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Posts Tagged ‘trail riding’

dressageinharmony-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Coco Baptist

Wouldn’t it be cool if every horse made a New Year’s Resolution not to shy at silly, innocuous, or invisible things in 2019? Alas, I think we all know that isn’t likely, so best case scenario is we riders resolve to do better by our horses when the shy does happen.

The late Walter Zettl was a highly respected clinician and proponent of classical training principles. “My approach,” he said, “is that of complete sympathy for the horse and devotion to its happiness and well-being…. I attempt to educate riders to make their horses happy, confident, and proud to work for them.”

Here is Zettl’s advice for handling the horse that shies, from his book DRESSAGE IN HARMONY:

Young horses often shy and jump away from new objects or situations or quick movements. Older, more experienced horses may also jump away from new “goblins,” but usually time has accustomed them to weird blankets, shadows, flowers, sunbeams, and so on. One should never forget, however, that the horse evolved as a grazing animal whose main defense against predators is flight. A few months or years of training will never overcome millions of years of evolution.

To cure shying, the horse must be brought to trust his rider and himself. He must trust that the rider will let him run away if something terrible happens, and he must feel balanced and in control of his body. You often see riders trying to force their horses past a “scary” object, and the horse becomes more and more tense, and the rider resorting to more and more force. You can never beat the shying out. What is really happening in the horse’s mind is that he is being trapped near this frightening thing and that his one defense is taken away. Also, he learns to associate a whipping with an object, place, or situation, and we have succeeded in teaching him that this thing is to be feared, and he becomes more and more tense. 

When riding past a frightening place, the rider must become more relaxed, careful, cool, and quiet. When the horse trusts that he can run away, he will accept that he does not need to—yet. The rider must lightly control the horse, but always give the horse the reassurance that flight is possible. The rider must also keep the horse well balanced, so the horse feels that he can jump away. 

dressageinharmonyshying-horseandriderbooks

By positioning the horse with a good bend away from the object (shoulder-in for those horses that understand it), the horse cannot bolt away so easily through the inside shoulder, although he still sees an “escape” through the front. For example: When a horse shies from an object on his right side, he usually bends strongly right to look at the object, plants both front feet, and pushes out through the left shoulder. Keeping the bend left makes this more difficult, making it easier for the rider to keep the horse going straight past the object. Making the horse bend right and pulling him toward the object only makes the horse more frightened because escaping forward takes him toward the hazard. 

dressageinharmpb-horseandriderbooksYou can learn more from Walter Zettl in his book DRESSAGE IN HARMONY, 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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24hrsfergus

So many of us know Fergus the Horse, the world’s most popular cartoon horse and a bonafide social media celebrity with over 315,000 followers on Facebook and two books about his adventures. But did you know that his creator, the wit behind the Fergus comics that bounce around the globe, isn’t a full-time artist? Every summer Jean Abernethy packs her saddle bags, loads her half-Arabian Willow, and heads to South Algonquin Trails in Harcourt, Ontario, Canada, where she spends several months leading guided trail rides into the Algonquin Provincial Park, 2,955 astoundingly beautiful square miles of Crown Land.

Here Jean shares with us her typical day “on the trail,” with lots of fly spray, ponies who defy grazing muzzles, and plenty to be thankful for.

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4:30 am  An empty log truck hits its engine brakes out on the paved road less than 300 yards from my cabin. It’s slowing for the turn up Kingscote Road.  They’re logging up there this summer… drift back to asleep…

6:00 am (and a couple of trucks later)  Alarm sounds. Hit two buttons: ”snooze,” and coffee maker.

6:10 am  Dawn is my favorite time. Up, dressed, coffee in hand, I grab my pony’s breakfast bucket from the pump house, and check one water trough on my way to the kitchen house where the cream and sugar is. Loons are calling overhead. I sip my coffee in the quiet dawn while Willow eats. Start breakfast in my skillet on the stove, and start a load of saddle cloths in the washer behind the kitchen house.

Dawn is Jean's favorite time. Here the South Algonquin Trail horses have breakfast in the morning fog.

Dawn is Jean’s favorite time. Here the South Algonquin Trail horses have breakfast in the morning fog.

7:00 am  Juggling chores, filling two water tanks, running the washer, hanging clean saddle cloths on the fence. Open the office, sweep, check the book for today’s trail rides and camp kids.  Check and top up the mineral buckets in the paddocks.  Check big bales in the paddocks and remove strings for safety. Open the tackroom, check the dry erase board (which should match the book), to see which horses are needed for the day. …walking…walking…

7:45 am  Slip a halter on Willow, groom and tack her up. Tie her in the trees to wait until she is needed. I tell her I’m proud of her. She finds validity in the routine here and does this work well. Once tied, she cocks a leg and dozes off. I open the road gate.

Willow, being a good pony, waiting to go to work.

Willow, being a good pony, waiting to go to work.

8:00 am  My friend and employer Tammy arrives with her daughter Jocelyn and an assortment of other help: Jesse, a high school senior and brilliant young equestrian, and there might be others who jump out of the truck…siblings or young teens volunteering for the summer. We gather horses from the paddocks into the yard, grooming and saddling to prepare for the “Camp Kids” and scheduled rides on the trails. Tacked-up horses are tied in the trees until needed.

