Mark Rashid & the UK Sunshine Tour May 2014

By , May 21, 2014 10:23 pm


I’ve just had a pretty super 6 days of watching horsemanship & doing aikido. Tons of fun & lots of new things learned and to try out. For the 3 day riding clinic, there were about 8 horses, who were worked each day. I’m going to write by each horse below. Bear in mind I probably missed a lot of stuff, and please do expect me to get things wrong here 🙂 Anything that doesn’t make sense is my fault, nothing to do with the clinic. Mark, all horses, all riders & spectators were wonderful & Amanda did another amazing job of organising it.


First up, when you’re riding with Mark it’s a really good idea to have a list of things you want to work on ready. He is going to ask you 🙂 Nic wants to work on the subtle things she did in Aikido last December.

Nic showed a backup with her horse, so it was a bit bracey, horses head went up in air, backup wasn’t a 2 step gait. Horse is a superstar so they do lots of stuff together at home – hunting, farm work, etc and there’s always a purpose when they are doing stuff. Plus the horse is IRISH! Nic said she can find it more difficult to get the same results in the arena as there’s no obvious reason as to why they are backing up, but it’s much better when they are outside & doing things. The arena backup had too much pull it in. Mark talked about a scale of 0-10.

0 = no pull.
10 = way too much pull.

Nic and Mark played until what is 0, 1, 2, 3 on scale. When you pick up the reins, this horse pushes / leans on bit, instead of softening to it. So that’s not good. There’s some tension throughout horse’s body. Horse and rider backed up around arena while Mark held up the reins and worked on getting the brace out of the horse. This took 1 or two laps. But at the end there was a big difference and you could see from the speccy seats that the horse’s body was a lot softer.

Mark said that for his horses, he wants them to be the same everywhere. So he wants his backup when out on his farm, to be the same as his backup when in an arena, or when there’s lot of other horses around, etc. He said location doesn’t matter for him.

Also – Mark made the point that if you ask for something to follow it through, even if you mess it up a little. So a few times Nic asked for something, but didn’t do it quite as she wanted and so stopped, to regroup and start it again from the beginning. Mark suggested that even when doing something, if she didn’t ask / cue exactly as she wanted to, to keep going anyway to the end.

Walk to trot – think of it as a change of rhythm. Mimic what you do when you (on foot) go from walk to trot.

Lightness is on outside of horse. Softness is on inside of the horse. Mark picked up reins with Nic’s horse again. Wooohh BIG difference, immediate softness. Super horse really fast to pick things up.


Rider softens her inside to allow horse to soften. Much better canter, much slower than yesterday and more calm, not doing 90 mph. The rider had changed inside, the horse feels it, glides into canter. Really really nice stuff, a great team!

With using leg for impulsion, do less – just think of doing it, and just that energy on its own should work. Walk-trot-walk… think what you feel when you’re on foot, walking + jogging. Horse was cantering. It felt bumpy, and horse actually wasn’t breathing! Horse should actually breathe out in time with the outside hind. Very fast canter. So can it be slowed down?

A little unbalanced moving from canter to trot. Mark suggests to shorten reins just when you ask for transition (but use no more pressure). Really nice improvement!


Jumping time! The horse is clipping the jump with hind foot and sometimes knocking the jump. When horse is in the air, rider is putting right hand back a bit, and it matches when horse clips pole. Another teacher had said this before to Nic a while back. So it looks like that small hand movement by the rider, while the horse is 100% in the air, is actually affecting the horses balance leading to the issue with the horse back foot. Mark also says… it could be because you’re breathing in while jumping and your body if tightening up. Breathe out as you begin to jump. This makes a HUGE difference in the horse & rider… Some super jumps!


This is a gorgeous horse & a great team. I don’t just say this because it’s a lovely grey!

Horse loses impulsion. Get the walk you want from Step 1. Walk to trot is moving from 4 beats to 2 beats. Stop looking at the horses head! If something happens you’re more likely to fall off. Look where you want to go. Ask halt to walk more energetically. Better walk! Do forward transition on an exhale.

Trot to halt – if you are jogging, what does your body do to stop? Don’t only pull the reins, use your whole body first. Halt using the inside of your body. Really nice stuff.

Walk is better. Step is better. Not fidgeting anymore, was doing a lot of fidgeting before while supposed to be standing still.


Horse is fidgeting and backing up by himself. This has been happening throughout the clinic, so now it’s time to get to the bottom of it. When horse fidgets, and starts to move a little instead of standing still. ask horse to turn instead and then take a step or two forward. Worked on this a fair bit & big improvement in standing still by the end.

Kelpie DAY 1

This is an amazing warmblood called Buffy, after our favourite TV vampire slayer. A total stunner, so willing & scopey with amazing moves. Crazy how Kelpie only bought her in January and at this clinic 4 months later they are literally a dream-team like they’ve been together for years! Kelpie is a superb horsewoman and every horse I’ve seen her ride is superb, and there’s one reason for that – 1 very talented & dedicated lady herself!

Horse a little on the forehand in canter, jumping and downwards, Kelpie would like to work on these & improve them. Horse has known medical / back issues to be mindful of, so any improvement’s to horses way of going is something Kelpie wants to do. Mark says for trot – walk transitions, in trot, slow down 1 hind foot in trot-walk transition. Slow down inside hind. So as you rise in trot think about slowing it.


Now there’s a BIG improvement in trot-walk transitions. Mark says: “She is a sweetheart”. Mark remarks: “Some of this stuff is very small, and very difficult to see.”

Beautiful trot-walk , all through the backend if horse gets tight in jaw in downwards transitions, soften your (human) shoulders and she (the horse) should often soften.

Working on less abrupt trot to walk continues. Much better!

Kelpie DAY 2

In Canter there are 2 sources of circular energy


Hind foot that pushes off, up to hindquarters, and forward + down again = circle #1

Forefoot makes a similar circle… = circle #2

Both circles connect into one large oblong circle, going from chest under belly around back of hindquarters and up over the horses back to the shoulders (and also ends by continuing through the neck and out the horses nose, or thereabouts if you can image that)

If nothing blocks this oblong circle all is well. But remember there’s a rider sitting on the horses back, smack in the middle of the circle as it travels up the horses back …

Now if the riders body is tense, stiff lower back etc, it’s going to block all this nice flowing energy from the horse, and it’s going to affect how the horse can move!

So a rider with a tight lower back, can lead to a horse who looks a bit tight too, and whose stride is a bit more choppy than it should be.

If 1 human foot sticks out in canter, it’s because your lower back is tight, and is blocking energy from horse, which is rerouted to your foot.

Kelpie focused on softening her back, and it made a big difference in the horse’s movement. Crazy how something so physically small can make a big difference.

Kelpie DAY 3


Don’t look down.
Exhale over jump.
Great work!

To lengthen the stride, think of outside fore stretching forward in trot. Super work!

Amanda + little pony

Possibly the cutest pony in the world. With the best ribbon ever! Amanda & pony are working on driving in a harness.

Driving = Horse is dragging a little in turns, wants to go a different way. So turn him sooner before he gets that thought. Once you have turned, keep going, don’t stop driving and don’t give horse space to get distracted again.

Working on backup. Be clear when you ask him to backup. Pony bracing a little from halt to backup. He’s got questions, directions to be clearer for him.

At halt, when horse turns head and decides to walk off, stop him at the beginning, not 5 strides later. MUCH better!

Chestnut, flaxen mane DAY 1

Has Sore teeth. Mark says don’t use power tools on horses teeth they can cause a lot of issues. Horse locks jaw and braces head and neck, and puts head up as a result when asked to halt.

MARK: “Horses do what they are taught. Period.”

When asked to walk-halt, horse braces up jaw and does circles instead and keeping trying to move. Better. When stopping, the horse will move a bit extra but focus on keeping head pointing in same direction. Mark walked around with the horse for a while putting pressure on 1 rein downwards as horse would move head up during halt. Slow progress, this is a very ingrained / established habit, & normal for this horse.

Now stops much better, with less unwarranted circles, but head/neck still braces. A tricky one.

Chestnut, flaxen mane DAY 2

Tooth issue (stop and head goes up into the air). Don’t use power tools on teeth.

Yesterday’s method wasn’t really yielding huge changes, so it was time to try another approach.

Plan B: Walk and ask horse to gently stop. If head goes up, ask for turn to get the horse thinking sideways instead of up, and then wait until she offers to stop via a hindquarter yield.

Also interesting to note, this (halt = head up & brace) could have been caused by the rider inadvertently, as she tends to raise up her hands a little, so it makes sense that the horses head would follow the reins upwards.

So todays exercise was:

Walk – ask for stop – head comes up – turn horse
Walk – ask for stop – horse head doesn’t come up and he stops

Chestnut, flaxen mane DAY 3

Yesterday’s plan B wasn’t really showing results either.. hose really is stuck with this. Mark compared it to being taught something wrong, while you were young, but a teacher you trusted. Then as you continue up through school, it was reconfirmed the whole way along. Now you’re 22 and someone is trying to persuade that something you believed in for 20 years is incorrect! You’re not going to believe them too easily are you! In plan B, horse actually had started to lean more & push forward when asked to stop, so it needed to change to something else. (Fascinating to watch)

Time for Plan C.

Ask him to stop, no work going the long way around. Get it. REALLY focus on not having your hands high. Horse leaning more otherwise if you allow him to turn and keep feet moving (which was plan B). Definite improvements here. Lots for the rider to work with when she is at home. Great work from both horse & rider 🙂

Beautiful Bay DAY 1

A little lethargic in walk-trot. Rider is accepting this. Trot to walk = release aid when horse has mentally decided to walk, rather than waiting until the horse is in walk. If you hold till horse is in walk, horse is likely to halt (instead of walk). It’s all about TIMING.

Breathe 🙂

Horse is now awake and more ongoing. Don’t push your seat forward and back to move your horse on. This actually blocks them, as you are moving in a different direction to the energy in the horses body. Good breathing!

Beautiful Bay DAY 3

You set the speed (active) not the horse (slow). Super work!

Sue + coloured horse (fabulous team!!) DAY 1

Rider is a little scared. If horse wants to move, small circles until he offers to stop. Stop to walk = don’t do as much. Don’t panic, instead tell the horse what you’d like him to do.

Breathe… 3(+) steps inhale, 4(+) steps exhale.
Horse is great, working off very small cues.


Breathing and smiling now! Get his feet to make less noise, by thinking about it – great! Horse is really paying attention to the rider.

Sue + coloured horse (fabulous team!!) DAY 2

Sue wants to jump but is a little scared. Trotting poles are no issue. Up goes a small cross pole.

Horse surged a little to jump in trot, once he rounds the corner & starts on the approach. This surge makes Sue feel nervous. But Sue is really brave. Mark asked her to jump once for him, and she did. GO SUE!!! So the plan is… trot around the arena…. when you feel surge in trot as horse approaches pole, back to walk and walk over the pole. Then pick up the trot again & repeat. In about 2-3 laps, horse isn’t even surging anymore!! You can see Sue get braver, and low & behold she now started to trot over the jump without any fear. ROCKSTAR!!

Sue + coloured horse (fabulous team!!) DAY 3

Side pass over pole.
Great job.
Canter. Shorten reins a little. Breathe.
Be clear about what you want.

Lydia + Arab grey DAY 1 – SUPER horse wow!!

Canter leads are great.

Forequarter yields. Stop using your legs. Instead rock horse’s weight back and bring front end to the side at the same side.

Leg yield. Think about horse’s inside hind moving to outside.

3 steps leg yield right
3 steps leg yield left

At another clinic, Mark asked someone how many years’ experience they had. They said 22 years. After the clinic they can back up to Mark & said they had answered that question wrong. After watching the clinic they said they had realized they had 1 year of experience, 22 times.

Lydia + Arab grey DAY 2 – SUPER horse wow!!

Nice hindquarter yield!

Jumping = don’t look up at jump, look up instead

Jump: more conviction = better jump

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