The equestrian world in the east of the US is in shock following the death of respected trainer Mark Russell after a freak accident during a young horse clinic.
Russell, a native of Connecticut, was 64. He was gravely injured on June 12 at a clinic in Massachusetts, and never regained consciousness, according to his wife, Hela.
“However, on the upside, he was an organ donor – and he helped to save three peoples’ lives,” she said.
Reports indicate he was working with a young horse and landing badly, causing cervical neck fractures. Russell was flown to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston but was unable to overcome his injuries.
Russell was a popular clinician, using the teachings of natural horsemanship and Art Form Dressage, a method of suppling and gymnatizing exercises to balance the horse in lightness with a reliance on relaxation of the whole horse all of the time.
“Mark was beloved by many people across the country, and, actually, across the globe,” Hela Russell told the Greeneville Sun newspaper. “He has traveled from state to state, diligently trying to access as many people as possible, sharing his message of putting the horse first and paying attention to the horse’s physical and emotional well-being, because, without that, you risk damaging the horse.”
Russell was the author of Lessons in Lightness: The Art of Educating the Horse and a DVD of the same name, as well as the DVD Riding with Chi: Your Pathway to Energy Mastery.
In his early years Russell worked in various disciplines but was drawn to the dressage teachings of the old masters who promoted the benefits of suppleness and flexion in the horse. These included Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere, Francois Baucher, Gustav Steinbrecht, and General Decarpentry. While integrating these philosophies into his riding and training, Mark completed his transformation after traveling to Portugal in 1984 to study under world renowned Portugese classical horse trainer and rider Nuno Oliveira. What he experienced during that time had shifted his approach to training and riding to a partnership-based relationship.
“He was very kind, caring, unflappable and humorous. He had a powerful, compelling energy. People that met him never forgot him,” Hela Russell said. “I am dedicating myself to preserving his legacy.”
A memorial service will be held later in the summer in Massachusetts for both Russell and his mother, who died earlier this spring.
A GoFundMe page has been created to help the Russell family.