Rodney & Dwayne arrive.  These young men help out here when they can.  There might be a tree down across the trails out there somewhere. We’ll send them out into the bush on the 4-wheeler with a chainsaw. Or, we might need them to sink a new tie-post in the yard or guide a ride with us.

9:00 am  The “Camp Kids” show up.  There might be 3, or 6, or more…we share up the tasks of getting them started with their grooming tools, instructions, and assigned horses. They will have a riding lesson and trail ride before noon. This also means supervising our young volunteers. Safety and savvy are the biggest lessons. So is stamina. I hand it to Tammy.  She creates opportunity here at SAT, for a lot of kids to learn real stuff!

The "Camp Kids," learning real horse stuff!

The “Camp Kids,” learning real horse stuff!

10:00 am  It’s getting hot. Flies are buzzing, horses stomping.

Guests arrive for the first scheduled trail ride. As they check in with Tammy in the office…payments, waivers, helmets…we, the crew in the yard, prepare the horses. Put their bits into their mouths and tighten girths. And apply fly repellent. Lots of fly repellent. We put our guests on, give them some instruction, and head out. Willow and I go in front, and another guide is in back. For 6 or more riders, it’s nice to have a guide in the middle, too. A ride could be 30 minutes to 4 hours. This one is 2 hours.

11:00 am  The shade of the bush protects us from the sun. First horse gets the worst of the flies. I’ve cut a 5-foot leafy Maple branch to sweep flies off my horse, Willow, ears to tail. After the first hour, I feel “welded” into my saddle. Bliss. I chat with our guests, telling them a little history of our Provincial Park, or just let them enjoy the sights and sounds of the woods.  I watch for tracks and point them out whenever possible. It’s exciting to see fresh moose tracks, but I watch Willow’s ears, and silently pray there will be no moose, only tracks. (I don’t like putting people back on!)

12:00 pm  We ride back into the yard as the “Camp Kids” are finishing up.  Most of our guests have very little riding experience, so we joke with them as they dismount: “You’ll only walk funny for 3 days.” They drive out of the yard happy, with a recommendation for the nearest ice-cream vendor, hiking, or fishing spot.  They’re summer people on holidays, and we do all we can to add to their fun.

12:30 pm  I check with Tammy about the rental cabin. Some folk haul their own horses up here, stay in the cabin on SAT property, and ride the trails out in the Crown Land just beyond SAT’s back fence. The cabin beds need to be fresh, campfire pit tidy and inviting, stalls and turnout pens clean. I’ll do what needs to be done.

Grab my laptop from my cabin for a moment to check emails, and check up on Fergus’s progress on social media.

1:00 pm  Babysitting the horses tied in the yard, making sure that no one is stepping on dangling reins, or chewing his neighbor’s saddle. We’re re-applying fly repellent, offering them drinks at the trough. The guests for the next ride check in. In fact, it’s two families, so we’ll take them out together…bits in, girths tightened, and off to the mounting platform. Oh my goodness! I lead Black Horse (name changed to protect the innocent) to the platform. Guest is wondering which foot to put in the stirrup to mount. So I advise: “Well, do you want to face forward?”

1:20 pm  We ride out. Red Horse, with child aboard, is right behind Willow and me in the line-up. Right beyond the first bridge, Red Horse puts her head into the weeds to eat, despite the muzzle on her face. Rider is helpless. I, and the other guides speak instructions to Rider.  Rider is still helpless. Red Horse eats. Pinto Horse, further back in the line, begins to pee. Rider behind Pinto Horse giggles, then his horse begins to pee, and there is much giggling amid the guests. All 10 horses, given the pause, begin to eat at the edge of the trail. Guest riders do not know how to influence this, nor do they understand how precarious this all is! (Large Mare has a tendency to turn around and go home!)

I sidepass over to Red Horse (thank you, Willow) and hook onto to the halter with a lead line, pony her for a bit , while instructing Rider…who is still helpless. The guides further back speak instructions to all, the horses follow up, and we get the whole procession moving again. Deep sigh. Jocelyn (always smiling) tells a little girl that she must not whine because it upsets her pony. The girl stops whining. The pony is indifferent. Jocelyn is a star!!

Willow and Jean leading a guided trail ride.

Willow and Jean leading a guided trail ride.

2:20 pm  We ride back in. All hands on deck to get these folks safely dismounted and horses made comfortable until the next ride.

2:30 pm  A family drives in, unscheduled, wanting pony rides. We oblige. Quick tack change to swap out for a pony saddle…skee-daddle to the paddock for the wee pony who wasn’t  brought in earlier, and we hand-walk two ponies on the pony trail at the edge of the woods.  One child is utterly charming, parents following and cooing…the other child cries. Ten minutes later there is no crying, photos are taken, memories made, children lifted off…ponies’ girths loosened…

3:00 pm  It’s hot. We’re tired and hungry. As the next holiday folks pull into the yard in expensive cars, we are all on the office porch sucking popsicles, swatting flies, and eating Doritos. Good God! Three people want 3 hours of trail ride, no riding experience, and they’ve showed up in shorts and flip-flops! Is there a Patron Saint of Trail Riders I can pray to?

