Mark Russell has passionately, progressively, and uncompromisingly worked to become the remarkable horseman that he is today. Known as a “trainer’s trainer”, the depth of Mark’s knowledge is indeed remarkable. It is this depth of understanding that leads Mark to be sought out by both professionals as well by those who aspire for more with their horses.
Over the course of his early years Mark worked in various disciplines each leading him to believe that Classical Dressage benefited all horses. He found himself drawn to the dressage teachings of the old masters who promoted the benefits of suppleness and flexion in the horse. These included Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere, Francois Baucher, Gustav Steinbrecht, and General Decarpentry. While integrating these philosophies into his riding and training, Mark completed his transformation after traveling to Portugal in 1984 to study under world renowned Portugese classical horse trainer and rider Nuno Oliveira. What Mark experienced during that time had shifted his approach to training and riding to a partnership based relationship.
Twenty years ago, Mark was introduced to Natural Horsemanship philosophies which he discovered had many commonalities with Art Form Dressage; specifically their shared approach towards the horse with keeping the horse’s needs at the forefront. He began studying the teachings of the Dorrances, Ray Hunt, Pat Parelli, and others. He continues to study and practice in both worlds as each approach enhances the other.
To these theories of approaching the horse Mark brings an exquisite understanding of equine biomechanics, as for the physical well being of the horse this is paramount. In his clinics this is a significant component of Mark’s attention and what helps distinguish Mark as a true Master. With attention to how the horse uses his body and by addressing each area where he may hold even the smallest amount of physical or emotional tension, the horse is able to find a comfort zone for learning balanced, healthy, movement.
Mark’s years of intense practice of Tai Chi in his 20s and 30s and beyond, has opened his being to connecting to the world around him. For Mark, Tai Chi has opened the door to the joy of discovery into the very nature of the horse: connecting, understanding, then communicating with the horse. Horses by nature are naturally drawn to Mark and his quiet connected energy. Without mastery of our own selves, teaching the horse becomes quite difficult if not impossible.
When these qualities are all bound together, the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. For Mark, each path deepens the understanding of the other. Mark is unique indeed; his quiet energy, demeanor, wealth of knowledge, all expressed while he teaches both horse and rider make him a popular clinician.