Yay or Neigh??
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Charlotte DuJardin: The Girl on the Dancing Horse MSRP: $24.95
By Nikki Alvin-Smith
I’ve taken over this review column just for today because
a) I’m a Grand Prix dressage rider
b) I’m British and so proud of Charlotte
c) Charlotte and I both grew up in the same town and experienced a very similar start to our careers with horses. Though hers obviously surmounted mine!!
If you don’t know who Charlotte DuJardin is I’m not going to explain it. Go look her up. She has achieved amazing success in the dressage ring and is so world renowned at this point if you haven’t heard of her you must be living under the proverbial ‘rock’,
Published in Britain by Penguin Random House (Preface/Cornerstone) and simultaneously by Trafalgar Square Books in the USA, there is a lot to be desired in the editing and proofreading for the American reader but nonetheless the story is one of enchantment.
We all know Charlotte is a brilliant rider but perhaps a better ghostwriter could be found to dig a little deeper into what is such a super story. The content in this book is more of a quick run through of the events of her life that sound as though they happened at warp speed. I’m sure the more recent events in Charlotte’s life may seem that way to this lovely rider, so perhaps its brusque approach is a way to make notes for future reference.
As a competitor/clinician/coach and trainer myself, I did enjoy the honesty with which Charlotte describes her ups and downs and pressures of competition. It is hard to imagine what it is like at this ethereal level of equestrian sport, and I was confounded by the pressure she had to deal with in not knowing where Valegro was going to end up ownership wise.
Charlotte’s Mom was obviously a driving force behind the start of this illustrious career by such a young British gal. The constant support of both her parents ring loud off every page, and as a young woman making her way through relationships and spousal bliss Charlotte is very honest about how difficult life can be, especially when you are forced to conduct life at a fast speed in the limelight.
As a dressage rider I would love to have seen more ‘nuts and bolts’ about dressage included in this book. So from that angle I found it disappointing. The book is clearly written more for the masses than for the dressage aficionado.
I know from attending clinics with Charlotte and Carl that they have much humor and down to earth advice to share with the equestrian community. Perhaps in time this will come to fruition with the right publisher when Charlotte has time in the busy dressage schedule of events and training to share more details of her training and story and let this knowledge unfurl its wings.
Clearly as Charlotte is so young, I cannot blame her for keeping the details a little under wraps right now while she is still so active in the ring! I would love to hear it written from her Mom’s point of view. But that is perhaps the Mom in me speaking!
Overall a fun read. A visit to one of her clinics will yield the dressage rider more insight of course. And none of us is ever tired of watching her train and ride her horses.
Fergus and the Greener Grass by Jean Abernethy $15.95
by Chelsea Smith
What on earth is Fergus up to this time? In this addition to Abernethy’s Fergus series, the comically illustrated equine is busy seeking greener pastures to satiate his greedy desire for richer, tastier grass.
During his quest, Fergus accomplishes several feats we’ve witnessed our own mighty steeds attempting, from reaching under the fence to grasp that last tempting blade of luscious yumminess to executing the classic Houdini act of undoing a lock you swore was beyond their ability to unlock.
Everything in Abernethy’s latest volume is beautifully presented, including the moral of this highly entertaining work, and the details in each illustration are as comical as they are plentiful. I’m just wondering what’s inside the barrel built into that amazing stone wall…
The Dressage Seat: Achieving a Beautiful, Effective Position in Every Gait and Movement by Anja Beran $39.95
by Chelsea Smith
Let’s start with the obvious. This book is stunning. The layout is accessible and engaging, the photographs (of which there are over 150) are crisp and brilliant, the illustrations are both humorous and educational, AND the text is concise.
Amazing. Now let’s talk about content. Beran’s information is comprehensible, and as she teaches us about what our posture should look like while we ride, she also teaches us how our posture and position inform the horse and the horse’s movements and direction.
Similar to ballroom dancing (because I know so many of you do that on your Friday and Saturday nights), posture and position is imperative to become a successful dancer. Think about it: where your feet are, which direction your toes are pointing, which way your head is turned and by how much, the straightness in your back, the angle of your shoulders, and how you move your hips (or your seat!) all alter not only how you dance, but also how your partner dances. If we apply those same principles to riding in Dressage, its no wonder that the changes we make in our position directly impacts what our horse does. Beran then delves into the psychological aspect of riding, and emphasizes that, like anything, you will be more successful if you are in a relaxed, positive, and joyful state of mind, rather than if you are in a stressed, angry, scared, or nervous one.
