I came across several eventing books while working at the National Sporting Library and Eric Smiley’s Look…No Hands! Straightforward Cross-Country was one that caught my eye, mostly because of that cover!
Published in the U.K by The Pony Club, the book was released in 2009, so it’s not too old. It’s available for about $17.00 on Amazon.com and I would say it’s worth it.
It’s short, at 112 pages, but I really enjoyed the conversational text. I felt like I was attending a clinic and Smiley was laying out his points in different ways with simple and easy-to-remember lists, key words and bullet points.
Smiley lays out his approach to cross-country riding, which I totally agree with–clear, fair and consistent. Clear communication between horse and rider and teacher and rider, asking fair questions of the rider and the horse, and making sure the question is consistent every time it’s asked of the rider and the horse.
Smiley addresses both the rider and the instructor throughout the text, explaining how to ride each exercise and how to explain it to a student, which was kind of an interesting approach.
The beginning of the book features a chapter on how we learn, with both the conscious and subconscious mind, and how the horse learns, via conditioned reflexes. The next chapters explain the rider’s aids, position and balance with color photos showing proper position and explaining common faults.
Smiley briefly describes why the flatwork and dressage phase is connected to the jumping phases of eventing and lays out several trot and canter pole exercises before moving on to the phases and mechanics of horses and riders jumping.
He moves on to the basics of jumping outside, including the judgement of speed, riding a good line and riding up and downhill. The remaining chapters include advice on how to ride and teach a horse and rider to jump different kinds of cross-country fences and exercises in the ring to simulate cross-country fences.
I think this is a unique little book, full of useful advice and exercises for cross-country riding that addresses both teacher and student to create confident, happy horses and riders.