I love a good horse conversation. I love it even better when that conversation reminds me of an “A-Ha Moment” that I need to share with other Athletic Riders. I had one of those very conversations on New Year’s Day. How lucky I was on that day to get call from a dear friend, Mark Russell. 

Mark Russell is an example of a true horseman in every way that there can be one. Mark is talented in his own riding, gifted in developing horses and eternally patient educating owners. As a former student of Nuno Oliveira, an expert in Natural Horsemanship and a practitioner of Tai Chi, he has an expected yet uncanny ability to read a horse in the moment and respond to that horse almost imperceptibly. His ability to effectively communicate with any horse on that horse’s terms (or so the horse perceives) is a trait we could all use a little more of in the horse world.

I participated in my first clinic with Mark several years ago and was hooked from the first ride. Not only does he help you become…well…just better…but he does so with a charm and style that seems to be lost in many modern horsemen. For me, the bad news is that due to scheduling conflicts I don’t get to learn from him as often as I would like. The good news is that his lessons in horsemanship and riding are timeless in both value and the desire to continually try to perfect. I never tire of what Mark teaches in the clinic, followed by doing my best to implement and improve those teachings at home.

During this particular conversation I was lamenting the different struggles I had been facing with not one but BOTH of my geldings. After allowing me to vent (i.e. ramble) for a bit Mark just responded with one thought:

Meet Him Where He Is.

Control To Communicate

And a pause. In just a few sentences, Mark reminded me of the importance to learn to love and respect our horse enough to meet him where HE is on any given day-not trying to force him to meet us where we would like him to be. That sentence is the core of Mark’s talent and the foundation of his teachings.  Mark implements those 5 words to have amazing conversations with horses from coast to coast. 

Is your horse not confident in a certain exercise? Be patient and meet him where he is. During today’s ride is he a little stiff warming up his right end? Meet him where he is so he can gain the flexibility needed to travel with straightness and alignment. Does he feel a little tight in the jaw? Meet him where he is so you can communicate hand to mouth more respectfully. Is he cold backed on a cool winter morning? Meet him where he is so he can confidently carry the weight you ask him to bear. 

After we hung up I was dreaming of how my farm would look and feel if I focused my personal development on honing that skill alone. I can assure you there would be far less vents of frustration and far more shouts of joy.

My mind then wandered a bit reflecting on each lady that commits to my boot camps. What if each one took that advice and applied it to her own fitness. What if each one could learn to love and respect her own self enough to meet herself and her body where it is every day?

Was she not confident in a certain exercise in her fitness program? Just meet her body where it is on that day. Was she a little tight in her right hamstring? Just meet her body where it is so she could gain the flexibility to perform her workout with straightness and alignment. Does she feel a little tight in her left shoulder? Meet her body where it is so each side of her body can learn to carry its share the weight she is trying to bear. Does she look a little tired in the morning or feel less than youthful in the evening? Meet her body where it is knowing that each day she gives the best of herself to herself and to those she loves.

Imagine how her life would look and feel if she focused her personal development on honing that skill alone.  I can assure you there would be far less vents of frustration and far more shouts of joy.

Oh and by the way, look up Mark’s CLINIC SCHEDULE and if you ever have the chance be sure to him where he is. Your horse will certainly thank you for your investment in rider education and emotional fitness. 

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2 thoughts on “Meet Him Where He Is

  1. Emily

    Great article, Leah! This is something I am working on in my lessons right now – I’m trying to develop my limb independence, and then inviting my western-pleasure-turned-dressage horse to show me where he is and find himself in balance by me just holding the bit for him.

    Sounds weird when I write it out, but it’s really coming along!

    1. theathleticrider

      That sounds fantastic Emily! I hope you keep me posted on how things progress!

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