Coming out of the show world, I’m a huge proponent of cross-training for the endurance horse. It’s not just about getting them fit and going down the trail: I expect my horses to be responsive to seat, leg, and rein aids, to give to the bit, the use their hind end to provide impulsion, to carry themselves comfortably, and be solid and comfortable at a walk/trot/canter.

It probably helps that I actually like doing schooling and arena work. There is something predictable and immediate about it…a mix of instant gratification (well, sometimes…) and long-term results. I’m not talking about just drilling endless circles around the ring…that’s boring. I’m talking about mixing it up, incorporating things like trot poles, cones, barrels, and other brain exercises into schooling routines that help create a more supple, responsive, endurance horse.

I’ve been fortunate enough that all of the barns I have boarded at have been performance oriented, so I have always had access to things like cavaletti poles, jumps, cones, barrels…and arena space. Some places have had larger arenas than others…currently, I have access to about a 180’x75′ sand arena, which is plenty of space to do w/t/c drills, as well as all sorts of trot pole patterns or weave cones.

Basically, the faster you want to school, the more space you need…but basic trot poles can be done at a walk in a pretty small space…and if you’re just starting out, most of what you’re going to do is at a walk or trot anyway.

I’ve pulled a lot of inspiration and schooling exercises from patterns learned during my time in the show ring. Reining and gymkhana patterns, or modified versions of parts of them, are great bending and suppling exercises.

Traffic cones and trot poles are usually the easiest things to come by, and take the least amount of room to store, so that’s what I’ve used as my illustrations. For trot poles, I like finding the heaviest wood ones that are still manageable — they’re less likely to bounce  and roll if the horse hits them, and I’ve had enough occasions where a solid whack of the hoof on the pole was enough to get them to start lifting their hooves. PVC gets brittle here in the sun — one tap of the hoof and it will shatter — plus, they’re lightweight and roll at the slightest tap, so you’ll be constantly resetting poles.

It’s really nice to have a helper on the ground when it comes to setting poles, but after a time or two, you’ll learn what the best spacing is for poles and what your horse’s stride length is most comfortable at. I don’t get too worked up over having things perfectly spaced and aligned, either…because I’m also trying to teach them to pay attention to the ground and their feet, and adjust their stride accordingly, which may mean imperfectly spaced poles/uneven ground surface.

Just some (bad) illustrations of some of my favorites: (Disclaimer: My horse-schooling skills are better than my Paint drawing skills.)

Flat Poles
The basic flat trot poles: Great for working on straightness, paying attention to their feet, and using their hind end for impulsion. The spacing given for each gait is a rough guideline and place to start: you may have to fine-tune the spacing for your individual horse’s stride.
The Circle:
 This one is fun. Great for working a circle, and on bending and impulsion at the same time. The faster you go, the larger you’ll want to make the circle/space the poles. Definitely a challenging one…start slow and work up.
 Staggered Poles
Similar to the straight poles, but really gets them lifting their feet and driving forward. Having jump standards or pole blocks of some sort really work the best here to lift the end of the pole. In a pinch, I’ve scraped sand into a pile on one end, or have used concrete blocks (just be aware that if you stick the pole in the inside of the block, it won’t go anywhere should the horse hit it and they could trip/catch themselves).
The Box
Endless possibilities! You can do loops around and cross through the box, stop inside of it, work on turns inside, use it as a transition point (walk in/trot out, trot in/canter out, and the inverse — which is harder to go fast and then slow down). One of the best all-around exercises and leaves a lot of room for creativity.
The Fan
Like a combo of flat poles and the circle…works them on foot awareness and lifting their backs. Would only recommend at the walk/trot…spacing on these is really tricky at the canter and requires a lot of room.
 The L
Stolen from the dreaded trail course back-through obstacle, if spaced wide enough, can be walked or even trotted through, or use the poles as trot poles and make loops and circles around/over the poles.
Figure 8 Cones
The cones aren’t really necessary to do circles and shapes schooling, but sometimes it helps give a good visual aid, especially on keeping circles even and consistent.
Circle/Spiral Cone
 The basic exercise is just a circle around the cone — work on consistent size and even distance from the cone. Great for flexibility, bending, working off leg, and even pacing. To make it more challenging, start at the cone and gradually spiral out, then spiral back in.
Weave Cones
Two exercises, one drawing. The light purple path shows an exercise that will work on more exaggerated bending and straightening, while the light green path would be more working off leg and efficiently moving through the cones. Goal on that is to get close to the cones and move off of leg, versus over-steering with the reins. (May save your knee from slamming into a tree trunk.)
Not illustrated is the rail exercises (which do need more of an area/larger space: the beauty of a lot of suppling/pole work is unless you’re working at speed, it can be done in a smaller space): a common one I’ve encountered is to speed the horse up on the long side of the area, then ask them to slow on the short side. This is supposed to help with the speed up/slow down requests on trail…Mimi, in typically Mimi fashion, likes the speed up part…but not so much the slow down part.
I also do a lot of circles off the rail, direction changes, leg yield off the rail and back on, ride deep into corners to work on bending, lots of transitions and gait changes…basically, try to keep things interesting and make an arena schooling session count towards “putting something in the bank” that will be beneficial on the trail.
If you have questions/need clarification, let me know…and if you have your favorite arena exercises, please share!!

