As always, what follows is just one person's opinions/thoughts......
I. About Mark
A. He truly 'walks the talk'...not just with the horses, but in his interactions with humans ( I'm talking all humans...waitresses, strangers, gas attendants....not just the riders/auditors!!)...Patient, kind, and very long-suffering !! Treats others as he wants to be treated...wow ...what a concept !
B. He is always searching for ways to make what he believes in so strongly, all the clearer so that we might find a way to make it 'ours'....not just settle for the 'knowing'.
C. He knows and accepts his responsibilities as teacher/leader and does all in his power to fulfill those , however, he is also aware of where his 'job' stops and yours begins...and he has a way of allowing and assisting you to fulfill your responsibilities and do your part.
II. The 'technical' stuff
A. set it up and wait...as long as he is searching, wait for him to find it. If he is locked up, then find something to move a bit.
Example: Backing....set it up and wait...he is moving his head or body or ear or....just hang with him. Locked up...nothing is happening, he's going to sleep, etc. then rock him back ( if you get a step, you release), if you get a bit of a rock back, then ask him to step over. Remember....we are rewarding the *thought*...often not seen except by those as perceptive as Mark. When unlocked, set up the 'back' again. Build on each step
B. Don't 'train' for refinement... it will come as your relationship with the horse develops (discussion on relationship comes later under" III. Epiphany" !!)
Teach them and when they know it ...let it go ...don't drill. Illus. by the time you are in JR. High, does the teacher still ask you everyday what 1+1 is?
C. Don't rely on tools....make your body the tools (hands, arms, energy, etc)...you always have your body with you!!
D. Any gait too fast? Have a gait they can go to and feel calm and safe and build from there. Example: canter too fast and emotional.... get to where the horse can jog quietly and calmly and feel safe. then ask for the canter...too fast?, then bring back to the 'safe place' trot, ask for canter again.....keep building
Much different from the canter til they are tired and then ask them to canter some more til they come down, huh? More effective , quicker, and easier on horse and rider, too.
III. My Epiphany (!!??!!)
Mark is always talking about consistency, being there for the horse, relationship, and we all nod our heads 'yes, I understand'....and we do.. to some degree....but believe me, its not to the extent that Mark is talking about.
I had a situation where he really drove it home for me....I was ground driving my mule and he was doing beautifully...really hooked on, etc. at one point, I stepped in too close to his shoulder and he stopped and turned in to me. This mule is pretty responsive (by normal NH standards!!) , so I gently pointed in the direction we were going as if to say, " thank you, but I would like you to keep going this way"....no quick movements or rope swinging or stuff like that...just a gentle finger point!
Mark said 'whoa, wait a minute....why is he paying for your mistake? You stepped into his shoulder...he is only doing what you asked."
"But, I only asked with a pointed finger for him to go on....I wasn't 'yelling' at him", I WHINED!!!
So the point *I* was missing? I wasn't being consistent, therefore, I wasn't building his trust ....next time I moved to his shoulder, he would have to ask himself "well, THIS TIME, does she want me to really stop or keep going?"
Does this seem trivial or such a small point? I am so grateful he chose to bring it to my attention....nothing else would have allowed me to see so clearly all that I had been nodding my head to saying ..."sure, I get it"...but was I really?