Join Six Fabulous TSB Authors at Equitana USA, October 1-3, 2021

We are so excited that Equitana USA at the amazing and beautiful Kentucky Horse Park is right around the corner, and we are THRILLED that six of our amazing authors are featured presenters. Here’s what you have in store in Lexington this weekend.

Sally Batton, Founder and President of the Athletic Equestrian League and author of the forthcoming The Athletic Equestrian (coming January 2022)

Sandra Beaulieu, dressage trainer, artist, performer, and author of Freestyle: The Ultimate Guide to Riding, Training, and Competing to Music

Shawna Karrasch, positive-reinforcement trainer and author of the forthcoming The Power of Positive Horse Training (coming Fall 2022)

Jim Masterson, creator of The Masterson Method bodywork and author of many books and videos, including the bestselling Beyond Horse Massage

Lynn Palm, renowned trainer and clinician and author of The Rider’s Guide to Real Collection and Your Complete Guide to Western Dressage

Cathy Woods, horsewoman, yoga teacher, and author of Yoga for Riders

With a dynamic combination of seminars, clinics, and trainings, the EQUITANA USA Education Program will broaden your understanding of all things related to horse care and riding, while opening doors to new disciplines and fun. It all starts on Friday, October 1! Get your tickets and plan your visit today!

For more information or to reserve your tickets, visit EquitanaUSA.com.

CLICK HERE to get tickets to daytime events at Equitana USA.

CLICK HERE to reserve seats for EQUUS Evolution, the evening equestrian-inspired entertainment, at Equitana USA.

We hope everyone has a wonderful and safe experience in Lexington!

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

Lessons in Patience: 3800 Miles on Horseback

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rapport allows for personal interpretation and positive affirmations. 

Jen flaunting her catch phrase.

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

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

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

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

Jen using the sand to clarify a lesson.

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

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

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

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

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

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?

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

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

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

No horse. I’m taking a cat!

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

JMH: Go swimming bareback in the ocean.

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

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

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

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

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

JMH: The loss of hope.

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

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

Jen, going topless!

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

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

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

JMH: Milk, peanut butter, and red jam.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

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

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

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

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

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

TSB: If you could go back to December 2019 and go one place anywhere in the world with as many or as few people as you would like, where would you go, who would you bring, and what would you do?

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

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

TSB: What is your motto?

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

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

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

How a Rescue Horse Survived the Odds…and Found the Love of a Family

Photo courtesy of Dr. Dan Dickinson

The TSB 2021 Horse Books & Videos Catalog is now available to download (see below link) or request by mail from our website (click here for a print copy). Our cover model this year is the stunning Eddie–some of you have already heard his amazing story, but in honor of Valentine’s Day, we wanted to share a little about his new family, because it is a love story of a special nature.

In 2018, TSB author Yvonne Barteau’s rescue Horses Without Humans in Bell, Florida, received in 19 horses in devastating condition. Dubbed “The Bone Yard” by volunteers and followers on social media, this remarkable group of animals defied dire predictions that it was unlikely they would all find their way to health.

Miraculously, all of them survived, and one by one, they are being rehabilitated and retrained prior to finding them caring homes. Our cover boy, Eddie, was one of The Bone Yard herd in the worst condition when he was surrendered. Today he shines with health and contentment…and, maybe best of all, he has found a new home with a loving family:

“We moved to Florida from New York in 2016 for work,” says Dr. Dan Dickinson, who along with his wife, Theresa, adopted Eddie in 2020. “At that time, if you had asked me what my wife was really passionate about besides nursing (now she is a nurse practitioner), I would not have been able to tell you. We sent my eight-year-old daughter, Paris, to a horseback-riding camp, locally, and my wife just started spending time with the other horses and learning about them. Then she started taking riding lessons on her own (even when Paris lost interest!).

“Theresa’s passion grew and grew, so in October of 2019, we adopted Dolly, a Gypsy Vanner that Theresa fell in love with. Unfortunately, where Dolly was, the farm hands were scared of her and didn’t give her great care, so we relocated Dolly, boarding her at Yvonne’s place in Bell.  

