Ozzie lessons with Mark Rashid & Crissi McDonald – June 2014 Tipperary

By , June 8, 2014 3:42 pm

Mark Rashid & Crissi came to Ireland for what I reckon was the best Irish Horsemanship clinic ever.

We had a Great Cake Competition, live trad music and some very lovely horses, riders & speccys. Every single horse made huge progress over the two days. Actually there was so much progress you had to be there watching to believe how much improvement was possible by just changing some small things.

Here’s a few pics and the report of my horse is below.

Amazing food & a live trad band for lunchtime πŸ™‚

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THE GREAT CAKE COMPETITION 2014 (this is just some of the cakes)

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Rode Oz into the arena in halter and saddle. I had a list written out of about 7 things that I was a bit stuck on. I thought there was no way we’d get through / fix more than 2, or maybe 3. We addressed all 7 during the clinic!! Amazing.

In this session on day 1, Oz was worried, jumpy couldn’t stand still, looking out the arena, very scatty, I wasn’t giving him any direction so he was getting more worried. Mark suggested that I just move him around in small circles and give him a job to do, and something to focus his mind on. Also, in the part of the arena he gets really worried in, don’t go down there for now.

After about 10-15 minutes this made a big difference and he got more comfortable. Instead of looking out the arena and getting really fixed on what was outside, now if he did look out it was much easier to got his mind back to me, in the arena. Oz started to relax. Mark explained at the start there was a void, I wasn’t directing Oz, so this all just adding to his worry. Also don’t 1 rein him, as it takes away the power in the HQ.

Instead just keep him moving and direct him instead as much as I can and work through the issue. So no stops, keep Oz walking. At home Oz is usually very relaxed. Also,the last time he went anywhere was 4 years ago. So it makes sense that being in an odd place with a PA system, people etc was worrying him.

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On a side note, the reason we don’t travel was because while Oz will load ok, once in the box (double horse box, tied or cross tied and facing forwards) he panics – even while the box is just standing still and hasn’t moved yet) and is on the edge of rearing up and hurting himself. So I just didn’t go anywhere. With this clinic, we spent about 6 days before it working with the box every day… he got a lot better with everything , except when he was in the box, it was all shut up and then he was really worried – on the edge.

And this just wan’t improving. I spent a full afternoon ringing around to try & hire a horse lorry etc, so a lot of the professional horse transports who go to UK regularly, as well as the great Donal H, suggested to just travel him like a young horse – loose in the box facing backwards. So we did. And it was the first time I have EVER seen him look relaxed in the box.

On the journey to Cahir, (40 mins) we turned 360 (without any panic) a few times in the box at the start of the journey and then settled down to looking out the back gate with lots of licking and chewing.

On the journey back, he just stared, quite relaxed out the back gate of the box, and didn’t feel he had to do the 360 turns as all, which was great. A BIG MASSIVE improvement. Makes me deciding to organise clinics a lot easier now I don’t have this huge worry about travelling the Oz.


Worked a little on turns… I had created a bit of an issue as when I feel Oz getting stuck on a turn I’ll move his HQ out. This is fine but it was causing his FQ to get stuck. Which didn’t help another issue – Ozzie since I’ve known him does an Arab like head shake while results in his shoulders getting stuck. So while riding I should have been making sure the shoulders weren’t stuck, instead of doing things to encourage them to get stuck. Doh.

When the horses ribs on one side go in, that’s the hind leg on that side lifting off the ground.

When a horses ribs on one side go out, that’s the front leg on that side lifting off the ground.

So I had to improve my timing, and ask the inside front leg to step sideways a little so Oz stayed balanced during the turns. Also can use my arm by putting it out and upwards a little.

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Since I’ve known him Oz does this head toss thing. When riding, when in the paddock, when worried, when happy, when calm… its just something he does. Mark said Arabs can do this as well πŸ™‚ It was one of my things to fix, as when he does this he braces / sticks his shoudlers. Fine at halt, but can cause a bit of a dramatic and unexpected speed decrease when you go any faster! I had never done anything about it before though.

Oz always does this neck twist to the left, so after seeing Oz doing it about 4 times, Mark said we should look at it. Also at this stage Oz was a lot more comfortable so it was a good time to have a look.

So when Oz was about to head toss, now instead of allowing that rein to loosen and my head going with the mvt, I was not going to give with my hand. Instead Oz was going to bump into the end of the rope. This worked REALLY well!! You could see Oz thinking ‘huh?’.

We did a few of these, and then 1 or 2 times, you could see Oz start to do it, but then decide not to πŸ™‚

Also at this stage, Mark remarked… “it’ll probably get worse before it gets better.” It didn’t. Oz just seemed to understand it wasn’t wanted anymore, and pretty much didn’t really do it for the rest of the session! What a horse.


