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My Five Favorite Horse Books and Videos from 2012

Goodnight's Guide to Great Trail RidingThere are so many great horse books and videos out there from this past year that it’s really hard to narrow the list to five favorites.

But that challenge was thrown down to me by a coworker, and so after much deliberation, I’m sharing with you what I consider to be the best horse reading and viewing of 2012, just in case you need any last-minute horse-person holiday gift ideas.

1: Goodnight’s Guide to Great Trail Riding

If you’re like me and want to learn everything you can because You Never Know, OR, if you trail ride often or would like to start, I can happily recommend Julie Goodnight’s all-encompassing book, Goodnight’s Guide to Great Trail Riding-a How-to for You and Your Horse,  available for $29.95 from HorseBooksEtc

To learn more about top trainer/clinician Julie Goodnight, download our FREE guide—Julie Goodnight’s Tips for Riding a Horse: How to Ride a Horse at the Canter.

Everything you need to know to prepare yourself and your horse for trail riding is in this book, written by Julie Goodnight and Heidi Nyland Melocco, whose fabulous photos grace its pages and demonstrate every lesson.  Heidi is Julie’s producer for their RFD-TV show, Horse Master with Julie Goodnight, and she knows exactly how to use visuals to enhance horse lessons.

Speaking of the show, there is a bonus DVD in the back of the book that is a free segment that demonstrates how to teach your horse to sidepass.

The lessons in Goodnight’s Guide to Great Trail Riding include:

  • How to ride in a balanced position
  • How to handle hills
  • How to stop any horse
  • How to handle a spooky horse
  • How to cross water with confidence
  • How to ground tie

2: 7 Clinics with Buck Brannaman DVD Series 7 Clinics with Buck Brannaman DVD series


If you’re a Buck Brannaman or natural horsemanship fan, you will love this series of seven DVDs featuring more than 10 hours of instructional footage collected during the making of the hit documentary, “Buck.” It’s offered at for $145, and is worth every penny.

You can enjoy several Buck Brannaman clinics from the comfort of your couch while you learn important groundwork and riding techniques, including: hooking on, leading, halter work, bridling, saddling, backing up, working in circles and half-circles, using the flag, firming up, good riding form and position, finding the release and a soft feel, attaining collection, moving off the leg, riding serpentines, “getting the life up” (finding animation), perfecting the stop, turn-on-the-haunches, transitions, jumping, and finding the feel.

In addition, Buck provides ways to solve problems, including crowding, biting, striking, fidgeting, rushing, anxiousness and sensitivity, and bad attitudes. The series ends with Buck’s best advice, tips, and ideas about working with, riding, and training horses, as he best tells it—forthright, honest, and with the integrity the world has come to expect of one of the finest horsemen of our time.

3: Dressage for the Not-So Perfect Horse


Dressage for the Not-So Perfect HorseAre you interested in dressage, but it’s not exactly your horse’s cup of tea? Maybe he doesn’t have the breeding or the build for it, but with today’s tough budget climate, you need to make do with what you’ve got. If that rings true, then check out the book Dressage for the Not-So Perfect Horse, on sale right now at HorseBooksEtc. for $25.45 (regularly $32.95).

International dressage judge, clinician, and riding coach Janet Foy has ridden many different horses—different sizes, shapes, colors, and breeds—to the highest levels of dressage competition, and now she has compiled her best tips for training and showing in one highly enjoyable book.

Her expertise, good stories and good humor are destined to bring out the best in dressage riders and their “not-so-perfect” horses everywhere. Foy is currently an FEI “I” judge, USEF “S” Dressage Judge and an USEF Sporthorse “R” Breeding Judge. She has judged at all major shows in the United States including the FEI North American Young Rider Championships, the FEI North American Junior Championships, the USA World Cup League Finals, the FEI North American Championships, Dressage at Devon, USET Festival of Champions and FEI shows across the country.

She has also judged national championships and CDI***/W in Guatemala, England, Columbia, Costa Rica, Barbados, Canada, Poland, Australia and Mexico as well as the FEI World Cup League Finals for the United States, Canada and Australia.

4: Zen Mind, Zen Horse Zen Mind Zen Horse book


This is a fantastic book, one that will help you be more meditative and present with your horse. It’s offered on for $24.95.

Ever wondered exactly how the human brain differs from that of the horse? Let author Dr. Allan Hamilton explain:

“…our left hemisphere, armed with its overwhelming power of speech, remains wary of its reticent, emotive, and mute counterpart on the right. The left brain demands absolute loyalty. It zealously safeguards the supremacy of its creation: namely, our ego.

The left knows that if an uprising were to start, it would be sparked by the right half of our brain. Though this side has no voice, it has the power to remind us silently of the union we once enjoyed with all life around us…

Our innate longing for connectivity–and the profound warmth, peace, and happiness that we derive from it—requires us to rely on our right hemisphere.

For most of us, that right-sided function has atrophied. It’s weak, feeble, shaky. We’re unaccustomed to what the right side feels like because of the overbearing presence of the left. To hear the silence of the right, we must strengthen our intuitive, nonverbal powers.”

And that, Dr. Hamilton points out, is what being around horses does for us: It strengthens the right side of our human brain. The quiet, reflective, emotional, intuitive side that leads us to happiness.

5: Nine Pilates Essentials for the Balanced Rider


Nine Pilates Essentials for the Balanced Rider DVDYou didn’t think I’d let you skate by without a workout book or video, did you? Riding horses is a lot easier to do when we’re fit!

So do you have a Pilates Magic Circle ring? That and a DVD player are all you need to get in great riding shape, thanks to this new DVD by Janice Dulak, who has trained in Pilates since 1989 and been riding dressage since 1995. It’s available on for $29.95, and runs just under an hour–not too short, not too long.

Dulak breaks down the body into nine essential “parts” that riders often are not even aware they have, let alone actively engage and use. And yet, these nine essentials are the key to “speaking” to your horse with sophistication and eloquence.

By using the body like a dancer would, and by incorporating the “Magic Circle” exercise ring in a series of exercises, riders get a workout that targets and trains these specific and very important muscles and muscle groups in ways that will instantly apply to their riding.

Dulak is the author of the popular book and DVD Pilates for the Dressage Rider and teaches in clinics throughout the country. Dulak’s studio, The Dulak Pilates Center, is located in Champaign, Illinois.

Categories: Rider Education.

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