Horse Books

Amanda started a hop about horse books and what we have in our personal libraries. I realize that this isn’t about horse fiction or poetry, or coffee table books, but I am including those anyway, mainly to demonstrate the slightly outdated and somewhat eclectic nature of my equestrian book collection. Although I am a librarian, my personal book collection is completely disorganized.

First, my recent favorite … who else shelves the Klimkes in between Faulkner and Jean Valentine? I love raised poles/tiny jumps and work over them frequently with Eli. I find at the walk to be the most challenging because Eli doesn’t so much walk as he does mosey, so he has to pay attention and march with the cavalletti.

Next is this little group. I use the Linda Allen one A LOT for ideas. Also, The Ultimate Horse Book … where do I start? This was exactly the type of book I spent hours poring over as a tween and teen. And it has some quirky gems that when I see them now, I’m like, did y’all just make this up?

Anyone familiar with this breed? Don’t worry, the book also has practical information, too. Such as recognizable breeds (apologies to any Furioso devotees out there) and illustrations of gaits.

I studied gaits pretty thoroughly in book form, less thoroughly in real life until I had my first horse. It’s immensely helpful to me to see the footfalls drawn out explicitly so I have a mental image to go along with what I can (or can’t) feel under saddle.

Another coffee table book? I am not sorry. This one is gorgeous.

I have required horse person fiction shelved with … other stuff.

Not to worry, though. More reference volumes, coffee table books, and classics are in my collection. You can see the riding books slant toward the hunter/jumper end of things, with bits and pieces of dressage stuff. I also have early editions of a lot of the reference/care books. Newer ones are available, so my collection might not have the most recent knowledge or best information, but what an interesting time capsule, complete with advice on ear-twitching foals … ew. But the George Morris and the Anne Kursinski are crucial for h/j types.

Speaking of crucial, more Morris and some Steinkraus grace my pile of what I’m reading right now. Or trying to read. And not fall asleep dreaming of puffins and sled dogs (I haven’t gotten very deep into the Shackleton yet so it’s quite pleasant so far).

Does Ariel count because it was the name of Sylvia Plath’s horse?

Back to reference. This is a well-worn tome that I arduously studied as a youth. I am sort of a sucker for information presented in encyclopedic format complete with color illustrations — I have similar books on birds and rocks and dogs. There lives within my brain a tiny little Victorian-era naturalist that I must sate on the reg.

I mentioned bits and pieces of dressage … really, just this book and the Klimkes stand out to me. This post also reminded me to order the Xenophon, speaking of classical horsemanship. So that will be added to my pile of nightstand books.

Got say it: you may as well skip the Billy Collins. I have no memory of even reading it, it stood out so little to me. The Monk is a really goofy, fun Gothic romp, though.

I have the 2001 edition of this title and I think a 2007 edition is available, and I am sure even more recent information is available, but this book emphasizes the importance of forage in the equine diet, and I highlighted lots of stuff in it.

More hay, everybody. More hay. But do you see the line just above where I highlighted? Yeah, no, we can and should actually give water after exercise. Unless it’s really hard exercise, then I think it’s more of a tailored plan among rider, owner, and veterinarian to provide water safely in smaller amounts after crazy difficult workouts like upper level xc. That could be what the author was getting at, but the lack of clarification could be cause for continued confusion over whether to offer water to horses after exercise — for a very, very long time we were all told not to, in many cases by otherwise knowledgeable horse people we looked to as mentors and teachers. Like I said, time capsule. Eli gets to drink water out of one of those little 8-qt. buckets before and after exercise.

The book also presents data in easy-to-understand charts and other illustrations. This might actually be the most-used book of my collection, so I should probably seek out a more recent edition or any other new books on equine nutrition.

So my collection of equestrian books is pretty all-over-the-place, both in topic, tone, and physical location on my book shelves.

Dream Horse

A while back, Olivia posed the question, “what is your perfect horse?” I thought about this a lot and kept coming to the same conclusion.

My desires are simple — I like thoroughbreds that can jump well. I prefer a gelding, and something in the brown category, probably 16hh, and something with genuine streak of wanting to try. I thought about what if money were no object and I could import or breed something with tons of scope and an amateur-friendly attitude. What if I could get one that doesn’t colic and never goes lame. Or if I could have a young one with proven success in competition and we could go over to Europe and blah blah blah.

That’s a lot of ifs, and I hate flying … don’t think I am not drooling over Diarado progeny at this point, but I also recognize dreaming within my limits is ultimately much more satisfying because I can live those dreams.

Derbies are not off the table.

My severely-biased reality is this: I have my dream horse. For a little while, after I sold a very successful adult/children’s jumper, I lost some interest in riding and all interest in competition. I was simply happy to hack around on whatever sale horses needed some exercise and my interest in jumping waned. I didn’t feel like I would have a budget to accommodate horse ownership any time soon. I didn’t want to quit riding, but I didn’t want to go anywhere with it, either. And then I rode Eli, just one idiosyncratic TB in a string of sales horses. He carried a lot of baggage, reacted melodramatically to just about everything, and sometimes became difficult to handle even for the simplest tasks (like picking out his hind feet …). Even so, we clicked. He reignited my interest in really riding, jumping, I even started to think about horse shows again. I still remained in riding limbo for a long time, but Eli stuck around long enough for me to informally half-lease him. Then, in my opinion, circumstances became such that he needed an owner. I am that owner.