After all of this, Oz was now walking around the arena with the TREMENDOUS long striding walk that just felt amazing. Mark said that’s his natural walk. I’d never felt it before!! He was really stretching out and it felt amazing.

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On my ‘to fix’ list was the mounting block. I was going to muddle through it myself. But Mark said it was important. What frame of mind the horse is in when you get up, will be brought forward into all of the ridden work. There were 2 issues…

1. Oz Didn’t like me putting my foot in the stirrup, as last year while getting up from the group I must have digged my toe into his elbow once or twice, and he decided that was enough of that. So to avoid making it worse (as I couldn’t figure out how to fix it) I didn’t get up using the stirrup anymore.

2. I used the mounting block & swung my leg over. But in the last week Oz was started to swing his HQ away at the critical moment.

I had a wonderful lesson with Crissi and we fixed this 2 things with no bother πŸ™‚

1. First up, only use 180 degrees around the mounting block. Never let your horse do a full circle and things get too confusing for everyone then.

2. Walk up to block from the wrong direction to get up on the near side.

3. I stand up on the mounting block.

4. Horse walks a step past the block, then you ask his HQ to do a 180 turn, so hes now facing back the way he came, and the correct way for me to get up on the near side.

5. Asking for 1 step at a time, ask horse to step forward and align himself beside the block. Rest after each step. If he steps but then swings HQ out, thats no problem. Gently ask him for a step or 2 backwards, and then start again from step 2. If horse does a great job, jump off the block and walk the horse away.

6. Walk towards clock again and follow all the steps. Either ask horse to backup & then reposition again if he swings out HQ, or if hes very good, walk him away from the block again. Do this about 1 times.

7. When horse is standing quietly beside block, put foot in stirrup. When I did this. Ozs head went up and his eyes got a bit bigger. Like someone waiting for something bad to happen. Crissi advised to keep my foot in the stiprrup until he relaxed and blinked, then take my foot out of the stirrup and walk away again.

8. Repeat stirrup a few times. When thats good, progress onto doing 1 bounce with foot in stirrup. Waiting until he relaxes and blinks, then remove foot and take horse off for a walk on foot again.

9. When it all looks great, gently get on.

10. Then get off again.

After about 45 minutes of this process, Oz was standing relaxed at the block, like a saint and there were no issues getting up. Not only that when he turned to line up at the block, I didn’t even have to direct him. He knew the story and just positioned himself perfectly and then waited for me to get on. πŸ™‚

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MOUNTING – I lined up Oz at the block, bounced with my toe in the stirrup, then walked him away from the block on foot. Then back to block, toe in stirrup and got on. Horse just stood there happy out. Wooohoo!


Yesterday I was riding in the halter (normal). Mark explained it wasn’t great for horses who lean (at home Oz doesn’t really lean but he was a bit all het up yesterday), and also Mark said if the knot is close to underneath his chin, when a rein gets some contact it in, it means the knot ends up right under his chin and can make feeling small mvts harder.

So I had a bridle (used about 5 times on Oz, the last time over 4 years ago!) so I threw it on and off we went. It was bad. Oz was leaning a lot on it. Stops were bad. Also I wasn’t breathing, which wasn’t helping πŸ™‚ Mark explained the wooden fence idea, so we got working with that. Basically, first warn your horse you want to stop to give him a chance to follow your body mvt (counting 3-2-1 works really well for this), and then at 0, imagine your hands are a wooden fence post that stays in one position in the ground, no matter how much the horse goes forward.

Mark took both reins, and explained that when you pick up a feel on the reins the horse should soften, and not rein on the reins (as Oz was doing!). If the horse is leaning with a 6/10, you’ve also got to get up to a 6/10 on the resin contact to encourage him to stop leaning and come up with another solution. If you always ride on a very soft rein, you can have a horse with a HUGE brace, but you don’t even know its there as you never touch it. Instead it can manifest itself by having a bad backup, bad brakes and lack of impulsion.

Good improvements made after this and Oz started to lean less on the bit.

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Oz & I work mainly in walk. This reason for this is for a long time, getting a nice relaxed walk, with a happy was something that took us a long time to achieve. I reckoned no point adding too much speed if our walk was messy, and it’d all turn to custard pretty soon if I did. I had done a small bit of trotting before the clinic, but it felt very wobbley, and while riding I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next, good or bad.

So Mark suggested we trot. After a few steps it very odd / wobbley, so I did a one rein stop as I wasn’t sure what was going on. Mark said Oz looked fine, relaxed and next time, don’t do a 1 rein stop, instead just trot him about with a loose outside rein. If Mark thought he looked fine that was good enough for me πŸ™‚

So off we went in a very wobbley trot, a good few times. Mark said it was a bit like watching a 3yo horse trot. Which made sense as Oz was trotted very little with a rider in his life. Anyway, the more we did, the better we got and the more balanced Oz started to get. FAB!! Just having someone else there telling you to keep going, as it all looks fine, makes all the difference.

