firmly planted in the world of nature.

As time went on, I had a family and no longer took Rainy and camped on May First, though he and I would always ride out. The tradition grew and became a part of my life like a holiday or any other long-honored ritual. In recent years, when that date rolls around, I ride in the morning, then go for a drive. Sometimes I go as far as Amish country and meet with old friends I met on my journey. Often, I roam the back roads and hike at some of the places we rode and camped all those years ago. I pay close attention to what is around me and how it makes me feel.

What it makes me feel is connected. It reminds me how beautiful it is to spend an entire May day (or several) free and wandering. When I see the steep winding roads where I started my trip with Rainy and Gypsy all those years ago, I am reminded once again how incredible Rainy was, and how blessed we were on that journey.

This year, 2021, has been an extra special time to revisit these places, as that horseback adventure has come to the forefront of my life again with the release of my book, DISTANT SKIES: AN AMERICAN JOURNEY ON HORSEBACK. It was also a timely reminder for me. Because though the farms and back roads I visited did not disappoint with their beauty, this May First, at certain spots along the way a memory would come back to me, and many of those early day’s memories are about how hard the beginning of my trip was, what a difficult adjustment it was for me to walk away from “normal life” and put myself out on a limb, both physically and emotionally. It’s good to be reminded that beginnings are not always easy, even when you are doing something of your own choosing. Maybe even more so when it’s following a dream. Because you’ve followed that dream for a reason and sometimes the reason can seem difficult or out of reach. I started out on that long ago horse trip to find freedom and joy and to ride and to be outside. I had all that, and it was still difficult. 

Here’s why I am sharing this with other horse people. Because like normal life, our “horse lives” are full of all kinds of beginnings. Horse people seem to be kind of a forward-thinking bunch and are usually up to a new challenge. The first canter, the first jump, trying a new discipline, sitting on a young horse for the first time, returning to riding as an adult after a long time away. The list of how many new beginnings there are with horses could go on and on. I’m going through a version of that right now. I have a new horse and she’s proving to be a bit more of a challenge than I had anticipated. 

Heading out on the old steps of our cross-country journey was a good reminder to me that though beginnings are not always easy, they are often worth the effort. If you believe in yourself and in the goal you are pursuing, if it’s the right time and place and the right challenge for you, you will adjust, and it will be worth it…whether it’s a new horse or a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Whenever I visit them, those Pennsylvania trails and hills remind me of important lessons I learned there: You can handle whatever comes up. You’re doing this because it’s the path to what you want. And that when things get hard, you just keep going

So whether you find yourself facing a new challenge or if you just need a way to “center,” as they call it, consider taking a page from my little tradition and head outside. Whether it’s by foot or by horseback or driving on a country road, there’s something cleansing and clarifying about wandering. Even if it’s just to get out and think and appreciate where you are. Here in the Northeast, for a little while in May, the air smells like lilacs, the creeks are full and flowing, and the birdsong is incredible. No matter the reason, it’s just good to get out there. And maybe you’ll find in yourself a new resolve and new ideas for whatever challenge (horse life or otherwise) you are about to take on.

—Melissa A. Priblo Chapman, 2021


Melissa’s book DISTANT SKIES: AN AMERICAN JOURNEY ON HORSEBACK is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping is FREE in the US.

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.

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It is always amazing to learn how our authors manage their days. With most of them working equestrians or equine experts, hours are always an incredible juggling act of horses, clients, and family. This month we caught up with the stunning and talented Sandra Beaulieu, author of FREESTYLE: The Ultimate Guide to Riding, Training, and Competing to Music, to find out how her life balance works as the manager of Little River Friesians in Havana, Florida.

Photo by Susan McClafferty

5:00 am A few years ago I started waking up early to work on my book FREESTYLE. I love the dark and quiet nature of the morning…with my two cups of coffee of course! Don’t get me wrong…I would love to sleep in, but if I don’t work in the morning it just won’t happen. To help me stay consistent I put my cell phone outside my room so I have to get up to turn off the alarm, otherwise I will hit snooze. I am currently working on an ebook specifically for Second Level choreography, which is a supplement to my book FREESTYLE. I also work on blog posts, social media…basically anything that involves my computer.

