Take a Tour of Possible Paths to “Real Dressage”


In the 1970s, the sport of dressage was still in its infancy in the United States. Unlike the countries of Europe, there was neither an established tradition nor a written history to educate and inspire. A rider intent on learning the discipline had to be prepared to travel, to immerse himself in other cultures, and to care only for what those who had already mastered the art might teach him.


Photo by Rose Caslar Belasik

Paul Belasik was this rider, intent on learning all he could about dressage methodology, and willing and able to compare and contrast the various means for achieving related goals: beautiful movement, “lightness,” connection between two beings. In his new book DRESSAGE FOR NO COUNTRY he shares a lifetime of searching and studying, both through stories of his own adventures and thoughtful essays on the subjects he has pondered during the years he has trained and ridden horses. Beginning in northern New York, and traveling to Portugal, and later, Vienna, Belasik serves as a tour guide of the various dressage “paths” he had the chance to explore, including the German system, the Portuguese art of equitation, and the revered institutions of the Spanish Riding School.

Dressage for No CountryArmed with the knowledge and experience he accrued over time, Belasik debates whether classical dressage and competition dressage are at all compatible. Then, he considers the role of mindfulness, how to become a good teacher, and how to be a good student in today’s horse world, providing the guideposts needed to take dressage–and riding, in general–the next step forward.

DRESSAGE FOR NO COUNTRY is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order, and watch the book trailer below!

Did you know? TSB is streaming some of its most popular equestrian videos! We really are! CLICK HERE to visit our streaming library where we are regularly adding new titles.

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

3 Messages to Take with You to the Barn This Week

Photo by Gabriele Boiselle from Building a Life Together--You and Your Horse by Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado

Photo by Gabriele Boiselle from Building a Life Together–You and Your Horse by Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado

The sun changes this time of year…the light feels softer, pensive, less insistent. In many places this signals a shift of routine with our horses as competitive seasons wind up and our partners get a few weeks of well-deserved turnout before the frosts hit the late summer grass and fallen leaves hide any remaining morsels beyond reach of all but the most insistent grazers.

It is a good time for deep breaths, deep thought, and a few reminders of what this horse thing is all about. Here then are three messages from TSB authors to carry with you to the barn this week:


“On numerous occasions I have been confronted with the intelligence of horses in the course of their training. They rewarded the patience with which I tried to understand their characters by giving their best, just as they manifested their unwillingness when I demanded too much or had been unjust or too fast in their training. These are the moments of truth when the rider has to pause and reconsider his line of conduct. Whenever there are disagreements, it is best to seek the fault in oneself.”

–Alois Podhajsky, My Horses, My Teachers


“The art of training young horses is learning how to be fresh every day and not let their problems overwhelm your own spirit. Good training exalts the horse and the rider. When you realize how lucky you are to live the life of a horseman, there is nothing about the lifestyle that should be constantly depressing. Any authentic life will have some rough patches…You cannot control fate, you can only control your reaction to it. Training horses gives you chances to practice this every day.”

–Paul Belasik, Nature, Nurture, and Horses


“Everyone wants instant results but horses have their own rhythm, closer to nature, and at variance with any ideas involving deadlines, profitability, or even over-enthusiastic pressure toward some goal. Whether it concerns a horse being prepared for a show, or someone who has invested in a Grand Prix horse, or just an amateur rider with one hour per week to spare, there is only one rhythm to work to and that belongs to the horse.”

–Frederic Pignon, Building a Life Together–You and Your Horse


Find more horse wisdom from Trafalgar Square Books in our online bookstore–CLICK HERE TO VISIT NOW.

In the Absence of Twitter’s Beloved @Horse_ebooks, For-Real Horse Books Take Back What’s Theirs

Real horse books are taking back what's theirs!

With the retirement of @Horse_ebooks, REAL horse books are taking back what’s theirs!


