Thursday, August 3, 2017

Douglas Fairbanks Jr

It must have been difficult, at least in his early years, living in his father's shadow.  Douglas Fairbanks was an amazing athlete and bursting with life.  To see him in Black Pirate doing all his own stunt work

it's simply extraordinary in any era.

But Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was extraordinary in his own right.  Beyond being a good actor, he was a thoughtful, intelligent man, a decorated Naval officer with many years of service to his country, well after WWII.  His two volume biography Salad Days is definitely worth reading, written by himself, his good humor and wisdom shines through.
He was also a damn fine looking man as proven in this George Hurrell portrait.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Caro James Does Hollywood

Do you remember seeing the screwball comedies from the 1930's?  I do and love them.  My new book, The Missing Baby Star, owes these fun and sometimes zany confections a debt.  Part romance, part fancy and all enjoyment, these stories lifted the audience up during tough times.  Maybe this book will do the same for you.  Check out the sample and see for yourself.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Like a Ship's Bow Touching a New Shore

The first book in my historical mystery series will be released in less than a week, August 1, and it's a very exciting time for me.  Really.  It's set in a time period I love--the early 1930's, with a background I adore--Hollywood.  I hope you will give it a look.

It’s 1933.  When hard news reporter, Caro James, reveals the secret life of a politician in New York, much to her dismay, The New York Sentinel newspaper sets out to teach her a lesson about the rules of journalism.  They send her to Los Angeles to write fluff pieces on the film industry.

The contact in Hollywood who is supposed to guide her for the week of punishment, is the handsome and unpredictable movie director, Sugar McLaughlin. Soon a story falls in Caro’s lap. A young, beautiful starlet has been missing for two weeks and is in great danger. Caro and Sugar must find June Fowler before she is lost forever.  When the one person who knows what happened to June is murdered, Caro and Sugar can’t help but think they’ve reached a dead end.  As Sugar knows, every story has an Act III and Caro is in for the ride of her life as they race to find the starlet. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Newness in Oldness

This weekend I'm finishing up the first novella in a new series.  I'm enjoying the experience.  It's historical, set back about 90 years so no, it's not a Regency.  It's fun and it's reminding me of something I've missed for a while. 
I'll give more information later and a cover reveal. 
What a terrific way to spend the summer!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Why of Bad Apple 1: Sweet Cider

Some years ago, a man I knew was murdered.  It's an event that shocks you into numbness, horror and fear.  Then comes reflection.  You need to answer the question "why?" so draw immediate conclusions.  Life must regain its equilibrium, so you grab for anything that makes sense.  That's comfort.

Unfortunately many murders are not random happenstances where people snapped and committed a terrible act.  There are years and incidents leading up to the moment.  If you are fortunate, you get all the information you need to understand.

It took a number of years for me to come to a place where I could explain the murder of the man I knew to myself.  Then I wrote Bad Apple so I could present the important elements to others. 

These books are not the only way it could have been done.  I could have told about the ring of men who found the young boys to molest, how they were groomed to submit, how the man in the book enjoyed the life he lived and was anything but ashamed or regretful, but I chose to tell the story through Neal, who was collateral damage of the lifestyle choices of the pedophile.

I wanted to tell Neal's story because she survived and no one else did.

Monday, October 26, 2015

When the frost is on the field

It's autumn.
Ziggy's tail is full of dried burdocks.  I ask her where she picks them up but she refuses to answer.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Persistent or Obsessed?

Probably both and it's not a bad thing.

I want Bad Apple to find its audience so I've been learning about Facebook ads this week.  Here's the image I think will run

I've been getting some mentoring help from Dave Chesson, who has been smart and generous, because this process is more complicated than I could have imagined.

There was an article about pedophiles in Germany this week.  Everything seems to make so much sense when it's theoretical. When it isn't personal, you can have detached involvement.  You can mouth all the platitudes and say these people need to be understood and given treatment and then you can go on to the next thing in your life.

