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The year was 1975, almost a quarter of a century ago, and catalog sourcebooks were still very much a force in book publishing. To that point, however, no one had compiled one on equestrian products, services, and organizations: something that would present the basics of owning, looking after and using horses, together with leads as to where to find more detailed information. Well, I asked myself, why shouldn't I put such a book together? After all, I was a writer by profession and a recreational rider by avocation....why not combine the two?
In those days (and now, too) anyone in search of intelligent feedback on any horse-book idea could do no better than to ask Bill Steinkraus, the United States Equestrian Team mainstay and all-around polymath.
Bill, who had just moved to Simon & Schuster as an editor, responded in something of a good news/bad news way. The good news was that he found the concept eminently viable. The not-so-good news (or so it seemed to me) was that the project was far too massive for one person -- namely, me -- to do alone.
Fortunately, help was close at hand. A number of New York book-publishing types who were also avid riders thought the idea was worth getting involved with -- and so they did.
Barbara Burn had introduced herself several years earlier as "the girl who outfitted the shed in the backyard for the horse my parents never bought me." Barbara, who had edited two of my books, chose the areas of apparel and horse health, the latter as if anticipating her marriage to a veterinarian who, among his other duties, looked after New York City's Mounted Police horses.
Gail and Werner Rentsch were and are, respectively, a publicistand an artist. They kept horses on their farm in upstate New York, so who better to compile the chapters on stable construction and management and tack (Gail) and to provide the book's illustrations and layout (Werner)?
Although a stockbroker by profession, David Spector had written several books on horse-related subjects and was active in equestrian organizations. David chose equestrian activities as his area of primary responsibility.
Since I was involved in equestrian tourism, I chose to write the chapter on horseback holidays. I also picked organizations and, even though I'd never had the occasion to buy a horse, I knew where to find out about the selection process.
So we rolled up our sleeves and set to work.
Fade out 1975...fade in 1997...
As you might deduce from the volume you hold in your hands, The Whole Horse Catalog remains very much alive and well. Strong initial response was followed by steady annual sales, to rank the books among the all-time best-selling equestrian titles worldwide. One aspect of which we're especially proud is its adoption as a textbook in equestrian studies programs at many schools and colleges.
Equally gratifying has been the reaction of the book's users (they're more than just readers). Many have written or told us how helpful they found The Catalog, adding "Why don't you include..." or "Hadn't you better update...?"
They were right. Twenty years is a long time, and even though the basic product (the horse) hasn't changed very much over that time, just about everything surrounding the animal has. Products that existed twenty years ago have been improved or dropped; organizations have moved, merged or disbanded. New items and services have arisen. There was plenty that could be added or deleted.
Nothing succeeds like success, and convincing the publisher that The Catalog needed substantial updating that went far beyond the cosmetic changes we had made in previous editions was less of a chore than anticipated. The extent to which we were allowed to make changes, however, took a bit of negotiating. If we had our druthers, we would have been able to revise far more than Simon & Schuster allowed us to, but that's the difference between authors and publishers when it comes to cost-consciousness.
Making the changes and additions gave us an opportunity to investigate many of the ways in which the horse world has changed. Some breeds and types of horses, especially the European warmbloods, have become immensely popular in this country. Dressage, competitive endurance riding, cutting and team penning lead the list of growth sports. Even when urban encroachment is reducing the amount of recreation land, trail riding for pleasure is another activity that's experiencing a burst of interest and energy.
When it comes to new products, even such conservative bastions as the show ring and foxhunting field recognize that safety and comfort are the order of the day. No matter what the type of riding or driving, helmets with chin straps are no longer considered icky or wussy, but as an essential way to reduce the possibility of head injuries. Flack-jacket vests are a similar requirement for the cross-country phase of combined training's horse trials and events (many rodeo riders use them, too, although ten-gallon hats haven't given way to harder headgear). Comfort begins with stretch fabrics used in clothing for a variety of disciplines and climates, with bright colors and patterns particularly visible in endurance riding and dressage warm-up wear. Although traditionalists may decry their use, durable fabrics have become substitutes for leather in saddles, bridles, halters, and other equine wear.
The new age has reached the horse world in the form of alternative therapies and medications. Massage, acupuncture and other types of physical manipulation, as well as herbal and other natural remedies, may have been initially viewed with skepticism, but now they are widely accepted as preventive and curative tools.
New technologies have affected the way we get our information. Often as important in research as books and magazines, computers give us access to the Internet, which, in turn, has opened up a worldwide network of resources. To learn about training techniques, to find horse show results, or vacation possibilities, or to join in conversations in chat rooms, just log on to the Web.
New approaches have even changed the way we buy and receive products. When this book was assembled more than twenty years ago, resources included only a handful of tack-shop catalogs because, as nearly as we compilers could discover, that's all there were. Now hundreds of stores present their wares that way, and some have begun to do so via the Internet. Thanks to overnight shipping services, catalogs are a very popular way to get tack, apparel and other supplies. There's also been an increase in shops that offer their own brands or better-known items at discount prices. In short, contemporary merchandising techniques have hit the horse world.
One area that hasn't expanded as rapidly as predicted (or perhaps just hoped for) is the amount of equestrian coverage on television. A network channel devoted to horse sports and allied activities has failed to materialize, at least as of now. With the notable exceptions of the American Quarter Horse Association's America's Horse series and ESPN's coverage of American Grand Prix Association show jumping, horses on the tube are pretty much relegated to racing and cowboy movies.
This revision of The Whole Horse Catalog reflects these changes and innovations. In response to other suggestions, we've also added new minichapters and fillers dealing with horse-related matters (some might say "trivia"). All, we hope, meet with the reader's -- um, make that user's -- approval.
To end on personal notes, the past score of years finds us Catalogers still very much involved in equestrian activities. Barbara Burn finally got that horse she wanted. The Rentschs still keep horses on their farm, while Werner now serves as president of the American Academy of Equine Artists. David Spector has hung up his tack, but continues to appear at horse shows. And as for me, I continue to ride whenever and wherever I get the chance, while my editing and writing assignments led to western breeds and activities.
As we've done in the prefaces to previous editions, my colleagues and I wish you every possible enjoyment and success in your own involvement with horses.
Steven D. Price
Copyright © 1985, 1993, 1998 by Steven D. Price, Barbara Burn Dolensek, Gail Rentsch, David A. Spector, and Werner Rentsch Copyright © 1977 by Brigadore Press, Inc.