Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Road to Publication, con't. . . .

During my “Road to Publication” post on January 27th 2009, I mentioned that I’d provide some specific pointers and ask some hard questions for those looking to get published.

Believe me; I understand this sentiment and sympathize with the writer’s frustration, but once you look at the other side of the equation—what it’s like to be the gatekeeper—you can see the validity of the “query only” limitation that is often part of the submission process.

A query letter serves the purpose of letting the agent or agent’s reader know if the project is something they’re interested in pursuing; therefore, it has to be extremely well written.

Editors and agents are swamped with submissions so, imagine if you will, the office receiving 200+ manuscripts a week instead of 200+ query letters. Query letters are a necessary evil of the publishing business because the competition is so fierce.

There are many things every writer can and should do to improve her odds. Ask yourself:

• Have you edited the manuscript many, many times?
• Have you studied the rules of grammar? (You need to understand them before you can break them for effect.)
• Have you learned the industry’s conventions such as proper manuscript format?
• Has your manuscript been through an objective critique group?
• Have you hired a professional freelance editor to give you input? (Get references if you go this route.)
• Have you had a lot of readers, who are familiar with the genre you’re writing in, read the manuscript and give you feedback?
• Is the manuscript as perfect as you can possibly make it?

The Query Letter
• Have you attempted to get writing credits to include in your query letter by entering contests or publishing short stories in genre-specific magazines?
• Have you studied what should go in a query letter?
• Have you polished your query letter ruthlessly?
• Have you shared different versions of your query letter with your critique group to see which one is most effective?
• Have you studied books on querying agents? (The Sell Your Novel Toolkit by Lyons is a good one. So is a book by Kathryn Sands about making the perfect pitch.)

Selecting Perspective Agents
• Have you researched possible agents carefully?
• Do you know how to select the right agent for you?
• Have you looked through the acknowledgements pages of books similar to yours so you can determine agents who like the kind of thing your write? Oftentimes, an author will thank his or her agent in the acknowledgements.
• Have you gone to writing conferences where you can verbally pitch your book to agents?
• Check out a website called Predators and Editors that lists agents to avoid.

Acting Professional
• Have you joined the organizations relevant to the genre you’re writing in so you can become familiar with the publishing industry?
• Have you attended conferences in order to network with other writers, authors, and industry professionals?

I highly recommend that you go to Miss Snark’s website. She’s a New York literary agent. This site is no longer active, but there’s a wealth of information here. Beginning with this link, you can see how she evaluates the hook in a query. What gets her interest, etc. This is very insightful for seeing what works and what doesn’t. Here’s the link where the hook evaluation begins: Also, search this website because you’ll find a lot of useful information about the industry in general.

It takes talent, luck, and perseverance to get published. The best way to deal with the query process is to start on the next book while you’re doing it so you don’t become obsessed or depressed by the process. And you’ll be glad you have another book that’s partly done when you do get published, because once you are, you’ll have to promote the first book while you’re writing the second.

Good luck!
Kit Ehrman

Are You Planning a Kentucky Derby Party?

If so, you still have plenty of time to get ready. This year's Derby is May 4th.

I love hosting and look forward to each and every traditional holiday as an opportunity/excuse to have family and friends over, but why not add another reason to entertain . . . and party?

So, this year, I'm going to throw a Kentucky Derby party. I already did most of the research necessary when I compiled a page for my website on just such a subject, "How to Host a Kentucky Derby Party." I became interested in this party theme (and all the recipes, traditions, and resources needed) when I was researching TRIPLE CROSS, a mystery that takes place in downtown Louisville and on the backside of Churchill Downs during the two weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby. During the research and plotting phase, I immersed myself in everything Derby and became familiar with the many Derby Festival events that take place in Louisville. You see, Derby is not some simple little sporting event, it literally transforms Louisville, and my goal was to capture that when I wrote TRIPLE CROSS.

Research is one aspect of writing that I truly love because I learn so much. Even if you never have the opportunity to visit Louisville and attend the Derby, I assure you, you will get a feeling for what it's like in the pages of TRIPLE CROSS.

TRIPLE CROSS is a fast-paced mystery that takes the reader from the backside of the racetrack to 4th Street Live! From a life-and-death struggle at the fairgrounds to an elegant Thunder party in the National City Tower. From a spectacular sunset at Riverfront Plaza to first light on Derby morning . . . to the great race itself.

This mystery would make a great hostess gift or door prize for your guests - a unique keepsake, both for Louisvillians and out-of-town guests who have yet to experience the thrill of the Derby.

