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Posts Tagged ‘riding’

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“To win for the USA.” Many young athletes grow up with a goal of reaching the Olympics and the glories of their sport’s highest levels. It is no different for equestrians, whether they ride English, Western, vault, or drive a carriage. From playing with plastic ponies and taking their first riding lessons, to finding success in the arena, thousands of horse lovers hope they can one day represent the United States in international competition.

RIDING FOR THE TEAM, the new book from the United States Equestrian Team Foundation and edited by Nancy Jaffer, chronicles the lives of those who dreamed about competing for their country and “made it,” sharing inspirational stories from the FEI’s eight equestrian disciplines: show jumping, dressage, eventing, driving, vaulting, reining, endurance, and para-dressage.

Readers are immersed in the fascinating histories of the medal-winning riders, drivers, and vaulters who have dominated American equestrian sport over the past 28 years, such as McLain Ward, Karen O’Connor, Debbie McDonald, and Tim McQuay. Get the inside scoop on legendary horses who have become household names, including Flexible, Biko, Verdades, and Gunners Special Nite.

Riding for the TeamOffering exclusive insights, this book gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the world of top-level equestrian sport. Athletes tell their stories and those of their horses during the years they honed their talent and dedicated their lives to representing their country in the Olympics, World Equestrian Games, World Championships, and Pan American Games. Beautifully illustrated with breathtaking photographs from prestigious competitions held around the world, RIDING FOR THE TEAM not only provides a dazzling record of American equestrian accomplishment, it promises to inspire the next generation of champions.

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

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

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

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EA19FB-horseandriderbooks

We woke up one morning and “poof!” it was November! That means we’ll be setting up shop at Equine Affaire in West Springfield, Massachusetts, in no time at all…or in other words, next week…

PicwithFergus-horseandriderbooks

Take your pic with Fergus!

That’s right: Equine Affaire runs Thursday, November 7, through Sunday, November 10, 2019, at the Eastern States Exposition grounds. Come find the TSB booth 846/847 in the Better Living Center. You can browse and buy our newest books and favorite bestsellers, shop our massive sale bins, take advantage of show specials and discounts, sign up to win great prizes, and take your picture with this year’s Fergus the Horse—an EA tradition!

 

We are thrilled to have so many terrific TSB authors presenting at EA this year, including Dan James (Long-Reining with Double Dan Horsemanship), Simon Cocozza (Core Conditioning for Horses), Jim Masterson (Beyond Horse Massage), Cat Hill (World-Class Grooming for Horses), Andrea Waldo (Brain Training for Riders), Paula Josa-Jones (Our Horses, Ourselves), Nancy Loving (All Horse Systems Go and Go the Distance), and Jochen Schleese (Suffering in Silence).

In addition, we’ll be hosting exclusive meet-and-greets and book signings throughout the weekend! Make sure to visit us:

 

Thursday:

11 am and 5 pm, Meet Founder of StressLess Riding Andrea Waldo

 

Friday:

11 am, Meet Renowned Horseman Denny Emerson and EA Clinician Sinead Halpin

1 pm, Meet Professional Groom Cat Hill

 

 

Saturday:

11 am, Meet Movement Educator and Therapist Paula Josa-Jones

1 pm and 5:30 pm, Meet Equine Core Strengthening Specialist Simon Cocozza

2 pm, Meet veterinarian Nancy Loving

 

Sunday:

2 pm and 4 pm, Meet Equine Core Strengthening Specialist Simon Cocozza

 

 

We can’t wait to see you next week! Oh, and if for some reason you can’t make it to Equine Affaire, pop over to our online bookstore for great holiday gift ideas for the horse person in your life. Horse books are some of the most affordable equestrian gear available!

CLICK HERE to shop our online bookstore.

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

 

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HardWorkandaPlan-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Venkat Naryanan 

Having coffee with equestrian coach Eric Smiley is a delightful occurrence worth repeating. Certainly, a clinic with him has a similar effect. A former international event rider who represented Ireland at European, World, and Olympic level, winning team bronze medals on two occasions, he’s “been there, done that” but is also incredibly present in the here and now. His desire to ponder equestrianism, in all its minutia and across its broader themes, results in a philosophical meandering that doesn’t leave you anxious for answers—it satisfies.

We were lucky enough recently to enjoy caffeinated conversation with Smiley and talked about his book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM, what he hopes its publication might achieve, and whether there are “holes” yet to be filled in the education of those who ride, train, and work with horses.

