Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reflections on Riding and Jumping....

You know that saying everything has a time and a place? Well, it is certainly true. This book has been sitting in my horse library (which is HUGE!) for seven years! It accompanied me on a difficult trip with the military to San Diego for six months where I would occasionally thumb through to glance at pics now and then, but never read the book. At the time, owning my own horse, let alone jumping again seemed unobtainable. A dream. But somehow, having it there in my line of sight gave me hope... Just that picture on the cover. A determined man taking a beautiful horse over a fence. Now, that dream is starting to be what I make of it. My dream is obtainable if I want it to be. :) The other day I glanced at this book as I was purusing my horse shelf, and went, "Hmmm. Let's see what this book has to say."  After all, since it helped me in my time of hardship, didn't I owe this book a gander? Definitely. Especially now that I am actually starting to jump my OWN horse. I want to share this book with you. Now STOP. Even if you don't jump (and I currently would put myself--even with experience-- as a wanna be jumper :), please read on because there are some fabulous pearls of wisdom I wish to share with you that this five time Olympian can't be wrong about. William Steinkraus has ridden in five Olympics and took the first individual equestrian gold ever won by an American rider in 1968 in Mexico City. He took along a few more team medals, has ridden on thrity-nine winning Nations Cups teams (usually as anchor) and has won over one hundred individual international competitions. He has been elected to FOUR Halls of Fame. He has numerous other standings under his belt, really quite too much to add here. But I think you get the point that the man has some horse sense. Before my dressage lesson yesterday I pulled out the book to show Allison who is eighty years old, and was quite the eventer in her time. "Ahh. Mindy," she drolls in her english accent, "Now that man is a legend. I own that book. Isn't it great?" She could even name the horse on the cover. Another crazy, but oh so cool thing. She teaches what I am reading. Almost to the word. Bizzarre? Dunno. She is also very Walter Zettl like, I am inclined to think she is just one HELL of a horsewoman and I am a very lucky student! So, on with the pearls of wisdom. They are straight out of the book. Stick around for his epilogue after the aphorisms. Trust me.
Thank you for this informative book Mr. William Steinkraus. I hope to shake your hand one day.....

Two Dozen Useful Aphorisms by William Steinkraus
1. Get your tack and equipment just right, and then forget about it and concentrate on your horse.
2. The horse is bigger than you are, and it should carry you. The quieter you sit, the easier this will be for your horse.
3. The horse's engine is in the rear. Thus you must ride your horse from behind, and not focus on the forehand simply because you can see it.
4. It takes two to pull. Don't pull--push.
5. For your horse to be keen but submissive, it must be calm, straight and forward.
6. When the horse isn't straight, the hollow side is the difficult side.
7. The inside rein controls the bending, the outside rein regulates the speed.
8. Never rest your hands on the horse's mouth. You make a contact with it: you carry your head and I'll carry my hands.
9. If the horse can't learn to accept what you're doing, it isn't any good.
10. Once you've used an aid, put it back.
11. You can exaggerate every virtue into a defect.
12. Always carry a stick (crop); then you will seldom need it.
13. If you've given something a fair trial, and it still doesn't work, try something else--even the opposite.
14. Know when to start and when to stop. Know when to resist and when to reward.
15. If you're going to have a fight, YOU pick the time and the place.
16. What you can't accomplish in an hour should usually be put off until tomorrow.
17. You can think your way out of many problems faster than you can ride your way out of them.
18. When the horse jumps, you go with it, not the other way around.
19. Don't let over-jumping or dull routine erode the horse's desire to jump cleanly. It's hard to jump clear rounds if the horse isn't trying.
20. Never give up until the rail hits the ground.
21. Young horses are like children--give them a lot of love, but don't let them get away with anything.
22. In practice, do things as perfectly as you can: in competition, do what you have to do.
23. NEVER fight the oats.
24. The harder you work, the luckier you get.

And now to his Epilogue which I simply loved.

"A few final words. Taking things for granted is all too easy. But we must never forget, every time we sit on a horse, what an extraordinary privilege it is: to be able to unite one's body with that of another sentient being, one that is stronger, faster and more agile by far than we are, and at the same time, brave, generous and uncommonly forgiving. (How much poorer our lives would be if all our riding experiences were restricted to mechanized transport!)
Only as riders can we achieve some measure of eternal youth, since we can exchange, old, tired bodies for younger, more vigourous ones as easily as changing horses. Luckily, however, there is no surer antidote for the arrogance this circumstance might engender than the horse itself, for no poorer respecter of personages has ever existed. The horse doesn't know or care if you are a prince or a pauper, only whether you can ride with skill and justness. No throne can compare with the back of a horse, and there is no way man can come closer to nature than by becoming one with a horse. Truly, as the French like to say, "L'homme se complete par le cheval," "Man completes himself through the horse." Nobody has every understood or articulated this better than Shakespeare:
When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk;
He trots the air, the earth sings when he touches it.....
                                                          ----Henry V, Act II

I can't put it any better than that folks, so I end here for now......


  1. Welcome back! Long post! Will read LATER! Just wanted to say WELCOME BACK!!

  2. Excellent post! Now if I could only perfect those... hmmm always a good something to aspire to! I have not read this book, in fact I have not even seen it anywhere. I am going to have to do a search on amazon to see if I can find it.
    Thanks Steph

  3. I bought it at Border's, but I saw it at Amazon, and Borders searching for the pic this am. It's like 10 bucks.

  4. Lovely Mindy!
    Nice book review !My favorites are the German men with horse knowledge!
    He sounds like a perfect gentleman and as he put it...a skilled, just rider!
    Reading such work does give one the appetite for correct and fair riding manners..he is really pure and simple, the way it should be!
    That list is awesome!!! Thanks for typing that all out~

    Also, thanks for the sweet comments to me and my mare! I rarely hand my camera to others...but I gave it to my sissy and she got a nice pic of Wa mare and I (header at my blog). Wa mare does not perk up for the photos and she usually looks quite dour...but something caught her eye just then...making it a nice pic!

    Can't wait to hear more of your learning and lessons!! I mean to get to Texas sometime to see you for sure!

  5. I'll live this adventure vicariously through you. I'm not ready for aerodynamics just yet.

  6. I have a lot of respect for this man. I have read this book and he is a skilled master and legend. Many more would be hunters/jumpers should read this book and listen to what he has to say. Your teacher sounds knowledgeable and wonderful. Good luck jumping in the future.

  7. Wonderful post!
    I love this quote: "No throne can compare with the back of a horse, and there is no way man can come closer to nature than by becoming one with a horse."

    So very true!

    And ditto on the Shakespeare quote, too.


  8. Great post, I'm also a huge fan of this great legend, and ofcourse the great George Morris as well. Good luck in your jumping endeavors, it has taken me many places on my rescue apppy. Have Fun!


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~Slainte' Mhath!