Happy partying!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Equine artist Tom Chapman . . .

There’s so much I love about writing, but an unexpected bonus has been that writing has allowed me to meet a bunch of wonderful people whom I never would have met otherwise.

One person I’m privileged to have met (via e-mail) is ex-jockey and marvelously talented artist Tom Chapman. I was looking for a unique way to celebrate the release of TRIPLE CROSS, my Kentucky Derby mystery, when I found these wonderful Christmas cards by Tom titled “Christmas at Churchill.” I purchased a box or two and e-mailed Tom to thank him for the cards. We’ve corresponded ever since. What follows is Tom’s fascinating story and some of his wonderful artwork.

Kit: How did you get started with horses?
Tom: I was a senior in high school and getting ready to go to college or the army. I wasn't really excited to go to school though. It was 1972 and the army probably wasn't the best place to be at that time. My father suggested that I try to be a jockey. He had a friend who trained quarter horses where we lived in Montana. I thought to myself “Why not give it a try? I can always go to school if I don't like it.” I worked around the fairs that summer and later moved to Southern Cal to work on a horse farm. There I learned from the bottom up. I first started hot walking and cleaning stalls. Later I broke babies and eventually got to the track where I exercised horses. After about four years from the time I left Montana, I finally rode my first race on a filly named Zulla Road at Santa Anita Feb. 17th, 1977.

Rachel Alexandra

Kit: What’s it like to ride a half-ton Thoroughbred at 40mph in a race?
Tom: It's about the most awesome feeling you can imagine. The wind in your face, the sounds of the horses and jockeys all around you, the mane slapping your cheeks, and the dirt clods pounding your body just bring such a sensory overload. The power of the horse underneath you is something only another jockey can relate to. On top of all, this there is the competitiveness and the adrenaline coursing through your body.

Kit: How did you prepare before each race?
Tom: I would read the Racing Form and try to figure out who the major competition was, where I most likely would be laying in the race, and try to figure out how the race would be run depending on what riders were on which horses.


Kit: What did you dislike most about being a jockey?
Tom: I didn't like fighting my weight all the time. I also didn't like having to work on weekends and missing things my sons were involved in like baseball and soccer. I also hated it when a horse was catastrophically injured.

Kit: Is there a horse that has a special place in your heart, and why?
Tom: Moment to Buy was a three-year-old filly back in 1984. I won my only grade 1 win on her--the Hollywood Oaks. She beat the best three-year-old fillies that year. She also ran second to two older mares in two different races that year. Royal Heroine was one of them, and she went on to win the BC Mile against colts and horses. The other was Princess Rooney who won the BC Distaff that year. I have several others, but I don't think you have all week to hear about them.

Kit: What can you tell us about a jockey’s life that we might not know about? Some behind-the-scenes tradition or nuance that we might not ever consider?
Tom: The track is like a world all to itself. It's kind of like a big dysfunctional family that sticks together. Once a person is accepted into the family, they are always in. Sounds a little like the Mafia doesn't it? Anyway, I could go to every racetrack in the nation and run into someone that I know or at least a friend of someone I know.

The Look of a Champion, Barbara

Kit: Besides winning, what did you love best about race riding?
Tom: I loved the competitiveness of it all. I just loved the adrenaline to the point that I was addicted to it. That is one of the reasons I eventually got into painting. On my days off, I would try to replace that adrenaline rush by skiing, paint balling and stuff like that. I would come home more tired than days when I was racing.

Kit: Who influenced you the most in your racing career?
Tom: I learned a lot riding against Bill Shoemaker and Fernando Toro. Everyone knows “The Shoe.” He was a real horseman. I was always amazed at the way horses ran for him without him even moving on them. Fernando Toro was the "King of the Turf" down in So Cal when I started. He rode the turf better than anyone. I also eventually excelled in turf races and a lot of it had to do with learning from him. People would call me the “Toro of Northern California” and I would say, “No, Fernando is the Chapman of So Cal.”

Kit: That's great. Tom, you’ve made a spectacular career change from race riding to painting gorgeous portraits of all kinds. I know you took art in high school, but your talent is spectacular. Is it mostly self-taught?
Tom: I have a God-given talent and I've been able to develop it. I did take some art lessons starting in 1993, but within a year I had outgrown the teacher. She did teach me a lot about color mixing and light and shadow but the rest I just picked up on my own. I also read every book I could find on art and I would try everything that was suggested.