RidersRoadmapofHow-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Venkat Naryanan

TSB: You have said that your book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM is intended to “guide riders to perform better by making their lives less complicated and more fulfilling.” How do you feel riders’ lives are complicated and in what ways do you think they could be more fulfilled?

ES: Achievement produces satisfaction. Helping people achieve by giving them a road map of “how,” gives me such a thrill.

TSB: You spent nearly 10 years in a Cavalry Regiment of the Army. How did this time and experience inspire you to make horses your profession?

ES: When I moved my in-tray to my out-tray without looking at it, and it made no difference. It was time to follow my dreams.

TSB: For 18 years you were Director of the Golden Saddle Scheme in Ireland, which identifies talented young riders and helps further their riding education. What did your experiences with the Scheme teach you about achieving success with riding and with horses?

ES: The clarity of youth, the simplicity of delivery, the naivety of what can be achieved. As adults we could learn a lot from them.

TSB: You enjoy starting your homebred horses. What is it about the training process that continues to motivate you to have horses in your life and bring them along from the very beginning?

ES: Every day is a new day. I never stop trying to find solutions to the questions that horses pose.

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Photo by Irina Kuzmina


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

ES: With hard work and a plan, anything is possible.

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?

ES: An Irish Sport Horse of course. They are enterprising, resilient, tough, and bright enough to help build a boat. The Natural World by Thomas D. Mangelsen. Photography as good as it gets.

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

ES: Ride around the world. One sees and hears things from horseback that would make this experience wonderful.

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

ES: Honesty. Say it as it is, warts and all!

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

ES: A trier. Less talented but prepared to have a go.

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

ES: Rats in the dark! And having to eat squash!

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TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

ES: Buying art.

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

ES: Being cautious about buying art!!

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

ES: Tonic and some really nice Sauvignon Blanc.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

ES: Exotic travel with my wife Sue.

Two Brains, One Aim

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

ES: I would ask Claude Monet for a lesson.

TSB: What is your motto?

ES: “Go on, have a go 😁”

 

Eric Smiley’s book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

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

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GettingtotheCoreofIt-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Jaana Maari Partanen.

Equine core muscles are very difficult to isolate with the traditional training techniques common to horse sports. However, by examining what we do with the human body when faced with a weak core, we can find new methods for conditioning these areas of the equine body. In his new book CORE CONDITIONING FOR HORSES, Visconte Simon Cocozza has taken principles of the human practice of yoga and used them to develop novel ways of reaching deep within the horse’s body and gently “unlock” areas that may be a little “rusty,” improve core fitness, and even relieve pain related to conditions such as kissing spine. In this book, he provides step-by-step instruction explaining easy mounted exercises that enhance the horse’s posture and boost his confidence in his body and movement, making him easier to ride, and ultimately, the dance partner you’ve always imagined.

We caught up with Simon and found out a little more about his exciting core conditioning techniques…as well as discovering he has a penchant for chablis.

CoreConditioningforHorses-horseandriderbooksTSB: Your book CORE CONDITIONING FOR HORSES provides a collection of yoga-inspired ridden exercises for the horse that warm him up and strengthen his core. How did you determine that these particular exercises were of such key benefit to the horse?

SC: Well, training the inside of the horse is rather new territory, so it was a combination of researching our current understanding of equine biomechanics and good, old-fashioned scientific method. The anatomical composition of the horse is very well understood, of course, but core motion dynamics and how it all interacts are still largely theoretical. It helped me to look at the mechanical properties of the skeleton in the real world—in motion and under the rider rather than simply it’s construction. When the weak areas and their ridden causes became clear, it was a case of addressing them one by one. Yoga showed itself as a solution early on as it aims to restore natural alignment to the vertebrae in a calm and kind way, which really resonates with horses. With some adjustment for anatomical scale and the addition of the rider to the mechanism as a whole, I found that it was possible to use yoga’s slow, low-impact movements to isolate the weak areas quite quickly and easily. When this presented itself, I was quite surprised.


 
TSB: Do you practice yoga? If so, what are the benefits you have found it has made in your own life? How does it affect your riding and horsemanship?

SC: Ha! I was hoping nobody would ask me this! The yoga instructor I consulted with for the book is the amazing Alison Robertson, based in France. Alison has kindly taken pity on me and is helping me learn what our horses feel like when asked to bend rusty body parts! Despite being a plank of wood, it is definitely helping me feel looser in the back, and in particular I have noticed yoga  “evening up” the two sides of my body around a (semi) flexible spine, which is definitely helping my symmetry in the saddle. However, it is not as easy as I had imagined!
 
