As some of you know, I had the good fortune to encounter Mark at a point in time when I was ready to listen and begin to understand what he was saying. I have had the chance to ride a number of times in Mark's clinics, including two week-longs in Colorado, and have audited other clinics. For me, this has been a truly life-changing experience and has completely altered how I think about horses and my interaction with them. It's also allowed me to do things with my horses that I really wouldn't have believed possible.
Mark's books really aren't mostly about "technique". In fact, some of the training techniques/hints he gives in his earlier books include things he has since changed his mind about, as he describes in later books - how to catch a horse that runs away, for example. The books are really about us - about how we interact with our horses and how we approach those interactions and how we feel about the horses and their behavior. All of this is hard to describe - it's really about our frame of reference - once we start looking at thing differently, and therefore acting differently, a lot falls into place. It turns out that it's really about training ourselves as much as it's about training horses.
Just a quote or two to give you the flavor of the book:
. . . before we can expect our horse to offer the best of themselves, we must first find a way to be able to give the best of ourselves to them. (p. xiv)
. . . it is not uncommon at clinics to see horse owners being pushed, pulled, knocked into, dragged around, gnawed on, run past or through, and sometimes even knocked over. Many folks refer to this type of behavior as the horse being disrespectful or having a total lack of regard for the person handling them. But before labeling a horse as disrespectful, I believe it is important to understand that the vast majority of behavior domestic horses offer - whether good, bad or indifferent - in relation to humans has been taught to them in some way, shape or form by a human. For many folks, that idea can be a hard pill to swallow. (p. 33)
A horse that offers us "good" behavior is simply telling us he's okay with what's going on at that particular moment in his life. A horse that's offering up "bad" behavior is telling us there's a problem, sometimes a major one . . . that needs to be addressed. A horse that is offering up "worrisome" behavior [such as bit chomping, head-shaking, pawing, tail-wringing, etc.] is telling us he doesn't understand something and is struggling with it. . . . [I]t is my belief horses don't distinguish between how they feel and how they act. So if they act a certain way, their actions are reflecting the way they feel. . . . If this is the case, then any behavior a horse offers, good, bad, or indifferent, falls under one category: the horse supplying information about how he feels. (p. 82)
[M]ost of the problems we see boil down to simple miscommunication between the horse and rider. And the vast majority of those miscommunications often boils down to the rider not giving the horse the direction it needs to perform the task properly, or . . . inadvertently taking a little mental break while the horse is still working. (p. 104)
One of the reasons some folks aren't sure of the difference between a horse that is willingly available and one that is simply available is that so many horses out there today are light, but not necessarily soft. . . . The difference for me is that lightness is primarily on the outside of the horse and is mostly technique-based, while softness comes from the inside of the horse and is a combination of technique, trust, conviction, and feel that is exchanged between rider and horse and back again. Softness is a conversation and a way to be, rather than a thing to do. (p. 194)I hope this gives you a flavor - the book is full of wonderful stories and examples. If you're interested, the book is available from Mark's website markrashid.com.