California Riding Magazine • June, 2010

Book Reviews
Basic Schooling Made Simple;
Not By A Long Shot;
101 Drill Team Exercises

Basic Schooling Made Simple
By Martin Diggle & Maggie Raynor
Reviewed by Yulia Popenko

Judging from the introduction, this book was written just for me – a novice rider contemplating buying my first horse. Filled with excitement, I read the first two chapters, regarding basic principles and the rider’s technique, the day the book arrived. Elated that I understood everything that was described and with my confidence reinforced I went to bed. When I woke up the next day I struggled to remember specifics of what I read.

I would schedule all my reading right after riding lessons, when I am so excited about what I learned, yet wishing that I could speed up the learning process just a little bit. I finished my first read through the book with an uneasy feeling that I could not recall much of what I read. As I still had time left before the book review deadline, I attempted a different strategy. I would read a certain portion of the book, for example a halt or transitions chapter, write myself a little pink card with summary notes on what I should try to feel or accomplish next time I ride. I would then read the pink card right before I got on and attempt to complete the exercises in the book.

That seemed to work better, but certain chapters such as training flaws and conformation were still tough to deal with. In some cases, the book provided an excellent review of why certain things are incorrect and how one should correct the imperfections, without any instructions on how to accomplish that. In others, it was exhaustive in describing how weight distribution should be handled in the seat and how little rein should be applied.

In the end, I had to take chapter notes, reorganize them into goals for training and bad tendencies to be on the lookout for. I combined them with basic form exercises and rider’s technique points in other chapters to organize my training.

Not to say that the book is boring or unstructured. It’s just a super dry, academically edited summary of what a novice rider should know, supplemented by technically very difficult illustrations. It’s a bit uneven, but the chapters on basic gaits and transitions are definitely very helpful. The illustrations made the author’s point very easy to comprehend, but I had a bit of difficulty transposing this understanding to real life. I ended-up taking pictures of various mounted riders at my barn and then compared them to illustrations in the book.

The book lacks the personality, charm and warmth one would expect from somebody who is passionate about horses and teaching. Reading it is like reading a textbook with no basic textbook structure, for example chapter summary, relative comparisons, abstractions of any kind or interesting sidebars. One can certainly learn from this book, just as I did with a lot of effort, but I doubt I would want to pass this challenge on to any of my peers.

Reviewer Yulia Popenko started riding as an adult and is in her second year of dressage and jumping training.

Not By A Long Shot: A Season at a Hard Luck Horse Track
By T.D. Thornton
Reviewed by Denise McLaughlin

For anyone looking for an in-depth book on horse racing, Not By A Long Shot is the one. With behind-the-scenes commentary and passionate writing capabilities, T.D. Thornton captures the real life scenes of Suffolk Downs.

It is apparent that Thornton has spent his entire life living, breathing, and sleeping the Thoroughbred race industry. He is extremely knowledgeable in his field and his writing style helps simplify racing terms for even non-horse racing fans. However, I wouldn’t recommend this book for a non-horse person, because it can be very dry and slow reading at times.

Thornton writes about all the different aspects of the New England racing community. He talks about a jockey who was paralyzed, a horse that never wins a race and the mysteries of owners, trainers and gamblers. Throughout his book, Thornton tells how racing is “not so much a way to make a living, but a way of life.”

Reviewer Denise McLaughlin grew up in Upstate New York, close to the Saratoga Race Course. She now lives in Northern California’s Lincoln and is the breeding manager at Rainbow Equus Meadows.

101 Drill Team Exercises For Horse & Rider
By Debbie Sams
Reviewed by Tina Lavrouhin

For those familiar with the excellent and popular 101 Arena Exercises by Cherry Hill, this “read-and-ride” guide by Debbie Sams, published in 2009, is the latest in this series from Storey Publishing.

The book is divided into chapters describing different types of movements, how to ride them in general, and then detailed descriptions of the individual exercises including basics, curves, linear, weaves and music and various drill formats.

The exercises are performed using dressage arena letters as guides and the author reminds us frequently to be a “BRATT,” which stands for Bending, Rating, Accuracy, Timing and Teamwork.

There are a few excellent photographs and a number of quotes from drill leaders such as the following from Sergeant Mayo of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police: “Practice the things that you don’t think are seen by an audience, such as mounting and dismounting, because there is always someone watching. Everyone should do the movement the same way.”

The author, Debbie Sams, writes for a number of equestrian publications and her familiarity with both english and western styles of riding is apparent throughout the book.

Drills are a very fun and useful activity to incorporate into any riding program. So get this book, find some friends, mount up and go have some fun practicing drills!

Reviewer Tina Lavrouhin is the owner of TLC Equestrian Services, which has recently launched, an online resource for horse enthusiasts in San Luis Obispo County and beyond.

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