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Xenophon Press

Lessons in Lightness: The Art of Educating the Horse, Expanded Edition by Mark Russell

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Mark Russell (1951-2016) explains the theories and methods of the Old Masters in his easy-to-implement progression suitable for educating the riding horse in all disciplines. 

Lessons in Lightness Expanded Edition by Mark Russell, published posthumously, further advances the concept of Art Form Riding first presented in the 2004 edition ofLessons in Lightness. Soft shaping and the development of the horse's flexibility, balance, and strength through a heightened sense of relaxation, this approach teaches us that mobility gives forward. Through logical gymnastic progressions, a positive feedback loop of relaxation, flexibility, and strength develops. From these progressions, energy springs forth so horses work in concert with their riders with calmness and exuberance.

Maintaining both relaxation and balance in a forward mindset can be a difficult state to achieve. Lessons in Lightness Full Color Expanded Edition offers in-depth guidance on how to create this often elusive combination.

Progressions include:

- Accessing the horse's jaw and spine.

- Teaching the horse that the bit is an indicator for relaxation.

- Development of the horse's often over-looked balance-inducing postural muscles.

- Development of flexion and strength through lateral movements and rein-back in relaxed postures.

- Necessary for success, each lesson begins in hand before progressing under saddle.

A new chapter entitled The Hidden Influences of the Bridle: The Stomatognathic Systemby Jillian Kreinbring M. S. underlines an expanded focus on equine biomechanics. Understanding the horse's functional anatomy is highlighted throughout this edition; it is the key to avoiding many common roadblocks.

In the 1980's Mark studied with Master Nuno Oliveira. He practiced Tai Chi and Chi Gong for decades. Later Mark infused certain Natural Horsemanship philosophies into his practice. Mark's gifts were to seeunderstand, and maintain an approach that did not stray from these unifying philosophies. Mark Russell lost his life on June 12, 2016. Mark's wife, Hela, is committed to preserving his life's work.

Lessons in Lightness offers the rider the concept of educating rather than training the horse using relaxation as the cornerstone. A tense horse has difficulty assimilating new information, yet relaxation often can be a difficult state to achieve. Mark Russell demonstrates not only how to attain relaxation but also how to maintain it throughout the horse’s education. 

Following Mark’s well-illustrated advice, energy is created in the horse without tension; the resultant free-flowing energy can be merely directed instead of forced. The progression of obtaining relaxation is fully explained by first accessing the horse’s jaw, then working down the entire spine to the hind feet. The method incorporates all lateral movements, in-hand work and under-saddle work in all gaits. Educated using this progression, the horse will develop flexion and strength in a bio-mechanically beneficial way while avoiding emotional stress and physical strain. In this vein, Lessons in Lightness is written with the horse’s perspective in mind.

After working with horses in a variety of capacities, Mark studied with Master Nuno Oliveira and, according to Mark, this “changed everything.” Mark enriched his horsemanship with his practice of Tai Chi, Chi Gung, and Natural Horsemanship. Mark was a popular clinician who was uniquely able to assist all horses and riders, regardless of their experience level in their chosen discipline.

Mark Russell was tragically killed in a riding accident on June 12, 2016. Mark’s wife, Hela is committed to preserving his life’s work.

"This book is terrific. It is respectful of both horse and rider, written clearly and thoughtfully with an easy to use layout and beautiful illustrations that support Mr. Russell's ideas."-- Horsemen's Yankee Pedlar

"Follow this book and your horse will thank you for it."--Horse Connection

"This excellent book with its reams of valuable points is one that you will want to refer to again and again."--GMHA Journal

You may also be interested in Mark's companion DVD: Lessons in LIghtness: Building the Horse's Foundation In-hand. READ MORE

Excerpt from Chapter 3: Teaching Lightness
"The principal reason for teaching the horse to be light to the aids is to create the healthy flow of energy through the horse's body. This is achieved through relaxation. In teaching relaxation to the horse, the trainer, in effect, offers the horse an understanding of how to let go and release tension. The horse's thought process is as important as the teacher's; in fact, the more the trainer recognizes the necessity for the horse to understand, the better a teacher she will become.
"Relaxation of the horse facilitates flexion, which provides the foundation for building the strength needed to achieve an educated, or academic, balance. Every detail of this training program relates to this concept in some form. The exercises that follow progressively increase the horse's degree of relaxation, flexion, and strength. When the horse doesn't perform as expected, he either lacks the understanding or lacks the relaxation, the flexion, or the strength to be correct. This thought should be in the trainer/rider's mind during every schooling session." - Copyright by Mark Russell
  • Item #: 6928

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