Tammy’s brilliant! She has various chaps & boots on hand…waivers…helmets…we put them on, and ride out. I like the 3-hour ride. Haven’t been up to Gut Rapids for 3 days. I love this trail! Folk like this seem to be expecting a ride at the fair—you know, where you get in, clasp your hands on something solid, and wait for the whole experience to happen. We make some effort to express to them that they can communicate cues to their mount. Penny does not drop. The horses are stars. They tote these folks out, relying on each other, nose-to-tail, and we even make it through the water crossing without anyone balking or turning around!

At the Gut Rapids tie-up, we dismount them, tie the horses to trees, and take the folks for a 5-minute hike to the rapids. They admire the scenery, take a photo, eat a snack…then we walk them back and put them on, using “mounting rocks.”  Of course all of the horses become 10 years younger when walking home! This is when the guests ask, “Are we going to gallop?”

Dear God…

4:00 pm  Halfway back…folks are quiet, absorbing the magic of the woods…the sun is warm on my face, flies not so bad on this shady trail… an earthy scent drifts past my nose…Willow walks patiently…raven calls…I am reminded how lucky I am do be doing this…zap back to the moment, and turn around to check that everyone is safe.

Willow and Jean both enjoy the beautiful trails at SAT.

Willow and Jean both enjoy the beautiful trails at SAT.

6:15 pm  We arrive back in the yard, get these folks safely off, and send them cheerily on their way.  They’re laughing, walking funny, and have a whole new respect for horse riding, and for our vast forest. Dwayne, Rodney, and volunteers have gone home. Water tanks need topping up. Horses untacked and turned out.  Sweaty saddle cloths have piled up again…fold and stack the clean ones that have been drying on the fence all day… sweep the porch…pick up in the yard…there’s sand in my boots…

7:00 pm  Tammy’s still in the office working, the girls and I are doing chores. We pause to watch two little red foxes playing about the manure pile. I give Willow her evening meal.

7:30 pm  Tammy’s on the tractor, hefting big squares from the hay barn to the paddocks. We look sharp to work the gates and cut strings off bales.

8:30 pm  Tammy and folks drive out. I smile and wave, shut the gate behind them. I don’t remember what I ate today, make some kind of supper in the kitchen, start Willow’s breakfast soaking for morning, and walk to my cabin. Catch up on my journal. The twilight sky over the treetops is breathtaking! A loon calls.

9:00 pm  I walk down to the yard where Willow is munching hay with her friends. I put my arm over her back and thank her for another day’s work. She chews. There are so many stars overhead that the Milky Way is actually “milky.” Here, we are beyond the city’s light pollution. I might see a falling star or satellite. I wish I could watch it all night, but I am exhausted. I hear a wolf howl, far away…walk back to my cabin, fill my coffee maker, and flop into bed.

 

Jean Abernethy’s new book FERGUS: A HORSE TO BE RECKONED WITH, is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

Click below to watch the trailer:

 

For more information about the South Algonquin Trails, CLICK HERE.

 

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

YVONNE BARTEAU

JONATHAN FIELD

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

CLINTON ANDERSON

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Vanessa Bee's new book OVER, UNDER, THROUGH will help you and your horse enjoy many safe autumn rides together.

Vanessa Bee’s new book OVER, UNDER, THROUGH will help you and your horse enjoy many safe autumn rides together.

Vanessa Bee, founder of the International Horse Agility Club and author of the bestselling books THE HORSE AGILITY HANDBOOK and 3-MINUTE HORSEMANSHIP, now has a brand new way to bring us more of her down-to-earth, easy-to-use horse training skills: OVER, UNDER, THROUGH: OBSTACLE TRAINING FOR HORSES provides Vanessa’s 6 Blueprint Exercises and 50 step-by-step scenarios for teaching horses to accept what they usually think is terrifying.

So what’s all this have to do with Disney’s Dumbo and his “magic feather”? Well, in her new book, Vanessa contends that although we can try and see the world from a horse’s viewpoint, as humans who can think abstractly, it can be very confusing for us as we experience our horses behaving in what often seems to be the most illogical fashion. (Yes, she means when he shies at the same fallen log on the same trail for the umpteenth-millionth time.) If we learn to put our ability to visualize an outcome without actually doing it physically to work, and if we do it in a positive way, there’s no end to what we can accomplish with our horses.

“I am well known in the horse world as having an aversion to whips,” writes Vanessa in OVER, UNDER, THROUGH. “I can see no place for them around any animal. What I do see is when people pick up a whip, their energy and their attitude change. They are no longer quiet communicators setting up scenarios in which the horse has time to seek an answer. There is a feeling of hardness, of demanding, of threat.

“I call whips ‘Dumbo’s Magic Feather.’ Dumbo, you may recall, was a really cute baby elephant who did not believe that he could fly. One day he was given a magic feather that he was told held the special magic he needed to fly. Once he was holding the magic feather he was able to take flight by flapping his fabulous ears. But, just when he needed it most, Dumbo lost the feather and, in a terrifying scene, he found himself plummeting to earth at disastrous speed.

“But his guide implored him, ‘Fly, Dumbo!’ for he knew the magic was not in the feather. The magic was within the little elephant himself! And Dumbo flew!

“The whip has become like a magic feather to riders. It is time to believe that the magic is not in the whip. Be empowered; the magic is within yourself. That human ability to visualize can help you achieve anything you truly want to do.”

 

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

For Vanessa Bee’s “keep it simple” training exercises, check out OVER, UNDER, THROUGH, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to download a free sample chapter.

