Look…No Hands! Straightforward Cross-Country Book Review


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.

Book Review: Eventing Explained

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I’ve always dreamed of living and eventing in England. I interview American riders, trainers and coaches all the time who speak of the strength of competition in the U.K., so I was excited to pick up Liza Randall’s Eventing Explained, which was released in 2012.

While the book doesn’t share any secrets of success to the British Eventing Team, it’s published in association with British Eventing and is the perfect companion to anyone, British or otherwise, who’s new to the sport or who just wants some handy tips.

I found it interesting and informational to read not only about Randall’s tips and tricks for riding and competing, but some of the cultural differences in the sport across the pond. The book explains British Eventing’s levels and includes many of the important rules of competition. For instance, did you know that you have to have your helmet tagged to show it’s certified or that BE events have two jump judges per fence? What a luxury!

Randall explains eventing from the ground up and covers all bases, from tips on how to prepare for your first competition to what to feed yourself and your horse.

I found Chapter 6, Rider Fitness and Mental Preparation, very interesting. Randall teaches Pilates for equestrians and she lays out several different exercises for the rider that I’m going to try to incorporate into my daily routine.

There are a few chapters that won’t be of much interest to the U.S. eventer, such as one on who’s who at affiliated events, but again, it was educational to me to see how a BE event is run. Did you know that at most events, there is a “Safety Research” fence that has a camera and special load cells that record the forces exerted when a horse hits the jump? That’s innovative!

There are quick riding and grooming tips peppered throughout the book as well as riding exercises and troubleshooting tips.

I think a book like this would be a great idea for the U.S. Eventing Association to put out or partner with an author on. It would be great to sell to new members. Phillip Dutton’s Modern Eventing that was released last year is the closest thing we have, and it’s a very complete book, full of tips, exercises and rules for U.S. competitions.

If you’re at all curious about how BE events are run, or are just looking for tips and tricks to improve your eventing experience, check out Eventing Explained.