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I’ll tell you a secret…I didn’t “really” ride until I was 25 years old. Not much anyways. I never took a lesson until then certainly. I spent my entire childhood being obsessed with horses mostly from afar. I read every single horse book I could find. I could label each part of the horse’s body. Tell you about all different kinds of tack. Tell you how to properly groom a horse. Tell you how to properly wrap a leg. Tell you about trail safety. Tell you all about jumping. All without ever taking a lesson or sitting my ass on a horse other than backyard woohooos on my friends simi feral horses and occasional trail rides. I could tell you all about thoroughbreds…their history, bloodlines, race records… All of that helped when I actually started taking lessons. The knowledge in my brain, especially in terms of care and general horsemanship gave me a leg up… If I had ever put half as much effort into anything “useful” in life, I would have been famous and a billionaire. But for me, it was always horses. They are what I live for.
Now that I’m an adult that rides regularly, I’m still super into books to supplement learning. I could start a library with my books on horse training, horse care, conformation, body work, etc. I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to them and I am not even talking non-fiction/fiction stuff like Snowman, Seabiscuit, etc… (those live on a different bookshelf). I have even purged several times. I have sold books and given piles away. If there’s a horse book, I probably have had it, have it or have it on my list to buy. I say all of this to demonstrate exactly why this book is something special. I have read all the books. This one is by far one of the best (if not the best) dressage training books I’ve read and I HIGHLY recommend it for anyone interested in improving your flatwork (dressage or jumper or eventer…doesn’t matter).
Today I’m going to review this book that has completely impressed me: When Two Spines Align: Dressage Dynamics by Beth Baumert. I recommended it to my trainer while I was still in process of reading it and she went out and bought it and has been recommending it to students since.
What makes this book so special? Let me delve in.
- This book is easy to read. No complicated wording. No unnecessary rambling. It’s all very thoughtful and meaningful.
- Great illustrations and photos to support the text materials. If you have always liked the last page of Dressage Today with their illustrations and visualizations, you will like this book.
- Excellent organization and book planning to really give a solid “textbook” for dressage. Sometimes books circle around and around and things aren’t always organized well. This book breaks everything down into logical sections and builds on itself as the book goes on. At the same time…you can pick it up and open to a random page and still get something from it, without reading what came before.
- This book is as relevant for those starting off at the lower levels as it is to trainers and high level riders…which is special. As I was reading through it…I thought to myself about how I would have understood the text two years ago…vs the deeper understanding I have now. This book has so much depth of knowledge that you will continue to get more out of it every read. But despite this depth, the explanations and exercises involved will help a beginner to dressage as well. This book is incredibly well balanced.
- Each item of discussion has practical exercises to try on your next ride that are valid for all levels. Useful!
- The re-readability is excellent. I just finished this maybe 4 months ago. I could read it again now. It has SO much information and as things develop with your horse, you can easily go back in and get something new out of it that is relevant to your current situation.
- At least in my current stage of dressage education, I think this book is the most clear and most complete “handbook” for dressage riders. I’m sure others have different opinions…but it’s so good… You’ve heard a lot of this in bits and pieces before, but all in one cohesive manual…if so I haven’t read it!
It is organized with three major parts broken down into smaller chunks. I found the How Riders Work section the most interesting, the most unique, and the most helpful discussions of position and seat I have read. If for nothing else, this section is worth a purchase of the book.
How Riders Work – This section has chapters on rider seat, clear aids, and “powerlines.” The Powerlines section makes up several chapters about channels of energy created by correct body positioning and how to get there. Lots of good science here on why dressage works and how we as riders can help our horses perform better (and little tweaks to get us there).
How Horses Work – This section has chapters and excellent exercises on balance issues, weight distribution, impulsion/engagement, leverage/collection, transitions, and half-halts. These chapters explain how and why things work and don’t work based on horse morphology.
How Two Spines Meet In Balance – This section discusses how the rider and horse work together and how what was learned in the previous sections come together to create beautiful dressage. This section is developed to explain what you can influence as a rider and how to do it based on how riders work and how horses work. As the intro says “You monitor and regulate aspects of the horse’s shape and movement to improve the balance. Notice you are not controlling…” There are chapters on rhythm, energy, flexion, spinal alignment, bend, neck height, length of stride, line of travel, and figures and movements.
I could go into even more specifics, but I’m going to stop there…you need this book. At less than half the price of a riding lesson, the value is beyond excellent.