Jessie Haas

award-winning children's horse books

BOOKS

The Horse Lover's Encyclopedia
Bramble and Maggie books
Four early readers about a horse and her girl
Early Readers
Help beginners onto that tall horse called Reading. Easy chapter books including Bramble and Maggie
Picture Book
A picture book about the sweet science of maple sugar. Illustrations by Jos. A. Smith
History for children and adults
history for children and adults
Nonfiction horse books
Nonfiction horse books for children and adults
Poetry
Horses from prehistory to today, our ecstatic and tangled relationship with them, and their powerful effect on history, explored in many kinds of poems. YA and As of all ages who love horses and histlry.
Middle-grade and YA novels
Saige, American Girl of the Year Chico's Challenge, Chase
My Stable
e-books and out-of-print editions

The Horse Lover's Blog

Girthy, Saddley, Bridley Robin

May 28, 2017

Tags: girthy horses, genetics, Robin, clicker training

Little Queen
"Robin's so sweet," her vet says. She often grazes just steps from his front porch, so he does know her in that context.
"I love this horse!" her farrier always says, as she greets him with fluttering nostrils--an inaudible nicker--and the first front hoof already raised. Not that Chad Bacon doesn't have her number. He knows she gets impatient if he doesn't get right to work. Girl has places to go, things to eat! Don't take all day!
Both Chad and Stephen would be astonished at the Robin I see when I approach with her saddle and bridle. Pinned ears, narrowed eyes, a back hoof raised in menace. This horse HATES being tacked up.
It runs in her family. A grand-dam and an older sister have both wrecked carts on being girthed up untactfully. Knowing this, I spent many hours training Robin to accept the girth, clicker training in very small increments, with many treats. Ditto the bitless bridle. I bought a sheepskin for her noseband, and a fleecy, elastic girth. I have worked on this for years and years.
Still I get those looks.
On the plus side, I do tack up in a large box stall, and rarely have to tie Robin to do so. Often she will come to me, even when I'm holding the saddle, if I put out my fist as a target. Click, put saddle on her back, treat.
Then it takes more clicks and treats to get the bridle on, to allow me to straighten out the pad and girth, to tighten the girth in small increments. By the end she is usually looking pleasant (and well-fed!), and all is well until I ask her to step out of her stall. Then more treats may be required.
Once I have her lined up at the mounting block, which she does voluntarily and flawlessly, she's perfectly cheerful and ready to go. That tells me the problem isn't ill-fitting tack. If the saddle was uncomfortable this horse would definitely tell me!
Is this an example of a poisoned cue? Has riding tack become associated with aversive training in her mind? Is it possible that, if I radically switched equipment (and then never made a mistake with it) I could cleanse tacking up of its poison?
I'm betting not. Knowing that this problem is multi-generational, I've come to accept that 'good' tacking up for Robin is when she allows it without actually nipping, raising a back foot, or looking ugly. She will never be like her stablemate, who shoulders her way into a halter. Like all Morgans, the two are closely related, but Martha missed the girthy gene.
With Robin, I imagine it's linked to loss of control. With every strap I put on her, she loses some autonomy. So should I never ride her? Some people would say so.
Me? I figure she can spare me half an hour out of her day, especially since she seems so cheerful once we get going. She's the kind of horse who's inclined to speak her mind, and clicker training has only accentuated that.
That's what I love about clicker training. Horses get a voice. There's no guarantee we're always going to like what they're saying.