Coffee and working on the latest eBook. Photo by Sandra Beaulieu.

6:00 am Light yoga and any physical therapy exercises I am working on. I have old riding injuries and a chronic hip flexor issue that takes a lot to maintain. I go to the chiropractor and a masseuse once a week and also use my Magna Wave machine, KT tape sometimes, and Arnica to help improve healing and symmetry in my body. If I ride too many horses in one day or a very wide horse it puts a lot of stress on my body so I do my best to stay flexible and strong.

7:00 am Down the stairs and into the barn…I live in a beautiful apartment above the horses and I love being so close to them. I have quick access in case of emergencies, and it makes my day to hear them whinny when it’s time for carrots. There have been many nights where I need to give medications, bring in a loose horse, or check on a pregnant mare. I help with morning chores and make sure everyone is safe, happy, and healthy.

A beautiful morning bringing in the horses at Little River Friesians in Havana, Florida.

8:00 am – 11:00 am Run back upstairs to make my morning smoothie and take my supplements. Then back downstairs to write out my plan for the day and powwow with Lilian, our barn manager. Every day is different but most of the time I plan to ride two or three horses by lunch. Once a week we plan a trail day where the horses get to venture out and have a relaxing stroll through the woods. Sometimes I am preparing for a clinic, performance, or photo shoot. 

I work on basic dressage training with all the riding horses and add liberty and trick training as well. Lately, I have added some working equitation obstacles and introduced some of the horses to the garrocha pole. I like to keep training sessions fun with a lot of variety. I always play music and have individual playlists for each horse to work on future Freestyles and to keep the energy light and playful. 

Riding Co Fan S at a dressage clinic. He is a thirteen-year-old Friesian gelding owned by Little River Friesians. Photo by Triple C Photography

11:00 am – 12:00 pm  Lunch time for me and the horses. I help the team give out hay, water, and extra supplements/medications. I usually check the social media channels for Little River Friesians while I eat and Lilian and I meet to work on TikTok videos and post to Instagram/Facebook. We love creating beautiful and funny videos of the horses to share with the world. We have mostly Friesians at the farm along with a few Warlanders (Friesian x Andalusian cross) and Andalusians. They are certainly fairytale horses with wonderful personalities that love to entertain.

Preparing Co Fan S for a funny TikTok video. Photo by Rachel Quidagno

1:00 pm – 3:00 pm Back to the horses! We have quite a few broodmares that I work with, doing long-lining, easy trail riding, and sometimes ring work. My main priority is to keep them happy and healthy so that they are in the best shape possible for carrying their foals. This includes a lot of grooming time, bathing/braiding, and some trick training for fun. Lilian and I also work together to train the foals/yearlings so that they are well-handled when they are sold. All our weanlings lead very well, stand for the farrier, get baths, and are introduced to the trailer and the round pen before they move on to new homes. 

The “Model” Friesian mares at Little River Friesians: (left to right) Truus Van Het Houkumhuis, Trudi, Trude Van De Kleine Koppel, Sybrich V. Stal Staf Karima. Photo by Kimberly Chason

3:00 pm “Dinner time” is fairly early so the horses can go outside and spend most of their time grazing and out with each other. In the summer months they stay inside under the fans until later in the evening but right now the weather is perfect to be outside from 3:00 pm in the afternoon until 7:00 am the next day. 

4:00 pm This is usually my time to work with Rovandio, my personal horse. Right now we are learning how to do Working Equitation and having fun preparing for shows/clinics. Rovandio is nineteen years old and requires a lot of maintenance so while I am grooming him he has the Magna Wave on him, his nebulizer for breathing, and I give him his homeopathic remedies, arnica, and herbal cough syrup before we ride. We usually do a short walking trail ride to warm up and work on dressage and obstacles, depending on how he feels that day.

I have known Rovandio since he was born and owned by my close friend Bethanne Ragaglia. When he was older I started training him full time and taking him to perform with my horse Douwe. He is a handy horse, easy to ride with one hand, and has a comfortable stride. I started painting from horseback with Rovandio, and we have performed at Equine Affaire and were invited to the World Equestrian Games and Equitana as well.