Unfortunately, real people have emotions, drives and instincts that are primitive rather than reasoned.  Most people can't control themselves.  They know they shouldn't reach for the Doritos and then they polish off a whole bag.  They know they shouldn't do many things but once that idea is lodged in their minds, it's like they've been hit by a tractor beam and are pulled closer and closer until they act on the idea.

I suppose this issue of pedophilia could have been featured more prominently in the book.  Maybe it should have been.  Maybe it will someday.  It wasn't appropriate for the audience I was writing for at the time.  But I did explain it as I saw it then.

When it happened, when the police told me my friend had been murdered, everything was so clear, so comprehensible.  He was a victim.  Someone had taken his life.  Then when I found out the killer had been molested by my friend as a child, suddenly he became a victim and nothing was clear.  It still isn't.  The killer is in prison doing 45 years.  They were both smarter than to end up like this but there were irresistible dark passions working on them.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Free Audiobook of If Wishes Were Horses

Winner will be chosen at random from comments.  Terrific narrator.  Good luck!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I'm not a coder.  I get confused by all this and know people say WordPress is so simple but eventually I'll learn it, just not now.  So I get by with a very nice program from Microsoft--Expression Web.  They gave up on it a while back and now offer it for free.  I think it's quite lovely and has a less steep learning curve than Dreamweaver.  It's still not easy and since not many people ever used it, there aren't many tutorials but I'm familiar with it.

I had some advice on my Bittersweet Farm page and that got published but I wanted to add a Bad Apple page and wound up in the weeds.  Little weeds but sufficient to stop me for a couple weeks.

Today, triumph!  Bad Apple

Now I'm ready for the freebie promo coming up at the end of the month and get back to writing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Why Did I Write Bad Apple

One late August afternoon some years ago, I received a phone call.  By the end of the day, I had been Mirandized at the police station, released, and was trying to fall asleep knowing a friend had been brutally murdered with a baseball bat.

You do want to make sense of these terrible incidents in life.  You need to explain them to yourself so you can go on.  Every week you see it on television.  "He was such a nice boy.  We can't believe this!"  Is that possible?  Can you not know?  Not ever suspect something was wrong?

After a great deal of thinking, reading every scrap of paper in my friend's house, touching everything he had owned, and reading the killer's confession, I put the pieces together.  For me, I understood.

That wasn't enough.  I wanted to write it down.  That took much longer.  Not all of the Bad Apple series belongs to any particular person or incident.  Some incidents illustrated the truth more clearly than the original story.

The cider press was over the mountain from me.  That had nothing to do with the murder but it fit so perfectly, I had to use it.  There are other elements.  That's the storyteller's job to make sense out of disparate parts. 

Bad Apple Box Set Pre-Release

My attention is being pulled to this fine 4 book series I started before Bittersweet Farm.  They are in KU right now but I'm also going to sell them as a box set.  4 novels for $7.99.  That's $4 off what you'd have to pay normally.    Since it's a new project, I need some readers and reviews.  Just send me your email and I'll send you the set.  If you think the books have merit, maybe you'll help me spread the word.
Neal Marchal has lived in paralyzing fear of her violent stepbrother, Joe Kent, for years.
Finding her mentor brutally murdered, cold realization consuming her, Neal Marchal knows Joe has returned. Don’t tell, Joe had said, giving her a crushed leg to encourage her silence.
The secret revealed, Neal flees to safety and begins rebuilding her life. Suddenly, she has a surprising future—performing and a growing affection for the young man who gave her the music she needs so desperately. But the security and warmth were just illusions. Joe’s going to finish what he started years ago because she told. This time Neal vows she, not Joe, will survive.

A coming of age novel appropriate for adults and young adults.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

It's Not Scary

It helps your favorite author.  It helps readers make a decision.
Don't know what to say?
Say "I liked it".

