Book Reviews

We think reading and writing go hand in hand and we love to tell you all about the latest rural books that have been published for you to enjoy.

Haynet has a large selection of books that we think are of interest to our readers and are often looking for reviewers and independent authors that would like their books promoted through this page. If have a book to promote, then please CONTACT Haynet for more details.


Stable Condition: How to Stay Sane With Horse People in Your Life – A Review

Author of the hilarious best-seller ‘From Nags to Numbnuts’ Daniel Skinner (better known as Skint Dressage Daddy), has put pen to paper again with his humorous take on life with horses. With his horse mad family knee deep in expensive shavings, numerous blingy bridles and horse rugs that could clothe all the Queen’s horses, Stable Condition: How To Stay Sane With Horse People is a must-read for equestrian lovers and their long suffering family and friends. Horse owner Gilly recently reviewed this book for Haynet and gave us her thoughts: “With the gloomy winter months ahead, us horse owners need a laugh so I was more than happy to read Stable Condition and give it my review. Being a horse owner for many years, I totally could see the issues from my husband’s point of view and sympathised with the author’s views, although I have to fund my own horse… The book gave an honest insight into horse ownership in a humourous way and there were many times that I laughed out loud reading the book! The book would appeal to teenagers and adults who own or have owned horses in the past. It is also a good read for the family members too and to sympathise with the trials and tribulations horse ownership can bring. Overall I really enjoyed reading Stable Condition and would definitely recommend the book.“ So to get you through the next few wintery months of horse ownership, why not delve into Skint Dressage Daddy’s world and laugh at this fantastic but bonkers hobby that we all love! To purchase visit Amazon or Skint Dressage Daddy

Ride BIG: A Review

Ride BIG, by John Haime, Trafalgar Square, 2021 Reviewer: Nikki Goldup I was asked to review this book at a time when I had a breakthrough with how I approached training and competing my two horses. It was quite a revelation for me – at last I could ride dressage tests and be ‘in the zone’. Not have a strop getting ready, enjoy my horses and really appreciate every moment of owning them… and all this at a time when the world seemed to be falling apart with Covid stress and anxiety. What struck me though is I didn’t really know how I had managed to get to this state of ‘confidence’ and what worried me was sustaining it.  When I was given the opportunity to review this new book I immediately jumped at the chance. Maybe the author, John Haime, could explain what ‘magic’ I’d created and give me deeper insight into how I could continue this winning formula and how to swerve those self-doubtful ‘when are the wheels gonna fall off’ moments. What is ‘Ride BIG’ all about?  Firstly, I enjoyed the way that ‘Ride BIG’ is written. Its structure and the way in which the content is broken down into digestible chunks is perfect for busy people. Think of it as a book where you can read a chapter a night. Mull it over and put some of John’s thoughts into practice the next day. There are simple yes / no answer quizzes along the way to help you start thinking about your behaviours, emotions and responses. These are all backed up with clear diagrams that summarise the key concepts. From a practical perspective the book is one neat package, not verbosely detailed in terms of sports psychology, performance and neuroscience to make it heavy going. There’s enough information to make you start to think holistically about how you operate a as horse owner, in training, at the stables and in competition. John backs up his ‘Ride BIG’ process with examples based on well known rider’s experiences, and as well all know it’s not just us mere mortals that get dragged down by self-doubt and anxiety.  How does it ‘work’? What this book enables you to do is to unpick how you train, prepare and think about your riding, right from the day-to-day stuff to the moment you enter the ring. I appreciated the way John describes and breaks down some very common feelings and emotions and allows the reader to reflect upon these through their own lens. It’s this thinking, acknowledgement, questioning and moving forwards that leads to long term growth and a positive journey. In chapters such as ‘Pressure Builds Strength’ John acknowledges the fact that pressure can be embraced by some or be fearful to others. He looks at what pressure is, where it comes from and how the very top riders handle their pressure, using quotes from Beezie Madden, Michael Jung and others as examples of pressure in practice. He then breaks down the kinds of questions you might ask yourself to begin to create a feeling of ‘good pressure’ where you ride ‘Inside to Out’, not ‘Outside to In’, where you are controlling the moment, not the moment controlling you.  This is a very brief synopsis of an important chapter, and the book is full of them. I’ve read many books on rider confidence, sports psychology and managing your mind but found the practical application of what they described tricky. By this I mean we all need simple, go-to exercises or aide memoirs when those seeds of self-doubt hit, or we get that pang of ‘not good enough’ before a jump off. If these ‘go-to’ exercises aren’t that easy to re-call and commit to then it’s hard to make tracks and deal with those feelings practically. When reading ‘Ride BIG’ I had more than my fair share of ‘light bulb moments’. John’s style of writing is very calm and straightforward, so you are left with a sense of, ‘ahhh yes that makes sense, yes, I do that, and I have never thought why… but I now I know I can try this to improve things’.  The interesting thing is the author, John Haime, hails from a professional golfing background, moving onto corporate training but also supporting performers, business people, and athletes to build their mental and emotional muscle. Along the way, he has supported many equestrians and it goes without saying that he has a very deep understanding of how we tick. This broad background I think is what makes this book so special. I can see what I learnt I can apply to all areas of my life, including work and home. In this sense the learning you can gain is invaluable and I think those who coach would also find the content useful for their riders. In sum, ‘Ride BIG’ was a fantastic read, and I would recommend it to riders wanting to ‘up their game’ and make sure they tick all the boxes when training and competing their horses.  Back to my introduction… I was on a winning streak, no nerves at major championships and regionals, training was going so well, I had serious focus and was cool as a cucumber… Until a few weeks ago, a 3-day international. The first two days, bossing it… then the third day… it was hot, the warmup felt cramped, I was trying too hard to please an unfamiliar team coach. I let the ‘Outside’ effect my ‘Inside’ and I got stressed and angry, rode an average test (I rode Small and fidgety) and lost out on a top 5 placing. So, I came home and read some more chapters of ‘Ride BIG’, reflected on things, realised what I could have done to bring myself back to that ‘Inside to Outside’ state. It would be easy to kick myself and get stressed, but I won’t, we’ve got a national champs coming up and I have time to address things and get them right. That’s the beauty of this book, it’s one to keep dipping into, to digest and reflect upon, to share and use when you can’t work out what’s going on. A sense of calm and perspective when you need it and a practical word in your ear when its required. Essential reading and one to put on the wish list!  BUY YOUR COPY OF RIDE BIG FROM QUILLER PUBLISHING

Black Beauty: A Modern Review

Author: Anna Sewell Review by Samantha Hobden Publication: 2019 by Palazzo Editions Limited Illustrated by Christian Birmingham Even if the love of horses does not run through your veins, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell is an incredibly well known story told emotionally through the eyes of this beautiful horse that everyone has heard of. With over fifty million copies sold, Black Beauty is one of the best selling books of all time. Author Anna Sewell composed the novel in the last years of her life where she remained housebound. Thankfully she lived to see her novel become a success upon publication but sadly passed away only five months later. However, she would never be able to realise how loved and cherished her story of Black Beauty would become. First published in 1877, there has been numerous books, films and tv series telling Black Beauty’s story through the generations. I was invited to review the latest edition of Black Beauty with its enchanting illustrations by Christian Birmingham. I had read the book many decades ago in my childhood and remember well the tv series back in the seventies which I loved. When the book arrived, turning the pages of this charming hardback edition immediately transported me back to Victorian times which the story is based. Spoken through Black Beauty’s eyes, the story is incredibly emotional depicting the trials and tribulations of this amazing horses life. You feel very much in the body of Beauty with his feelings of love and despair which come across so well in Anna Sewell’s writing. From the first chapter enjoying life in lush spring meadows with his mother, you follow this horse through his entire life being passed from home to home and sold to owners who loved him or those that simply used him as a workhorse. Being a horse lover, you cannot help but feel sad and troubled recounting neglect and hardship the horse’s experience in the hands of abusive owners. It is, however, written with understanding and consideration giving a true account of the time. A horse living in the Victorian era had a life which was purely working hard for their master. Those living a life leisurely at grass and ridden for light enjoyment was a privilege for very few horses of that time. Thankfully there are moments of complete compassion in Black Beauty’s life with owners that loved him with all their hearts. Following this loyal and majestic horses life and the times shared with other equine characters, Black Beauty is a very inspiring and warming read. This latest edition of Black Beauty is a book for life and it has been a real joy to read this equestrian story again. I absolutely loved the charming illustrations which complement the story in the modern age but also depicts completely Victorian times. The detail in the drawings is a delight with a mix of colour and pencil illustrations. The colour images I felt particularly drawn to and would make amazing prints. To have them all housed in this top quality book telling this classic story is a gem. Every bookshelf should have a copy of Black Beauty and this latest edition would make a lovely gift for any horse lover or in fact anybody that is a fan of classic novels. This book would also be a great introduction to the younger generation too, who have not read the story or actually heard of Black Beauty. I urge you to add this book to your collection as a keepsake, to then hand down to ensure this beautiful story will continue to be told. To purchase a copy, please visit Amazon Image credits: Haynet