Lead Dogs

So many little white pony ear shots…the only thing that
changes is the scenery. Always bold and always perky.

In reading Funder’s blog post about her Nevada Derby 50 ride, she had a section where she talked about sled dog racing, lead dogs, and the similarities to that and endurance. She put into words pretty much exacty what I was thinking, so with her permission, I copy it here:

I spent a lot of time thinking about lead dogs. 

This year I fell off into watching the Iditarod pretty closely, and I read two books about long-distance sled racing. It’s fascinating, really, the similarities and differences between endurance riding one horse and endurance racing 8-16 dogs. One of the main things sled racers worry about is their lead dogs. Not every dog has it in her to lead the pack, and only the best of the best can lead for a thousand miles straight. Most teams — even winning teams — rotate between several lead dogs. If your lead dog quits on you, he’s probably nottired, he’s just mentally tired from being in front, and he needs to just run with the pack in the middle for a couple (hundred) miles.

So that was perking along in the back of my mind all day. It’s hard to be the lead dog.When Dixie and I were leading, I noticed that I had to concentrate much harder to make damn sure I was on the right trail. Can I see a ribbon ahead? When’s the last time I saw one? How’s the footing ahead, should I slow us down, don’t forget to signal when you slow down! What do I remember about this section? Can we walk for a quarter mile and get to better trail, or is this a section where you trot ten feet and walk ten feet and trot again?

The horses are the same way. And they’re herbivores, not brave predators. The lead horse has to watch for rocks and pick her footing; the horses behind the lead horse just step exactly where the lead horse stepped. (You’ve seen this — you know that if the horse in front of you stumbles over a rock, there’s a 90% chance your horse is going to stumble over the same damn rock.) It’s hard to be the lead dog for a horse too! 

And I kept that in mind all afternoon as we swapped out our lead dogs. They’d all recovered fine, they weren’t lame, and Dixie and Kody are both hundred-mile horses. They weren’t tired; they were tired of leading. I didn’t get mad at Dixie, and I didn’t fall into my usual “she’s just not cut out for this sport we should give up” pit of despair. She did really well and she was really honest!

I’ve also dabbled here and there with an interest in sled dog racing — enough to have several books on the subject, at least. And there’s nothing like reading about sled dog racing to make you feel good about your sanity level as an endurance rider.
To be honest, I’ve never had to put a lot of thought into the mental pressures of leading. Mimi is naturally a lead horse. She prefers to lead, getting sulky, spooky, pouty, and sometimes downright naughty when kept in the back for too long. (When riding with friends, about the time they hear me cussing behind them is when they know it’s time to let the pony lead.) She can also keep up with or out-pace all the horses we’ve ridden with, and is still overall one of the boldest, bravest horses I’ve ridden. (To be fair, she also has who-knows-how-many hours and miles of experience.)

She’s also a pretty “easy” ride in the sense that the toughest thing to do is try to keep her to a dull roar and persuade her to not dislocate your shoulders. Especially at a ride, when she’s “on” she doesn’t even think about spooking or being naughty — she just wants to get down the trail, preferably faster than what I’d like her to do. But when the pony knows her job and does it, it’s pretty easy for me as a rider to do things like pay attention to the trail and ribbons. (Trail judgment…that’s a topic worthy of its own post…)

My pony has me so spoiled.

This past year, riding so many different horses showed me that this is kind of bold leadership is not par for the course. While it happened to varying degrees with a number of the horses I rode, I’m thinking specifically about Liberty. 