TSB: How do your core conditioning exercises fit into other training and conditioning programs? Can they be used in concert with other techniques and training schedules?

SC: This is an important point and something I was not prepared to compromise. We desperately needed a simple way of helping all horses feel better in themselves and develop their optimal spinal function, no matter their given discipline, age, breeding, or temperament. For this reason, there are different exercise plans in my book to help the horse owner develop a core conditioning warm-up exactly for the individual horse in question. I think this been achieved with the warm-up plans I present (Wellness, Flexibility, Connection, or Agility)—the exercises can be tailored to fit any horse, whether a light, young, Thoroughbred racehorse or a seasoned, heavier dressage horse. At the spinal level, function is identical, yet the approach needs to be just right for that individual horse’s type and lifestyle.
 
TSB: One of the benefits of your core conditioning exercises is they can help horses that have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having kissing spine. Can you tell us how your techniques alleviate pain and improve a horse’s chances of recovering from this issue?

SC: Well, “kissing spine” is rather more common than we thought, unfortunately, yet despite the problems it causes, it is a relatively simple engineering problem. The spine is a finely tuned piece of equipment and only operates correctly when aligned properly—and then its complex design works really, really well. Unfortunately, if the angles are off even slightly, like a bent pair of scissors or a rusty lock, the mechanism catches on itself and causes damage to the delicate structure it relies upon to do its job. To make matters more complicated,  it is covered in nerves, making the horse tense up when s/he feels a pinch anywhere along the back. These tensions unfortunately feel like training or even behavioral problems, which is why they are not diagnosed very quickly, making them become habitual and limiting performance and quality of life. The solution is thankfully very simple, involving strengthening the muscles that are already under the spine to redress and realign the horse’s back. The body knows what is good for it, and when activated, these structures spring into action and everything starts to work properly again.


 
TSB: You were born in Italy, were educated in England, and live in France. How did your background influence your decision to become a professional horseman and devote your time and energy to improving the horse’s health and well-being?

SC: I have been very lucky that my family has a strong history with horses, which has helped enormously. My mother is an instructor, so I was brought up around, on, and under horses, and my Italian family has been composed of almost all swashbuckling military horsemen and women for millennia. Perhaps it is simply in the DNA? Although I am a nerd and wanted to be a scientist, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to work with horses. After a few years working in the commercial side of the horse industry, I became uncomfortable using some of the restrictive and insensitive methods that we employ without question in European training. Restraint and force did not seem to be necessary with such a highly complex and essentially perfectly designed creature as the horse, and I strongly felt that there had to be better way. So I spent a few decades trying to understand how it all worked. This work has, of course, all been done before, long ago, yet I feel I may have reiterated some forgotten knowledge that may allow us to smooth off some of our modern corners.
 
TSB: What is one lesson you hope readers will take away from your book?

SC: By far, it is to put ourselves in the horses’ hooves. When working with these sensitive beings that worry and tense up so easily, we really must show them our love in every moment of our work together, especially when we run into problems. This is when they need us the most.  They are so very, very emotional, and we should remember that there is always an innocent reason for their actions, even if it looks otherwise.


 
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?

SC: Oh, I think it would have to be a Pura Raza Espagnol, an Andalusian. These horses are like generous people, that is why we use them in movies, for the High School, such as in Vienna, and for tricks like dancing, performances, and stunt work. Try that sort of thing with a Warmblood and he will just walk away!

I am tempted to say I would read Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Dafoe, but that is a bit obvious, so it would have to be Douglas Adams’ quadrilogy of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which I feel sure the PRE would enjoy me reading to her/him, too.
 
TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

SC: I am fascinated with Working Equitation, and I love watching it. It has so much potential for perfection and looks like dressage meets “handy pony” meets gymkhana, but for grown-ups. I mean, they gallop over a bridge and carry a spear!
 
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

SC: Integrity. Without that, nothing else matters.
 
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

SC: Focus. Some of them look at you and say with their eyes, “Hi! Lets interact!” and they hold focus on you. Time stands still when that happens, and no matter what package s/he is in, your souls connect. This is the essence of a great relationship and the first thing I look for.

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TSB: What is your greatest fear?

SC: A global shortage of olives, Nutella, garlic, or Chablis, in that order. I suppose I ought to say world war, although the former would surely trigger the latter.
 
TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

SC: I have an unreasonably large collection of Passier saddles. I love them, especially the old ones. They are masterpieces of craftsmanship and each one rides a little differently. I am not even ashamed of this and have instructed my family to bury my favorites with me…preferably after I have died, though.
 
TSB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

SC: I would like to be able to fly. But that’s not very realistic. In “Real Life” I would like to be a little taller. When in Germany and Holland I feel child-size—in fact, their children are often taller than me! A short stay (pun intended) in Italy or Portugal usually puts that right.
 
TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

SC:  Landjaeger sausage. It’s like the Holy Grail of bacon. 
 
TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

SC: Oh, there are so many answers to this one! If I had to choose one it would be waiting, at dusk, for the Spaghetti alle Vongole to come to the table at a little waterside trattoria on the Amalfi Coast, surrounded by people I love.
 
TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

SC: Without question, the physicist Nikola Tesla. He was the twentieth century’s da Vinci. He almost changed the world. Almost!
 
TSB: What is your motto?

SC: May I suggest a quote instead?

“A learning experience is one of those things that says, ‘You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.” ― Douglas Adams

Simon Cocozza’s book CORE CONDITIONING FOR HORSES is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

 

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Horse Shoe Picture Frames and Luck Catchers in Horse Fun

Do you know kids who dream of having a horse of their own? A four-legged friend who comes when they call and nickers when they’re nearby? Who doesn’t judge or pick favorites? Who always listens quietly when they need someone to talk to? When a real horse or pony is still in the future and not in the barn outside, playing with plastic horses, doing horsey crafts, and learning about how to ride and care for horses is the next best thing.

Horse Shoe Luck CatcherHere are two simple fun summer projects to make when horses are your favorite thing: a horse-shoe picture frame and a “luck catcher.” Both of these craft ideas are easy and don’t require a lot of set-up or clean-up. They are two of the many projects featured in the book HORSE FUN by Gudrun Braun and Anne Scheller with artwork by award-winning Manga artist Anika Hage.

CLICK HERE to download your FREE PDF instructions!

HORSE FUN is for all horse-crazy kids, whether they ride “now” or “not yet,” combining real horse knowledge with super-fun games, quizzes, crafts, and activities. It teaches the basics of horse care and equitation while keeping learning interesting with equine trivia. Plus, there are lots more craft projects to try! Make tote bags, jewelry, and even a hobby horse to compete in hobby horse shows (all the rage)!

Here’s what one young reader said about HORSE FUN:

Horse Fun Book Review Girl on Mustang

 

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

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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

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Survivors of trauma, loss, illness, abuse, stress, and depression can face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But today, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that horses play a crucial role in therapy for those struggling with significant psychological and emotional challenges. Horses respond to angry, inhibited, heartbroken, defiant, terrified clients in many different ways, often breaking through defensive barriers via their physical presence, or by pointing to areas of psychological distress not immediately apparent. The horse’s response guides the treatment team, as well as the client, in the healing process.

Consider these true stories:

Ashley was locked in closets as punishment, and physically and sexually abused, resulting in an angry and violent child who threatened her adoptive family—until she met Cocoa and Radar, the horses that helped her learn to trust again.

Brenda was diagnosed bipolar and lived through humiliating domestic abuse, but three horses—Delilah, Wiscy, and Diesel—helped her establish a sense of self-worth, hope for the future, and ultimately, the will to go on.

Nick was angry, suicidal, and a veteran with combat PTSD, who now says, “Horses literally saved my life.”

Inspired by her own childhood trauma when she spent seven days in a coma, awakened to a severely compromised body and brain, and rebuilt her life with the help of a horse, Michelle Holling-Brooks founded Unbridled Change, a non-profit Equine-Partnered Therapy organization that helps match horses to individuals in need. In her book THE HORSE CURE she shares amazing stories of the people she’s worked with and the “horse cure” that changed their lives. We had a chance to catch up with Michelle and ask her a little about her incredible organization and the dramatic life circumstances that led her to founding it.

 

TSB: What is the purpose of the organization Unbridled Change and why did you start it?

MHB: Unbridled Change is a non-profit mental health organization whose mission is to provide a place for our clients to find the hope, healing, and growth they have been searching for through the partnership of horses. The way we complete our mission to help our clients is mainly through providing Equine-Partnered Psychotherapy and Coaching. We take mental health therapy out of the office and into the arena or paddock with the horses.

