Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nothing Like the Classics

I majored in English in college. I read so many books that I was actually burned out on reading anything other than a restaurant menu for quite a while after graduation.  After a time, I started to enjoy reading again, but ironically, despite reading obsessively as a child and taking all of those literature classes, I missed out on many classics.

So every summer I make a point to read at least an old favorite or two or a book that I somehow overlooked. There is something to be said for picking up a cherished book and really soaking it in instead of worrying about getting through ten chapters before the next class.

The same goes for the old classics in horsemanship. Two favorites that I always come back to: Hunter Seat Equitation by George Morris and Centered Riding by Sally Swift. You may know these books yourself, but if not, find and order them today.

George Morris’ advice is just as relevant today as when he wrote this book 40 years ago.  One of my favorite ideas from his book is that you respect the horse always and foremost. But the best way to do this is not by riding as best you can, but by cleaning your tack, dressing out appropriately even just for schooling and being a good all-around horse person and practicing good horse-keeping.

Sally Swift’s legacy continues with her Centered Riding program and method of instruction. But her illustrations and visual metaphors are so vivid and striking that they are easy to remember. I find myself going back to several visuals that work well for me whenever I feel out of position or those days when I’m not in harmony with the horse I’m riding. 

What is on your reading list this summer? A few fun ideas to get you going:

  • I love non-fiction books about horse racing as the stories and people are larger than life. Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand is hard to put down—horse, action and history lesson all rolled into one.
  • Those who have not read any of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books (The Lord of the Rings series) would be fascinated to learn that horses play key roles in the storyline and are revered by the inhabitants of the fictional realm of Rohan.
  • If you have a horse-crazed child, trying reading National Velvet by Enid Bagnold out loud and imitate all of the British accents. Forget the movie—with all due respect to Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney--the book is full of amazingly rich characters and brilliant imagery.
  • For a non-horsey flavor, but a chance to regress to those endless, childhood summers, try Treasure Island or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or Pride and Prejudice.
Share your favorites in the comments!

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