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse – A Review

Author: Charlie Mackesy Reviewer: Nikki Goldup Published by Ebury Press, 2019 This week was marked with International Kindness Day, a day to carry out acts of kindness, take a small ‘pause for kindness’ and value its importance.  With this poignantly in my mind, I took a few hours out of my usual work schedule for some ‘self-kindness’ – a coffee, some music and a peaceful read of the newly published, debut tome by artist Charlie Mackesy. I am confident most Haynet readers will be familiar with Charlie’s work. Encouraged by his friends to publish his illustrations on Instagram, his following has grown to legendary proportions, which continues to be a surprise to this modest and exceptionally talented artist.  Charlie’s book focuses on four main characters, the boy, the fox, the mole and my personal favourite, the horse.  In his prologue Charlie introduces the characters and how he sees them, inviting the reader to make their own interpretations as they view the book through their own lens.  The boy, a lonely soul, in the wild, meets the mole who quietly becomes his wandering companion. Next to join them, the fox. The mole has to learn to trust the fox, a quiet character, wary of life as he has been betrayed many times. Finally comes the horse, the largest animal, but the gentlest. Each character brings their own histories, philosophies and temperaments to the scenes that unfold. As Charlie comments, he can see himself in each animal and asks if the reader can too. If you were expecting a story, to read from beginning to end, you would be mistaken, this is a book of moments placed on each page, beautifully illustrated with thought provoking captions in Charlie’s beautiful inky, handwritten script. However, the moments come together as one, with the four companions travelling and making sense of their and one another’s worlds as they look outwards to the nature around them.  Charlie’s illustrations are sublime, his mark-making and intuitive use of pen and ink, interspersed with spurges of colour show a real understanding of animal form and create an almost theatrical vignette on the page. The majestic beauty of nature unfurling across the pages but rendered with such humble materials. Smudges, coffee cup marks and ink drips all joining together to provide authentic, considered and knowledgable interpretations of the characters.  The book itself is presented beautifully, with a superior binding, endpapers and sketchbook quality paper. The whole production is considered and feels value for money. It is a publication to be treasured and reminds me of some of the books I was given as a child, and still cherish today. In this disposable, online world to own something you can hold, thumb through and re-visit is a delight.  This is a book for reflection, to read when times are good, when you need strength and when it’s hard to make sense of our hectic lives. Is a book to remind the reader that gratitude can sometimes be the answer, as can friendship, love and kindness. Lessons for us all, and produced in a humble and selfless way.  The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse, the four friends sharing their lives through the work of one very talented artist and writer, although as Charlie explains in his prologue ‘It’s surprising that I’ve made a book because I’m not very good at reading them. The truth is I need pictures, they are like islands, places to get to in a sea of words.’ As a fellow artist I concur, and thank Charlie for the gift he has been able to share with us, writer or artist, this is one publication that I will continue to read and enjoy.  To purchase a copy, please visit Amazon

Sara Cox’s Till the Cows Come Home – A Review

Book Review by Becky Wren from Country Bumpkin Chic Published by Coronet Like many folk for 5 days of the week, I drive home listening to the northern dulcet tones of DJ Sara Cox on Radio 2 during my evening commute home, after a busy day at work. So, it was a pleasure to read her memoir ‘Till the Cows Come Home’ about her childhood growing up in Lancashire countryside, a far cry from the bright lights of London town and being on the airwaves. Without revealing my age, I remember the days when Sara had her big break on The Girlie Show back in the 90s and coined the phrase ‘ladette’. Anyone else remembers that? The memoir must have been a real trip down memory lane for Sara or ‘Sarah’ as she was born. It was only a printing error on her modelling cards that by mistake renamed her the Sara we’ve come to love and know on the radio and TV. The 41 short chapters are filled with wonderful stories reminiscing about growing up on a farm in a village on the outskirts of Bolton and she beautifully brings them back to life in her whimsical way with her Lancashire tone seeping through the words on the page. Some of the anecdotes certainly left me chuckling on several occasions. The early years describe stories of joining her dad at cattle markets, accompanying him in the lorry pretending to be a big girl, as well as being teased at school for the waft of manure from the farm being smelt in the school playground. Certainly, a moment when you’d want the ground to open up and swallow you whole. Daredevil tales of jumping off hay bales to impress her older siblings Yvonne, Dot, David & Robert – which I’m sure anyone who grew up in the countryside can relate to. It certainly brought back memories for me of cavorting around at Pony Club camp when the adults were out of sight! Sara’s pony Gus has a leading role in the early years with lots of fun riding antics and of course, a broken bone resulting in a trip to the hospital – we’ve all been there. Whilst the teen years are a mix of angst including sad tales of mean girl bullies at school, resulting in Sara choosing the lads to be her gang to hang out with, along with fun tales of her daring dress sense combo of fishnets and Dr Martens as well as heading into Manchester for the cool music scene. The late teens see Sara becoming more adventurous visiting her sister in Paris and the moment when a shop assistant asked if the lanky lass from Bolton had ever considered becoming a model. Sara shares the warts and all side to modelling life from overcrowded castings shoots that take four hours to travel to, living with other models in bunkbed apartments and cockroach infested fridges. As well as the fun side, meeting her best friend Claire and consuming copious amounts of soju kettles in South Korea which eventually resulted in her international modelling career being cut short. Although if it hadn’t been for the second stint in South Korea ending early that she wouldn’t have been in the right place for a presenting gig that would change her life – The Girlie Show. Throughout Sara’s childhood, family is key, and even though her parents split up at a young age, her love for her mum and dad is as strong as ever. It’s interesting to read how growing up she deemed herself a daddy’s girl, but by the end of the book, it was her mum who is the consistent rock and always there to pick her up at the airport or speak to at the end of the phone. Till the Cows Come Home is a very relatable read by Sara Cox, maybe not the modelling stories, but the rural upbringing, through to the mean girls at school – they’re at every school! A light-hearted read perfect for slow Sunday morning starts, train commutes and lounging by the pool on holiday. To purchase Till The Cows Come Home visit Amazon

The Horse From Black Loch & Dream of Fair Horses by Patricia Leitch

An e-Book Review This spring, some of the best loved but out of print and rare pony books galloped into the modern day for the very first time, when they were re-released as eBooks. Publisher Jane Badger Books wanted to breath new life into classic tales for horse and pony lovers everywhere to enjoy.  Equestrian bloggers Martine and Wendy were fortunate to review The Horse From Black Loch and Dream of Fair Horses by Patricia Leitch and give their thoughts on these lovely re-released classics: When I was a child, most of my book-reading was done courtesy of our local library. Unfortunately, they never had a great selection of pony books in the junior section… they had all of the Swallows and Amazons books, Enid Blyton’s series etc, but apart from Black Beauty, very little for a horse mad girl.  As a result, I was limited in my access to pony books as a child.  Pocket money and birthday money was spent on pony books, of course, but somehow I never really got into Patricia Leitch, although I did have A Pony of Our Own and Jacky Jumps to the Top.  Patricia’s much-loved series about Jinny and her Arabian mare Shantih passed me by when I was the “right” age for them; perhaps I was already hooked on the Pullein-Thompson sisters and was saving my pennies for their works. I did read a couple of the Jinny books later on, when I was in Uni I think, and I enjoyed them but did not devour them as I would have ten years earlier. But when Samantha Hobden of Haynet put out a call for book review volunteers for a couple of Patricia Leitch books, her name rang a major bell in my head and I jumped at the chance. I had a choice of Dream of Fair Horses or the Horse From Black Loch and I opted for Dream of Fair Horses. Being Irish, I thought it was to do with buying an amazing horse at a horse fair. How wrong was I? I soon found out when I read the blurb on Amazon! ‘In all my life, I had never seen anything as beautiful as this grey pony … ‘Gill Caridia and her family are on the move. Gill’s father writes the sort of book that literary papers love, but which few people actually buy. And then he writes a detective story that sells so well he buys back the house in the countryside where he grew up. It means change for all the children, but for Gill it means the chance to find horses, and not just horses but to ride at Wembley. But Gill learns that no dream comes without cost. This passionate and vivid story, which takes Gill from the age of 11 to 13, looks at what it really means to own something. I downloaded my copy and got stuck in.  Straight away, I noticed something that I’d also noticed on a recent re-read of My Friend Flicka.  There’s a whole lot of grown-up stuff going on behind the horse-mad kid story that I had missed as a youngster – Ken’s mother’s sadness in Flicka, for example.  In the case of Dream of Fair Horses, what struck me was how dysfunctional Gill’s family was.  Would I have spotted that as a teenager?  I’m not sure.  Maybe I would have just thought that they were cool and quirky. There is the father, who lives in his own world of literary art and interfaces badly with the real world.  Doubtlessly he loves his children, but he is ill-equipped to raise a family.  This is more than hinted at in the first two paragraphs : “We were going to put down roots, we had tinkled on tin feet for too long” and “when Marc was one we moved to Hallows Noon and we lived there for nearly two years which is a record for our family.  Until Hallows Noon, we had never stayed anywhere for more than a year.” The mother is the practical one, who tries to hold everything together, feeding and clothing her family from practically nothing.  The eldest brother, Ninian, “struggling to be himself” is actually trapped in the rôle of father figure. He reuibuilds and repairs their home, gives Gill sage and timely advice throughout the book, and supports his siblings in their dreams, all the while dreaming of University for himself.  The next brother, Torquil, escapes his family life by becoming “lost in a world of bugs” while the next in line, Francesca, dreams of being a singer but is “cursed with tone deafness” – yet she makes friends easily through her willingness to go on stage and perform. The two younger girls are extras to the story but they maintain the theme of children struggling to cope. One has learned to be self-sufficient and to integrate herself into each new  community she faces by joining Brownies or whatever club is available and the other is easily bullied by her peers and struggles in school. The last child, Marcus the baby, “merely existed” but is in fact the reason for the move which starts this story. So on the surface, we have the classic tale, “pony-mad, pony-less girl meets pony, girl falls in love with pony, girl gets to ride pony and wins big competition” as the main story line and, behind it, we have the story of a family under pressure. The horse and riding knowledge in the book is impeccable; the interpersonal relationships are well-crafted. Gill’s slow-growing friendship with the disfigured old man who owns the beautiful grey pony is utterly believable yet, again, things are hinted at.  How did his son die?  What caused the scars on his face?  Leitch clearly had a back-story in her head for this character, and for his unpleasant daughter-in-law. Although Gill’s father has occasional fatherly moments – when he catches Gill alone in the middle of a lake in a leaky old rowboat, for example! one wonders will he ever face his responsibilities as a parent, or will he remain lost in his world of words forever. The eldest brother continues in his role as father-figure throughout the story in a way that left me pitying him for missing out on his childhood, but respecting him as a person.  His words to Gill after a very disappointing first visit to the local riding school really struck me.  It’s not up to you to judge. If you don’t like it, leave it. Get what you want. Don’t go around trying to change other people. They don’t want to be changed. They are really enjoying themselves and the sooner you learn this, the easier life’ll be for you. You’ve got to get what you want and let them get on with it. Gill takes her brother’s advice and does indeed get what she wants through a process of luck (being in the right place at the right time), pluck and dedication. But, as the pony story unfolds in its predictable way, you are aware of her family disintegrating in the background, leaving Gill facing a difficult choice towards the end of the book. I’m not going to give away any more.  Suffice to say, this is not a pink, fluffy, rainbows and butterflies ponies book; this is a very real tale of someone putting in all the hard graft and succeeding against the odds.  But winning isn’t everything – life goes on after the trophy has been proudly placed in the cabinet… Would I recommend this book? 100%. No matter what age you are, if you’ve the slightest interest in horses, I think you’ll enjoy it. I zipped back onto Amazon once I’d finished Dream of Fair Horses and bought The Horse from Black Loch, also by Patricia Leitch.  I haven’t managed to read it yet – I got side tracked by another series which Amazon offered me.  I think you can expect a few more Equestrian Reads Review soon. For more horsey reads, check out Jane Badger’s website. She’s currently resuscitating many classic horse and pony favourites. Haynet wrote a piece about her plans here. You’ll find Dream of Fair Horses and The Horse From Black Loch if you search on Hopefully there will be more old favourites following soon. Review by Martine Greenlee from Tales of Provence I grew up on a healthy diet of horse books, everything I could get my hands on to read. In particular, I loved Patricia Leitch as I felt her books were much more contemporary than others that were available at the time and are still relevant to later generations. So it was with great excitement that I heard that some of Patricia’s books were on the list of horse books to be republished in e-book format by Jane Badger Books. The Horse from Black Loch follows the story of Kay and her cousins who are spending the summer together in Scotland. Surrounded by stunning scenery, colourful characters and a mystical atmosphere, it has all the essential requirements of a great horse adventure book: mystery, intrigue, adventure, chases on horseback, jeopardy and of course what every horse girl dreams of, the chance to connect with a magnificent horse. When the safety of the Black horse is threatened, can Kay and Jamie save it is time? You will have to read it to find out. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am looking forward to reading more republished titles. Review by Wendy Wainwright of Thunderhooves & Sparkle Horse. Please visit Amazon to purchase a copy.

Till The Cows Come Home by Sara Cox

Book Review by Kathy-Anne Vincent from Patterjack & Tweed Published by Coronet A rural childhood is like no other- whilst many children have parks and shops on their doorsteps, the country child has fields and wildlife. Sara Cox’s ‘Till the Cows Come Home’ recognises the family involvement in country living, being a farmers child alongside her exploration of the world around her in her teenage years. As to be expected, the book is full of hilarious anecdotes and memories of her childhood, many left me nodding and laughing in recognition. ‘Till the Cows Come Home’ could almost be an autobiography for many Farmers children. From daring each other to jump off the bales at a dangerous height (sorry little brother ) to learning to drive in a farm vehicle from a young age to speed the work up. Let’s be honest, most the time- you’re on gate duty if you’re with your dad though, aren’t you? Chapter 14- ‘Bovine Sally Gunnells’ was the chapter that really stands out to me, both for familiarity and hilarity. The terrible moment when the ‘Cows are Out’. Comparing them to a ‘Bovine Sally Gunnells’ really related! The call would always be received on a day off or in the evening when settling down for the night. Whilst it was always a frustrating call for my Dad, like Sara, I always found it super exciting. Sara also writes about her modelling years. The good, the bad and the downright ugly. From building a portfolio ‘I didn’t look like a hot Spanish senorita but more like I’d popped my mum’s old cossie on and smeared gravy browning on me’ to making to Milan and Korea with a full portfolio. These chapters were a little harder to read. Homesickness and getting accustomed to different cultures whilst still trying to find herself. You can feel both moments of excitement and apprehension. Like all farming children, you can see the comfort of the farm acting as a sling to hold you when you need is shown throughout. ‘Everything was familiar and a comfort. I felt like I could relax, like loosening my tie or undoing a top button’. Whilst nodding along as I read, I realised it is so true. Sara’s book has made me realise what a lucky child I really was. Whilst this review is intended to wax lyrical about how good her writing is. It really is, it flows beautifully and the joy of the chapters being short means you can dip in and out in between daily tasks and not lose your place. I should write about how her humour made me want to keep reading, how you can hear her broad accent narrating the story. How you can hear the pain in her voice when she talks about the terrible fire incident, and feel her mischievous side playing with her siblings. I also feel I need to write about how the book made me feel. ‘Till the Cows Come Home’ churned up memories from being a child living on a farm. Your Dads cab smells like diesel no matter how clean. You help your dad make milk for a sickly calf. You keep your fingers crossed that when you stick your head over the holding pens that some little ears will prick up. You know in your heart that your Dad is essentially a miracle worker because yesterday..that calf was a gonner! Your mum is always ready with a good dinner after a long day at work. Platefuls of sandwiches and Quiches that seem to appear from nowhere. Sponge cakes cooling all over the worktops ….sometimes in the garden before the village shows! It’s country living! She goes home ..and it all comes back, I am lucky enough to still get involved regularly. There is no place like home. Wellies and all. To purchase Till The Cows Come Home visit Amazon

Many Brave Fools by Susan E Conley

Book Review – Louise Broderick Published by Trafalgar Square Many Brave Fools is a strange mix. The book compares the author’s efforts to learn to ride with her dependency on her addict husband. While I ended up wishing the book focused solely on either, the story as a whole it does work. The parts of the book which discuss Conley’s relationship and its breakdown are linked to her efforts to learn to ride. However, it was the parts of the book, pertaining to Conley’s attraction to horses and her initial riding experience, which I enjoyed the most. It is unusual for someone to learn to ride as an adult. Conley decided to start at 42, despite never having any experience of horses in the past. It is learning to ride, battling her fear and mastering the skill that gave her back the confidence she had lost during her relationship. The challenge of learning to ride, while presumably just as difficult for a child, is rarely described to us. Using often humorous language Conley writes about that challenge. Despite being terrified she was compelled to travel from the heart of Dublin, via bus and foot to the stables where she took her lessons. This in itself shows how determined she was, and how, like most of us with horses, was utterly hooked and would do anything for that equestrian fix. Riding teaches us to just be, do too much and everything becomes stressed and awkward. Conley took the lessons she learned from riding and used them to help her with her toxic relationship. During the course of the book Conley goes from being a novice rider, who has never been on a horse before, to one who is competent enough to jump a course of fences. Often, experienced riders will automatically adjust to their horse’s moods and personality, but for an outsider this is a whole new area to get used to. We do it without thinking, but for an experienced rider it is fascinating to read Conely’s experiences, learning to adjust to each horse. Her determination not only to ride, but to ride the difficult horses, the ones she was afraid of, and to keep getting back on after falling, which shows the side of her personality which perhaps made her stick with her addict husband long after most of us would have called it quits. The book discusses learning to ride, right from the beginning, how it feels for a complete novice. It makes wonderful reading to see how the author develops her skills and become a competent rider. The book is beautifully written. I felt I was with Conley every step of the way, experienced her delight at her equestrian achievement and her pride at having ridded herself of her co-dependency on her husband. Horses help in so many ways, and that this experience could make such a change in her life is a wonderful testament to both her dedication to riding and to the wonderful horses who continue to fascinate us all. To purchase a copy of Many Brave Fools please visit Quiller Publishing

The Rider’s Balance by Sylvia Loch

A review by Emily Lloyd of EEquineUK Foreword by Charlotte Dujardin With the launch of this book in the autumn, The Rider’s Balance is designed for riders of all abilities from the novice to the most advanced. World-renowned classical riding expert Sylvia Loch teaches through illustrations and detailed photos how each tiny shift of the riders weight will affect the horses balance. The weight aids are generally taught only to higher level students especially those learning the more advanced skills. Yet, by including them from the beginning, novice riders will develop a much greater understanding of their own bodies and abilities, and those of the horse from day one. In Sylvia’s words… The time has surely come to show all riders how their body-weight impacts on the horse for good or bad. Feel and balance should govern the whole ethos of equitation. In this book, I show through pictures how the giving of the aids can transform the horse in each and every movement so that our communication with this wonderful animal takes us to new levels of understanding and empathy.  Emily Lloyd, our reviewer gives her thoughts….  “Sylvia Loch’s book The Riders Balance is a fantastic example of well explained and thought out tuition. This book although mainly based on educating and promoting understanding with regards to weight aids briefly touches on other subjects such as rein aids to create a full picture for the rider.  This book is a book for life, you can slip in and out of the sections dependant on what you need at the time or can read from cover to cover. You will always come away with moreknowledge, more understanding and the tools to implement. Each of the accompanying diagrams and pictures were extremely helpful. Sentences can be interpreted differently between individuals, however, these diagrams are clear, precise and simple enough that you understand. My book is filled with turned over corners, highlighted sections, and my own notes so I am able to come back time and time again. For me personally, I felt it took a long time to get into the information I was so eager to read. Although I was graciously rewarded for my patience with phenomenal content. This is the first time I have ever seen Sylvia’s work and I am incredibly impressed.” To purchase your own copy of The Rider’s Balance, please visit Quiller Publishing.

From Nags to Numbnuts by Daniel Skinner – A Review

by Samantha Hobden I think I am an ideal candidate to review this book. Why I hear you ask? Because I have just come out the other side of fourteen years of horse ownership. From learning to ride in the days when we wore plastic riding boots and second hand riding hats, the horse and pony obsession gripped me young. My parents watched me riding ponies in utter bewilderment like author Daniel Skinner. He battled the equine warning signs with his young daughter as she plunged together with her mum in tow, into the wonderful but weird world of horses and ponies. Putting his thoughts and observations from a Skint Dressage Daddy’s point of view makes a hilarious account in the book From Nags to Numbnuts. I instantly felt sympathy for the author as he identified the Dominant Eight Behavioural Tendencies (DEBT) of equine addiction. Ten full chapters documented how the equestrian world is a license to print money with tack shops enticing horse addicts to buy matchy matchy to horse luxury hotels (yards to us horse lovers) charging for various levels of s**t picking. The chapters covered how to transport “the nag” to competitions, which needed a calculator in hand whilst ringing the bank up to remortgage the house or sell a kidney to fund all of this. It was a very cathartic read for me as I identified myself (worryingly) in every chapter. Every page you turned you laughed out loud. I read the authors quote of “Spendy F**king Spendy” when it came to owning horses to my husband (a fully fledged horse detester) who nodded in complete agreement with Daniel. And this is why the book is such a good read. Horse owners can read this book recognising at every turn of the page themselves immersed in this addiction. For those that foot the bills for their children or partners hobby can read the book and feel a complete kinship and outright sympathy with the author. With the book containing swearing, whingeing, whining and hilarious poems about the horse world and the oddities that “horse people” portray, is a delight and a very humorous read. This is a must for all horse addicts but also for the confused parents, partners and other halves that cannot comprehend why their loved ones stick themselves on to something that is GFM (check out the hilarious glossary at the back of the book to find out what that means!). I have decided not to buy another horse and reading From Nags to Numbnuts has probably backed up that decision in a very amusing sense. But I do miss shopping for those matching numnahs and “legwarmers”…. Published by Obvious Books, October 2018 From Nags to Numbnuts: A Skint Dressage Daddy’s Guide to Horses, Horse People & Horse Sports can be purchased for £6.99 via Amazon. Please follow: Skint Dressage Daddy on Facebook

Gallop by Sue Lyon-Heap

Just after she completed her memoir Gallop, author Sue Lyon-Heap asked former BBC Equestrian Commentator Mike Tucker, if he would write a few words for the front cover. Below was his generous response written just two weeks before his untimely death in March 2018. ‘If there was ever an example of how ambition, sheer determination and hard work can make dreams come true – this is it.’ Mike Tucker As the winner of the Subaru scholarship for outstanding young riders, Sue’s daughter, former International eventer Polly Williamson nee Lyon spent ten months in training with Mike and Angela Tucker. Over the next four years Polly went on to win six individual and team Gold medals as a junior and young rider, followed by selection for the senior squad with her Highland pony X Thoroughbred dun horse Highland Road. Sue’s inspiration to write Gallop came after Polly’s near fatal horse fall and three month battle for recovery at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, coupled with a strong desire to pay tribute to the horses and ponies that had played such important roles in the family’s life. Many famous names of past eras crop up in this story. Lucinda Green (Prior-Palmer), Ginny Leng, Mark Phillips, Mary King, and Polly’s former team mates, William Fox-Pitt, Tina Cook and Pippa Funnell. Plus Jenny Pidgeon, Dick Baimbridge – point-to-pointing and racehorses Devon Loch and Red Rum. Gallop tells of the author’s non-horsey childhood with her family as ex-pats in Cairo and later the Liverpool commuter area of the Wirral which is not so far from Aintree racecourse, and the weekly riding lesson at the local riding school. Many years later – now with her own family and living in North Wales, hunting in the hills and vales with the Flint and Denbigh hounds became a regular feature in their lives. The author describes those hunting days and the Pony Club as the bedrock, the important early training ground and particularly with hunting, the ingredient of stickability that was to become so essential in the crashes that followed their success in the sports of Eventing and later Point-to-pointing with Sue’s elder daughter Tory and her five times Open Ladies winner – Thamesdown Tootsie. With many vivid personal accounts of competing at Badminton and the Countryside March 2002, Gallop portrays the allure and courage of horses and gives hard won advice to the many young riders who hope to emulate their famous role models. What were the regrets the author asks, the life enhancing achievements? Gallop is a thrilling and thought provoking read and includes beautiful illustrations by the author. The love she has for the countryside, animals and especially horses shines through the book. There are amusing recollections of those four-legged equestrian accessories – Jack Russell terriers, plus following the Beaufort hounds, buying and having to sell special horses, and the excitement of watching a foal being born, wobbling to its feet and then cantering round the field – all within a day. Sue is a former selector for the British Junior Event Team and Pony Club instructor. She now enjoys helping in the scorer’s marquee at several Cheshire events, namely Somerford Park, Kelsall and Cholmondeley. Sue is a volunteer and fundraiser for the newly formed Riding for the Disabled group at Reaseheath College, Nantwich. Gallop is her second book. A Review by Susan E. Kerfoot ‘GALLOP is an ideal read for anyone who has ever taken part in Eventing as a sport, whether as a rider, owner or parent. Sue Lyon-Heap has a wonderful story to tell of her two daughter’s enormous successes but also of the hard knocks that come with equestrian sport. I could not put it down. Very poignant in parts too but very entertaining.’ British Young Rider squad – 1988. William Fox-Pitt, Polly Lyon, Pippa Funnell, Susanna McCaire. Book priced at £9.99. Signed copies of Gallop are available from or from Amazon, Waterstones and Troubador/publishing/books/gallop

