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RidersPainFreeBack-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Charles Hilton.

Apparently, equestrians played a key role in popular bar design. Never mind the obvious (sometimes a horse girl needs a drink)—theory has it, back pain, likely related to hours in the saddle, was the key influencer in this equation.

Riders Pain-Free Back-pb

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“Back pain affects four out of five people at some time during their lives,” explains retired neurosurgeon and horseman Dr. James Warson in his book THE RIDER’S PAIN-FREE BACK. “It is the leading cause of disability for people between the ages of 19 to 45. Back pain is second only to the common cold for causing adults under 45 to miss work. Furthermore, as we age, low back pain becomes more and more common—affecting half of the population older than 60 at any given time.”

Uplifting, right? But the kicker is, whatever causes the back pain—be it sources outside or within our equestrian pursuits—it ultimately affects our ability to ride, as well as our enjoyment of it. And that, my friends, would surely drive a man to drink.

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So what does all of this have to do with bars?

RidersPainFreeBackpin-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Charles Hilton.

“A posture characteristic of people who have spine problems or pain is a tendency to flex the hips and knees somewhat,” says Dr. Warson. “This takes traction off the nerves—particularly the sciatic nerve—and makes them a little bit more comfortable. Extending the back—especially when standing with a straight leg—may irritate the nerves. This is why people who have severe back problems tend to bend forward somewhat, as well as flexing their hips and knees, in order to get some relief.

“In the ruins of Pompeii are a staggering number of saloons, bordellos, and bathhouses. Each of these entertainment places featured a long, low, stone step that ran in front of what was the equivalent of the bar. Since most of the people who rode horses in that era were either soldiers or politicians, and since the proprietors of the various establishments wanted to keep their elite clientele happy, the low step encouraged the power players to gather around the bar. Riders were generally wealthy and worthy of courting as patrons. Long hours in the saddle, however, contributed to a host of chronic back problems. The low step allowed clients to flex the hip and knee. It would alleviate their pain somewhat, enabling them to stay at the establishment longer—and spend more money.

RidersPainFreeBack2-horseandriderbooks“The bar owners knew that the people who rode in on horseback were probably hurting. They also knew that flexing the hip and knee would make them more comfortable. People standing at the bar could rest their feet on the step and ease some of their chronic pain. If the patrons were feeling no pain, they would tend to hang around longer, and they’d tend to drink more.

“Later on, especially in Europe, the stone steps were replaced with a brass rail, which is commonly seen and still used today at the base of bars almost everywhere.”

There you are, folks…a rider’s reason for that foot rest at the bar. Party people everywhere have equestrians to thank for their hours of comfort, belly-up.

Cheers.

THE RIDER’S PAIN-FREE BACK is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

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ManyBraveFools-horseandriderbooks

Switching trainers, moving from one barn to another, trying a new hairdresser…isn’t it amazing how all these things make us feel a sharp pang of guilt, like we are somehow being unfaithful? I mean, rarely is there a contract involved or even promises of fidelity, and yet…

Susan Conley’s new memoir MANY BRAVE FOOLS chronicles her discovery of riding and horses at the age of 42, and how her new passion helped her recover from years living in a codependent relationship with an addict. (Of course, horses introduced her to an addiction of her own.) In this excerpt, Conley shares the story of the first time she had a lesson barn affair and how ultimately, just like in her human relationships, her horse-life relationships were all about chemistry.

***

I had been riding exclusively at my first barn for one year and seven months when I decided to try a different stable, one that was on my side of town, for a private lesson.

I felt like I was having an affair.

Hermes was a strong, well-built cob. He had been brought in from the field just before my lesson, and he took a moment at the open door of the covered arena, every time we passed, to call for the friends he’d left behind. He was not in the least bit interested in me, and I wasn’t managing to engage his attention. He grudgingly trotted when I asked him to, and he refused to listen to my request for the canter at all, so the instructor waved a longe whip at him.

I got distracted by her whip. Hermes leaped to the left. I slid off to the right.

“You fell?” The instructor was incredulous.

You lashed the fucking whip at him, I thought. “Yeah, well,” I said.

I had landed in a damp patch on the ground. Let’s just say it was an aromatic bus ride home.