The reason I started Unbridled Change was because I know firsthand the healing that can happen when you work with horses. Life can change in an instant and you can lose trust in yourself, others, and the world around you when it does. Sometimes when that trust is broken it can be hard to accept help from another human; however, we might be willing to accept support from an animal. Horses did that for me. They helped me “cure” myself on many different levels. I wanted to provide a space and program where I could share and others could experience what helped me learn how to heal.

TSB: In your book THE HORSE CURE you share the story of how you survived a dramatic illness, which left you in a coma for seven days, and when you did wake, you were faced with severe damage to your motor skills, vision, hearing, language, and understanding, as well as being paralyzed from the waist down. How did this traumatic event in your life prepare you for the role you now play as the founder of Unbridled Change?

MHB: I don’t think I would be who I am or doing what I do every day at Unbridled Change without that illness. The moment I was wheeled back into the barn and found comfort in a horse’s embrace was the moment my life purpose was born. By the time I was a senior in high school, I knew that all I wanted in life was to help others find the same sanctuary and healing that I had found with horses. I knew that the amazing impact horses had on me could also help others.

I think the experiences I had because of that illness also gave me another gift that took me longer to really understand. That illness gave me a gift of knowing and understanding. I know what it is like to feel lost in a body that will not respond. I know what it feels like to be left without a way to communicate what you need or want on even the smallest level. I know what it feels like to be so angry at the world that you end up feeling nothing. I know what it feels like to not want to be alive because the pain (physically and emotionally) is too bad. And I also know what it feels like to find your way back to willingness, connection, and love after all that pain. Horses gave me a lifeline through that wild sea of despair, pain, and trauma.

Now, as the founder of Unbridled Change, I can offer that same lifeline to our clients so that they too can heal.

TSB: In THE HORSE CURE, you share some of the experiences you’ve had with clients and the horses that are a part of the Unbridled Change herd. Why do you feel it is important to tell these stories?

MHB: I think the power of sharing these stories is that they give the reader hope. The stories let the reader see little bits and pieces of themselves reflecting back through the pages. I also feel that the stories and pictures in The Horse Cure give the reader the opportunity to feel and see what partnering with horses for human healing can really look like. By sharing these stories, we can take the mystery out of this type of therapy.

Hopefully these stories will open the door for more people to think about working with horses to help them heal.

TSB: You had your own experience with the healing power of horses, and now you’ve witnessed it again and again. What do you feel it is about horses that helps people struggling with trauma, loss, abuse, stress, and depression? Why are they such an integral part of the therapeutic process?

MHB: Horses are, by nature, sentient beings that want to be in relationship and balance with the world around them. When I was recovering from my illness at 13, I didn’t understand humans. They didn’t make sense to me because they would say one thing and do something different.

I felt at odds with the human world because most of the time nothing “matched.” I couldn’t trust it. But I could trust horses. They acted in alignment with the world around them. They didn’t lie to me. They didn’t judge me for being in a wheelchair or talking differently. They didn’t care that I had crazy frizzy hair, was too skinny, or about what I was wearing. They only cared and judged me on one thing: how did I treat them and myself. If I was willing to be trustworthy and respectful with them, ask for my needs fairly and without hurting them, I found out they actually wanted to be around me!

I think this natural trait is why horses are such great partners for the therapeutic process. People have the same basic desire to be a part of a “herd.” We, like horses, are not designed to be alone and without connections. Like horses, we also want to feel safe in that connection.

When you combine the therapeutic process with building a relationship with a horse based on trust, respect, and willingness, you have a way for the client to actually see their own patterns in relationships. In these interactions, the client has a chance to discover any “blocks” that might be preventing them from stepping into a healthy relationship. Additionally, they have the option to practice their skills by working through those blocks. The “therapy” then happens organically, in the moment based on the horse interaction and then processing with the mental health professional on the team.

You can read some of the many miraculous stories of horses helping humans in THE HORSE CURE, 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 videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

 

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Whether it was the dawdling pony, ignoring our short, five-year-old legs ricocheting off his sides, or the experienced schoolmaster who knew enough to make us earn a forward ride, we have all struggled to put a horse in front of our leg at one point or another. A common mistake when your walk leaves much to be desired, it would seem, is to actually spend time working on the walk. The short of the long is: Don’t do that.

