From November 24 to December 24 I had the great opportunity to spend a month with Mark Bolender in Washington.
One month intensive training with Mark Bolender – how I got here:
2011 I found the video of Mark’s speedrun with Checkers by accident. Amazed by what I saw I searched for more videos and information and found the website of Andrea and Hardy Baumbach. They had a huge article about the opening of an Extreme Trail Park and clinics with Mark Bolender. I contacted them immediately and got the last place in the clinic, could do the translation for Mark at the show and could help him as judging student. Since then we had a good contact to family Baumbach and Mark.
November 15. I got a message from Mark in which he invited me to come to his place and spend a month of training to do an apprenticeship as trainer and judge for Extreme and Mountain Trail. Because I study at a horse university in Cologne, there were not many possible dates to fly to Washington. First I called my university to find a way to change my seminars from December to April – thanks therefore – and then we booked my flight and renewed my passport.
Finally landed at Seattle, I got picked up at the airport and was welcomed very heartly. Before I could unpack my bags, we had a nice little ride around the property with Checkers and Lee with her gelding Ruger.
The next day I started the training with Mark: first with the groundwork. Therefore we worked with three different horses that just arrived and didn’t know Marks training at all – perfect to learn!
One thing became really clear: no matter which breed or which character, all horses understand very easy who is the leader and stay relaxed during the whole training. The horses are worked only with a rope halter and a long rope, a stick is not necessary at all – „less is more!” The same with body language: smallest signals are enough and much more important is the inner focus “You can do it”. This inner focus is the basis for everything: the groundwork, riding, work in the Extreme Trail Course and how Mark showed me also for jumping and reining.
Mark’s course is not the biggest, but has its own fascination. It’s amazing how many different obstacles for all levels are in this little space. Here we also could work from the ground and riding. I got the opportunity to work with different kinds of horses from different levels of training. Under supervision of Mark I started a 3-year old Morgan-Draft-Mix called Wim. On the 3rdride we were already out in the course and Wim mastered suspension bridge, teeter-totter, balance beam, steps, water and many more obstacles. It’s amazing how fast the young horses take the obstacles as natural.
Even in December there are a lot of clinics at Bolender Horse Park. I was lucky to see how Mark organizes the clinics and how he responds on every single participant. Everyone became individual coaching no matter if beginner, advanced or bridleless. I had the chance not only to participate in each of these clinics but also to work with the horses of other participants. This way in one clinic I could deal with to extremes: a very sensitive Morgan mare and a mule. A highlight was -for sure- the bridleless clinic in which I did figure eights with flying leadchanges and the obstacles out in the course with „Ruger“.
Many experiences and attitudes that Mark passed me on will from now on guide my work. One really touched me even when I felt it before:
"As a trainer it is not your work to change the character of a horse! It is the same as in school: a teacher should take his students from where they are and find a way to encourage them to their best but not to change their personality."
Last but not least I got advices from Lee concerning marketing and organization.
It was a wonderful and instructive time with Mark and at this point I want to thank him and Lee for giving me this great opportunity. I also thank my family for supporting me in everything.