The Man Behind The Mike – A Review

by Jane Wallace Book Review – Louise Broderick Published by Quiller, September 2018, 208 pages For most equestrian sports enthusiasts Mike Tucker was ‘the voice of equestrian sport.’ Always professional and extremely knowledgeable he shared with us some of the huge moments in the sport. As a commentator Mike saw and reported on some of the huge moments in sport; Zara Phillips winning Gold at the World Championships, team Gold for the show jumping team in the London Olympics, the rise of British dressage with Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin. Under his ‘watch’ he saw many of the big names in today’s sport rise from children to the superstars they are today. And of course, who could forget Mike Tucker commentating on the incredible fairytale that was Nick Skelton’s rise from near fatal injury to his Gold medal at the Rio Olympics. Sadly Mike died half way through writing the book. It is a testament to the author and publishers that the book was published as it would have been a great loss for the project to have been abandoned.  Part of the tragedy of Mike Tucker’s death is that he didn’t live to see this book published. Yet it is possibly because of his death the book came to be filled with recollections and stories from family, friends, work colleagues and competitors. The author, Jane Wallace will be familiar to many in the horse world, both as a competitor and writer of equestrian non-fiction. She has had a long history of competitive riding, both on show ponies and eventing rising to be the 3rd lady rider in the world in 1989. Initially, Mike recorded his memories into voice recognition software. Having interviewed many sportsmen and women I could well imagine the relief that was to everyone as I’d imagine, from reading the book that he was a hard man to pin down to sit still. While this captivating book is Mike Tucker’s biography, it is also a fascinating history of farming and equestrian life, interspersed with stories about dogs and horses. Mike spent a life time involved with horses and country life. He came from generations of farmers and sportsmen and farmed on the edge of the Badminton Estate. After a childhood filled with ponies, Mike began to event in the 1960’s, first competing at Badminton in 1964 following a trial round at Chatsworth where he completed the course after he fell off.  The text makes for fascinating reading, those were the days when courses were aimed at brave, bold riding rather than the technical ones of today. The events then still consisted of the steeplechase phase and roads and tracks. He was 6th at that first Badminton and went onto achieve an amazing 5 plaques for finishing during the years he competed. With the lifestyle he had, enmeshed in horses and eventing it was little wonder he married fellow event rider Angela Sowden. Eventing, in those days, perhaps more than now, was aimed at the brave, cheap, cast off horses could go into the hands of great riders and become superstars. The rangy Farmer Giles, potentially one of his top horses was a cheap injured racehorse. His full potential was never realised after he died of a heart attack after an event. Another, a precocious orphan foal General Bugle went on to great success. Growing up on a farm Mike was used to hard work but it was after a planned trip to Australia he had the time to event more, as another man had to be employed on the farm to help out. Another aspect of the book covers Mikes’s farming life, where the innovations and changes that have taken place over the year are documented. Growing up on a farm the book reminded me of many happy hours as a child and also of the huge changes which have taken place, as farming has changed now from the hugely social place it was, with large quantities of people needed for the work, to technology and machinery largely taking their place. In his home life, away from the cameras, Mike ran a big dairy farm. The Man Behind The Mike is filled with equestrian tales from the past, which will mesmerise the reader, my particular favourites were Mike grooming for Richard Meade’s horse Cornishman at the Mexico Olympics; The inaugural Punchestown, where horses were flown to the event; Blithely flying horses, where on one occasion a plane had to be turned around when the horse wouldn’t settle. It was unloaded and the plane took off again. Mike went on to start commentating and for ten years both commentated and competed. In 1986 he began to commentate full time working with some of the big names in commentating, Noel Phillips Brown, Dorian Williams and Raymond Brookes Ward.   Mike took over as the main equestrian commentator after the death of Raymond Brookes Ward. Mike’s last commentary was at Badminton in 2017. Over his career, he worked at 10 Olympics. The Man Behind The Mike talks about the chaos behind the scenes, where viewers see the unruffled commentator, little knowing what was going on in reality. But Mike was not just a commentator, he was completely immersed in equestrian sport, He was involved with numerous committees and was particularly conscious about eventing safety, in his spare time he volunteered as a steward at racecourses around the county.  A keen hunting man Mike was field master of Beaufort from 2001-9. He had a keen interest in hounds and huntsman. He always ensured his farm was rideable. The book inevitably contains plenty of hunting stories, especially hilarious is the bane of all Field Masters at their inaugural meet – falling off, which he did three times. The overall impression of Mike, throughout the book is of a thoroughly nice man, who friends recall, had a cheeky smile and a positive outlook with strong beliefs. He was passionate about the sport he believed in and instilled the message to his children that if they worked hard and were pleasant to everyone you can achieve whatever in life you set out to do. The text is a delightful portrait of a man who lived an extraordinary and very full life, who was excellent company, who liked to help people and yet was full of self- deprecating humour.  Throughout the last half of the book, which is filled with memories and recollections from those who knew him both professionally and socially he is spoken of as a legend of a man whom everyone misses very much. This is a skilled portrayal, making the reader feel they know the man and yet are left feeling disappointed they never had the opportunity to get to know him in person. To purchase, please visit Quiller Publishing

In The Middle Are The Horsemen by Tik Maynard

Book Review – Louise Broderick Published by Trafalgar Square, July 2018, 288 pages At first glance, this is a memoir of Canadian Tik Maynard’s challenge to himself to train with the most renown trainer and the most athletic horses in the world for a year. Finding himself at a crossroads in his life, due to losing his job because of an injury and having broken up with his girlfriend he was looking for something new. A job as a working student seemed ideal, seeing the world, training horses and learning in exchange for labour. He set about finding stables where he could work which could offer him what he was looking for. The search coincided with acceptance, by Gaitpost, a Canadian horse magazine, to publish articles he proposed writing about his experiences. Eventually, the articles published by this and other magazines form the basis for In The Middle Are The Horsemen. What Tik didn’t know was what type of trainer he wanted to work under, show jumping, dressage, horse starting, but began to work with an equestrian legend in Arnheim. What followed were experiences which don’t highlight the life of a working pupil in a good way, long hours, little training, rotten bosses and the horrible reality that as a groom you are considered way down the food chain of the elite horse riders and owners. After a disastrous attempt to cross the border into the States for a job, where Tik and horses are turned back, he finally makes the trip and begins a new life, knowing that he may never return home again.  That new life includes marriage to Sinead Halpin an incredibly driven and focused event rider who truly understands the ups and downs of horses and home life. During the floundering and wondering what direction his life should take Tik begins to study the relationship horses have to us, how we can help them understand what we need and to become a partnership with them. He goes on to work win a Thoroughbred Makeover competition at the Kentucky Horse Park possibly the springboard to the inspiration trainer we see today. Look deeper into the text and the reader will find a wealth of fascinating insights into horsemanship, into working with horses in a way that improves their lives and the way they interact with us. So many riders do just that: ride, rarely considering the incredibly generous animal who allows us to do just that. Our horses focus on us far more than many of us realise. We are his mentor and teacher, he is far more aware of our bodies and body language than we are. A horse has only one way of ‘talking’ to us, by being relaxed, or tense, it is the true horseman who not only understands this but understands what is making the horse the way he is. As riders we often feel our horses are having an off day, we understand things go wrong, either in the yard, schooling or during competition, but we don’t have the time or the knowledge to study our partners in depth as Tik has. This book is filled with those nuggets of information, those eureka moments of understanding which go to help improve situations. I’ve had a nagging issue with my own horse ever since he was first ridden. He’s tense in the arena at home. Take him to an arena down the road, or to a competition and he’s more relaxed. It is a quite imperceptible issue that comes from knowing him so well, just a slight feeling. And now, thanks to In The Middle Are The Horsemen, I’ve finally worked it out. To quote Tik, ‘the stable has a big draw.’ Of course it does. With my horse if we are away from home he relies on me – at home – he feels safer in his stable. I was brought up by an old school horseman who instilled in me that horses shouldn’t be fed titbits. But as Tik explains – food is given as a reward, not a bribe and not given out just because we can. I’d rewarded my horse with a carrot when he finished work, when he was in his stable and unsaddled. No wonder he wanted to get back there. Now I’ve started to reward with treats. He gets one after work in the arena BEFORE he goes back to the stable. And my word how fast the horses come in from the fields when I call them now! I hope Tik’s next book with discuss more of the huge depth of knowledge he has to share. He writes beautifully, the book is full of wry humour and beautiful descriptions of his world and the horses he shares it with. Read this book as a delightful memoir and perhaps as a social commentary on the equestrian world, but for those who want to learn more, to improve their relationship with their horses, this is a gold mine. To purchase your own copy, please visit Quiller Publishing

