Thursday, April 23, 2009

Friday Book Review: back to basics

So last night I had a horrible realization - after finishing the Francome book, I've read absolutely nothing horse-related all week. That's.... unusual, to say the least.
I could blame it on the 5 "inspirational" (a.k.a Christian/faith-based) romances I have to have read & reviewed by May 1st. They're not exactly my usual cup of tea. I've been madly procrastinating on those ever since I started the first one - the writing was awful, and I kept wanting to fling it at something. Thankfully, the second one was marginally better, and the third is the first one I've actually wanted to pick back up when I set it down. Hopefully numbers 4 & 5 continue in the same direction!
But that would be copping out.

What I'm going to do instead is pull a book off the shelf this morning and work on my riding plan for the afternoon. Hopefully it will be nice enough this afternoon to actually put the plan into action, and I'll let you all know how it went.

Beginning Western Exercises by Cherry Hill
It's a skinny little spiral bound book. The pages aren't even numbered, so I can't tell you exactly how long it isn't, but not over 35 of them. And since open it's only about the size of a half sheet if 8 1/2 x 11" paper, it's certainly not exhaustive.

It covers basics such as the halt, walk, jog & lope, and a brief checklist of what you should feel if each gait is being preformed correctly. The exercises themselves are deceptively simple. Walk-Jog-Walk, for instance, contains the following advice:
Beware of doing this exercise before a horse has learned to move actively forward. A horse must know how to reach well underneath himself with his hind legs before he is collected.
Reading through it for the first time I quickly came to the conclusion that the "Beginning" portion of the title is somewhat misleading! I haven't changed my mind after using it for a while. There's an expectation that the reader will know what terms such as aids, collection, bend, flexion and contact mean, and can apply them correctly. Certainly, that's more than a true beginner will be comfortable with, especially on her own.

Hill does suggest working regularly with an instructor or qualified friend, having someone tape you riding the exercises, riding with mirrors, etc. to help make sure you're doing things right. The book ends with a test and a score sheet which Hill recommends photocopying for repeat performances. A high score means horse & rider are ready to move on to Intermediate Western Exercises.

The 1998 publication date makes it not exactly the newest thing on the market, but it is still in print.
Mainly I use this one in conjunction with another of Hill's books, 101 Arena Exercises which I've reviewed previously. Probably not quite as much as that one, but it's a good check at the beginning of the year to see exactly how much both Sunny and I have lost since the previous year.

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