redridingbook The Little Red Riding Book is an effortless and enjoyable introduction to horses, safe riding habits, and early lessons, without becoming tedious. The excitement of 2 city children who are simply out-of-their-minds-excited about connecting with horses is so well conveyed by the author, whose firsthand experience with that excitement is obvious. The local flavor of the book will have the readers guessing as to the identities of the people, places, and horses in the book, because this is, after all, a local author drawing on local experiences.

The illustrations of the horses are beautiful pencil sketches, showing a serious study of horse structure and especially the kindness of the horses’ facial expressions. The illustrator has also captured the children’s warmth and excitement, although not with the same detail as she has mastered in her equine subjects.

Written for children ages 4 – 8 years old, I nonetheless found the book a delightful read, and I am 70! It can be read to the younger children and the older ones can read it for themselves, but it will still challenge their reading skills, especially phonetics, as they roll their tongues around words like “Mrs. Wallensworth” “authentic” and “agitated”. They will enjoy mastering the vocabulary as well as improving their knowledge of that favorite subject, horses and ponies.

The first book that we will be reviewing is Twisted Truths of Modern Dressage by Philippe Karl.

The best thing about this book is the gorgeous pictures and diagrams, definitely some of the best in equestrian print. The photographs are of exceptional quality and the diagrams are color coded to make them easier to understand. The diagrams of a horse’s range of vision show clearly why horses need to carry their heads high and why pulling their heads too low with the profile behind the vertical has the effect of rendering them blind.  If they weren’t afraid of the riders, they would surely stop, but they carry on fueled by their slavery to what is currently being touted as obedience and submission.

The author is very clear in his purpose in writing the book, as it mirrors the philosophies that are erupting worldwide in a backlash reaction to what is visible in current competition. The author’s well stated opinion is that current top performers are not always in harmony with the natural abilities of horses, nor are they in harmony with the objectives of the FEI,  and that they are in fact incorrect and producing harmful results. The horses of course are the willing and generous victims of these so-called “new” training methods which are being copied without care or consideration for the time honored methods of the old masters. He backs up his allegations with convincing photos and drawings in which he compares horses doing correct and incorrect movements, although he studiously avoids pointing fingers at high profile individuals.

This is therefore a good read for the lover of dressage controversy and debate. It is a book for riders with open and inquiring minds.. Because all horses are not the same it would be an arrogant assumption that there is only one way to train them, even within one discipline, including dressage. The author provides some interesting and encouraging suggestions for different approaches.

The first chapter is a brief  history of dressage, and it is done with sufficient brevity as to remain interesting and still manages to hammer home the message that horses have not changed all that much through the millennia; and that dressage as “sport” is a relatively new phenomenon. Until recently it was primarily either an art form or a military necessity. The reader is lead to think that equestrian “sport” for its own sake has done horses and their training a disservice.

There is a quotation on p.28 that could be used to summarize the message in the book. “No discipline can claim to transform each of its competitors into irreproachable riders, but we could at least expect dressage to dissuade incorrect practices and therefore protect the horses that are placed under its jurisdiction. Unfortunately we cannot help but observe a lack of knowledge of the horse, technical inconsistency and permissiveness have led to modern day dressage straying a long way from this idea.”

The controversial subject of “flexions” a la Baucher, is well explained. The photographs showing how to develop the flexions from the ground so as to encourage the horse’s understanding of them are detailed and clear. The reasons for using these “flexions” are explained from an anatomical as well as a training viewpoint. The inclusion of flexions as an integral part of training horses is well accepted and in common use in many countries worldwide.

The book promotes understanding of this approach and the author’s many successes with horses of all breeds gives the system credibility. He makes no claims to it being “his” system, nor does he claim it is new or unique. Rather he emphasizes and demonstrates its usefulness through the ages and asserts that it is more in harmony with the nature of equus than are many current methods. By “in harmony with the nature of the horse” he means conflicts are reduced, forceful training is reduced, and the result is the willing compliance of the animals, thereby promoting their longevity and soundness of mind and body. This is one book that is going into my home library for sure.

About the critics

For our Dog & Pony Shop Book Reviews there are two Critcs:

Critic One has trained and Competed Horses thru the FEI Levels in Dressage in their Earlier Years.  Has recently returned to Riding, training and instructing a select few horses and pupils.

Critic Two has trained, Competed and Instructed Pupils up thru Grand Prix Dressage. Is a Senior Dressage Judge and Instructs Various Students