A couple of weeks later: same (new) barn, same horse, a group lesson this time, outside riding ring. A different instructor was busily chatting with some of her colleagues, leaving the riders to make their own decisions regarding rein changes and whatnot. I was once again trying to get Hermes to canter for me. The line of riders had halted at the M marker and would individually pick up canter between C and M before heading toward the fence, which was set up at B. (I could change barns but that crazy riding alphabet seemed to be following me.) We came around the corner and Hermes was motorbiking it, cutting it sharp/sharper/ sharpest. I leaned on the outside stirrup, off-effing-balance, and started to feel the saddle slip and slip…I went down. I fell softly onto the sand, and stood right back up.

No biggie. Except that the instructor came over, shaking her head, gesturing at the saddle, now completely over on Hermes’s offside.

“See that?” She put her hands on her hips and gestured at my horse and his gear, all askew. Everyone else, waiting for their turn to jump, stared.

Yes, I saw it. Cow. “Yeah,” I said.

LessonBarnPinterest-horseandriderbooksShe proceeded to lecture me on proper lesson preparation as she released the girth and righted the saddle. I was so pissed off my anger practically vaulted me off the ground and back in the tack. I was beneath her notice until we started to jump. She raised the rails on the fence to over two feet.

“Hermes—” She hadn’t even bothered to ask my name. “—you don’t have to do this.”

“I can do it,” I responded.

We trotted. Hermes still wouldn’t canter, not until we were a few strides away from the jump, anyway, but we took it perfectly.

Showed you, I thought. I certainly wouldn’t be coming back to this place anymore. Falls three and four were the height of ignominy; though the new barn was nominally closer to home, the affair was over. I went back to where I’d started.

I didn’t fall for Kilternan, my initial lesson barn, at first sight. Sure, I liked it right away, primarily because the place was laid back, the staff didn’t mind me hanging around (sometimes for a full hour before my lesson), and nobody passed comment, even though I was dressed like a complete fool for the first few weeks, wearing jeans and those silly boots and a borrowed helmet. I did strive to get my look increasingly right: jodhpurs, paddock boots, new headgear. I toughened up, abandoned the myriad layers and woolly scarf I initially swathed myself in, riding in just a T-shirt.

Horse owners asked me to do things like mind their mounts while they ran to get a hoof pick or hold their offside stirrup while they got on. I was becoming known, even if it was for being the crazy woman who took two busses all the way from the other side of town, a million miles away.

In the case of this love affair, distance was not an issue. I was learning that if a place gave off the right vibe, then I should be careful not to muck it up. There was a world of chemistry between horse and rider, rider and instructor, between the riders within a group lesson, and indeed, between the horses and the instructors. I wouldn’t ride Maverick when Angela was teaching the lesson. He adored her and always tried to show off, bucking more than usual, pelting for the perimeter after a jump, desperate to go fast, to show his favorite person what he was made of. When Emily was instructing us, Dancer would do everything in his power to stand by her. Once, we were waiting in the middle of the arena watching others take their turns over a jump, and when he heard Emily’s voice behind him, he turned a full one-hundred-and-eighty degrees to face her.

That kind of chemistry took time to build, and I knew you didn’t just throw it away. 

***

MANY BRAVE FOOLS is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Watch the book trailer:

 

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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InspireMe-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Venkat Narayanan

“Being coached” and “being a coach” are two of the topics examined in Eric Smiley’s new book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM. “The aim of this book is twofold,” Eric says. “Firstly, to improve the relationship between coach (in all its guises) and rider and horse; in other words, help the rider learn how to learn, as well as guide those who help others in an instructional capacity make the way they communicate clearer. Secondly, to give those who do not have regular tutelage techniques and practical exercises to help develop riding and training skills.”

We at TSB know Eric best as a riding coach, clinician, instructor, and mentor, but we got to wondering about Eric’s own experiences as a student. Did he have a coach who influenced him in profound ways? How had he learned his craft through the years? Who did he credit for his equestrian successes? Eric was kind enough to share answers to these questions and more:

Being asked to share the story of my “best coach” has ended up becoming a reflection on who I have become and why. Trying to separate horse from person has become impossible. Surely in true horsemen and women the two become inseparable as we live our lives for and because of “the horse.”

Some of our greatest experiences in life are horse-related. Some of our moral dilemmas that have shaped us as people have their origins in equine situations. So for me to separate horse from person or to identify an individual coach is impossible.
 
