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In his bestselling book HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD, famed rider, trainer, and coach Denny Emerson details seven areas of choice each of us face during our evolution as equestrians, and how our decisions in those areas transform us from “wannabes” to “gonnabes”…or don’t. He also shares experiences drawn from his lifetime working with horses—competing, learning, and teaching—including this demonstration of one renowned coach’s genius:

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The “genius” Jack Le Goff. Photo courtesy of Denny Emerson.

Sometimes there are coaches so gifted at manipulating the hearts and minds of their players that they transcend ordinary coaching to become legendary figures in their chosen sports.

In my lifetime there have been three of these coaches connected with the United States Equestrian Team: Bertalan de Nemethy and George Morris, both coaches of the USET Show Jumping Team, and Jack Le Goff, who arrived in the United States from his native France in 1970, hired to revive the flagging fortunes of US Eventing.

In July 1974, the US Eventing Squad chosen to compete at the Burghley World Championship Three-Day Event in September flew from New York to London to spend a couple of months leading up to the big event training at a facility in the south of England.

We were, as Stalin said to the Russian troops as they finally invaded German soil, “in the belly of the beast.” Through the late 1960s and well into the 1970s, the English Three-Day Team had crushed all opposition. As we began our tentative challenge to that English might, we were painfully aware that our English hosts were the reigning gold medalists from both the 1970 World Championships and the 1972 Olympic Games.

One quiet summer evening a wave of excitement swept the American camp. Richard Meade, the captain of the English team and the current Olympic goal medalist, was coming to try a horse that someone had brought in as a sales prospect.

All six of us trooped down to the show-jumping arena to watch Richard school this horse, and we were perched on the top rail like six birds on a wire. I looked down the country lane that passed by the schooling area, and who should be strolling toward us but our coach, Jack Le Goff, complete with fishing rod, reel, and high-topped waders.

I was sitting next to our team captain Mike Plumb, and I said something to him like, “Won’t Jack be interested to watch this?”

Mike replied, “He won’t even stop.”

Sure enough, Jack walked right on by, smiled, called out, “Hello, everybody. Hello, Richard,” but didn’t even pause.

Mike knew Jack better than I did, and he also understood Jack’s psychological insight into his riders. Later, I also understood what Jack had done, but I didn’t at the time.

Jack wasn’t going to validate Richard Meade in our minds by paying him the slightest attention. To acknowledge that this gold-medal winner had anything to show that was worth Jack’s time would not have been the way to persuade us that we had what it took to beat the world’s predominant three-day-event team.

Thirty-four years later I told this story to George Morris, another Olympic gold medal coach. “Jack is a genius,” said George, “and you know I don’t say that about many people.”

HowGoodRidersGetGood-horseandriderbooks

The medal ceremony at the 1974 World Championship Three-Day Event at the Burghley Horse Trials. Prince Philip presents the gold medals to the US Team (left to right): Mike Plumb on Good Mixture, Bruce Davidson on Irish Cap, Denny Emerson on Victor Dakin, Don Sachey on a borrowed Cajun as his Plain Sailing was injured. Photo courtesy of Denny Emerson.

Emerson’s book HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

(And watch for his new book, coming Fall 2018!)

TSB also publishes George Morris’s autobiography UNRELENTING and Jack Le Goff’s HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST. You can buy them at a special package discount 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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FergusSigningFB

Over the last 20 years I have ridden a number of OTTBs (off-the-track Thoroughbreds), but most recently I have been riding an absolutely stunning and incredibly earnest gelding named “Rocky,” owned by Gayle Davis—a friend and fellow event rider. This enormous chestnut won his Advanced division at Millbrook Horse Trials with US Olympian and TSB author Phillip Dutton in the irons in 2012, right before Gayle purchased him.

Most spectators are surprised when they hear Rocky came off the track, as he floats across the ground like a Warmblood and his conformation wouldn’t lead you to believe he’s all Thoroughbred. Riding Rocky has truly been a treat—I am incredibly grateful to be able to ride such a naturally gifted athlete. He might be the most powerful horse I have ever sat on, and when you combine that sheer strength with his sincere attitude and wealth of knowledge, you can’t help but smile as you glide across the ground!

TSB Publications Assistant Lila Gendal on the OTTB Rocky.

TSB Publications Assistant Lila Gendal on the OTTB Rocky.