The Hitman’s Mistake – A Review

Author Sally Brandle, a horse owner and lover of books recently had her new book published The Hitman’s Mistake, (Book 1) a romantic suspense/thriller. With the equestrian touch, this romantic thriller is a great read for all genres. Haynet blogger, Oonagh O’Brien recently reviewed this new book and here are her thoughts on The Hitman’s Mistake:- When I got the opportunity to review this book, I jumped at the chance! From the very first page, the book grabbed my interest and it was one of those books that you promise yourself at 3am in the morning – that you’ll just read one more page and an hour later, you’re still flicking through reading. The book has a mix of everything – from the busy city life of Seattle to the roaming views of Montana, you almost feel you are there. The attraction between Miranda and Grant is electric and at times you almost feel invasive even reading their journey as it is so brilliantly written – I almost felt like a gooseberry!  Red the Mule brings the equestrian factor into the book and even the relationship between him and Miranda is a “feel good”. This book simply has it all – suspense, romance, drama and of course Red the Mule. I absolutely LOVED reading this book and Sally Brandle is now added to my must have author’s lists for any future books she releases.  Whether you want a book for beside the pool on holidays, or want something to read at home – this book has it all and you will not be disappointed! – Oonagh from Equine Cents & Sensibility  For your chance to read this super book, please visit AMAZON.

Pony Care by Alison Pocklington – A Review

Foreword by Lucinda Green MBE Having been pony mad since the age of eight, I remember back then having my head buried in any books I could get my hands on absorbing the pony obsession. Back in the day when the internet was a sci-fi dream, books were the only way of learning about horses and ponies, especially if you only rode once a week at a riding school. Since the internet has entered our lives, information is on tap in a matter of a mouse click. Having a book on a shelf is brilliant to refer to and I am glad that the ever faithful paperback is still standing strong in the modern age. I was asked by Quiller Publishing to take a read of Pony Care by Alison Pocklington which is a modern day step by step guide in buying and caring for your first pony. This book is aimed at children who are starting out in their horse and pony obsession which I imagine will be with you for life. It also caters for the novice parent who has said yes to the pony and is starting the process of buying a pony for their child with the potential years ahead caring for these beloved equines. The book is very cleverly laid out with the starting process of stepping into the equestrian world giving clear instructions and images. It is very honest and gives great sound advice in every aspect of what to look for when searching and buying a pony, to the realities and costs involved in the everyday care. Every page has wonderful informative images and checklists to know what to buy or giving helpful tips. It doesn’t shy away from giving a new owner a warning in what you are getting yourself into when buying a pony from the costs including dentistry, farriers, travelling to shows etc. It is not written to put anyone off, the author is just ensuring that buying a pony is done with thought and care through her advice in this well written book. I have owned a horse for fourteen years so my knowledge is perhaps strong in horse ownership. However, I found the book a pleasure to read and some advice was a good reminder to me all these years on. It also brought back lovely memories reading through what you need in a grooming kit and how to care for your pony in the stable and more. The book is great for adults and children and I am passing this on to a friend who has a pony mad daughter to read for her thoughts too through a child’s eyes. If you are thinking of buying a pony or your first horse, then buy this first before the pony purchase. It will save time, mistakes and actually save you money in the long run. As every horse and pony owners know, any saved pennies are a bonus in the cost of their care. Review by Samantha Hobden To purchase your own copy, click HERE

Stable Lass – A Review

Stable Lass by Author Gemma Hogg Being a stable lass is probably one of the hardest jobs in the country, and yet for Gemma Hogg it is the most rewarding. She works in the beautiful Yorkshire market town of Middleham and if her colleagues are occasionally challenging, then the horses are downright astonishing. Now, in Stable Lass, she takes us into the closed world of a top racing yard, from the elation of having several winners in one day to the almost indescribable grief of losing a horse. Like most stable lads and lasses, Gemma arrived in her yard as a teenager fresh out of racing college and had to cope with living away from home for the first time, as well as adapting to the brutal long hours, backbreaking work and often treacherous weather. She describes falling in love with Polo Venture, the first racehorse in her care, the pure exhilaration of riding him on Middleham Gallops for the first time and what happens when a horse takes against you, from the growling gelding Valiant Warrior to the potentially lethal Broadway Boy. She brings to life the characters around the yard, from straight-talking boss Micky Hammond to the jockeys starving themselves to make weight, the wealthy owners and the other stable lads and lasses who come from a range of different places and backgrounds. Haynet reviewer, Grainne Ni Chaba-Byrne of Newmarket Equine Physiotherapy, recently gave us her thoughts on the book: Stable Lass is an insightful book about the life of Gemma Hogg, the author, on her experiences of life in a racing yard. She starts by bringing you into the racing world through the eyes of a dreamy young girl with exciting expectations. She conveys brilliantly the thrill of riding the thoroughbred, the mad colourful staff characters, the bond the groom, riders and trainers have with their horses, the huge excitement of leading in a winner and going racing. But she also writes about the realistic side of hard work in all weathers, the financial difficulties and the heartache of loss. The book develops as she grows up in the racing world. It’s a very realistic easy to read, frank worded book on life in racing – a must read for anyone who has worked in racing or would like to! To purchase a copy, please visit Amazon

Charlotte Dujardin The Girl On The Dancing Horse – A Review

When I first received my copy of Charlotte’s book, I was so excited. Charlotte is literally Queen of Dressage to me, and because I’ve mentally put her on such a high pedestal for so long it’s easy to forget that she is actually human.  In her book, Charlotte reveals that her journey to legendary dressage status didn’t begin with all of life’s advantages. Yes, she had a horsey mum and ponies, but she reveals that all through her childhood there were sacrifices to be made and things weren’t always easy. I was expecting to hear lots about Valegro (Blueberry as he is known) and Carl, and for the book to be a little bit dry and sad.  I know that the media picked up on how she struggled emotionally after the London Olympics and it was easy to be put off and think that this was what her book would be about, but actually, it surprised me. As I settled into the book’s very first pages I was soon chuckling as I read about the things she and her siblings got up to when they were young. I identified with lots of them, what young pony girl didn’t set up jumps with household items and teach their poor dog to show jump? You could tell her childhood was full of fond memories of ponies, many moments had such a bubbly happy feeling to them you could definitely imagine yourself as young Charlotte making a carriage out of an old crate for her pony to pull, and the chaos that would follow. Like so many pony mad girls school was to be endured, and her dedication to riding, her hard work and getting everything just right really shone through. One of my favourite bits in the book had to be Charlotte’s utter disdain for a horse she used to own named Renegade (Rene) whom she claimed to have put her “off of black horses forever” which I thought was hilarious, especially when she said that he was the only horse she has ever had that she “waved merrily along his way” poor Rene!  I loved that she shared with us that she didn’t adore every horse, and that sometimes they just aren’t the one for you. I felt that I had joined Charlotte on an adventure as I read the book. I remember watching her at the London Olympics, and reading this book allowed me to experience the occasion from a completely different perspective.  It was so interesting to find out just what she was thinking at the time and experience it with her rather than just as a television viewer. I found it hard to put the book away, the real Charlotte really caught my interest. Overall, I found the book to be incredibly enjoyable and interesting, a far cry from the dry drone I had been expecting. It’s easy to read, written in a relaxed chatty style that can be followed by readers of all ages although it’s not written for children. I never thought of Charlotte as someone who could be in anyway relatable, and yet I was surprised to find elements of Charlotte within me, I sat there thinking “I really get that” several times. Many of you might be expecting that the book focuses on Charlotte’s battle with depression. While I’ll admit it moved me to tears and helped me understand that no one is invincible, please do not look at this book and think the only thing of interest is her depression. It’s an incredible story about the life of an incredible woman, and I can honestly say that it has inspired me so much to get cracking with my riding and really get working. Lots of love, Alanna xoxox

