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BeyondtheTrack-horseandriderbooks

Photo from Beyond the Track by Anna Ford with Amber Heintzberger and Sarah Coleman.

Tomorrow is the day we celebrate those oh-so-special loves in our lives. For some of us, that means extra hours at the barn with you-know-who. But others might still be looking for Mr. Right. If an OTTB has ever caught your fancy, you’re not alone…off-track Thoroughbreds are a fabulous way to do right by a horse while getting incredible athleticism in an affordable package. And OTTBs can be a great fit for whatever kind of riding you like best. Just check out our OTTB Matchmaker tips below from Anna Ford, Thoroughbred Program Director at New Vocations Racehorse Adoption. Her book BEYOND THE TRACK has been called “breakthrough racehorse literature,” “superior,” “a winner,” and “the ultimate in training manuals.”

Here are Ford’s recommendations for finding your OTTB match:

If you intend to purchase a horse off the track or adopt one through a program, I recommend you engage the assistance of an experienced friend or trainer to help ascertain the horse’s suitability for you and your discipline. Even if you buy and sell horses all the time, a second opinion is always of value.

The most important step is to ask yourself what level of riding or competition you aspire to, as many OTTBs are athletic enough to pursue any discipline at the lower levels, and most minor injuries will hold up after proper time off. With this in mind, here are a few additional guidelines to consider when evaluating OTTBs. These are generalized suggestions—there is a lot more to consider when choosing a horse for a specific discipline. And note, the examples pictured here are right off the track. Appearance changes with added weight and muscle.

The Event Horse or Jumper* 

BeyondtheTrack1-horseandriderbooks

Photo from Beyond the Track courtesy of New Vocations.

Conformation

▶ High shoulder point (the front of the shoulder is high, with a steeply angled humerus from there to the elbow; this ensures scope over large jumps).

▶ Uphill build.

▶ Medium bone structure (extremely fine bone structure is less likely to hold up).

▶ Short- to medium-length back.

▶ Short- to medium-length pasterns (long pasterns tend to break down).

▶ Well-set knees (horses that have knees that bend slightly forward or back, instead of straight, can place increased strain on tendons and ligaments).

▶ Event horses can range in height. Note that larger horses (in height and mass) can be more difficult to keep sound as they are harder on their legs and feet.

 

OTTBMatchmaker-horseandriderbooksMovement

Event horses need to be very athletic with fluid gaits. Prospects should have more action at all three gaits than, say, a hunter (see below). This often indicates it will be easier for them to move with impulsion in the dressage ring and that they will pick up their knees better over fences.

 

Personality

▶ Brave ∙ Athletic ∙ Hard-Working

Event prospects need to be bold, brave, and forward-going horses that have good endurance. Many of these horses could also be described as “proud” or “arrogant.” More energetic horses are often possibilities—as long as they are mentally sane and have a good work ethic, the extra energy is beneficial on the cross-country course.

*A jumper prospect will be very similar in build, action, and personality to an event horse. When looking for a jumper, put more emphasis on a stronger hind end and shoulder. A jumper does not necessarily need to be built uphill, but he should have a high shoulder point.

 

The Hunter 

BeyondtheTrack2-horseandriderbooks

Photo from Beyond the Track courtesy of New Vocations.

Conformation

▶ Long, sloping shoulder.

▶ Neck ties in well with the withers and shoulder.

▶ Small, attractive head.

▶ Flat topline.

 

Movement

Hunters should be light on their feet and have as little action in their legs as possible. A long, low, rhythmic stride that easily covers a lot of ground is desirable. The horse’s head carriage should be long and low.

 

Personality

▶ Easygoing ∙ Consistent ∙ Stylish

Hunters are judged on rhythm, style, and manners. They need to be calm in nature and consistent in gait and attitude as they move around the ring and over fences.

 

The Dressage Horse 

BeyondtheTrack3-horseandriderbooks

Photo from Beyond the Track courtesy of New Vocations.

Conformation

▶ Withers set back from the shoulder.

▶ Short back.

▶ Uphill build.

▶ Strong, well-built hindquarters.

▶ Neck ties in well with the withers and shoulder (avoid ewe-necked horses).

▶ Neck should be medium to long.

 

Movement

The horse should naturally engage and drive from his hind end. A regular, even, four-beat walk is ideal. At the trot he should demonstrate natural impulsion and extension while remaining light on his feet. Look for a canter that is not overly “large”—a shorter stride is easier to maneuver around the dressage arena and eventually teach clean flying lead changes.

 

Personality

▶ Hard-Working ∙ Sensitive ∙ Sensible

A dressage prospect should be a sensitive yet sensible horse. He needs to be very responsive to leg, seat, and rein aids rather than dead-sided or hard-mouthed. He cannot become overwrought every time he is confronted with a new task—the ideal horse likes to work and accepts new challenges eagerly.

