Author: Eric Smiley with Ellie Hughes
Reviewer: Tam Thompson
I was excited to be given the opportunity to review this book, and even more so when it arrived! To set the scene, I am a normal average rider. I have one horse, I work full time and ride when I can but mostly at weekends. I am not talented and neither am I very good but with the limited time I do have, I do want the best for my horse and I want to improve. So this book seemed to be a perfect read to help me make the next step towards being an effective rider.
All of us have moments of clarity when something we’ve been trying to understand suddenly makes sense. Mine was when a coach explained to me that the rein contact to the bit enabled a conversation – it is not a means to simply instruct the horse. Suddenly everything I was trying to do made sense! And no longer do dressage judges accuse me of having washing lines for reins. I had the same feeling on opening the cover of this book and reading the phrase in the sleeve notes “His (the author’s) aim is to bring together the mind of the rider with the mind of the horse”. That’s what we all strive for when you really distil it all: synergy, teamwork and a shared mind-set. In other words, we want to understand our horse and we want our horse to understand us.
I rarely read a horse book without any kind of internalised argument with the text. I was hoping this may be one of the rare ones. With an open mind I started reading…
The author is a Fellow of the BHS, so clearly knows what he is writing about. His writing is very clear and easy to follow, and his ideas just make sense.
There is a good balance of theory, with the key points highlighted, and practical exercises which are easy to set up. The Q&A in the practical sections helped me to understand the theory I had just read, and the section on re-balancing was really helpful.
I very much enjoyed the author’s straight clear speaking approach. I sometimes find during lessons that there is an assumption of what the rider will understand based on what they can demonstrate. I can get my horse to shoulder in but I have no idea of the correct method, why these movements are useful or indeed if we are doing it well. This book goes some way to explaining the theory behind all the movements we perform in schooling, as well as what to ‘feel’ for.
I found the book very motivating. It made me feel as though my goals will be achievable if I can break them down and work hard at perfecting my own body’s responses as well as my horse’s.
The illustrations offer even more clarity and there is a very good balance of photography versus line drawings to help the reader understand the text.
It’s a useful reference volume, an easy clear read, and I will be referring to it for a long while to come.
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