Starting John’s Mare: the last day here

Words and photos by Jenny Barnes with quotes from Mark Langley.

John’s mare has finished her education with us now. She left today, with her owner.  Her confidence and aggressive character was clear from the start – she bucked pretty hard with the saddle and it was a photo with her hooves higher than the rails of round yard that prompted us to follow her through this blog, giving you an insight into how Mark handles an unusual sort of horse and how she has developed in her understanding and trust of people, especially Mark.

We’ve seen how she has gone from not letting Mark touch her down the sides at all, to accepting a rug. We’ve watched how she has learnt to lead, to give to pressure, to take the bit, be fully shod, taken a stock whip, opened gates, ridden out on the property, float loaded, and even used as a demonstration for a training video on how to turn on the hind quarters (you can also see this once you sign up to Mark’s free horse training tips here).  Pauline even rode her today.

Now, after so many milestones have been reached, John’s mare is ready to go back to her owner.  She has had just 12 rides out on the property.

Here are the results of Mark’s efforts, time, patience and amazing understanding:

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Need I say there was not a moment’s hesitation going on the truck.  With time and work Mark is sure that she will make a super horse. “I haven’t ironed out all of her issues but I hope I have ironed out at least half of them.

“It was sad to see this mare leave. It is these types of horses that draw the most out of me.  There was quite a long time building trust, and even when I started riding her, for quite a few rides all I was doing was trying to get her to relax and only giving her the basic jobs that were planting seeds to her foundation.  It wasn’t until the last 5 rides that this mare started to accept my ideas and go with them in a more relaxed way. All of a sudden she was going with pressure and calming to it.  When this happened, she was picking up things in a far superior way than some easy going horses do over a longer period of time. When I started moving her hips under saddle more, there were certain areas (especially near her rib cage) that caused her a lot of aggravation and tension.  She would round out her back and push her hip up into the pressure and her head would brace in search of an escape.  Then all of a sudden, after some chipping away, finding the right moments when she was centred to move her hindquarter, she freed up and moved her hindquarter in a soft and calm fashion that I would not have expected from her for some time. She even managed to keep her tail still whilst moving her hips.  She also showed natural ability to work on her hindquarter and was very good at opening her shoulders up. 

She even started to read my seat when I asked her to move sideways.  When I took my centre sideways she started to pick up on it without needing my leg to help.

This mare could handle steady miles, general day to day poke-around-cattle work.  She is intelligent and quite talented but this ability shouldn’t be flaunted with. I believe that if she was now pushed hard without appropriate time out, she could sour and quite easily become resentful.

She has a lovely soft side. I am pleased that I have been able to see it. “

We’d love to hear your comments on this blog on our facebook page.

I have added the links to the previous blogs here if you want to recap:

First blog:

Second blog:

Third blog Introducing the saddle

Fourth blog Backing:

Fifth blog Softening:

Sixth blog Ponying with the saddle

Seventh blog Rain

Eighth blog After 10 days off

Ninth blog Mouthing & the first rides

Tenth blog Trotting

Eleventh blog Gaining Evenness on Lateral Flexion:

Twelfth blog Riding with Calmness:

Thirteenth blog The First Ride Out:

Fourteenth blog Mustering

Fifteenth blog Shoeing


Shoeing John’s mare

Words and photos by Jenny Barnes with quotes from Mark Langley

John’s mare is leaving tomorrow to go back to her owner tomorrow. Her education here is nearly finished – Mark has got her to the stage where he deems her safe and competent enough for her owner to carry on with. Mark has spent the last few rides on her outside, spending time cantering her on the last few rides. And he has been rugging her the last couple of days, which is going to help with today’s lesson – getting shoes on.

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Pauline comes in to the round yard to help clean it – Mark is about to use John’s mare for a training video on turning on the hindquarter (if you want to see this, make sure you are signed up soon to get our free newsletters and the video link will come straight to you). She seems little fussed by Pauline. This is important – as you will see later. John’s mare seems and quiet around Mark…but she is a particular mare….