 

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

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The last thing that ever crossed my mind when I was a kid riding my horse alone on the vast network of back roads and trails in central Vermont was the possibility of danger. Being out on the trail with my horse as my only companion was a happy place; a quiet place. It was a place for reflection and relaxation for both of us. Certainly, I wore a helmet. I told my parents where I was headed and gave them an estimated time of my return. But it was before cell phones (and they wouldn’t have worked where we lived, anyway), and really, other than the ever-present possibility of a fall from my horse, we didn’t think we had much to worry about.

The sad truth is that now homes and seasonal residences line many of those old roads, and where we once knew every family in a 20-mile radius, there are now mostly strangers. The shrinking of our “open” lands makes it far more likely I’ll run into other people using the roads and trails for other purposes. And without my pre-teen bravado casting a rosy veil over reality, I suddenly find myself wary of the individual hiker and leery of the lone car pulled over by the side of the road up ahead.

A fear-monger I am not, but I am an advocate for preparedness, and whether you are walking, running, or riding alone, it makes sense to know some basic defensive tactics that can help keep you safe, and instill the confidence that ensures you can continue to enjoy solitary rides along the path less traveled.

In his book BETTER THAN BOMBPROOF, Sgt. Rick Pelicano of the Maryland National Park Police, provides simple and effective techniques for staying safe on the trail. BETTER THAN BOMBPROOF is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

4 Defensive Tactics for Riders

1  Stay Alert

The best line of defense, of course, is to avoid confrontation in the first place. As you ride, don’t allow yourself to grow complacent. Don’t develop “tunnel vision,” even if you sense something is amiss and are bent on your escape strategy. You may focus on one person in front of you while others are hidden somewhere close by. Look behind you every once in a while, as well, and don’t ever wear headphones or chat on your cell phone. With music or a conversation added to the sound of your horse’s hoof beats, you can be taken unaware very easily. Stay tuned in to your surroundings as you ride along.

 

Stay alert and keep your distance when you meet an unknown individual while out alone on the trail.

Stay alert and keep your distance when you meet an unknown individual while out alone on the trail.

 

2  Keep Your Distance

If you see someone who seems suspicious or you get that “wary” feeling, obey your instincts. The easiest deterrent is to put distance between yourself and possible trouble. Move away quickly or maneuver so there is an obstacle between you—a tree, bush, rock, or creek will work fine. And remember: You’re on horseback. If the person making you uncomfortable is on foot, you have the immediate advantage of being able to trot or canter away, and gain that safe distance far more quickly than you could if you were on foot.

When you are out alone and start to feel uncomfortable about a person approaching, do not—under any circumstances—allow him to pat your horse. When close enough to stroke your horse, he can easily pull the bridle off. Then, you really have a problem. We never allow a suspect to pat our horses, even during a standard traffic stop.

 

 

You can practice using your horse's hind end with the help of a friend and a martial arts training shield.

You can practice using your horse’s hind end with the help of a friend and a martial arts training shield.

 

3  Use Your Horse’s Hind End

Let’s imagine a scenario: An initially harmless looking jogger passes you, then turns and suddenly attacks. What should you do? You need to use your horse to “push” into the suspect, then get as far away as you can. Remember, every horse seems dauntingly powerful to a non-horseperson, and you have a number of options for self-defense with a well-bombproofed horse.

When thinking about how to use your horse as part of your self-defense strategy, visualize your vulnerable areas by imagining a heart-shaped barrier surrounding your horse’s body. His head is at the top of the heart and his hind end at the bottom. The rider is most vulnerable if she allows a suspect into the heart area because both sides of the horse’s head and neck are open to a grab for the bridle or reins. The heart-shaped barrier tapers at the rider’s sides and the horse’s hind end, indicating areas where the rider is again at advantage.

It is always preferable to move the horse’s hind end into the attacker; this reduces the chance of the suspect grabbing your reins or bridle and then controlling your horse. You can leg-yield, side-pass, perform a turn on the forehand, or simply ride a small semi-circle in order to use the hindquarters as a deterrent. In the process, the suspect can be pushed away, stepped on, or struck by various parts of the horse, and then you are free to make your getaway as rapidly as you can.

 

 

Drive your horse directly at an assailant to knock him off balance.

Drive your horse directly at an assailant to knock him off balance.

 

4  Drive Your Horse Forward

When an attacker attempts to take control of your reins from the front, put your legs on your horse and drive him forward directly into the assailant. Then, using your aids, you can immediately follow up by:

 

·      Leg-yielding the horse’s hind end into the person.

·      Neck-reining the horse’s front end toward the person.

·      Side-passing into the person.

·      Neck-reining the horse into a turn on the forehand toward the person, so he is suddenly faced with your horse’s rear end and hind legs coming toward him in a threatening manner.

 

Once your attacker is off balance and moving to avoid being run over by your horse, you can get away.

 

BETTER THAN BOMBPROOF offers you the tools you need to take your bombproof training to a whole new level so that you and your horse can be safe and have fun, whatever your age, ability, or discipline. Sgt. Pelicano’s first book BOMBPROOF YOUR HORSE was the first book on mounted-police-tested bombproof training for horses. Both bestselling titles are available from the TSB online bookstore.

