Book Review: ‘Ride Better With Christoph Hess’

‘Dressage and Jumping Problems Solved.’

I’m a member of a certain very large Facebook group in which enthusiasts of a particular type of horse gather to share their horses for sale, their want ads, their brag posts and more often than not their questions about feed, training, equipment or troubleshooting.

I’ve never actually asked a question in this group — for one, because you’ll get about a thousand answers from any Tom, Dick or Harry with a Facebook account, and I prefer to ask my serious questions of my trainer or the other trusted, experienced horsemen with which I work. For another, I’ve found that if I do have a question and am interested in the crowd’s opinion, I can very easily search the group and 99% of the time, someone else has asked that question and I can find the feedback I’m looking for.

That’s not dissimilar to the principle behind Christoph Hess’s latest book Ride Better With Christoph Hess: the entire book, cover to cover, is simply a collection of rider questions and Hess’s expert, experienced answers. It’s perhaps a tough book to just pick up and read, but as a training reference to keep in the tack room, this in an invaluable title for those moments in which you want a second opinion or a fresh way of thinking about a problem.

As an example, I’m teaching my green OTTB how to go on the bit and seek contact, and the first question in the book was right up my alley: the reader’s Thoroughbred-type horse tends to get behind the bit and tense at the walk with energetic yet short strides. This isn’t quite Jobber’s problem; he’s learning how to accept the contact and pops up over my hand rather than behind, but the concept is similar.

Hess’s response makes total sense: a good walk comes from correct trot and canter work. Earlier today, my trainer in a lesson backed this concept up: the walk is hard to adjust on its due to its lack of impulsion, so trying to get Jobber on the bit from the walk as I had been attempting was likely to be difficult. Working him into correct trot and canter made the walk “click” for him later in our session. Hess’s answer is more detailed, discussing the coordination of aids from leg to hand, plus the importance of trot-canter transitions.

As I read further and further, admittedly a good part of this book is dedicated to upper-level dressage movements, plus sections on jumping and cross-country. While as a western ranch rider I may not have some of these specific problems, I also believe that there’s plenty to be gleaned from other disciplines, so I imagine I’ll be coming back to this text for second opinions and new ideas as I continue my horse’s training — as I’ve said a hundred times before, flatwork is flatwork, regardless of the saddle you’re sitting in.

Ride Better With Christoph Hess deserves to be a bookshelf reference for every barn, regardless of discipline — after all, we all want to ride better! For more details, please visit Horse & Rider Books.

Go riding!

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