Discovering the Pause and the Yes in Life through Liberty Horse Training
“It was a dark and stormy night and only the brief flash of white let me know that he was moving through the darkness around me.”
This would be a great opening line for a Halloween adventure or romantic evening but alas it was me in the pasture once again trying to convince my horse that I am a good person and he should listen to me.
“It might even be fun”, I try to convince him. He is not convinced. Since it was usually dark by the time I got to the barn, and he is black, I would pay close attention to the location of his white sock on his right hind. This flash of white would let me know how close he was getting into my space as he was known for relentlessly testing my boundaries.
I was continually negotiating with him that he need not chase me away from his food. “I don’t want your food. Truly. Stop flattening your ears at me. No really… get those ears forward – now! I mean it” and there I was on the doorstep of the dreaded downward spiral into “the fight”. And me leaving the barn thinking once again my horse had “won” and I had failed to convince him of anything.
“Now. I mean it.” Four little words that that echoed in my ears to be followed by “because I said so” in my mind … this was not the relationship I desired nor was there joy in the dance when safety was always a worry.
My little black horse’s name is Mannah. I bought him as a green broke 4 year old who won best in show in hand mostly because he carried himself around the arena like he was a 17hh Friesian Stallion when in reality he was a “Canadian Horse” gelding. The Canadian Horse descended from the French stock Louis XIV sent to Canada in the late 17th century. The origins of the breed are believed to be from the French Norman, Breton, Arab, Andalusian and Spanish Barb descent. They are know as the Little Iron Horse who are easy keepers with large feet, and often large attitude.
I bought him because I liked all this magnificent bravado energy in the way he carried himself, he would be a wonderful dance partner, however at that time I had no idea the level of challenge I had chosen to partner with.
Although some Canadian Horses are known for their stubbornness I wondered if I had just bought the wrong match. One trainer told me the only time he’d been attacked was by a Canadian Stallion and just shook his head at me in dismay at my choice in equine companion. Over time I learnt my horse would do almost anything the FIRST time I asked because he had to figure it out – that was fun, it was a game and he liked it. It was the second timing asking that was always the problem because I could always see the “why should I” in his eyes and on many days “Ya? You and who’s army are gonna make me?”. This attitude did not allow for many 20 meter circles in the arena!
Luckily for me I’d been following Carolyn’s Method, from afar reading everything I could find but never having the courage to travel and study with her directly. Then the universe worked it’s magic and gave me literally a giant shove as I began working with Carolyn’s Online School and then began studying the Waterhole Rituals directly with her. I was able to share endless stories of my stubborn Little Iron Horse. Though reading the blog is very informative with lots of lessons, the only way to truly understand the complexity and depth of her work was to immerse myself in the method and experience it directly from Carolyn. Her approach is so unique that to make the shift you need to be guided by her. The power of the approach truly needs to be experienced through direct contact with Carolyn.
My horse was just was not optimistic about life. Everything was a fight. Everything was a problem. Or was it? After hearing Carolyn share how important it was to stay focused on the positive I began to see how I rarely if ever did that. Developing the bond from complete freedom through her liberty training method and then working on training in the desired behaviors into my horse was a new mindset for me. Before I was always distraught that when I left the barn my horse “had won” again. Through the Waterhole Rituals I was able to find the YES in my horse and it has been an amazing journey. Not only have I been able to find his Yes, more often I find myself becoming more optimistic about life too.
Power of the Pause I found discovering *the power of the pause* came from the practice of the Waterhole Rituals. When something wasn’t working I had to pause, figure it out and try something new. I didn’t have to force and make it happen. Maybe my horse wasn’t ready for this task. Maybe it wasn’t clear what I was asking. Maybe I didn’t have a magnetic connection that day. Instead of feeling once again my horse had “won” because we had a fight, I began to find it interesting and question why did he do that? What is going on here? What is working? What can I get him to do? Now this all may sound simple but in the heat of the moment when I was so quick to criticize and focus on what wasn’t working – pausing and finding something that did work and then moving to the next step of training created a huge shift in our training sessions. It isn’t even that I need to wait till the next day to try the task again… often just pausing and not fighting/forcing I can see my horses’ expression change “oh you mean you aren’t going to make me? … hmmm ok well so now we are just standing here so let’s do something!”
The Waterhole Rituals gave me a practice that I could follow to play with my horse but also develop a better connection and clearer communication all the while staying safe. I began working on my focus and timing and became acutely aware of where my horse’s energy was moving. As Carolyn reiterated in last week’s blog “You never force your horse to give up his resistance or pay any attention to it.” it was this new mindset for me that lead to the many breakthroughs that I’ve had with Mannah. Just this year I am able to companion walk with him at a trot/canter as I ran as fast as I could (albeit brief) next to him. The reason this was such a breakthrough for me was I could get Mannah to listen when he was connected and his energy was calm and low. As soon as I heightened his energy, the challenge would come out and the rough play would be too much – he would no longer be connected and safe. He would shoulder check me or just take off with a buck and a fart. He couldn’t modulate his energy enough to be safe next to me yet expressive. For me this is the biggest joy when I dance with him. I love all that bravado and that I can channel his energy for good not evil. 😉 And the beauty is it can all happen in the moment. We can have the full energy of dance with each other; he can fly around the arena one moment and come cuddle the next.
Dear Carolyn, Thank-you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your knowledge of horse behaviour with us all, as it is through your work that we can make this a better deal for horse and human. And now I can FEEL and understand what my Nia instructor would often say “move through grace and towards ease”… it is through the Waterhole Rituals that I have found the pause of grace and the ease of movement.
Waterhole Rituals for Wellness in Canada. It is from this dance of freedom and relationship that I feel when I am with my horse that I wish to share with more people inspired by the Carolyn Resnick Method. If you are located in Canada and would be interested in a 2 day clinic, The Waterhole Rituals for Wellness ~ please contact me.