“It was there that we learned Eddie’s story and saw the pictures of him before Yvonne and her awesome team rescued him. My wife fell in love with Eddie, (and soon after, we all did, very very easily!), and so we adopted him!  We actually moved out of our house into a slightly smaller house with more acreage so we could have our horses on our own property–we now live on a 9.9-acre horse ranch in northern Gainesville. We love it. Eddie has a voracious appetite, and loves carrots, apples, and just about any horse treats from our local store, Bits & Spurs. He and his sister, Dolly, chase each other and run around like mad in their pasture. And if you ask Paris, Eddie is her horse!

Video courtesy of Dr. Dan Dickinson

“The story of Eddie’s new life comes largely from the story of Theresa–the most hardworking, compassionate nurse, who I met, fell in love with, and married ten years ago this month. Now everyone knows what her passion and her hobby is. (We adopted an 18-year-old mare named Neigh Neigh this past Christmas season!) I can say it adds to our marriage, as we both take care of and ride these three amazing horses. We have two small kids…and three very very large kids to take care of, too.”

We are over-the-moon happy for Eddie…and Dolly and Neigh Neigh and their amazing human family. The Dickinsons and their herd are providing an inspiring example of how every horse deserves a second chance…and the love of a family.

Horses Without Humans (HorsesWithoutHumans.org) partners with The Right Horse (TheRightHorse.org). TSB is proud to support both of these worthy organizations and invites you to learn more about their efforts to help horses in transition.

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

Riders Must Have “the Will”

Photo by Arnd Bronkhorst

In her new book, HOW TWO MINDS MEET: THE MENTAL DYNAMICS OF DRESSAGE, Beth Baumert explains how to optimize the use of your “thinking mind” in order to become a better learner in the saddle and provides techniques for maximizing mental and emotional harmony with your horse. Here she tells us why we need to have “the will” to achieve every task, every movement:

Horses don’t understand negatives. They do not understand I hope she doesn’t…, I wish she wouldn’t…, Don’t do this…, I’m afraid that…. They don’t understand mental or emotional garbage—for example, I hope he doesn’t refuse the fence, because I want to get out of this alive and I’m afraid I’ll fall off like I did last week. This is a message that is negative, emotional, and convoluted. It’s usually accompanied by a dreadful mental image that the horse has no trouble reading, and we all know how that story ends.

Since the horse doesn’t understand the negative aspect of the message, he gets a message that goes like this: Refuse the fence as I have in the past. Do it eagerly. My rider may end up on the ground. Even the boldest, most willing jumper would, at least, become distracted or confused by his rider’s message.

The rider must think positively.

German trainer Conrad Schumacher often told his dressage students, “You must have the WILL.” He was usually referring to a line of tempi changes, and he often asked his rider to verbally call out “I WILL” when riding each change. The rider must know what she wants and have a very clear plan for achieving it. Horses train people to think clearly and positively.

For example, to jump a vertical fence or to ride a lengthened stride on the diagonal, the rider might go through these steps:

• Half-halt before the turn and balance through it.

• Half-halt again after the turn to straighten.

• Establish the length of stride you want and ride the line.

• Half-halt to rebalance after the lengthening or the fence.

• Reward! (Great job!)

• Rebalance and repeat….

Horses understand these positive, clear messages.

For more from HOW TWO MINDS MEET: THE MENTAL DYNAMICS OF DRESSAGE, including a free chapter download, CLICK HERE.

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

Our Friend Jane Savoie

Jane with Woody and Emma in South Strafford, Vermont. Photo by Rhett Savoie.

I first met Jane Savoie when I was 19. I was home from college and looking for a horse job to counter the nights I spent waitressing. Jane needed a groom. She had Eastwood, aka “Woody,” then–a big chestnut with lots of chrome.

It was a long time ago but certain moments are still incredibly clear in my memory: Jane and I standing side by side outside Woody’s stall, watching him, curled up like a big dog, napping. Jane, all business, firmly correcting my mistakes as I learned to meet her high standards for her horse’s care and turnout. Jane, with her sweet dog, Emma, power-walking along the trail that ran behind the barn as I bathed Woody in the sunny wash stall.