Happy ears, just a couple miles into the ride and still
feeling confident.
Prescott Chaparral 2013
I touched on it a bit in my Prescott Chaparral story, and again in the Bumble Bee write-up, but Liberty is a classic case of needing the mental break from leading. She’s still a young, green horse with not a whole ton of experience, and while she is naturally dominant in a herd, and has a curiosity, willingness, and boldness that will serve her well going down the trail, right now she still very much needs those mental breaks.

Less bold at this ride and much more
“wibbley-wobbley” young horse.

And riding horses who don’t have it quite “all together” yet has been more mentally taxing on me as a rider, including a couple of times at rides last year of missing ribbons/getting off course. Apparently I don’t multi-task as well as I thought…

It’s been an eye-opener for me to experience this, especially once I made the connection of what was actually going on versus the automatic assumption of “I broke my horse.” In all the rides we did, I only recall Mimi hitting a wall twice — once on a ride we’d done multiple times on trails we’d trained on, on a hot day, going away from camp yet again and she really just wanted to be done; and once when she tied up. tend to hit mental walls more than she does, and it’s often the perky pony attitude that gets me out of my funk.

I also touched on this a bit when musing about heart rate monitors — that “mental wall” is part of why I do like to ride with one, especially on horses I don’t know as well. It helps tell me whether they truly are tired and it’s reflecting in their pulse, or if they’re just mentally tired.

In front, and braver…but it took a lot of support on my part
to keep her there.

I’m sure some of this is my “growing pains” of adapting to riding other horses. Like I said, the pony has me spoiled, and the faster I get used to the fact that not every horse is going to be another Mimi, the easier it’ll be on me. And fortunately, I’ve still got her to fall back on, when I need a confidence booster or don’t want the pressure of having to be so “on” as a rider the entire time. (Not to say I let my guard down with her…the times I have, it’s usually ended up in a parting of the ways…that pony moves fast.)

It’s certainly true horses are a lifetime of learning, and the more of them you’re around, the more they teach you. I know I’ve learned that my preference in horses is a bold, forward leader…I would rather have one I hold back a bit than one I have to constantly coax, cajole, and pedal. Obviously, there is going to be some degree of coaxing, cajoling, and pedaling on young horses while they’re figuring life out…and that’s okay. As long as they eventually turn into a bold, confident, reliable, trail-safe horse…I’m happy.

love-hate relationship: heart rate monitors

As you might have guessed from the title, I have a love-hate relationship with using heart rate monitors on my horses. I will say that they have their benefits, but they also come with a full set of hair-yanking annoyances.

To start, let’s discuss technical details. There are two main brands of equine Heart Rate Monitors on the market: Polar and V-Max, and two styles, either the belt or the electrodes. I have one of each brand and one of each style.

The Polar HRM I have is actually a human chest belt, the T31 transmitter, adapted for equine use with a homemade neoprene belt. They do have an actual equine belt now as well. I have an extremely basic Polar HRM watch that does nothing more than give you the heart rate reading when it’s connected.

the belt style in approximately the correct position

The nice thing about the belt is that it can stay on the horse once you pull the saddle, so you don’t need a handheld unit to monitor the heart rate. 

The cons that I experienced with the belt where that, due to Mimi’s barrel-like conformation, it was extremely difficult to keep the transmitter in the proper position. It had a tendency to slide around her barrel, sending some truly outrageous readings to the watch, and when I would glance down in alarm (“Surely we’re not walking at 200+ bpm!”), I would see the transmitter had migrated to the top of her withers. There’s a velcro strap around it that you can wrap around the breastcollar to keep it from migrating backwards, but that doesn’t help with the spinning around.
I will say I never experienced that problem on horses with high withers.
The other major problem was the lifespan of the belts: Short. They are homemade from neoprene weight belts, so I can’t speak for the quality of the ones directly from Polar. I started using the belt style back when they were a DIY affair cobbled together from various offerings and the imaginations of creative people.
Although I never had a problem with it, something to watch would be the belt under the girth, and positioning of the transmitter so that it doesn’t encourage girth galls. A horse who is sensitive in the armpit area might have problems with that much “stuff” in there.
electrode style, showing the electrode that gets placed
under the saddle. second electrode gets placed on the
opposite side under the girth, approximately level with the
elbow, in the area you would place a stethoscope. The wires
attach to the transmitter, contained within the black pouch,
which can then get clipped to the saddle d-rings.

The other style I own is the electrode style, this one from V-Max. This one is also very basic, although the watch displays both the heart rate and the time at the same time.