Painting from horseback while riding Rovandio, a Lipizzan/Andalusian/TB cross gelding. Photo by Kimberly Chason

7:00 am Usually I try to catch up on my own social media channels at this time and make sure to include my sponsors, Adams Horse Supplies, Espana Silk, and Kastel Denmark. I check to see if Little River has any comments/messages and return emails as well. 

Before I have dinner I enjoy taking the four-wheeler out to the horse’s paddocks to give them carrots and check that their fly masks/sheets/blankets are on properly and that everyone looks happy and healthy. During this nightly drive I stop by the beautiful meadow where my heart horse Douwe is buried and say goodnight to my special boy. He tragically passed away last summer due to a ruptured spleen and the past year has been a difficult time for me to grieve and figure out my life without him. 

My heart horse Douwe was a lot of fun in photo shoots. We used to perform a lot together, blending bridleless riding, liberty, and tricks. Photo by Kimberly Chason

8:00 pm Wind down from the day with a healthy salad, sometimes a glass of wine, and an episode of whatever I have been watching recently. I like to watch familiar shows I have seen before…if I watch something new and exciting I just want to stay up all night to see what happens! I love watching shows and movies that have horses and beautiful costumes like Game of Thrones, Outlander, and Bridgerton. Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong time period!

With Douwe, the Friesian gelding that changed my life. Photo/art by Kimberly Chason

9:00 pm My goal is to be in bed by this time, and I usually write in my journal before I turn the lights out, reflecting on my day and appreciating all the positive things in my life. I look forward to the future but do my best to stay present, enjoying my dream job surrounded by the beautiful, special horses of Little River Friesians.


Sandra Beaulieu’s book FREESTYLE is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

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




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

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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.

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Jane Savoie, Lynn Palm, and Rugged Painted Lark. Photo by Rhett Savoie

One of our favorite things at TSB is when our amazing and inspiring authors connect. What better than to see the people we know, admire, learn from, and care about find common ground in their love for the horse? That’s what happened with our friend and author, Jane Savoie, who we lost to cancer in January this year, and our friend and author Lynn Palm. They appreciated and learned from each other over many years as they both wrote several books, taught thousands of people, and strove to teach riders how to be the equestrians they want to be–whether just riding at home or competing at the highest levels.

Lynn wrote this moving tribute to Jane, and we asked if we might share it with you:


We will all miss the spirit, talent, teaching ability, inspiration, honesty, and passion for horses that was Jane Savoie. 

I first met Jane on the phone, and I was so impressed with her positive energy. An international “queen” of dressage (though she never acted like it), she reached out to interview me on classical training for a series of cross-training books she was writing. [Editors Note: These would later be bound together in what is today JANE SAVOIE’S DRESSAGE 101.] Jane had learned that I did hunters, Western riding, and driving (to produce “All-Around” horses) with my Quarter Horses. She was the first in the dressage world to recognize the I was using dressage training with my horses. She sent me her first book to read: THAT WINNING FEELING!, and I read it before my next Quarter Horse Congress competition. I was amazed how I could turn every negative thought in my mind before competition into a positive. I succeeded more than I expected that year and became a Jane Savoie follower from then on! When she asked me to write the foreword for her first cross-training book, I was honored! 

As I collected all Jane’s books and always found new things to learn in them–for my horses or students or my own riding–I asked Jane to be a part of three events I created under the name Women Luv Horses. I hosted them in North Carolina, California, and Florida. I asked Jane, along with the top women trainers, competitors, and instructors in the dressage, reining, working cow horse, barrels, and English/Western All-Around disciplines to join me. Jane’s classes were always the best attended and always kept the audience mesmerized. Not only did Jane bring positive education to equine enthusiasts, she brought fun as she shared her passion of understanding the horse.

Photo by Rhett Savoie

I will always remember my lessons on tempi changes with Jane as we prepared my Rugged Painted Lark for his bridleless exhibitions at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. She could articulate her teaching so that it was easy to understand, and she could always come up with an exercise to improve a goal. I remember that straightness of the forehand gives the perfect balance I needed for the tempi changes to be more consistent. I hear her in my mind many times when I ride!

We will all miss Jane. I know that she will continue to ride with all the thousands of people who followed her, as I know she rides with me nearly every day.

Love you Jane. Thanks for all you have done for people and horses!

