SmartPak Monday Morning Feed: Books To Read This Winter

Winter often brings about a number of undesirables — cold weather, mud, snow, rain… the inability to ride our horses as often as we’d like. But while we’re pining for more temperate weather, we can settle in with a good book. Take a look at these recommendations.

Originally published in the SmartPak blog. Written by SmartPaker Annina McMillan.

As we experience our first cold snaps of the year, I consider how 2020 and even 2021 have been a little different than most years (to say the least). Like a lot of riders, I’ve had to make some adjustments to many areas of my life, including my personal riding goals. While nothing beats time in the saddle with a great trainer helping you towards your goals, sometimes you just can’t get out to ride. Winter is coming, and when the world turns into ice and snow and wind, sometimes you have no other option than to skip the ride that day.

The good thing is, even if I’m curled up in blankets and hot tea, I can still improve my horsemanship! I often use winter to catch up on some of my equestrian reads I didn’t have time for when the weather was nicer and I could spend more time in the saddle. Below are a few of my recent favorite reads that I wanted to share, and I highly suggest adding them to your winter reading list or holiday gift wish list!

1. The Essential Fergus the Horse

I don’t know about you, but I can always use a good laugh, especially this year. There is no better way to get me to laugh than reading one of my favorite comics, Fergus the Horse. I enjoyed these comics so much over the years, so I was thrilled when I discovered there was an entire book on the backstory of Fergus! This comic is sure to brighten your day, especially when it’s too cold to ride. Snuggling up with this book and a cup of tea always warms my heart. This is a fantastic gift for anyone, even my non-equestrian friends have picked up this book and loved Fergus’s antics. I highly recommend this for anyone looking for a good laugh this winter season!

2. Equine Lameness for the Layman


This book is designed to be a reference and it has become an absolute personal favorite of mine. This is a great resource for examining all types and levels of lameness, and the charts and graphs are incredibly helpful. One of the best benefits is the video examples that accompany this book – being able to view different lameness in motion while hearing Dr. Bob Grisel’s commentary was a great learning experience. This is a fantastic resource to have on hand for any equestrian at any level (especially for those that own accident-prone equines such as myself.)


3. World Class Grooming for Horses


I spend my winters dreaming of the summer show season as I am surrounded by snow, and what better way to spend the winter prepping for next summer than by learning all the grooming tips and tricks of the trade from two professional super grooms, Cat Hill and Emma Ford. These pro grooms take fantastic care of equines, and I am so glad they imparted all their knowledge in one book. This has everything from daily training, competition, shipping, braiding, wrapping, what to do after a hard competition or schooling session, and much more. This is in my equestrian library for the same reason as the book above, I find it to be a fantastic resource for all things equestrian related.

4. Brain Training for Riders


I get nervous before shows. And not just a little nervous – I looked and felt physically ill before going into the ring. I found personally that starting to tackle this mental block during the off-season helped immensely once show season started again. This book is great for addressing my “Lizard Brain,” which I know my horse appreciated I was less nervous before shows too! Andrea Waldo does a great job of helping me get to a “Focused Calm” before shows, and I find this has helped my overall riding, not just at competitions. It’s helped me when I explore a new, unknown trail, or when my trainer ups the jumps in lessons, or my horse decides to be a little frisky while schooling cross country. This is perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about how to produce that state of focused calm for any reason, not just showing!

5. Fit and Focused in 52


When I improve my own physical fitness, I find my riding almost always improves automatically as well. With longer winter days and having to stay indoors more, I try to keep my fitness up by making sure I spend time cross-training. Especially when I need to give my horse a few days off thanks to some terrible weather! Before starting any fitness program, we do recommend checking with your doctor, and keep in mind there is no one size fits all approach to fitness. I love this as a companion book to the Brain Training for Riders, as it includes mind exercises as well. There are a wide range of exercises that are specifically designed to support the fitness we need as riders. Making sure I stay fit and active over winter is one way I can get a leg up on my riding goals!

6. Horse Speak


I came across this book while at our SmartPak Store in Natick, Massachusetts, and decided to buy it on a whim. Boy, was this impulse purchase one that was worth it! I loved how Sharon Wislie and Gretchen Vogel described equine communication, and it especially helped me when I work with horses of unknown backgrounds. I enjoyed the clarity of the author’s examples and how I can directly apply the knowledge. After reading this cover to cover, I still hang onto it as a reference. It’s great for looking at certain sections or reading on those winter nights the weather is too bad to ride.

7. In The Middle are the Horsemen


Now while this is more of a story and autobiography than purely educational, I found I learned so much from Tik Maynard’s ability to be vulnerable. It’s always inspiring to read about someone else’s journey and how they tackled challenges. Everyone can learn something from this story – Tik’s persistence stuck with me particularly, and I keep this in mind whenever I am at a plateau or I am having a bad day. Challenges happen to everyone, and it’s up to us to face them.



While nothing is like being able to ride our four-legged friends, I hope these books will help fill your time this winter!

You can find this and more on the SmartPak blog. Go SmartPak and go riding!