This was the first HRM I got, and aside from changing out the batteries in both the watch and the transmitter once, it has held together really well.
My quibble about this style is that it is fussier to put on: you have to position the electrodes correctly so that you get a good reading, and I would caution on placement of the under-saddle electrode that you use care to not place the electrode right under the stirrup bars or any higher-pressure area. While they are low profile, I have seen horses that develop white hair patches in the exact shape of the electrode over time.
It’s also something to pay attention to when unsaddling, particularly the electrode attached to the girth. It’s pretty easy to drop the girth and yank it away without disconnecting the electrode, which then might end up yanking the leads (wires) out of the electrode. But this style also doesn’t move once you have them in place, so as long as they are positioned well, they tend to given pretty accurate readings. (However, if you are walking along at 200+ all of a sudden, lean down and check that your girth electrode hasn’t gotten yanked out and is now merrily dangling next to your horse’s side.)
Those are some of the mechanical/technical pros and cons of HRMs. Let’s talk about my own personal philosophy and approach to their use.
A heart rate monitor is a TOOL. It is not a substitute for the FEEL of a horse
It is not a speedometer, or tachometer. It is a piece of electronic equipment designed to give you feedback you might not otherwise get. I do not ride based off of the HRM, but I use the HRM’s feedback to support what I’m feeling or not from the horse.
I would say learn to feel your horse and know them before relying too much on technological input. I put a lot of stock into gut instinct, and I generally think I have a pretty good read and feel of a horse. I know that I personally like getting feedback: It’s really great to know how fast the horse is recovering, or what their HR tends to be at various gaits, or determining what speed within a gait might be most efficient for them.
But if you’re a worrywart like me, a HRM can be an instrument of torture if you pay too much attention to it. Which then goes back to my original approach of “treat it as a tool.” If you have a high reading, take a quick stock and assessment: Did the belt rotate? Is an electrode loose? Bad connection? If a reading that is concerning persists, that’s when the feel of the horse comes in to play. Are they trotting along happily, breathing steady, feeling “normal?” Then it’s probably a technological issue, or a temporary blip. What’s your gut telling you? Is there something about your horse that is not quite “right?” If so, maybe the HRM is backing up what your gut — and your horse — is telling you.
Here are some specific-to-me examples of when I’ve benefitted (or not) from using a HRM:
— Mimi can be a very subtle horse about telling me when something is wrong. Both times she had a tie-up, the main indicator was a hanging pulse. Not high, just hanging — extremely uncharacteristic for her, coupled with a lack of enthusiasm for moving out willingly. The lack of wanting to move out — probably the most uncharacteristic sign from her there is a problem, since she is the Go Pony — was what made me look at the HRM, and the hanging numbers confirmed by suspicions. Fortunately, both times were caught very early on in the process, before they could become a major problem.
— When I took Beamer to a ride, using the HRM was extremely beneficial because he could be somewhat of a sandbagger. He might act like he was all used up…but when he’s walking at 48 bpm in a sand wash after 25 miles, he wasn’t too exhausted…he just thought he was. In that case, having the HRM didn’t actually help me get him to go faster — when he decided he was done, that was that — but it did reassure me that I hadn’t actually pushed him too hard.
— It’s been a handy tool when I’m riding horses I’m unfamiliar with. Not that it helps a ton while riding, since I’m usually not familiar with their standard working pulses — a bit alarming at first to be used to one who trots at 120 only to get on one whose trotting average is 140 and you start to wonder if there’s something wrong…no, that’s just the horse — but it does help to establish some basic patterns. It doesn’t matter the actual numbers in the sense that, if they’re going along at one close range for a while, then it starts shooting up, now might be a good time for a breather.
  • When riding Liberty at Prescott, the HRM actually was a good tool in helping me figure her out. She’s a brave, bold, forward horse who is happy to motor along pretty consistently (especially for a greenie), but she wasn’t showing signs of wanting to take a breather on her own. From what I remember, her trotting average was around 120, so when her HR started to jump to 135-140, that’s when I would ask her for a walk break, and usually several minutes later, she was ready to go again.
    • She did hit a wall partway through the ride, but based on her HR, it was more mental than physical, and I actually chalk that one up to rider error. I got pretty caught up in how solid she was and how much fun I was having riding her that I, quite frankly, forgot she was still a green horse on only her second ride. She led the first 9 miles of the ride, and I think she probably got a little bit overwhelmed mentally. Rather than freak out, she just stopped and asked, in her own way, that the other horse be the one to lead for a while. She was more than happy to keep following.
      • I monitored her HR, and it stayed in the same low patterns, so my conclusion based on that was she was still physically feeling good and not being overly taxed — but she needed the mental break. It worked. She got a good break for the next third of the ride, and then after the vet check, we made a point of alternating who was leading or following much more frequently — switching off every mile or so — and by that point, she was happy to take the lead and move out again.
— It’s a pretty nice tool to have at a VC, to be able to know when your horse is down, or for learning how fast they take to drop to ‘x’ point.
  • I “hide” my HRM screen from pulse-takers, so as to not accidentally influence what they’re hearing. I want to know if they’re hearing something different than what I might be getting.
    • That said: This is again another area for “technical difficulties.” Don’t rely entirely on the HRM — know how to take your horse’s pulse manually or with a stethoscope, since the monitor might not be reading perfectly accurately (one of the rides I was at this spring, my HRM was consistently reading four beats higher than what P&R people and vets were getting) or may be having some issues.
I think that just about exhausts my HRM repertoire…I’m by no means an expert, this is just personal opinions gleaned off of the past ten years of experience in messing around with them.
For those that are curious, I am currently using the V-Max electrode system. After going back to it, I’m on the fence as to if I like the belt system anymore or not.
If there’s something I didn’t cover, or any questions I raised, please ask!

