The podcast episode features renowned horseman Mark Langley, who has developed a unique approach to horsemanship that emphasizes empathy, communication, and understanding. Mark explains his approach to horsemanship, which involves setting up an environment where the horse is searching and trying to find the answer, rather than just responding to pressure. He emphasizes the importance of treating each horse individually and identifying what they do and don't understand. Mark also discusses an upcoming demo where he plans to showcase his techniques for helping horses overcome common issues and share his philosophy and principles with attendees. The podcast serves as an introduction to Mark's approach to horsemanship and an invitation to learn more.
Our Ah-Ha Moments
Theresa (00:00:07) - In this episode, we have the privilege of speaking with renowned horseman, Mark Langley, who has developed a unique approach to horsemanship to emphasizes empathy, communication, and understanding. During our interview, Mark explains his approach to training horses with understanding and the distinction between pressure release and feel. Mark also discusses how his techniques can help horse owners by tapping into their mindset to reduce anxiety. If you want to learn more about Mark Langley's approach to horsemanship, mark will be giving a demo in the UK on May 26th at Barry Farm Equestrian Center. You can find the details in the show notes.
Theresa (00:00:52) - Welcome
Theresa (00:00:52) - To Horsemanship Journal audio, where you can listen to your favorite articles, discussions, and interviews with leading influencers from the world of horsemanship.
Theresa (00:01:13) - Hi Mark. Thank you for joining us on our horsemanship journal podcast. Um, I hope you're well.
Mark (00:01:19) - Yeah, I'm well. Thanks Thereza. Thanks. Thanks for inviting me on.
Theresa (00:01:23) - We're looking forward to seeing you in, in May, and we'll, we'll talk about that in a, uh, in a little while. But I have a few questions to, to ask you. So first question for, for our audience then is can you tell us about your style of horsemanship and what led you down this path?
Mark (00:01:41) - Um, well, my, my style of horsemanship, like I've, I've grown up on and around horses all my life since a kid. And, uh, in, um, in my early, well, mid, mid early mid twenties, I started to take on horses professionally. And, you know, when you think, you know a bit, you sort of, you know, you put an ad in the paper, then all of a sudden you get all these horses jumped off trucks and, you know, and you, you, you know, you suddenly got all these, and in Australia, cause it's, it's, it might be a different sort of, um, different than the uk but basically, um, you know, there's people who breed stock horses and those horses are just out on big properties and they won't get touched till they're, you know, till they want to get 'em started. And then, and then, uh, also there's a sort of a, a wild horse population and stuff like that.
Mark (00:02:26) - So, um, you know, I real, I realized when I'd, I'd thrown myself in the deep end and I'd previously worked in Scotland and I managed, uh, the horses on the horse place over there for eight months. And then, you know, I was on a horsemanship ranch in America, and, uh, we used to do a lot of horse tracking at home when I was a kid. But, uh, once I got sort of thrown in the deep end, I had a lot of really tricky, you know, horses that I had to sort of firstly stay safe with. And then, um, you know, the stuff that I sort of learned through horsemanship, a lot of it I sort of started to, to not use because it was, um, I felt like I was going backwards in circles trying to fix what I'd done. Mm-hmm. . So I, um, I started to sort of, um, you know, just go with my gut a little bit.
Mark (00:03:10) - And, uh, some years ago, oh yeah, you know, 15, maybe to 20 years ago, I read a, an old mark rash book. And, um, there was some things in his book, some, some things that I, I got out of it and it, and, and basically the, the biggest thing that I got outta that book was if you push your horse away, they'll soon know where you want them. And back then, you know, a lot of horsemanship was based on, you know, moving a horse's feet, moving energy into horses constantly. And, um, and I, and I did see a lot of that, but for the sort of the, the high octane horses I was working, uh, and, and you know, the really wary horses, it, it just wasn't sort of computing mm-hmm. . Um, so basically what I did is I, I started to go with my gut from then and go, well actually how can I sort of, you know, operate horses in a way that, you know, I I more direct them opposed to, you know, constantly use that energy to get them to move off, you know?