In September of 2013, the phenomenally popular Twitter account @Horse_ebooks, which had amassed over 200,000 followers with its frequent nonsensical tweets that somehow seemed laden with meaning (although rarely had anything to do with horses), “quit” the Internet. What I’m sure might surprise most real horse people, is not only the number of followers, but the passion they displayed for Horse_ebooks’ non sequiturs and textual mash-ups. Merchandise was sold, copycats proliferated, and when it ended, those who loved it mourned publicly: “Horse_ebooks is over,” they posted. “I can’t deal.”

To sum up a long and convoluted story, @Horse_ebooks at one time belonged to a Russian Web developer who set up the account to drive traffic to his e-book site, e-library.net (where you could indeed purchase books about horses). Two men, Jacob Bakkila and Thomas Bender, acquired the account in 2011 and proceeded to attempt to tweet like a “bot” (those annoying automated programs that deliver spam and sales links via social media—have you noticed how their tweets and posts never make any sense?). The result was what many interpret as a form of “Net art”: Performing as a “spambot,” Bakkila pulled random bits of text from various places, and used these “found objects” to make an often semi-incoherent statement.

What seems mildly unfair about the whole story is the masquerade (albeit a shallow one) as a purveyor or fan of horses and/or horse books and/or horse ebooks! And so, with a nod to those who dreamt up the concept, and an up-front acknowledgment that “I’m no bot,” TSB would like to assure the world that the regular old, for-real horse books (and horse e-books) we publish can provide 140-character-or-less quips that are just as funny, just as meaningful, and just as “art”-worthy. Feel free to print any of these on a t-shirt!

The Riding Horse Repair Manual by Doug Payne: The source of infinite wisdom.

The Riding Horse Repair Manual by Doug Payne: The source of infinite wisdom.


Should you happen to feel yourself falling, now is the time  (The Riding Horse Repair Manual)


The pocket-size device is…devoid of meaning and absent personal or social relevance.  (Dressage with Mind, Body & Soul)


He shines like polished mahogany. The room was quiet.  (Crown Prince)


Use the right for delicate work and left for opening jars that have lids stuck.  (Dressage for the Not-So-Perfect Horse)


Without awareness and control, your legs fall Plus it does not require equipment.  (The Riding Doctor)


I didn’t realize it was windy, and I didn’t know the judge was so mean  (Pressure Proof Your Riding)


Fancy would have run me over just a few days ago  (Clinton Anderson’s Downunder Horsemanship)


Set the spray interval and duration to fit your fly problem. More and more people are working at home  (Horse Housing)


Small and straightforward in case you encounter resistance–see p. 315 for a packing list.  (Modern Eventing with Phillip Dutton)


He needs to go on straight lines as well as curves  (The Rider’s Guide to Real Collection)



Pressure Proof Your Riding by Daniel Stewart. In life, who needs excuses?


My demands to avoid the work becoming onerous and demoralizing. There was no door or passageway that led to any other room.  (Building a Life Together—You and Your Horse)


Look sleepy, or bored, or both. We sort of know what we want. (The Alchemy of Lightness)


Your dollar will fly away, and you’re out!  (Games for Kids on Horseback)


Left front, right front, left front, right front, STOP. Like a well-oiled hinge.  (3-Minute Horsemanship)


Patience is always more productive than punishment, Always go a little ways past home  (Good Horse, Bad Habits)


In such groups, there are rarely big battles for “top spot” on the phone, make small talk  (Know You, Know Your Horse)


Just kidding. We’ve had enough caffeine for one day.  (Riding Barranca)




But then his whole world suddenly collapses. Everything goes smoothly.  (Lorenzo: The Flying Frenchman)


Nature, Nurture and Horses by Paul Belasik. Find YOUR path!

Nature, Nurture and Horses by Paul Belasik. Find YOUR path!


Never design a course with a TURN out of a COMBINATION!!  (Jump Course Design Manual)


With the Monkey and Reverse Monkey, you have learned how.  (Centered Riding 2)


You cannot feel the ball because it is deep inside the socket. (40 5-Minute Jumping Fixes)


The small misdemeanors, and the big ones will go away.  (The Horse Agility Handbook)


NOW you are off on a tangent to your intended curved line! (Nature, Nurture and Horses)


Opinions vary as to the effectiveness of elastic  (Suffering in Silence)


Captured accidentally! Leaning his rear end on a bucket! (Where Does My Horse Hurt?)