My positive experience with Rocky and with the other OTTBs I’ve ridden means that I find the mission of the Retired Racehorse Project (RRP) all the more valuable. RRP is a non-profit organization that kick-started in 2010 when a small group of devoted Thoroughbred enthusiasts came together with a clear vision in mind: To promote ex-racehorses by offering them a second chance at succeeding in life beyond the track. This was made possible by increasing demand for them in a wide range of equestrian sports, and supporting those farms, trainers, and organizations that helped transition them.

Shortly after RRP began, the Thoroughbred Makeover Project debuted in 2013 and grew exponentially within the next two years attracting crowds, thoroughbred advocates, equestrians and all sorts of individuals from across the country, as they all gathered at the Kentucky Horse Park. The 2015 event was a huge success with its $100,000 in prize money for close to 200 horses that competed in ten disciplines with less than ten months of training. The 2016 Makeover continues to evolve, adding more educational opportunities to its program, as well as building in more time for potential OTTB buyers to evaluate the horses that are being showcased.

At Trafalgar Square Books (www.horseandriderbooks.com), we wholeheartedly support the retraining and rehoming of OTTBs, and we are proud to sponsor the Thoroughbred Makeover but to have a number of authors who are actively involved with RRP and the Makeover as well.

BETHTRIn 2008, TSB worked with Anna Morgan Ford, Program Director for New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program and winner of the 2015 Equus Foundation/USEF Humanitarian Award, to create the book BEYOND THE TRACK. Ford’s book (written with Amber Heintzberger) has become a trusted resource of those entering into partnership with OTTBs. New Vocations was founded at Ford’s family farm in 1992 and now has five locations in Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. The organization rehabilitates and rehomes over 400 ex-racehorses each year. (Read an excerpt about choosing the right OTTB from Beyond the Track that appeared in Practical Horseman Magazine by clicking HERE.)

ModEventwPhilDut-300Leading US event rider Phillip Dutton is the author of the TSB bestselling MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON (written with Amber Heintzberger) and is known for his ability to rehabilitate ex-racehorses and turn them into successful event horses. (He details the stories of a couple of his well-known OTTBs in a special section in his book.) Currently Dutton—who was just named to his sixth Olympic team, representing the US in Rio de Janeiro this year—has several OTTBs in his barn, one of which is “Icabad Crane,” the horse that won the $10,000 America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred at the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover in 2014. (Watch a free “How to Be a Successful Eventer at Any Level” webinar with Dutton HERE.)

GoodRiders-web-300This year two TSB authors are retraining OTTBs with the Makeover specifically in mind: USEA Hall-of-Fame eventer Denny Emerson, author of HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD has two OTTB mares, “Frosty” and “Raven,” that he is working with in preparation for the Thoroughbred Makeover this fall. Emerson keeps his large Facebook audience up to date on what’s happening with these two exciting young mares—you can follow along HERE.

DrHorseManifesto300Yvonne Barteau, author of THE DRESSAGE HORSE MANIFESTO, is participating in this year’s Thoroughbred Makeover Project on her horse “Indy,” a 15.3-hand Thoroughbred gelding. Barteau has trained over 10 horses to the Grand Prix level and has won numerous USDF Horse of the Year titles, but before she was a Grand Prix dressage rider, she got her start on the track. Beginning in high school, she worked—first as a groom and then as a trainer—at harness-and flat-racing tracks up and down the East Coast. You can keep up with Indy’s progress by watching the wonderful video journals Barteau regularly posts HERE.

Stay tuned over the next few months as we touch base with our TSB authors who are participating in RRP’s Thoroughbred Makeover Project, bringing you highlights and an inside look at their experiences!

-Lila Gendal, Publications Assistant

 

 

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

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In his book HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD, author Denny Emerson details the success stories of 23 top riders. And it is perhaps no surprise that when asked to name some of the reasons they “got good,” many of these equestrians listed “Mom” way up near the top.

“My mom was my first teacher,” says Reining Freestyle Champion Stacy Westfall, “but she didn’t just tell me what to do. She wanted me to figure it out. If my pony did something wrong, like stopping at one of the tiny jumps we had set up, Mom would say, ‘Why do you think Misty did that?’ Her approach got me thinking like a horse, which has really influenced my life. When you can figure out what the horse is thinking and how to communicate with the horse and mold that, you can do almost anything.”

Co-founder of the American Hunter Jumper Foundation Louise Serio agrees that moms can be the best riding teachers. “My mother taught riding for a living,” she says. “She didn’t make us kids ride, it just happened…Whenever we were ‘just riding,’ though, my mother was always teaching someone. I can hear her and her instruction in my mind, from all those years.”

Cowgirl Hall of Fame Inductee Sandy Collier says, “When my mother realized I was absolutely a horse person, she made sure I got lessons with quality trainers and helped me get involved with Pony Club and eventing (because that was available in our area). That was my foundation; the seat I developed for dressage contributed to my success as a reiner.”

“My mom had been a serious rider as a junior and there were horses in our backyard in Ocala from the time I was two,” champion hunter rider Havens Schatt chimes in. “We had a really good pony I could sit on in the paddock, in front of the kitchen window where my mom would watch me…Having a parent who was so into horses made riding feel natural and easy from the start.”

On the opposite side of the horse-family spectrum, gold-medal-winning British event rider Mary King says, “Although my mother wasn’t interested in horses herself, she liked to help me; she made the picnic and drove the lorry to competitions, as she still does today! My dreams seemed farfetched, from a starting point of a non-horsey family with no money, but I have been able to do what I dreamed of doing.”

And at least partly because of Mom.

 

Thanks to all the supportive horse moms out there.

Happy Mother’s Day from Trafalgar Square Books.

 

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

CLICK HERE to read more from Denny Emerson’s HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD

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TSB author Denny Emerson on the Morgan stallion Lippitt Tweedle Dee at the 1961 Morrisville, Vermont Horse Show.

TSB author Denny Emerson on the Morgan stallion Lippitt Tweedle Dee at the 1961 Morrisville, Vermont Horse Show.

It is a common misconception among many new to horses, and sadly some with a lifetime’s experience, that horses “plan,” “scheme,” and “plot” to frustrate and embarrass us, and always at the worst of times. Of course, this belief is based on the presumption that they think like humans, and so suffer the same faults of personality. But as influential trainer and coach Denny Emerson points out in his fabulous book HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD, more often than not, the roots of our problems in the saddle lead back to us, not to our horses:

 

“My horse won’t do what I want!”

How often have you heard this statement? But now the train of logical thinking starts to go off the track. It is true that the rider’s horse isn’t doing what she wants him to do. That much is a fact. But unless the rider is a true, honest-to-God, educated horseman, the conclusions stemming from the initial statement will be untrue—here’s how the typical anthropomorphic “logic” usually works in real life:

“My horse is misbehaving.”

“My horse is being bad.”

“I, therefore, have permission to punish him.”

 

In contrast, here are some possible correct conclusions, stemming from the premise, “My horse won’t do what I want”:

“I must not be explaining what I want correctly.”

“He must not have a base of work thorough enough to enable him, either mentally, physically, or emotionally, to perform the action that I want him to perform.”

“My seat (hands, balance, whatever) is not steady and ‘feeling’ enough to convey the proper stimuli to induce him to perform the action that I desire.”

“In making this request of my horse, I am creating athletically induced pain, either from asking him to lift more than he has been prepared to lift, or stretch more than he has been prepared to stretch. I need to go back to an easier level, build a proper foundation, then try again.”

 

These are the right kinds of conclusions that are drawn by true trainers and real horsemen with correct knowledge of how horses experience and respond to stimuli. The wrong conclusions, that the horse is “misbehaving” and “being bad,” stem from the rider’s misinformed perception that the horse has a malign “motive.” The rider’s false premise is that the horse understands and is capable of doing what she wants, but simply chooses not to out of stubbornness or for other contrary reasons.

So the rider starts to get frustrated and angry. The horse gets more confused and upset. The rider gets even more frustrated and angry, and the horse gets even more confused and upset … The downward spiral has begun. It has nowhere to go but down, and it can lead to some real brutality on the part of the rider.

I don’t know any rider who hasn’t been guilty of this, sometime, somewhere. The good riders and good horsemen usually catch themselves before it gets out of hand. The really bad riders almost never do. That’s why so many horses live their life in a world of fear, pain, and conflict—because their riders are angry people and terrible horsemen. This is the single worst part of the entire saga of man’s relationship with the horse. Robert Frost wrote, “God mocked the lofty land with little men.” We can modify this line to, “God mocked the lofty species with little men.”