VERY happy camper!!



Another great lesson with Crissi. This time it was working on softness while moving. Oz is great at softness at halt. Or moving. Doing both together he finds difficult!

First up, soft halt and then a soft backup. Good.

Now walk on. Shorten my rein. To ask for softness, ask with my hands and fingers. Do not ask with my shoulders and arms by pulling them back and tensing them up. If you do this, it takes too long to release them. Instead use my hands and fingers and focus on keeping my shoulders and arms really relaxed the whole time, regardless of what my hands are doing. This made a BIG difference.

Walk on…. shorten reins… while walking, close my fingers on the reins to ask for softness (horse to give to the bit) while keeping Oz in walk (he was trying to stop). First look for 1 step, then release back to a longer rein. Then 3 steps & release. Keep horse walking the whole time. Then 5 steps, then 7 steps. Over this lesson this got much better….

If Oz puts his head in the air, use 1 rein to ask him to bring it down.

Also I have to make sure Oz gets no release on the reins when his head goes into the air.

This made a great difference…. focusing on keeping my body soft and using more my hands and fingers made a big difference too. It felt much more like an open communication between him & I, travelling up and down the reins. Much less head tossing, a few he thought about and didn’t even bother to do.

WHAT a clinic. πŸ™‚ In my wildest dreams I never expected to learn so much, fix so many niggling things. Very happy is an understatement. Both Mark & Crissi are wonderful teachers & I’m hugely grateful that they were kind enough to share their knowledge with Oz & I.

But – what happened next? Find out below πŸ™‚

First up Oz travelled home great, didn’t turn around once in the box while loose & backwards. Instead he just looked out the back grill and licked and chewed a LOT.

Oz then had 2 days off as we went on a great trip to the beach & then I had catchup on a few things πŸ™‚ Back out this morning.. the things we needed to work on were:

1. Being calm – DONE, he was very calm and relaxed, well he was at home again lol! πŸ™‚

2. Stopping the head tossing. He didn’t do this at all while moving / walking. FIRST TIME NO HEAD TOSSING WHILE MOVING!! He did it a few times when standing still but I stopped it by using right rein. Also more interestingly he also thought about doing this a few times, but didn’t actually do it!

3. Good halts – I was counting down 3-2-1 in my head and he was stopping much better & softer

4. Good backups – MUCH better, halt, soft feel, ask with my fingers with a shorter rein, and then release when Oz softens and floats back. Got some really nice soft 2 beat backups.

5. Remember to breathe – Yes I did once Cathy reminded me πŸ™‚

6. Mounting block – PERFECT! Crissi helped us with this on the first day of the clinic. Oz used to stamp and wave his leg when you tried to get up from the ground using the stirrup. And at the block he had started to swing his hindquarters away. Crissi made fixing it seem very simple and I was very chuffed at the clinic we got it sorted!! So the horse walked up to the block, 1 bounce with foot in stirrup. When Oz blinked after this, foot out of stirrup and I led him away from the block. Next time, I just got up from the block with no issues.

7. Walk with softness. For the first few minutes, he was leaning a LOT more than at the last day of the clinic. Also head was going up in the air a bit. So we stopped and I had a think about it. I reckoned I had to make sure not to give him any release when head went up, and also if Oz was up at the 6-7 mark on the brace scale, then I had to up my pressure to the same level – I was probably at a 4. So we regrouped and had a play. Also I was trying to concentrate on HELPING Oz, (a big concept we played with in Aikido) rather than making him. BIG difference.

Also as Crissi showed me, to use my hands and fingers to ask him to soften, instead of locking my arms, elbows and shoulders. WOW big difference. First up when I went up to the level of brace Oz was doing, then Oz changed quickly, and got much softer and stopped doing all that leaning. In my lesson with Crissi on Thurs, we were working on getting 3, and then 5 and then 7 soft walk steps, and then going back to a longer rein as a reward. Got some really nice stuff today, including some fab half – softness – walk transitions. There was one halt – soft – walk for 17 steps (yes 17!!) – halt that was soft for the WHOLE thing and felt fabulous. In fact, it BLEW MY MIND a little πŸ™‚

So even though Oz started off leaning more today, by matching what he was doing, he changed really quickly, and we got the best soft work yet, and once he changed I was asking a lot less on the rein contact, as because he wasn’t braced any more, it wasn’t needed. Very happy. Also – it was very similar to the shoulder softness exercise we did in Aikido.

Also – Halt to soft to walk…. I’d lift up the reins, then were still just a very light contact, then think about helping Oz to soften… and he’d soften at halt. Seriously amazing. And better than we would generally do in the halter. Woohooo!!

That was about it, I reckon we had a ton done by then. We’ll do trotting tomorrow.


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