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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Next step – the canter.
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.
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.
As he stops for a backup with his seat, Mark asks for a lowering of her head, then flexion either side.
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.”
Mark returns to the round yard to put her bridle on and ride her in that before stopping.
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!