Back To School Reading ListPosted on August 21, 2016
Hopefully you got all of your trashy reading done at the beach this summer, because now it’s time to go back to school and hit the (more serious) books. Even if you’re not going “back to school”, the fall is still a great transitional time to think about how you’re training your horse, goals for fall, and what you’re going to work on this winter. The following reading list is a balance between practical training, philosophical training, and biomechanics.
1. Dressage For The Not-So-Perfect Horse by Janet Foy
How many of us have a Valegro in our barn? Maybe a Verdades? Didn’t think so. When I ride my OTTB I may think/feel that I’m riding in the Olympics, especially when he does something spectacular like, say, go on the bit, but the truth is he’s far from being ready for the big tour (or any kind of tour besides a tour of the property he lives on). Janet Foy understands that most amateur riders are on the same kind of horse, and the subtitle sells it: “Riding Through the Levels on the Peculiar, Opinionated, Complicated Mounts We All Love.” Yes! That’s me! Sold! This book is a page turner for the dressage nerd. It’s broken down quite cleverly by level, and addresses each movement individually. But unlike most books that only (only!) tell you how to perform a movement, such as a half-halt, Foy immediately jumps into all the things that are going to go wrong, provided in numerical order. She then goes on to tell you how to address each evasion your horse is likely to throw your way. Because we all know it isn’t as simple as inside leg/outside rein and then BOOM, Olympics.
2. Tug Of War: Classical Versus “Modern” Dressage by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann
This book has become something of a classic (some may argue, cult classic) in recent years. If I were the editor I would have subtitled this book “All The Reasons Rollkur Is Bad”. If you’ve ever wondered why rollkur/hyperflexion is bad, this book illustrates all the reasons exactly. In detail. Dr. Heushmann discusses the physical, psychological, and emotional reasons why riding a horse in hyperflexion is damaging, and it all makes sense. The illustrations and images are effective, some disturbing, and a few recognizable if you follow gossip on the internet. Lastly, Dr. Heushmann reviews what kind training and tack are supposed to look like, and how to create a happy athlete.
3. Suffering In Silence by Jochen Schleese
This is a nice companion to Tug Of War, and since Dr. Heuschmann actually writes the foreward, you can be sure it’s contents are within the same vein. Now let’s be real, this text has a bias. If you’re not aware of who Jochen Schleese is, let me introduce you. He is the creator of Schleese Saddlery Service, Ltd., and this book is a good argument for why you should buy one of their saddles. To his credit, Schleese never says “Buy my saddles! Only my saddles will do!” Which I appreciate. Full disclaimer: I own two Schleese saddles and love them dearly. Even so, I went into this read with a critical lens, and was very pleased with what I found. The first time Mr. Schleese saw my horse, he deemed his back shape a “jumper/eventer nightmare”, (#withersfordays) which sums up nicely why I could never find a saddle to truly fit him. This book further explains why. Not only does Schleese give you an anatomy lesson for the horse as it relates to saddle fit, but human conformation and saddle fit as well. This is equally interesting. I will never look at my thighs the same way again.
4. Sport Horse Conformation by Christian Schacht
I have learned more from this book than perhaps any other horse book I’ve read in a very, very long time. One of the most interesting facts I learned was that the horse has two different front feet: one is round and one is oval. The round foot is for load bearing, while the oval foot is for impulsion. The mane often falls on the side of the oval foot. Naturally, I ran out to the barn to look at Derby for a fidelity check. True, true, and true. Also, the length of the horse’s head matches the length of several other parts of his body if he is truly in conformational harmony. These equal parts include: the shoulder, point of hock to ground, point of hock to stifle, depth of the horse, stifle to croup, and ground to the chestnut on the front limbs. Fascinating.