Let’s carry on to the second half of the book, which is dedicated to educating and improving your mind and body while off of the horse. Rife with exercises that will improve your strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination, along with information on how human anatomy works with the structure of horses, the latter half of this book is just as enhancing as the first half. So, I think it’s time to stop typing, and time to do some of those exercises. After I’ve done that, I’ll go work on my posture and position with my mighty steed, where I’m sure I’ll have that song from the King and I floating around in my head. What’s it called? Oh yes. “Shall We Dance?”
Horse Color Explored: Over 150 Breeds, Types, and Variations by Vera Kurskaya $34.95
by Chelsea Smith
This fascinating volume is more than an overview of all of the different types, breeds, and colors of horses. It is an educational book about horse color genetics that addresses the science behind why horses are the color(s) they are through succinct prose and vivid photographs.
Each color found in horses is depicted and described, and if you’ve ever wondered what your expectant mare’s foal will probably look like, Kurskaya advises on what genetic marker(s) to test for. Everything you need or want to know about horse color is included in this volume, making it a must have for anyone who loves horses and science.
Horse Speak: The Equine-Human Translation Guide by Sharon Wilsie & Gretchen Vogel. $27.95
by Chelsea Smith
As an ASL student, I know better than most the importance of reading the nuances in facial expressions and body language, yet the few times I’ve been able to read my horse accurately is when she feels extremely strongly about something.
Like her hooves being trimmed. Or the constant movement in her tummy that is turning into a foal. Other times, I’ve recognized that my horse is trying to say something, but I have no idea what it is. Fortunately for me, I now have the perfect resource with this extremely informative volume filled with photographs, tips, and valuable lessons in learning the language of horses. From their heads to their tails (literally), horses speak and the authors spend a significant portion of the book teaching the reader, not only how to read their horse’s body language, but how to communicate with them as well.
As many of you know, your horse can read your energy, and in this work, Wilsie & Vogel teach you how to direct your energy to help you communicate with your horse, and provide step-by-step lesson programs to aid you in improving your communication. A perfect addition to your collection, Horse Speak will not only enhance your horse-themed library, but also your relationship with your equine partner. Maybe becoming the next Buck Brannaman isn’t as impossible a goal as I thought…
Tame That Lizard Brain! Brain Training for Riders by Andrea Monsarrat Waldo. $18.95
by Chelsea Smith
This insightful volume by Andrea Monsarrat Waldo provides the scientific explanation for our uncontrolled reactions to various (and often terrifying) stimuli that frequently impede our ability to stay in control in the saddle (or in the saddle at all).
Waldo provides riders with the knowledge and the tools for overcoming the momentary mental lapse that occurs when our rational brain has decided to check out and leaves our lizard brain running the show at exactly the moment you really needed your rational mind to prevail. Now, if you’re not a student of psychology, you’re probably wondering what on earth a lizard brain is and what lizard brains have to do with riders.
According to the Waldo the lizard brain is the “area that includes the brain stem and amygdala” and this area controls the body’s basic functions including “breathing, heartbeat, digestion, and other ongoing processes that keep the body alive.” As humans did not develop the prefrontal cortex (aka the “rational brain”) until much later in our evolution, our instinctual response to uncomfortable, stressful, or dangerous situations is governed by our survivalist brain (aka the lizard brain). Well, this explains everything for me, does it for you? Waldo helps us out even more by pointing out that horses, as well as riders, have a lizard brain that they rely on when they get scared, and she gives us the techniques we can utilize with our lizard brained horses when they’re in their survivalist mode.
After giving us detailed plans and exercises of how we can overcome our fears and retrain our lizard brain to be a bit less… squirrely, Waldo teaches us how to use her methods of stressing less to become a better trainer and how to handle those ‘difficult’ clients. You know the ones I mean- the ones with their lizard brains running 24/7. Overall, Waldo has provided us with an engaging and empowering volume that demonstrates that it really IS all in your head.
Thelwell’s Pony Cavalcade MSRP $15.95
This classic will have you roaring with laughter. Many of us grew up reading Angels on Horseback, A Leg at Each Corner and Thelwell’s Riding Academy and it is wonderful to have this 60th anniversary celebratory publish of all three books in one cover from Trafalgar Square books.
Without question horse lovers of every age will thoroughly enjoy this book. It’ll brighten you up on even the gloomiest day! A big fat YAY on this read.
Who Doesn’t Love Thelwell?
Enter for your chance to win a FREE copy of this 60th Anniversary celebration of Thelwell humor.
Step 1. Visit our Facebook page and post a comment on your favorite Thelwellian moment with your horse
Step 2. Give our Facebook page a like
Step 3. Share the link on your Facebook page
Winner will be announced on Facebook page on April 30th and announced in our next edition of the magazine with a photo and comments.
