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Karen Robertson on Carlos at the Rose City Opener National Hunter Derby, Bend, Oregon (photo courtesy of Barbara Dudley).

TSB author Karen Robertson mulls over her upcoming date with The One and Only.

I started considered riding in a George Morris clinic in recent years. I know, I know… most of you are probably wondering why on earth I’d throw myself into the fire like that. And you’re right – I’m kind of freaking out about it. I’ve been freaking out for months! I haven’t ridden without stirrups enough and I’m not someone who rides five horses a day with a perfect position. George is sure to tell me my stirrup isn’t the correct angle on the ball of my foot, my leg isn’t strong enough, my hand isn’t educated enough, and that I sit “like a soup sandwich.” If I’m really lucky, he might even run behind me with a longe whip while I struggle to jump the water.

All that makes my heart race. Over the past five months I haven’t gone a day without thinking about the clinic. It truly scares me to put myself on a horse in front of George. He has laid eyes on every great hunter or jumper rider in the world for over six decades…and now he’s going to lay eyes on me.

Gulp.

I’m doing this for two reasons: My riding has in the last decade or so (I’m 39) begun resembling correct fundamentals to the extent that I think I can hold my own in this particular clinic that has a 1.00 meter group. And secondly, I helped George pen UNRELENTING, his no-holds-barred autobiography published last year. Working on UNRELENTING with George was like getting a whole new education on my best-loved sport. Just by being in George’s orbit, my ambition caught fire to work harder, be bolder, and take more risks. I’ve watched a dozen clinics first-hand over the past five years, and I know what he expects from riders. Now it’s my turn. And in one week, my friend and I will drive seven hours north with our horses to Potcreek Meadow Farm in Washington to ride with George.

K&GHM

Karen and George working on UNRELENTING in September 2015 (photo courtesy of Barbara Dudley).

Hang on, I had to put my head between my knees and breath deeply for a second there. Whew. Okay. I’m back.

What will it be like for me to ride with George? To feel those eyes that have an unmatched ability to instantly size up a rider and horse and then, in every pair’s case, fit a specific but well-worn key of wisdom into the right lock to help them reach their potential? What will it feel like to hear his deep, satisfied cry of “Thaaaaat’s it!” if I deliver what he commands?

I can only imagine how it will feel, but I hope that I have enough calm in my mind that I can absorb and enjoy the experience. No matter how well I ride each clinic day or what mistakes I ride through, the bottom line is that I will be riding with him: the timid boy too afraid to be off the lead line who became The Godfather of Hunt Seat Equitation and Chef d’Equipe of the Olympic Show Jumping Team; the reproach-impervious master who walks the fiery line between motivator and intimidator; the same coach who fifty years ago inspired a wily crew of American women to reach beyond their wildest dreams on the international show jumping stage and end the decades-long reign of European men.

George is also my dear friend. When I first met him in 2013, it took only hours for us to form a kinship that transcended the book and the horse world. With a kind of glee, we recognized in each other the same kind of professional ambition flanked by a sometimes reckless need for letting ourselves go and being wild. We grew close over the three years, and he listened kindly and gave me advice when I had hardship in my life. George shared his thoughts and feelings with me unreservedly, and I had the honor to hear hundreds of hours of stories from his life…only some of which made the book but which all fit together to help me understand how he wanted to tell his story. I was struck with awe and amusement in the moments I looked in at myself – sitting across from him at lunch or next to him as he drove the car or by his bedside interviewing him – when I wondered, “How did I get here? How is this my life? This is absolutely unbelievable that I get to be here.” It made me want to cry and laugh and collapse in wonder.

Riding with George will be a whole new relationship paradigm for us, and I will ride onto that grass field with no expectations for special treatment. I know he will measure me in a new way: as a rider and horsewoman rather than a writer and a friend. I’m a little afraid that he might lose respect for me if I’m not a sharp enough rider, but I hope so completely that this experience will bring us even closer.

This is scary, to take this risk. But sometimes you say yes to scary and the rewards are better than any ordinary day ever could be.

When I asked my childhood show jumping heroes during interviews for UNRELENTING what it was like to have George take them to the ring when the stakes were high, they all said that their trust in George and his belief that they could win made them feel like they could jump anything – A house! The moon! Besides the incredible learning opportunities, and taking to heart the critical comments (of which there are bound to be many), what I really want to feel in the clinic is just one moment where his voice lifts me up and I feel invincible.

 

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Karen and Carlos at HITS Coachella Desert Circuit, January 2016 (photo by Jose Ruiz).

Read Karen Robertson’s follow-up post, written after her clinic with George Morris, here.

