I’m a believer in God’s perfect timing. If God doesn’t set up the divine appointment, I believe that he can use an appointment for His purpose. Either way, I know that when something is good, it’s of God-and that’s how I felt about attending the Mark Rashid clinic.
In the summer of 1995, I met Mark and had no idea that he would be one of the top 5 influential people in my life. I had left Texas and my family behind. I had a new Ford pickup, a two horse trailer-both black-and my first horse, Mitzi, in tow. We pulled into the most beautiful place I had ever lived-Wind River Ranch in Estes Park, CO. I was young and cocky and for the first time in my life-FREE. My first dream was coming true-I was going to be a wrangler on a guest ranch in the Rocky Mountains. It’s funny to me now that that was my biggest dream. I learned to dream bigger, especially after your first dream is realized. It was here that I learned who I was, and was introduced to the mustang horse. I had the privilege of learning how to train horses, and I learned first on a little mustang named Pecos. Together, with Mark’s lead, the three of us would end up featured in The Western Horse magazine for training the wild mustang for many issues.
So here I was, 17 years later, entered into the largest Mustang competition in history, the Mustang Million being held 40 miles from my current home in Glen Rose, TX. It had been 12 years since I had worked with Mark and I was excited to see my old friend. I made the 3 1/2 hour drive to Bryan, TX.
I cannot express how wonderful it was to reconnect with Mark, so I’ll talk about what I learned. Well, I’ll be talking more about what I learned and how I practiced, and applied it to my life and training horses throughout this blog.
Something that stood out was a man on a very well trained reining horse. The horse was going through the motions, and responding pretty well, but he really didn’t seem to be enjoying what he was doing. He pounded the ground when he loped, he trotted too fast, he bobbed his head when he stopped ans on and on. Mark worked with the man for a few days and the change was amazing! Mark told the guy that there is a difference between a horse that knows the mechanics and gets the job done, and a horse that is responding to a rider who is helping him. Example: this horse knew how to walk, trot, and lope. He knew how to catch a lead though one side was a little sticky. But the rider was using big cues and making the horse do what he wanted. When he wanted to go faster, there was lots of leg and kisses. When he wanted to slow down, the man would sit back an pull on the reins. Sounds right to me! So here was a difference-after working on his intention with the horse, by thinking about what he wanted the horse to do BEFORE he did it, his body and energy was already cuing the horse before the mechanics were needed-the legs, kisses and pulling of the reins.
The transformation I witnessed over the next few days was so exciting for me! This horse began to become softer in the poll. When he loped, he stopped pounding the ground and started to lightly canter atop it. When the rider started riding with intention, he would start thinking about stopping and the horse would surprise the rider and come to a stop! The rider would laugh and say how he was caught off guard and was actually thinking about stopping but wasn’t sure where he was gonna ask in the pen (but his body and mind had already communicated to the horse before his brain could make up its mind.)
What this means for me: imagine the difference in taking a wild horse who has yet had any reason to mistrust a human, and in a silent language teach him how to work with me. Instead of me forcing him into submission. What an amazing relationship I will have by entering a corral, leading my horse, riding him, and going over obstacles-with intention. With a purpose. There was so much more I learned at this clinic, but this was my biggest take home. I am to know what I want from the horse before I ever ask-and then figure out a way to help him understand and do it correctly. When you watch a horse in the pasture, they already know how to catch different leads, do flying lead changes, go over and around obstacles, move sideways, forwards and backwards. It’s up to US to figure out how to get them to do that in sync with us.
I just sold a horse this weekend and told the girl “He knows how to do all the leads and flying lead changes-you just have to figure out how to get out of his way and let him do it. Figure out a cue that makes sense to him, think about what you want before you get there and he’ll do it.” While I was saying that, I was in a 60′ round pen on the left lead in that tight circle and he did a flying lead change in that arch and back to the correct lead again! It was so cool!!
I told Mark that he should advertise as “People clinics” instead of “Horse clinics” because we are the ones that come in and screw it all up!