2023 Softcover Expanded Edition
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 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
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