 

UNRELENTING by George Morris with Karen Robertson, is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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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TSB caught up with Anne Gribbons, FEI/USEF dressage judge, former Technical Director of the US Dressage Team, and author of the wonderful book of “dressage time travel” COLLECTIVE REMARKS, and we asked for her thoughts on the 2016 Olympic Dressage competition, underway now in Rio de Janeiro. Here are her insights as we begin Day 2. (For Anne’s refreshingly honest and brutally funny perspective on past Olympics and other international competitions, as well as all manner of dressage-related subjects, check out COLLECTIVE REMARKS!)

 

ANNE & STEFAN

Anne Gribbons with Steffen Peters in 2010.

 

After all the misgivings about Brazil not being able to handle the Olympics, it has come out of the starting box with flair. The eventing coverage was fabulous, the cross-country course beautiful and challenging, and the surprises many. Perhaps that is why I will always love combined training the most, because things can change in a heartbeat and each second can present a different landscape. And you can actually be competing, driving home without a ribbon, and still completely elated because the horse jumped so well it made your heart sing. Obviously, this is not the feeling you would have if something  goes awry on the Olympic course, and I am sure both Phillip Dutton and Ingrid Klimke were less than amused after brilliant dressage rides with the odd mishaps they had, which completely changed their standings at the top. 

Now the dressage is on, where the risk is limited and the element of surprise is a rarity. At this level, we expect each equipage to know its lessons well, and few mishaps to occur in the test. What we look for and revel in is the finely tuned communication between horse and rider. We search for  the balance, the self-carriage, the connection between the hand of the rider and the mouth of the horse. Harmony and yet full power when horse  and rider together reach for their ultimate best is what thrills us and keeps us glued to the screen. Watching it at home is a miracle, until it is not. When the streaming  momentarily shuts off, you get rudely pulled back to reality. With impeccable timing, this happens just as your country’s horse enters the ring. 

And I mentioned no surprises? Well, not true the first day when the Dutch star Parzival was retired by his rider who felt he was not quite up to the task. Good horsemanship, but a blow to the Dutch team, while it gave an opening to the Americans. We are talking fractions of a point here, and with no drop score left, the Dutch are more vulnerable. Since Kasey Perry-Glass had a very solid ride once she got past the first five movements when Dublet was busy in the mouth and Kasey was a bit tense, our chances looked even better after her ride. The Germans are powering on, and nobody expects any other team to catch up with them. In spite of one imploding pirouette and another weak one, Dorothee Schneider showed such strength in the rest of her work on Showtime that they gathered over 80%. And the 21-year-old Sönke Rothenberger who went first in the German team on his 10-year-old horse shows all the signs of growing up in a horse family. He admits he gets help from his father, Olympic rider Sven Rothenberger, but insists that his true calling is actually jumping. Well, if dressage is only his sideline, wait until he focuses on it! 

Riding for England, Fiona Bigwood had a very impressive ride on a wonderfully elastic and submissive mare named Orthilia. Imagine coming back from an injury that robs you of sight in one eye and putting on such a spot-on performance where balance and accuracy is of essence. Hats off to this lady who received a well-earned 77-plus% as a forerunner to more great scores expected by the remaining Brits, who are expected to finish in at least silver position. 

And then there is the US with four great quality horses and well prepared riders. Over the last two years all these combinations have gradually become more seasoned. Except for Roosevelt, I know all the team horses very well, and I am well aware of  the capacity of each. We already saw what Dublet was able to do, and believe me, there is so much more in that horse! Verdades is becoming seasoned and stronger and should have no trouble staying as focused on Laura Graves as he usually is in this comparatively quiet atmosphere. I can understand why the Chef D’ Equipe would make that combination the anchor by putting them last, because Legolas can, at times, be a little too fired up and lose concentration. However, Steffen Peters’ masterly riding has overcome that tendency in his shows as lately, and when they are on, he and Legolas can gather many valuable points. 

So, when I am writing this I am, like all of you, keeping my fingers crossed and hopes high for our team. Go USA!

–Anne Gribbons

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

COLLECTIVE REMARKS by Anne Gribbons 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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Photo by Keron Psillas.

Photo by Keron Psillas.

 

In their new book THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN, world-renowned veterinarian and author Dr. Allen Schoen and long-time trainer and competitor Susan Gordon introduce the 25 Principles of Compassionate Equitation, a set of developmental guidelines that encourage a profound level of personal awareness during not only interactions with horses, but with all sentient beings. By developing deeper compassion for our horses—and for ourselves—equestrians take the first step on a path to transcending differences and disagreements, learning instead to empathize and connect more closely with the “global collective” of horses and horse people.

The 25 Principles are simple changes any horseperson can make that will ultimately have a vast impact on his or her relationship with the horse, the state of the horse industry, and the world as a whole.

