Posted by: jility | November 5, 2012

Tinkers, Irish Horse Fairs and a New Book on Canine Structure

It has been my experience that the most difficult things for most people to see when evaluating dogs are the angles. Growing up with horses and dogs, I learned early on how to see angles and what they mean to the performance of the animal.

When I was sixteen years old, I spent a summer in Ireland at a school dedicated to riding and learning how to evaluate horses and ponies for performance. It was an amazing experience to say the least! We rode jumpers, broke youngsters and attended shows and horse fairs where horses and ponies were bought, sold and traded.

Horses and ponies line the streets of the villages during a horse fair

The horse fairs were incredible! I remember my first horse fair like it happened yesterday (well, that is not saying much, since these days I can barely remember five minutes ago!). As we approached the small village where the fair was held, we passed the Tinker wagons lined up one after another on both sides of the country road; the horses that pulled the wagons grazed unattached near their Gypsy families. The wagons were domed on the top and highly decorated inside and out.

Tinker wagons lined the road leading to the horse fairs

They were pulled by the Tinker “Harses” as the Irish called them back then. I guess to be politically correct, the Tinkers are now called “Travellers.” Anyway, most of the Travellers’ horses were spotted, but regardless of color, their horses were beautiful!   It was there that I saw the most magnificent Knabstrup horses for the first time.

Knabstrup horse

Here is a little history of the Irish Travellers:

Before we were turned loose at the horse fair, we were told to go out and find what we thought was the best jumper prospect and report back. The instructor, a world class show jumper rider, would then listen to our reasoning and tell us why we were right or wrong. Horses, ponies and donkeys filled the village streets. It was obvious that some were being ridden for the very first time. Others had been brought to town tied to tractors or wagons. It was like a puzzle we had to solve; find the horse or pony we liked best, and be prepared to defend our choice. It was like finding the best fish in a school of thousands!

It was like trying to find the perfect fish in a school of thousands!

I loved that part of the riding school most and equine structure became a HUGE part of my life that summer. I guess you could say that summer in Ireland shaped my life and planted the seed in my head that good conformation was incredibly important for performance, soundness and longevity in our equine or canine sport of choice.

Here I am, forty-six years later, still obsessed with structure. The difference is, however, I now concentrate on canine structure rather than equine structure, but my passion remains. I love talking about structure to anyone who is interested. I learn something new every day and hope I continue learning for the next forty-six years!

When I wrote my first book on structure, “Picking Your Performance Puppy,” I figured that would be the end of it. I was wrong. I realized after the fact that I needed to share my method on how to see angles. What had become second nature for me seems difficult for many. When I try to explain what I see in a dog, many look at me like I have two heads. It dawned on me that it is very difficult for people to learn how to train their eye to see the angles in dogs or horses. I know it certainly was for me in the beginning! It took years for it to become second nature.

So, I thought about what I do when I look at a dog to see the angles. From that came my “Six Steps to 20/20 Canine Angle Vision” process. This six step process allows anyone to learn to see the angles in dogs. Once they have mastered that, then it is time to learn why the angles are important and how they affect performance.

The first part of my new book, “What’s Your Angle,” takes the reader on a journey through the six step process and teaches them how to develop their eye for angles. The second part of the book is dedicated to explaining what the angles mean to performance.

I am so excited about this book and the awesome illustrations and cartoons by Robert M. Henry and so many photographs taken by so many talented people! I hope whoever reads this new book will be as excited about it as I am!


  1. Hi Global Warmers, Congratulations to Helen on her new book ! Ron

  2. I don’t think you have two heads! :o)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: