Friday, March 29, 2013

"Feature Friday-Mark Russell Natural Dressage"

Howdy Folks,

It was working with horses in various disciplines in his early years that convinced Mark that Classical Dressage benefits all horses. So routed did Mark become in his belief that suppleness and teamwork were the keys to a healthy happy horse that he sought out the old masters as his own trainers. Such masters as Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere, Francois Boucher, Gustav Steinbrecht, and General Decarpentry. 

Mark completed his transformation after traveling to Portugal in 1984 to study under world renowned Portugese classical horse trainer and rider Nuno Oliveira. Mark was forever changed and now travels extensively to share what he has learned from these masters for the betterment of horses and their people.

"In-Hand" work provides the foundation for learning under saddle
About 20 years ago Mark was introduced to "Natural Horsemanship" philosophies and quickly he realized those philosophies were very similar to Artistic Dressage, especially in that both are routed in the horse's needs being most important. Finding that inspiring, Mark began studying the teachings of the Dorrances, Ray Hunt, Pat Parelli, and others. He continues to study and practice in both worlds as each approach enhances the other.

Mark adds to those philosophies his studied knowledge of equine biomechanics, understanding, promoting and teaching that the physical well being of the horse is paramount. He believes that with attention to how the horse uses his body and by addressing each area where the horse may hold physical tension, the horse is able to find a comfort zone for learning balanced, healthy, movement.
Teaching the horse to be light to the aids supports a healthy flow of energy throughout the horse's body.
 Weaving these convictions together Mark practices and teaches Artistic Dressage. Mark explains, "Artistic Dressage is a method of suppling and gymnatizing exercises to balance the horse in lightness with a reliance on relaxation of the whole horse all of the time. Relaxation, a basic tenet of Artistic Dressage, is obtained through connectedness and trust as well as through teaching the horse to let go in his mind, and hence, his body."

Mark further explains, "Where Artistic Dressage differs from today’s more commonly seen competitive style of dressage is this emphasis on relaxation as a training tool. Rather than utilizing a driving seat and leg with reliance on the forces of the hand, Artistic Dressage prioritizes relaxation which in turn opens channels of energy which the rider can then direct. The resulting ride has a very different feel; fluid, free, and unobstructed by tension or physiological blocks." Mark passes on his depth of knowledge to all his students, allowing them to find the lightness and artistry they desire.

 In his book "Lessons In Lightness" available on his website Mark explains his, and the theories of the masters that, "When the rider enables the horse to use his energy efficiently, the horse will move freely forward. Once balanced in self-carriage, there will be no resistance in the rein. By using these methods the rider liberates the horse’s true movement without either driving force (the rider’s legs) or holding restraints (the rider’s hands)."
Working with our horses in a way that supports relaxation, balance and proper alignment feels good to the horse. 
Mark has a busy clinic schedule traveling to share his and the old masters knowledge of how achieving true relaxation helps both the horse and rider achieve true bliss. Please check out his website spread the word. And perhaps attend a clinic, your horse will thank you.

Thanks Mark for your devotion and teaching!

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

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