 

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

Bombproof-set

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Solstice has passed…we’ve turned the corner and we’re headed toward longer days and a whole New Year. At Trafalgar Square Books, we took a look back at the books we published and DVDs we released over the last 12 months to remind ourselves what we learned about improving horse-and-rider partnerships and performance in 2013.

 

ModEventwPhilDut-300From MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON:

“No matter how good your coach is, he or she cannot help you if you are not willing to put yourself out there and learn. There is an art to being a good student and to listening and accepting criticism without taking it personally…If you want to really succeed, you need to make your coach feel truly a part of your riding career.”

 

Dressage-w-MBS-300From DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL:

“When grooming a horse it is common, I find, for the base rings for cross-ties to be positioned high on walls (or posts, depending on stable design). This is often combined with very short lengths of rope or flat nylon, usually only just long enough to reach and clip to the side rings on a standard halter with a little sag or ‘give’ on each side…this practice holds most horses in an unnatural position. The horse’s head is held so the neck is above the parallel (or almost parallel) line from the withers commonly seen in the horse at rest. This results in tension from the poll to the croup and encourages an ‘upside-down’ neck and hollow back…Over time, this habitual positioning has a bad effect on the musculature necessary for the horse to round and work over the back.”

 

KnowYouKnowYrHorse250From KNOW YOU, KNOW YOUR HORSE:

“Introverts tend to prefer a horse that will do the task fluidly but with less speed and more perfection. They like control—precision riding, for example. They want their horse to be proficient at lateral movement, stopping, backing up, or ‘putting his nose’ where asked. Introverted riders are known to be very quiet with their body language, with quiet hands, and not aggressive with their movement. Any horse they ride needs to be receptive to subtle body and leg cues.”

 

From GEORGE MORRIS: TEACHING AND TRAINING THE AMERICAN WAY DVD:

Screen shot 2013-12-23 at 8.46.21 PM

CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW TRAILER

 

From GEORGE MORRIS: DRESSAGE FOR JUMPERS DVD:

CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW TRAILER

CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW TRAILER

 

From FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION WITH CYNTHIA HANKINS DVD:

CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW TRAILER

CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW TRAILER

 

From THE AMERICAN HUNTER/JUMPER FORWARD RIDING SYSTEM DVD SERIES:

CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW TRAILER

CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW TRAILER

 

balanced-horse-cover-300From THE BALANCED HORSE:

“It is not always understood that the more collected the horse, the more precarious his base of support. This requires a lot of trust—the horse is literally putting himself at our disposal—so we must treat this with respect. If you have difficulty with this concept, then consider the opposite. A young horse at halt with a rider on his back will generally try to spread his weight over all four limbs. You could compare the balance to that of a table—a leg in each corner. This is a very safe position from the horse’s point of view…At the other end of the scale is the fully collected horse….provided we ourselves stay erect and central to the movement, the horse will [still] feel safe.”

 

Riding-Barranca-final-300From RIDING BARRANCA:

“While I love the silence of riding by myself, I also enjoy showing family and friends my favorite spots, exploring new places I wouldn’t dare go to alone, riding at dawn or under a full moon, meandering beside the Sonoita Creek where one can wander in and out of the water beneath the carved out bluffs, lying down in a field of wildflowers and dozing off in the sun, or finding a surprising, fresh trail. But the familiar can also be comforting. My familiar horses are my greatest solace, along with my old broken-in saddle and well-worked reins.”

 

RiddenPLC-300From RIDDEN: DRESSAGE FROM THE HORSE’S POINT OF VIEW:

“Likening ‘being ridden’ to learning to ski occurred to me when I started teaching my students comparative movement and the systematic evolution of training from the horse’s perspective. Just as the advanced skier becomes accustomed to the sensation of gliding down a mountain on a pair of skis attached to her legs, so the dressage horse can learn to move forward with power, swing, and harmony with a rider on his back. The skier who can use her knees and hips well and has sufficient conditioning can make skilled and fluid changes of direction, even on difficult terrain. It is the same for a dressage horse: the better the horse can shift his weight to his hindquarters by flexing his haunches and the better condition he is in, the smaller the turns (all the way up to pirouettes) he can make while maintaining impulsion and balance.”

 

Philosophy-300From CLINTON ANDERSON’S PHILOSOPHY:

“I don’t want you to be a wimp or a barbarian. I want you to be effective and to stay in the middle of the scale. If you want your horse to understand what you’re asking him to do, you have to be effective. The best way to turn your horse into a willing partner is to be a great leader. How do you become a great leader? By being black and white with no shades of gray. You’ll make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult. Just because you want to be in the middle of the scale doesn’t mean that you get to stay there all of the time. The middle of the training scale is like a line drawn in the sand. If your horse is disrespectful toward you and doesn’t pay attention, you’ll step toward the harder side of that line. Once you get his attention, you can jump back to the easier side.”

 

From HORSE AGILITY: THE DVD:

CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW TRAILER

CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW TRAILER

 

JumpCourseDesignManual-300From JUMP COURSE DESIGN MANUAL:

“Setting related fences at angles that are at least 180 degrees to each other makes the approach to the next jump, as well as the subsequent track that you take when you land and canter away from it, much easier. Wider angles allow you a much better chance of setting your horse up to be straight to the second jump (perpendicular to its center, which is best), and keep the flow of the course much smoother. In order to determine the angle between two jumps, visualize a line extending straight out from the poles of each obstacle, creating a virtual angle that you can then measure.”

