Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Book Review: Basic Training for a Safe Trail Horse

A reader with the alias of Dazey left the following comment on my site a few weeks ago underneath my post about Horse Organizations:

"My experience with the club I joined was much like yours also. The suggestion already made about meeting people within the club who would like to ride with you outside of the club activities is a good one. I ended up meeting a then member (neither of us are members now) who changed my horse life completely. She had a lifetime of experience with horses that started when her father put her on the farm horse at age two and told her to stay there. She had no bridle, only a bit of harness to hold on with, but as she grew older she learned how to relate to that horse to get it to do what she wanted. During her teaching years she worked with 4H kids and took her horses to all kinds of venues from showing to endurance and found rescue horses that had to be retrained.

The club members are still socializing and that's fine, but I'm riding like I never thought I would. I learned from my friend all the things I didn't know that I didn't know. Getting older means wanting a safe horse is a priority, especially being a trail rider and participating in judged pleasure rides. Now as a result of all I've learned and experienced I have written a small paperback book just published and available on Amazon.com. It is especially suitable for recreational riders who keep horses at home and want to learn how to teach a horse to be as safe as possible. It is called Basic Training for a Safe Trail Horse with subtitle Eliminating the Fear Factors. Maybe it can't help with finding a club but it sure can help you and your horse!! Happy Trails!

I immediately purchased BASIC TRAINING for a SAFE TRAIL HORSE - Eliminating the Fear Factors by Martha T. Leynes-Selbert from Amazon.com and was able to read it over a weekend. Following this little book on the heels of reading the fairly comprehensive trail riding book in my last review probably wasn't fair, but I did spot a few differences that made this little book unique.

Leynes-Selbert does feel strongly about using bitless bridles. The other part of her book that stood out for me was her argument for teaching a horse to stop and stand still when you wrap your legs around its sides. Basically, when a horse bolts or shies, the first thing most riders do is clamp down with their legs. Yet we teach our horses to go faster when we lay leg on them. It does seem to be a contradiction.

With my background, I have been trained to always clamp down with the thighs and keep your lower leg off the horse unless giving a cue to go a specific gait, move over or turn, and each cue requires placing your feet and calves in different positions. I had to train myself to simply not lock my lower legs around the horse's barrel when losing my balance or losing control of the horse. Yet this argument for teaching the horse to stop and stand when the rider's legs clamp down does make sense and would definitely make for a safer horse that beginners can ride.

The other part of this book that I enjoyed was the author's personal experiences. I love to read about how others learned to trail ride, which is why I follow so many blogs. The author gives credit to her mentor, Patricia Allard, for teaching her much of what she has recorded in the book. It all started one day on a club trail ride when Leynes-Selbert noticed that Allard was riding calmly on a slow horse, and wisely requested to ride behind her while others were trotting their anxious horses here and there. Her goal was to slow down and calm her own horse. That led to many more trail rides together, and lots of wisdom being passed on.

Leynes-Selbert makes good use of grown out thumbnails, using them to keep a horse out of her space much the way an alpha mare would bite another horse that isn't being respectful. I definitely could have used that knowledge when Gabbrielle was a yearling, constantly looking around while being led and often stepping into me and sometimes on me.

The author knows the value of repetition and praise, and has a good feel for how a horse's mind works. In the chapters of the book, she addresses how to train a horse to stand, stand for the mount, walk, and back up. She gives examples on how to train a horse to weave around obstacles, turn, side-pass, go through underbrush, puddles, mud, hills, ditches, creeks, and how to handle logs across paths. She also addresses the common problems of spooking, bolting, jigging and bucking.

For only $9.95 it's a good little book for someone new to trail riding. It reminded me that I still have a lot of preparation work to do with my horses before hitting the trails this summer. My older horses have gaps in their education and can't perform some of the maneuvers she mentions. I guess that means it's time for me to put them to work.


dp said...