Never Too Old…

…to be a brat. Mimi’s 19th birthday is coming up on Saturday, and she’s still finding ways to try my patience. This morning, she didn’t want to work. She wanted breakfast. We currently have access to the vacant property next door…it’s basically 4 acres of fenced dirt lot. Because riding in the actual arena would have meant shooing all 10 of the other horses back out to the pasture (always a fun trick), I decided to just ride next door. Pretty fun, because it’s a ton of space, and pretty good footing…if you mind the gopher holes.

But Mimi decided that today, she just didn’t feel like listening to my legs. I’ve been making a concerted effort to retrain myself to stay out of her mouth (I have a horrible habit of grabby hands and a distinct lack of release) and force myself to rely on leg and seat cues more. It’s a tough thing to do when your pony is conspiring against your best efforts. She did a fabulous “I’m ignoring you” impression as I asked her to circle away from the pasture gate…she curved away, but still managed to keep moving towards the gate.

Wrong answer, pony.

She got thumped on the side with my whole leg for her efforts.

That actually woke her up, and it only took one more decent thump (coupled with some disciplinary “eh-eh” noises and a couple cuss words) to get her actually paying attention to me. Me, unconventional trainer? Yeah, maybe.

And then we proceeded to have a pretty good workout. I kept it shorter today…I feel really bad because I was a bit too overenthusiastic in my last trim job on her…I had let her toes get way too long, so proceeded to do something of a remedial Big Trim on her.

Sometimes I think I’ve learned nothing in the two years I’ve been trimming.

So she was pretty sore for a few days afterwards.

I put her boots on today to make sure she was comfortable enough while riding, and that worked great at the walk and trot…but she was still a bit ouchy to canter. Considering her canter is sub-optimal on her best days, we didn’t pursue it today. No sense in asking for trouble and discomfort.

Some days I feel like such a bad horse mommy. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this, been overly enthusiastic in my trimming to the point of making her a bit sore. I guess it’s all part of the trimming learning curve, and I’m probably taking longer to get it because I just don’t trim enough horses to get comfortably schooled in it.

But considering it’s now officially summer here, spending the heat of the day bent in half wedged under a horse just doesn’t sound like a whole ton of fun…

Top Ten List: Equine Books

Inspired by the idea of the ‘Top Ten’ in endurance, I’m presenting my Top Ten list of favorite equine-related, non-fiction books.

