(Text & photos by Jenny Barnes with quotes from Mark Langley)
John’s mare is currently being started by Mark. She came to us as a 3 year old without any prior handling a few weeks ago. Mark is in no rush to get on this mare – he knows her bloodlines & he knows her personality type. She is an independent, confident mare, that is very weary of Mark & not ready to be ridden yet. But she is getting to know him, and hopefully, as Mark teaches her from methods developed from starting hundreds of horses (many of them wild) in his own passionate and caring way, she will start to enjoy her interactions with him. Mark is highly aware of her sensitive nature & as you will read, his methods that he is using with her are very deliberate. Incidentally, another horse that was started at the same time as her is almost ready to go back to its owner.
This mare is a special league. And that’s why we’re doing the blog.
During the last lesson, it was not only raining, but she was a little lame. Mark kept the lesson very simple with hardly any pressure on her. Following a break of 10 days as Mark ran horsemanship clinics, John’s mare is now back into work. What follows are the photos from the first lesson back.
She came in where she left off, quiet and kind. She is consistently being calm around Mark now and it is only the things that Mark does that seem to make her nervous or not, as oppose to Mark simply being there. “If you trap a horse then when it next comes in it is different. But if you build up trust it will come in comfortable. Comfortable and curious.”
With more confidence around Mark, her curious nature is indeed coming through.
As Mark puts the halter on her, he explains why although she is so good with ropes and things he still doesn’t feel she is ready to be ridden. “The difference between a wild horse and a horse that has grown up around people is that wild horses will cope with inert objects, but not people, because they know the object won’t kill them. She can cope with a whip (cracking around her) but a tame horse couldn’t (at her stage).” Mark has deliberately used a lot of ropes with her training as a step to her getting used to him. “The rope offers a connection between us. I can connect through the rope to her”.
Mark goes back to desensitizing on her by jumping up and down near her and on both eyes. She has found this hard before and Mark wants her to be able to stand calmly as he does it, in preparation for her being able to cope with him on her back. “She is still very sensitive. Her self-preservation will lead her to spin and kick very quickly. Some horses will run. I want than side right because that’s the side she’d going to look at me and panic on.”
She’s a beautiful mare.
And you can see that all of this work will be well worth it. Mark concentrates on her, watching her every reaction as he works. Looking for areas to work on and ways to increase her trust in him. She is calm and allows him to touch her down the sides again but her nervous state rises and falls as he dabbles with different pressures. He knows that she is starting to anticipate the work – if he put on too much pressure, she will anticipate that pressure the next time she comes in. He wants to keep this lesson simple for her again.
This is not about just getting on and riding her. Aside from her lightening reactions; tendency to kick and bite; her highly weary nature; this is about a pure horse and her being able to understand and accept Mark when he rides her. A far bigger task than riding the bucks out of her.
The pathway to knowledge and understanding about horses never ends…but where there is trust and honesty, the way is easier for all.