Sunday, July 31, 2011

Accomplish Anything with Horses: How Good Riders Get Good - Daily Choices That Lead to Success in Any Equestrian Sport, by Denny Emerson and Sandra Cooke

Written with Chronicle of the Horse's "One of the 50 Most Influential Horsemen of the 20th Century" - international gold medalist eventer, Tevis Cup winner, and former USEA president Denny Emerson - and featuring profiles of 23 jaw-droppingly accomplished riders in nine internationally celebrated equestrian sports, you'd think that How Good Riders Get Good: Daily Choices that Lead to Success in Any Equestrian Sport would be a practical how-to-make-it manual for those high-octane riders who dream of winning at the Olympics, Worlds, or Medal-Maclay. And it is. But How Good Riders Get Good is also an essential guide for any rider, riding instructor, and rider parent or spouse, because it isn't only a book about how the world's best riders become the best, it's a book about how every rider can become his or her best.

Success in riding isn’t based on talent, wealth, or plain old luck, Emerson explains, it’s the result of a rider’s choices. Outlining seven Areas of Choice – “your horse sport, your life circumstances, your support network, your character, your body, your knowledge, and your horse” – he describes how riders of any age, background, and ability level can take up – or take back – the reins of their riding lives and move purposefully toward their goals. It can be challenging to be that frank about our circumstances, priorities, and choices, but it's also freeing. Once you know what success truly means to you, it’s easy to take great strides toward becoming a "good" rider.

I would know: at first, this book stopped me and my horse, Pegasus, in our tracks. I couldn't simply read it as I'd planned; I started going through the questions myself. I was shocked to discover how much my goals have changed since I first brought Peg home ten years ago. At that time, I planned to compete him at Preliminary level in eventing, and gallop to a constellation of one-star wins. What happened? Job changes, family changes, moves, injuries. Somehow my nearly-seven-year-old horse had become nearly-seventeen, and for me, success had come to mean something very different. What I truly want most, I realized, is to help Pegasus have a decade or two of healthy, happy senior years, and for us to have fun together through them.

So I thought: What would it mean for me to be a good rider now? Paging through Good RidersI decided that I'd need to be fitter and more sensitive in the saddle, so that my riding could be more like gentle yoga for Peg's aging joints and muscles. I'd have to find a sport or two that my old campaigner could enjoy with a minimum of risk. And I'd definitely need to know as much as possible about every aspect of caring for a senior horse.

The right choices - for me - were suddenly clear. I added a weekly longe lesson on one of my instructor's horses to improve my seat. I signed up for the free fitness analysis our local health club offers, and I'm sticking to the exercise program they gave me. (Would I do it for myself? Maybe. But what wouldn't we do for our horses? :) ) I also found a hunter pace and a trail ride Pegasus and I could attend this fall. Most importantly, though, I asked our (wonderful!) vet to give Peg his first annual "healthy horse" ears-to-tail checkup, asked her a million questions, and have been following her recommendations for his feeding and care.

Don't get me wrong: these changes have created a mountain of work, they've demanded some tough choices, and I know they're only the beginning. But with Peg's bright eyes and smiling muzzle greeting me every morning, and How Good Riders Get Good sitting on my tack box for inspiration - which echoes even when the Nationals-bound riders borrow my copy! :) - I know it will all get done, and I feel confident that it will all be “good.”

Want to accomplish anything with horses, and get a leg up on any success you want to achieve in life? Read Denny Emerson and Sandra Cooke's How Good Riders Get Good. The only question the book doesn’t answer is the question just for you: How successful do you want to be?

Monday, July 25, 2011

A New Horse Movie! The Lone Ranger 2012 and One Horse who Will Play Silver, via the Chicago Tribune and Trib Local

The Chicago Tribune and Trib Local spotlight Phoebe, a rare white Thoroughbred, who will be one of five horses to co-star with Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp in a new Lone Ranger movie by Disney, to be released in 2012.

Could your horse be in the movies? Check out Christopher Beam's Slate article, "The Life of an Equine Movie Star" and find out!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Go on, Change the World: National Geographic's 2011 Emerging Explorers

National Geographic has announced their 2011 Emerging Explorers! Meet these fourteen "uniquely gifted and inspiring young adventurers, scientists, photographers, and storytellers" who have turned their passion for nature, wildlife, and humanity into innovative projects that are changing the world.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Disney's New Equestrian Princess, Merida: Brave, directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman

Hot on the heels of the success of Tangled, Disney's musical retelling of the Rapunzel tale which featured the spirited and swashbuckling Maximus (Max) the horse, Disney's animation studio, Pixar, has just released the teaser trailer for the summer 2012 movie, Brave, starring Merida, a red-haired princess of the Scottish Highlands, and Angus, her Clydesdale-ish, Highland Pony-ish mount.

Explore Disney's Brave website to learn more about the story, and visit the International Museum of the Horse to meet the Highland Pony and the Clydesdale, two of Scotland's famous and beloved horse breeds!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Firecrackers and Independence: Firehorse, by Diane Lee Wilson

"...All I had was my reputation? I was nothing more than an amorphous cloud of someone's version of "good"? Hah! I was more than that. I had steady nerves ...And a way with horses. And ...knowledge."

- from Firehorse, by Diane Lee Wilson

Fifteen year old Rachel Selby is a firecracker: red haired and fierce willed, she races locomotives riding bareback astride her beloved chestnut mare and swears she'll grow up to be a veterinarian. Trouble is, it's 1872 in America. Women don't even have the right to vote, and Rachel's own father passionately insists that no woman - including his wife and daughter - should do, say, or think anything but what she's allowed to - or told to - by men.

More trouble flickers on the horizon. Rachel and her family move to Boston, which, in 1872, is a rickety tinderbox of a city on the brink of being consumed by the real Great Boston Fire. In Firehorse, Rachel discovers that the local fire station's best engine puller - or "firehorse" - a grey draft mare called The Governor's Girl, has been so badly burned that the fire chief is ready to put her down. Across the city, other firehorses are falling to a disease called distemper, dying faster than the veterinarians can reach them, much less begin to heal them. Worst of all, it seems like an arsonist is on a demented spree, setting fires that threaten humans and animals alike. When the Great Fire ignites, Rachel and Governor's Girl must decide: what can a misfit girl and wounded horse really do when the world goes up in flames?

Firehorse is a bright and spectacular blaze of a book, an essential read for girls ages 9-15 and a beacon of inspiration for those of us older "mares". Wilson's story is dramatic but believable, a portrait of tough, temperamental human and equine characters whose determination to do what they think is right will not only change their lives, but may also affect the fate of their city and touch the future of their nation. The text is explosive, hypnotic, and flies across the page in a full-out gallop, fearless and beautiful, with the kind of tailwind that kindles the new, young sparks - or old embers - of your spirit. It's a book that makes you cheer from your reading chair and leap up to lend a helping hoof, particularly when you read the conclusion of Wilson's author's note:

"As a woman living in the twenty-first century, I'm lucky to have had spirited women pave the way for me. Yet even in these times of "equal rights," I've been told on more than one occasion that women can't or shouldn't venture into certain areas reserved for men. I don't believe that. This story is for all those girls who have been told "you can't" and still decide for themselves that "I can."

Celebrate independence of all kinds with Firehorse. On Independence Day, pair it with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's horse-powered poem, Paul Revere's Rideand a visit to the National Archive's online exhibits on the Declaration of Independence and the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. And be sure to check out Diane Lee Wilson's other award-winning horse-centered historical fiction for tween and teen readers, the novels I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade, Black Storm Comin', and To Ride the Gods' Own Stallion!

Looking for more great horse books for tweens and teens? Browse Great Books for Horse Lovers' Teen/YA listings, and gallop, don't walk, to the Whitebrook Farm blog, which offers a first look at upcoming horsey books for teens and fresh, laugh riot reviews of horse-themed books and movies. I found Firehorse there - what might you find that will light the fire in your heart?
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