By Morag Higgins WESI MRPCH BHSAI HNCES
I am pleased to be able to announce that top International Trainers Mark Rashid and his wife Crissi McDonald will be returning to the UK in 2014. There will be several clinics held around the country with four two day clinics being held here at Ross Dhu Equestrian.
Like many people I first became familiar with the name Mark Rashid through his wonderful books. Having read Considering the Horse and No Good Horse is a Bad Colour, I found great value in the subtly delivered training tips that flowed through his story telling. Reading these books is like taking a journey of discovery, Mark is an excellent story teller and the narrative flows like any good novelist, but in between the wonderful tale that unfolds are insights into his ethos and philosophies regarding horses, their wellbeing and their training. I find great value in re-reading his books from time to time because as my understanding and abilities improve, so does my understanding of what he is trying to teach through each chapter. I am always learning something new, seeing something with a fresh perspective so to speak.
After reading his books for the first time I did not really focus on his name, but on the story he was telling, so, when in 2005 I was asked to be a demo rider on a Mark Rashid clinic in Scotland my first reaction was “yeah, but who is Mark Rashid?” After being told he was a top American Trainer I thought, “what the hell, why not, it will be fun for my horse” and so it was with this very relaxed and unfazed attitude that I turned up at the clinic in my battered old horsebox with Brogan, my Clydesdale x inside, who was not too amused that the prospect of work lay ahead.
I checked my time slot and Brogan and I sauntered into the arena where Mark was waiting. I introduced myself and Mark, with his usual quiet charm, looked at Brogan (the proverbial brick s**t house) and said, “OK, tell me about your horse and any problems he has”. I was immediately taken aback. Having been taught my many instructors for many years I was not used to having to think but was more used to being told what to do. I told the audience how long I had owned Brogan for, how he was my baby boy and then paused for a moment as I struggled to think of any negatives about him, I finally just smiled and said he was perfect for me and didn’t have any issues that I could think of. Mark nodded solemnly and said “That’s fine, go out and show me his walk, trot and lope” Brogan, realising that work was inevitable, manned up and wandered off with his usual responsive lightness going through his paces and stopping in front of Mark. I was asked to back up a few steps and Brogan obliged. I was then asked to canter – halt transitions which again Brogan obliged. Mark just smiled and said “He is pretty good, light and soft, I think we can have some fun with this guy”. Mark then proceeded to completely blow my mind with the most advanced and precise work I had ever done with a horse.
I had trained a lot of horses at this point in my career but I always felt there was something more and despite being taught by some pretty impressive names, I was always left feeling empty, like a piece of the jigsaw was missing. What Mark looks for is not necessarily fancy movements or big impressive displays, but clear, precise riding and soft, light responses from the horse. Now, to define what Mark means by soft and what he means by light is this; a horse can be light, they can be sharp off the legs, obedient to aids and know how to do some pretty fancy tricks but they can be hard on the inside. That means there is an energy that borders on resentful in some horses to the riders requests, they might obey the requests but only because they have to, not necessarily because they want to. A soft horse on the other hand might not be as advanced in their repertoire or as sharp off the leg, but they are soft inside, open to what you are asking and willing to have a go just to please you. A lot of young horses start off very soft with no knowledge and it is almost as though the more knowledge they gain the harder they become. Anyone who has ridden a horse who is soft and light will know exactly what I mean, it is very difficult to define and really has to be felt, but once you feel it you will always seek it.
What Mark wants is a horse that is open to the rider’s requests to such a degree that the rider need only think the command and the horse will respond, this is truly a partnership and an amazing thing. He focuses on precision and discipline from the rider to be able to allow the horse to work better for them and to achieve this high level of trust and willingness. He starts this training with very simple exercises for the rider because a horse in nature is born soft and light, it is when we add the rider that the hardness comes in and this is because we are often closed and hard inside ourselves.
Mark began to teach Brogan and I how to listen to each other better and how I could be clearer in what I wanted. I first learned to attach each of Brogan’s legs to a variety of different cues either by hand or leg which were as subtle as a mere shift of weight. Over the next four days we worked on refining and honing what we had learned till it was literally just a thought and Brogan would do half pass etc. Now at this point the audience were pretty impressed and one lady asked “Are you sure you are not giving just very slight aids when asking for full pass” I replied that I wasn’t sure but lets put it to the test. I dropped my reins, crossed my left leg over the saddle horn and thought “full pass to the right” I thought Brogan’s feet where they needed to be, a clear picture in my mind as to what I wanted. Brogan happily went into a text book full pass much to the amazement and loud applause from the audience. Yes readers, this does actually work!!!
I was left with a very deep respect for Mark Rashid and knew that I could study a lifetime with him and only know a fraction of what he knows. At last I had found a true mentor that I would be happy to study with and learn from. Mark and I hit it off straight away and bizarrely found out that we were very distantly related as our ancient ancestors were uncle and nephew! We were also both martial artists and perhaps this is why I found it so easy to understand what he was teaching as I could relate it directly to martial arts movements. Over the years Mark and his wife Crissi have become good friends with me and my husband (also called Mark!) and I am proud to have them as teachers and friends. I have been to Colorado to train with Mark and he came to our yard in 2011 to teach the first clinics held in Scotland since 2005.
If you have ridden with Mark and been taught by him you will understand his easy teaching style and his ability to make you work out the problem by yourself (with a few well placed hints) and look for something more in your relationship with your horse. He teaches both English and Western riders at all levels and we like to have group clinics where four riders work together in the morning and four in the afternoon over the two days. This year we are delighted to have Crissi here to give each rider a one hour private lesson to help hone the skills Mark has been passing on. This is a great opportunity to be a rider or a spectator and so much can be learned by watching others. Spaces on the clinics are limited so it is important that you get your application form in quickly. We are now offering the facility where by you can pay for your course in instalments by direct bank transfer which is very beneficial for many people.
If you would like to learn more or apply for the clinics please visit our website www.scottishhorsehelp.co.uk for full details. All dates etc are listed in the advert below this article or you can contact us direct for more information.
MARK RASHID RETURNS TO SCOTLAND!
We are delighted to announce that top International Trainers Mark Rashid and Crissi McDonald will be holding four two day clinics here at Ross Dhu Equestrain in 2014. Preliminary dates for the events are:-
- 23 – 24 May 2014
- 25 – 26 May 2014
- 30 – 31 May 2014
- 1 – 2 June 2014
Spaces on these courses are limited so we are compiling lists for riders, so please contact us via this website to be added to the lists.