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How Long Does It Take To Write A Book?

The answer is different for every writer and every book.  Or it should be.
Right now the digital book has excited readers.  They enjoy reading and want more books.  Writers want to provide more books because serving their audience is rewarding and it's also nice to be paid for the work you do.

A question we might be asking is whether a book equivalent to a Snickers bar or is it a meal?

If it's a Snickers, then a book just needs to offer quick, sweet satisfaction.  If a book is a gourmet meal then time must be taken to prepare the offering.  Thought and planning goes into a meal as well as various ingredients such as carefully chosen spices, herbs, and proteins to create layers of flavor.

It takes time to create something delicious that will be remembered as a unique experience.
How much time is required to fit all the elements together so they blend harmoniously and leave a memory of being touched by a significant experience?  I don't know.  It takes the time it takes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Love In The Air (sweet romance)

Free copy for honest (of course!) review.  Sweet, clean--seriously.

Pan Carlisle loves to fly; it's pilots she doesn't trust. Pilots are brash, brazen, foolhardy, and altogether troublesome. They fly off and don't return, leaving broken hearts behind. When Alex Milne, fresh from military service and a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, lands in the middle of the Carlisles' vintage aircraft museum, Pan wants no part of his flyboy demeanor.
But Pan is struggling to keep her father's vintage aircraft museum airborne, and she needs pilots. Alex has an appreciation and knowledge of World War I aircraft, so accepting his help in an air show is sensible. How long can good sense last when attraction is heightened by altitude and attitude? Can Alex commit to the future when hard contact with the ground taught him the present is all there is?

Monday, September 28, 2015

My Next Pair of Socks

I knit.  Not as an artisan but functionally well enough to make socks and sweaters.  Well enough to have written a book about it, but let's forget that, shall we?

I did not dye this yarn although I used to dye most of the fiber I worked with.  This is a nice colorway and it's a merino wool with a little bit of nylon for sturdiness.  I have used 100% wool and mixes for socks.  The mixes do last longer and I'm no fan of darning to fix the heels as they wear through.

As I was searching for a couple hanks of wool I know are somewhere, I found a pair of socks in a lovely wool I did dye some years back.  They're finished except I never sewed the ends in.  I should wear them but sometimes I feel some things are too pretty to use.  I need to get over this bit of dumbness.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Poor Bel

I thought the original title was right--Unspeakably Desirable.
But I suspect no one understood it.  In the digital world, the cover and the title must convey what the book is about.  This didn't so I changed it a couple times.  Still didn't work. 

Now I've changed it again.

I'm concerned that some people scrolling past at speed won't recognize the image as French macarons. Yes or no?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

If You Like a Book, Tell a Friend

The best way you can help your favorite authors, besides buying their books, is to tell your friends how much you enjoy the stories.

One thing I did today besides making bread and getting ready to work on BF12, was to finish the 2nd sock I started months ago.  I can't read, hold the Kindle and knit at the same time in bed.  Can't.  So I've been reading and not knitting.  Then a couple weeks ago I realized cold weather would be here soon and I need heavy socks to go in my Ariat boots and Wellies.  I started to knit.   Here is the last sock.  I finished it about an hour ago and I'll be set to wear these beautiful socks!

How are you getting ready for the change in seasons?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fly Away With Me

As I rearrange and organize my books, I'm redoing some of the covers.  Since I had to create the audio cover for this one, I decided to go for one with an airplane.

I don't know who manufactured this plane but I can tell you it's a staggerwing biplane.
A biplane.  A plane is a wing, or airfoil.  Bi means two.  A biplane has two wings, one above the other.  This plane has the top wing to the rear of the lower wing.  Staggered.  So it is called a staggerwing.

I was fortunate enough to fly, very briefly, a staggerwing Stearman.  It flew like a Cadillac, beautifully, comfortably.