Kit: Do you think your artistic skills and mindset had an effect on the kind of jockey you were, or are they totally unrelated?
Tom: I'm not sure about that. I know I was more involved with other things in life than most jockeys. Don't get me wrong, I loved raceriding and the track, but my life wasn't all racetrack. Maybe that is one of the reasons I got into art. I've always wanted to learn about different things like the stock market, real estate, politics, art, etc.

Kit: Do you usually paint from photographs, or do you sometimes go onsite to paint?
Tom: I usually paint from photographs. I may use reference photos, from 5 to 10 photos for one painting. I rarely just copy a photo. I also go on location to paint at times. That is usually just for a landscape though. I've always said, “If I can see it, I can paint it, and horses won't stand still long enough.”

Kit: How true. Do you use oils? Other mediums?
Tom: I mostly paint with oils on canvas but will do pencil sketches. I've also done a few murals with acrylics.

The Walk Home After the Last

Kit: What else would you like to tell us?
Tom: I've been married to my best friend, Kathy, for thirty-four years. Our lives together haven't always been easy. but we are closer now than ever. We both know and love the Lord and He has blessed us so much. We have three boys. Matt is 33, Luke is 23, and Daniel is 10. When people hear that they are so far apart, I know that they are thinking that I must have been married 3 different times. I'll jokingly tell them they are all out of the same broodmare.

Thank you, Tom!
Thank you, Kit.

Tom's Giclee prints are very reasonably priced.
Tom's website

Happy reading and riding,

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Going Home . . .

As we deal with our horses, both as caretakers and trainers, I think it’s important that we not lose sight of equine emotions. They may run deeper than we suspect. A case in point:

Many years ago, when my boys were small, my good friend and neighbor asked if I would like to borrow her elderly, medium-sized pony so that my children would have the opportunity to ride something more size appropriate than being led around on my old, rather overweight gelding. I agreed, and soon Star, a chestnut mare with a coarse head, joined my barn.

Star settled in, but looking back, I believe she was never truly happy with the forced change. She could see and smell and hear her old home where she had once been the matriarch. On my farm, she had my six-year-old, rambunctious, Thoroughbred mare to contend with. Although Flare was mostly well behaved, every now and then, she tried to play with her new pasturemate. At age thirty, Star was in no mood for shenanigans of any sorts. She wanted to eat and rest and be left in peace. She did, however, bond quite nicely with my boarder, a sixteen-year-old large pony.

Admittedly, Star was a bit of a grouch. As I considered her, I didn’t think she was pining for home, but she never seemed truly happy, either. Was this her innate personality or was she missing home? I couldn’t tell.

Three years passed. As with all my horses, Star enjoyed a roomy, immaculately-cleaned stall; daily turnout in a lush pasture; supplemental hay and grain; excellent veterinary and farrier care; candy and treats; fly spray and baths when it was hot; a blanket when it was cold; and a strict routine she could rely on. She had companionship and did very little work. As it turned out, she was not a willing tutor for my boys, but that was okay. They preferred bumping their go-carts across the fields and daredevil races down the lane.

Then, when Star was thirty-three, my pony boarder and Star’s buddy left the barn. Star missed her; that much was clear, and as the days passed, she seemed more and more depressed. The only companion that she’d had on my farm was gone.

I noticed Star looking across the pasture toward her old home more and more. I called Star’s owner and told her that she seemed unhappy and I thought she wanted to come home. A couple weeks passed. I can’t remember, now, what the holdup had been. Maybe my neighbor didn’t have an open stall, or maybe she simply didn’t think the situation was urgent. In any case, Star went downhill quickly. She seemed distressed. I made another call, and my neighbor didn’t delay this time in taking her home.

The next day, my friend called and told me Star had died that night. The old mare had lifted her head and pranced down “her” barn aisle, whinnying, and no one who saw her could have mistaken her joy at returning home.

We are both convinced that she wanted to go home to die.

When it comes to your horse’s emotions, be observant and trust your instincts. I should have reacted faster, and I’m sure if Star could have talked, we would have never moved her from home.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Two Great Horses . . .

It’s no surprise that most people readily assume that I love horseracing. After all, my last mystery, TRIPLE CROSS, took place at the Kentucky Derby.

I do love watching horses run, but I don’t love horseracing. I love horses, and there’s the difference. In my opinion, any equine sport, whether it be the Olympic disciplines, barrel racing, endurance riding, etc., becomes less horse friendly at the upper levels where considerable prize money, reputations, and ego come into play. So, it was nice to see Rachel Alexandra’s connections (she won the 2009 Kentucky Oaks and Preakness) withdraw her from the Belmont Stakes scheduled this Saturday because they were thinking of her longtime health.

clipped from

“We know the media and many fans would have liked to see her run in the Belmont Stakes -- we feel the same. But all of us sincerely interested in the horse must agree that we only want to see her run when it is best for her. While she is in great shape, having strong works, and recovering well from her amazing performances, we feel Rachel deserves a well-earned vacation. Since March 14, Rachel has won four graded races with just two weeks rest between her last two victories. We will always put her long-term well-being first. And, of course, we want to run her when she is fresh.”

 blog it

I applaud them. They put the horse first.

Now, if you haven’t seen this year’s Kentucky Derby or Oaks, you’ve missed two outstanding performances by two special horses.

In the 2009 Kentucky Derby, Calvin Borel (a.k.a. Calvin Bo-Rail for his penchant of sneaking horses through gaps that open up along the rail) guided Mine That Bird from dead last to a stunning victory that made the rest of the field look like it was running in slow-mo. An amazing performance. In fact, the announcer was so focused on the horses that had comprised the race most of the way around the oval, he didn’t even notice Mine That Bird until the horse had pulled into a comfortable lead. After watching the video, back it up just a bit and watch Borel and Mine that Bird fly over to the rail in three strides and explode down the rail.

If you were impressed with the Derby, the Kentucky Oaks will blow you away. Rachel Alexandra, who went on to win the Preakness, proves she can run with the boys, no problem. What a special horse.

Here’s to Saturday and the Belmont Stakes. I’m hoping Mine That Bird continues his winning ways.

Kit Ehrman

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Scattered . . .

Sadly, I’ve been offblog for a while. My husband and I are trying to sell our house, and it’s been frustrating and hectic and time consuming. I believe this will be our twelfth move. Except for the townhouse we rented when we first got married (and our current house) we’ve always lived on horse farms, and to my mind, there’s no better place to be. I love living in the country. I love looking out the windows and seeing pastured horses or, at times, horses in the backyard, putting my birdfeeder at risk. I especially loved having the horses close at hand where I could check on them day and night.

And like the humans in our family, my horses were accomplished at relocating. My worst move was one where I wasn’t personally involved in transporting them. I had three horses at the time, plus my sister’s horse. Four horses to move six-hundred miles, and I wasn’t going to be there when they were loaded into the trailer. Instead, I would be flying with my six-week old son, lugging his baby bag and car seat through Chicago’s O’Hare airport with mere minutes to catch my connecting flight.

Meanwhile, strangers were loading the horses onto a trailer. I figured my horses would load okay. After all, I’d loaded them singlehandedly numerous times. But still, you never know what unforeseen circumstance might make a horse balk. Then, the hauler would have to find my parents’ farm to pick up my sister’s horse, and he could be a bear to load. But he was in the barn alone, and I hoped the desire to be with other horses would come into play. Apparently, it did because the horses arrived in Indiana twenty-four hours later, none the worse for wear. It was such a relief to get them off the trailer and into their stalls.

This move, if we succeed in selling the house, will be a short one, as we’re only moving a couple of miles away. Too bad I don’t have any horses to move this time.

For an interesting article on the ultimate in horse transport, visit:

clipped from

First-Class Treatment for U.S. Team’s Horses

Tim Dutta has learned that satisfying his well-heeled clientele means attending to the smallest of details. One of his frequent fliers loves orange Gatorade, for example, but turns up his nose at lime. Another drinks water only if it has been sweetened with a touch of apple juice. Some ease their nerves by nibbling on wet hay, while others take it dry.

His clients, of course, are not human but equine — Dutta is a shipping agent for the United States equestrian team, responsible for flying the team’s horses to Europe for the first leg of their trip to the 2008 Summer Olympics.

 blog it

Kit Ehrman

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Michael Barisone, con't. . . .

The following text consists of the rest of my notes taken during a clinic given by Michael Barisone in 1995. I had the privilege of not only listening to Michael teach but of watching him ride his beloved horse, Comanche, during the lunch break.


Michael Barisone has been a part of the American Dressage scene from the USDF Junior/Young Rider ranks winning his USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medals. But it was with Comanche the white faced KWPN Dutch Warmblood gelding by Naturel, that he rose to true prominence and became international team material. Since 1991 when they finished six overall and qualified as second alternate for the Pan American Games, Barisone and "Chuck" never missed the USET top 12. As a member of the 1998 USET Developing Rider Tour, they were the "clinch" ride that won the Team Gold Medal at the Nations Cup in Hickstead, England. Sadly "Chuck", who had developed serious health problems shortly after he returned to America, did not survive, despite a valiant effort to save him.

