I arrived late at the clinic, since my four had hoof trims in the morning, and then I had the drive to Wisconsin.
I arrived at lunchtime, managed to snag some lunch - good thing there was enough - and was able to watch a couple of sessions before I had to get my horse ready - I rode last in the afternoon session.
One lady was working with her Morgan mare on learning how to eliminate the mare's brace - and more importantly the rider's counter brace - in the halt, walk and backing. I've seen this work at almost every clinic I've been to - and it never ceases to delight me to see the progress horses and riders made together on this very important first step towards softness. By the end of the hour, the horse and rider weren't fighting anymore, and the mare was beginning to offer up some real softness once she found that the rider had stopped pulling on her face.
And there was a very nice, very large, TB/Westphalian cross gelding, only 5 years old. The horse had been under saddle for about a year, but was still pretty green. Heather Burke (Mark's student who has done training with Pie, Red and me) was riding him. After Mark talked to the owner for a while, he said to her "you know, you're done with this horse, you may not have moved on, but from everything you've said, you're done." The lady didn't want to ride her horse, although she said she might ride one of the other clinic days, and had been looking for excuses not to ride him. He was a very nice horse, but very young and green and powerful.
Mark said that people often have horses that aren't really suitable for where they are in their riding, or that they're worried about riding, and that there was no shame in that. One issue for the lady was that the horse was home-bred from a TB mare she owned, and she had had the horse since he was a baby.
Mark said that people sometimes really don't want to ride a horse they own, but try to force themselves to ride the horse - they feel they have to - and that's where accidents often happen. It isn't good for the rider or the horse to force something that isn't right. This can lead directly to a rider not being willing to ride at all. He said that, rather than take her money for the clinic, that she should instead, if she wished, have Heather put another 30 days on the horse so he'd be ready for sale, although Mark said the horse would likely be quite salable right now to the right person. (This horse was beautifully put together, and basically a pretty nice guy, with lovely movement - a great dressage or jumper prospect.)
The lady was taken aback, but acknowledged that Mark was probably right.
This is classic Mark - there were only 8 participants in the clinic and he just gave up 1/8 of the revenue he would have received from the weekend. He's very honest and straight with people about what he sees between them and their horses, and I've also seen him send people home - and refund their money - if a horse comes to the clinic and isn't sound. I wish all clinicians were this honest and concerned about the welfare of the horses and riders who attend their clinics.
More to come about my day one ride - the topic is "mind the gaps" . . .