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