Lynn Palm
LynnPalm.com

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

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

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When Melissa Chapman was 23 years old, she said goodbye to her happy, loving family, her job, and her boyfriend. Carrying a puppy named Gypsy, she climbed aboard a horse and rode away from everything, heading west. With no cell phone, no GPS, no support team or truck following with supplies, Chapman quickly learned that the reality of a cross-country horseback journey was quite different from the fantasy. Her solo adventure would immediately test her mental, physical, and emotional resources as she and her four-legged companions were forced to adapt to the dangers and loneliness of a trek that would span over 2,600 miles, beginning in New York State and reaching its end on the other side of the country, in California.

Melissa wrote about her journey in her new memoir DISTANT SKIES. We had a chance to ask her a little about what that long-ago trip did for her life, and what she hopes the book that chronicles it will do for others.

Your book DISTANT SKIES chronicles a journey you took across the USA in 1982. You were 23 and alone but for your animals—a horse and a dog, and later, a mule. Do you think a young person could make that same journey today? If so, how would it be different?

MC: I definitely think a person, young or not-so-young, could make a similar journey now. It’s a very physical experience but most importantly, it a journey of someone who is ready to step out of the familiar world and at the same time be willing to become even more a part of the world around us. I know of several “Long Riders” who would be considered elderly who rode on this type of trip and much longer!

But there are most definitely big differences between now and the eighties when I made my journey on horseback. The main one of course, being the advancement of technology, which created a dependence on constant contact and electronics. Long-distance adventurers of today use these tools to know things like exact miles from one place to another…the days of directions like “go down the road a fair piece and watch for a dirt turnoff past a big red barn” are a thing of the past. Also gone is the adventure of getting lost, and finding your way by instinct, and using things like the sun and the stars! It’s a little sad to me that now it’s so easy to find out what’s up ahead beyond the curve of the road by looking at your computer or your phone, but the positive side of that is that it’s safer! And with GPS, blogging, social media…people will always know where you are and will be able to follow your journey along with you.

Also, in the years between then and now, many rural places have become more suburban. I still ride almost every day and I can definitely say there are more places developed and more traffic on country roads, which horseback riders always have to consider.

Despite these changes, I know we will continue to hear of people trying, and sometimes completing, modern-day cross-country rides. It just calls to some people, and with the right horse and the right mindset, there is still open land and the open road. And the solid belief that really, most people out there in the world are good. I’ll always believe that.

When do you first remember dreaming about a cross-country adventure on horseback? Did it begin organically, or were you inspired by a book, movie, or event?

MC: The desire to ride cross-country on a horse came from my own head and heart. I remember daydreaming about just living on horseback and wandering around the country as a very young child. I remember once, in about seventh grade, telling a boy I went to school with that I was going to ride my horse across the whole country. I didn’t even own a horse, and he probably thought I was weird, but I remember that exact incident.

My father introduced me to the book The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters by Robert Lewis Taylor, about a boy and his father traveling west. It became my favorite book. I’m sure this, and many of the types of books I was interested in, fanned the flames of my dream.

Your journey became less about the places you went and more about the people you met along the way. Are you still in touch with those you came to know on your trip?

MC: I remember trying to assure my worried parents that horse people would help us out if needed. I did believe that, but I had absolutely no idea how much unknown people would become part of our journey. How the way of passing us along from one farm to another, and checking up on us and watching out for us, would become one of the reasons we actually completed the whole thing.

So many people, and I should say, not just horse people, became interested and emotionally invested in seeing me and my animals follow my dream and accomplish our goal—it still amazes me to this day. After my first draft of the book, when I had to make my book a shorter, more manageable size, I hated having to eliminate some of their stories, because they were so important to me!

Many of those special people you meet in the book are a part of my life to this day. Several of my “trip families” were at my wedding. Nancy Goodman and I can still talk until phone batteries die. Naomi and I write and occasionally see each other. A story that comes to mind is the day my first child was born, I woke up after an emergency C-section to see my baby, my husband, my mom, my sister, and a vase of yellow roses from Tom and Barb Kee, who had been waiting by the phone in Kansas. So absolutely, many treasured and life-long friendships came from this journey.

What is one thing you hope readers will take away from your book?

