It’s been many years since I hauled a horse over 500 miles to an event, and generally it was to an endurance ride. This time, Patches (my non-endurance horse) and I just returned from the Carolyn Resnick Waterhole Rituals Clinic held at Spirit Horse Ranch near Oklahoma City. Hosted by certified Carolyn Resnick trainer, Ruella Yates, the two-day Waterhole Rituals clinic was an amazing event for all who attended. The clinic was followed by two days of lessons. The horses and people made great strides under Carolyn’s tutelage. What I love about this method is that there is always something more to learn. Even though I know the rituals, I learn them deeper each time I see Carolyn work or read her blog.
For me and Patches, it was a rite of passage. Over the past year, Patches has survived a serious bout with pneumonia and some other physical problems, and I have only just begun having the children ride him again. During this time we have worked on the Waterhole Rituals a great deal because he loves them and responds beautifully. After my visit to Carolyn’s “Beyond The Waterhole Rituals” clinic last December, Patches saw me dance with the other horses and ran the fence whinnying until I came to get him to let him try too. Of my three horses, he is my most enthusiastic dancer and liberty trained horse.
All this I can attribute to Carolyn’s Waterhole Rituals and the way she has inspired me. The friendships I made at the December clinic have endured – particularly my friendship with Ruella Yates, at whose ranch this week’s event was held. Ruella’s ranch, that she and her husband Skeetz manage beautifully, is home to five horses. It was the perfect setting for a clinic with her green pastures that curve around an arena the perfect size for doing liberty work.
Carolyn taught the Waterhole Rituals using one mare who had not ever experienced them before, as well as some horses who had been trained in some or all of the rituals. It was interesting to see the evolution of each horse from where they were to who they could become in her hands. The two days of lessons following the clinic brought many wonderful surprises to those who have been practicing the rituals for awhile.
Since Patches and I had been asked by Carolyn to do a dancing demo, we did that. None of us were sure that Patches would dance with me; he had met a mare he fell in love with, the beautiful Sophie, a Thoroughbred-Draft cross, and he wanted to stay with her. I’ve never seen him get so attached to any one horse, although he is generally friendly and kind. Although Sophie is a bossy mare, by the end of our visit, Patches, who is always low man, was leading her from behind and able to eat out of the same haybag with her sometimes. It was interesting to watch this herd behavior and relationship develop over the week.
Patches was amazing in our dancing demo, although he usually moves faster in the dance in his home environment and offers some leaping at times. In this clinic setting, he kept his attention with me. I did not lose him to the gate going back out to Sophie as I thought I might, rather he stayed and kept tempo with me as we had done together numerous times.
This was followed by my lesson with Carolyn, in which worked on an area she noticed where he drops off from me and I haven’t been able to figure out why he did that. Her way of addressing that was truly in the moment and offered him a world of possibilities so that he could maintain an even deeper connection. She did the Uberstreichen exercises with him, which are exercises done using the halter in order to soften the horse’s poll and his view of life. I have had difficulty with these which I believe is due to the training he had prior to his coming to me. I can work on his poll using bodywork but it is the exercise piece that continues to support the softening. Because of Carolyn’s fine work, he could bend where he had been stiff, he became light on his feet where he tends to fall on the forehand, he flowed more smoothly with her than he ever could with me. I do believe the work is timeless and I can only hope that someday I might be able to have my horse do the things he could do with Carolyn.
All the lessons were informative, not just my own. Watching what Carolyn thought to do with each horse, always in the moment, always spontaneous, taught me so much about trusting instincts rather than simply going with what I had known to be true ahead of time. Horses we worked with included a dominant leader, who had at one time been vicious to other horses, to a former carriage horse, to wild-spirited minis, a shy Welsh pony and a Paint, all of whom had previous ritual experience. They all blossomed further with their owners and Carolyn.
Patches has been low man with the other horses he lives with and has been picked on, usually getting bites or kicks. Since he has come back from Oklahoma, no one has bothered him. I wonder if spending time with Sophie raised his self-esteem, and definitely working with Carolyn gave him a feel that he had not had before, lightening his whole being. My friend Claudia said that a long trip like that can also give horses confidence, so I’m guessing the entire experience has changed him for the better.
You can read Carolyn Resnick’s account of the clinic on her blog http://carolynresnickblog.com
More on the clinic can be found at the Spirit Horse Ranch website http://libertyfoundations.com.