Yes, there were triplanes and I've been lucky enough to see one fly.  The most famous of the triplanes is probably a Fokker, the kind Manfred "Red Baron" von Richthofen flew in World War I.

Do people call single wing aircraft monoplanes?  Sometimes.  Now they're most commonly referred to as fixed wing.  Fixed wing as opposed to a helicopter which I'm sure you know also has airfoils, like an airplane, but they are not fixed, they spin around very fast.

So much for your lesson on aviation.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Bad Apple--New Covers

In Kindle Unlimited with new covers.

My favorite photographer made some new photos available so I couldn't resist.
The series is perched on the possibility of being available to libraries so that was another reason why I decided to change things up.

I hope in real life this model is happier than she seems in the images.  Even Neal is happier than she seems in Book 1: Sweet Cider.

If anyone would like a free copy of Bad Apple 1: Sweet Cider, leave a comment with your email address and I'll send one to you.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Success, Challenges and Yellow Paint

Some weeks are more surprising than others.  This one falls under the heading of "I can't believe someone said that to me!"

The short story, Lockie, has been doing well.  Thank you to those who purchased it and told me they enjoyed it.

The challenges-uck.  My computer needs a major overhaul--major--and I've been putting it off for months but the time has arrived.

And my office is being painted yellow.

Bittersweet Farm stable color bow by Ashley Dechant

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

BF Bookmarks

I spent far too many hours to do something as easy as a bookmark but I overcame the challenges and now at least have the image file.  Hopefully they will be printed perfectly.
Some of the books may be available soon at certain horseshows and having bookmarks to give away is said to be good advertising.

We shall see.

This is the front.  There is also a flip-side.

Thanks to Maggie Dana for the help!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Horsey Reads

There's certainly a growing number of equestrian related novels out there now and a few of us are going to create a central location to help readers find the books they want.  It's not live yet but it will be soon.

Lockie: A Bittersweet Farm Short Story

I wanted to know more about the year Lockie lived before arriving at the farm, so I went there. I met a couple surprising people, too, and guarantee we will see at least one of them in the near future.  LOCKIE

Live now at Amazon later today at iTunes.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

How Horses Are Like Dogs

I'm sorry for the people who own or lease a horse but don't keep them at home.  I know this is getting more difficult to do as property is at a premium and not everyone lives with enough room for a horse. You develop a special relationship with anyone you live with and horses are not an exception to that rule.

I've had quite a few horses in my life.  I got my first horse when I was eleven.  For 2 years of college, I was horseless.  Then I had a stable where I taught and kept my horse there.  After that I almost consistently had horses at home, including when I moved from the East Coast to the West, then to Kansas, then back home.  The horses went with me.

Now I live with Ziggy, a TB/Oldenburg mare.

Since she is very responsible, she is given a great deal of freedom on the property.  If I go to the mailbox, she hears the door open and leaves the barn to follow me and to see what I'm doing.  If  I hang up the laundry, there she is checking things out.

It's true she doesn't technically get underfoot the way the dogs do, I'm more under her feet, but she's naturally curious and wants to be with me.  Unless there's delicious hay and then I definitely am less interesting than that.

While horses are herd animals and they really enjoy being with their own kind, they've been domesticated and do bond with humans, like dogs.  The more time, not working, not training, not rushing to get done, you can invest in your relationship with your horse, the happier you will both be.  If you can't keep the horse at home, set aside time to simply be together.  You will be rewarded.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Flash audiobook

It will be available in about two weeks.  Quite excited!  There will be a giveaway of a free copy so check back for the details on that.

Bittersweet Farm 11: Partial Stranger

Live now.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Bittersweet Farm Series Mailing List

Leave your email address in the comment section and I promise I will create a mailing list as soon as possible without taking writing time away from BF11.

You will not be spammed (like I have time for that).  You will not receive cute and amusing posts (like I have time for that). The mailing list will only be used to announce publication dates.

