Saturday, March 12, 2016

Mark Rashid Clinic March 2016: Day 1

Brett and Pistol were first up this morning.  The arena was pretty sloppy but, thankfully, the rain had stopped.  We came down yesterday, driving through torrential rain for five hours.  We were asleep by 8pm -- Brett exhausted from dealing with semi spray on the freeway and me fighting a cold.

Mark Rashid had Brett work on turns on the forehand and turns on the haunches.

He said that Pistol is a "been there, done that, solid citizen horse."  Brett struggled to get the timing and flow right for the exercises and Pistol kept her patient, willing attitude throughout.
Turn on the haunches; rock back to elevate the front and then turn -- smoothly
I don't know about everyone else, but I think that taking lessons/training/improving is 90% feeling like a dork and 10% getting it right.

Brett did get it all coordinated and they ended on a very good note.

I had time to put away the camera and get Tex ready; then we were up.  Mark remembered Tex from a year ago; Tex had a major meltdown and Mark saw the fear and flee that consumed Tex.  You can read about that here. We talked about the work I've been doing with Tex and I mentioned that Tex is unable to flex on a circle and can't figure out lunging.  Mark thought we should start with lunging and asked me to demonstrate what I've been getting.
Demonstrating our slow, small circle at walk.

He watched us for a few minutes and then walked over.  "I can fix that in five minutes," he said while taking the lunge line from me.  And he did.  Tex initially did the same thing with Mark, swinging his haunches away instead of going in a circle.  Mark fixed that in a minute or so; sending Tex around with his body language.

Tex initially went into "flee" mode, racing around like a demon.  Then he settled as Mark continued to give direction with his posture.  When Tex was able to do walk-trot-walk transitions calmly, Mark changed direction.  Tex fled again, but came back sooner.

Last, Mark worked on changing direction.  Then he handed me the lunge line.

He told me to walk with Tex instead of standing still and having Tex go in a circle.  Tex needs the feedback of me walking.  I was to regulate whether we walk or trot with the speed of my walk.  To halt, I stopped.

I started by walking with my body angled behind Tex, as Mark had done.  Mark corrected me, saying that Tex knows and trusts me so I could immediately connect with him.  Mark angled his body away from Tex, to give Tex space and remove pressure.  Tex remained relaxed when I connected and we worked in perfect sync.  I would have cried but I'm pretty sure that is bad form during a clinic lesson.

By the end, we were changing direction, doing transitions, and walking in and out of lunging v. leading.

Mark noted that Tex is very willing and tries hard.  He said that someone in his early training may have taken advantage of his trainable personality and over-loaded him with too much, too fast.  And, clearly, he's been roughly treated.  He said that I did a good job with Tex and that we may be able to work through Tex's issues.  He suggested that I check Tex's registration papers to make sure he hasn't been inbred; if so, we're pretty much sunk.  If the flee response is the result of poor breeding then there isn't much we can do.  I've looked at his papers in the past and I don't remember seeing the same name twice so I think we're good.

Besides, I believe Tex can get there.  I believe we can get there together.


  1. I like how Mark is encouraging you but also warning about the inbreeding. He's the only trainer I know who does this. Does he mean inbred in the sense of parent/child or full siblings, or does he include half siblings in his definition? I was just blogging about one of my favorite horses and he's massively line bred - so many half sibling to half sibling in his pedigree, as well as grandsire to granddaughter. ( Behind the Bit blog had a nice post about line/inbreeding Did Mark specify?

  2. Very impressive, both of you. Please keep your lessons coming as I love to read about them and see the photos.

  3. I've been waiting to hear about your clinic! Well done. It's funny but Johanna the trainer from Spain says the exact same thing as Mark- we have to walk with them and use our body language to communicate. It really works. I've been working with Carmen on getting her to lunge without words- just my body and it's coming along nicely.

    Tex may always have that flight in there- after all it's part of being a horse but that doesn't mean you can't help him figure it out. I found this really good video:

    I think it would relate to Tex quite well.

  4. Teresa's video is great, in my opinion it sums up the best of WS, but if you have some time, watch the "extended version" of it where he has a troubled horse in the ring with him. It's long, but as you watch the lady try to control (or keep a hold of!) her horse, for fun, try to imagine exactly what WS is going to do when he takes the horse. I got it sort of wrong: )

  5. Very good stuff. I also think you and Tex can get there, together. I very much like the expression on his face and in his body in the last photo - the connection is strong and Tex is much more relaxed. Can't wait to read about the next couple of clinic days.

    Good for Brett and Pistol, too - that precision work can be very hard at first.

  6. That's the first time I've ever heard any question of inbreeding. I'm going to read up on it. I imagine Mustangs might have quite a bit of it. If he was pushed too fast in his earlier training, it seems like that would explain a lot of what you're seeing now. I used to teach and kids who had bad experiences with a subject they didn't get solid in first, would avoid that subject at any cost. It created deep anxiety. I imagine it would even more so with horses.


Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.