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Book Review: ‘Sport Horse Soundness & Performance’

By Dr. Cecilia Lönnell.

Trafalgar Square

Especially in our social media world, where it’s so easy to compare one’s own progress with our horses to our peers and their horses, one might wonder if it’s possible any more to succeed if you don’t have oodles of innate talent, a ridiculously expensive horse and all the best training in the world. As I read Dr. Cecilia Lönnell’s Sport Horse Soundness and Performance, I found myself pleasantly refreshed and reminded that in fact, the “old fashioned way” of putting the horse’s needs first before all else is still the best way, and not as uncommon as social media equestrianism might have you think.

Dr. Lönnell has an extensive veterinary background, presenting her Ph.D. on Yard Differences in Training, Management and Orthopaedic Injury in Showjumping, Riding School and Thoroughbred Racehorses. In addition to her own research to produce this text, Dr. Lönnell also consulted numerous riders, among them the top eventers, dressage and show jumpers in the world, plus a wide array of equine veterinarians and specialists. Sport Horse Soundness and Performance reveals that there are no shortcuts in horse training, and the guiding principles that have helped equestrians develop horses for centuries in many ways still hold true.

Lönnell’s book is easy to read and broken logically into clear chapters, taking readers through the basics of equine anatomy as it relates to the sport horse, matching horses and riders and disciplines appropriately, taking one’s time with the individual horse, riding surfaces, basic principles of training, managing a competition calendar and so much more. It is not a training manual in the traditional sense — there are no descriptions and diagrams of schooling figures or exercises to be drilled, nor are there descriptions of tools and gadgets one could use to achieve a certain look.

Instead, the book is peppered with real-life examples, tips and interviews from the world’s most respected trainers and riders and plenty of helpful references for further reading. I was particularly fascinated by a segment featuring input from top riders and veterinarians, all independently gathered of one another, detailing each individual’s thoughts on how to maintain performance and soundness in the sport horse — from show jumper Beezie Madden to dressage trainer Carl Hester to veterinarian Jonas Tornell, many of the same answers were repeated over and over again: vary the program. Don’t overschool. Go for hacks. Choose the right horse for the job. Let the horse be a horse and turn him out.

No matter what discipline you ride, the advice and guiding principles outlined in Sport Horse Soundness and Performance can help any competitive rider, from the Olympic disciplines of show jumping, dressage and eventing to show ring riders including hunters, barrel racers and working ranch horse. This book has certainly earned a permanent place on my shelf to help keep my ranch horses happy and healthy while still progressing in their training, and I’m confident it can help almost any competitive rider who seeks the same.

Learn more about this book and order your own copy via Trafalgar Square.

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