Update:  I started collecting addresses for the mailing list, very exciting for all of us.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Who's Who at Bittersweet Farm

Who’s Who at Bittersweet Farm

Talia Margolin—18 year old trainer at Bittersweet Farm, her horse is Freudigen Geist, stable name CB, Butch her junior horse and two ponies Garter and Foxy Loxy also live at the farm.
Greer Swope—Talia’s 18 year old sister.  Her horses are Counterpoint, Citabria whose stable name is Bria and Tea Biscuit her junior hunter.
Andrew Swope—their father
Sarah Margolin—Talia’s mother, now deceased, Andrew’s ex-wife
Victoria Rowe—Greer’s mother, Andrew’s ex-wife
Julietta “Jules” Finzi—private chef and confident to the girls.
Lockie Malone—head trainer at the farm, Talia’s love interest.  His horse is Wingspread.
Cameron Rafferty (Cooper)—show jumper, Greer’s potential love interest.  His horses are Whiskey Tango, Jetzt Oder Nie and his childhood pony, Remington.
Kate Rafferty Cooper—Cam’s mother
Fitch Cooper—Cam’s father
Kerwin Rafferty—Cam’s grandfather
Caprice “Cap” Rydell—barn manager, her horse is Bijou
Millais “Mill” Crocker—Cap’s boyfriend who is involved with the polo horses belonging to Teche Chartier.
Teche Chartier—owns Chartier Spices “Scorching the world one mouth at a time”.  From Louisiana originally, Teche has a large estate nearby, one in Florida, travels on business and he enjoys life and horses.
Poppy Beck—Talia’s riding student.  Her pony is Tango Pirate
Gincy Hamblett—Talia’s riding student.  Her pony is Beau Peep
Holliday “Day” Jamieson—local rider, her grandmother is the master of the Newbury Hunt.  A talented artist, her horse is named Poussiere de Lune, Moon Dust and his stable name is Moonie.
Buckaroo “Buck” Bouley—15 year old who wants to be an event rider
Peter Bouley—Buck’s father
Dr. Rue Tennyson—the psychiatrist Buck’s grandmother has tasked with controlling him
Nicole Boisvert—Greer’s junior division nemesis.  Her new hunter is named Obilot
Ellen Berlin—runs the business end of the Miry Brook Hunt Club
Mackay Berlin—Ellen’s son.  He’s a charming financial advisor and helping organize the Miry Brook show.
Fiori “Fifi” Finzi—Jules’s beautiful bad girl sister.
Ethan Monroe—the town police officer married to Sassy.  Jingles is their dog.
Jingles—a Mastiff who participates in the Ambassador of Good Cheer project, Greer’s charity.
Trish Meade—14 year old girl in the 4-H who trained Oliver to be the Ambassador of Good Cheer.
Oliver—rescue dog who is very cheerful
Joly—Greer’s rescued pit bull puppy, who adores her
Dr. Fortier—the veterinarian
Dr. Jarosz—Lockie’s medical specialist in New York City.
Amanda Hopkins—teacher who is also helping Greer with her charity work
Bertie Warner—Greer’s side saddle instructor
Sloane Radclyffe—wealthy socialite with a large farm in Pennsylvania
Ellis Ferrers—a rider at the farm briefly, and bought a horse through Cam
Jennifer Nicholson—Lockie’s ex-girlfriend
Freddi—working student
Sabine—Greer’s former best friend
Rui-their former train-wreck of a trainer
Gesine Hamm-Hartmann—Lockie’s dressage trainer in Germany.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bittersweet Farm 10: Whiskey Tango LIVE

I was definitely convinced it would take days but Amazon straightened up and flew right so it is live now.

Horses and riders come and go. Unfortunately, Greer's nemesis, Nicole Boisvert, who has a special affection for trainers, decides to stay and focus her attentions on Cam.

Talia and CB grow together as a team, Greer finds increasing confidence in some areas and complete insecurity in others. One pony becomes an unexpected rock star and Whiskey, finally sound after many months, competes at his first show and has a life-changing experience.