Michael and Comanche

Watching Michael and Comanche go through their paces was an eye-opener. The horse was magnificent and performed beautifully, listening to aids that were mostly invisible. The key point I came away with was that, through consistent aids, repetition, and skilled riding, you can teach the horse to respond to the lightest aid.

More Fine Points from the clinic:
When the horse acts up or backs off, stretch up and put the leg on more. When in trouble always use the leg. When the horse lifts his head up and hits the bit, slide the bit left, right, left, right, but don’t move the horse’s head left, right, just the bit. When a horse won’t take the contact on one rein, take on both reins and go forward, then it should take care of itself. Take/give, always give. Do lots of transitions within the gait to get the horse’s attention and focus. Do a little shoulder-in and counter bending to get soft. An open hand is a hard hand. A closed hand is a soft hand. Leave your hands’ connection with the reins firm, but when you soften, you soften with the wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Set up everything you do so that it will work. Ride the short side as a straight line. Take time to plot your path, and make the horse stick to it. This is good practice and training for the horse. Keep thumbs up, look up. Keep arms soft and elastic, with constant contact, like draw reins. In the trot, ride forward from the leg. In the canter, ride forward from the leg and seat.

Barisone & Neruda

Canter/Trot Transitions
Close the inside leg, sponge inside rein, sit down, stop with the outer rein. Feel when your seat goes down, down, down, in each canter stride; then when your seat goes down, that is the time to use the outer rein to ask for the transition to trot.

Leg Yielding
When leg yielding, the inside leg pushes the horse out to the rail, keep both hands to the inside to slow the forehand. The forehand usually speeds up and gets ahead of the haunches in the leg yield, which you don’t want. Sponge the inside rein to keep the horse soft.

Ten-Meter Circle
In the ten-meter circle, or any circle, the hands move to the inside to guide the forehand around, while the inside leg is on. Sponge the inside rein.

Shoulder In
Ride deep into the corner, then straight out of the corner, then ask for the shoulder-in. Inside leg on, move both reins to the inside to move shoulders to the inside. Sponge the inside rein, steady outside rein. Look up to the end of the ring. Keep the inside leg on. Straighten the horse before riding into the corner, keeping your inside leg on so he doesn’t swing haunches in instead of moving forehand back to the rail. Ride deep into the corner. The inside rein should be very soft during the shoulder in. Test him by giving the inside rein, if he falls out he’s not listening to the inside leg.

Half halts
Half halts are a crock. You teach a green horse to go forward from the leg and to stop from the hand, then all of the sudden, in a half halt, you try to tell him to stop and go at the same time. What is that? When you use the leg, you must allow him to go somewhere.

The Double Bridle
The curb rein goes where snaffle rein usually goes, and snaffle rein goes between next fingers towards the thumb. When you want to flex longitudinally, use the leg first, then the curb (both reins always) by rotating the hands so that the curb comes into effect. Then give. Leg, curb, give, leg, curb, give, leg, curb, give. Eventually the horse will give in his jaw and pole when you apply the leg because he knows what’s coming next, so he “gives from the leg” and you don’t even need to touch the curb.

Canter Pirouette
From the diagonal, aim for the corner, keep inner leg ahead (at girth), outer leg back, reins to inside. In the pirouette ride the neck down with a soft inner rein. Approach in shoulder fore so horse is already bent, outside leg touches with the spur on every stride in pirouette. Move outside rein out to slow pirouette, move outside rein against neck to speed up the pirouette.

Tempi Changes
If you’re doing four tempies, count 1,2,3,change, 1,2,3,change, 1,2,3,change. If doing three tempies, count 1,2,change, 1,2,change, 1,2,change. Be quick in using the leg.

High Tense Horse
If you’re riding a high horse who lacks focus, never stay in one thing too long. Always keep them guessing. Do lots of transitions within the gait. Don’t stretch too low with reins too long because you can’t trust the horse. If the neck comes up, use your inner leg, vibrate inner rein, flex rein, but always give. Don’t hold the horse’s mouth. Do lots of figures. When the horse is tense, do everything you can to loosen the back. Move the horse in and out like an accordion to loosen back.

Flying Changes
Don’t do flying changes in the corner, because the horse will learn to do it on the balance change rather than listening to the aids. When introducing the flying change, ask for a change then don’t ask for a change. When they think you aren’t going to ask for a change, ask for a change. Ask for counter canter; then on the long side, ask for a change to true lead.

Sitting the Trot
Don’t worry about more trot when you’re trying to learn to sit the trot. Build the trot a little at a time as you become more comfortable.

Another video of Michael riding Neruda.

Visit Michael's website

One last note that is not horse-related, but if you like reading mysteries, Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention is coming to Indianapolis this October.

Happy reading and riding!
Kit Ehrman

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Michael Barisone . . .

I have to admit, the day kind of got away from me. I’d think about what I might write in the blog and never came up with a topic I liked, so I’m turning to the past. After I stopped riding my horses over fences, I switched to dressage and loved it. I used to smile to myself when acquaintances, generally non-horsey folks, would ask me why I was “still” taking riding lessons when I had horses and knew how to ride. What I love about riding, and dressage in particular, is that you never stop learning.

I had the privilege of watching Michael Barisone give a dressage clinic near my home many years ago and thought you might find my notes interesting, especially those of you who ride dressage.

Michael and Neruda
Chronicle of the Horse

On the Bit . . . Basic Softening
Keep the inside leg on, steady outside rein, sponge the inside rein. If sponging the inside rein is not effective, flex to the inside and give, flex to the inside and give, flex to the inside and give, all the while keeping the inside leg on and a steady outside rein.

If they are leaning 10 pounds in the mouth, you have to use at least 10 pounds of pressure in the leg to get over the resistance in the jaw. If they think you’ll hold them, they’ll lean on you. If they lean, sit, use the inside leg, and vibrate the inside rein. Or sit, use inside leg, flex a little to inside, then give. You can also try moving the bit left, right, left, right, with inside leg on. If they get behind the bit, take the contact the push with leg. When the horse is soft, it is his bit. When the horse leans, say “Hey, it’s my bit.” and get it back with a steady outside rein and a vibrating inside rein, or a left, right, left, right movement of the bit (not the head). The minute they get heavy, use your inside leg and slide the bit, or flex left, then right. The outside rein helps control the shoulder. Keep a straight line from the elbow to the bit. As soon as the head comes up, correct immediately. Don’t be slow to correct. Let your shoulders be soft and keep elbows close to the body.

Half Pass/Trot
Do the diagonal. At X, start half pass by aiming at the letter. Aim front of the horse at the letter and push haunches to the outside (like haunches in), always keeping the front of the horse straight.

Canter Work
To be straight in the canter, always ride a slight shoulder fore, then the horse will be straight. Canter depart--count down to the canter, 10, 9, 8, 7, . . . 1, canter, all the while building the trot but keeping on-the-bit frame with the horse soft in his mouth with as much self carriage as possible. At canter depart, put inside leg on at the girth, sponge inside rein, steady outside rein, deep seat, slide outside leg back, squeeze with inner leg at the girth also. If the canter is too fast, hold with both reins, then give, hold with both reins, then give, hold with both reins, then give until you get the pace you want, always keeping the inner leg on. When cantering, don’t let him quit. He must know that he has to canter until you ask him to change gaits. “You should be able to get off and get a cup of coffee and come back, and he will still be cantering.” If he breaks, push him into the canter immediately. Don’t worry about how nice the transition is because you are teaching him not to change gaits unless you ask. In the canter, sit heavier on the outside seat bone. To slow the canter, as you feel your seat drop with each stride, close outside rein.

Fine Points
Always ride deep into the corners. Look ahead, not down. When you take with the reins, always give, even if you don’t get what you want, then repeat. Do not hold the mouth with pressure. They can’t lean if you don’t give them anything to lean against. Always think soft. When riding a circle, corner, or figure, both reins should be slightly to the inside, guiding the horse’s forehand around the circle. The inside leg keeps the horse out on the circle. The inside rein is a slight open rein. Do a little flexion, then give, little, flexion, then give . . . Keep the outer rein against the neck. The inside rein points towards your inside hip. Teach the horse to go from release, not from the push. If you ask him to go forward, and he doesn’t, use the spur. If he still doesn’t go forward, remove leg and boot him with it. Eventually he will respond to the release because he knows what’s coming. Ask nice, if you don’t get a result, ask again. If he still doesn’t go forward, clobber him with the aid--but let him go forward by softening the reins.

Here's a 2008 ride by Michael. The horse is Pasop, and it's his first Grand Prix:

to be continued . . .

Happy riding and reading,