Book Review: The Principles of Riding – Basic Training for Horse and Rider

The German Equestrian Federation first published The Principles of Riding over 50 years ago and it has received wide ranging acclaim as a reference for horse and rider training since then, it has even been recognised by the FEI! I am ashamed to say that this 28th edition, which the publishers advise has been brought up to date and modernised while respecting the classical principles, is the first time I have been introduced to the book. It feels like an old friend, however, and I’m sure everyone will recognise within it aspects that they have read in a horsey magazine or comments that they have heard during lessons or read from a dressage test sheet! The book is exactly as advertised: a comprehensive guide to the fundamental aspects of horse riding (with helpful diagrams). There is guidance on almost everything you can think of: from very basic explanation of tack and the horse’s gaits up to more advanced dressage moves like the walk pirouette and advice for tricky cross-country fences like ditches and water. On a personal note, as the owner of a gaited horse, I was pleased to spot a little nod towards the “specialist” gaits even though they aren’t properly dealt with. There are entire books on the particulars of training and retraining the gaited breeds: definitely not a subject you would expect to be covered in depth in a reference book on basic principles, but the acknowledgement here is good enough for me! My favourite thing about this book is the fact that a good amount of it focuses on the rider’s responsibilities and relationship with their horse. Some of it should go without saying, like the basic care section gently reminding you to groom and make sure your horse is happy and comfortable before AND AFTER a ride. However, having spent a good amount of time on various livery yards now, it surprises and saddens me to note how often people don’t heed this simple advice. It is important to remember our horses are not machines, so I’m pleased to see The Principles of Riding reminding us of this. There is also a full chapter on “The Seat and Influence of the Rider”, which carries on with the theme of the rider’s responsibilities. This edition of The Principles of Riding has been informed by modern science and biomechanics and uses this to great effect adding to long-standing guidance about rider seat. Here, again, the section is interesting and relevant for most levels of amateur rider. It starts with the total basics and discusses the ideal seat for dressage, jumping and cross-country and develops through a discussion of rider aids on to “feel” as the ultimate in horse and rider harmony. There is also a “common problems” section highlighting the most common mistakes in rider position and aids – mistakes I’m sure we’re all guilty of from time to time! Any rider who has had an instructor tweak their position by about an inch and felt their horse drop into a perfect outline as if by magic will know how important rider position is. Ours really is a team sport. The Principles of Riding is probably not a book that you would sit down and read from cover to cover as soon as it arrives on the doormat. It is an indispensable reference book that no equestrian bookshelf should really be without. It is a book that you are meant to dip in and out of. Maybe to review or remind yourself of the very basics (because we all need reminding of those time to time); maybe to back up something your instructor or a judge has said recently; or maybe to learn exactly what is required for tackling ditches or mastering simple changes as you move up the levels in your sport. A friend’s dressage schoolmaster recently reminded me just how important it is to get the basics right – this book is there for all of us who want to get the best out of our horses by being the best teammate they could ask for. by Sara Godwin   To buy your own copy of The Principles of Riding, please click HERE. Remember to use your Haynet 25% discount code HAYNET2017 at checkout.

How To Look Cool Whilst Learning Polo – A Review

Written by Steve Thompson Having a keen interest in all equestrian sport, I must admit polo is pretty alien to me. I also have to put my hands up and admit that I have never been to a polo match despite having a polo club that is pretty much on my doorstep. It is a sport that appeals and it always looks like a super social day out enjoying this equestrian sport with a glass of bubbly in one hand and a smoked salmon blinis in the other! When I was offered the chance to read How To Look Cool Whilst Learning Polo, it was something that I was interested to see how you could look actually cool trying to grasp this equestrian sport. So when the book arrived, I was very keen to see if the author Steve Thompson could entice me into the world of polo. My first impressions of the book itself were good. It was larger than I imagined with a high quality manual feel to the book. The images were appealing, funny and some that were tongue in cheek which made the book very easy to read and take on board the instructions on how to learn polo. I really liked its style, as sometimes trying to learn a sport or skill through a book can be tough going. This certainly was easy to read and absorb how polo is played. The book was clearly laid out with high quality images and chapters. With checklists, diagrams and hilarious cartoon anecdotes showing you from “how to loft your balls” to “scoring on and off the field”, this book is a breath of fresh air in its instructional form. Joking aside, it does have a serious training aspect to the book, which would teach an aspiring polo player easily. So has it encouraged me to take up the sport? In all honesty no, but that is not the book’s fault. It is purely down to my slightly advancing years, creaking knees and the yearning to keep my equestrian sport to just a gentle hack! It has made me however, put another item on my bucket list and that is to actually go and watch a polo match and soak up the atmosphere, which I hope to tick off very soon. This is a great book for all equestrian enthusiasts which would also make a great gift too. If you gifted this book to a young and bold rider, I think it would definitely inspire them to pick up a mallet, buckle up their Argentine belt and head off to the polo field looking incredibly cool! Reviewed by Samantha Hobden To buy your own copy of How To Look Cool Whilst Learning Polo, please click HERE and visit Quiller Publishing. Please remember to use your Haynet 25% discount code using HAYNET2017 at checkout.

Heart to Heart with Horses – An Equine Lover’s Guide to Reiki

The author, Kathleen Prasad is a very well respected Reiki Master and the co-founder & president of the Shelter Animal Reiki Association (SARA).  I therefore expected it to be an informative and interesting read; however what I did not expect, was the number of wonderful meditations Kathleen has included in the book.  As a Reiki practitioner myself, I meditate, however it has never occurred to me to include an animal in a meditation.  I am not a horse owner but it seems to me that many of the meditations could be enjoyed with another animal instead.   For those unfamiliar with Reiki, the book offers a clear insight into this system of healing and gives some lovely case studies, which I particularly enjoyed.  These detail incidences where Reiki has been offered to a horse either with a physical or emotional problem.  Note the word “offered”.  Throughout the book Kathleen impresses on the reader how important it is that the horse is in charge of the healing session and that if they wish to have physical touch they will approach you.   My one criticism is that I felt these anecdotes could have been a little longer and more detailed.   There are also some wonderful quotes in the book; “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved” – George MacDonald.  This seems very pertinent when referring to the horse/rider relationship as it works both ways.   I particularly enjoyed Chapter 5; Horses as Teachers.  “When we listen to our horses, we get an education.  When we don’t, we get experience.” Mark Rashid.  In this chapter Kathleen talks about how just spending time with horses, whether it’s grooming or simply watching them graze,  helps our busy human minds to empty and to feel more at peace.   I think most people will concur with this.  Very often you will be spending time outside with your horse, enjoying nature and Kathleen explains how that helps us to “go to that quiet place inside us where healing energy flows so easily”.   In her guidelines for sharing Reiki with your horse, Kathleen explains how Reiki is a complementary therapy and is not a replacement for veterinary care.  She also gives practical safety advice.  People unfamiliar with Reiki may not be aware that it can be carried out from a distance, which is a great advantage when dealing with a frightened or nervous animal.   I feel the book will appeal to those interested in or already practicing Reiki, those who meditate and of course anyone who owns a horse or rides regularly.  A few aspects of the book might be outside the comfort zone of some people, particularly a couple of the meditations, however there is a lot to be learned from it and so many new ideas to consider.   In the words of Kathleen; Be light. Be love. Be peace. Be Reiki.   Review by Sandra Hunnisett, Reiki Practitioner   To purchase your own copy of Heart to Heart with Horses, please click HERE For anyone interested in finding out more about Reiki, perhaps looking for a practitioner in their area who is experienced with horses or even learning Reiki themselves, I would suggest they visit The Reiki Association website  I am a member of The Reiki Association and we are a UK and worldwide not for profit organisation for Reiki Masters, practitioners & students.  TRA supports community and professional practice.