Train Like an Editor

April 24, 2017

Tags: Jessie Haas, the horse lover, the horse lover's blog, Rescue, Boyds Mills Press, Rebecca Davis, writing process, +R, positive reinforcement training, clicker training

My resolution to blog at least weekly has been stymied by my real job, writing books. At the moment I am working on revising my middle-grade novel RESCUE, due out from Boyds Mills Press sometime in spring 2018. I am so happy to be reunited with the wonderful editor Rebecca Davis, with whom I worked at Greenwillow Books a decade ago. And Rebecca is teaching me something about horse training.
Here's what it's like to be edited by Rebecca. You open the manuscript--these days, electronically, back in those days, on paper. You kind of gasp, because there are sooo many notes. Cautiously, you start reading through them. You start smiling.
Because a huge percentage of those notes are "I love this." "This made me (smile, laugh, tear up)." "I love Joni (my main character)." In other words, this is a very +R experience--positive reinforcement, for you non-trainers. What it does is make me very happy to work, eager to improve those sections where Rebecca has questions, hopeful of making her love those sections too.
So how can I do that for my horses? I actually am riding Robin with Rebecca in mind--along with all the other things I have to keep in mind, like position and keeping breathing, etc. Robin knows the basics. I don't want to click and treat her for just walking.
So it's meant that I try harder things sooner in the riding season, and the session, than I might have otherwise, and I click and treat the earliest try. Yesterday I took a shot at haunches-in, which was our achievement last season but which we find challenging. We got an approximation and I hopped off, which got an excited nicker. Robin knows that when I do that, a peppermint is sure to follow. I'm aiming for peppermints in every training session, and lots and lots of nickers.
Be a good horse trainer. Be like Rebecca.

Horsemanship In the Digital Age

March 13, 2017

Tags: horses, horse lover's encyclopedia, the horse lover, the horse lover's blog, Jessie Haas, Thom Friedman, THANKYOU FOR BEING LATE, mounted archery, clicker training, natural horsemanship, equine agility

THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE, the new book by Thom Friedman, has me thinking about the pace of change in modern life. Shocking to think that the i-phone came out in 2007! Facebook, Twitter, just getting off the ground. They feel like they've been around forever--but forever is briefer these days, apparently.
One seismic changein the horse world since 2000, when The Horse-Lover's Encyclopedia edition 1 came out is the rise of Natural Horsemanship (NH). Back then it wasn't even an entry, and 'round pen' wasn't a verb. Today NH is huge, with popular clinicians like Pat Parelli having enormous followings, and almost everybody has some idea of how to do 'round penning.'
NH has its critics, too, many of them among what may be the next tidal wave poised to sweep the horse community. It's difficult to put a name to this group. In fact, many of those I conceptually place in a single bucket would resist being included with some of the others, possibly with good reason. I'm open to hearing arguments about that, but here's how I see it at the moment.
There's a movement toward softer forms of training, and in some cases, keeping riding completely voluntary on the horse's part. Clicker training; groups like Empowered Equestrians, who use and understand terms like +R, and aspire to train horses using only +R methods. People who will not ride a horse unless he clearly signals his desire to be ridden.
There are research groups like ISES (International Society for Equitation Science) and universities studying equine cognition and behavior, and who have brought us fascinating new info like the blanket study, and new insight into how horses see us. (Hint: wipe that frown off your face before you walk into the barn!).
There are people who love horses, but have no interest in riding, who are coming out of the shadows and claiming their right to be horse-owners on their own terms. Some of them 'just' feed and love on their horses. Others play with them (careful!) and some take part in sports like Equine Agility. This dovetails with another group who would like to compete in a mild sort of way, but don't want to truck horses anywhere. Some of them participate in contests where you set up and video, or score, a test, then email it in. (Agility, Mounted Archery.)
Then there are the myriad of sports that expand our idea of what a good horse can do. Far beyond the categories of my youth--English, Western, trail, racing--these extend into Iberian riding traditions with doma vaquera and Working Equitation, expand ranch horse concepts with Extreme Cowboy competitions, and move way past the old trail classes.
It all feels like its moving a lot faster than it used to. It's much easier to start a new sport, spread the word about it, get in touch with like minded folks, and even compete remotely. Our idea of horsemanship is getting gentler, more nuanced, more scientifically informed, and more multi-cultural.
I tried to touch on as many elements of this as I could in the new HORSE-LOVER'S ENCYCLOPEDIA. But we had to be brief, for reasons of space, and we still ended up with a three-pound book! Still, it makes a good jumping-off point. Mounted archery? Who even knew that was a thing? Except the Mongols, the Scythians, and our remote Indo-European-speaking horse-riding ancestors--and now, the practitioners of this multi-cultural new sport. Korean, Hungarian, and other forms exist, there's a serious degree of costume involved, and the process of teaching horses to tolerate having arrows fired from their backs leads to calm and a high degree of control. It's all really exciting. Can't wait to see where horsemanship goes in the next fifteen years.

