Monday, January 9, 2017

Book Review: Solo Schooling

Title: Solo Schooling: Learn to Coach Yourself When You're Riding on Your Own
Author: Wendy Jago
Buy it: Used on Amazon

I bought this book used last year for my birthday with an Amazon gift card. I didn't really read the description or research anything about it. It had been sitting in my wish list for a couple years based solely on its title. Solo schooling? Self policing your rides? I'm all about mental exercises to try to improve my rides, and since I spend most of my time riding alone, this book seemed like it was made for me.

Spoiler alert: It wasn't.

I started it as soon as I got it, but I was immediately bogged down by the writing. I flipped through it and didn't actually see anything that I wanted to dive into. It got set aside...and never opened again until this past weekend. I was between books and it was brutally cold outside so I decided I was going to just sit down and conquer it with a blog review being my biggest motivator to finish it this time around.

The book is basically a giant two hundred page sales brochure for a program called NLP--Nuero-Linguistic Programming. From what I understand, this program wasn't created specifically for equestrians, and while there are examples in every chapter that tie it into the horse world, they all feel like a stretch and didn't do a particularly good job of explaining anything further.

NLP is basically an exploration of how people think, behave, and interact to learn.

Each chapter is broken down into blocks so that you can learn what type of person you are. Do you learn best this way or that way? Do you look at a problem like this or like that? You essentially go through more than half the book trying to figure that out, and then set up your "meta-program" so that you can take it to your NLP coach who now knows how to best teach you.

If you're now like, "Wait, take it to your coach? Aren't you supposed to be solo schooling?" Don't worry. I was confused, too. In fact, I still am. Over and over, the book advises that when you run into a problem, go to your coach with it, or have a friend watch and help you dissect what's going on.

The writing was incredibly dry, and I had a hard time wrapping my head around what I was reading. It felt more like really bad homework than an interesting equestrian training manual. If you're an incredibly detail specific person, or someone that deals with cut and dry business documents on a daily basis, you'd probably have an easier time not getting overwhelmed with this book, but I was hoping for something a little more light.

If you can manage to break it down though, there are some really interesting points interspersed:

  • Performance = Potential - Interference
  • Presuppositions: Don't go into something with only one mindset about how that situation will play out. "My horse is lazy. I have to get him forward so I'll give him a kick, but now he's just fast and strung out." Instead: "My horse isn't forward today. Maybe it's because of the long ride we had yesterday. Let me loosen him up at a slower pace first before asking him to go more forward."
  • Make choices that fit you. If you think that fence is too high, don't let someone's outside opinion influence you to jump it, and then you get dumped. However, go outside your comfort zone into your "stretch zone", or you'll never move forward.
  • Framing things: For example, eventers see dressage as a phase they just want to get over with when all it is is getting your horse "obedient, balanced, on the aids, and changing speed and stride-length rapidly." It's just like jumping but without the jumps, so frame it that way in your mind and you won't psych yourself out over it. 
  • Don't get caught in behavioral traps: Playing it safe, not being in the moment, and/or getting stuck in repetition.
  • Ask better questions: Instead of just saying, "That halt was bad." ask yourself why. Did his haunches move out? If yes, did you have your legs on evenly or did you come in unbalanced? Did he throw his head? If yes, did you pull on the reins and not ride him forward into it? Did you half halt correctly?
Towards the end of the book, there's one chapter that I was able to relate to the most because it had the most to do with riding alone. That's where the asking better questions comes in, and it talks about being flexible and working with your horse if your chosen plan for the day doesn't look like it's going to go the way you want it to. 

Overall? One and half thumbs down. Not something I'd recommend to fellow riders, especially those looking to improve their own actual solo schooling.


  1. Darn! I was hoping it would be a good one, as I am a solo schooler myself.

  2. Ah! I bought this one because I love her other books so much, but I found it similarly disappointing. Strangely, "Schooling Problems Solved with NLP" was much more relatable to me, and I've gotten a TON of use out of the concepts.

    1. I'll put that on my "buy used" list! There WERE good ideas in this one, I just really struggled to find them and relate.

  3. Oh man, I was hoping this book would be more awesome. Boo. Back to wishing I had mirrors!

  4. I haven't read this book, though I might own it. If I do, I'll make a note not to keep it, lol.

  5. Thanks for reading this one on my behalf ;)

  6. tips to riding better on your own: have someone help you.

    Gee thanks author lol. I do like your takeaways tho!!

  7. Sounds like you've saved a lot of people the trouble of reading it :P

  8. There are way better NLP books out there.

  9. Disappointing. Good that you were so able to get something out of it tho.

  10. Well that's disappointing. I was super hopeful when I read the title of the post!

  11. Sounds like the only good thing about the book is the title. What a let down.


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