Training derived from genuine knowledge and true thinking, not false anthropomorphic thinking, is one of the most important choices you have to make if you ever expect to be a quality horseperson.

 The animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren; they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.  —Henry Beston, The Outermost House, 1928

 

HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD by Denny Emerson is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

 

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

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Stacy Westfall on Roxy. Photo courtesy of Stacy Westfall from HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD.

Stacy Westfall on Roxy. Photo courtesy of Stacy Westfall from HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD by Denny Emerson.

 

Stacy Westfall became the first woman to compete in—and win—the prestigious “Road to the Horse” colt-starting competition in 2006, the same year that she electrified the reining world with a bridleless and bareback championship Freestyle on her black mare “Roxy” (Whizards Baby Doll) at the Tulsa Reining Classic and the All American Quarter Horse Congress. While Stacy continues to compete, she loves to teach and share her knowledge, and tours the country regularly giving clinics and appearing at expos.

In Denny Emerson’s honest, on-target, guaranteed-to-rev-your-engines book HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD, Stacy shared a little about how she came to horses and why she thinks she “got good.” Here’s her advice as to how all of us can one day have the ride of our life (tack optional).

 

Stacy’s life circumstances:

“I grew up in South China, Maine. My mother had ridden as a girl and as soon as our family could afford an equine (when I was about six), a pony named Misty joined the household. This was the same pony on which my mother had learned to ride sixteen years earlier!”

 

She got hooked on horses when:

“From the very beginning, I was one of those kids who reads the Walter Farley Black Stallion books over and over. I would have given anything to be shipwrecked on a desert island with a horse.”

 

Stacy thinks she got good because:

1  “My parents got me a horse when I was about thirteen and from that time on I lived on my horse. I rode her seven miles to work. I took her to local open shows on the weekends and entered every class. That mare and I developed a deep connection.”

2  “My mom was my first teacher, but she didn’t just tell me what to do. She wanted me to figure it out. If my pony did something wrong, like stopping at one of the tiny jumps we had set up, Mom would say, ‘Why do you think Misty did that?’ Her approach got me thinking like a horse, which has really influenced my life. When you can figure out what the horse is thinking and how to communicate with the horse and mold that, you can do almost anything.”

3  “I attended the University of Findlay in Ohio. In its equestrian studies program, I learned traditional training techniques and fundamentals with top instructors, and got into reining with champion trainers. My famous bareback ride is an extension of taking the technical stuff I learned and wrapping it around what my childhood horses taught me about the relationship horses can have with people.”

 

Stacy’s advice to the rest of us:

“It all comes back to attitude and passion. If you go into this because you dream about getting famous on a horse or having a great marketing plan, you’ll never have that connection with the horse. This is something that, if it’s in you, you would do it even if you didn’t get paid—you do it because it’s you. When it’s really cold, or when it’s really hot, or when it’s really hard, do you still want to do it? A favorite quote of mine is: ‘Verily, the lust for comfort murders the passion in the soul, then walks grinning in the funeral.’ (From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.) If your passion gives way to the appeal of comfort, you will not succeed at a high level because at some point you’ll need to beat someone with passion—and people with passion who’re willing to work for it like that will be unstoppable.”

 

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Find out how 22 more of the best riders in the world “got good” and get their tips for “making it” in the horse industry in HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD by Denny Emerson, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

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“From time without beginning,” writes Douglas Puterbaugh in his chapter on FEAR in THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF DRESSAGE, “man and horse have shared something in common: an ancient and deeply rooted emotion called fear.”

Interestingly, although mankind evolved as a predator and horse hung on in the role of prey, both rely on fear to save them via fight or flight. It is this natural and powerful response that can divide horse and rider, that can cause the horse to jig, shy, and bolt, and the rider to quake, tense, and fall off.

And while fluttering white ghostly figures and things that go “bump” will surely send many a horse (and rider) into a whirling, spinning, tizzy, it isn’t just Halloween that gets us spooked. We come face to face with outer and inner demons every day, and our fear response holds us back as we strive to achieve partnership and higher levels of performance with our horse.