 

pressure-proof-cover-300From PRESSURE PROOF YOUR RIDING:

“Writing your goals down on paper also stimulates a portion of your brain called the reticular activating system, the same area responsible for awareness. This means that writing goals not only makes them more memorable, it also makes you more conscious and aware of them. It stimulates the portions of your brain responsible for thinking, seeing, and writing. Read the words of your goals out loud and the areas of the brain that control speech and hearing will also be engaged. Obviously, the more areas of the brain you stimulate the more effective your goals will become.”

 

AlchemyofLightnessFinal-300From THE ALCHEMY OF LIGHTNESS:

“When we go through the learning process with the horse—that is, creating our partnership with him, learning to dance with him, and to communicate with him both in and out of the saddle—we have to learn the basics. It is like when we learn to play the piano, and we are first taught where to place our fingers. Once we get the basic mechanics of moving our fingers, it becomes automatic—we do not even have to think about it anymore…Riding a horse is the same. We have to learn the basics first until gradually, our physicality is automated and we are ‘doing’ less and less. Then we can arrive at a certain spot where we start to feel.”

 

SufferinginSilencePLC-300From SUFFERING IN SILENCE:

“Along with ‘trainable’ or conditioned reflexes, both horse and human have many parasympathetic, non-consciously controllable reflex points, where the muscles react to a stimulus of nerves…A saddle that sits on one of the horse’s specific reflex points can cause many problems. As with humans, the equine spinal column has nerve ends, which protrude between each of its vertebrae. Some of these are actual reflex points, and depending on the length of the horse’s saddle-support area, there are between four and six of these along each side of the backbone…Using even light pressure you will be able to observe a very subtle muscular reaction and ‘flicking of the skin’; using greater pressure to approximate the feel of a saddle under a light rider causes the horse to drop his back.”

 

From DRESSAGE MOVEMENTS REVEALED DVD:

 

40-5-Min-Jump-Fix-300From 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES:

“When the rider’s lower back and pelvis are correctly aligned she can let go of counter-productive tension in the hips and legs, thus unifying her body with that of the horse in order to remain with him over fences. Her weight becomes part of the system of horse and rider, allowing the horse to use himself more fully without rider interference over the jumps, and providing her with a much greater ability to guide, balance and correct the horse when necessary between fences. When the lower back and pelvis are not correctly aligned, a rider has to use more muscle strength in the torso as well as gripping power in the legs to remain with the horse’s body or suffer the consequences of being jostled forward and back over the fence—or even falling off.”

 

You can check out all our latest and greatest books and DVDs online by CLICKING HERE.

A very happy 2014 to all, from the TSB staff!

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Color is coming to the VT hills...here Rob the Quarter Horse looks over the town of Woodstock.

Color is coming to the VT hills…here Rob the Quarter Horse looks over the town of Woodstock.

It’s official: kids are back in school and for those of us in the northern regions of the riding world, temperatures are dropping, horses are friskier in the morning, and jackets have once again become a necessity.

It was a great summer of riding though, right? Whether you’ve had a busy competition schedule or just lots of time on the trails, here are three ways you can spend some quality time with your horse while taking care of him, taking care of yourself, and taking a little breather in between seasons:

 

1 Take Care of Your Horse

The range of motion in your horse’s forelimbs becomes restricted when the muscles that are responsible for moving the front legs forward and backward accumulate tension and are unable to release. Releasing this tension allows the horse to step out further and leads to a more fluid and extended gait. At the end of a long riding season, you can release accumulated tension in your horse’s front end with these easy exercise from BEYOND HORSE MASSAGE by Jim Masterson.

  • Stand at the horse’s left shoulder, facing forward.
  • Pick up the horse’s left foot.
  • Rest the horse’s ankle in your right hand and place your left hand on the horse’s knee.
  • Allow the horse to relax the leg and shoulder as much as he is able.
  • Slowly guide the leg down and back, straightening the leg and lowering the foot as you go.
  • Encourage the horse to rest in this position as long as he can by keeping your hand on the leg or foot.

 

2  Take Care of Yourself

Like our horses, after a summer of riding, we can actually experience limited mobility in our hips and excessive contractions in our adductor muscles. We can reverse the resulting “clothespin effect” with a simple yoga pose called Happy Baby from YOGA FOR EQUESTRIANS by Linda Benedik and Veronica Wirth.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Take a few breaths and feel your spine contact the floor. Exhale and bring your knees up toward your chest.
  • Extend your arms along the inside of your legs, taking hold of the arches of your feet with your hands. Open your knees and drop your thighs to the sides of your torso. Bring your shins perpendicular to the ground, the soles of your feet facing the sky.
  • As you exhale, feel your sacrum, shoulders, and knees drop down into the floor. Bring your attention to your hips; let them relax. Let go with each breath. Relax into this stretch and hold for at least four deep breaths.
  • Release your feet and slowly bring them back down to the floor.

 

3  Take a Little Breather

We don’t always need to climb on board our horses to spend quality time with them. Sometimes, just a quite hour hand-grazing can be the best team-building exercise there is. Another idea is trying your hand at Wild Agility, as Vanessa Bee, founder of the International Horse Agility Club describes in THE HORSE AGILITY HANDBOOK.