Sport coaches are defined as follows:

Sport coaches assist athletes in developing to their full potential. They are responsible for training athletes in a sport by analyzing their performances, instructing in relevant skills, and by providing encouragement. But they are also responsible for the guidance of the athlete in life and their chosen sport.
 
WhyWeNeedtoBeInspired-horseandriderbooksAs a child I used to watch my father come home from a stressful and exhausting day as a consultant thoracic surgeon. None of his surgeries were normal—all were life-threatening and in the midst of the Northern Ireland troubles. I would watch him go to the stables on his way from the car to our house. He would spend some time in the company of his beloved hunter “Bob.” By the time he arrived in the house and joined our family, a semblance of peace had returned to his overstressed mind.
 
Non-commissioned officers in the army have a tendency to be direct and explicit when getting things done. There is little ambiguity or doubt in the minds of those who are at the receiving end of the order. I used to watch Ben Jones ride his army remount horse “Custer.” At the time he had been promoted from Sergeant  to Captain to Chief Instructor at Melton Mowbray. He had previously been an Olympic Rider. I was doing a six-week riding course there. Ben Jones was direct with us and his horses. Always fair, but clear what was required. I watched him school Custer on the flat and over jumps, the clarity of where responsibility lay was clear for all to see. I was left with a certainty of “be clear and fair, but make it happen.”
 
“Now, Eric , what’s your question?” Mrs. Sivewright would ask at the beginning of every riding lesson. After an embarrassing first lesson (no one had told me to be prepared), I made sure I had a question ready to ask at subsequent sessions. This sparked my curiosity forevermore. This was at the beginning of my formative nine months at the Talland School of Equitation as I embarked on my chosen career with horses. My curiosity has continued to make me look and listen to any coaching of any sport that I can and then think about how they are going about fulfilling the definition I shared above and what I can learn about about their method and delivery.
 
Two Brains, One Aim“Enterprise” was not an easy horse. Maybe that was why he was cheap and not really wanted by his previous owner! He was, however, very talented but very misunderstood. I was asked if I would like a lesson with Dr. Reiner Klimke on one of his rare visits to Ireland. What a revelation that turned out to be. Day One was disastrous. Enterprise was SO spooky as to not go anywhere near corners , doors, mirrors, spectators, or Dr. Klimke. Day Two was unbelievably wonderful. With quiet, skillful instruction, Dr. Klimke got into the mind of Enterprise and assured him that it was okay. The work was beyond the expectation of anyone present, especially me. I learned to seek excellence and to be creative in doing so.
 
The joy of living in Ireland is the people one meets and gets to know. While being part of a team setting up a coaching structure in Ireland, I got to know someone called Liam Moggan. At the time he was one of the lecturers at the Sport Coach Development Department of Limerick University. I listened, watched, and was in awe of his unerring positivity and communication skills, and his humanity. It was impossible not to come away from every encounter enriched as a person.
 
As you read this you will begin to see that I have not talked much about many riding instructors that have influenced me. At the ripe old age of (??) I believe that most people today will have had more lessons by the age of twenty than I have had in my whole life. Yes, I have been in clinics, and I have learned from those instructors. But my interest has been largely self-taught. I loved the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. It poses the “nature/nurture” question of talent, but it also gives a method of achievement. Much resonated with how I saw coaching and had been plying my trade for many years. It gives one huge encouragement in what your doing when you read such a well accepted book, saying much the same.
 
However, none of all this really has much meaning or practical use unless we are inspired in some way to make it happen. Inspiration comes from many sources. I would implore you to watch a TED talk given by Dame Ellen MacArthur in 2015 (CLICK HERE).

I’m not making any political statement by recommending it, but listening to her it is impossible not to be inspired.

Eric Smiley’s book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

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

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ribbonsaudiobookavailablenow-horseanriderbooks

TSB is proud to release our first audiobook with one of our original bestselling authors: IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS, written and read by renowned rider, coach, and motivational speaker Jane Savoie, is now available from the TSB online bookstore!

We know horse people lead busy lives, often juggling work, family, and riding, so we want to make it easy to listen to some of our top authors’ best advice while commuting, or during your morning walk, or while sweeping the barn aisle or raking the arena track. There’s no better place to start than with Jane Savoie’s contagious enthusiasm, which couldn’t be better highlighted than in an audiobook read by Jane herself.