American Girl gets creativity

January 13, 2013

Tags: Saige, Jessie Haas, American Girl, Horse Crazy!, horses and art, art in the schools, clicker training

American Girl really gets creativity.
Now that I can talk about Saige and her new books, what I most want to say is how much fun it's been. I loved the process from my first phone conversation with Erin Falligant. The creative team at American Girl is such a great bunch of smart, artistic (more…)

Who's Confused, Me or the Horse?

July 24, 2012

Tags: clicker training, horse training, Morgan horses, Jessie Haas

Trying to teach Robin to leg yield. To the right, no problem. To the left, not possible. I read my books (Mary Wanless, Sally Swift, everyone!), worked on my position, agonized. I also, in the barn, asked her to sidestep away from my hand on both sides. Click, treat, nicker. She was definitely less (more…)

Click for Clarity

June 21, 2012

Tags: clicker training, horses, horse training

Round penning. I'll admit that I've never done it, and don't get it, and am not attracted. Obviously lots of people use it and have success. And I've seen Robin do it to Zeke, working him back and forth along the fence-line like an enormous calf until (her version) she chases him up the lane.
But I don't want to be another horse to my horse, and I don't want to be in a predator-prey relationship. I want to reach her mind, more the way I would with another human. I want to elevate the discussion. Clicker training, and clicker thinking, allows me to do this when I do it well, and I like having a horse who chuckles occasionally when she gets her cue. If I were better, sharper, more consistent, she'd be a better-behaved horse, but I'm refining my skills, and the conversation keeps getting more interesting.

Better Blogger

June 19, 2012

Tags: clicker training

I'm back in two weeks, not two years. I actually noticed that I never actually posted my last blog entry. I corrected the error. I'm improving. I deserve chocolate.

Robin Rocks

November 6, 2010

Tags: Robin, Morgan horses, clicker training, Candlewick, Feiwel and Friends, Chico's Challenge

Wow! It's November already. I've checked off a book about a Quarter Horse--CHICO'S CHALLENGE will come out with Feiwel and Friends in early 2012, I think--a new Bramble and Maggie book for Candlewick, and I've substantially finished a book about the Westminster Massacre that will come out with History Press next year.
And Robin? The (more…)

Riding Robin

July 25, 2010

Tags: Morgan Horse, clicker training, children's books, biochar, Westminster Vt.

This blog is a true picture of my life right now--I don't have time to write a blog! Why not? Well, I'm training Robin, a 4-year-old Morgan--and since I haven't ridden in over 2 years, the first rides took courage and creativity. I'm finishing the history of my town, an enormous project; finishing CHICO'S CHALLENGE, (more…)

To Claim Your Prize

June 2, 2010

Tags: horse crazy, jessie haas, morgan horses, clicker training

If you responded to Win A Prize (and I Know Molly did!), please send me your mailing address so I can send you your pin. The glitch here is that this blog--set up by the Authors Guild--doesn't show me your email address, so I can't respond to you directly. I'm not Ms. Technology, so (more…)

Lick, Don't Bite

May 30, 2010

Tags: children's books, horse training, clicker training, morgan horses, jessie haas

Robin and I still have our persistent problem of her biting me, or threatening to. I can't decide if it's compulsive--oral Morgan who must be always doing something with her mouth--or if it's something I'm actually training her to do due to my response (but I feel like I have to respond to protect (more…)