By that summer of 1997, Jane had already competed as a member of the U.S. Equestrian Team and written a book, THAT WINNING FEELING!, which was published by Trafalgar Square Books in 1992. She was hard at work on a new project–what would become Cross-Train Your Horse: Books One and Two (and later JANE SAVOIE’S DRESSAGE 101)–writing and rewriting her words with the help of publisher Caroline Robbins, striving to provide a truly clear how-to description of every basic dressage movement. Her aim to empower the amateur rider would become a driving force later in her life as the educational materials she was moved to create multiplied.

More recent memories of Jane are clear, too: Laughing with her and her husband, Rhett, as she related stories from the road over dinner in Wellington. Watching her dance lesson in a slick Florida studio, sensing her absolute commitment to every step. Visiting her when she first got sick, walking with her and our Managing Director Martha Cook, and brainstorming “what’s next?”

During an early treatment for her rare form of blood cancer, Jane had to stay in isolation. Never one to be idle, she decided to finish recording the audio version of her sport psychology book IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS from her hospital bed. “It is so easy to lose yourself in the physically excruciating process of battling back from illness or injury,” she said in her introduction to the audiobook. “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.”

That was in 2016. We were all incredibly lucky she was so determined. Jane’s fight and drive, the building blocks of “her” that helped her attain her riding goals, against the odds, gave her the strength to stay with us another four years, against the odds. We had a chance to share more laughs; we had a chance to watch her dance.

Photo by Rebecca Didier

Receiving the call last week, being told she was gone, was an unbelievable blow to all of us at Trafalgar. THAT WINNING FEELING! was one of the first horse books published by Caroline; it was one of the first books Martha worked on when she came to TSB after college. Jane and her passionate, innovative ideas are an integral part of the foundation for what our small company has become. But more profound is the vast impact a friendship of 30 years has–how Jane’s evolution, my evolution, and Martha’s and Caroline’s, were all interwoven. Losing a piece of that is losing a piece of ourselves.  

When I first met Jane, at 19, I had no idea she would become such a force in my life. I guess we can never know that about the people we meet. But aren’t we lucky when it happens.

–Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor

One of our favorite photos of Jane…on Jolicoeur. Photo by Terri Miller from That Winning Feeling!

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

Fergus the Horse Celebrates 20 Years

He has hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook and a surging presence on Instagram.

Each day, he and his diverse group of friends share their mishaps, their successes, and their innermost thoughts with the world.

He is seemingly ageless, looking even better now than when his ascent to fame began.

Who is this intriguing Internet celebrity?

Fergus the Horse (Equus hilarious), the creation of artist Jean Abernethy, has been entertaining audiences—young and old, in print and online—with his comedic adventures for the past 20 years. His rise to fame was documented in the epic equine comic collection THE ESSENTIAL FERGUS THE HORSE, and now, Abernethy celebrates his age—and the wisdom that should come with it—with an all-new selection of horsey humor, including many cartoons fans have never seen before, created exclusively for an all-new book.

With a genuine appeal that crosses boundaries of breed, discipline, and geographic location, Fergus unites anyone with an eye for a horse and a need for a laugh. Readers of all ages—from 5 to 95—will be delighted by his wit, honesty, and profoundly funny observations on horses, humans, and the life they strive to live together.

“The first time I heard someone say to me, ‘I grew up reading Fergus!‘ I was taken aback. The speaker was young, but a grown-up! Had it been THAT long?” remarks artist and Fergus creator Jean Abernethy. 

“But, yeah, there we are. Fergus was born in my sketchbooks 20 years ago.  When I look back now over those early drawings, I’m amazed by the evolution of the artwork. The natural progression of the artwork that I have seen in other cartoonists’ work, I can now see in my own. Only time can do that.

“I’m so happy to share Fergus’s 20th anniversary book with equestrians worldwide. What I cannot share online or in the book, is the memories of all those quiet hours alone, drawing…or those moments mucking stalls, when a funny idea would come to me. There were so many times, when the work seemed so discouraging, that I questioned the wisdom of carrying on.  Then an email would come in from some publication or writer, asking for a comic, or if I could make a custom drawing of Fergus for some purpose or another, assuring me how much they loved the silly bay horse, and confirming how popular he was. So, with gratitude, I kept drawing.

