A SUNDAY HORSE. Vicky Moon. Capital Books. 22841 Quicksilver Drive, Dulles, VA 20166. 219 pp. 2004. $25.
The image of a horse jumping a brightly colored show jump on the front cover and the title of this book suggest that this is a horse story?possibly about a horse who appears on Sunday or might even be named Sunday. But it’s less about horses and more about the actual people who own, train, ride, judge and direct the lives of grand prix jumpers.
Mix in good parts of drama and theater and you have a yearly extravaganza with the horse as an expensive prop. Author Moon focuses her efforts in interviews with the numerous human cast members who make up the ensemble of “As the Show World Turns.”
The leading roles in this real-life drama are people who are usually wealthy, frequently self-serving, often hard working (or have employees who are), and seemingly willing to talk at length to Moon about the details and minutia of their lives, loves, successes, plans and dreams.
Secrets, gossip, names of those “set down” for rules violations, and the latest entry or exit from a rehab center are all discussed with the same enthusiasm as the lineup for a hunter classic or grand prix. The supporting cast includes show officials, grooms, course designers, veterinarians, farriers, massage therapists, animal communicators, photographers, sports psychologists, journalists, publicists, celebrities, caterers, and vendors of goods from carrots to tack room curtains.
Moon has written of horses and humans before in The Middleburg Mystique. She has contributed to People magazine, the Washington Post, and Town & Country. After decades of following the circuit, she has perfected the skill of getting people to share their opinions and comments.
In the Epilogue, Moon relates with sincerity her interest in the legendary Ben O’Meara and “The Boys”-Budd and Sid Waintrob. The former is a legendary and remarkably talented rider and trainer with an all-too-brief career. The Waintrob brothers captured on film countless horses and riders, and photographs with the credit line “Photo By Budd” are treasured to this day.
People who enjoyed the canines’ and their humans’ in the feature film “Best In Show” will like this book as it focuses on the tales and personalities of a never-ending traveling road show. Others may find themselves wishing for a story that spotlights the horse. With approximately 180 grand prix events scheduled this year (July 31 alone has eight), there is ample subject matter available to relate the stories of the horses that are, after all, the real stars of the show. Perhaps a book about them will soon be forthcoming. Cynthia Curran
LEGACIES OF THE TURF (VOL. 2) Edward L. Bowen. Eclipse Press. 3101 Beaumont Centre Circle, Lexington, KY 40591-9003. Photos. 320 pp. 2004. $29.95.
Legacies of the Turf (Vol. 2) is a companion and sequel to the first volume of the same name, published in 2003. Written again by award-winning author Edward L. Bowen, this second volume completes a thorough chronicling of America’s greatest Thoroughbred breeders of the past half-century.
Several of the men, women, philanthropists and sportsmen presented in this book still grace the sport of horse racing today, while others, long gone, bask still in the glory of their equine legacies.
Bowen concentrates on American breeders in a generally chronological text. In the introduction, Bowen explains what criteria allowed for inclusion in the book, and his fair and balanced look at what makes a good breeder gives this second volume an interesting array of characters.
Capt. Harry Guggenheim, for example, bred relatively few stakes winners, but they included Never Bend (a lasting influence in Thoroughbred pedigrees), Red God (who sired Blushing Groom, another considerable pedigree influence), and Riverman, a distinguished sire.
Bowen does an excellent job in keeping this essentially “historical” text an easy read. Detailed facts about each breeder and the equine legends that they bred are there, but woven neatly around the more personal story of such men as E.P. Taylor, Paul Mellon and Allen Paulson.
His description of Leslie Combs II of Spendthrift Farm as a “garrulous showman with a faux Southern gentleman surface charm, a foul-mouthed bully when that suited the situation better, a gambler/investor with his own money and a high roller with others,” makes Combs leap to life in the readers mind. Bowen goes on to describe how Combs maneuvered and manipulated his way at the auction ring to strong-arm the purchase Nashua, who ended up being one of the legendary horses that put Spendthrift Farm on “the map.”
The allure and the quintessential gambol of horseracing glitter even more so with an inside look at the industry, and Bowen aptly delivers that inside information.
Nicely illustrated and augmented with pedigrees and tables of stakes winners for each breeder, this book and the first volume deserve a place on any Thoroughbred lover’s bookshelf. Nicole Lever
THE RIDER’S FITNESS PROGRAM. Dianna Robin Dennis, John J. McCully and Paul M. Juris. Storey Publishing. 210 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247. Photos. 224 pp. 2004. $19.95.
Whether you’re a professional rider or a weekend warrior, proper fitness is crucial for a safe and effective ride. In The Rider’s Fitness Program, authors Dennis, McCully and Juris have compiled a comprehensive assortment of exercises to motivate any rider to get fit.
A foreword by Anne Kursinski sets the tone, as she explains that even as a professional show jumper, she realized that she needed to supplement her riding with fitness and strength work.
Dennis, a life-long equestrian, teamed up with McCully, a specialist in riding fitness, and Juris, a sports consultant, to create a program targeted specifically for riders. They spent hundreds of hours videotaping and analyzing riders.
One of the book’s premises is that performing a repetitive exercise program quickly teaches your body to adjust, and then the benefits diminish. So the authors provide a plan that offers 18 different workouts with five to seven riding specific exercises for each one.
They introduce their program with the five critical elements of equestrian fitness: balance, flexibility, strength, mental/physical independence and aerobic fitness. Six chapters follow, each detailing many different exercises for a specific goal.
The authors outline a six-week plan with three workouts per week. And they include a chart so that you can record your progress. After six weeks, you start the program over.
But, if you only want to improve one thing such as core stability, you can just flip to that section and do those exercises. Pictures and diagrams fill the book, clearly illustrating how to perform any given exercise.
The recommended exercises vary from easy to quite difficult. Many of them would be possible with things found at home, but some require specific machines or gym equipment.
The only drawback to this book is that to get the benefits, you have to find time to complete the workouts as well as ride. Although six weeks might be a good start, to see real benefits, like any fitness program, you need to incorporate it into your lifestyle. Sara Lieser