 

 

Beyond the Track NE REVFor more guidance in how to choose the right OTTB and transition him from the track to the ideal riding partner, check out BEYOND THE TRACK, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

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Horseman and eventer Tik Maynard bared his soul in his hit memoir IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN, which was released earlier this year and has earned accolades from reviewers and readers across the board. Those who have read the book learned the story of Remarkable, an off-track Thoroughbred Tik retrained, and who, in some ways, is responsible for Tik’s book being published. An article Tik wrote about OTTBs for Practical Horseman Magazine caught our eye at TSB, and when we contacted him to see if he was interested in writing a book—we found out he already had one in the works!

Some of those who have enjoyed IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN have asked what has happed with Remarkable, so we caught up with Tik—a very busy new father with eventer wife Sinead Halpin—to see whether OTTB was still a favorite acronym.

TSB: In IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN, you share the story of Mr. Pleasantree, aka Remarkable, the off-track Thoroughbred you purchased and trained in preparation for the 2015 RRP Thoroughbred Makeover. You won the Freestyle competition with Remarkable that year. Three years later, where are you with his training?

TIK: I competed Remarkable for two years after the Makeover and brought him up to the Prelim level of eventing. At Three Lakes Horse Trials in Florida in 2017 we were halfway around the cross-country when there was a five-stride line from a table to an angled brush next to a tree. The brush was higher on the tree side, and we were supposed to jump the low side of the brush away from the tree. But there was a 3-inch gap between the brush and the tree, and somehow Remarkable got his eye on that gap. I think many horses would have stopped or run out, but he seemed to say, “If you want me to try that, I’ll try it.” He got halfway over, and then he couldn’t fit the rest of the way. I got him off okay, and then we reapproached and jumped the correct part of the jump. He didn’t bat an eyelash, and we finished the course. It was a scary situation though. I could not believe how much he trusted me. And I let him down. I can’t think of another horse that has been so wiling to try for me.

TSB: Are you still planning on bringing him up through the levels as an event prospect?

TIK: It took me a year of competing at Preliminary to realize that he does not have the jump to keep moving up the levels. Although I would love to keep competing him, I don’t want to force my goals on him. Just cause I want him to be an upper-level horse does not mean he does. I think he is much happier competing at the lower levels. I would love to lease him out to somebody in our program if the right person came along.

TSB: What are his strengths?

TIK: His try. His heart. His sense of play. His trust in me. Playing with him at liberty.

TSB: What challenges are you currently facing with him? How are you meeting those challenges?

TIK: The biggest challenge is his lack of scope with bigger jumps. I am meeting the challenge by backing down and saying, “If you don’t want to do that, that’s fine. Let’s do something you want to do!”

TSB: If you could name one personal goal you’d like to meet alongside Remarkable, what would it be?

TIK: I’d like to find a horse that complemented him and try to put together a little routine involving two horses at liberty.

TSB: What are some of the things you’ve learned through your work with Remarkable? How has he improved you as a horseman?

TIK: He can be pretty spooky in new situations. I try to give myself time to really feel prepared with him before we do something in new place. For example, the day before competing at the Makeover, during the ring familiarization time, I had a friend and my dad go stand behind all the banners that he was nervous about and feed him treats. Then when we competed he wasn’t spooking away from the rails and toward the in-gate.

He was probably the horse that started the shift in my head from trying to get a horse to do something, to trying to create confidence in a horse so that it is not a big deal. It seems so obvious, but I deal with it almost every day with young horses that are getting used to cross-country obstacles. Am I trying to get them into the water? Or am I trying to get them confident about the water? It is a pretty big paradigm shift in thinking, and often I still have to remind myself which one I’m trying to do.

TSB: Do you plan to compete at the Makeover again in the future?

TIK: In 2016 I went back with two horses, Haxby Park and Johnny Football. My goal was to do a liberty routine with both of them. It did not go according to plan. I’ve since heard that for acts like that you want to show 80 percent of what you can do at home, and I wish I had known that then. My whole act sort of fell apart when Johnny got distracted by the loudspeaker. On the plus side, I learned way more that year than the year that I won. Preparing two horses at once was way out of my comfort zone, and I was just learning nonstop in the lead-up to the competition. Linda and Pat Parelli gave me some lessons while I was still in Ocala, Florida. Then I came to Kentucky early and spent a few days with Dan James, who is amazing at balancing horsemanship and showmanship!

In 2017 I went back to the Makeover as a judge with Dan James for the Freestyle. That was also a great learning experience. It was really interesting to compare so many different acts, and to try to find a way of marking them all fairly. It is 50 percent for harmony, 30 percent for degree of difficulty, and 20 percent for entertainment. For the harmony we were really looking for relaxed happy horses—no tail swishing, no mouth open, nothing out of control. For the difficulty level, though, we were looking for a horse that could be relaxed and happy, but one that could also jump, or gallop, or spin. And that is the same thing that can make a dressage test hard: Can they do snappy transitions, but also have a nice free walk?

