Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dressage Book Serendipity

I noticed a cardboard box of horse books at the barn a few weeks ago.  The books were on a variety of topics from health to riding.  Whoever mysteriously left the books had scribbled "FREE" on the cardboard box.  Well, I can't argue with that price, so I inspected the goods.  I recognized a couple titles that I have at home already and then I noticed a cover that did not look familiar to me.

Just a lovely picture of horse and rider

The book was called Common Sense Dressage: An Illustrated Guide.  I had not heard of the author, Sally O'Connor, but I had heard of fellow New Jersey resident and decorated international rider, Robert Dover.  The book was published in 1990 by Half Halt Press, Inc. with rather darling illustrations by Jean L. Schucker and photos by George E. Perentesis (unless otherwise noted).  I was attracted to the book by the clean, simple cover and the horse and rider demonstrating a light and easy-looking piaffe.  I glanced through the book and noticed that there was a section on "Counter Canter" as well as a dogear left by the previous reader at the beginning of the section on "Flying Changes".  Good enough for me!  I brought the book home, placed it at the top of a pile of hardcovers on the shelf of my coffee table and promptly forgot about it.

Until today.

My husband was visiting his usual sites on his tablet from the comfort of the couch.  I plopped down next to him and a shiny red cover caught my eye.  My free and recently acquired dressage book was calling my name.  Oh my gosh.  I meant to read that!

I was stuck to the couch with my nose in this book for a good hour.  I did not start at the beginning.  I just opened the book in the middle, swooned over some really nice photos of lateral work and kept moving from there.  The author discussed how to ride horses based on their conformation and temperament.  She also addressed some of the common problems that riders may face, like a horse with locked shoulders.  Ms. O'Connor was exceptionally good at task analysis and clear simple instructions.  I also noticed a couple little tidbits that really caught my eye and persuaded me to believe that this author rides and trains in a way that I would be happy to watch or emulate.
 
I taught Harley a carrot-inspired version of this exercise in the winter of 2010 and he offered his big trot this summer.  The author suggests this exercise to free the shoulders.  Thanks for the confirmation, Ms. O'Connor!

There are many great exercises and sequences of exercises in this book.  The author even briefly touches upon the difference between the "Flexion School" and the "Impulsion School", which types of horse work best under each philosophy and why she finds a combination of the two very helpful in the dressage training of most horses.

I am so glad that I picked up this book, having quite literally stumbled upon it.  I appreciate the simple, straight-forward approach of the author, which I feel resonates with my own training practices.  "Common sense" makes a lot of sense when training horses.

Frame by frame shots and descriptions of the flying change of lead every stride:  My experience has been that this kind of detail is difficult to find in training resources published online or in print.  Love it.

14 comments:

  1. Val + This Book = Meant To Be

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't know this book either, but it sounds like a good one. Lucky find! :0)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have an old, tattered, much-read copy of her book, Practical Eventing. I still love it because it has pictures of lots of good exercises, conditioning schedules for BN-Prelim, and it's all practical, thoughtful, and straightforward. Sounds like I need to get my hands on this book as well - it sounds great, and I love the pic on the cover!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aha! It sounds like this author has a reliable theme in her books as well as her training philosophy.
      Very cool.

      Delete
  4. Awesome find. :)

    That looks like a great book. The frame by frame series of photos are a big help for sure!!

    I hope you'll share more with us as you delve in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I found those pages of photos in the book, I couldn't help an "Oh, WOW!".

      Delete
  5. such a good find I am jealous, will have to investigate in to finding a copy for myself!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have this book! Great find for sure. I just love books like this.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nothing better than free books! (Well, maybe free tack? LOL!)

    Years ago one of my 4-H leaders brought in a big grocery bag of old, dusty hardcovers that had been discarded by her library. The other kids picked through and took maybe one or two, stories like "Black Beauty," I think. There was still a big heap of unwanted books, so I helped myself to all of them -- titles included "Riding Logic," which got me started on the road to dressage and made a HUGE difference in the horse I was working with at the time. Serendipity, indeed!

    This "Common Sense" book sounds very helpful, and has been popping up in a few places lately. I might have to check it out, too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Now Thats A Trot!

      Books can be so inspirational. A well-written book by an experienced trainer is like gold. Sometimes all I have to do is read a little bit or find something that I think might help my current training challenge, and then I just cannot wait to get to the barn and ride!

      Delete

Leave a comment or add to my memoirs with some of your own.