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS was the followup to Jane’s breakout bestseller THAT WINNING FEELING!the first book ever to recognize the importance of training the mind and shaping attitude in order to achieve higher levels of riding skill. In RIBBONS, Jane shares the tools and ideas for self-improvement that she has used, not only to help herself deal with challenges, but her students—who range from Olympic contenders to intermediate riders—as well. Full of shining examples of the success of her methods of dealing with riding’s—and life’s—challenges, this book is essential for anyone who is passionate about horses but may be struggling, at some level or other, with negative emotions and frustration from slow development of riding skills.

Want to know how much Jane’s techniques can help you in both riding and life? While recording her audiobook, Jane was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer. Here, in her own words (the introduction she reads at the beginning of the RIBBONS audiobook), she shares how pieces of her book gave her tools she could use in her day-to-day struggle to combat her illness:

***

Sometimes it is hard to believe that my first book about riding and sport psychology—THAT WINNING FEELING!—was published over a quarter of a century ago. Its follow-up was this book: IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS. Time has indeed flown, as they say it should when you’re having fun.

And I have, for the most part, been having fun! In addition to teaching and mentoring riders through my clinics and online courses, I discovered ballroom dancing…a pursuit that demands the same kind of relentless attention to detail and patience in the mundane practice of basics as dressage. The two “Ds”—dressage and dancing—have over time given me what my mind and body crave most: achievable short- and long-term goals, small successes to be celebrated every day, and the chance to connect with a skilled and motivated partner, as well as evolve with that partner over time.

But then, in 2015, just as I had begun recording the audio version of this book, I found out I have multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer. 

My life as I knew it went on hold as I spent the winter going through a round of high-dose chemotherapy, and I actually finished recording the IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS audiobook you are about to listen to while I was in the hospital, recovering from a stem cell transplant.

It is so easy to lose yourself in the physically excruciating process of battling back from illness or injury. I realized, as I forced myself to walk, IV rattling beside me, the 40 laps around the nurse’s station that would mean I’d gone a mile, that it was techniques I talk about in this book—those habits formed over a lifetime—that got me out of bed and placing one foot in front of the other, determined to get strong enough to go home.

My positive self-talk mantras became, “I’m going to breeze through this transplant,” and “I’m as tough as nails.” I desperately craved activity, but was often too tired to do more than my laps of the nurse’s station, so I filled that void within by making myself busy with visualization. I looked up pictures of myeloma cells, and when I discovered they looked like sunny-side up eggs, I reveled in the hours I could spend mentally smashing yolk after yolk. The “As If” Principle became my go-to …when I was scared, I acted as ifI was brave. When I felt depressed, I acted as ifI was bursting with optimism. The chemistry of fake emotion is the same as the chemistry of real emotion, so I changed my physiology on my bad days—smiling at nurses and doctors when they greeted me, replying, “I’m great!” when they asked how I was feeling.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t discouraged when my blood counts didn’t improve on a particular day, but I always remembered what I wrote in this book about resilience, and the importance of being able to bounce back in the face of challenges—because that is what makes sure you stay in the game.

My wish for you is to not only learn how the tools in the chapters ahead can better your riding and improve your ability to meet your equestrian goals, but also that you find yourself, like me, better equipped to handle the kinds of trials, small and large, that prove themselves the bumps in the roads we travel.

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Jane Savoie’s strategies can help you chart your course to success. Art by Beth Preston from It’s Not Just About the Ribbons.

 

The IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS audiobook is available now from the TSB online bookstore.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Want to read more about Jane Savoie’s dancing career? CLICK HERE

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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HorseSiteBlackFri-horseandriderbooks

Thanksgiving is over…let the shopping begin! At TSB, we’ve joined the Black Friday (Etc) Party by kicking off a big, end-of-the-year sale today, and it will run straight through Small Business Saturday (did you know TSB has a staff of SEVEN?), and (why not?) Cyber Monday, to boot. Just visit our online bookstore at HorseandRiderBooks.com and enter code BLACKHORSE at checkout to buy one item, then receive 30% off all additional items! Plus, we offer FREE SHIPPING in the US. (Yippee!)

Have a horse lover in your family? TSB has hundreds of books and DVDs to choose from. Here are 5 of our top sellers of 2018:

KNOW BETTER TO DO BETTER by Denny Emerson

 

IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN by Tik Maynard

 

HORSE SPEAK THE DVD by Sharon Wilsie

 

FERGUS AND THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Jean Abernethy

 

EQUINE LAMENESS FOR THE LAYMAN by G. Robert Grisel, DVM

 

Looking for something else? CLICK HERE to browse our online book and DVD store.