In 2018 I again competed at the Makeover, this time with Penny Hallman’s Looking My Way. His barn name is Mason, and although he is a big chestnut like Remarkable, they are very different.

TSB: Knowing what you know now, how did you approach working with a new OTTB in preparation for the event? How was it the same as what you did with Remarkable? How was it different?

TIK: I entered him in the same two divisions, the freestyle and eventing. I think the biggest thing is Remarkable really has a much bigger personality and play drive. It made my job easy, I just had to show him off! With Mason I had to really slow things down, explain things carefully, and take my time a lot more. It does mean some stuff was better, but it also meant I couldn’t necessarily show off such an extravagant gallop and play.  I had to do the little things well. Things that were slow and controlled and thoughtful, like circling around me at the walk and trot, coming to me, and lying down. It worked! Mason and I won the Freestyle competition.

TSB: If others are interested in participating in the Makeover, what advice would you give them?

TIK: The hardest thing for me, but also the most beneficial, is to approach it like a fun event. There is money up for grabs, but I try to forget it and just have a good time. And when I have a good time, usually my horses have a good time. And if the horses are having a good time, usually the judges and the audience can tell.

TSB: How is the Makeover changing the horse world for the better?

TIK: They are really creating more of a demand and a focus on horses that might otherwise not have a home to go to. It is a fantastic event! The underlying problem, of course, is that there are too many horses, dogs, and cats in the world, and not enough good homes to take them. I really support spay-and-neuter programs, and I think everybody should really think twice about breeding animals when there are so many that need homes and don’t have them.

In the Middle Are the Horsemen-horseandriderbooksYou can read the full story of Remarkable in Tik’s bestselling memoir IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN, available from TSB, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

For more information about the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover and how you can be involved CLICK HERE.

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

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Photo by Erika N. Walsh

Photo by Erika N. Walsh

 

Yvonne Barteau, author of THE DRESSAGE HORSE MANIFESTO, is a career horsewoman. And while perhaps that doesn’t make her unusual or particularly different from the other authors we have featured in TSB’s “Horseworld by the Hour” blog series, her varied experiences certainly do. She began as a groom, and later, a trainer, at racetracks along the East Coast, before becoming a horsewoman who specialized in restarting “problem horses.” Eventually, she entered the equine theater business, spending over five years as the Director of Entertainment Operations, Principle Trainer, and Feature Performer at the Arabian Nights Dinner Theater in Orlando, Florida. Since then she has devoted herself to dressage and teaching students, training more than ten horses to the Grand Prix level and coaching many riders to year-end and Regional Championships. And she and her husband Kim continue to entertain audiences around the globe with stunning liberty work and theater shows featuring a variety of breeds and disciplines.

So what is the typical day in Yvonne’s life like?

“My life takes on different shapes throughout the year, depending on either the competition or exhibition dates we have on the calendar,” she says. “I have quite a few things I am preparing for now that occupy my hours.”

Here’s a glimpse behind the curtain at what it’s like to walk 24 hours in Yvonne Barteau’s boots.

Yvonne Barteau and her 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover horse, Indy.

Yvonne Barteau and her 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover horse, Indy.

5:00 a.m.  I’m usually up between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. The good old days of the racetrack have stuck with me a long time. I’ll have one cup of coffee and a couple of cookies for breakfast and let my two dogs, Gimme and Weezer (one a Jack Russell and the other a Jack-Corgi mix) out in the yard to play. If my horse training abilities were judged on how well those two rascals are trained, I would likely go hungry. They kind of do what they want for most of their day and demand something from me every time they see me.

Early morning is my writing and business time, and I try to get done with it by sixish. I then get ready and head down to the barn before my crew gets there. I always visit my good buddy Ray first. He is the Holsteiner stallion I trained to Grand Prix and would let live in the house with me if I could! Sergio our barn manager is usually feeding at this time. Right now I am preparing Indy, my little Thoroughbred, for the Retired Racehorse Thoroughbred Makeover Challenge, so I often get him out and let him have his breakfast “picnic style,” lying down in the arena or the field.

7:00 a.m.  My crew arrives and we talk about the day’s schedules, lessons, and horses to work, deciding who will work what. This is also “meeting time” if we have an upcoming exhibition we are preparing for. Next on our schedule is the Denver Stock Show in January, and we are deciding how we will bring The Sound of Music and Chicago, to life, on horseback. I often put a first ride on Indy about this time so he can then go out for turnout before lunch.

 

Yvonne and her students put on fabulous equine theater productions at major events across the country throughout the year.

Yvonne and her students put on fabulous equine theater productions at major events across the country throughout the year.

8:00 a.m.  Usually Papi, the big 17-hand, 11-year-old Andalusion stallion who is converting from theater work to the dressage arena just this season and starting at the PSG level, gets a ride around now. We have many connection issues and lots of walk work to address, so I may spend over an hour on him, with over half of it at the walk.

9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.  I may ride sale horses or teach my daughter Hudi during this time. I also have one regular Adult Amateur at 11:30 who is intent (and succeeding) in moving her horse up the levels with me only helping from the ground. She is fun and motivating to work with.

12:15 p.m.  I usually eat something while I catch up on computer work, which right now is movie editing. Our documentary on the making of an Equine Theater horse, called Into the Spotlight, is going to be in the Equus Film Festival in NYC and a few others this fall. It seems there is always “just one more edit” to do.

 

Yvonne made a name for herself as a horsewoman who can determine a horse's personality type and customize his training to suit.

Yvonne made a name for herself as a horsewoman who can determine a horse’s personality type and customize his training to suit.

1:00- 3:00 p.m. I have regular lessons to give here during this time, as well, and horses I ride or teach on that are in my five-day-a-week program.

3:00-5:00 p.m.  This is when the working students and apprentice trainers get their lessons, unless I have people who have shipped in for help. Right now, I usually get Indy out one more time to work on some Liberty or trick work before calling it a day with him. Project and sale horses are videoed if needed at this time and often it is more toward 7:00 p.m. before we all straggle up to the house.

8:00 p.m.  It is time for dinner, and I am the luckiest person in the world to have Kim, my husband, decide each day to make all of us a fabulous meal. We eat amazing and inventive meals each evening and many who have worked for us say the food and the home-cooked meals, are as much, or more, of an incentive, than the riding and training help they get!

Unless we have other guests over, after dinner we often watch a movie—or for me, part of one!

9-9:30 p.m. I am in bed because I love a good night’s sleep.

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

You can read more about Yvonne Barteau and her dressage training philosophy in THE DRESSAGE HORSE MANIFESTO (which, by the way, is written from the horse’s point of view!), available at the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

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

JONATHAN FIELD

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

CLINTON ANDERSON

 

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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Yesterday TSB officially released THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN by renowned veterinarian Dr. Allen Schoen—author of Love, Miracles, and Animal Healing and Kindred Spirits—and horse trainer Susan Gordon. Already the book has been heralded as “ahead of its time,” “ground-breaking,” and “paradigm-shifting.” Dr. Schoen and Gordon believe that a community of compassionate equestrians can positively influence society on many levels, and in THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN they explore the simple changes any horseperson can make that can ultimately have a vast impact, not only on the state of the horse industry, but on the world as a whole.

Watch this short interview with Dr. Schoen and Susan Gordon to learn more:

This week, we caught up with Susan Gordon and asked her a little about what led her to write THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN with Dr. Schoen.

TSB author Susan Gordon, surrounded by puppies.

TSB author Susan Gordon, surrounded by puppies.

TSB: You grew up an animal lover. When and how did you first discover you had a special bond with animals?

SG: My mom encouraged pets in the home, whereas Dad was a little more reluctant…Mom won out, and from as early an age as I can remember we had an eclectic menagerie of all kinds of animals. Our Border Collie, Duffy, had puppies when I was about three years old, and my favorite photos and memories are with that dog and her pups. I was literally “swarmed” by Border Collie puppies! At the same time, I loved my cat, Smoky, as well.

I also had a pet Bantam rooster when I was six. Dad had won him at a business conference and he became one of my closest companions. He traveled in the car with us and slept by my bedside.

As soon as I discovered pony rides in the city park, I was hooked on horses too. Mom seemed to notice that I had a special bond with animals from the time I was a toddler, and often referred to me as “different”—in a most affectionate way, of course.

TSB: Your passion for animals in general translated into a love of horses. When did you know you wanted to be a professional horse trainer when you “grew up”?

SG: I got my first horse when I was 12 years old. She was used as a packhorse and did some ranch work, so she wasn’t exactly show-ring material. I had friends who rode jumpers and entered competitions but realized my own horse wasn’t going to be anything like theirs. I began reading horse books and magazines, like the Farnam series on training and Horse & Rider magazine.

My first inclination was to be a zoologist, as I loved science and my microscope. Unfortunately, back in the 1970s, girls weren’t encouraged to gravitate toward careers in science, and there wasn’t much guidance in the school system to mete out my desires enough to translate them into a concrete program of study. We also moved a lot due to Dad’s career with an oil company. By the time I reached high school, my grades slipped from straight-As to Bs and Cs, and I realized I wouldn’t have enough credits to attend university. Looking back, it would have only taken one good guidance counselor or tutor to resolve the problem. But I turned my focus to horse training instead of a degree program.

I had my Appaloosa filly at a well-known Quarter Horse show barn and eventually, at the tender age of 17, became president of their on-site riding club. I was hired to ride and show other people’s horses and really connected with the world of professional training and showing at that time. Then Spruce Meadows started coming to our schooling shows, and I was completely mesmerized by the gigantic Hanoverian jumpers that floated around our indoor courses. By Grade 12, I dropped my dreams of becoming a zoologist and dove into a job in advertising to support boarding my horses at the stunning, now-famous show jumping venue. Still riding as a junior at the time, I knew I was far too young to embark on a full-time horse-training career, but that became my primary focus while I worked my way up to professional-quality riding and training.

