Title: Riding Simplified
Author: Margaret Cabell Self
Publisher: Ronald Press Company, New York
Topic: Horsemanship, beginning riding
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
My Take: This was a quick read and worth it the couple of hours it took to read it straight through. While certainly geared toward beginners, it’s always good to be reminded of the basics. The very first chapter of the book is titled, What Constitutes a Good Horseman? And the answer is really lovely:
“To my mind the horseman is he who is, as far as it is possible to be, one with his horse. He is the centaur in all but the aggregate number of legs. He communicates with his horse without the onlooker being able to discern how he does so. The two move as one and think as one. They are a fluid whole.” (pp. 1-2)
Think about that for a moment: “The two move and think as one. They are a fluid whole.” What a fabulous goal (and, in fact, exactly what I have been working on in lessons with Mr. K). That relationship is the ultimate goal: where your horse’s feet are as your own, and your thought translates into your horse’s action.
And all this in the first page.
The book then goes into a brief explanation of the basic characteristics of the horse, including herd instincts and the fight-or-flight reaction. If we keep these fundamentals in mind at all times, we can understand a horse’s actions and motivations – and thus stay safe, and ultimately be more successful as a horseman.
The book spends a lot of time discussing the proper seat and balance. There are some exercises that I do want to try myself, including trotting either bareback or without stirrups with the legs hanging down and keeping the image of a sack of flour in mind (without slouching!) so that the weight remains in the seat and legs. I think it may help me stay more relaxed in the sitting trot.
Overall, there is a lot of great basic information and lovely language. There are also great photos and diagrams that illustrate what Self is talking about, which is very helpful.
And the final chapter, entitled, What to Wear, was good for a giggle. Apparently it is just the worst to wear blue or green breeches. Thank goodness I read this before committing such a faux pas!