I distinctly remember the first time I had the privilege of watching Mark train one of his horses. I was mesmerized by the effortless dance between Mark and the horse. There was absolutely no force or resistance, just total harmony and lightness. It was as if Mark had become one with his horse. Observing this display of eloquence and partnership, I knew I wanted to learn more about riding in lightness. I soon became aware of what little knowledge I had accumulated over the years, and what I had learned was far from riding in lightness. All these years I have been just a passenger on my horse.
“Enjoy the journey”: this is what Mark Russell tells his students. I never realized the importance or depth of those words until I became one of Mark’s students nine years ago. Being a western rider I was hesitant to ask about lessons, but I soon realized that his unique training methods were beneficial to horses and riders of all disciplines.
Meeting Mark is a delight, being able to ride with him is a privilege. His calm, approachable demeanor makes him truly unique. In my experience his clinics and lessons portray a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere where his students can have fun while they learn to reconnect with their horses. Mark’s unending patience is a true virtue. He is a true artisan; each horse being a new canvas that he turns into a masterpiece.
The most valuable lessons I have received from Mark were my lessons in hand. As he works your horse in hand you are able to concentrate and totally focus on the horses movements. It is difficult to achieve correctness if you have never had the opportunity to ride and feel the movement. These numerous in hand lessons have been vital to my learning and achieving success with my horse. It has allowed me to feel the fluidity and correctness of each movement. Working with Mark has taught me that horses truly are a gift, and it is our responsibility to ride them correctly with patience, compassion, and understanding.
I will always be grateful for having the opportunity to ride with Mark. He has taught me the importance of awareness, not only with my horse, but with myself. I have learned to look at myself on a deeper level when my horse becomes confused, or unable to understand my asking. The answer always lies with “self”. What is it I am doing incorrectly, and how can can I change myself to help my horse comply. Our horses don’t lie, so in order to help them we must learn to listen and observe. My biggest challenge was to “let go”, and allow the movement to happen instead of trying to force something to happen. When you connect with your horse without force, it truly is a dance and a provides great sense of accomplishment. I have formed an incredible partnership with my horse through my lessons in lightness with Mark. This truly is a journey I want to last a lifetime.
I am grateful for the success I have achieved in my riding through Mark’s unique training methods and with the help of his book, “Lessons in Lightness”. Once I changed my thought process the rest fell into place. I would highly recommend riders of all disciplines to take the time to audit or ride in one of Mark’s clinics, your horse will appreciate and thank you for it.