“It is that gratitude to Fergus’s fans that makes presenting IT’S BEEN 20 YEARS, FERGUS so special for me.”

IT’S BEEN 20 YEARS, FERGUS is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to order now.

Click to listen to Fergus creator Jean Abernethy on Horses in the Morning!

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

“Really, most people out there in the world are good. I’ll always believe that.” Lessons from a Cross-Country Trip on Horseback

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.

Kids’ Crafts: Make Your Own Pony Pencil Holder

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If you are looking for an easy craft to entertain your kids, here’s a fun, free idea! Plus, you probably have all the materials you need already at your fingertips (and if not, simple substitutes can be found around the house).

Don’t forget to remind your young crafters that their finished ponies can be customized with spots, brands, or braids in their manes and tails!

See below for a quick visual guide of materials and instructions, or CLICK HERE to download the Pony Pencil Holder page from our book HORSE FUN: FACTS AND ACTIVITIES FOR HORSE-CRAZY KIDS by Gudrun Braun and Anne Scheller, with art by Anike Hage.

HOW TO MAKE A PONY PENCIL HOLDER

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

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

HorseFun-horseandriderbooks

HORSE FUN is full of real, fact-based knowledge about horses, as well as crafts and games!

Every order publisher-direct from TSB supports a
small, independently owned business!

 

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

The Olympics Are Postponed, But Your Dreams Don’t Have to Be

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Photo by Cathy Lynn Cimino, Equine Info Exchange

I love watching the Olympics—winter and summer. Pick a sport and I’m into it, willing to admire the athletes, agonize over the losses, celebrate the successes, and even puzzle over the “rules of the game” when it comes to contests unfamiliar to me. I grew up an athlete, and I can identify with the ambition, the guts, and the honor of being an Olympic competitor. Even though it will never be me on a balance beam, ski jump, or podium, I still get a rush seeing others reach such a goal—the kind of goal that requires much sacrifice, hours upon hours upon days upon years, for a few moments of complete and utter validation.

RFTTPin-horseandriderbooksSo with Tokyo 2020 postponed until July 2021, I’m all about finding a new way to get my Olympic fix. One way is by reading the profiles in RIDING FOR THE TEAM: INSPIRATIONAL STORIES OF THE USA’S MEDAL-WINNING EQUESTRIANS AND THEIR HORSES. 

The great thing about these stories is that they are all over the spectrum in terms of equestrian sport (all 8 FEI disciplines are included) and individual voice. Each rider, driver, and vaulter contributed a first-person account of what it took to rise to the highest levels of dressage, show jumping, eventing, reining, para dressage, driving, vaulting, and endurance. We get to hear the fascinating bits and pieces that helped make our equestrian stars great, and man, it makes for great trivia! For example, did you know:

  • Margie Engle didn’t own her own horse until she was 25?
  • Michelle Gibson got the ride on Peron after an article about her time as a working student in Germany appeared in the local newspaper?
  • Boyd Martin has always competed in his high school’s blue-and-white rugby jersey?
  • Suzy Stafford switched from eventing to driving after she bought driving lessons for her father?
  • Becca Hart works as a head barista at Starbucks when she isn’t on the road competing?
  • Andrea Fappani grew up with a classical riding background in an English saddle?
  • Valerie Kanavy paid $150 for her first horse, Princess, with savings from her piggy bank?
  • Megan Benjamin Guimarin could only eat bread pieces dipped in Nutella before competing for the World Championship?

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Boyd Martin in outgrown jodhpurs and his school’s blue-and-white ruby jersey On Lenny’s Loss. Photo courtesy of Boyd Martin from RIDING FOR THE TEAM.

There are 47 contributors in RIDING FOR THE TEAM, and as a rider—even one who no longer competes—I enjoyed discovering how each one decided representing the US in international competition was what they aspired to, and then how each pursued and accomplished that goal. Some came from humble means, some had a leg up with families in the horse business or money that helped pave the way, but all of them struggled at points…and still prevailed. 

These lessons are the best kind right now. #LetTheDreamsBegin

Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor, TSB

RIDING FOR THE TEAM is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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