Halter/Bridle Combination MSRP $92.95
by Chelsea Smith
If you like to trail ride then you’re going to love the flexibility of this halter/bridle combo. The leather is heavy duty and the craftsmanship/stitching and hardware are of good quality. By simply removing the bit from the attachment you can convert it quickly to a halter so your horse can be tied up and/or graze in hand. There is a lot of adjustability for fit.
A useful piece of equipment that will give years of service. Recommended.
5 in 1 Horse Riding Jacket Rose Wind/Waterproof
by Chelsea Smith
This versatile jacket reminds me of that super amazing friend at the barn who is always happy to help you out no matter what. The person who is there to help you hold your horse for the farrier or vet, bring your horse in from the paddock because it’s late and you’re stuck at work, or help you clean your tack before a horse show. No matter what you need, this jacket is the perfect fix.
I tend to run cold, so I have both the inner quilted jacket and the waterproof/windproof outer jacket on most of the time. However, when it’s one of those chilly but dry Spring days, I usually don the inner jacket because it’s warm and very comfortable. When it’s a wet autumn day, I take the inner jacket out by unzipping it from the outer shell, and I walk around in the bright pink jacket that keeps my dry and feeling very sophisticated. There is Velcro on the cuffs of the outer jacket, which allows you to tighten or loosen the cuffs depending on your preference.
Occasionally, if it’s really wet, I’ll unzip the concealed hood and wear that in place of a hat, and then roll it up when I no longer need it on. When it’s one of those too cold/now I’m too hot days, I’ll simply take the outer shell off and slip it back on without compromising my comfort or losing too much warmth by removing the entire jacket. There are pockets in both the inner and outer jackets, so you never need to be without your phone or gloves, and the inner jacket has sleeves that can be removed if you get too hot in it. So now we’ve got a vest, quilter jacket, and a waterproof/windproof jacket, and a warm winter jacket perfect for wearing anywhere for anything. I should mention that I have not one, but two of these 5 in 1 jackets, one I keep for the barn, and the other I keep as my “going to town” jacket.
The longer back on the outer shell keeps the chill from blowing up my back and the side snaps on each of the lower sides of the jacket help me have more flexibility when I’m riding. I’ve washed this jacket a plethora of times, and these things are made to last. As in, no fraying, tearing, or dulling of the fabric colors. My jackets seem to have defeated the mischievous laundry imp that always tries to ruin my clothing in one way or another, and I couldn’t be happier with this product.
Philippe Karl & High Noon Part 2 DVD MSRP $49.95
By Chelsea Smith
This DVD follows the French riding master Philippe Karl and his Hanoverian High Noon as they progress to High School dressage. While it is fun to watch and a keen eye will glean a few pointers I was disappointed overall with this DVD.
There is little advice or direct instruction shared with the viewer and while it is wonderful to see horses ridden by a professional such as Mr. Karl, it would be a much more useful DVD if some insight was given into the training methods and specific details as to the aids and directions given.
Sorry, not my favorite though a nice production from Pferdia.
The Sound Equine Halter MSRP $79.95
By Chelsea Smith
Halters, I would argue, are fairly important when dealing with horses. I mean, how else are you supposed to catch, lead, shoe, and otherwise deal with a 1,000 pound animal that doesn’t speak your language? Unless you’re one of those horse people who can teach any horse to be extremely calm, still, and respectful in every single circumstance under the sun, I’d say you need a halter.
But not one of those cheap, nylon, never lasts more than a couple years, import from India halters— no, we need something that will last. A halter is something that you only want to buy for your horse once, and if it was made in America, then you could support your own country while doing so. With the black leather halter from The Sound Equine, you get several things: a tough, American made, handsome, comfortable, and adjustable halter that you will only have to buy once.
I love it— the strong black leather and brass buckles provide functionality and style, while the neat stitching gives the halter the sophisticated look I want at a show; my horse also loves it. He’s always happy to put it on. Or maybe that’s because we’re going outside? Either way, the halter is easy to put on and take off, and the rounded buckles make sure my horse is comfortable and safe. So try it. You’ll only have to buy it once, and when everyone admires your good taste in halters and horses, you’ll be the talk of the barn.
FITS Breeches Tech Tread Full Seat High Tech MSRP $127.99
by Chelsea Smith
Let’s talk about technology. Fabric technology. What if there was a pair of breeches that used environmentally safe ink and shoe tread technology to provide unrivaled gripping power for riders? What if this fabric was lightweight and composed of 14% Lycra to help prevent muscle fatigue while simultaneously giving the rider the correct amount of grip no matter where they are in the saddle?