I’m a crazy bookworm who is an absolute research geek when it comes to topics I like.  (Pretty much anything relating to four hooves, a tail, and a whinnied greeting.  But my research shelves also contain tons of writing stuff, and a ton of cookbooks.  To further the eclecticism: An assortment containing everything from theatre to home decor books.  The only unifying theme among all of these is that they’re topics that are interesting to me.  Show me a math/chemistry/physics book and my eyes glaze over.)
My Top Ten Favorites
The Complete Guide to Endurance Riding and Competition, by Donna Synder-Smith
Though it was written quite a few years ago, much of the information is still relevant today and it’s my favorite go-to endurance guide.  I’ve been skimming through it as a refresher course with the thought in mind that one day, I am going to have to bring a new horse along in endurance.  I have several endurance-related books in my library, and I end up going through all of them, but this one ends up being the one most frequently grabbed.
Centered Riding, by Sally Swift
A timeless classic that should be on every bookshelf.  Even if you’re not interested in any kind of arena-based competition, this is a valuable resource as a book because it gets down to the functional basics of riding that are important no matter what your discipline.  I am constantly learning from it, even with close to 20 years spent in the saddle.
Conformation & Performance, by Nancy S. Loving, DVM, photos by Bob Langrish
This was actually one of my textbook (!) for an Equine Science class I took in college.  Best class ever…well, toss-up between that and a Theatre Movement class that involved stage combat…but the equine one turned out to be a little more relevant.  Warning: Once you read this book, you will never be able to look at a horse without finding fault in their conformation, and you start wondering if you’ll ever find a perfectly-conformed horse.  Hint: You won’t…it’s a matter of learning what conformation flaws you can live with and which are unacceptable.  The photography is a major part of the book, and makes it really easy to identify each conformation aspect that is being discussed.
Getting in TTouch, by Linda Tellington-Jones
This book fascinates me.  I absolutely love analyzing a horse based on their physical characteristics.  I’ve applied the principles in the book to enough horses that I’ve know to find it’s eerily accurate.  I love horse “psychology” for lack of a better word, knowing ‘how’ and ‘why’ a horse is going to react to something the way they do, and these kinds of books have gone a long way towards altering my perception of working with the horse and turning them into your partner, versus an automatronic sheep.
Arabian Legends, by Marian K. Carpenter
I am a lightweight, a complete novice, when it comes to bloodline research.  I know just enough to know what I like and what to avoid.  But bloodline history is fascinating to me.  Especially with Arabians.  They’re such an old breed, with so much history tied in to them, that just going through this book is an interesting read.

How Good Riders Get Good, Denny Emerson
A new addition to my bookshelf.  I started following Denny’s blog a few weeks ago, and very quickly ended up purchasing the book.  I’m only a little ways into it at this point, but already loving what I’m reading.  Not so much a technical manual as it is a mental strategy guide and examination of you as a person and how that translate into you as a rider.  He doesn’t pull punches, but lays out the facts, sometimes in ways that’ll make you cringe to yourself when you realize you’re guilty of doing exactly that thing.  But he also manages to do it in such a way that it never feels like a personal insult or attack, but rather a bald statement of fact and motivation to look for how to fix/change it.  Looking forward to finishing this book…and then re-reading it.
Ten Feet Tall, Still, by Julie Suhr
I must get Julie’s new book.  But until then…I love this book.  I love her writing style…she’s a fantastic storyteller and I love that she lets so much of who she is come through in this book.  It’s a memoir, not a technical manual…and yet, there is so much to learn from it.  It’s entertaining, and her description of riding Tevis has brought tears to my eyes on a number of occasions.
The Level Best for Your Horse, by Dale, Ron & Bob Myler
I am a certified bit geek.  I love collecting them…love figuring out whether they work or not…and this book really opened my eyes.  I learned things about bits that I either didn’t know, or had a pretty drastic misconception of.  I will never stop learning or trying to further my education, and this book is one of those really good examples of why.  I also just love reading about all of the different options for bits and how they all work.  I could go broke just buying bits.
Correct Movement in Horses, by Gabrieke Rachen-Schoneich and Klaus Schoneich
I was introduced to this book at the Dr. Kerry Ridgway seminar I attended a couple of months ago.  Many of Dr. Ridgway’s principles of training and balancing of horses comes from this book.  This is a really good, even further in-depth explanation of the problem of “the crooked horse” and training solutions for how to go about solving it.  I’ve not had a chance to put the theories into practice yet, but I’m enjoying adding this knowledge to my repertoire.
Horse Owner’s Guide to Natural Hoof Care, by Jaime Jackson
My go-to resource when my original trimming mentor Kirt Lander is unavailable.  I like his approach to trimming and it’s written in such a way that I don’t feel too overwhelmed.  Most of my trimming is done by instinct or feel…which is why I can’t teach other people how to trim…but of late, I’ve been wanting to expand my technical knowledge of barefoot a lot more.  (I think I want to get my hands on the Pete Ramey DVDs at some point.)
It was actually kind of hard to narrow it down to even ten…I’ve got another half dozen or so that I really like.  Decisions, decisions.  And I think I might continue this Top Ten list trend, just moving around to various topics.