Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mark Rashid Book/DVD Review . . . and a Birthday (with Wild Horses)!

During our blast of extremely cold weather, since there was no riding going on, I watched the two DVDs that accompany Mark Rashid's new book A Journey to Softness.  I had already read the book, and its accompanying book of quotes collected by Mark's students.  All I can say is . . . wow!  This set is a distillation of Mark's philosophy of working with horses, and touches on almost every important point I've heard Mark articulate over the years - many of you know that I've been fortunate to have had the opportunity to ride with Mark on a number of occasions over more than the past 10 years, and this has been transformational for me and my horses.

The book of quotes is great - lots of pithy wisdom.  The book A Journey to Softness spells out how Mark came to some of his thinking on various issues, usually by contact with a specific horse and situation - the stories are very powerful.  If this was all there was, the package would be great.

And then there are the DVDs - almost 3 hours of them.  There are two of them, and very little in them is about mechanics or technique, although that is touched on - this isn't a set demonstrating training a horse to do something specific.  There about the foundations of Mark's thinking about horses, and the relationship with horses, in the form of question/answer interviews (his friend Skip Ewing is the questioner), interspersed with some demonstrations.  That foundation is what the training arises out of.

If you attend one of Mark's clinics, he doesn't start with groundwork for horses, he starts with groundwork for people, demonstrating some of the basic principles in a way that is very powerful.  The first DVD is all about the human's role in developing softness - it starts with us, not the horse.  Although experiencing the demonstrations - I've done most of them and lots of others Mark uses - is of course a more revealing experience than just watching them, the DVD conveys some of the power they have to transform how we think about and approach our interactions with our horses.

The second DVD covers a variety of topics concerning our interactions with our horses, and Mark's philosophy about how to most effectively work with our horses by building softness, one step at a time.  He even covers some of what I would call the most advanced topics, such as using thought and energy, instead of physical aids.  Mark demonstrates some of this with his horse Rocky and it's delightful to see.  It's actually very simple - we often overcomplicate things - and it all starts with us.

The road of horsemanship Mark lays out isn't quick or easy and requires us to look inside ourselves.

A couple of highlights for me:
I now know why my horses often brace on the first ask for backing in our work sessions, while they don't later on - and it isn't because the horse isn't soft yet, it's because I'm not soft yet.  This has to do with how I first take up contact with the reins - I'm offering a brace instead of softness, so that's what the horse gives me. 
There are different types of braces - emotional, mental and physical. 
A lot of our disappointment/frustrations with our horses are because our expectations exceed the horse's knowledge base - everything we teach has to be connected to something the horse already knows. 
If we teach a horse something, and the horse is able to repeat the behavior, we pat ourselves on the back and call ourselves a good trainer.  If we teach a horse something we don't mean to, and the horse repeats the behavior, we call the horse a bad horse - there's something wrong with that picture.
Anyway, get the set, read and watch it - highly recommended.

* * * * * *
On a minor personal side note - I've turned 60 today.  I'm pretty darn excited about life and where it will take me and my horses next.  No riding today - horses are finally going to get some turnout time and I've got my music lessons.

I was at the barn in time to turn my own horses out - lots of excitement as they hadn't been out since Sunday.  I took Pie and Red out together - I let Pie go first and he galloped off, and then Red tried to as well - he bolted but I asked him to stop and he did and stood until I took his halter off.  Then he took off like a shot after Pie - Red is very fast - and all the geldings did a lot of galloping around, bucking and rolling.  Dawn went out first in the mare pasture, and when I let her go, squealed and did a rear/pirouette and galloped all the way up the hill and then back again before the other mares went out, then there was more running around.  Everyone then settled down to their hay - there will be tired horses this evening!


  1. Just wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday and Best Wishes!! Reading your approach to riding and dealing with your horses has helped me to see some things in a different light/way.

  2. Happy birthday Kate!!
    Just received my book / dvd package yesterday. Very excited to delve in. If I can (eventually) achieve half of what you have with your three, I'll be over the moon. :D

  3. Happy Birthday! And I'm right there with you on the bracing in the reins bit. That's my next mountain to conquer. Well, that and fear. :) I hope you have a wonderful, musical birthday.

  4. Happy birthday!! I hope you have a great 2014! Thanks for the review on Mark Rashid's latest book/dvds. I've read all of his other books, so would like to read this latest one some day as well.

    I've put myself on a bit of a budget, so it might take me a while to save up for this (no more impulse shopping! lol), but I'm sure it will be worth it.

  5. Happy Birthday Kate!! We're both water babies. :) I just turned 54 and I feel just like you do - excited for where life is taking me!! I'm loving being this age and it just keeps getting better. Thank you so much for all your posts. They are very clear and concise, which really helps solidify all the accomplishments that you're experiencing with your horses and lets us readers experience them too. Your rides and your posts, along with this horsemanship philosophy that I too, have been studying and implementing for years, is enlightening. Such an incredible journey! I'm really going to try and get back into a lot more riding this year. My grandma always used to tell me, "if you don't use it, you'll lose it!". Truth. Hope you celebrate your birthday with something special.

  6. Happy Birthday Kate! Hope you have a wonderful year.

    The horses sound like they were very excited to get out.

    I've got my order in for the book and DVD's. I've read all his others and watched his DVD's. He's probably the only clinician I've found over the years that I agree with. Sounds like this set will be inspiring.

  7. Happy birthday- I had my 62nd on the 18th of this month. I sure hope I can afford to buy this set soon, it sounds like exactly what I need at this point.

  8. Happy Birthday Kate!!!!! Did I know you were a January girl? How cool is that? No wonder you are so forward thinking about horses - harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding and all of that! Hooray! for you - 60! Absolutely inspiring! Enjoy this year and all the rest too!

  9. Happy birthday!! So glad to hear your horses got outside today - it sounds like they were happy to get out and really move their bodies.

  10. Happy Birthday Kate! Thanks for the book/DVD review. It is a little too pricey for me, but we may save our pennies & spring for it down the road. I have no doubt it's worth every penny!! Fun to watch our horses acting like, well, horses! Sounds like they had a blast & you did too!


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