Happy shopping, with the good of the horse in mind!

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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EA2018-horseandriderbooks

As soon as we turn back the clocks, we all know it is almost that time again…time for Equine Affaire at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts! Tomorrow we’re loading up the horse trailer with our bestselling books and DVDs, as well as all our newest releases, and heading south down Route 91, leaving our Vermont offices behind for four days of horse-centric fun!

Join us in learning from our expert authors who will be on-hand as featured presenters, including:

Mark Rashid (FINDING THE MISSED PATH, JOURNEY TO SOFTNESS, OUT OF THE WILD)

Tik Maynard (IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN)

Jean Abernethy (our popular FERGUS THE HORSE book series)

Janice Dulak (PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER, NINE PILATES PILATES ESSENTIALS FOR THE BALANCED RIDER)

Emma Ford, Cat Hill, and Jessica Dailey (WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES)

Dr. Bob Grisel (EQUINE LAMENESS FOR THE LAYMAN)

 Paula Josa-Jones (OUR HORSES, OURSELVES)

TSBFergusCutout18

Get your picture taken with Fergus!

At the TSB booth 846-847 in the Better Living Center, we’ll be hosting author book signings after their presentations, plus show specials, like

Buy two books get 15% off; three or more, 20% off!

Sign up for a drawing for a $150 shopping spree at www.HorseandRiderBooks.com!

Take a photo with FERGUS and meet his creator Jean Abernethy!

Pre-order Denny Emerson’s new book KNOW BETTER TO DO BETTER and receive an autographed bookplate!

Bring this email to us on your phone or as a paper printout and get a free book!

We can’t wait to see you all at Equine Affaire, Thursday, November 8 through Sunday, November 11, 2018.

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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HorseSpeakZeke-horseandriderbooks

Sharon Wilsie, founder of Horse Speak™ and author of the books Horse Speak: An Equine-Human Translation Guide (with Gretchen Vogel) and Horses in Translation, provides a guest post this week. Her books are available from the TSB online bookstore (click HERE) and watch for her new DVD, coming in November 2018.

I like coffee. Strong coffee. The kind of coffee that sends an aroma out, wafting through the house and creeping under the bedroom door around 6:00 a.m. when the automatic coffee maker has brewed the liquid gold. More often than not, the urge to get just “one more minute” is corralled by the opposite urge to get my first cup of that delicious stuff.

I am one of those “animal people” who finds themselves living amidst a slew of furry friends. Slumping toward the kitchen, I have to be careful to step around a sleeping dog and not to trip over the purring kitty convinced that the best thing to go with coffee is a can of cat food.

It’s late summer here in Vermont, and from our patio I can still enjoy the early morning sunrise through the deep mists of the forest surrounding our home. There are mountains to the south and a “good hill” to the north, where we can currently spy ducks and geese practicing their flight patterns.

The horses shift and snort down below in the little valley they call home. They live in total turnout, with run-in shelters to go into when the sun is high or the bugs are too intense. We have one intrepid escape artist, so the herd has to be locked behind a gate at night where the shelters are. But the “old man” is left loose, and he usually saunters up to enjoy my morning coffee with me.

Zeke stares at me now, as though he would like to fill me in on all the goings-on that took place during his night watch. Seems a raccoon got into the garbage bin again. Zeke let’s me know by staring toward the mess, which I had not noticed yet. I lift my cup to him, and nod my head, certain he chased the varmint away. He nods his head and lets out a prolonged snort. Zeke likes things to stay tidy around here. I have seen him pin his ears at a moose when it had the audacity to wander into the back acres.

The newest member of our family, a one-year-old lab mix named Willow, has been digging, bouncing, and sniffing around, and now sneaks up toward Zeke’s nose. He sniffs her, too, then for good measure pins his ears and looks away. She takes this as a signal to run at top speed around and around him for a few minutes while he stands still, looking very annoyed—but I suspect he secretly enjoys it, because they do this every day. She loves to go trail riding with us, and even though due to his advanced age Zeke is restricted to a 20-minute walk down a very level trail, he seems to prefer it if she comes along.