Christoph Hess, FEI “I” judge in both dressage and eventing, gives us these alternatives to developing a good walk in his book BETTER RIDING WITH CHRISTOPH HESS:

 

A good walk is developed by the rider through correct riding in the basic gaits of trot and canter. This sounds paradoxical at first, but practice shows that a good walk cannot be achieved by always “working” the horse in this gait exclusively. Rather, a good walk is developed by having the horse securely on the rider’s aids, allowing himself to be ridden “through” while stretching and in balance at the basic gaits of trot and canter.

TrainingaGoodWalk-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Peter Prohn

At the walk, the rider can check how rideable her horse really is. She can determine if the horse is supple and relaxed, responding to the driving aids—without the horse being lazy and lethargic—and “seeking” the bit, meaning he is stretching toward the rider’s hand. The rider must always be able to ride forward, and also sideways, at any time. The better and, above all, more responsively the horse accepts the rider’s driving aids, the better the results on the walk will be.

 

HowtoGetaGoodWalkpin-horseandriderbooksRide It Correctly

In dressage tests, the walk scores are given a coefficient of two, which means the walk counts twice. For one, the crucial rhythm, fluidity, and ground cover are scored. For another, the judges pay attention to ensure the rider actually rides the walk and does not just go along as a “passive passenger.” This active riding of the walk is an important criterion for assessing whether or not the rider is on the correct path to training her horse. To accomplish this, the rider applies her driving leg aids at the moment the hind leg on the same side is striking off. This is a process during which the horse ideally “picks up” the driving aid himself. The prerequisite for this is a supple hip joint. At the same time, the rider should follow the nodding of the horse’s head and neck with her hands and have the feeling that the horse is framed between her aids. As this takes place, the horse will stretch forward and downward, opening the angle at his throatlatch, and through this, the line from forehead to nose should come just slightly ahead of the vertical. This is the prerequisite for the horse to establish an even rhythm and achieve ground-covering strides.

Though this sounds easy when put into words, it is really not easy to achieve in practice. In the course of her education, every rider must discover for herself the right feel for riding the walk. On the one hand, she needs to allow the horse to walk on without driving him excessively; on the other hand, she cannot become really passive, which can lead to a considerably worse walk.

RideBetterwithChristophHess-horseandriderbooks

An even walk with a clearly recognizable “V.” This is a visual aid for a clear four-beat rhythm. Under no circumstances should the foreleg and hind leg on the same side come close to moving concurrently. This would indicate a pacing walk. Illustration by Cornelia Koller

 

Trot-Canter Transitions

Doing transitions from trot to canter and canter back to trot is one of the most valuable exercises for effectively improving a horse’s “throughness,” willing cooperation, obedience, and responsiveness to his rider—all necessary for a good walk. I recommend you incorporate these transitions very deliberately into the content of every daily training session. Practice these on a big circle, making sure your horse stays on your driving aids, even as he “shifts up a gear” from trot into canter and then “shifts down a gear” from canter back to trot. On the “downshift,” it is especially important that you maintain the impulsion from the canter as you return to trot, without the trot becoming rushed. You should visualize yourself “cantering into the trot” as you begin to trot. This is only possible when you are supple through your hip joint, following the movement of the new gait, allowing it to carry you along. In order to further optimize your horse’s “throughness,” you should just slightly lengthen the canter strides just before the downward transition to trot, then after the successful transition, just slightly lengthen the first trot strides. As this takes place, the horse must maintain a forward tendency. Under no circumstance, should the transition be from an extended canter into an extended trot (which has a tendency to be a “passage-like” gait). As the actual transition takes place, you must always have the feeling that you could offer a release, typically by moving one or both hands forward along the horse’s neck, or allow the horse to “chew” the reins from your hand.

If you ride the transition from a backward orientation, meaning from short canter strides and/or into short trot strides that lack impulsion, you will not be able to ride a rhythmic, fluid, and efficient walk. At the moment of the transition, take more feel of the horse’s side with your inside calf, which will make the transition so much easier; with a well-trained horse, you will then be able to complete the transition without application of rein aids. You’ll feel, respectively, as if you’re only “listening in closely” to the horse’s mouth with your hands (through your reins). In this way, you will avoid applying inside rein. Doing so blocks the horse’s strikeoff from the inside hind, which leads to a failed transition. The canter-to-trot transition, in particular, has a pivotal significance to harmonious and, thereby, sensitive riding in all three basic gaits.

One more useful tip: a few canter strides before your transition to trot, think leg-yield; if you’re more advanced then think shoulder-fore or shoulder-in. The same applies to the transition from trot to walk.

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CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

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