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horsespk-herefb

How do you greet someone for the first time? Depending on which part of the world you are from, perhaps it is no more than a nod and a smile of acknowledgment, a small bow, or it could be a kiss on one cheek or two. Of course, the greeting many of us are most familiar with is the handshake.

The handshake dates back to Ancient Greece. It is believed that by shaking hands, rather than bowing or curtseying, two individuals proved they were equals. It also demonstrated that they felt comfortable enough together to be unarmed.

Have you ever thought about the fact that horses have a similar system in place? A way to show when they are on equal footing and not a threat to one another? Of course we’ve all seen the horse-to-horse sniff, stomp, and squeal, but have we ever really considered what it all means…and what it means when it comes to the way we greet our horses?

“The Greeting Ritual is the basic platform I have created to teach humans how Conversations with horses can exist,” says Sharon Wilsie of Wilsie Way Horsemanship in HORSE SPEAK, the book she wrote with fellow horsewoman Gretchen Vogel. “The Greeting Ritual consists of three separate moments in which horses that are meeting touch noses on the Greeting Button (located on the front of the muzzle). The speed at which they may perform these three touches varies from lightning-fast to very slow. The reason for three official touches is simple: there is much to say in a first, formal greeting, and it takes two subsequent touches to sort it all out.”

 

HORSE SPEAK author Sharon Wilsie greets her Morgan mare.

HORSE SPEAK author Sharon Wilsie greets her Morgan mare.

 

Here’s a very simple way to start a real Conversation with your horse, the way he’d like you to, beginning with “Hello”:

1 Use a Knuckle Touch (your hand in a soft fist, knuckles up) to the horse’s Greeting Button to say, “Hello,” followed by an obvious turn to one side. Do this to see if the horse will copy your movement (an offer to follow you).

2 Add a second Knuckle Touch to say, “Getting to know you!” and once more turn to the side to confirm the horse will offer to follow you.

3 End with a third Knuckle Touch to say, “What’s next?” as you breathe in and out softly. This could lead to you going somewhere together, grooming (some form of touch), or separating peacefully. The third touch is where the next level of Conversation begins.

 

“Horses must be bilingual,” says Wilsie. “They must speak ‘horse language’ to horses (although if they have been isolated, they may not be effective communicators with other horses). In addition, horses need to speak ‘human.’ We use words and inflections to indicate our many levels of feelings, needs, and replies to each other. Humans don’t need to rely on subtle visual messages. We express less with our bodies than we do with words. We make so many random movements around our horses that they can be at a loss trying to understand us.

HORSE SPEAK is meant to help both sides of the coin: humans and horses. Just like learning a foreign language, you will first learn distinct movements that are the horse’s individual words. You’ll learn how to mirror his words visually, in a way he will understand. Eventually, you will be able to combine these gestures in sequences and pose questions to horses. When a horse replies with his own movements, you will understand what he is saying and be able to respond logically. Fluency comes with the flexibility to have a conversation automatically, calibrated with appropriate intensity. And giving you the means to become fluent is my goal.”

Watch the book trailer here:

 

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HORSE SPEAK: THE EQUINE-HUMAN TRANSLATION GUIDE 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 DVDs, is a small business located on a farm in rural Vermont.

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F&MClinic2016

When Cavalia—the amazing equestrian-themed spectacular that has now toured North America for over a decade—first dazzled audiences in 2003, few people knew of Frédéric Pignon and Magali Delgado. But the whole world was soon abuzz with talk of the display these two remarkable individuals and their unparalleled cast of beautiful horses provided their audience.

“With his wife Magali and her sister Estelle, Pignon is the key to Cavalia,” said Jacki Lyden on NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

“Pignon engages in a scene of blissful play with three beautiful white stallions…the impression is one of an intense bond between horses and man—the most emotionally charged moment of the show,” raved Don Shirley in the Los Angeles Times.

“I believe that Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado are two of the finest horsemen in the history of horsemanship,” affirms renowned behaviorist, trainer, and founder of the Tellington Method Linda Tellington-Jones.

Now, for the FIRST TIME EVER, Frédéric Pignon and Magali Delgado, authors of GALLOP TO FREEDOM and BUILDING A LIFE TOGETHER—YOU AND YOUR HORSE, are coming to the US to teach their methods and share their ideals, and YOU can join them!

Fred2 copy

MARCH 19 & 20, 2016

Presented by Firehawk Ranch

Held at the beautiful Valhalla Stables in Aubrey, Texas

Frédéric will guide attendees interested in connecting with their horses at Liberty, and Magali (a Grand Prix dressage rider as well as performer) will share valuable dressage principles.

Liberty with Frédéric is $400 for 2 days, 1-hour private lesson each day.

Dressage with Magali is $350 for 2 days, 1-hour semi-private lesson each day.

Auditors (limited seating) is $75 per day if confirmed before February 19, $80 per day after.

Mag1

 

The application and video submission deadline is February 15, 2016, and we understand the clinic is already almost full, so hurry to be part of this amazing opportunity!

To apply to train with Frédéric and Magali, register to audit, or for more information, CLICK HERE.

 

The bestselling books GALLOP TO FREEDOM and BUILDING A LIFE TOGETHER—YOU AND YOUR HORSE are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information about Frédéric and Magali’s books.

 

Have you seen Frédéric and Magali’s newest show? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see it tour North America?

 

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It’s hard to imagine some people anywhere else but beside or on the back of a horse. Renowned horseman Jonathan Field, author of THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, is one of those people. The way he moves when playing with his horses at liberty, the way he and his Quarter Horse Hal clear a fence bareback and brideless, these are images of an individual at one with the herd around him.

So what is his “typical” day really like? Is it all running through grassy meadows and viewing vistas from the back of a horse? When it comes right down to it, Jonathan says each portion of his year can be quite different, whether it is one of the 170 days he spends on the road teaching his techniques and presenting his liberty acts at expos and events, one of the summer days spent leading weeklong camps on his James Creek Ranch, or fall when he and his family host clinics at their farm near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. As summer winds down in North America, Jonathan gives us a glimpse of what a day in his life might be like, during the months ahead at the Field Horsemanship Centre.

 

Photo by Robin Duncan.

Photo by Robin Duncan.

 

5:30 am – Wake up, start with a coffee. These days, I wake up about as fast as a Kenworth truck! So…another coffee!

6:00 am – Head across the field to the barn. Start with my young horses. This could be a short (15-minute) training session on the ground with three or four of them, or a few 45-minute rides on a couple. In the middle of a clinic tour, I like to get many short sessions on them each week rather then only a few longer sessions.

7:30 am – Run back across the field for “breaky” with the family—my wife Angie and my two boys Weston (9) and Mason (6). We visit about school and the “happenings” of the day.

8:00 am – 12 Clinic Participants start pulling in for Day 1 of a four-day clinic. Each day runs from 9 to 5. I aim to keep the number of attendees at my clinics at no more than 12 so everyone gets lots of direct hands-on help. I have a wide variety of students—from very new horse owners all the way to riders competing at international levels, and pretty much everywhere in between, in every discipline. Equine-psychology-based foundational training is what many riders need to learn when they encounter issues with their horses. I help people set this foundation—the “rock” they can build their “house” (or horse!) on.

 

Jonathan schooling one of his young horses. Photo by Angie Field.

Jonathan schooling one of his young horses. Photo by Angie Field.

 

9:00 am – Clinic starts with introductions and a session on training and riding theory.

10:00 am – Bring horses into the arena for a two-hour ground-skills session. Our key topic on Day 1 is all about leadership, and we learn how everything we do with our ground training either creates or takes away from a great connection while riding.

12:00 pm – Break for lunch. I am off to my office (thankfully on the property!) for a quick bite and to check in with messages.

1:30 pm – The riding portion of the clinic starts. We focus on three key elements in a Course 1 Clinic: Safety when horses become herdbound, spooky, or otherwise worried; rider equitation; and useful exercises to take home.

 

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3:30 pm – A short break—I like to visit with attendees and have a laugh. Who has some good jokes? (Audience appropriate of course!) Want to hear a couple of my favorites?

What’s the hardest part about learning to ride a horse?

The ground!

What happened to the horse that swallowed a dollar bill?

It bucked!

5:00 pm – As the clinic wraps up for the day, I stick around to help anybody who may need a bit of extra time. I grab a snack if I can.

6:30 pm – I arrive at the Boxing Club. This past winter I took up training in a boxing gym three evenings a week. Why you ask?! I like to try different things and this is something I’ve always wanted to do—maybe because I have always been a bit scared to do it! I’m too old (…38…) to become a real boxer, but the training is very intense, and I love being pushed to try to keep up with the young aspiring boxers (mostly age 16 to mid-20s). Also, I go to the boxing gym with my best friend from kindergarten (yep, you heard that right), and we get to spend some great time together.

 

Jonathan in training at the Boxing Club. Photo by Angie Field.

Jonathan in training at the Boxing Club. Photo by Angie Field.