You have a better chance of being bitten by the roping bug in the West.  (The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses)


You can read these, and many other brilliant and meaningful turns of phrase in the horse books available from the TSB online bookstore.



Happy Shopping! Our Horse Books and DVDs Are ON SALE!

Whatever you want to call it—Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, CyberMonday—there’s no avoiding the fact the holiday shopping season kicks off this weekend. We hope you can all enjoy it just a little bit, whether you are standing in lines, sitting at your computer, or hitting “Order Now” on your phone from the back of your horse.

The TSB SITEWIDE SALE has begun! Now through Tuesday November 27th, get 15% off all books and DVDs at HorseandRiderBooks.com, excluding our sets and sale books, which are already discounted.

PLUS get FREE SHIPPING anywhere in the US!

Check out our newest titles from Buck Brannaman, Janet Foy, Gerd Heuschmann, Paul Belasik, and Christian Schacht, plus our bestsellers from Clinton Anderson, Denny Emerson, Linda Tellington-Jones, Anne Kursinski, Lynn Palm, Jim Masterson, Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling, Jane Savoie, Sally Swift, and many more. There are books for English and Western riders; beginner and advanced riders; reiners, jumpers, ropers, and dressage riders. You’ll find how-to, practical advice on everything from training techniques to horse health care, PLUS check out our all-new fiction series for young horse lovers!

Happy Shopping!

TSB Author Paul Belasik and His New Book NATURE, NURTURE AND HORSES Featured on Chris Stafford Radio

Be sure to check out the four-part series with renowned rider, trainer, author, and equestrian philosopher Paul Belasik on Chris Stafford Radio! Paul and Chris discuss the starting of the young sport horse based on the classical system he has used for almost 40 years, as well as touching on some of the topics and stories Paul shares in his new book NATURE, NURTURE AND HORSES.

Paul’s honest and enlightened journal entries in NATURE, NURTURE AND HORSES give the reader an inside look at training horses, from birth through four years. His style of writing allows the reader to “live” the experiences as he did—in the moment, and without the benefit of hindsight. The result is a true account, both thoughtful and thought provoking, and by turns tender and efficiently practical.

Paul has ridden and trained at every level in dressage, from young horses to beyond Grand Prix. He also has had extensive experience in eventing, which encompassed the early part of his career, before turning solely to his first and true love of classical dressage and the art of riding.

NATURE, NURTURE AND HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.


TSB Author Paul Belasik Talks About the Dalai Lama, Work Ethic, and His New Book NATURE, NURTURE and HORSES

We at TSB had a chance to catch up with author Paul Belasik this week, and we asked him to share a little about his new book NATURE, NURTURE and HORSES, as well as answers to other burning questions…

NATURE, NURTURE and HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

TSB: Can you tell us what precipitated the writing of NATURE, NURTURE and HORSES?

PB: I have been a long-time proponent of the principles of classical dressage. To me they are timeless, very practical and pragmatic. Today you see people touting how they can break in a young horse in matter of days. I wanted to present a candid but relatively detailed account of a classical breaking in system. I also wanted to take the reader through a cycle of a year in a horse person’s life—maybe try to give a feel of what goes on in between the glamour of horse shows and clinics, the stuff magazines love to cover. I guess I wanted people not to forget what it takes on a daily basis, the rhythms that are not necessarily that glamorous but might be more real….a better reason for choosing such a life.

TSB: In your new book, readers follow along as you raise and train four young horses, three of which have gone on to new homes with new owners since the writing of the book. You have bred and trained horses for many years, but it is evident from your book that quite distinct attachments and relationships are formed with the horses along the way. Do you find it difficult when it comes time to let your “children” fly the nest?