Mark (00:04:03) - And it's quite prevalent more in groundwork when you're groundwork horses mm-hmm. . Um, so, so the things that really, like in my, my philosophy that are really, um, I guess integral to what I'm trying to sort of impart to people to help their horses is, um, one, we're, we're here to help. We're here to help our horses primarily. We're not just here to sort of own them and ride them as a motor transport. We're here to help them cope in a human world mm-hmm. , um, and not necessarily help them as we're helping them. We're, we're helping them so they can help themselves, uh, adapt and adjust to the anxieties in, in environment and the, and the second. Um, and, and another thing is if we, we set boundaries, we don't bring our boundaries to our horses. Um, and like I was just explaining to you, uh, that I guess the biggest thing in my philosophy is I'm trying to, uh, operate horses in a way where they go towards their thoughts and they follow a feel opposed to constantly move away from a pressure and, uh, seek release.
Mark (00:05:05) - Okay. So, you know, the, the, the whole concept of, uh, I think in, in you of horsemanship, and it goes back to an old trainer, uh, horseman called, you know, the Tom Dorrance and the Giants brothers, they talk about, uh, horses following a feel mm-hmm. . And so basically what I'm trying to sort of, you know, get people to understand is, is the horse following a feel or is it moving away from a pressure all the time? Is it hunting release? Um, you know, you yourself, if you've, you know, been around horses, you know, you hear it all the time. Doesn't matter what country you're in or what style of riding, you know, they, you know, you'll hear that horses, um, learn through the release of pressure mm-hmm. . Um, but, but actually, um, what really happens, it's the application of pressure that sets that horse's mind up for searching.
Mark (00:05:53) - And in a sense, in the long term of riding release becomes more of a request than a, than than than a reward. Um, yeah. You know, so as you're releasing, the horse is changing it's thought in a certain way, which means it's a request. Um, but yeah, so, so basically the, the, the, the key thing in my horsemanship is when I put a, a feel or a pressure in, in the environment of the horse, whether it be through the feel of a rope or, uh, you know, through the feel of me or whatever, I'm trying to set it up so the horse is searching and trying to find the answer, not, uh, just going, oh, there's pressure. If I get off that pressure, everything will be okay.
Theresa (00:06:30) - Right. Okay. So do you, do you switch between techniques and depending on, on the horse? Uh,
Mark (00:06:37) - Well, well basically, um, all the workshops that I, that I do, cuz now I'm more full-time doing workshops for people than training horses full-time. Cuz you can only juggle so many things. And yeah, so, so basically what I'm, what I'm doing is I'm working very personally with every individual and every horse. Um, yeah, so, so basically if people sort of, you know, follow some of my trainings, they'll see, there's certain things that I do with horses that look, oh, he's done that with, you know, he did that with that horse and he did that with that horse. But what really happens is, um, I'm looking at the horse and what it needs and where the, where the, the biggest red flag is or where, where the most brace is or the most anxiety. So I'm trying to get that horse to, you know, so let, let go of that anxiety and then sort of, and then sort of figure out, you know, in, in a human environment, um, with what is gonna be exposed to what are the things that that horse is gonna struggle with the most.
Mark (00:07:35) - So I sort of try and get people to identify those things first. And sometimes that's identifying what we have to do. Whether we're, we're we're too fidgety, we need to send them all, what, whatever we have to do to ground ourselves. And then how do we ground that? How do we ground that horse and then, uh, get it to, um, you know, think and search and try again and, and start to, um, manage its own anxiety a lot better. Um, and, and as you know, every horse has got a different story to tell. And, you know, we're not all working young wild horses where we are working horses that have had, you know, 10 years of trauma that we have to sort of look at the best way that we can undo that, um, and, and start to get them to see pressure and, and life in a different way. So yeah, every, every lesson is very individual. Uh, though there's a common approach to my, my training and there's certain philosophies and principles that I'll, uh, that people will, will kind of use, um, with different horses. Um, how we approach it when we do things is, is always gonna be very different.
Theresa (00:08:36) - So how do you teach, how do you teach the people then to, to fight to, to be able to feel that difference from, especially if they've been, if they've been trained to, to just work off of pressure and release? How do you then teach them to, to look for that feel and recognize it in the horse?
Mark (00:08:57) - Well, you, you, you teach 'em to observe. You know, you obviously you're, um, you're teaching people one of the biggest things you are, you are helping people listen more. Uh, you know, like, cuz I might not be standing with a horse. And I say, did you notice when I picked up on that feel that the, the horse kind of started to turn into a bit of a statue and it started to sort of sh you know, not breathe as much. And, uh, the eye started to square up and harden. And did you see when that horse had that change of thought? The eye rounded a bit. And so, so, so I'm trying to get people to observe and, and listen to the, the tension in their horses and how the horses, um, you know, so, so that's a big thing. And, and once they start to get a keen eye for it, like it doesn't take someone long once they're shown a couple of things to go, oh, I can see that in my horse.
