Saturday, 5 December 2009

Review: CHRISTINE - Riding

Riding is a rather strange book. Not only because it is not very well known: but it is one of two books that Christine wrote under the pseudonym of Christine Keir. There seems to be no logical reason for that (unlike The Impossible Horse). It is part of the Granada Guides series, which according to the blurb "...are an invaluable series of compact reference books, perfect for the bookshelf or pocket. Each handy volume contains the latest expert information on its subject, together with explanatory diagrams, brilliant colour illustrations, and a comprehensive index."

This book was first published in 1983. However, what I don't get is that if (according to Granada Publishing) it contains "the latest expert information" is why they didn't credit Christine under her proper name. After all, if you got this in the 1980s, you would be wondering who the hell Christine Keir was. Christine wrote 4 books on Riding under her proper name, so it is not like she had not got any experience on the subject (this is, of course, excluding any non fictional information in her anthologies or any others published prior to this one).

Anyway, I will leave that for now and concentrate on the actual book.This book is perhaps better suited to someone who wants an light read or is somewhat of a novice. A lot of novice books are aimed at children which makes them in turn somewhat babyish. This one is not, which does make it accessible to both adults, and fairly older children (8+).

Still it manages to pack a few things in it.

The first chapter (though they aren't clearly named as chapter) details Riding Through the Ages (an mini historical guide), Knights In Shining Armour, The Great Riding Schools (mainly about the Spanish Riding School of Vienna), Horses In War and Peace (mainly about army horses) and finally Horses In The Modern World (basically about what horses are used for today).

The second chapter details Learning To Ride (basically what to wear, how to make friends with a pony and making sure that you learn to ride at a riding school), Mounting and Dismounting (obvious!), The Seat and The Hands (basically how to sit correctly and how the reins correctly), The Aids (how they are used and what they are), The Paces (how the horse moves, and what they are called), Controlling a Difficult Horses (basically what to do, and what is considered difficult).

The third, albeit short, is called Showjumping. Basically it details what is showjumping (competitive wise), Some Common Faults (refusing, and what causes it) and finally Courses and Fences (what they are, and different types).

The fourth is details Hacking Out (hand signals etc), Care Of The Countryside (things like opening and shutting gates, don't ride on farmer's crops) and finally Trekking (group trekking, specifically at a trekking centre).

The fifth details Riding and Pony Clubs (basically a overview of them).

The sixth details Competitions and Sport. Specific sections cover details of what are Dressage, Show Jumping, Cross Country, Showing, Gymkhanas, Long Distance and Trail Riding, Polo, Hunting and finally Racing.

The seventh (and final chapter) is a short one on Famous Horses and Riders.

The book isn't too bad: like I previously said it's basic (only 64 pages in total) so there is not a great deal of detail but covers quite a lot of ground. Although published over 20 years ago, most of the information is still pretty accurate. The (now what are considered to be) inaccuracies are that it states that an elastic under the chin strap will keep an riding helmet in place (all modern ones and even ones bought brand new in the 1990s have a fixed 3 point headpiece which is definitely more secure than an elastic strap). Also I suspect that the number of branches and members of the Pony Club has changed since the quotes that are given in this book.
Also, on a sports kind of view, the hunting is definitely out of date (since the ban a couple of years ago in the UK, it has radically changed) and in eventing, the road and tracks section is no longer performed to the same extent (if at all, most major events have now abandoned this).

The pictures are a bit old fashioned, basically they still convey the point they are illustrating, but with some dodgy clothing, and in the case of the ridden shots, the hat either have no chinstrap or just an elastic one. But if you can ignore this, it still remains a perfectly sound, worthwhile book. Unlike most books of the time, the Famous Riders sections is about great ones like Napoleon, and not "current" riders (for the time) who these days would be totally lost on a modern pony audience.

A book which basically mainly still does what it says on the tin.

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and anyone else who is interested in posting silly comments.

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