“Wild Agility is an enormously companionable thing to do,” she says. “Friends and I go off with our lunch in backpacks and with our dogs and horses—and just travel….These are golden times for us: The dogs, humans and horses all seem content as we move along with all the time in the world.”

All you need for Wild Agility is a halter and a lead rope, and an afternoon to “play.” Move across country at whatever speed suits you, playing with obstacles and challenges along the way: jump ditches, logs, and banks; weave through woods and trees; pass under low branches; cross streams, swim in lakes…you name it!

TSB Managing Director Martha Cook enjoys end of summer on Buster, her Morgan.

TSB Managing Director Martha Cook enjoys end of summer on Buster, her Morgan.

However you choose to spend the first weekend after the unofficial “end of summer,” we at TSB hope it is with your horse, and it brings both of you relaxation, friendship, and hope for the autumn ahead.

You can find all the books mentioned in this post, and many more, at the TSB online bookstore. CLICK HERE TO VISIT NOW.

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RB Here

It has been professed by others before that human beings find soul on the back of a horse and solace in wide open spaces. Riding out, out into the plains, the desert, the mountains, the woodlands, allows one to get lost…and then find oneself. And the very rhythms of riding—the thud of the horse’s hooves, his breathing, the swish of his tail, the squeak of the tack—form an integral interface between human and earth.

In RIDING BARRANCA, a remarkable new book from Trafalgar Square Books, author Laura Chester has explored and described her experiences riding and searching—for resolution, for the ability to forgive and be forgiven—in the most lucid of prose. A year’s journey on horseback in such diverse settings as Arizona, Massachusetts, Mexico, India, and Australia, spurs the release of memories both bitter and joyous as she struggles to deal with her mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s Disease.

“The counterpoint of horses and family makes this book unusually satisfying,” writes Thomas Moore, bestselling author of Care of the Soul, in his foreword to the book. “This intrigue, the unanswered questions, the mysterious juxtapositions, are what makes this book, to me, a work of art.”

We caught up with Laura, currently in Arizona, and asked her to share a little about her writing, her horses, and the personal journey that makes her newest book poignant, painful, and yet ultimately, liberating.

TSB: Horses, and obviously, one particular horse (Barranca) figure prominently in your new book. What is your history with riding and horses, and what is it about both that support human growth, or recovery from loss or trauma?

LCC: Riding has always been a big part of my life. My family kept a stable of varied horses, and growing up in the country with an extended family, we often took rides together. For the most part, we had little training, but we all managed to have good seats. I grew up riding in a relaxed manner, rather than entering into the pressures of the show ring. While I am a competitive person, I’m grateful that I took the trail ride route, exploring nature on horseback. I know that a ride will almost always put me in a good mood (especially when I’m on Barranca)—for me it is a way to find my center. I don’t know how or why riding and writing can help one “work it out.” Perhaps if one is quiet and connected, then you find yourself in the moment, in a kind of reverie where thoughts come and go—it is a healing process because of the balance between presence and absence.

TSB:  You have had many books published, fiction and nonfiction. How is RIDING BARRANCA, your newest work, different from your previous titles?

LCC:  I began writing and publishing as a poet when I was a teenager, but I’ve had various books of fiction and non-fiction. I find that the different forms are like walk, trot and canter—why not try them all? My first non-fiction book was Primagravida, an account of my first pregnancy and birth. One of my favorites is Lupus Novice, which describes my encounter with the auto-immune disease of the same name. When I have an idea for a non-fiction book, like Holy Personal, the trick is to just begin, not knowing where the story will go. When I began RIDING BARRANCA, I didn’t anticipate that it would include personal family dynamics, but life itself leads the writing.

TSB: “Place” and setting play an important part in RIDING BARRANCA. Can you share a little about your home in the Berkshires and your home in Arizona, and how the two parts of the country with their very different atmospheres invite self-exploration?

LCC: You couldn’t ask for two more different environments than the Berkshires of Massachusetts and the desert of southern Arizona, but both of our homes are rather remote, set in tranquil locations. Arizona is very expansive, and tends to allow the mind to soar and empty out, while the close comforts of the East, make one go more inward—this book has elements of both—memory and release.

TSB author Laura Chester and her horse Barranca.

TSB author Laura Chester and her horse Barranca.

TSB:  Barranca is a Missouri Fox Trotter, one of four gaited horses you own. In your writing you often reference the soothing nature of your horse’s gaits. How is physical sensation an important part of emotional release?

LCC:  I feel very lucky to have discovered gaited horses in my fifties. After having two unpredictable Thoroughbred-Warmbloods, who were prone to bolt if a wild turkey flew across the trail, I was ready for something more bomb-proof. I have had a bit of trouble with my back, and I didn’t want to struggle with a horse. I simply wanted to relax and enjoy my new geldings with their gliding gaits. Each of my horses moves differently, but I rarely have the feeling that any of them would hurt me. Perhaps that feeling of confidence and relaxation allows me to have more emotional release. If one is tense and worried the opposite seems to occur. I probably experience the most enjoyment while riding Barranca, because of our heart connection and the ease he makes me feel while in the saddle. How lucky I was to find him!

TSB: RIDING BARRANCA is really a kind of travel memoir, as you bring readers along on an emotional and personal journey, while also dealing with your mother’s failing health and your relationship with her. What is it that you think readers will most identify with in this journey?