MC: This is an important question to me.

I think it’s an uplifting story and that people will be glad they read it.

But I’m especially hoping that someone who reads my book may be inspired to pursue their own dream, whatever it may be. I’m hoping that people will be reminded of the America that is about freedom and kindness. I hope readers can see that woven throughout the stories is a reminder that there’s goodness everywhere, and that even on the bad days, there’s still the possibility of finding that goodness somehow. And that you have to believe in yourself and be open to believing in others. And that when things don’t go as planned or things are hard, you just keep going.

You just have to keep going.

Melissan Chapman’s memoir DISTANT SKIES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to order now.

“In Melissa Chapman’s debut memoir, we meet characters that are always interesting, and almost without fail, kind. We read writing that is succinct and evocative. The author’s relationship with her animals and love for the land does what Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley in Search of America did for me—it inspires both thoughtfulness and action—and that is my favorite kind of book. This girl, riding bravely across the continent, reminds us to appreciate the journey—for the end comes all too soon. Distant Skies will move you, guaranteed.”

Tik Maynard,
Author of In the Middle Are the Horsemen

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

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Photo by The Untamed Image

In June of 2020, TSB released a book that, as lifelong horse people, we feel is a game-changer. In HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN, brain scientist and horsewoman Janet Jones uses plain language to explore the differences and similarities between equine and human ways of negotiating the world. Mental abilities—like seeing, learning, fearing, trusting, and focusing—are discussed from both human and horse perspectives. Things you might have intuitively understood about your horse, like the fact that he’ll spook at a garden hose (as one example), are now examined through the lens of how the equine brain functions. Other things you might have long puzzled over, like why he spooks at the same garden hose every time he sees it, are finally broken down into understandable reasons for behavior you can address in fair and safe ways.

HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN is changing horsemanship, worldwide. Rights have already been sold to Germany, Japan, and Poland, as more people are hearing about the knowledge of brain science that can be easily applied to their equine activities, immensely improving their handling, training, and riding, whatever their skill level, whatever their discipline.

“The book the horse world has been waiting for.”
TIK MAYNARD, author of In the Middle Are the Horsemen

We recently caught up with author Janet Jones and asked her a little about her book, as well as what she hopes equestrians will gain from it.

Photo by The Untamed Image.

TSB: Your book HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN uses plain language to explain the differences in how the horse’s brain functions versus the human brain. When did it become clear to you that understanding equine perception and brain function was integral to sound horsemanship?


JJ: It became most clear during the unplanned dismounts, especially in that moment between leaving the saddle and hitting the ground.

TSB: You relate a story of a fall as a teenage rider that resulted in bouts of amnesia that lasted for years, noting that this experience is what led you to the world of brain science. What was it about that period following the fall that made you want to know more, so much so that you eventually taught the subject at the collegiate level?

JJ: Wow, I must have banged my head really hard to have set brain science as my teenage goal.

TSB: You share many eye-opening realities related to the horse’s senses in your book. Which is the one that you or your horsemanship was most changed by once you had learned it?


JJ: The horse’s amazing double-sense of smell, which we humans tend to ignore completely because we don’t have one.

Photo courtesy of Janet Jones.


TSB: You speak convincingly of what the term “horsemanship” should mean in your book. It has long been called “the art of horsemanship,” and many would argue or acknowledge that emotion and intuition play a significant role in our day-to-day dealings with our horses. How should this traditional view of horsemanship be changed by the science you explore?

JJ: Emotion and intuition are still very important; we just need to add brain science to them. Science helps to drive the desire to put the horse first, which is my definition of true horsemanship. Once we realize the huge differences in how horses and humans experience the world, we can feel empathy for our animals and try to help them understand how the human world works.


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

JJ: Don’t poke the bear!


TSB: Just before your book was published, you acquired a three-year-old Dutch Warmblood, who you are starting using brain-based training methods (and blogging about on your website). What inspired you to starting a young horse now, and what are your goals with this new and exciting project?


JJ: Working with young green horses is my version of taking a nap on a rainy day; it’s pure pleasure. I’m fascinated by the way they think. My primary goals are to 1) stay on, 2) avoid spins, bolts, and bucks, 3) earn the horse’s trust, and 4) did I mention stay on?