Clicker Expo

March 31, 2010

Tags: children's books, horse training, clicker training, morgan horses

Just back from Clicker Expo in Lexington, KY--a wonderful experience. Imagine being in a resort hotel with 400 animal-lovers and 130 well-behaved dogs of all breeds. Imagine classes all day on the latest scientific breakthroughs and refinements in modern animal training. I learned a lot about keeping cues and training loops clean--which coincidentally is what I (more…)

clicker challenge

January 26, 2010

Tags: clicker training, horse crazy, jessie haas, Morgan horses

Okay, here's a challenge for clicker trainers. I've been a bad blogger--look how long it's been. Do I call myself a bad blogger, or do I give myself a tiny treat for getting back into the saddle?
A few excuses; extensive barn renovations, followed by winter, Christmas, more winter...naah, no excuses. Robin is (more…)

First Response

October 21, 2009

Tags: jessie haas, horse crazy, clicker training, horse crafts, Morgan horses

Thanks so much for posting a comment, Jane. Fortunately there are a lot of good horse books for your daughter to read, and my pony books have many times been a reluctant reader's gateway into reading.
Send me an email with your address, and I'll send your daughter a homemade Horse Crazy! pin just (more…)

Win A Prize

October 18, 2009

Tags: jessie haas, horse crazy, clicker training, horse crafts, Morgan horses

The first three people to post comments on this blog will receive hand-made and autographed Horse Crazy! pins. Why? It's a training exercise. I'm trying to train myself to blog more frequently, plus I want a good reason to play with glue and scissors. I need feedback and reinforcement, and I want to hear (more…)

First Signing

September 17, 2009

Tags: horse crazy, jessie haas, morgan horses, clicker training

The first signing for Horse Crazy! was at the Book Cellar in Brattleboro, Vt, and it was very successful, thanks to the efforts of Kati Knapp at the store, and to my beloved eighth grade teacher, Winnie Vogt, who sent a couple of nice people my way. Everyone went home with their own personal (more…)

I Sat on Robin!

September 2, 2009

Tags: horse crazy, jessie haas, morgan horses, clicker training

I sat on Robin! Three or four times now, for between one and three seconds. It's a big thrill for me. I've had her for a little over a year, and have not been on a horse in about two years. So far so good. I have not asked Robin to take a single (more…)

Reaching the Animal Mind

August 24, 2009

Tags: jessie haas, karen pryor, clicker training, horse crazy

I recently read the new book by Karen Pryor, the queen of clicker training. It's called Reaching the Animal Mind, and it gives an overview of clicker training, with the clearest writing on teaching a cue that I've ever seen. It also includes great training stories, and a look at Karen's fascinating and unorthodox (more…)

Peppermints Rule!

August 6, 2009

Tags: clicker training, horse crazy, jessie haas, Morgan horses

I bought Robin a bag of peppermint candies yesterday, and already it's changed our lives.
She adores them! We are working on bridling, which up to now involved her weaving her head around and nipping. Today she knew peppermints were a possibility. After some typical behavior, suddenly she started shoving her nose into the (more…)

Starting Over

July 16, 2009

Tags: Horse Crazy!, Morgan horses, horse training, clicker training, horse crafts, horse boks

I'm horse crazy! I admit it! Oh, the relief of having it out in the open!
To the 92 of you who looked at my previous blog--both entries!--it's gone. I'm too busy to train Robin and write a book about her and blog about her too.
Instead I want to just talk about horses. (more…)
Hoofprints; Horse Poems; the jacket art is by Alison D. Rieder.

Keeping Barney, my first novel

Woodgate Martha V.

At the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum in Albuquerque

Saige and I presenting at the Mater Christi School


Saige and Picasso, the Spanish Barb horse, beautifully created by Sarah Davis.

Atherton

Atherton and Zeke