In chapter 11 of THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN, Dr. Schoen and Gordon discuss the concept of training with common sense:

Principle 11 states: We acknowledge that common sense is a component of compassion. We agree that our hearts be open to the bigger picture of how the horse industry has evolved, and how it will evolve into the future, as kindness, tolerance, and forgiveness are restored to all aspects of the equestrian world.

We must be sure we do not mistake compassion for being overly naive about a horse and allowing dangerous behavior, or putting ourselves or the horse in jeopardy.

Discipline—distinguished from punishment—is common sense. An animal (or human) that doesn’t known appropriate boundaries can be dangerous. As the behaviors of a spoiled horse can often mimic behaviors of a horse responding to pain, it is important to be as clear as possible in determining the difference. Spoiled or in pain, the horse’s size and quick reactions can lead to injuries for a human handler.

By using common sense and having respect for yourself and your horse, you are being compassionate because you are not increasing risks for the animal. If the horse is spoiled and allowed to continue to be, somebody else will have to discipline him. The horse may also inadvertently harm another being.

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

It is compassionate for all involved to have a well-trained, well-behaved horse that won’t be in the position of having bitten, kicked, pushed, or run away with someone. Practical horsemanship is based in common sense and designed for the safety and welfare of both horses and their human handlers and riders….We do not want to see compassion mistaken as a lack of common sense regarding the training and handling of horses. With this in mind, when compassionately applying common sense to horsemanship, follow these basic guidelines:

– Be nice to your horse, but teach boundaries.

– When something appears to be causing your horse pain and discomfort, acknowledge it.

– Trust your instincts if you feel a training method is detrimental to your horse’s progress, or mental or physical well-being.

– Listen to your veterinarian, farrier, and other knowledgeable individuals if they question your horse’s behavior.

– Be humble enough to ask for help when you are unable to correct your horse’s behavior by yourself.

– Do not breed poor-quality horses with conformation faults and genetic predisposition to disease.

 

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

 

For more information about The Compassionate Equestrian Movement, visit www.TheCompassionateEquestrian.com.

 

THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN is both ahead of its time yet remarkably ancient in its wisdom and fundamental teachings. Based in art and proven modern science, the 25 Principles are a priceless collection of universal values, methods, and techniques that will greatly improve the mind and body of both horse and rider. This impactful book is loaded with with valuable lifelong lessons that place compassion and empathy at their core. It will enable readers to develop and sustain meaningful, respectful, and successful partnerships with their horses.”

—Philip E. Richter, Treasurer, USET Foundation

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JimAbsorb

We at TSB are thrilled to have Jim Masterson, author of the bestselling book BEYOND HORSE MASSAGE and the accompanying DVD by the same name, as well as the new DVD DRESSAGE MOVEMENTS REVEALED, team up with Absorbine®!

Yesterday Absorbine announced their sponsorship of The Masterson Method as an excellent addition to their long tradition of equine wellness.

“Jim Masterson and his revolutionary method of equine massage align naturally with Absorbine products and our mission,” says Chris Jacobi, General Manager of the Equine Division at Absorbine. “The Masterson Method’s innovative technique, concern for wellness, and celebration of the human–equine bond are qualities that our products can stand by, and we have witnessed the impressive results ourselves. We are excited to engage in this new partnership, and look forward to expanding the ways in which we offer superior muscle and joint care for horses.”

The partnership between Absorbine and The Masterson Method has been formed in an effort to help educate horse owners on how they can more completely address stress in their horses’ bodies, leading to top performance and a great attitude, and fittingly will officially kick off at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, taking place August 23 through September 7. Jim is attending WEG as the Official Equine Massage Therapist for the USET Endurance Team, a role he has filled for them in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012.

 

Find out more about Jim’s book BEYOND HORSE MASSAGE and his DVDs BEYOND HORSE MASSAGE and DRESSAGE MOVEMENTS REVEALED at the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

 

CLICK HERE TO SEE JIM MASTERSON’S BOOK AND DVDS NOW

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TSB had a great time at the Dressage Festival of Champions this weekend! Here Tina Konyot congratulates Calecto V on a job well done.

TSB had a great time at the Dressage Festival of Champions this weekend! Here Tina Konyot congratulates Calecto V on a job well done.

 

Trafalgar Square Books (www.horseandriderbooks.com) is just back from a weekend on the hallowed ground of the United States Equestrian Team’s (USET) headquarters in Gladstone, New Jersey. There some of our nation’s best dressage riders, horses, judges, and luminaries gathered to award our national championships, and to select the short list of rider-horse combinations who will represent the US at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, August 23 through September 7, 2014.

It was a great weekend of dressage, from the ponies to the Grand Prix. And between ogling the Welsh cobs and their immense cuteness and admiring the unbelievable mirror-like gleam of Lisa Wilcox’s riding boots, we also learned a thing or two.