Susan with her Appaloosa at Spruce Meadows in the 1970s.

Susan with her Appaloosa at Spruce Meadows in the 1970s.

Q: You spent many years transitioning ex-racehorses from life on the track to life as a riding horse. What did you find most challenging about working with OTTBs? Most rewarding?

SG:  I had married the assistant trainer at Spruce Meadows, who was an eventing trainer, and he had a Thoroughbred. The bay gelding was exceptionally well schooled, and I loved the “power-up” feel he gave me over a fence. My sister-in-law trained racehorses and used basic dressage schooling to help them run optimally on the track, so I got a lot of advice from her as well on how to handle them.

My first OTTB project was a very touchy chestnut mare, Rol Eden’s Alee (Ali) that had been used as a working cow horse, somewhat unsuccessfully, and the cowboys had given up on her. She was so hot she would bounce up and down, switching leads every other step, stiff as a board, and in a perpetual state of stress.

My husband also gave up on her after we took her over, as she just couldn’t slow down. She probably went through a grid (series of jumps) faster than any other horse I’ve ever seen! Ali was really the catalyst that finally propelled me into a full-time professional career. We got along great, and I won almost every jumper class I entered on her. Needless to say, very fast jump-offs with tight turns became our forte!

Ali taught me to be 100 percent focused on my horse, which is a skill I brought to every other OTTB and other horses since that time. If I twitched a muscle, or turned my head, or even took in a breath suddenly, she would react.

From that horse onward, I found that every OTTB had his own special quirks and needs, so each one was a learning experience. I love those horses! They really made me into the kind of rider that could mount up, figure out a horse, and get him to soften, go forward, and jump around a schooling arena or show course in a matter of minutes. I also had the good fortune of being around other great riders who rode OTTBs with wonderful style and finesse. That helped a lot.

Susan Gordon and her OTTB

Susan Gordon and her OTTB “Ali.”

TSB: In your new book THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN, co-written with Dr. Allen Schoen, you mention eventually becoming disillusioned with the world of professional training and competing. Can you describe some of the reasons you felt you had to step away from the industry?

SG: That is a relatively long list, but reason Number One was probably because of the many horses that came through our barn that could not pass a pre-purchase veterinary exam. Young, old, OTTB, Warmblood…it didn’t matter. There were so many issues it was becoming ridiculous. I watched client after client try to find a nice horse for themselves, only to find there was something that would “kill” the sale. It was very disheartening.

People would bring horses to the sales barn and not disclose the horse’s full history,or not realize that the horse’s “behavior” problems were actually related to pain. Sometimes the pain was primary, but often secondary issues had cropped up long after initial traumas, or they would be inherent, and therefore progressive.

Then, once we moved further into the age of computers, internet, and cellphones, everybody seemed to be dashing around in a rush, too busy and too distracted to focus on their horses in the way that is most conducive to their well-being. Even living in a tiny town, known for its more New-Agey, spiritual population, the day I noticed teenagers texting each other from one barn to the other only 100 feet away, I knew that life had changed dramatically, and in a very short period of time, for all of us, including the horses. It became very difficult to get riders to spend enough time working on the aspects of horsemanship that would be most conducive to their training progress, and that of their horses.

By 2009, I decided to retire from full-time training and turned my attention to figuring out what I would need to do to try to help bring some balance back into the equine industry, primarily for the sake of equine welfare. Apparently a lot of other “old-timers” were seeing the same issues as there has since been a big push by regulating bodies to improve on welfare policies.

TSB: In THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN, you share the story of Willie, a down-on-his-luck Hanoverian that brought you back to horses after some time away. If you could pass along one message that you learned from Willie to others, what would it be?

SG: In the book we talk about conceiving of a Life Cycle Management Policy for every horse, which I believe could effectively help keep many more horses from ending up in the dire situation in which Willie found himself. It’s a new concept for horse owners, but hopefully after reading THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN and understanding that Willie represents thousands of horses in similar scenarios, and some much worse, we can enact new policies that will allow horses to reach the conclusion of their lives with respect and dignity.

TSB: THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN provides 25 Principles intended to help people become more thoughtful, patient, kind, and compassionate in their dealings not only with horses, but with the riders, trainers, grooms, veterinarians, farriers, and others we come into contact with each day. What do you and Dr. Schoen hope will be the lasting effect of the 25 Principles and the ideas you describe in your book?

SG: I would love it if people could walk into their barns knowing that it is indeed a sanctuary of peace, understanding and cooperation. People want to have a good experience in a place that houses their beloved horses, and they don’t want to be mistreated by other people they encounter at the facility.

Many horse owners work long hours at other jobs or have stressful lives outside of the barns. If everyone could take a few deep breaths and spend some quiet time with themselves before entering the barn, we can hopefully begin the kind of paradigm shift that will encourage people to spend more time with their horses, and also bring up a new generation of horse lovers who are compassionate from the get-go, that will take “compassionate horse-energy” back out into the world for all beings.

There are many factors that go into creating a cooperative facility, and Dr. Schoen and I both decided that compassion would be at the foundation of those directives.

Susan Gordon and Dr. Allen Schoen, coauthors of THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN.

Susan Gordon and Dr. Allen Schoen, coauthors of THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN.

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember sitting on a horse.

SG: It was on one of the little Shetlands in Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park, circa 1964. They went round and round on the carousel-like wheel they were attached to. I can still hear the tiny western saddle creaking and recall looking down at a mass of fuzzy blonde mane below my gaze. I didn’t want to get off.

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember falling off a horse.

SG: I was mortified. My barely-broke Appaloosa filly was always a little tricky to mount, but unfortunately, this particular day was the one and only day my Grandma came to watch me ride.

I put a foot in the stirrup, and as I was swinging my leg across the Western saddle, Missy blew up. I landed hard on my back and was too frightened to attempt a remount.

Mom was visibly disturbed, but didn’t have much to say. I do recall Grandma speaking out in her strong Ukrainian accent, however, noting, “Horse no good. You sell-it horse. Put ad ‘na paper.”

I had to swallow my pride and put one of the barn’s trainers on Missy who could ride out a bucking horse. I actually kept her until we had a number of shows under our belt, and she was safe for others to ride.

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

SG: Somebody with a genuine sense of humor.

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

SG: Interest. My best horses have been more interested in people than in what other horses are doing. They watch you intently with bright eyes and seem to want to be with you. And it’s not just food-related!

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

SG: Vaulting. It is so pretty to watch, although requires gymnastic training, so I’d have to do a pared-down version and maybe just draw on my ballroom dance background. I’m not that flexible!

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?

SG: Now that I’m “older” I want a pony! Or, close to a pony. My choice would be a Haflinger or other stocky, but small breed, known for its soundness and good temperament. As for a book, well, I might be biased now, but I can’t help but enjoy reading my own book, THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN. Maybe that’s a good thing?! The stories help bring back many happy memories, and I think if you’re all alone, that’s a pleasant way to stay sane.

TSB: What is your motto?

SG: If you want to accomplish something, do it. See it, be specific, and take action.

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

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

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

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Jennifer Brandon, the talented painter and illustrator who did the covers for TSB's CROWN PRINCE and CROWN PRINCE CHALLENGED, is featured in the Fall 2014 issue of Equestrian Culture.

Jennifer Brandon, the talented painter and illustrator who did the covers for TSB’s CROWN PRINCE and CROWN PRINCE CHALLENGED, is featured in the Fall 2014 issue of Equestrian Culture.

 

Artist Jennifer Brandon has a beautiful feature interview, including images of many of her vibrant paintings, in the Fall 2014 issue of Equestrian Culture magazine. Jen, a painter and talented illustrator, provided the cover art for the first two books in the Brookmeade Young Riders Series by Linda Snow McLoon. CROWN PRINCE and CROWN PRINCE CHALLENGED share the tumultuous story of Sarah Wagner and her off-the-track Thoroughbred Crown Prince as they deal with the pressures of training together and competing in a world where fear and jealousy threaten to tear them apart.

Watch Jen Brandon’s creative talents in action on this short video:

 

 

 

Be sure to pick up a copy of the Fall Issue of Equestrian Culture magazine, available at Barnes & Noble stores nationwide, select tack shops, or online CLICK HERE.

You have a chance to meet Jen and author Linda Snow McLoon at the 2014 Equine Affaire in Springfield, Massachusetts, November 13-16. Find Jen’s Jache Studio booth #711 in the Better Living Center (and stop by the TSB booth #846/847 while you’re there!) and visit the Youth Pavilion in the Mallary South Building from 11-11:45 am on Friday to see Linda introduce a REAL LIVE off-the-track Thoroughbred and talk a little bit what it is like retraining one, and how that experience inspired her books. Linda will be signing books and answering questions after her presentation.

See you at Equine Affaire!

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

 

CROWN PRINCE and CROWN PRINCE CHALLENGED are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP NOW

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WPTZ Channel 5 News Anchor George Mallet and his OTTB Brahma Fear.

WPTZ Channel 5 News Anchor George Mallet and his OTTB Brahma Fear.

George Mallet is something of a local celebrity to those of us who live and work in Vermont. Our WPTZ News Channel 5 anchor offers a familiar and comforting presence as he counsels us on the day’s occurrences from our television, computer, or mobile device.

But for those of us at TSB, there’s something important that sets George apart from other news personalities: He’s a horseman. And his horse of choice is an off-the-track Thoroughbred.

In 2005, George was working as a television reporter in Philadelphia when he heard that a grandson of Secretariat had been born in Pennsylvania’s Chester County, and he decided to chronicle the little colt’s arrival. While George’s crew took photographs for the story, the colt—named Brahma Fear—pressed up against George’s leg.