Let’s imagine all of the positive aspects of such a pair of breeches: We could stop wearing chaps— those things are so bulky!; we could ride for longer without our legs protesting loudly during the ride; we could be nice and cool while riding for longer during the hot summer months; and we could stop worrying about our grip and focus on our seats! Well, engaged reader, guess what- we live in a world where this fabric technology AND this magical pair of breeches do exist, and you can find it in the new line by FITS. This particular product is called the “FITS Breech Tech Tread Full Seat,” and gives us more than the aforementioned positive aspects of donning such a pair of breeches— convenience.
With machine washable fabric that sheds a variety of small (and annoying) particles, such as shavings and dirt, and a cargo pocket suitable for holding a phone or whatever else one might need, these breeches are incredible. Comfortable, lightweight, and practical, FITS offers this product in four different colors: Lead, Coffee, Black, and Sahara. I highly recommend giving these breeches a try— if not, I’ll still be sailing by you with my Kastel Denmark Christine Soft Shell Riding Jacket, only this time I’ll have the best breeches around on, and you’ll be stuck wondering where you went wrong. But we’d both already know the answer to that, wouldn’t we.
Christine Soft Shell Riding Jacket MSRP $98.99
by Chelsea Smith
The following are generally considered to be oxymorons: stylish and comfortable; lightweight and warm; water resistant and machine washable. However, the Christine Soft Shell Riding Jacket from Kastel Denmark is all of the above, with an interior liner that compliments the exterior of the jacket, both aesthetically and functionally.
If you’re looking for an article of clothing to wear while riding that looks and feels great, but won’t fall apart with extended use, then this is the jacket for you; however, if you’re more than happy to continue wearing your restrictive, cumbersome, and hard-to-clean (and let’s face it, probably unflattering) excuse of a riding jacket, then go on ahead—I can say that I’ll be sailing past you, looking and feeling fantastic on my mighty steed, while you sit stationary on your strange pony.
Equifit's D-Teq Splint Boots MSRP $220 Front $205 Hinds
Probably one of the best impact absorbing boots available on the market right now. The high tech Equifit product line released this boot in a variety of colors, and may also be customized with barn logos and special color combos. The most popular seller is the Black Ostrich.
The amazing feature of the high tech washable liners that go from soft to hard on impact make this a stand out product. The workmanship on the boots is excellent.
Offered in front and hind leg designs. I saw a definitive improvement in my horse's confidence with strides up to the fence after using these boots for a short period. Useful for all disciplines not just jumping. A super product to protect your horse. A big YAY from me.
Anatomically molded outer shell:
Virtually unbreakable shock absorber
Three 1.25" wide straps to eliminate pressure points
Transform from soft to rigid upon impact
Mold to leg for custom fit
Breathable & cool
Easy to wash and quick to dry.
Yay or Neigh??
EZ Breech by Devon-Aire MSRP $99.95
The new and improved, two-in-one riding breeches! Chaps and breeches- the best of riding apparel! This product is the ultimate cross between Western and English riding styles- the grip of chaps, sewn into the form fitting, elegant style of English breeches. One may inquire as to the bulky nature of chaps- how does that work with breeches? The answer is quite simple- relatively flawlessly. The chap aspect of these jods is cleverly designed to move with the material into which the chaps are sewn.
If you are looking for something that will increase your leather on leather contact, but hate having to remove or adorn the (sometimes) awkward chaps and despise having to wear chaps around the barn, this is the perfect compromise. While these jods are, most emphatically, not chaps, they do offer a perfect middle road.
If you are a rider concerned by appearances- you want some of the Western chap functionality, but not the look of Western riding, the EZ Breech works in your favor. These breeches sport a boot-cut, are very comfortable to wear, in addition to being very easy to care for (machine washable, AND retains its elasticity). Material is a comfortable and easy to wear 5% Lycra and 95% Elastin. These breeches maintain their shape, and provide necessary support while in the saddle.
Colors available include tan, chocolate and black and a range of ladies sizes from S through XL.
The Yay or Neigh Column is written by
Chelsea V. Smith
Chelsea V. Smith, is Assistant Editor to the team. Chelsea recently graduated from the University of Vermont (UVM) with a Masters in History, and also holds a B.A. in History with English and International Studies minor, from Susquehanna University, P.A. During her time at UVM Chelsea worked in the writing field, dedicating a year to working on a project to train professors how to teach writing skills to students of all levels within the University. Chelsea is a published writer, has presented her writings across the country as far West as Montana, and has presented her published works up and down the East Coast including locally at the Historical Society of Gilboa, NY.
While Chelsea has had to put her equestrian activities on hold due to work, travel and study schedules, she has trained in multiple disciplines including hunter/jumpers and also dressage and has worked with several noted trainers in those disciplines.