Home at last after a 12 day break. Slept in my own bed last night which was such a relief. No painful springs coming through the mattress, and no drunks walking outside the window, and no police sirens throughout the night. The last 4 nights in that Watford B&B were a bit on the torturous side for my tired body.
We've been regularly watching Mark work for about six years now and we pretty much model our horsework on his. Mark is unique among horse trainers that I have ever seen in that he appears to genuinely never see the horse as a separate confrontational being. Every situation is dealt with from the point of view that the horse is trying his best with the information he has available, to give us what we want. There is never any attempt to bully anything into or out of a horse - everything that is done is done to help the horse in a way that the horse can logiclly understand, and always with the total aim of working without causing fear or confusion in the horse.
Because we have spent hours studying Mark's work, and years working ourselves trying to use a similar approach, it is always interesting when people start to ask questions along the lines of, 'well, how do you deal with your horse when he tries to take the mickey', or 'well, my horse is really naughty so....', or 'my horse is always trying to make a fool of me'. All these examples are concepts that are very very common amongst horse people, teachers and trainers throughout the world, but now to us, we see as complete and utter nonsense.
It is a fact that if you make it clear to the horse what you want him to do, and you offer the incentive of safety, security, and softness in return, then virtually every horse will willingly come through with the goods in the best way he can at the time.
The whole experience of studying in these clinics is very interesting - watching 20 plus different horses in eighty lessons over 10 days can feel a bit like being in a marathon at times - there aren't many people hanging in there like we do, and there are quite a few who don't stay long. But there is something going on which you can only really see over time. There is a theme underlying all the work - the theme of softness in the horse and the handler, and after a while you start to see it as the very real thing that is holding the whole thing together. To wander in and watch a couple of hours is obviously worthwhile, but the danger is you walk away with a few techniques in your mind, or some kind of snapshot judgement, instead of the real experience underlying the whole situation.
So that's the horsemanship, but there's more. Mark is a very interesting guy who makes no secret of the fact that there is more to life than horses. For him it is a way to be the human being he wants to be. Mark takes a very disciplined approach to what he does and also to quieting and training his mind. This is doubly interesting to me because I completely relate to what he is talking about in terms of the goal, and to a degree I use the same approach in the way I work.
But seeing Mark and the way he approaches his life always stirs stuff up in me way beyond the horses. For me (cos I am a lazy git) I have long ago abandoned all attempts at any plan of self-discipline in my life - I approach my life second by second without any code of behaviour or plan of action. I take every decison whenever it happens at the time it faces me with whatever information I have available at the time. Since I have been going along like this, so far things have been working out pretty fine really. Not a lot has changed in terms of what I actually do because actually I reach much the same decisions that I used to reach when I had a moral code or a plan of action. So for instance, here is an extreme example, suppose I get the chance to run off with a beautiful woman (dream on I hear you say), in the past I wouldn't have taken it up cos of my moral code - nowadays I wouldn't take it up cos of the pain and confusion it would cause (of course I don't know what i would actually do for sure until the moment I make the decision).
I no longer have to think about moral issues or make judgements about stuff I can't work out. I try to live my life from my heart and not from my mind. To me it feels like freedom and it so suits a lazy sod like me.
6 days ago