How can we conquer our own anxieties and our own fears, so we can help instill a greater sense of confidence in our horse? Here are four tips from top riders and trainers for saying, “BOO!” right back:

1  Practice, Practice, Practice

“There’s a direct correlation between study and test performance,” says dressage trainer Douglas Puterbaugh in THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF DRESSAGE. “There’s a direct correlation between practice and performance in competition. The only way to perform at the best of your ability is to practice diligently…when you’ve practiced so thoroughly that your movements have become almost automatic, that old nervousness won’t the fear it once was.”

2  Scare Yourself…a Little

“If you are trying to build your self-confidence,” writes USEA Hall-of-Famer Denny Emerson in HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD, “don’t hurt yourself, and don’t scare yourself—too much. You have to scare yourself a little to give yourself something to build on, but only a little. Keep doing the slightly scary thing until you have had so much success that you know success is inevitable. Then make whatever it is that you are trying to do a little harder…You can be timid, or shy, or indecisive, or reticent. You can be burdened by any one of many afflictions that result from a lack of self-confidence, and you can improve every one of them if you can figure out a way to scare yourself just a little bit. Too big a scare, and you will find your self-confidence in pieces on the ground.”

3  Employ “Thought Stopping”

“When you find yourself visualizing imminent disaster,” says Olympic coach, dressage rider, and popular motivational speaker Jane Savoie in IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS, “break your pattern by doing some ‘thought stopping’ right away. As soon as the alarming picture pops into your head, use an action word to quiet your mind and erase it. Your action word might be something like: ‘Clear,’ ‘Focus,’ ‘Stop!’ ‘Relax,’ or ‘Breathe.’ Replace the negative thought with a positive one. This is an important step, because if you don’t fill your mind with a positive thought, the negative picture will creep right back in.”

4 Create Safe Habits

“Learn what you need to do to be safe on the ground and in the saddle, and then do those things the same way every time you work with your horse until they are as automatic as the safety habits you use when driving a car,” says Melinda Folse, author of the bestselling THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES. “Even experienced horse handlers can unwittingly grow careless over the years, so it never hurts to take a good look at your habits to make sure you are doing everything you can to keep yourself safe to ride another day.”

Melinda gives us a few ideas of the kind of “safe habits” we all should employ on and around horses:

-Teach your horse to respect your space.

– Pay attention to where you’re standing.

-Wear a helmet.

-Practice the one-rein stop and the emergency dismount.

“Fear is a conquerable thing,” Melinda reminds us—and indeed, all the featured authors remind us in their respective books, “and being safe around horses is something we can be proactive about.”

So don’t stay scared. Get busy!

And Happy Happy Halloween!

Be sure to see what Buck Brannaman says about fear in yesterday’s post CLICK HERE

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USEA Hall-of-Famer Denny Emerson’s book HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD is one of the key ingredients to your ultimate riding success. Here’s what the Hudson Valley Horse Source has to say about the book:

“Lifelong horseman Denny Emerson fills an important gap in equestrian literature with his new book,” says the Hudson Valley Horse Source. “Regardless of your riding discipline or skill level, the wisdom presented in Emerson’s book is relevant to all branches of horsemanship…HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD doesn’t teach riding technique, rather it is about the out-of-the-tack skills and characteristics that can take your riding to the next level and help you attain your riding goals.

“The scope of this beautifully designed book is broadened with interviews from 23 of the world’s top riders. Equestrian luminaries, such as Beezie Madden (show jumping), Larry Poulin (carriage driving), Clinton Anderson (natural horsemanship), Stacy Westfall (reining), Buck Davidson (eventing), and Courtney King-Dye (dressage) are among those interviewed. In these concise interviews, the riders explain why they think they got good and share their most important pieces of advice.”

A sample of some of the advice from the pros in HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD:

Dressage

JANE SAVOIE

“Make sure you get a solid foundation by working with someone really good, and riding everything you can sit on.”

Eventing

MARY KING

“First, get as much riding experience as possible. Second, follow your dreams, even if they don’t seem possible.”

Endurance

MEG SLEEPER

“Never stop trying to get better and to learn…if you keep your eyes open, you can learn useful information in the most unexpected places.”

Eventing

BUCK DAVIDSON

“I talk to everyone I can and try to learn a little from them all.”

Hunter/Jumper

GEOFF TEALL

“Pay attention to yourself, be willing to work hard, put one foot in front of the other, and do the very best you can every day.”

Dressage

COURTNEY KING-DYE

“Be brave and believe in yourself.”

You can order your copy of the bestselling book HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY OF HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD TODAY

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