10 Books I’ve loved in 2014

The hardest part about writing this was definitely narrowing it down!

These are in no particular order…

#1 In Deference by Anja Beran

This is one of the most beautiful books I own. It is artfully crafted with clear, relevant text and illustrations that take your breath away. From pre-backing to lateral work to piaffe and passage and beyond, Anja guides you step by precious step through every stage of training. This book reflects a standard of horsemanship that we can all aspire to. I love it.

“The horse is not there for dressage but rather dressage for the horse…. Just like a raw diamond which has to be polished, you can make a young horse more attractive as well as self-confident by means of correct training and care.”

#2 Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Brene Brown is a witty, courageous and super smart researcher of the human condition. She is a writer that makes me feel as if she has discovered my own dormant secrets that were secrets even to me until the moment she put them to paper. She explores the crazy paradox of courage- that we become strong by embracing our vulnerability and dare more greatly when we acknowledge our fear. Rider’s- listen up! I love it.

“ What we know matters, but who we are matters more. Being rather than knowing requires showing up and letting our selves be seen. It requires us to dare greatly, to be vulnerable. The first step of that journey is understanding where we are, what we’re up against, and where we need to go. I think we can best do that by examining our “never enough” culture…”

#3 Reaching The Animal Mind by Karen Pryor

Years ago, I was inspired by a particularly challenging mare in my life to explore the realm of positive reinforcement- namely, clicker training. I have since been fascinated by what we can learn about the inner world and psyche of the horse through this kind of work. Karen is the founder and matriarch of clicker training and this book delves deep into how positive reinforcement training can open doors for us into an experience of animals we never thought possible. Her stories reveal animals to possess creativity and the ability to feel gratitude. Could it be true that animals have the capacity for things we normally associate only with the human experience? Things like romance, altruism, jealousy, deception, friendship and compassion? Read the book and you tell me. I love it!

“Well, of course a polar bear needs a brain. It’s a predator; it has to outwit its prey. Some people maintain that prey animals like horses and cattle and sheep, therefore, have no need for this level of adaptability. Their food is easy to find, it’s right under their feet, and all they have to do is eat it. Their one defense is flight; they don’t need to think about that either. Horse trainers, particularly, love this piece of sophistry. Since horses are prey animals… avoiding danger is the only thing they understand…Reactive, unthinking prey animals that they are, you have to train them by dominance and, if necessary, force. People are clicker-training horses all over the world now, so the horse punishers’ plausible faux science is moot. But, could horses be creative?”

Read it to find out!

#4 The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown

I got totally sucked into this book. On one hand, it’s a simple, inspirational story about courage and camaraderie in the face of hardship. On the other, it’s an in-depth look at how a person’s story shapes, not only who they are, but their potential to become elite athletes, competitors and team players. The tales of each of these rowers are told vividly and mingled artfully with the realities and politics of the 1920s and 30s. I highlighted practically the whole book so I was hard pressed to choose one quote from this one!

“And he came to understand how those almost mystical bonds of trust and affection, if nurtured correctly, might lift a crew above the ordinary sphere, transport it to a place where nine boys somehow became one thing- a thing that could not quite be defined, a thing that was so in tune with the water and the earth and the sky above, that, as they rowed, effort was replaced by ecstasy.”

“It is hard to make that boat go as fast as you want to. The enemy, of course, is resistance of the water, as you have to displace the amount of water equal to the weight of men and equipment, but that very water is what supports you and that very enemy is your friend. So is life: the very problems you must overcome also support you and make you stronger in overcoming them.”

#5 The Goldfinch by Donna Tart

This story has it all: international art crime intrigue, coming of age, the chaos and destruction of addiction, unrequited love and painfully wrought friendships- all told convincingly by a woman from a man’s perspective. I love it!

“And as much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.”

#6 Playing Big by Tara Mohr

Every now and then, a book pops into my view at just the right moment. So it was for me with Playing Big. This book does not have anything in it that, as women, we don’t already know- deep, deep down. It just brilliantly puts into words for us exactly what we need to hear in order to remember what we know. That what we have to offer the world is valuable, and important and brilliant. And that it is up to us to peel away the layers of whatever life experiences and cultural norms keep us stuck feeling otherwise. Tara arms us with an understanding of the dynamic of our own inner voices. She helps cultivate the courage we need to step (or leap!) out of our comfort zones and into who we are truly meant to be.

