By Kyra Kyrklund and Jytte Lemkow
Hardcover, 184 pages. Published by Trafalgar Square Books. Available at HorseBooksEtc.com
Reviewed by Mary Daniels
I have the original edition of this book in my equestrian library, purchased when it was first published in the USA in 1998. (It was initially published in Sweden in 1996.) Comparing both editions, I find the new, updated and revised book offers the same methodology, but it is 40 pages longer with quite a bit of additional material. The book is larger in size, with space for many new photos of the world-famous horses on which this premiere dressage rider has competed and won.
Kyra has been national champion of Finland 11 times. She has participated in six Olympic Games. Riding her horse Max, she was 8th at the 2008 Olympic Games. She won a silver medal at the 1990 World Equestrian Games, just to name a few victories.
Some of the new photos are very personal ones of Kyra with her husband, Richard White, whom she calls her “honest mirror since the 1990s;”of her furry dog and of her side-by-side with her collaborator, Jytte Lemkow, a distinguished equestrian journalist and retired judge.
Of course, there have been a lot of hoofprints in the arena in the intervening years, and so along with the photos of a youthful Kyra, there are those of a mature woman, one who is still at the top of her game, an inspiring fact.
One of the bonuses in this book is a brand new chapter, “Kyra’s Horses.” Portraits of all the horses in her life, begin with Inja, a crossbred mare (Ardennes/Finnish Coldblood) who sparked her interest in horses, despite the fact the draft mare spooked, dumped and dragged 10-year old Kyra, causing her to break her arm.
Obviously that did not dampen her enthusiasm, as next was Dragon, a Polish Warmblood who started her competition career. Then it was on to Kasper, Nor, Matador Edinburg, Flyinge Admiral, Tip Top and Max. The photos are delightful to see, and the text is irresistible reading.
Through these tales of triumph and tragedies, we get an insider’s look at Kyra’s career. She dedicates the book to her parents, whom she thanks for their “fantastic support, especially during the hard times.” So, obviously it has not always been clear sailing. All of these elements dovetail to make this a very warm and personal book about an international dressage rider’s career path.
Other “goodies” include a list of results in major competitions, followed by a listing of the riding teachers and trainers who influenced her work.
Another change in the text is that all the floor plans of gymnastic exercise (by her collaborator, who is also a designer) are now on a buff background, making them easier to extract from surrounding text.
All that said the core of the book is classic Kyra Kyrklund. If you haven’t read the original edition, or seen her tape series, this would be an excellent reference to have on hand. In a well-organized way, she guides the reader step-by-step through what she calls her basic ABCs, explaining the basic work in communication that she uses to teach horses to work willingly and happily on the lightest aids possible. She explains how to develop straightness, flexion and correct rein contact. The importance of the rider’s position and use of the seat are highlighted.
One of my favorite chapters is “Training Versus Competitive Riding,” in which she explains the difference between educating your horse in daily work, and riding him or her in actual competition. Seldom does one find this kind of practical information elsewhere.
Kyra does write that she knows you cannot learn to ride only by reading a book, even one as clear and precise as this one. But she adds that she hopes by sharing her experiences with you, the horse is given a more equal chance “in his sometimes unfair struggle with his rider.”