Mark (00:09:40) - Uh, or I can feel that through the rains, or I can feel it through the rope or whatever when I'm working with it on the ground. So those things, they start to take on board and even if they don't take all of it on board, they do start to address, they start to identify brace in their horses more. Um, and then the other thing is like, like the biggest thing is, you know, cause I still get a lot of people come along and they go, this is the opposite of what I've been taught. And I say, well, is your horse starting to feel better and soft? And they say, yeah. I say, well, just have a think about it. You might have to go home and, you know, have some sleepless nights and, and then come back and you might have a, have a, you know, a, uh, a a a mini a little epiphany about it.
Mark (00:10:19) - But, um, but really it's, it's not that. It's, it's, it's still, you know, when you, when you talk about pressure and releases, we're still using pressure and release except the, um, we're, we're trying to get the horses to think differently through the pressure. So, so basically, you know, we still hold pressure. So it'd be an example, like if I use a human example, um, you know, a simple example. So someone could sort of take it on board as if, say, say for instance, I, I, um, I had my hand gently on your shoulder and I wanted you to kind of just softly yield off my hand. Okay. So I could just keep pushing constant pressure, uh, like start with a small amount, like sometimes we're taught and I could increase the pressure until you kind of move guideways off my hand. Um, or I could add a little bit of feel on your shoulder and I could, I could do something that makes you search.
Mark (00:11:13) - And as you lean into my hand that boundary firm's up, and as you kind of release off my hands, you start to find the pathway, which is off my hand. Okay. So in, in that respect, like a horse may lean on the, we might pick up a feel of a rain, but there's a certain thing a horse does when they phase out on a rain and, and they'll sort of du out and lean. And that, and that moment is when you put more feel through the rain and as they start to search into that rain, that that rain starts to release itself. So the horse is in control of the pressure a bit more mm-hmm. . And, and those sometimes you're still, you might still have to firm up the way you do it is not just to sort of, you know, just keep increasing pressure in their feet moving that direction, you're actually increasing their interest in that direction.
Mark (00:11:55) - And, you know, blind Freddy on the hill might go, well, I didn't see a lot of difference in that, but the person holding the rain and the horse at the end of the rain Yeah. Will notice the difference. So, so people can pick up the techniques quite easy. Um, but it is harder because, uh, it is, it, it, you know, instead of like, I think once upon a time, and it was sold through the UK and through Europe and Australia and America's horsemanship became a bit of a program and everyone sort of, you know, got their show bag and went home and with their sticks and their whatever and, you know, started training their horses in this 1, 2, 3, 4 approach. And unfortunately, I think it was made easy for the people, but it wasn't so great for the horses, um mm-hmm. . So yeah, there is a, uh, there's, it's more difficult to, to do what I'm trying to teach because you, one, you have to see a little bit more, and two, you're actually reading between the lines of everything you've probably done.
Mark (00:12:50) - So, you know, when someone says, I ride with my seat and my legs and I say, you know, so who taught your horse legs? And how well does your horse understand your legs? Do they understand your heels? Do they understand how you squeeze is important? And oh, well I just use, use my heels when the horse doesn't listen to my legs. And I say, well, but who taught your horse the le the heels? Oh, well they, they're just the big one. I said, no, they're not the big one. They just offer more clarity. So maybe don't use your seat for a month until the horse understands your heels and then your heels can back up your seat. But until the horse understands the heels, there's no point teaching him seat, you know, you can, that's, so that makes sense. So that you
Theresa (00:13:28) - Still teaching to understand
Mark (00:13:31) - Certainly. Yeah.
Theresa (00:13:32) - Yeah. So, so you're really treating each horse individually and looking and starting to recognize what, what it's recognizing, so then you couldn't Yeah. And what am I understanding?
Mark (00:13:44) - Yeah, and what they don't understand. So, you know, how often do I hear, doesn't matter if it's in dress hards or anything, someone comes up to a corner in arena and the, and the instructor says more inside leg. And I'll say to the person, why did the horse fall in? And I think the horse didn't know how to follow the rain and that's why it fell into the corner. And also there's a scary thing up in that corner. Did you notice how the horse like shot sideways looking? And, and so, so, so that horse is falling in for this reason. Um, and more inside leg is just making the horse move over, but the horse fell over because the inside rain is not working properly and the horse is kind of bracing a little, not thinking softly into the inside rain, for instance. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Mark (00:14:24) - . So, so we'll go back and identify why the horse, uh, you know, really why it's struggling, and then fix that because at home you're not in front of the judge, but sometimes people ride at home as if they're do riding in front of the judge. So they use the horse as motor transport, and I'm gonna go to a, and then I'm gonna go across there and I'm gonna do this. And, and, and the horse is kind of wobbling all around the place. And you know, I was gonna say, why is the horse wobbling? Not make it go un you know, sit up underneath this until we figure out what it doesn't understand.