 

1  Even on the hottest days, metal bleachers are cold on your rear. And they are the hardest thing you’ve ever sat on—especially after five hours of freestyles. Note to self: Bring stadium seating next time.

2  All-wheel drive is as important in New Jersey as it is in Vermont. After thunderstorms and heavy rainfall on Friday, Saturday morning dawned wet and muddy. The romance of parking in the same fields de Nemethy and Chapot once rode through evaporates fairly quickly when your tires sink a good 4 inches and the convertible next to you looks like it spent the weekend on a class-4 road in New England in April.

3  Even dressage riders rock out to Eminem. Case in point: Chris Hickey’s I1 freestyle on Ronaldo.

4  It is entirely possible to kick butt at Grand Prix in your twenties! Go Laura Graves! Yeah Caroline Roffman!

5  You should come to these events willing to ingest multiple orders of french fries at various times throughout the day. Note to self: Bring Tums next time.

6  Dressage judges work incredibly long days. The Festival’s jury, which included TSB authors Janet Foy and Anne Gribbons, left their assigned posts only during scheduled 15-minute breaks, breaks between classes, and when the last score had been tallied each evening. I have a newfound respect for dressage judges (and scribes, and runners, and other show staff) for their focus, attention, and the great care they give their own performance in “grading” the riders and horses appearing before them. Not to mention their appearance…all the judges looked great, all weekend long. Bravo! And in case we all don’t say it often enough: THANK YOU.

Seriously, how DOES Lisa Wilcox get her boots to shine like that?

8  It helps the riders get through their pirouettes if all the spectators in the stands cluck together under their breath.

9  Spectators at events own big dogs. Spectators at dressage shows own small dogs. I don’t know why, it’s just a thing.

10  It still feels pretty darn special to wander through the Rotunda at Gladstone and imagine training with our country’s past greats in the USET headquarters’ heyday back in the 1960s. If you ever harbored a fantasy, however momentary, of riding for the US in the Olympics one day, make the pilgrimage to the old Hamilton Farm in Gladstone, New Jersey. Although time has surely changed it, you can still tick it off your horsey bucket list.

11  Buy yourself a USEF hat or jacket emblazoned with USA and support our equestrian athletes. It looks like it will be an exciting year!

 

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The USEF named the following short list for WEG 2014 following the weekend’s dressage competition:

 

Steffen Peters (San Diego, Calif.) and Four Winds Farm’s Legolas 92

Laura Graves (Geneva, Fla.) and her own Verdades

Jan Ebeling (Moorpark, Calif.) and Beth Meyer, Ann Romney, and Amy Ebeling’s Rafalca

Adrienne Lyle (Ketchum, Idaho) and Peggy Thomas’ Wizard

Tina Konyot (Palm City, Fla.) and her own Calecto V

Caroline Roffman (Wellington, Fla.) and her own Her Highness O

Shelly Francis (Loxahatchee, Fla.) and Patricia Stempel’s Doktor

Lisa Wilcox (Loxahatchee, Fla.) and Betty Wells’ Denzello

 

FEI/USEF dressage judge Janet Foy is the author of the bestselling DRESSAGE FOR THE NOT-SO-PERFECT HORSE. For more about her book, CLICK HERE.

FEI/USEF dressage judge Anne Gribbons is the author of COLLECTIVE REMARKS, which is due to be released in August and is available for PREORDER HERE.

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The United States Equestrian Team Foundation recently announced that Phillip and Evie Dutton will be hosting their fourth annual Olympic Gala in Aiken, South Carolina, on Friday, March 16, 2012 at 7:00 pm at Bridle Creek, their winter training facility. The night will bring the Aiken community together to enjoy a cocktails, a buffet, dancing, and a silent auction while supporting the U.S. Eventing High Performance programs with a portion of the proceeds going to the USET Foundation.

“We are very excited to be hosting the benefit again for the Eventing Team with the lead up to the London Olympics,” explained Evie. “It’s a great night out for the Aiken community and a lot of fun for everybody while supporting a great cause.”

The event features top event riders Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin as the Celebrity Hosts, and guests can enjoy an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, a raffle and silent auction, and dancing to the music of Preston and Weston.

Some of this year’s silent auction items will include a carriage ride and picnic lunch for four, a Charles Owen helmet, a Dutton-RZ saddle, two Bit of Britain Bridles, and a $100 gift certificate plus a copy of Denny Emerson’s bestselling HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD from Trafalgar Square Books.

To purchase tickets to the gala, please visit http://www.BridleCreekAiken.com.

WATCH FOR THE FORTHCOMING BOOK BY PHILLIP DUTTON, COMING SOON FROM TRAFALGAR SQUARE BOOKS!

Stay tuned to our blog and online bookstore www.horseandriderbooks.com, for pre-order specials and release dates.

And don’t forget to support the USET Foundation in this Olympic year!

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