Victoria, and Andrew, both have surprises that impact everyone.

Kobo did a masterful job at taking 2 hours total to publish the book so if you need an epub, that's where you can get one.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bittersweet Farm 10 Cover Reveal

Everything is going slowly this winter but BF 10: Whiskey Tango will be available the early part of next month.  Here's the cover.

image by Sommer Wilson

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Biomechanics of Jumping Position

The Biomechanics of Jumping Position
Alexis Soutter, DVM

  There is much debate these days about the “best” jumping position.  For over thirty years now, it has been very common for riders in the hunters, equitation divisions, and even the jumpers to favor a position in which they lean their upper body well forward onto the horse’s neck.  The most common explanation for this position is that it in some way allows a better release of the horse’s mouth.  Very little attention has been paid in many circles as to what this does to the rest of the horse, however.
  A horse’s center of gravity is slightly variable depending on its build, but is typically a little behind and above the elbow.

  Horses carry 60% of their weight on their front legs, and only 40% on their hind legs. Most riders will weigh at least 10% of their horse’s body weight, so that is not an inconsiderable burden.  If we stay balanced over their center of gravity, the impact we make on their front legs is relatively minor.  However, if we bring that weight forward onto their neck, we are increasing the job the front limbs have to do considerably.  And that’s just on the flat!
   So, now let’s think about what a horse has to do, physically, to get over a jump.  As he approaches the jump, he needs to lighten his front end to allow the hind end to come underneath himself.  This means he shortens his neck, raises his head, and lifts his shoulders.  His weight shifts backwards, and his hind legs coil underneath the body to gather the energy needed to power up and across the jump.  (The next several photos came from a wide range of venues; not all of these rider positions should be emulated.)

  As you can see, as the horse lifts the front end, the front legs are tucked back towards his body, creating a more aerodynamic shape that requires less force for the hind end to propel upwards.

 When the horse pushes off, the hind legs extend fully.  The back also extends, but the horse tries to keep the neck relatively short.  Presumably, this allows the horse to keep its weight closer to the center of gravity. 

  Once the horse is in the air, he extends his neck out to act as a balance arm and help him to “reach” over the fence.  The knees bend and come up, and the shoulder rotates forward.  This is the “bascule” phase of the jump.  The best chance the horse has to get his whole body over a large jump is to arch his back, stretch his neck forward and slightly down with his nose pointing out, and bring all four legs up as close to the trunk as possible.  Horses with tighter legs can manage to jump flatter over larger jumps, but if the jump gets big enough, all horses need to be able to “crack their back” to maximize their clearing ability.

Daryl Kinney on Union

  Next comes the landing.  At this point, the horse needs to reduce his forward momentum.  He raises his head, often quite sharply, to aid in this.  The non-leading leg lands first, followed very quickly by the leading leg.  Both front legs then actually push upwards and backwards to counteract the force of the body coming over.  If they did not do this, the horse would somersault over the front end.  The hind legs rotate forward, and the front end needs to get out of the way as the hind feet touch down.

