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.
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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!