A Bed of Brambles – A Review

by Sam Russell With the follow up to A Bed of Barley Straw this second book in the Draymere Hall series was never going to be a conventional love story. No bed of roses. Proud, passionate and wilful, Hettie and Alexander are alike in so many ways. That has to be a good thing, doesn’t it? Or it could be a disaster…both carry scars, and old wounds have a habit of causing new hurt. Physical attraction draws them together. Hearts and minds can be thorny, less easy to satisfy. One thing is certain, together or apart their lives will move on. Alexander and Hettie’s clashes of spirit will only be part of the story. Second chances. New beginnings. The opportunity to make things right. Or to make the same mistakes all over again. Unless fate takes the future out of your hands… To purchase a copy of A Bed of Barley Straw, please visit Amazon or through Russell Romance This was such an addictive read filled with passion, angst, heartache and uncertainty. I loved how the author had developed two characters both with a past they wished to hide, both passionate about their beliefs but also passionate about their loves. Hettie and Alexander had spent months apart whilst she was working overseas but now back home in the Cotswolds it wasn’t plain sailing for the young couple that their sexual chemistry drew them together like magnets. Hettie needed to find work preferably working with horses as that’s all she’s ever known and loved. The chance to start her own livery business brings back so many dark memories and her life soon becomes in danger from this past she wishes she could scrape up and throw away like the manure in the stables. A gripping romance filled with passion, new beginnings, second chances and opening your heart and soul to let go of the demons inside you. N.B. I haven’t read the first book in this series, I didn’t realise it was part of a series until I wrote this review. The book can definitely be read as a standalone but I’m keen now to read book one. – Adele from Kraftireader   Love this second book in the Draymere Hall series. The first book is an exciting and complex delve into a thoroughly modern romance in a traditional setting and this book takes off from there to bring the romance to maturity whilst also developing secondary characters into real human beings. It deals with difficult issues and through these issues the reader begins to see why the characters behave as they do. The ‘will they / won’t they’ theme is still there and I would miss it if it wasn’t but it’s different this time. It’s not so much about sex, they can certainly make that work! It’s about having a real relationship that can deal with all the issues that come into play afterwards – can you accept your partner’s flaws and mistakes, can you support them through difficult times and can you babysit other people’s kids without killing each other! Well done, Sam – hope you are working on the third…. – Sandra

The Power of Coaching: “A Highly Recommended Book”

The Power of Coaching published by Islay Auty BA FBHS and Penny Pollard MA is a fantastic book for horse rider and trainer to read.  With its innovative approach to coaching where the authors have merged their knowledge of equestrian sport with commercial business management, this enables a more practical approach and the release of more potential in equestrian athletes.   Haynet members Sarah Porter and Vanessa Hill recently read the book to give us their thoughts on the book with both finding it an educating and interesting read:   “This is an excellent book that I can highly recommend. It will be an excellent reference book for any established coach or anyone taking their coaching qualifications. For the rider, and this is my only criticism of the book, who the authors call the learner, which to me gives the impression of a beginner, it really defines what to expect and look for in a coach, however, it is aimed at riders of all levels. There are seven chapters, all colour coded, which give good and bad examples of coaching from both the Equestrian and Business worlds. The core values of a good coach are explored, as are the different ways people like to learn and how different ages and sexes learn at different paces, and how the coach needs to adapt to this. A valid point is made that the coach needs to be someone the learner can confide in, and ask questions of without feeling stupid, or made to look daft in front of others, also that the rider is not the only person involved, but also parents, partners, owners, sponsors and the horse. It also looks at problems facing the rider, like work / school commitments, family problems and even lack of finances, and how a good coach can help with suggestions to resolve these issues. Different aspects are looked at such as rider fitness, sports psychology, NLP, and Mindfulness, and how a good coach should be prepared to point the learner in the direction of someone to help with these things. The role of the horse is explored in one chapter, making an excellent point that the horse is not involved in establishing the riders goals, but would happily spend all day grazing in the field, and that we must treat them with empathy to achieve a happy equine athlete . Some good ways of extra learning are suggested, such as volunteering as a steward at a good show, writing for a dressage judge and helping a vet at an endurance ride, also that all the relevant disciplines hold training courses, and a lot can be learnt from sitting in and watching an experienced coach/rider. There is also a list of further reading and useful contact details. Having read this book, I have learnt I am a intrinsically motivated learner, who’s learning style is a activist, meaning I like to have a go. I have also booked myself on a Mindfulness course and upped my fitness routine with Tai-chi as well as my Pilates for my core strength. I am also looking for a new coach, as after reading this book it has made me aware of my current one’s shortcomings, and how I had got into a habit of putting up with things. Anyone reading this book can learn what type of learner they are, which applies to both the rider and coach, which will help with their self-awareness. The biggest thing I took away from the book is that learning should be regarded as an investment, a ongoing thing, and that your coach should be a confidant and someone you respect” – Vanessa Hill   “An informative and well written text which is equally relevant to professionals seeking to further develop their coaching techniques as it is to trainee coaches, riders and their supporters. The authors address the psychology of coaching on several levels including emotionally and spiritually but most importantly they recognise that unlike the majority of athletes the equestrian athlete has a living, thinking and frequently unpredictable piece of equipment – the horse.  The relationships between horse – rider – trainer are explored using scenarios that are easy to relate to and provide insights to problems and possible solutions.    From my perspective as a parent of a young rider I was quickly engaged by the book; recognising situations both positive and negative from our training experiences; and have gathered tools to use in the future.  I am sure that I will be revisiting this book for guidance as and when we have new training challenges and would recommend it to others.” – Sarah Porter   To buy your own copy of The Power of Coaching, please click HERE. Remember to apply your Haynet member discount code to receive a 25% off using HAYNET2017 at checkout.

The Total Dog Manual – A Review

Reading and reviewing this book has been difficult. Would you like to know why? Well I have a puppy. A Jack Russell puppy.This little bundle takes up so much time!! My family and I have had dogs in our lives for around thirty years. So to take on a puppy would be second nature and a doddle – surely? This doesn’t seem to be the case and it is still time and dedication when having to train a puppy in to your life. Therefore I was very happy to read and review The Total Dog Manual to ease this manic bundle of fluff into our house.   The canine world has changed dramatically since my parents took on their first Springer Spaniel puppy back in the eighties. I’m not sure there were too many training classes, manuals or shops dedicated to all things dog back then. I remember seeing a book on dog breeds on the shelf at home all those years back, but it was a very basic look on how to train and live with a dog.   My first impressions of the Total Dog Manual were good. A lovely laid out book, carefully illustrated with numbered tips for you to refer to.  The book is set out to four simple chapters: The Basics, Behaviour, Training and Care. Those who have dogs will probably think they would not need a book to refer to. However, there are so many tips and advice which I certainly learnt from reading through.  The sections of Behaviour and Training were of particular interest giving simple but good and clear advice to deal and understand behaviour issues and training methods.   The book is numbered with tips from 1 to 268. This is a clever way in referring back to a point in the book if you want to read a section again. This helped me remembering point 160 on how to prevent your dog or puppy pulling on the leash….a problem which we are currently trying to master! Another lovely part to this manual is “Dog Tales” with canine stories that are very touching and inspiring.   The manual is an ultimate for book for dog lovers. It would make an excellent and invaluable read for the first time dog owner whether that being taking on a puppy or an older rescue dog. However, this would sit very happily on the shelf of any home with dogs which can be referred to at ease answering your canine questions. A super book for any dog owner.   To purchase the manual please click HERE   Written by Samantha Hobden Editor   Image Credit: Kobe reading some top canine behaviour and training tips….

Posture and Performance – A Review

If the word ‘anatomy’ turns you to ice then this is the book for you. A beautifully produced book; the illustrations mirror the text the whole way through and it runs in a logical order from start to finish.   Most horse owners and riders will at some point find themselves listening to their vet or trainer or physiotherapist as they use long anatomical words and phrases which are sort of familiar at best and perplexing at worst. This book will help such words to become part of a second language. We have all felt at times that if we could see into our horse with X-ray vision life would be so much easier, this books gives you that.   Having been unable to put this book down, I really feel that in an ideal world no horse owner or rider should be allowed to back, train, saddle or ride their horse without having read it first; you think you know what is going on when your horse moves but there is so much more to it. Even if you use it to assess one pace, one pony’s movement, one rider’s position, use it! I thought I knew quite a bit about horse anatomy and movement but I was woefully lacking. There is so much to learn from this book, and it is delivered to you in a factual yet user-friendly manner, it makes sense of the jargon and holds your hand right the way through.   by Jessica Bramwell   Come and visit Quiller Publishing and buy your copy of Posture and Performance today!