“I scratched the distinctive Secretariat white star on his forehead,” George writes in his October 2010 article in the Journal Sentinel. “…A paternal instinct overtook me as I stood in that lush Pennsylvania paddock. I was a goner.”

George followed the trajectory of Brahma Fear’s racing career, and as is the case with so many young Thoroughbreds, by the summer of 2009, Brahma was losing cheap claiming races. In August that same year, George found himself writing a check and handing it to the colt’s trainer.

“I paid more for my laptop computer than I paid for a grandson of the legendary Secretariat,” he writes.

It isn’t often we can so clearly see how a single, fleeting moment can change the course of a life—or of lives—forever. But in the now intertwined stories of George and Brahma, there’s nowhere else to look but at that tender exchange of touch and pressure, the briefest of communications between species, in a spring pasture.

We love that George rediscovered a childhood interest in horses late in his life, taking up riding only after he traced the faint pattern of hair on an as yet unknown colt’s forehead. It speaks to the most romantic of hearts that he then kept tabs on the young Thoroughbred’s whereabouts…the horse’s starts and finishes, his victories and losses. And we can’t help but fall a little bit in love with how it all turned out.

“Sometimes I marvel at how lucky I was to end up with Brahma,” says George. “I really knew nothing when I grabbed him off the track. I only had the memory of meeting him as a foal and just ‘melting’ when he pressed up against me. When I did that story on his birth, I wasn’t even riding yet. I broke all the rules. Green riders aren’t supposed to adopt green-broke thoroughbred racehorses. Yet somehow I ended up with a remarkably calm, smart, and appreciative thoroughbred pal!”

A true OTTB success story! Check out more about George and Brahma in this great video from Seven Days:

 

 

Trafalgar Square Books is proud of its own OTTB success story: In the books CROWN PRINCE and CROWN PRINCE CHALLENGED, young Sarah Wagner rescues a rogue racehorse and then must find a way to keep him, against all odds. Here’s an excerpt from the first book in the exciting new Brookmeade Young Riders Series:

For several moments Sarah and the horse stood looking at each other. Then she lifted the stall door’s latch and let herself inside. As Crown Prince retreated to the corner, she reached back over the door to lower the latch back into position. Slowly she approached the horse, all the while talking softly. “Good boy, good Prince,” she repeated. Once by his side, she reached to touch his long neck and stroke it gently. His coat felt like sleek satin. He turned his head toward her, seeming to know she meant him no harm…

“You beautiful Prince,” she murmured. As Sarah stroked his neck and continued to speak in hushed tones, she felt the horse become more relaxed. His head dropped down to her and gradually his eyes softened, as he clearly enjoyed her touch and gentle voice. He offered no resistance as she gently pulled his head closer and rested her cheek on his muzzle. It was so soft. With his head lowered, she caressed his forehead, tracing the white star, and gently tugged his ears. She felt like she’d known this horse forever.

CROWN PRINCE and CROWN PRINCE CHALLENGED are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

You can meet Linda Snow McLoon, the author of the Brookmeade Young Riders Series, on Saturday, March 29, 2014, at a special presentation sponsored by the Granby Public Library and the Granby Pony Club, in Granby, Connecticut. Click here for more information on this event.

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As horse people, there’s a lot we love about our new books for young horse lovers: CROWN PRINCE and CROWN PRINCE CHALLENGED. We totally identify with author Linda Snow McLoon’s sense of time in a horse barn—the smells, sounds, and daily chores that make up horsekeeping and enthrall thousands of young people the world over. We appreciate her attention to “horsey details” often neglected by writers less in tune with what makes a real riding stable go ’round.

And of course, we LOVE the book covers! We are thrilled by artist Jennifer Brandon’s depictions of a young girl and the horse that owns her heart. In the course of her career, Jen has captured the the charm and personality of all kinds of animals—from beloved pets to working class farm animals to million-dollar racehorses. Oil on canvas is her medium, while artistic passion and an understanding of an animal’s personality bring her portraits to life.

We had a chance to talk to Jen about her painting process and ask her how she brings portraits to life. Check out this terrific video where she summarizes the creation of the cover art for CROWN PRINCE CHALLENGED:

TSB:  Can you tell us a little about how you became an artist specializing in animal portraiture, specifically dogs and horses?

Jen: Growing up as a farm girl amidst everything alive and beautiful, my love for horses, dogs, and all animals became a very integral part of who I am today. Now, it seems the more people I meet, the more I love horses, dogs, and all animals.

Seriously though, raising horses as a child and having a mom who is a masterful painter who always encouraged me to follow my dreams, pursuing my passion for painting and specializing in equestrian and pet portraits was pretty much a no-brainer.

TSB: Can you describe a little about your creative process and the techniques you use?

Jen: My medium of choice is oil paints, typically on canvas, linen, or board. I love taking still photos of horses I’ve seen in action and re-imagining them through active brushwork on the canvas. It is so much fun to spend late nights in the studio with Billy Joel (my go-to music for painting inspiration) blasting through the speakers. Dancing around with paintbrushes in one hand and a cup of strong coffee in the other, I allow paint to move from my brush to the canvas as the horse emerges from the white canvas.