Playing Big introduced me to a concept that has impacted greatly the work I do with my clients around fear. Tara calls it “a very old new way of looking at fear.” She writes about two different kinds of fear that require completely different perspectives to move beyond. One is the fear of something “out there”, of something bad happening, of boogie men in the forest. The other is the fear of moving outside your comfort zone, taking an important risk or stepping into a bigger version of your self. In my view, this has important implications for athletes and riders and how we experience peak performance. Being able to identify which kind of fear you are dealing with is totally empowering and I can’t believe how it is transforming some of my work. I love it!

“This is the very heart of playing bigger: having the vision of a more authentic, fully expressed, free-from-fear you and growing more and more into her, being pulled by this resonant vision rather than pushing to achieve markers of success.”

“…The Hebrew Bible uses two different words for fear. The first word is, pachad. Pachad… is the fear of projected or imagined things, “the fear of the phantom”…and of the worst-case scenarios we imagine… It’s the kind of fear we try to help our kids move past and… the kind we try to conquer in ourselves. In the Hebrew Bible, there’s a second word used for fear, yirah. Yirah… is the feeling that overcomes us when we inhabit a larger space than we are used to, when we come into possession of considerably more energy that we had before, or when we are in the presence of the divine.”

#7 Power Vs. Force by David R. Hawkins, MD, PhD

I feel like this book is my own personal textbook for life. In the beginning, Hawkins writes about “a quest for an organized understanding of the nature of pure consciousness.” But this book is so much more than that. It is an exploration of what we already know but what we have never learned. Culturally, we have come to get power mixed up with control and force. This book is, in part, an exploration of how real power arises for us in art, sports, politics, and health. Emotions are simply energy and our ability to process them relates directly to our personal power and how we live and contribute in a shared world. For me this idea of power vs. force or control has huge implications for, not only how we relate to other people, but for how we relate to animals. I love it!

“The tragic downfall of many geniuses, after they’ve been discovered and celebrated by the public, illustrates that there is success, and then there is SUCCESS. The former frequently jeopardizes life, while the latter enhances it. True success enlivens and supports the spirit; it has nothing to do with isolated achievements, but instead relates to being accomplished as a total person, and attaining a lifestyle that benefits not only the individual but everyone around them. Truly successful people’s lives are empowered by the context of their accomplishments.”

#8 The Signature of All things by Elizabeth Gilbert

This one is interesting for me. It is a totally engaging story and, since I read Eat, Pray, Love years ago, I have loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing. This book is historical fiction at it’s best- a thoroughly inhabited time period combined with complex characters and a beautiful story. I think this book made my list, though, mostly because I have become such a big fan of Elizabeth Gilbert, herself. She is a pioneer in authenticity among contemporary authors and she takes a stand for making creativity accessible to us all. She inspires me all the freaking time. I love her!

“The signature of all things- namely, that God had hidden clues for humanity’s betterment inside the design of every flower, leaf, fruit, and tree on earth. All the natural world was a divine code… My friends thought me mad, to value that which no one else valued- leaves, insects, coral, and the like. But it was a pleasure and education. What a worthy life, to make so deep a study of the world.”

#9 The Riding Doctor: by Beth Glosten, MD

Yes, as the tag line claims, this book IS a prescription for healthy, balanced and beautiful riding for years to come! There are lots of places to get information about how to ride and also places to get information on human biomechanics but Beth marries these two in a way that is very digestible, easy to understand and enlightening. I find that questions come up for me when I’m riding sometimes: about just how this is supposed to be working or why that isn’t. I refer to The Riding Doctor when that happens and almost always find really good answers. Beth is clear and practical in her explanations and the many, many illustrations make it translatable from the page to the saddle. It doesn’t hurt that the book is sprinkled with inspiring photos of lots of my life-long friends and colleagues. I love it!

“Remember that what is correct does not feel normal until it becomes a habit.”

“The improved sense of self and trust in your body gained from improved strength and awareness, not only supplies you with concrete tools for stability in the saddle, but also diminishes fear.”

#10 Get Gutsy by Jenny Fenig

I had the privilege of getting my hot little hands on this brand new book pre-publication. It truly is, as Jenny calls it, part memoir part medicine. It’s a beautiful demonstration of the power we can all find in our own stories. She takes us along as she excavates her life and extracts lessons from her own experience that are both instructive and like beacons of inspiration. Heart breaking loss, grief, confusion, and addiction are corridors through which we all pass through at one time or another. This book includes explicit instructions for how to turn challenges into catalysts for joy. Jenny sidesteps nothing. I love it!

“Hope isn’t enough. Living your dream and doing your soul’s work in the world doesn’t just happen through hoping alone. Let that sink in… You’ve got to get clear. You’ve got to want it more than you’re afraid of it. You’ve got to move your feet, move your hands, move your fingers, move your lips, and make this dream real…I want you to taste the sweetness of doing your soul’s work and living a gutsy life.”