Thanks for the interesting book tip. As another fan of bitless riding I will take a look.

Callie said...

Sounds like an informative and entertaining book to pick up. Might try it, but I hate reading, mostly because I think I need new glasses, LOL.

OnceUponAnEquine said...

I will be doing some online shopping today. Thanks for another good book review.

Andrea said...

What a great little book!! I love to go on trail rides, but HATE the "freak" out moments that sometimes happens!! I will have to check that book out.

Cheryl Ann said...

I'll have to check out that book!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

That sounds like a very informative read. Hmmm, I'll have to check into that.

dazey said...

Here is what the author says...Many thanks for your wonderful review of my little book! and for including a picture of the cover. I want very much for the information in this book to reach as many horse lovers as possible, because I think it will benefit horses and their handlers/riders. From Martha Leynes-Selbert book inquiries can be made at safetrailhorse@gmail.com

MissPat said...

I have just read this eye-catching WONDERFUL book. Yes, it is a super basic informative guide to trail safety. I/my horses have gone bitless for several years. It takes more time, and patience, but it is a sure way for a calm dependable mount whose actions can be relied on. What a friendship -- Horse and rider that is!

Zephyr's Mom said...

Dazey posted on my blog too, in response to an entry in which I described my preferred method of trailer training (the "sending" method as taught by Clinton Anderson). She told me the sending method was "predatory" and I should buy this book to learn how to do it better... but never identified herself as the author. The book may be great, but I won't be buying it. She needs new marketing strategies and a lesson on tact.

Anonymous said...

Blog Author: Many thanks for your evaluations and our opportunity to critique, too. If you wish, you may paraphrase the following. I have read Martha's book, not Judi's, but look forward to reading it based on your/others comments.

IdaSue says: Many thanks to Martha, and her exceptionally horse-wise, friend, Pat. Finally people are getting the idea that horses actually learn better, with more consistency, when taught with single-word cues. Once learned, they are understood anytime, anywhere from in-hand to driving, to stall and liberty. Words act as a pre-cue/'turn signal' for what the handler/rider wants. Word commands may only need to be reinforced with other very slight cues; not insensitivity and painful training. How about if children were taught by their parents or teachers with cold steel in their mouth or in their sides? I have re-educated many abused rescued horses for over 30 years, not using bits or spurs, nor any drugs, chemical or herbal. A totally new language of words is far better than having the horse un-learn, then re-learn the something, the same 'whoa'. With kindness and patience, horses recognize and correctly respond to one-syllable word commands: 'stand' 'foot' come' 'ease' 'move'. Like Martha and Judi, my ultimate goal is a SAFE, dependable trail horse that I know will enjoy the quietness of Nature, too.

Blog Author: My friend wishes to enter her comments -- Thanks.

SANDRA W says: Thank you Martha and Pat for ways other than the 'cowboy' methods, which mean to make the more skidish and high-strung horses even worse. The concept of alpha mare is far more appealing to me, and I am sure much more appealing to the horse, rather than a predator. Oh, yes, 'the predator' would be humans to our modern horse with ropes and whips, steel bits and spurs, tie-downs and those monotonous circles.

CurtsBooks said...

The author left a comment on my blog also. I am always open to new learning so I Googled her book & found this site. Thank you for the review & the commenter who also did a review.
I am not a fanatic on anything--except good care for horses and constant learning for the human. So I am a bit turned-off by someone who is a bitless fanatic. But the idea of using tight legs as a stop cue is interesting.
I put the book on my list on Amazon and may order it, or not.
Glad to have found this site.


Meg said...

I have a young horse, who used to be totally cool no matter where he was,but had a bad fright from a dog attack in December. He is now (understandably) not relaxed on trail rides, and has had several episodes of shying and bucking when startled. He just seems generally less trusting and grounded, head up, ears pricked at any possibility. I would like to help him get past this--any suggestions much appreciated.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Meg - Check out this post: