A Book Review

Riding in the Moment By Michael Schaffer

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you may remember some ground exercises Maryann and I did on a day when it was too frozen to ride.  Well, they came from this great book I stumbled upon, and I thought I would share a complete review of it now that I’ve finished reading it.

This book is specifically written for the amateur rider who is trying to train her own horse, which was perfect for me.  Mr. Schaffer believes that most training is from the top down, but that it should be from the bottom up.  In other words, you need to learn the alphabet (the bottom) before you can string together a sentence (the top).  His training philosophy is based on five “first tier” basics: go, stop, turn in, move out, and soften.  All dressage test movements come from a combination of these five elements, and these five elements only.   For example, you don’t teach a horse to trot a 20-meter circle, you teach him to trot off when you ask (go), move off your inside leg so he doesn’t make the circle too small (move out), listen to your outside rein so he doesn’t make the circle too big (turn in), give to the bit (soften), and not rush on his forehand (stop).

His training methods are in line with what you’ll hear from others but he presents them in a slightly different light.   Instead of saying  “your horse should respond to a light aid,” Mr. Schaffer explains that the light aid is really an instruction that the horse must learn to understand.  The idea is that you don’t force your horse to do something, which you can do by pushing or pulling harder, but instead to ask your horse a question you’ve taught him the answer to.

This book provides numerous exercises to help us show our horses what we want from them.   It starts with groundwork and moves to mounted exercises.  The beauty of this book is that in addition to being a printed book, it is also available electronically.  The electronic version contains videos so you can see, and not just read, what it means for the horse to soften, for example.

Mr. Schaffer’s philosophy made a lot of sense to me, especially when I put it into practice working through the exercises in the book.  If you’ve successfully trained lots of horses, this book is not for you because you’ll find it too elementary.  If you don’t have a basic understanding of dressage, this book is also not for you because you won’t understand the concepts.  However, if you have some experience but are struggling to give your horse a good foundation in the basics, then Mr. Schaffer’s book may just be what you need to forge ahead.

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