It all starts with imagining the final image on that stark white canvas. Then I mix together my base color and carefully lay the foundation for the composition. Before I know it, bold fast strokes collaborate with careful meticulous strokes to create a sense of action and movement. I love contrasting colors and values to evoke a mood of drama, while more related subtle tones give tribute to a fond memory.

TSB: What is your experience illustrating print books and what do you like best about it?

Jen: I’m thankful to have had the privilege of illustrating several children’s books. I remember devouring illustrations as a child, page by page. Through bright watercolors and energetic line, I like to encourage creativity and the concept of thinking outside the box and drawing outside the lines. Of course it’s fun to develop the story board, and begin the painting process. But I love seeing the crayon drawings it inspires children to create.

TSB: How did you come up with the image of Sarah Wagner and Crown Prince for the new BROOKMEADE YOUNG RIDERS fiction series?

Jen: After reading about the moment with Sarah and Crown Prince in the barn, it sparked an image of the immediate connection between horse and girl—a concept that hits home for me.

TSB:  Do your subjects, whether fictional or real, “come alive” for you as you paint them? How do you imagine Sarah and Crown Prince would be if you met them in real life?

Jen: More often than not my subjects “come alive” for me. Thankfully my dog is always in my studio with me, so I can always say I was just talking to him…and not my painting. I mean, who would ever talk to a painting?

I do, however, imagine Sarah being very similar to me and my best friends growing up. I feel we could all relate to her connection with Crown Prince. She seems like someone I would’ve enjoyed hanging out with.

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember drawing or painting a horse.

Jen: If you look through all my sketch books from my childhood you’ll see a recurring theme…horses…horses…horses. I LOVED drawing horses. I cannot remember the very first time I drew a horse. But I can, however, remember the first commission I received to draw a horse. I was 9 years old. A sweet elderly woman from my church saw an opportunity to encourage a young girl and she paid me $75 to create a conté crayon drawing of a horse for her niece. I’d love to meet her again some day to thank her.

TSB: Do you still ride horses? If so, what do you like best about riding?

 

Artist Jennifer Brandon created the eye-catching covers for the new Brookmeade Young Riders Series by Linda Snow McLoon.

Artist Jennifer Brandon created the eye-catching covers for the new Brookmeade Young Riders Series by Linda Snow McLoon.

Jen: Unfortunately I haven’t ridden since high school. But I can tell you what I used to love most about riding was jumping on the back of my quarter horse and riding bareback and bitless and getting lost in the woods for hours on a breezy fall day with my best friends riding alongside me.

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

Jen: I would have to choose my good ole’ Great Dane. He’s my studio buddy, and only he knows just how goofy I can get while painting.

As far as a book goes, it would have to be Crown Prince Challenged, of course, as I haven’t been able to read the second one in the series yet!

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

Jen: Butter and true maple syrup. Sometimes I think I could happily live off of those two ingredients. Romaine lettuce is also a staple.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Jen: Perfect happiness….I’m not sure I can do the description justice. But it would definitely have to do with being tuned in to what Christ has in store for me, and living my life in a way that reflects his grace, creativity and love. Having a healthy family and friends. Enjoying painting outside on a beautiful fall day. Gardening barefoot. Or finally completing a rock climb that’s been spitting me off!

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

Jen: Honesty and the ability to laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse (or dog)?

Jen: I can be as goofy and ridiculous as I want and they will never tell!

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

Jen: Wild caught salmon grilled to perfection with maple syrup, a side of roasted root veggies, fresh salad greens and tomatoes from our garden with mozzarella cheese, and a side of yummy garlic bread. Completed with dessert, fresh berries and ice cream from a local farm and a good strong cup a’ jo.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?

Jen: I was going to say it’s a tie between painting in Rockport Massachusetts, or climbing in Boulder, Colorado, but then I remembered Italy. Italy takes the cake!

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

We’re featuring Jen’s wonderful paintings and prints on the TSB blog in the month’s ahead. Click here for more information about Jen’s custom pet portraits.

Jen: Rien Poortvliet. I’ve found him to be one of the most inspiring painters and illustrators. Not bound to presuppositions or boxes of any sort. He obviously loved his animals and was a phenomenal painter.

TSB: What is your motto?

Jen: “. . . a piece of a beautiful moment.” Derived from a moment in Sienna, Italy, where a grandfather helped his little granddaughter learn how to ride a bike for the first time on the cobblestone streets. A moment when I happened to be a bystander, watching that precious time and relationship. These are the moments that bring a smile to my face. These are the moments that make up our lives. These are the moments I love to express through paint.

Learn more about Jennifer Brandon and her superb creative talent at www.jachestudio.com.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER CROWN PRINCE AND CROWN PRINCE CHALLENGED TODAY

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