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?


JJ: Oh, such a hard question! If forced, I guess I’d have to choose a tall hot leggy Thoroughbred and a blank book so I could write about him in it.


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


JJ: Find the invisible “Perfect” button.

Photo courtesy of Janet Jones.

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

JJ: Openness.

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

JJ: Honesty.

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

JJ: That someone will make me choose only one horse and one book on a desert island.

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

JJ: That’s easy: $$$horses$$$. Books are a close second, but they cost less to feed.

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

JJ: I’m full of faults and flaws, but I am me. For that reason only, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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

JJ: Ice wraps.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

JJ: To be with the people and animals who love me and whom I love. Also, not to have to decide between “who” and “whom.”

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

JJ: Secretariat. Okay, he’s not a person, but what a story he could tell.

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?

JJ: I would go to a warm ocean with my best friend. We would ride beautiful horses and swim the waves every morning, laugh all afternoon (between reading and naps), and enjoy good dinners together every evening. After a week of that, I’d be ready to go home and write more books.

TSB: What is your motto?

JJ: If your Nerve deny you—
Go above your Nerve—”
(Emily Dickinson, 1862)

HORSE BRAIN, HUMAN BRAIN is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order now.

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

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Top5EBooks-FB-horseandriderbooks

As we roll toward a summer that promises to be a bit less social than what we might be used to, having some good reading material lined up is going to be HUGE. If you love to ride or are just crazy about horses, we have 5 great equestrian eBooks to recommend.

 

In the Middle Are the Horsemen-horseandriderbooks1  IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN by Tik Maynard

For: Any rider, horse person, or individual seeking a life’s purpose. Those interested in becoming a working student. Those who enjoy travel memoir.

What the critics say: “Funny, honest, and eloquent.” (UnTacked)

 

Four Legs Move My Soul-horseandriderbooks2  FOUR LEGS MOVE MY SOUL by Isabell Werth and Evi Simeoni

For: Dressage enthusiasts. Any competitive rider. Those who enjoy athletes’ biographies.

What the critics say: “A compelling read, with refreshingly honest commentary from Isabell.” (Horse & Hound)

 

Brain Train for Riders Final-horseandriderbooks3  BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS by Andrea Monsarrat Waldo

For: Anyone struggling to surmount issues with fear, lack of confidence, insecurity, anxiety, or nerves when working with horses or competing. Those who like practical exercises for self-improvement.

What the critics say: “Life-changing, honestly.” ($900 Facebook Pony)

 

Horses in Translation-horseandriderbooks4  HORSES IN TRANSLATION by Sharon Wilsie

For: Every horse person looking to “get” what horses say to us and learn how best to respond in a language they can understand. Those who like to read true stories that impart important lessons.

What the critics say: “Wilsie is a gifted storyteller…I was enthralled.” (Horse Nation)

 

Many Brave Fools-horseandriderbooks5  MANY BRAVE FOOLS by Susan E. Conley

For: Women, those who are horse-crazy (newbie or experienced). Those new to riding or horsekeeping. Those dealing with codependency, addiction, and recovery.

What the critics say: “Revealing tale of recovery…honest and humorous.” (Equine Journal)

 

So, How Can I Order?

TSB is SUPER excited to announce that you can now buy eBook editions of your favorite equestrian titles directly from our online bookstore! We have partnered with another independent company and an app called Glassboxx for a seamless eBook order, read, and storage experience. Check out the 100 titles we offer as eBooks (CLICK HERE for a complete list) or browse our store with over 400 books and videos about horses and equestrian sport from some of the top names in the world. (Note: Our New Releases are generally available in eBook format about three months after publication.)

Orders from today until June 14 get 20% off both digital and print orders by using the coupon code EBOOKS (enter the coupon code at checkout). We have FREE SHIPPING in the USA.

CLICK HERE to shop now.

Thank you for supporting small businesses!

EbooksatTSB-FB-horseandriderbooks

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

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TSBMOMS-horseandriderbooks

It is difficult to avoid sounding platitudinal when praising moms in honor of Mother’s Day. But in a time when our very survival—as healthy individuals, as equestrians, as teachers, coaches, competitors…as a business—is being tested, it only seems fair to acknowledge how support and sacrifice for one person ultimately impacts many. Here, four of our authors and two members of the TSB staff recognize how their moms helped them become who they are today. And tomorrow, horseman and author Tik Maynard will share a special essay on the subject of “mums.” Come back and see what he has to say.