Theresa (00:14:55) - Yeah. Well I suppose as, as people we are taught if the horse does X, then this is how you, how you solve it mm-hmm. rather than looking at breaking it down and looking at the recourse.
Mark (00:15:07) - Yeah. Well, years ago when I was in Scotland, I had to do, like, this was 20 years ago now, but I had to teach to the British horse Society way of teaching mm-hmm. . And, um, what I found and isn't no criticism to the people who teach in this, it's just, it's just something that I noticed and it's no different than when I talk to Germans at the ger about the German training scale is it's almost like a textbook that it's gonna work like this and this is how you sit and this is how the hor, this is where you put leg, your leg for this, this is where you hold your hand for that. And someone might see me holding my hand up really high and go, well, that's not how, how we ride. And I say, well, it's not how you ride in front of the judge, but the horse is the judge at the moment mm-hmm.
Mark (00:15:48) - and it's the horse struggling. So we have to try and help the horse understand, and then when, when the horse is soft, then we'll be back in that nice box, you know, our hands in that box, you know? Yeah. Um, but um, it, we have to be adaptable. And unfortunately, I think some of the, um, methodologies is, and all that is not adaptable enough for the horses and the people. Um, and yeah. But, but, but you know, I love doing it because it, it, it, you know it if you're in a job that you can constantly learn something from by, by meeting people and horses everywhere. Like, so I've always got that sort of, you know, that content in front of me to sort of, you know, I think you think you've seen everything until you see a little brace in a horse that you go, I haven't seen that one before, and I'd like to explore that. Yeah,
Theresa (00:16:35) - Yeah, yeah. So, so tell us then about your demo in May and what people can, can expect, um, when they come to that demo, what they'll, what they'll learn, what they might take away from it.
Mark (00:16:47) - Yep. Okay. So my, my demos are purely, um, real, real, real stuff. It's just, it's, it's what I do every day on an everyday basis of, of helping horses and people. It's, there's no sort of showmanship except my bad Australian humor. , every now and again if you could . Uh, but, but yeah, so basic, basically, um, uh, I'm gonna get a, a handful of horses. Uh, you know, we, we haven't chosen how many, we'll probably have three or four horses available. Um, and each one of those horses I'm hoping will, will fit a slightly different category or, or area that I come across a lot. So I tend to try and sort of work out what I come across most commonly in, in brace. So one of the most common ones is I'll, I'll probably try and find a, a horse that's not, not searching anymore, you know, shutting out, shutting out, uh, the, the mine becomes more fixated and, you know, you've probably come across horses that just dunno how to stop gazing off into the distance, or the other ones that just stop trying and stop searching and they just kind of, you feel like you've gotta carry him like a wheelbarrow everywhere.
Mark (00:17:52) - Yeah. So, so I may get one of those shut out, shut down style horses and, you know, maybe sort of work on how we can get that horse to start to, um, uh, let go of strong thoughts and start to cast his thoughts and search. And, uh, I'll probably maybe get one of those sort of bouncy horses that sort of bounce around with eyes on sticks that mm-hmm. , you know, like, you like one of your little Welsh Welsh ponies that are kind of like high octane sort of, you know, whether I get one of those or not. But so, so I, I like to try and have a couple of different styles of horses in there so I can say, you know, you, you know, I'm not gonna do that or that I did with that horse, with that horse over there, and this is how I treat this horse here that's frightened the people or anything.
Mark (00:18:30) - So basically all I do is I work through different horses and, and some of my show, show some of my principles and techniques in getting them to follow a feel of a rain or rope better rain better. Um, and yeah, so, so, and, and so basically demo starts with a, with a like bit of philosophy. So I'll talk a little bit like we're talking now, but I'll go through my core principles, um, that, that have really helped me over the years and get a people idea, my philosophy and, um, why I do and don't do things. And then I'll, I'll work, uh, I'll start to work on the horses and what they present. So obviously every demo goes on a different track a little bit because of what the horse presents. And then I'll try and do some riding where I show my, you know, my riding techniques to get horses to, uh, supple up, um, start to start to go towards their thoughts in the reigns and, um, uh, better and soften better, uh, in, in the way I ride under saddle and how I break things down for horses to, to, to, to, to learn.