Safety orange is the new black. But wait! The barn owner called them “tan.” I’m going with it.

He fits my simple dreams of a bay thoroughbred gelding with a nice jump and decent gaits. I am grateful for the opportunity to own him, and I look forward to whatever adventures we end up chasing down the road. What more could I ask for?

Rocking E Cowgirl 10 Questions Blog Hop

Rocking E Cowgirl is keeping it interesting with these 10 questions!

What is your earliest, clearest horse memory?
Visiting the Budweiser Clydesdales when I was 4. I tried to run up to one. My mom had to grab me and pick me up so I could pet them, while pushing my brother around in a stroller. I have never not been obsessed with horses, and I think those Clydesdales cemented my coat color preference in horses right away–blood bay with some chrome.

Describe the perfect summer day.
One with access to cold beer and air conditioning.

Are you reading anything right now? Tell me about it!
The Castle of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons — one of the seven “horrid novels” listed in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. I love Gothic fiction. I am also trying to read a bunch of other stuff, but this book is short and holding my attention the most right now.

Do you follow a celebrity (horsey or non) that you’re embarrassed to say fascinates you? Tell me. NOW.
Dear James Comey,
Please write a book.

What is your single most biggest horsey dream or goal?
Really just to keep doing what I’m doing for as long as possible.

If you were at Starbucks right now, what would you order?
An almond croissant.

What is your biggest equine pet peeve?
Pet peeve that horses do: cribbing
Pet peeve that people do around horses: leaving halters hooked up to the cross ties–especially annoying if it’s a rope halter, which why are you crosstie-ing a horse in a rope halter?!?!?!

With everything going on politically and in the media, tell me, do you follow it religiously? Tune it out? Or something in between?
Obsessively following. Make no mistake … That awkwardly-scripted “cabinet meeting” yesterday? That is what fascism and despotism look like. This is worse than Watergate because a hostile foreign power is implicated. The First Amendment could not be more important than it is right now.  I recommend EVERYONE watch the film All the President’s Men. Or read the book.

If you had to show your horse to a song, what would you choose?
I’m just really into Duran Duran’s “Rio” right now so probably that, although I am not sure how much that would go with a hunter round?

What are you most looking forward to this summer?
Cold beer and air conditioning.


Favorite Exercises

Amanda posted yesterday about her favorite exercises both on the flat and over fences, and asked us the question: what are our favorites?


Hands down, I love working on the counter canter. Performing a correct counter canter does so much for the horse and rider — improves balance, strengthens the hind-end, heightens body awareness, and incorporates all the “natural” aids and being able to use them independently (meaning hand, seat, and leg, not necessarily a crop or spur).

I periodically work at counter canter on both leads, although not daily. When I do work on it, it’s not for very long–just long enough to make sure Eli’s hind end is working right and he’s listening AND I am telling him the right thing. Sometimes I forget to use my seat and he falls into a trot. I don’t have a problem with him swapping out during the counter canter, at least!

Over Fences

I have written about his one before: I love the tight oxer-to-oxer two-stride exercise, described in great detail in an article by Peter Pletcher, a Houston-area hunter/jumper trainer.

3’6″ peter grid 1 from patentlybay on Vimeo.

First off, it’s fun. Second, it’s simple. Third, it works.

Two oxers, 33′-34′ apart. Canter in and let the horse back himself off. I add a cross-rail in front sometimes, same distance–this makes it a little easier to get to the deeper distance you want coming into the first oxer. It is more of a challenge for me without the cross-rail, so I think doing it both with and without is a good way to help establish that elusive “feel” for it that we all chase after.

Can’t wait to read about everyone else’s favorites!


December’s 10 Questions

Thank you for providing a content-generation machine on a monthly basis, L.

Does your horse need shoes?


What do you think of the barefoot vs shoes debate?
Debate away, debaters. My jumping horses will never not be shod.

Favorite season for riding?
Not winter.

How many shows do you think you’ve gone to?
I showed multiple times a year between the ages of 10 and 29, and have started showing again these past couple years. Enjoy that math because I’m not doing it.

Do you consider yourself a good rider?
I am competent on most days, and usually ride much better on horses I don’t own.

How experienced do you think someone needs to be to own a horse?
I don’t think experience is as important as being willing to learn and willing to allow a professional to help throughout ownership, including the buying process. How else do you get experience?

Have you ever gotten into a fight with your trainer?
Sure, with many of the trainers I have ridden with, although not often. You work closely with someone long enough in a difficult sport you might run into a snag here and there about something.

Describe your dream horse.
A healthy, sound one with a go button and good form over fences, Thoroughbred athleticism, and and a bomb-proof brain. Let me just go find $675,000 right quick …


Does anyone in your family ride?
Currently just me, although my mom is also horse crazy. My aunt rode as a child, too. My Dad worked around horses as a teen but I am not sure how much he rode. My younger brother took lessons for a while, but it wasn’t for him.

If you could ride any horse in the world, which one would it be? why?
I may have a slight obsession with Kent Farrington’s Creedence right now. This answer changes almost monthly.


Last week, Emma posted about notorious stallions and how a few of them show up in her horse’s pedigree. I have grown more and more curious with Thoroughbred pedigrees over the years … considering I have owned a few off-track characters this shouldn’t be surprising.

But then, I am not really looking at racing pedigrees for racing talent. I am more curious to find what results in jumping talent! No doubt any Thoroughbred can clear a 3′ fence and all have the athleticism to perform in a variety of horse sports, but what do Thoroughbred pedigrees show as far as athleticism to excel at jumping, in scope, form, carefulness, and willingness?


There’s not really an answer, other than possibly to notice patterns in the pedigrees of ex-racehorses you have had your own experiences with. Based on my personal experience, I tend to lean toward both Danzig and Alydar progeny as showing jumping talent. Even so, it’s a guessing game, as both stallions were prolific, especially Alydar. These are pedigrees cultivated out of a desire to breed top talent on the racetrack. These are not the pedigrees of top showjumping mounts, curated for scope, although Thoroughbred blood heavily influences many of those pedigrees. (You’ll want to click on the pedigree to make it bigger.)



I knew Eli had jumping talent before I set eyes on his pedigree, and only after the fact did his pedigree confirm any inklings I might still have toward a preference for Danzig and Alydar progeny. But I can also see that’s all on his sire’s side. I am less familiar with his dam’s lines, although his dam earned about what Eli did racing in fewer starts.

For former racehorses in new careers, we can really only work backwards, take educated guesses and possibly start to recognize patterns over time if we are looking for clues in the pedigrees about jumping talent.

I know Emma’s post related more to temperament than talent, but we all know I have a little, let’s say, flexibility when it comes to temperament as long as the talent is there. When I look back at the pictures of the sires in Eli’s pedigree I am most struck by, of course, Danzig and the look not only of arrogance, but utter contempt for everything coloring the horse’s countenance. Secondly, however, I am completely captivated by the conformation, fine head, and air of magnanimity and composure of his dam’s sire, Irish Tower.  No idea how I got all that out of one picture, but after taking another long look at Eli’s pedigree thanks to Emma, I might be curious to follow Irish Tower progeny in the future, too.


Excuse me, could you just pop over this 4′ square oxer right quick? I wanna see something …

If Thoroughbred pedigrees have you overwhelmed, stoke that confusion fire by reading this gem on Danzig and his far-reaching influence! You can also click through all the way back to foundation stallions on your horse’s pedigree on the Thoroughbred Database. You will probably get to the Darley Arabian and recognize a few names on your way back. I know most of y’all probably already know all this, but for first-time TB owners or people who have never searched for their Thoroughbred online, I hope this helps!

And if you’re interested in finding video or photos of your own Thoroughbred ex-racehorse but don’t know how, look up your horse’s Jockey Club name on Equibase. If your fur kid raced like mine did, check the Results tab for racetracks. From there, you can watch replay video from the tracks’ websites if your fur kid is young enough (Eli is, just barely)! To watch the video directly from Equibase, you’d need a membership. After watching a few races with Eli in them, I have a little idea about where his fear of/angst about crops may have originated. Coady Photography also allows you to search by Jockey Club names, which reminds me–I need to go buy that one winner’s circle picture of Eli that I found!



November’s 10 Questions

A great list of questions from L of Viva Carlos, as always!

How old is the youngest/greenest horse you’ve ridden?
2. In a round pen.

How old is the oldest horse you’ve ridden?
Erm, who knows how old the lesson horses I first rode were … maybe 26-27-ish?


Were you scared of horses when you first started riding?
Not that I remember.

Would you say you’re a more nervous rider or a confident rider?
Not nervous. More just comfortable on a horse than truly confident.

Biggest pet peeve about non-horse people around horses?
“Can I ride your horse?”

A time you’ve been scared for your life? (horse related)
Any of the times a horse stood up with me.

Have you ever fallen off at show? What happened?
Yep, more than once. The time I remember most was when my green-ish jumper kind of peeked at something outside the ring as we were approaching the first fence, and I didn’t get his attention back in time. He half-jumped/half-stopped and I fell into the jump. Got up holding the bridle. Another trainer caught the horse and brought him over to me with his belt as a lead while my trainer yelled at me for jumping up the neck, which I had not done and I insisted we watch the tape together. My trainer realized I did not jump up the neck. I told him to yell at me for not using my leg because that’s what actually happened.

What’s a breed of horse you’ve never ridden but would like to ride?

Describe the worst behaved horse you’ve ridden?
Probably a supposedly but completely not broke small pony. I could not stay on the damn thing.


The most frustrating ride you’ve ever had?
It was cross-country schooling with a trainer who wanted me to jump my horse over a jump I didn’t want to jump. I had zero frustration as a result of my horse, 100% frustration related to the trainer. I never did jump that jump. I left that barn and switched disciplines shortly after. Haven’t really had a truly frustrating ride since, just a few challenging ones but I don’t mind that.