LCC: Various non-riders have already read this book and responded to my descriptions of the natural world, to my relationship with animals and family. I hope that I can bring any reader into my realm. Certainly many women have struggled with their mothers—perhaps this relationship can be one of the most difficultbut what a joy it is to be able to let go of old grievances and find compassion. I think most people want family harmony, but what a rare thing it is! When you are telling the truth, you are bound to offend somebody, but that’s the risk a writer takes. Everyone has problems, flaws and conflicts—so there is a lot to identify with here. Certainly people who already love horses will be right at home in this book, and may recognize some of my own failings and mishaps, and will join me in the many delights.

TSB: You grew up loving and riding horses, as well as writing from an early age. What was your favorite horse book as a little girl?

LCC: I was not much of a reader as a child—I liked it best when my grandmother read out loud to me, and I could get all cozy and comfortable. I remember my grandmother reading me Black Beauty and how she was so upset over the mistreatment of this poor creature that she stopped mid-sentence and could not go on for a while. I think I realized the power of the written word through her reaction. I not only sympathized with the beaten horse, but felt for my grandmother as well.

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

LCC: My very first memory was of the shadow of my rocking horse against the bedroom wall while I was lying in my crib. As I grew a bit older, I madly rode this red wooden rocking horse that propelled me back and forth on its four springs. As for “real” horses—I don’t know if I truly remember being strapped into the saddle as a two-year-old, or if I just remember the photograph. In any case, I was introduced to ponies at a very early age. Our Shetland pony, Texas, was brown and white, and I remember that he had the markings of the Lone Star State on his side. He was so small I had no fear of falling.

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

LCC: I was told repeatedly that I could not consider myself “a real rider” until I’d fallen off three times. I achieved this status early on. We were also supposed to“get back on your horse”after a fall, and I think I always did, because who would want to walk back to the barn? My favorite pony, Bunko, (shared with numerous cousins), was very naughty, and he would often canter along, and stop abruptly, putting his head down, and I would catapult over his head, but I never hurt myself falling, until I was an adult, and tried to jump my Swedish Warmblood over a stack of hay bales at dusk on a slanted hillside. He stopped and did a leap-frog jump veering off to the right and I fell and broke my arm. Arnica does help.

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

LCC: I think I like the freedom of intimacy with a friend, knowing that I can say almost anything and my confidence will be held.  Sharing humor is also a quality I enjoy, for I love to laugh and am very lucky to have wonderful women friends. What would life be without them?

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

LCC: I like the feeling of silent communion and trust. Any horse can do the unexpected, but having that basic trusting understanding with a horse, (who is also affectionate and reasonable as well as athletic and willing), is important to me.

Laura rides whenever and wherever she can!

Laura rides whenever and wherever she can!

TSB: If you could ride one place on horseback that you haven’t yet, where would it be?

LCC: Maybe on the beaches of Bali? Is that possible? I hope someday to meet up with my sons and grandsons in Bali, and ride with them there. I would also love to ride in South America—I’ve never been there, but I have to improve my Spanish first! HOLA Pinacates.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

LCC: Mario Batali once cooked a birthday dinner for my writer friend, Jim Harrison, and it was as close to a perfect meal as I can imagine. In the company of several friends, we ate one splendid course after another, and drank great wine for hours. The pasta dish in particular, with a generous portion of shaved white truffles, was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?

LCC: I especially enjoy family vacations, when my son Clovis brings my grandsons from Australia and we meet up in some exotic place. A year ago, we rented a house for a week in Maui, and it was splendid. My niece, Daphne, joined us from Hong Kong, and we also had other family members living on the island, so we had that additional personal connection. No vacation is truly perfect without a ride or two, and I was able to join my sister-in-law on her horses, riding on cliffs above the ocean, and later, Daphne and I rode on some of the most gorgeous ranch terrain—it was blissful, though our guide didn’t want us to canter—thus, returning home to one’s own good horses can be almost as sweet as escaping daily chores.

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

LCC: I think I would like to have a chat, and some tea, perhaps, with Virginia Woolf.  I admire her writing tremendously, and I can imagine sitting in her cozy English cottage and being inspired by her mere presence, not to mention her words.

Riding Barranca Final Cover webTSB: What are you working on now? Is there a new book in the works to follow RIDING BARRANCA?

LCC: It’s a little soon to begin a new book. My first copy of RIDING BARRANCA just arrived yesterday—I’m thrilled with it, but now it is time to try and do what I can to get it out into the world. I believe in allowing for some fallow time, and will not rush myself into a new project, but I do have one idea percolating—”Becoming Emily Rose”—(I often begin with a title). In this case it came from my mother-in-law, who passed away at 102. She was a great inspiration to me. My sons encouraged me to buy her house next-door to ours on Rose Hill and keep it in the family. It is a charming rabbit-warren of a place, with fabulous gardens. I am excited to begin renovation, as decorating is another one of my passions. I love color and beauty and casualness in a home, inspired comfort. I’m not quite sure what kind of book this would be, but it might begin as non-fiction and segue into fiction—so perhaps we’ll call it“friction!”

RIDING BARRANCA is available from the TSB online bookstore. CLICK HERE to read more about the book and download a FREE EXCERPT.

Books ship May 1, 2013, but PREORDER YOUR COPY today!

 

 

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