 

FreestyleSandra Beaulieu, author of FREESTYLE

“My mother Peggy has always been supportive of my riding career. She was not a  horse person, but she understood that I had a lot of passion and dedication at a young age. I used to get very stressed at horse shows; I put a lot of pressure on myself to get particular scores, and I was way too serious! I remember one show my mom put a smiley face sticker on my horse’s bridle, right on the poll, so I could see it while I was riding my dressage test. She always tried to lighten the mood and be supportive!

“Mom also spent countless hours videotaping my lessons so that I could review them afterward. This was before cell phones so the video camera was quite large and clunky!

“Thanks to my mom’s encouragement and support, I have had a wonderful career with horses. She loves to refer to my horse as her ‘grandhorse’ since she doesn’t have any grandchildren. Thank you Mom you are the best!”

Sandra and Peggy Beaulieu

Sandra and Peggy Beaulieu. Photo courtesy of Sandra Beaulieu.

 

Stride ControlJen Marsden Hamilton, author of STRIDE CONTROL

“I grew up in the 1950s and 60s, so my mum, Loys Marsden, was the typical mother of the time. She kept the house, looked after my sister and me, volunteered at the library, and belonged to the local garden club.

“When my parents gave in to their horse-crazy daughter (me), life changed…albeit gradually. Mum became my chauffeur to the stable for lessons, and when I started going to local shows, she became a terrific groom—she could braid a lovely tail and even sewed my riding jacket! Her volunteering days turned into hours helping me muck out and feed…she sometimes even lunged horses to keep them fit when I was busy at school.

“My mum was a true encourager and my biggest cheerleader.

“Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers…especially the mothers of horse-crazy kids.”

 

Many Brave FoolsSusan Conley, author of MANY BRAVE FOOLS

“I’m fortunate in that I had two maternal figures in my life: my mother and her sister, my godmother. Auntie Sue (I’m her namesake) was 19 when I was born; she never married or had children herself, so I and my siblings had her loving attention our whole lives. She is no longer with us in the physical, and I miss her every day.

“One of my first memories is being driven around with Auntie Sue in her Mustang, which even at age four I knew was ridiculously cool. Talk about a role model! I doubt that, should I get my version of a Mustang, it will have an engine, but I’m hoping my engagement with horses is making a similar impression my nieces and nephews!”

 

 

FergustheHorseJean Abernethy, creator of FERGUS THE HORSE

“What a privilege it has been for the last 30 years to be a mum and to have my mum, Shirley. Living through some hard times shaped Mum into a relentless optimist. I am the youngest of her four children. She taught us how to work hard and play fair. How to prepare bird or beast for the oven—from the barnyard, to the supper plate. How to play music. How to say “I love you” and “I’m sorry” and the joy of a real good laugh. “Be a sport,” she would say. “Don’t be a stick-in-the-mud!”

“To this day, my mum’s love for family and her nine grandchildren shines as bright as the sun. So Happy Mother’s Day to you, Mum. Thanks to your example I now have two amazing young men who call me ‘Mum’ with love in their voices.”

 

Martha Cook, Managing Director

“My remarkable mom. The changes she’s seen in her 97 years. She grew up in the Great Depression. She served in World War II as a WAVE in the Navy, managed a small business, and unerringly supported her horse-crazy daughter. Thanks from the bottom of my heart, Mom!”

IMG_3988

Ruth and Martha Cook. Photo courtesy of Martha Cook.

 

Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor

“With no money and no knowledge of the equestrian world, my mother helped me find a way to have horses in my life. She taught me to work for it if I wanted it and to get back on when I fell off (even if she had to look the other way!) My mother’s convictions, her creativity, her love for books and art, and her curiosity for the world in all its minuscule and easily missed moments of beauty, were integral to my evolution. I am so thankful to have her as a mother, friend, and fellow explorer.”

BeccaandMom

Rebecca and her mom, Francesca. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Didier.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms of riders and writers…without you, TSB wouldn’t be!

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

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