Russell’s philosophy may not be as common as those teaching dressage with German origins, as Russell studied under Nuno Oliveira (1925-1989).
Oliveira is also a favorite of Paul Belasik (Dressage for the 21st Century, and The Essential Paul Belasik) who also visited him with the tale related in his book Riding Towards the Light.
Some of these ideas can also be seen in the videos of Philippe Karl – and I am painting a very wide brush here because I am talking about the IDEA – the horse needs to be relaxed and this happens in the front before advanced work can be achieved.
Russell’s first steps is relaxation and suppling exercises to allow an energy flow through the horse. His book details these exercises, though of course I would wish for more photos, and definitely wish he had a dvd out (there is none detailing this specific work yet).
“Lightness is based upon three fundamentals of relaxation, flexion and strength. Relaxation is the first step. Relaxation means teaching the horse to let go of stress and tension in his mind, and hence, his body.” pp 14-15
Speaking from homeschooling a child with ADHD, I do know for a fact that unless the mind is relaxed, learning takes longer, if not impossible to achieve. This same principle is a core to Russells’ philosophy – work on relaxing the horse before concerning yourself with directing the horse with aids of rein and leg or achieving a frame necessary to your sport.
This book can be confusing to get into at first, especially if you don’t have any grounding in understanding how a horse’s anatomy moves in concert or knowledge of dressage. It make take a bit of patience in reading and digesting the content. I know on my side of things that it became more clear when I put it side by side with my TEAM and Connected Riding dvd’s/books/clinics.
We all seek peers and mentors we feel synch well with our own personal philosophy. Russell’s book does this for me as it is very compatible with the ideas of Linda Tellington-Jones (TEAM), Peggy Cummings (Connected Riding), Centered Riding, and Klaus Hempfling.
As I work Z, I’ll be making mention of some of this work, referencing Mark Russell (who now has a catagory list for the blog)….