Equestrianism: Tolstoy tells of great trek along ancient trade route

Four friends overcome extremes of hardship in Silk Road adventures

Alexandra Tolstoy tells of her astonishing 5,000-mile trek on horses and camels in The Last Secrets Of The Silk Road (Profile Books, £16.99). She undertook this epic journey, which took her across the remote mountains and deserts of Central Asia and China, with three young women whom she had met at Edinburgh University.

The four intrepid friends encountered extremes of heat and cold as well as torrential rain and ferocious winds as they retraced the ancient trading route. At one stage, the winds that came "howling in from the Gobi Desert" made it "impossible to walk, as each step became a fight against an invisible force".

As befits a descendant (albeit indirect) of the author of War And Peace, Tolstoy writes with splendid verve and candour about the joys, hardships, rows, bouts of illness, dangers and sense of achievement that were experienced during the eight months of travelling. The horses and camels were by no means angelic, but they are described with affection and with understandable concern for their welfare.

While we can enjoy Tolstoy's adventures vicariously - and, thankfully, without the hardships - William Micklem's Complete Horse Riding Manual (Dorling Kindersley, £25) is very much a get-up-and-go book. With copious illustrations, which include some wonderful photographic sequences by Kit Houghton, the 400 pages provide a fully comprehensive guide to riding horses - at any age and at all levels of competence.

The book includes four helpful troubleshooting sections (on basic horse training, dressage, show jumping and cross-country) as well as physical and mental preparations. Should you doubt your ability, Micklem will both encourage and challenge you. "Nothing can take the place of persistence," he writes. "Talent will obviously not - the world is full of unsuccessful people with great talent. Education will not, because the world is also full of educated people whose lives stagnate."

Micklem, who is the training director at the Gleneagles Mark Phillips Equestrian Centre, has been working with horses and riders for more than 30 years. He has made some staunch friends on the way, notably Karen O'Connor who was a member of the United States bronze medal team at the Sydney Olympics. "He has shaped my career, as he has so many others," O'Connor writes in the foreword to his book.

Like Micklem, Sylvia Loch insists that everybody can achieve the goal she sets out in Invisible Riding (D J Murphy Publishers, £12.99). This involves learning to make such subtle communications with the horse as to render the application of the aids virtually invisible. It also involves commitment: "unless one really wants to ride in a better way and in partnership, it simply won't happen."

Loch is an acknowledged expert on the methods passed down to us through the centuries by past masters of classical riding. "For classical read 'natural'," she writes, as she sets about revealing "The secret of balance for you and your horse", which is the book's subtitle.

According to Loch, "the whole philosophy of riding this way is based on logic - i.e. adhering to Nature's laws of balance, gravity, locomotion, etc". Achieving the goal brings its reward, which Loch expresses with pleasing simplicity. It will mean that "our horse - any horse - understands us and does things easily".

Understanding is also the principal aim of Abigail Hogg's The Horse Behaviour Handbook (David and Charles, £19.99) in which she explores the reasons why horses react to certain situations and looks at ways to deal with the problems that arise when handling or riding them. She makes a convincing argument for keeping horses in groups and outdoors - as would happen in their natural habitat. This gives them the three elements that Hogg believes are important in keeping them mentally balanced: time for foraging, social contact and space to move. The text is backed up by photographs, some of which give charmingly graphic examples of the way horses behave when they are free to roam.

Janet Rising, the editor of Pony magazine, brings us another offering from the D J Murphy stable in The Bumper Book Of Horses And Riders (£9.99). This is a cheerful compilation of facts and pictures, puzzles and quizzes that should help to keep younger riders happily absorbed.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
i100... with this review
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam