Sit Defensively, Ride Softly

This is it!

Photo by Kit Houghton, from "Training the Young Horse," Pippa Funnell/Kate Green

It was pretty exciting to find these photos in one of my favorite books, the absolute must-have, “Training the Young Horse,” by Pippa Funnell.

Pippa is the real deal. This book doesn’t feature shiny polished field boots or monogrammed saddle towels. It does feature plenty of unpolished photos of dirty, hard-working horse people in tattered schooling tack getting the job done. It shows riders with forgiving hands and tight lower legs staying with their horse instead of demanding compliance. And it explains how they all do it. Now, no book can really do the job of experience. But it’s a great reminder of things you’ve probably already done, and just forgotten about, if you’ve been riding for any length of time at all.

And as you can see in these photos, taken from the chapter “Riding the Three-Year-Old: Establishing the Basics,” Pippa knows all about weebling wobbling youngsters and their fast-slow-wait-what-was-THAT? way of going. The horse is watching her closely (and look at that white face and that eye – trouble if I ever stereotyped a horse!) and sizing up his options. Bolt? Stop? Sideways? Whatever he does, he won’t dislodge his rider if she is planted square over his withers, with her heel solidly planted ahead of her hip. My guess is her lower leg is swinging slightly, but – again, back to the racetrack analogy, watch the exercise riders and you’ll see their lower leg pivoting at the knee like a door hinge. It’s unbeautiful and will not win prizes, but you are concentrating on the long haul, yes?

Photo by Kit Houghton. "Training the Young Horse," Pippa Funnell/Kate Green

I might as well complete the commercial and just tell you that if you’re looking for a great training guide (to tide you over until mine is published, natch) “Training the Young Horse: Schooling for Success” is definitely a sound route to take. The photos alone are priceless, the text will make you nod and say, “That’s exactly what I was thinking!” and the conformation photos of some of her horses are quite illuminating. Each of her event horses, mostly Thoroughbred crosses, admittedly, are quite different in shape and design, but their function remains the same: these are Four Star horses that can (and have) jump pick-up trucks. Find it used on (only used?!) here.

On a related note,  many of her horses, including her champion Primmore’s Pride, have come from breeders and trainers Roger and Joanna Day, who have also written a dead useful text called “The Fearless Horse,” which I once profiled at Union Square Stables. You’ll be seeing this book in the future too – especially for the genius commentary on the movement of a stuck horse’s feet.



Filed under Training Theory

7 responses to “Sit Defensively, Ride Softly

  1. OH, I remember her on her “pony”. Gah, what was his name?? She ran him at Badminton, she was an infant. They were the same age or close to it.
    (bad memory, I only watched that Badminton tape a million times)
    She’s my favourite type of eventing Brit.
    Tally-ho, what, oh, move on, cheerily, cheerily.

    Remember the lady at one Badminton who’s horse dropped down into a deeep ditch,at the bottom of a bank, with of course a huge log, over the ditch. Horse slid under it. She clambered over it.
    “OH, SillY boy, you were supposed to JUMP it!!” Her voice, makes me laugh to this day.

    Great post!

  2. Barb Fulbright

    As usual, wonderful blog! I am learning so many things from you. Thank you. And I’m a big fan of older horse books!

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Thank you Barb! This book is actually just about three or four years old, I believe. I got it (and The Fearless Horse) when I ran a tack shop and could do awesome things like order whatever books I thought people should be reading. (Happy Horsemanship, A Leg at Each Corner, and the Thoroughbred series also figured pretty high in my inventory.)

  3. Sir Barnaby.

    Yes, I had to look it up. It was bugging me.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Oh, Sir Barnaby.

      He is in this book. He’s listed as 16.1 hh and is rather light in the hip, but has got really good bone. His hip and shoulder angles correspond, as well. She describes him as “cheeky,” and I would be inclined to describe him as evil. . . 🙂 But obviously she got him figured out in the end. We can always figure them out in the end.

  4. I have often thought about picking this one up, but I wasn’t sure how useful it would be…and passed it on by.

    I guess I know what my next horse book purchase will be! I love Pippa…I had the pleasure of watching her run the Rolex in 2003, the year she took the Rolex Grand Slam. She had a smile on her face the entire trip and rocked the dressage. You could tell she loves the sport purely for the sport…not the sponsorship or the fame.

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