Mark (00:19:31) - Um, you know, sometimes I've gotta a dress arch horse that's a bit stiff and it's dress arch and I'll show people little techniques, how to soften up its movements through the way I, um, so, you know, um, separate everything and get the horse to sort of understand each one of those things that it's listening to or Yeah. But basically it's, it's two hours of, of yeah. Working through horses and, you know, just, just helping people with things. And there's gonna be like question and answer at the end where, where people can sort of engage with me and start to sort of, you know, you know, they might have some, some, some, some things at home that they're struggling with and people can stay and listen to the question answers and, uh, cause I'm on the road, there's no real schedule. So if people wanna hang around for another half hour or an hour at the end, it doesn't really matter to me because, you know, they wanna, they wanna ask questions, that's fine. I'm, I'm there and I'm sort of, you know, it's not like I'm going home to the family when I'm on the road. So. Yeah.
Theresa (00:20:25) - Okay. Sounds good. I'm looking forward to, uh, to watching that. Um, so one final question then. If you could give one piece of advice to our audience, what would it be?
Mark (00:20:36) - Oh, gee, , one piece of advice. Oh, there's so many pieces. Um, it'd be the most important thing that first I guess the, the, the principle of just, uh, I, I encourage people to step back, listen, and the listening obviously entails a whole bunch of things. Um, we're, we're, we are listening so we can empower our horses
Theresa (00:21:16) - Mm-hmm. .
Mark (00:21:18) - Um, and that piece of advice, I guess is by step, the, the, the thing that helped me the most was step back and, and say, I'm here to help, but I'm not here to help. I'm here to help empower my horse. And, and I guess in, in that, in that, that one thing encompasses, another thing I guess is, is, um, we're, we're, we're, we're not taking it personally. Um, whatever problems we're having that day, let them go. And, and when we listen to our horse and what it needs, um, then, you know, if I'm having a, well, I used to think, geez, I'm having a bad day, but I knew that horse was going through a worse day in there. And that's what made me really think about, forget about what I want to do next, uh, with that horse and step back and just figure out what that horse needs.
Mark (00:22:07) - And as I say, listening is not just going out sitting and listening with your horse in the paddock and creating a connection, which, which is still very important. It's about listening to the horse's needs and what it struggles with, the pressures it doesn't understand, and then how do we empower it and how do we not take it personally? Mm-hmm. . So that's probably the most important person changing thing that you can do. And then from that, then you start to think about all the principles and how we do it, uh, from there. Um, but yeah, that's probably, I'd say take home. Cause that's the first take home that, that made me start to search and learn and really sort of start to figure out how I can apply stuff by what I've just listened to and learn. Yeah. And, um, as I say, don't take it personally.
Mark (00:22:50) - Every time you're doing something with a horse, put yourself in a, this is the horse I borrowed, not my horse as well. Um, sometimes when people have struggled with their horse for years and they're just a bit at a wit's end, I say, well, that's a nice bay horse. You've got, um, did your friend lend that to you for the clinic? Do they, and they say no. I say, uh, yes they did. You've never seen that horse before. Mm-hmm. , you know, that's, you've never touched that horse and, and don't whatever pass you got, leave it outside and we're gonna work on how we can look into the future and help.
Theresa (00:23:26) - That makes sense. I bet that helps a lot with people.
Mark (00:23:29) - Yeah. Well, it's hard to reset it. It's easy to reset a horse's mind than a person's mind. Yeah. It complicated the human mind, but, um, but at, at the same time, you, you can't be a, a helper and a teacher if you, you can't try and adjust the people a bit.
Theresa (00:23:44) - Mm-hmm. . Okay. Well, thank you. We'll put the, uh, information about the clinic in the, in the show notes. Yeah. And I'll, uh, I'll hopefully get to meet you in person there.
Mark (00:23:56) - No, good, good, good. Teresa, it'll be good to, good to catch up with you. And yeah, if, if anyone wants to just come on and have a, have a look, you know, once they go online, they'll find out Mark, yeah, Mark Langley the website and then all the links and different podcasts and different things. And you know, the podcast is just a question and answer thing that people get more of an idea how, how's things like that. Uh, if if they're, if they're sort of not sure if they wanna come along or, and they just wanna hear a bit more first then, but yeah. But yeah. But thanks so much and enjoy your evening.
Theresa (00:24:25) - Thank you.