Because of his senior status, I had chosen not to ride him this summer, but he got steadily depressed. One day, when I was tacking up another horse in the riding ring, he sauntered up to the saddle, which was placed on the split-rail fence, and stood alongside it, perfectly still. I smiled at him but went ahead with riding the other horse. When we were done, he lay down in front of the riding ring gate. Immediately, I assumed he was sick and went to him. Upon standing up, he walked over to the saddle again, and put his nose on it.

Well! What was I to do?

I put the other horse away, and saddled Zeke. He marched me over to the trail head and insisted on trotting every chance he got.

Since then, I take him out once or twice a week. He has even opted to go up the dirt road near our home a few times. I try not to ride him more than 20 minutes at a time, but it is always my choice to dismount, he seems to be perfectly happy to keep going.

DSC_1249FL 7-17

Sharon and Zeke. Photo by Rich Neally

Our property has different levels of fencing on it for various turnout, but Zeke has the run of it most days. Sometimes in the early morning, he will walk up to the bedroom window and get the dog barking. When we look out the window and see his enquiring nose, we know he wants something, and its time to get up. This was the case one morning when the trash men came a little earlier than usual. Our driveway is more like a short road, and Zeke came to our window to wake us, then stood in the yard, facing the sound of the oncoming trash truck. We jumped up just in time to get the barrels up the driveway, and he even sauntered halfway up the lane to watch us transport the barrels out of the back of our pickup truck and into the garbagemen’s hands. We thanked Zeke for the wake-up call and scratched his belly—his favorite spot. Then he received his morning rations of soaked senior grain and hay stretcher, right next to the back patio where we typically have our morning coffee and enjoy the first light of the day.

I have known of many people who have a senior “lawn horse.” Zeke’s records are lost, so we don’t know exactly how old he is—but there are many years under his belt. I feel that his long career as a circus vaulting horse, a carriage horse, and a therapeutic riding horse have earned him the right to live a life of liberty and the pursuit of his own happiness. Each time I invite him to go riding, it starts with simply placing the saddle on the rails. If he wants to go, he walks over and puts his nose on it. If he is not in the mood, he doesn’t.

Zeke has had a series of mouth tumors over the past two years. He has lost two teeth and regularly deals with having the vet remove the bulk of a tumor when it interferes with his chewing. However, he barely even needs sedation for any of this and appears grateful to receive the aid. He suffered a serious hind-end injury somewhere in his past, because he has scars up and down his hind legs, and his rear ankles are quite enlarged. Despite this, he loves his life. He loves Dakota, the half-blind mare he lives with when we put him in a paddock when we need to leave the house. He whinnies and even canters around if I take her out for a ride. When Zeke first came here, he was in a lot of pain, and had become a serious biter. He was going to be put down, and I offered to adopt him instead. Dakota claimed him and became his “alpha mare” in about two minutes, and they have been together ever since. She even taught me how to work with and around him safely.

Even though I am the author of two books, Horse Speak (with Gretchen Vogel) and Horses in Translation, I am still learning the intricateness of the language of equines. Having an elder wiseman such as Zeke gives me much to think about. He challenges me to communicate directly with him (like drawing my attention to the garbagemen, or the raccoon), and he makes me dig deeper to find connection with a horse that many people would have written off.

 

I like to ride my horses, but I love to sit and learn from them even more. Each time I am around them doing chores, brushing them, or just sitting with them as they graze, I seek to allow myself to go into what I call “Zero”—the inner state of stillness. From there, I can watch and observe their communications. There is a rhythm to Horse Speak; it’s like a timeless dance, moving to the music of “crunch-munch-munch” as the horses swish at a fly or chew their food. Step, chew, swish, step—lift the head, lower the head—chew, step swish. I am reminded of bees doing their “flower dance” and communicating to the rest of the hive where the best pollen is. Or fish, moving in tandem under the dock at Woods Hole, Cape Cod, at my friend’s house. Sitting on the dock, witnessing the movements of cormorants diving or seals swimming out of the harbor, I am reminded that life does this natural thing, this rhythm of movement, sound, feel, and breath. The waves crash into shore, the waves recede out.

Horse Speak is a gift. It is as old as the hills and as new as the message today from Zeke, saying, “Hey, don’t just sit there, come with me into the woods…. Sit on my back and feel my rhythm.”

And I will.

 

HorseSpeakSetSharon Wilsie’s books HORSE SPEAK and HORSES IN TRANSLATION are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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

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