By Bibi Degn
32 pages, published by Trafalgar Square Books, available at HorseBooksEtc.com or by calling (800) 952-5813.
Reviewed by Mary Daniels
Although this is not a book about dressage for children per se, it is what I think of as pre-dressage, elementary-school preparation for dressage riders of the future.
I often wonder why the authors of the Training Scale (rhythm, relaxation, suppleness, connection, straightness, impulsion, collection) had never included the element of trust. I have heard so many of the most successful dressage trainers say it is essential to establish trust with a horse if force is to be eliminated and cooperation gained. Well, here is where that begins, with the next generation.
This unique book teaches children how to appropriately interact with horses. The author, Bibi Degn, is a riding instructor and Tellington TTouch practitioner who learned the method from its founder, Linda Tellington-Jones, and is the head of the organization for teaching and learning that method in Germany.
Degn has created an easily understood way for young equestrians to learn the TTouch method, which was developed as a system of training and healing horses that creates mutual trust, breaks through resistances and, above all, strengthens the horse–human bond. The TTouch techniques involve bodywork, ground exercises and ridden work to improve a horse’s behavior and performance and increase his ability to learn in a trusting environment.
“The most important character in the book,” according to the author, is Angie, the guardian angel of animals, imagined as a small, white Pegasus-like flying horse with dragonfly wings, that watches over the book’s protagonists. This is a lovely idea that gently introduces the spiritual ideal of dealing with horses with empathy and compassionate love, instilling an important life lesson and creating a building block for future relationships with both humans and other animals.
The protagonists in the book are all so fresh-faced, charming and well-turned out in proper gear, including helmets, as to be irresistible, from the three children Maria, Olli and Olivia to Joram, the gray Arabian gelding Maria rides, down to the wise cat Joana and the happy dog Elia. Horst Streitferdt’s enchanting photos illustrate the young equestrians successfully greeting, leading, grooming and mounting a horse, then riding exercises such as “the Labyrinth,” which helps teach how to supple a horse, certainly a help later on in dressage. Also included are several simple touching exercises that any child can manage—and supervising adults might like to try.
I especially liked that this book teaches children to clear their minds of all thoughts, troubled or otherwise (school, friends, etc.), when approaching and working with horses, since their behavior often mirrors the emotions of the person handling them.
As you can see, there is a great deal included in the few pages of this book, which I strongly recommend as a gift for a young person in your life whose interest in horses is awakening.