   Okay, so now we understand what horses’ bodies go through to get over jumps.  How does our position on their back affect them?  That depends a lot on what we do with our own bodies. 
   Let’s start with the takeoff phase.  I rode equitation and hunters as a kid, so I learned, like most still do, to put my body forward onto the horse’s neck in order to get off his back.  Sound familiar?  But think about it – the horse’s center of gravity is essentially right below the saddle.  Adding weight over that area is easy for him to handle.  Adding 100 or 150 or 200 lb up onto his neck – which, remember, he’s trying to shorten in order to get off the ground – makes the rotation of his shoulder more difficult, and reduces the ability of the hind legs to get underneath the body to develop the proper coil. 
   Once the horse gets off the ground, well, now if I’m your average equitation rider I’m going to be putting my knuckles on his neck and resting my body weight over my knuckles.  There is nothing at all wrong with a crest release – but the release needs to come from the shoulder and arm, not from the whole torso.  Remember, your hands weigh next to nothing; but your body from the hips forward?  Not as easy.  As a result, the horse has to stiffen his neck to brace against the added weight, rather than being able to stretch it out and down as a balance arm.  Now, the long muscles of the topline are stiffened and he can’t crack his back into a proper bascule.  So, he has to crank his forearms and his hind legs up higher in order to clear the jump.  This is do-able for most horses over smaller jumps, but you start getting to the 3'6" to 4' level, or higher, and it takes a truly special athlete to be able to do it.
   Now, what about landing?  It’s very difficult, when you are pivoting on your knee and dropping your upper body forward and your heels are swinging up, to then fully correct that when you are landing, as now you essentially need to throw yourself backward.  Some people manage this – but often punish the horse in the mouth or the back as they over compensate.  Other people stay on the horse’s forehand, leading to some ugly landings.  Remember, the horse has to both bring his head upwards and use his front legs to push upward and backward as he lands, in order to keep from somersaulting.  If you’re falling forward on his neck, it just makes his job that much harder.

  Another way to think about this is to imagine an airplane.  In order to take off, the airplane needs to be able to lift the nose in the air, and in order to land, it actually rocks back a little bit, to keep the nose from smashing into the ground.  If all the passengers, engine, and equipment were packed into the nose of the airplane, rather than distributed evenly over the body, how safely do you think that plane could take off, fly, and land?  Not very safely at all, and it likely would not even make it off the ground.

  To finish up, here is a photo of a winning hunter:

  This is a beautiful horse, but I want you to notice a couple of things.  First of all, look at where the bulk of the rider’s weight is.  Her entire body from the knee up is forward of the center of this horse’s balance.  See how the horse holds his neck.  While his nose is poking forward and his rider is not hitting him in the mouth, the neck is stiff and straight.  He is not lifted through the shoulders or the withers, and is clearing the jump primarily because his knees are up and he is tight below.  Notice that his back is a little bit hollow behind the withers (yes, the saddle obstructs this some, but you can tell because the bottom of his chest is dropped below his elbow).  He has just pushed off from the ground, so his hind legs are close to fully extended, as expected. Now, draw the arc his body is taking.  You will see he will have to really hike his stifles and hocks to clear this relatively low jump with his back end.  As a last point, note that her heel has slipped up and back and her spur is digging into his flank.  He must be a good-natured horse.

  Now, look at this picture of an event horse and rider:

Dom Schramm on Cold Harbor


  Notice where this rider’s body is.  He is balanced directly over his foot, which is essentially lined up with the horse’s center of gravity.  This horse is making a beautiful effort over this jump.  The neck is long, arched along the top, and stretched fully.  He is round from nose to tail – note that the underside of his trunk is slightly above his elbows, indicating an ability to engage his abs and crack his back.  And look at how easily he can flex and tuck his hind end!  Look at this rider’s release.  He is utilizing an automatic release, which means he is not dependent upon the horse’s neck to maintain his balance.  Rather than resting on the neck, the hands are maintaining a following contact with the horse’s mouth, which makes it easier to make adjustments on landing.  However, the issue is not crest release vs. automatic release – both can be appropriate in this situation; the goal is to have the rider’s body as easy for the horse to carry as possible. From there, riders can use whatever release they want.

  Think about how much harder to ride the bigger jump is, but note how balanced the rider is.  Who is likely to stay better balanced on landing?  Which of these riders would be more able to help their horse prepare for the next jump?  If the horse should stumble on landing, who would be better able physically to help prevent a fall?  Understanding biomechanics over fences can save your life, and that of your equine partner.

Thank you to Cindy Lawler, Dom Schramm, Denny Emerson, Daryl Kinney and Bob Haarmans for the use of their photos