Book Reviews: Creative Cavalletti and Brain Training

I’ve had a lot of extra time on my hands lately with several flights, so I took the time to get through a couple of books. This is huge for me! As a writer, I feel like I should be reading more, but I just don’t have the time (plus I love Netflix!).


While chatting with a co-worker about my accident this fall, she recommended “Brain Training For Riders” by Andrea Monsarrat Waldo. She said she even kept a copy in her truck to read during downtime at events.

I’ve read a few things on sports psychology, like Jenny Susser’s column in Practical Horseman and a few web stories that pop up from Daniel Stewart, but when my co-worker mentioned the chapter about finding the right horse for you I thought it might be helpful while I debated whether or not to sell Thomas.

The book focuses on taming what Waldo calls the “lizard brain,” that annoying part of your brain responsible for fight or flight, which often takes over in the form of nerves when riding.

Everyone has a different way they deal with competing and a different way that nerves show up, and Waldo describes several scenarios that made it easy for me to identify which I was.

She offers several real-life scenarios and gives mental exercises to try throughout the book to help calm your lizard brain down.

Chapter 8, “The Right Horse Brings Less Stress” wasn’t totally revelatory to me as I’d already made the decision to sell Thomas when I read the book, but I kind of wished I’d read the book while I was recovering from my accident.

I also recognized scenarios of wrong horse/wrong rider combinations I’ve known over the years.

At the end of the book, the chapter meant for trainers was quite interesting for me to read as a student. I recognized several techniques Lisa’s used over the years and a few scenarios I remember being in and what she said to me, and found myself nodding my head as I read.

If you’re a sports psychology newbie, I think this is a great first read. Of course practical experience and talking about concerns with your trainer, a trusted friend or family member or a sports psychologist is the best strategy for combating debilitating mental riding issues, I think the book gives a good framework of common problems.

I think a lot of the techniques Waldo outlines are useful in the real world too, and for me in particular, getting out of your comfort zone definitely  rang true! I’m sure if you’ve ever battled your lizard brain (and really, who hasn’t?) you’ll find something familiar in the book.


During the doldrums of winter I like to to reference my books with gymnastic exercises, and Ingrid and Reiner Klimke’s “Cavalletti” is a classic that’s been sitting on my floor for awhile.

It’s a quick read, and the text is a bit dull, but I’ve marked several pages for the detailed illustrations of pole and gridwork.

The first two chapters explain the value of cavalletti work and outline the basic equipement, so if you’re at all experienced with riding horses you could probably just skip them. The remaining chapters outline different grids and setups starting from work on the lunge to exercises in trot and canter to actual jumping work.

The book provides distances in meters, so for those of us not on the metric system will have to do some conversion. The exercises range from just a couple of poles on the ground all the way up to multi-effort gymnastics for footwork.

Lots of photos make it easy to understand the shape of the horse that you want over the exercises, although easier said than done!

The book is perfect for novice or advanced riders and for green or experienced horses who need to work on their footwork.

Ingrid is a proponent of pole and grid work for her eventers and dressage horses, so the book is useful for a variety of riders.

Since I’ll be stuck in the ring most of the winter this book has given me lots of ideas to keep our work fun and beneficial to Oh So’s body, and I’m excited to get to work!



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