Spring Santa Fe Clinic builds the working bond with horses

Each liberty clinic forms a community. Some of the six attendees at the March 30th clinic held in Santa Fe at Arrowhead Ranch knew something about the Waterhole Rituals by Carolyn Resnick before coming, and some did not know them at all. We started out getting a feeling for the Rituals with a short video. In the arena, we worked at first with each other, which helps to ground everyone and helps them get the rhythm of motion with a horse. Later we would see how to adjust energy to each individual horse’s needs.

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Six people worked with five horses on various rituals. The people came from as far away as the Texas border. Attendees all had stories of why they had come. Mostly everyone was looking for another way to be with horses. Some had had great success in the show ring with reining, cutting, working cow horse, dressage or in other facets of horse life, and wanted to deepen their relationship. Some were new horse owners who wanted to know how to proceed with their horses.

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We had two horses who had traveled together in the arena at once, to demonstrate introductory Rituals. Even the simple “leading from behind” was difficult for one horse, who was not able to allow a human to be behind her. The diversity among horses was incredible – a little bay Arab named Storm took us all by storm as he demonstrated companion walking beautifully with a couple of attendees besides his owner. There was a certain joyousness to this little horse that he brought back into the arena a second time to do more Rituals.

One horse, Jack, wanted to play and leap around. He had a lot of fun demonstrating taking territory. Horses watched each other and learned. Roxy watched carefully then quickly showed the attendees how to do a ritual with real pizzazz – adding in some free lunging.  Another mare made strides as she replaced s0me fear with curiosity, moving into a better connection with her owner.Screen Shot 2013-04-05 at 8.35.57 AM

What was apparent was the very flexibility of the Rituals. How they can be tailored for each horse we encounter, according to where they are in their development. Beyond the basic steps, the Waterhole Rituals have the ability to expand and contract the way a horse herd itself would. With some horses we moved forward into drawing and sending, with others we stayed with sharing space and piles of hay, developing within that context nuances and shifts whereby the horses were able to achieve successes.

A sensitivity to horses is something that is necessary to this horse work. It is not just about doing, although there are seven steps, or Rituals. The abilities to lower and raise your energy, match your energy to a horse’s sometimes, and mirror their behaviors must be learned. Some horses come with unresolved trauma. Others are curious and joyful. The combination of the owner and the horse is a key factor that we are also looking at. How do they work and play together?  As the late Ray Hunt said, “You’re not working on the horse, you’re working on yourself.”

It is that piece that I aim to teach. The piece that many horse trainers have known they needed to teach but find so hard to teach. As one attendee said with a smile on her face, “Horses make you look at your own stuff.” Yes, it is as much about us as it is about the horse. Developing the working bond, while dealing with our own human-ness. I am so grateful to Carolyn for codifying this language.

As an instructor, I can feel energetically when it is not working. I want you to feel it too. I want to show how to watch your own energy – why is this horse not able to move its feet? Why does this horse keep avoiding connection? Why does this horse crowd you when companion walking? Sometimes the owner feels at a loss as to how to connect. It’s not just about being nice to horses. Loving them. It is so much more.

Screen Shot 2013-04-05 at 8.29.54 AMIf a horse will work well in tack but not connect at liberty, then a working bond has not been established. If a horse can carry you all over the countryside but not walk with you at liberty, then he is doing it by rote, and you may feel something is missing. He may be trying to please you. Sometimes a horse that has been traumatized in her previous life will do everything asked like a good student, but not really “engage” with you. Sometimes a horse may do a Ritual such as leading from behind just fine with other horses, but evade it with a person.  Once the horse has a choice in his life with you, a deeper working connection can be formed. Only by doing the ritual work will the blank spaces in the training be revealed, and you can find how to meet this horse and nourish his life.

When you are at liberty with your horse you can feel the connection – an invisible cord that runs between you. Sometimes the horse moves away and the connection is broken, but you can re-connect again. Don’t take it personally. It’s a process, not a destination. Give him wings to fly to you.

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Private sessions, clinics, tutorials and gift certificates are available for bodywork and liberty work, by calling 505.501.2478 or emailing susansmith@orthohorse.info

My upcoming Horses at Liberty Foundation Clinic will be held May 25-26 in Santa Fe. Learn from a Suggested Trainer of the Carolyn Resnick Method. If you’re thinking of visiting Santa Fe, this might be the time!  Contact me if interested!



3 thoughts on “Spring Santa Fe Clinic builds the working bond with horses

  1. Great blog again, Susan. I was happy you wrote more about establishing a ‘working bond’. That makes a big difference in horse work and the whole relationship.

    1. Thanks, Ruella. The working bond comes up in the clinic setting because there is such love between people and their horses. Yet they are puzzled because something isn’t working for them. The working bond as we both know, is the missing piece! 🙂

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