By Allie Layos ’09
Multiple horses and equestrian studies students from William Woods University donned their show attire and gathered their grooming supplies last spring to pose for the cameras during the making of “Knack Grooming Horses: A Complete Illustrated Guide.”
Published by Globe Pequot Press, the book highlights grooming techniques for each discipline—hunt seat, dressage, saddle seat and western—and even specific divisions and breeds of horses. WWU was asked to provide horse “models” for the saddle seat section of the book.
One of the book’s most innovative features is the step-by-step full-color photo sequences in which WWU horse and rider models participated. According to Laura Ward, assistant professor of equestrian science, this was the first time that WWU was involved in such a project, and possibly the first time an outside source has taken advantage of the equestrian resources WWU has to offer.
“Our horses have been featured in books and publications before,” said Ward, “but the authors of those books all had some previous connection to WWU, so this really was a first.”
The project began when Ward was contacted by Maureen Graney, the book’s editor. Ward was asked to help write the saddle seat sections and provide horses and riders for the many photographs. She worked side by side with the book’s main author, Jessie Shiers, and was credited on the book’s title page and website for her contributions.
According to Ward, she was given a lot of freedom within the saddle seat section to organize the divisions and breeds the way she felt was best.
“I decided to organize the information by performance level rather than by breed,” said Ward. “I made a saddle seat pleasure section and a saddle seat performance section, and within those included the different breeds. I didn’t want the Saddlebreds to be off in a corner by themselves; instead the book shows pleasure Saddlebreds mixed in with Morgans and other saddle type breeds.”
The western section also includes a Saddlebred. Ward helped with this, as well, and feels that this was a victory for Saddlebred enthusiasts everywhere.
“To me that was a big deal; I’m really proud that it happened,” said Ward.
She is also proud of the book as a whole.
“I think it’s the first time that the editors of a general interest book actually went out of their way to find a saddle seat contributor to assist with the writing of the saddle seat portion of the text and the supplied pictures. I really applaud Pequot Press for doing that,” she said.
Ward feels that the process of helping with the book was an enlightening experience, both for herself and for her students. She was amazed at how they wholeheartedly jumped into the project.
“Seeing the level of energy our students put into this project made me so incredibly proud of what WWU is able to do,” said Ward. “Our students are very willing to assist when it’s an educational, teachable moment. They always rise to the occasion whenever something like this happens.”
Ward feels that this was an even more worthwhile project for the students because the fruits of their labor were not solely individual gains; it was part of something much greater.
“While we were taking the photos, I don’t think any of us realized what we were getting out of it. We were kind of in horse show mode and when you’re like that you do things on auto-pilot. I don’t think anyone was thinking about what was in it for them. We were all thinking that this was a great opportunity for saddle seat in general. I don’t think any of us realized how personally gratifying it would be to be part of such a project,” Ward said.
Jesse West, a junior from Gaston, Ore., was one of the student models who put his time and effort into the photo shoot. West modeled a saddle suit for a male rider, and thought the project was a hit.
“I didn’t know what to expect but I think it turned out well,” said West. “I also think there are a lot of people who overlook saddle seat; other disciplines are better known on a public level, and it’s cool that they included us.”
West added that WWU was a great location to hold the photo shoot.
“It really was the ideal place, because we have such a variety of horses and riders. If you would go to a saddle seat show barn, they may not have Arabians, or Morgans or National Show Horses. We have all of those, and both male and female riders,” he said.
“Everyone who has seen the book so far is just thrilled, because here is a book where the publishers and authors actually took the time to find someone knowledgeable about saddle seat,” Ward said.
“Knack Grooming Horses: A Complete Illustrated Guide,” is the first comprehensive, yet easy-to-follow, illustrated handbook on every aspect of grooming and skin care, including braiding and show preparation. For more information or to order a copy, visit www.knackbooks.com.