Saturday, June 23, 2012


I've been thinking about the challenges that Mark Rashid set me at the clinic that Red and Pie and I rode in about two weels ago.  He set me a couple of important challenges for the next stage of my horsemanship: ride all my horses the same - he also knows Dawn as she's been to prior clinics - and develop my own style - the two things are related.  Neither of these things are about technique - they're about feel, which means there are no longer any specific instructions about how to get there.  Here's the post I wrote about that during the clinic.  I've been pondering these directions from Mark and what they mean - I expect I'll be doing that for some time as I work to figure it out.

There are a couple of things I know are parts of this.  First, I need to always focus on the feel of what I want - the things the horse does that I don't want are irrelevant, and I need to always return my focus to the feel of what I do want so the horse can connect to that.  (This also does a nice job of removing emotion and reactivity to what the horse does from the picture.) Second, I need to always do the movement or action on the inside of me so the horse can connect to that and do the movement or action from the inside of the horse.  I need to stay at the "point of resistance" with each horse - I need to be there with a live contact and connection (even on a loose rein) so that I can give the horse direction and guidance - I need to be right there - this isn't about holding it's a further stage in allowing but without throwing away the connection.  And most importantly, it's about building softness into all of my life - breathing, posture, attention and how I interact with objects, animals and people - if it's not there in my life it certainly won't be there in my work with horses.

I hope this post doesn't sound like mumbo-jumbo - it certainly isn't that to me and there's real substance and content to what Mark had to say.  But it's beyond technique - that means I need to find my way, and that my understanding of these challenges will continue to develop and evolve - what I understand and "get" now may well be different from what I understand and get a year from now.

So what do these things mean to me now?  Riding all my horses the same - to me, this means I need to bring the same softness and feel to each horse and expect each horse to rise to my leadership and intention and make that connection that horses are so good at - I need to offer them a place to be with me and act with me where we operate as one.  Each horse will have things he or she knows or doesn't know and physical movements that are easier or harder, based on conformation or experience, but each horse should be able to find the same softness in me and the same leadership and direction, and each horse should be able to rise to the direction I offer.

Developing my own style - I think this means that I need to explore, and try and not be afraid, and feel free to find my own way of working with horses, building on the good training I've had from Mark and Heather but not slavishly following their examples.  I need to decide what things are important and not important, and what my priorities are with my horses.  It means I need to present myself to my horses in a consistent manner, and it needs to be me and come from me, and not from anyone else - the authenticity comes from that.  This is harder in that it is more nebulous and hard to define - the idea that one shouldn't just be a clone of one's masters is empowering but also scary too.

So, very good stuff to work on - it's all about working on me at this point . . . the horses will show me the way.


  1. Very similar to what I'm working on. I understand exactly what you're saying and agree with it all - especially the part about finding your own riding style. We're not Mark Rashid (and name any other trainer). The good ones found their own styles that work for them. They all share what they've learned. The really good ones like Mark realize that their style may not be perfect for everyone and help you to find your way to your style.

    Enjoy the journey.


  2. The journey continues. The more we learn the less we know. It feels like at times. Giving while keeping connection is very hard to explain. You are on the right track! I've found that softness with horses bleeds into softness in my relationships everywhere. Kind of cool, really. Horses are such amazing teachers. And we have the nerve to call ourselves trainers. :)

  3. Good for you. So many people get a trainer and then depend on that person to tell them how to do everything. My best trainers tried to instill in me an independence where they gave me the basics so I could figure out my own methods to get where I wanted to go. Sounds as if that's exactly what Mark was encouraging.

  4. I really do understand all you are saying and striving for. It's hard to be soft all the time but it needs to be done with our dealings with horses in or out of the saddle. Consistency is also a big part of interacting with them. Like Jean I had trainers who gave me the basics but if there was a problem I was told to figure it out and do what worked. This led to lots of investigating on my own. We are always learning, I don't think it ever ends.

  5. Well Kate you have a great mind set to do the challenges that have come your way ....three beautiful horses and it is nice to read your about your journey as you overcome each obstacle. I think keeping it all about you and your horses is something we all need to focus on too.

  6. I have a feeling that one of your three horses is going to be the leader as you discover your own style. Since I mostly ride Harley, when I get on another horse, he is part of my style. I try to ride each horse the same way that I ride my horse while acknowledging their different strengths and weaknesses. I have found this to be very helpful, as the mental picture that I strive for is clear and deeply ingrained.

  7. This is such a great post, Kate. I've been thinking about these same concepts lately.

    I think that the most difficult thing for me to learn as a rider has been to trust in my own style. I have spent a lifetime listening to other trainers and trying to apply their wisdom, but it's very hard for me to trust my knowledge and realize that I can actually do this myself. I know that I am a capable rider, but it is still difficult to express my own self as a trainer of horses. But, it's something I need to do if I'm ever going to be the rider I want to be.

  8. Kate - Your generosity and insights into the time you've spent with Mark are so valuable to all of us. I've loved reading the posts and watching the video. And I completely understand what you are talking about. We can't be one person with our horses and someone else in the rest of our lives. I also think it's important to cut ourselves some slack sometimes and know that -for me- it's more important that the horse and I enjoy being together than that I get it perfect. As a recovering perfectionist, it's been a big change for me to let go of those old habits. I'm looking forward to more of your thoughts on the growth of your relationship with your horses- great stuff to think about!

  9. I think our personality outside of our horse life is reflected in our way of dealing with horses; any improvement in either will reflect on the other. It's why great horsemen are also great people.


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