 

8:00 pm – Arrive home for maybe a light dinner (I try not to fill the tank too full when I don’t need it before bed) and time to spend with the kids and tuck them in and do our nightly reading. We need to get those reading minutes up so we can get a sticker from their class! (Well, so they can get the sticker from their class…)

9:00 pm – Last emails and taking care of any office requirements of the day. Plus, I set up anything I may need for the next day’s clinic.

9:20 pm – Walk through the barn, check the horses, and put out the night feed hay nets.

9:40 pm – I shut off my phone! Now’s time to visit with Angie or maybe we start a movie.

10:30 pm – Headed for bed…

11:00 pm – …hopefully sleeping!

 

Read more about Jonathan Field and discover his horsemanship philosophy and the liberty techniques that can lead to connection with your horse like you’ve never known it before in THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, available at the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

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

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

CLINTON ANDERSON

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How did this...

How did this…

 

How to make the perfect first pony?

Take equal parts patience and naughtiness, fold in a dozen years’ experience, general good nature, and a kind heart. Add a healthy dollop of sturdiness and a sprinkle of smarts. Mix gently with strokes, treats, and a child’s adoration.

And voila. You have the beginnings of an equestrian career.

 

...become this? It started with a good pony.

…become this? It started with a good pony.

 

In his beautiful and illuminating book THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, horseman Jonathan Field shares the story of his first, perfect pony, and how his early years bonded to a little buckskin were the reason he strives for horse-human harmony today.

“I was lucky enough to be born into a horse-loving family,” Jonathan writes. “My mother was a dressage enthusiast and my father a working cowboy, farrier, and colt-starter. Horses were a part of family conversation as long as I can remember. where my parents grew up, sometimes they actually rode their horse to a one-room schoolhouse!

“My earliest memories are of being around horses, hanging out in the barn cleaning stalls, and traveling with my mom to shows on the weekend with my first horse, a beautiful buckskin named Wee Mite Buck. Mite was the best horse I could have had as a kid. My parents did the right thing and found a really quiet, well-trained kid’s horse. Mite was a sweetheart!

 

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“I remember on my way to my first show as we drove into the show grounds and I saw all the horses, trailers, and people, I said to Mom, ‘I never want to do this again.’ I was so nervous.

“We got Mite unloaded from our little two-horse straight-haul and ready for our first class, a flat hack-style class. Thinking the worst, I reluctantly entered the arena, but I listened to the announcer and followed his directions. He would say, ‘Trot please, trot,’ and Mite would trot; ‘Walk please, walk,’ and Mite would walk. When we all lined up and my name was called to get my first-place ribbon, I began to think this showing thing was actually pretty good fun.

“It was no different in the Western and trail classes. As we drove out of the show grounds that evening, I was holding that big high-point ribbon in my hands, and I thought I was pretty good. Of course, Mite was the real star, but I didn’t know it at the time. And leaving through the same gate I had entered with such trepidation earlier that day, I couldn’t wait for my next show with Mite!

“Looking back, Mite did more for me then I could have ever imagined. She was so good that she made showing fun for a nine-year-old boy—one of only two boys on the show grounds that day. All my friends had taken up other sports, but I had Mite—and lots of girls to hang out with, too.

“For the next several years, Mite helped to build my confidence and solidify my commitment to horses. My next horse, Cody, made me realize how little I actually knew. It took everything I had just to stay on him and survive the day. If my first horse had been Cody instead of Mite, I’m sure I wouldn’t be here sharing this book with you. Without my knowing, Mite had inspired me to become a horseman.

 

How did this...

How did this…

 

“For years after Mite, I longed for a relationship with a horse similar to one I had with her. However, I couldn’t reproduce it with other horses no matter what I did. But my closeness and connection with Mite showed me what was possible with a horse, so I always kept trying…It wasn’t until I played with horses at liberty 20 years later that I got back the pure excitement and joy I had with Mite.

“My experiences have enabled me, many times, to ride off into the sunset with a happy and willing partner–my horse–and I would wish that for you, too.”

 

...become this? A desire to have fun and connect with horses.

…become this? A desire to have fun and connect with horses.

 

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Read more stories about the horses Jonathan has worked with over the years, as well as learn for yourself how fun and beneficial playing at liberty can be for you and your horse. It can be the first step to connection like you’ve never experienced before. THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

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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In the horse industry, we often feel bound to our chosen discipline, breed, or horse sport. We proclaim our undying devotion to specific organizations and vow to remain true, in sickness and in health, to trainers, instructors, and clinicians. We divide ourselves into helmets and hats, jodhpurs and jeans, competitors and non.

But there is a strangeness to this self-imposed segregation in that we can all surely come together, whatever our difference in preferred coat color and saddle shape, in agreement over one thing: our love for the horse. And, it is no secret that “cross-training” is as good for the equine athlete as it is for the human athlete, so it benefits us on multiple levels to open our minds to the “other” and maybe even give it a try.

One master of multiple disciplines is Jonathan Field, author of the stunning book THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, in which he teaches us how developing communication skills and our relationship with our horse through liberty benefits all that we do—both on the ground and in the saddle. Quick responses to subtle cues, clear aids, and a relaxed and attentive horse: These are the keys to liberty, and they are also objectives when you ride, drive, and interact with your horse on a daily basis around the barn.

“I read THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES all in one evening and enjoyed and agreed with all of the very great wisdom that Jonathan so precisely shared,” says Grand Prix dressage rider Yvonne Barteau. “He is a true horseman, and I have seen him work a number of times in the past and think this book is a great portrayal of his life, his training, and his process. Every horseperson should read this book, even if they do not want to do liberty work.”

 

Grand Prix dressage rider Yvonne Barteau and GP Raymeister.

Grand Prix dressage rider Yvonne Barteau and GP Raymeister.

 

In addition to kudos from the dressage world, Jonathan has worked closely with the legendary George Morris, including creating a DVD set with the former US show jumping chef d’equipe. For more information check out the trailer below, or visit Jonathan’s website JonathanField.net.

 

 

Jonathan tells the following story about a jumper he reschooled in THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES:

“Many years ago I took on Tommy, a jumping horse that was given to me for free. I was his last resort. I was told that Tommy wasn’t ever easy to ride, and it got worse when jumps were present. He’d start at a nice pace, but as soon as he was pointed at the first jump, he would speed up twice as fast. Two jumps later, he’d be even faster, and finally, he’d bolt. Soon, all it took was the sight of a jump to cause the bolt reaction.

“The key with a horse like Tommy is recognizing the weak link in the communication between horse and human. In his case it was neutral, which is very common for performance horses. They come into the arena, are worked hard, and only rest back at the barn. Neutral or active neutral is not a part of the training program. So, with each ride they get a little more wired from anticipation. Because of those nerves, their flight instinct gets closer to the surface.

“Flight instinct can’t be taken completely out of any horse, and I never took it out of Tommy. I just recognized the best way to help him was to recreate the arena as a place of comfort, relaxation, and connection to the rider. I also had to keep him moving in a controlled way when he wasn’t connected to me.”

 

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You can read the rest of the story about Tommy, as well as learn how teaching your horse neutral and active neutral can benefit all that you do together in THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

Plus, preview a lesson from the book on how to find the neutral sweet spot by CLICKING HERE.

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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JonathanHere

True liberty with horses, says Jonathan Field, is much more than simply removing equipment and stepping outside the pen or arena: It is moving with your horse, communicating only with intention, and creating a seamless, smooth, and rhythmic dance.

“When you do liberty right, you become one with the herd,” he writes in his brand new book THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES. “And not only do you develop an amazing connection with your horse, but it’s one of the most fun things you will ever do.”

In THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, Jonathan provides a series of step-by-step exercises to move progressively from training your horse on line (with halter and lead), to loose lessons in the round pen, to playing together in wide, open spaces and (tempting!) grassy fields. Over 350 gorgeous color photographs taken on his breathtaking ranch in British Columbia illustrate his methods, ensuring that readers can see his concepts in action and apply them at home with their own horses.

Here Jonathan explains the relevance of his Connected Shaping Circle Exercise from THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES:

The Connected Shaping Circle combines elements of all the previous exercises—Path, Speed, Bend, and Balance, as well as active neutral—and will really tell you if your body language, or intent, is working. This is a challenging exercise because you will be giving aids to multiple body parts at once.

You must have a balance of drive and draw to get the Connected Shaping Circle to work correctly. It carries with it the delicate balance of asking a horse to leave on a circle, but not leave mentally; to move away, but not leave you. If you give aids correctly, your horse will connect with you while traveling on a circle with a bend in his body that matches the curve of the circle. He will also be feeling back for you and the rope will be slack as if you were at liberty.

At this stage, there is another concept you need to understand: I call it “press to connect.”

Photo by Robin Duncan

Photo by Robin Duncan

Imagine having an amazing conversation with an old friend over coffee. You are so excited to catch up with each other that your drinks grow cold as they sit untouched. Neither of you care, you are so caught up in chat.

What would your body language be like with your friend? Likely, you would both lean in toward each other, making the conversation easier and more intimate.

The Connected Shaping Circle is that conversation with your horse. There is a reciprocal “feel” between two individuals: a leaning in that’s not seen as pressure. I call this “press to connect.”

 

Learn how to do the Connected Shaping Circle—and other progressive exercises—in Jonathan Field’s new THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

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In this lesson from THE HORSE AGILITY HANDBOOK, trainer and founder of the International Horse Agility Club Vanessa Bee helps us learn not to pull on our horse (so he, in turn, doesn’t pull on us!) with an easy exercise to try with a friend at home or at the barn.

 

I can lead my horse Secret with a loose lead rope—she “reads” me for direction rather than relying on a tug of the lead rope.

I can lead my horse Secret with a loose lead rope—she “reads” me for direction rather than relying on a tug of the lead rope.

 

Have you ever tried to pull a horse along by the lead rope? Hard work, isn’t it? That’s because when you pull on a horse, he pulls back against you. However, it’s very easy to train a horse to stop pulling on you—just stop pulling on him. It takes two to pull! When you ask the horse to walk with you, it should feel as if he’s “floating along” on the end of the lead rope. However, he’ll never do this if you pull on him because he will always look for the lead rope to “guide” him rather than “read” the handler for direction.

By starting off with a polite request and increasing the pressure very slightly until the horse gives to that pressure—and then rewarding him by releasing instantly—you can train the horse to move quietly and softly on a loose lead.

 

The “Learning Not to Pull” Game: Human to Human

1  Find a friend and hold a lead rope between you. The person holding the clip end is the “horse” and the person at the other end is the “handler.” (It doesn’t matter who is the “horse” first because you can swap positions later.) The “horse” may find it easier to close her eyes in order to feel communication traveling down the rope.

2  The rope should be slack with no feeling of a connection between “handler” and “horse.” The “handler” then lifts and shortens the rope slowly until the “horse” can feel a connection.

 

Lucy (left) is the horse and Vanessa (right) is the handler. Vanessa "invites" her "horse" to walk toward her.

Lucy (left) is the horse and Vanessa (right) is the handler. Vanessa “invites” her “horse” to walk toward her with a little squeeze on the rope.

 

3  The “handler” then puts a tiny squeeze on the rope, inviting the “horse” to walk towards her. The aim is for the human players to see how little pressure is needed to communicate the human request to the horse. (You will be amazed how tiny this feel can be—when a real horse is trained to look for these tiny signals, communication between horse and handler becomes almost invisible.)

4  The willing “horse” feels the squeeze and walks. As soon as the “handler” feels the “horse” give to the pressure, the “handler” must release, too. If she doesn’t, there is no reward for the “horse,” who may well just pull back.

5  You can enact various real-life scenarios: a pulling horse, a “stuck” horse, an easy horse. Start the game again, but this time the “horse” doesn’t immediately walk but pulls back a tiny bit. The “handler” must hold on without pulling harder because that may well cause the “horse” to pull harder, and I can tell you, a real horse will win!

 

Lucy and Vanessa switch roles. Vanessa, the "horse," closes her eyes to really feel Lucy communicating with her through the lead rope.

Lucy and Vanessa switch roles. Vanessa, the “horse,” closes her eyes to really feel Lucy communicating with her through the lead rope.

 

6  Try that next: Start the game again, only this time when the “horse” answers the squeeze and walks forward, the “handler” just goes on pulling. Ask the “horse” how she felt about it. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the “horse” will say she wanted to pull back. Whenever the horse gives to pressure, the handler must release instantly.

7  Take turns watching each other as the “handler,” and notice what you do before you squeeze the rope. This is the beginning of the “horse” reading the “handler’s” body language instead of being guided by the rope.

 

Now Take What You Learned and Play with a Real Horse!

To prepare the horse to walk forward on the lead:

1  Raise your energy level (to get his attention), run your hand down the rope to set up a vibration, lean forward into the direction of the movement, lift the rope, and point in the direction you want him to go. Using very little pressure on the rope, ask him to walk with you.

2  When he takes the first step, release the pressure on the rope and take a step, too. You will find that you are walking together with a loose rope. Stay relaxed but focus on the speed and direction of the walk while remaining aware of the horse. The lead rope between you and the horse should remain loose—it is only there as a “safety belt”—it is not for dragging the horse. Walk with intention, looking forward to where you want to go.

 

THE HORSE AGILITY HANDBOOK is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

 

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And watch for the NEW BOOK coming from Vanessa Bee! 3-MINUTE HORSEMANSHIP: 60 AMAZINGLY ACHIEVABLE LESSONS TO IMPROVE YOUR HORSE (AND YOURSELF) WHEN TIME IS SHORT will be released in February 2014.

CLICK HERE TO PRE-ORDER 3-MINUTE HORSEMANSHIP NOW

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