PB: Since you brought up the analogy of children, I would say watching these young horses move on might be like when your own child has grown up, and he or she brings home a girlfriend/boyfriend/fiancé, you might not necessarily agree with his or her choice, but you have to let go. We all need the freedom to make our own mistakes and successes.

TSB: What do you see in the future for the modern pursuit of dressage, and what is your role in that future?

PB: The future is in the past, otherwise one ignorantly makes mistakes that already have been made and corrected. One of my jobs is to keep reminding young riders of the history of dressage, that they are part of it, and to respect it, to learn from it, and maybe one day let me watch them surpass it.

TSB author Paul Belasik shares his experiences training four young horses in his new book NATURE, NURTURE & HORSES available at HorseandRiderBooks.com.

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?

PB: An Andalusian, for soundness and intelligence, and Don Quixote: I would continue the madness of battling windmills. Whether or not anyone is watching, you have to find some principles to believe in and be true to them and yourself.

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

PB: Ice. All people who lead active lives with horses need ice for injuries, and for scotch, to help anesthetize the pain when you have to watch your own video of learning to ride through some new challenge.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

PB: Watch the Dalai Lama with his practical, joyful laughter. What does he do with all the suffering? Don’t mistake it for simplicity. Take his advice, practice, and keep practicing. It is not to ignore suffering, it is to encompass it and go on joyfully.

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

PB: My grandfather worked for Purina Mills—obviously these days the company figures prominently in the horse world. Each summer they had a company picnic and pony rides. What I remember most is that one of the ponies stepped on my brother’s foot…it seemed to be a big deal.

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

PB: I went to work on a farm when I was twelve. The farm was owned by a good horseman, Charles “Chick” Lynd. I had a huge crush on his daughter and for whatever lapse in his usually perfect judgment, he let me go riding double with her on her mare, Lazy Mary. That summer, their cousin—another Paul—also worked there. Mrs. Lynd—before the era of recycling—sorted all the trash. It was Paul’s turn to take out the cans and glass. He dumped it into an empty 55-gallon drum when we were around the corner. Peggy stayed on; I did not. Mrs. Lynd put some liniment on my wrist. I think the theory back then was: If you encounter more pain, you forget the first pain.

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

PB: A good work ethic. We’re all going to have trouble. Only people who know how to work hard will have the strength to work through problems with each other: emotional, psychological, and physical. It is always easier to quit.

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

PB: The same thing. All horsemen know this. It isn’t about pretty friends, rich friends, influential friends. It is who shows up for work in the morning. It is funny how we know this about horses, but often have a different standard for people.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

PB: I have a friend who is a very good chef; he is also a horseman. Every once in a while he will make a meal at my farm. I buy the best wine I can afford and invite some good storytellers and some young people. We eat and talk and it can get outrageous. And if the oldtimers do their job, it is like a campfire. You can feel the future is secure in the wide eyes of the next generation.

Horses graze below the house at Paul Belasik’s farm in Pennsylvania.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?

PB: I am a sucker for Hawaii.

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

PB: How about two: For a horseman it would be L’Hotte. He had to deal with two teachers of monstrous egos, and when I read things he said, to me they are more sublime than his teachers’ words. His writing is laced with equestrian genius. The other would be James Joyce. When you read what he suffered through and now the magnitude of his critical acclaim, being Irish, I’d love to go drinking with him.

TSB: Is there a horseman you worked with or for who taught you something that stayed with you all your life?

PB: Yes. One of my first jobs after college was working for George “Frolic” Weymouth, whose mother was a DuPont. It was the summer Frolic was opening the Brandywine River Museum. Among other things, Frolic is an extraordinary whip and “carriage-ing” enthusiast. I have been on the carriage with him crossing a boulder-strewn river in the middle of the night and have seen him do amazing things day after day. Frolic was born of some privilege but he loves to punch holes in pomposity. I remember at the time people would ask him about being on the Equestrian Driving Team, but Frolic would have none of it. He taught all of us who worked for him—and he lives it—that if what you are doing isn’t fun you made some Mephistophelian deal for your soul.

TSB: What is your motto?

PB: You can learn something every day if you try.