Happy New Year! The festivities are over. The new year has sprung.
What a perfect time to kick back, grab a book and spend some time in quiet contemplation! Do you feel like reading a book?
In previous articles, I have often encouraged you to include reading about horses and riding as part of your "study". In no particular order, here are 9 books that have made significant impact on me over the years.
The books are from various riding disciplines. Click on the images for more information about each book. Some are new and some have been around for decades, but all continue to be relevant and inspiring in their own way.
The Athletic Development of the Dressage Horse by Charles de Kunffy, 1992. Howell Book House, New York.
This book is one of those all-time go-to books about horse training and dressage. And if you're an avid reader of this blog, you might notice that I mention Charles de Kunffy books repeatedly. They have made an incredible impact on my understanding of riding horses and dressage.
I've had this book for too many years to mention. But what has amazed me is that I've gleaned new information from each and every reading. Initially, I read through the whole thing, even the parts that were far beyond my scope at the time. Then as I came back to the book year to year, I would be able to understand more and relate better to the concepts of feel and timing that he discusses.
What is special about this book is that although there is considerable discussion about some of the basic aspects of dressage such as training, instruction and the rider, the majority of it is dedicated to "manege patterns" that develop the horse's suppleness, engagement and gaits. You can use the patterns at different points of development. They begin with basic gymnastics and move on to more advanced patterns at the end of the book.
Get this book if you are looking for quality training exercises.
If you're into poetry, this book is for you! It's not just any book with a bunch of horsey poems. This is a thorough collection of poems that have been written over the generations. You can find the likes of Yeats, Blake, Lawrence and Kipling, all the way to Homer, Shakespeare, Chaucer, and even lesser known authors.
What I like most about the book is that unlike horse poetry where there is a token horse mentioned in an otherwise non-equine related verse, these works are entirely horse-centered. You read about horses by authors who knew horses.
This book is for you if you are lyrically inclined and love horses.
Aside from the fact that I was lucky enough to watch Susan Harris in action several times over the years, her books are clear and complete and superbly illustrated. Besides being a fantastic author, she is also an equally accomplished artist, and the drawings in this book tie in to her explanations in a way that books rarely do.
Susan Harris was one of the first to demonstrate "painted horses" with the bones and muscles drawn on live horses. She simply drew the horse's bones and muscles on each side of the body and then put him in motion. Then she explained his movement and how conformation relates to gaits.
This book is an indispensable resource about horse conformation, biomechanics, gait and balance. Read it if you want to learn more about the intricacies of horse and rider movement.
Go the Distance: The Complete Resource for Endurance Horses by Nancy S Loving, DVM, 1997. Trafalgar Square Publishing, North Pomfret, Vermont.
This book is a throwback to my endurance days. One of the most important things I learned from long distance trail is how to properly condition a horse. This book covers everything from tack to nutrition and conditioning principles to how to maintain health and soundness. Although the book is endurance specific, the goal of the author is to help the you assess and create a program for your particular horse.
Whether you ride endurance or not, every horse benefits from a carefully developed conditioning program. Done properly, you can use a well thought-out schedule to help keep your horse healthy and performing well over the long term.
Read this book if you want detailed information about horse health, performance and soundness from a trail riding perspective.
That Winning Feeling! A New Approach to Riding Using Psychocybernetics by Jane Savoie, 1992. Trafalgar Square Publishing, North Pomfret, Vermont.
Jane Savoie is one of my all-time favorite clinicians and authors. I like this book in particular because although the title leads you to think that the book is about competition dressage, the contents lend themselves to everything else including just how to get along better in life. The author has an easy way of explaining many things critical to goal setting, evaluating your beliefs and values, and understanding how mental training affects physical performance.
Although the book is all about horses, riding and showing, it's also all about personal development and training. I've often mentioned how horse riding is a vehicle for self-development, and this book is like a blueprint that takes you through the mental and physical path of becoming successful at horse shows, but more importantly, at everything else in life!
Balance in Movement: How to Achieve the Perfect Seat by Suzanne Von Dietze, 2005. Trafalgar Square Publishing, North Pomfret, Vermont.
The rider's body.
This book is all about you. How to use your seat. How to be more balanced on the horse. How to become more flexible.
Get this book if you want to learn all about leaning, collapsing, chair seat, proper use of aids and much more. Although there is no replacement for an eye on the ground to help you develop correct feel of your body, aids and balance, this book can fill in any gaps of understanding you might have about how you can find your way to riding "as one" with the horse.
There are practical exercises you can try on your horse to develop flexibility and balance. There are specific analyses of various body types and corrections for common problems.
It helps that Suzanne Von Dietz is not only a top-level dressage rider, but also a physiotherapist. She brings both her riding and anatomical understanding to the topics in this book. Read this one if you want to develop your own skills and physical awareness.
So there you have it. These are a few of the books that I have in my bookshelf that have made significant impact on my understanding of riding, training and horses.
What books have impacted your riding life? Let us know in the comments below.
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