Mark warms her up to some exercises before the filming starts.

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With the video taken (and she did brilliantly), Mark unsaddles her and asks Pauline to go back into the roundyard to catch her. Mark likes someone else to have handled and ridden his newly started horses before they go  back to their owners. He knows John’s mare will be weary but we didn’t expect an all out refusal! Look at this!

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She not only clearly flattens her ears but she nods her head up and down enormously before turning away from Pauline. There is no way she wants Pauline near her. So this is just a reminder of what Mark has been working with – she looks soft and calm in the photo’s now – but Mark has won her trust and friendship and underneath, she will always be a strong minded mare.

“70-80% of un-handled horses generally accept a new person fairly quickly after being started. She fits into the small category. It will take a little bit of adjusting.”

Mark goes in and demonstrates what Pauline needs to do.

I was showing Pauline that where she stands and holds her hands are important for her safety.”

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Mark decides to trim her in the round yard, which she is familiar with.

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Then he takes her outside, to shape and put on her two front shoes.


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Mark works efficiently, and the mare gives little argument. She is uncomfortable at the end when Mark has to place himself under her chin to finish off. “Horses don’t like you under there – its a blind spot. That’s why it’s never safe to go under a horse’s rope that you don’t know. Always safer to go around their hind.”

Mark leads her back to the round yard to work on getting her hind feet picked up for tomorrow. She moves a little, then stands for him.

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Mark will ride her out again this afternoon, and then tomorrow will be her last day with us. I’ll try to put as much detail into the stage that she is at for you tomorrow so you can really get an idea of how far she has come.

Mustering on John’s mare

Words and photos by Jenny Barnes with quotes from Mark Langley

Mark has been riding John’s mare out every day since our last blog. Each day he has worked on her confidence and ridden her out on our property. Today a chance opportunity to muster some renegade cows into a paddock enabled Mark to test her out on cattle, with our collies working them around her.  This is now her 6th ride out on the property.

“I started riding her out in the bit when she proved to be calmer and a bit more reliable outside. You don’t need to compound nervous tension by introducing a relatively unfamiliar tool whilst she is still having trouble adjusting to her surroundings and rider. Today was probably her 3rd or 4th ride in the bit. If there were no time frames or deadlines there would be no need to integrate the bit so quickly.”

These are beautiful Autumn days. The air is clear, crisp and still and everyone enjoys being outside, especially when there is fun to be had.

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“It was good to give her something to do because she has a little bit of trouble freely moving forward – only because she still has a bit of nervous concentration on me.  The remedy for this is just good steady miles.”


Ebony wanted  to say hello to her. She lowers her head as Ebony reaches up with her hand.

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With the cattle in, Mark decides to take her for a ride up the hill, with a trot and a canter.


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Only to find some renegade sheep that need sorting! So, more mustering for her.

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She’s handled it all beautifully.

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The first ride out on a young horse (John’s mare)

Words and photos by Jenny Barnes with quotes from Mark Langley

The first ride out for John’s mare. Mark introduced her to Pauline & her horse, Wills, in the round yard.

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Mark then took John’s mare out on our 500 acre property. First, he headed for the forest, then out through tea tree, grassy areas, and back through our garden with all its strange and scary objects.


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I spent the ride guiding her, taking her away from Wills and towards Wills, keeping fairly busy on her.  She was quite attentive to me, but not too confident with moving forward.  A lot of this is due to the amount of concentration that she keeps on me. 

After trotting her ahead a little bit, I thought I would let her follow Wills. But it wasn’t very good for her – she got more confidence in him and got in a mind frame that made her think she needed to run away from me.  So within about 5 metres of trotting behind Wills, she quickly put her head up and tried to run.  She actually ran into Wills’ rump. I shut her down and relaxed her, then rode off. (I rarely shut horses down, I only do it when it is an absolute necessity for safety. Most times it is better to just guide their energy until they relax and then just stand with them.)  I made sure I kept her in the lead after this and did a reasonable amount of trotting with her.  I think that this will be a one off instance.

Other than that, she did really well, she just needs time to build confidence. I am very happy with her.  Now when she gets pressured or stressed she is happy to take my guidance and relax quickly.  Most of the time, pressure doesn’t make her worry or look for an escape.  These are some of the guiding factors that I use to determine whether a horse is ready to be ridden out.”

I am happy to answer questions on any of the blog I have done on John’s mare today – about my training techniques or something you want to know more about.  Post your questions to my face book page I’ll have a look at them after I come back in from mustering the sheep and do my best to answer them.

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John’s mare: riding with calmness

Words & photos by Jenny Barnes with quotes from Mark Langley.

It’s been over 2 weeks since Mark was able to last work John’s mare, following several horsemanship clinics that he was running in NSW.  Another break in this mare’s unusually drawn out education.  Mark has been working John’s mare since the middle of February and we have been blogging her progress so that people can have an insight into the work Mark does, particularly with her as she is a very sensitive mare and has needed a lot more time to get used to Mark than most horses. Mark has started and finished 2 batches of horses in this time. The drought breaking rain, her stone bruise and our trip away has all effected her training time. But John’s mare has been started in a very careful way and the building blocks which Mark has laid, step by step, have not faltered.  The strong, confident, aggressive mare that was barely handled when she arrived is now able to understand and accept much of what Mark offers. Her mind is now ready to really start learning.

Mark wastes no time today, and after brushing her down, saddles her without any prior preparation. His lead rope hangs down on the ground, unattached to anything – one of his signatures training traits: Mark expects his horses to stand still when they are saddled and mounted.

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Mark decides to lunge her in the big yard and give her a bit more space. She comes through the gates like a dog on a lead.  She’s fine with this.

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As she lunges, she makes use of the full length of rope and picks up speed – but there is no concern with the saddle on her.

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Mark draws her in and asks for more controlled responsiveness to turning one way and then the other. He is careful to keep working on her left eye – the side she has most trouble with putting on him.  He asks her to bend to him a few times on that side, working on her softness and confidence.  She moves with far more flow and ease than I remember in the previous lessons.

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Then it’s time to test her again – time to ride. The last time Mark rode her, over 2 weeks ago, he rode her at a trot and canter in his round yard then at a walk in his big yard. She seemed then that she could still buck if she wanted but chose not to. As always, the first few minutes are tense for us as we watch her settle into being ridden, but she quickly relaxes far beyond her previous lesson. Each time that she has come in after a break though, she has picked up where she left off. “She has a good retention memory”, Marks comments.  Mark asks for a trot within minutes and at first she takes a few strides before stopping. Mark repeatedly asks her to keep going until she trots continuously round and round the yard, both ways. “She is trotting the best yet – her ears are on me and forward.”

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Next step – the canter.

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It’s all really good. Not a sign of a hump or a jump. Her canter is still jerky and not her natural rhythm though. Mark takes her to the rail and taps various things on it before refreshing her memory to the crack of his stock whip above and around her.

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Look at her – no sweat – she’s switched on with attentiveness and she is much calmer.

Into the big yard next. Mark trots her around.

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As he stops for a backup with his seat, Mark asks for a lowering of her head, then flexion either side.

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Mark knows she is calm and ready to learn. He asks her to move her front legs across. This is just her 5th ridden ride.  Mark waits until she is ready to make the move.  Mark works her for a while, getting her to move her feet as he asks. “She’s going to be a very handy mare.”

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Mark returns to the round yard to put her bridle on and ride her in that before stopping.

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He asks her to move her head from one side to the other and he is impressed when she moves  through the centre, not up.  She will be very trainable. A mare that has taken some effort to get to where she is now – but no doubt she will be worth every bit of it for her owner.  Tomorrow, Mark is riding her out. Don’t miss it!

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