To talk about my work I must talk about the giant on whose shoulders I stand.
The Carolyn Resnick Method has been called the “training before training”, “beyond the ‘whisper’” or “the foundation for all equestrian pursuits”.
Carolyn Resnick created the concept and definition of Liberty Training in the 70’s, when she published a video by the same name.
Liberty Training is a method of training a horse in a free environment without tack from the ground in a wide open space large enough for a horse to avoid his training if he wants to.
For over 50 years Carolyn has trained horses and riders in both western disciplines and in classical and modern dressage. She spent 25 years breeding and training Arabian horses in her ranch, Stonehenge Arabians/Dances with horses, and It was there that the equestrian world began to know her work, which led to clinics and exhibitions throughout the USA. Nowadays, in her ranch in Escondido, California, she teaches people from all over the world –and all ages— to nurture a deep connexion with their horses, a bond that doesn’t depend on ropes, fences, or treats.
But what truly sets Carolyn’s work apart from all other horse training methods is its origin. This method, which encompasses the complete training of the horse, from the first encounter with an untouched colt all the way up to haute école performances, is not founded upon any equestrian tradition. Carolyn’s method is the result of the education she received from the original teachers: wild horses.
In her autobiographical book, Naked Liberty, Carolyn recounts three summers of her childhood, during which she approached a herd of wild horses, was accepted into it and eventually built a friendship with all of its members, up to a point where the lead mare invited Carolyn to ride her.
All of this with no tack; in fact, with no training at all.
Carolyn learned from wild horses the rituals they use to keep order and harmony in the herd. Because the herd’s hierarchy becomes apparent in the order in which they drink, she called them the Waterhole Rituals. By understanding these rituals, we humans can establish deep personal relationships with horses, developing their character so that they share with us their sense of loyalty and astounding intelligence. This is the foundation for Liberty Training.
Energetic movements –once a bond is in place—bring out a whole new horse that enjoys learning what we present him with, and may even come to propose some movements of his own, filled with his natural expressivity.
Why at liberty?
Because horses in nature don’t corner each other, let alone tie each other up, to communicate or address pecking order issues. Their communication takes place mainly in open spaces where they can move freely. If we humans are the smarter of the two, it is only logical that we learn their language and their rules of behaviour. That is, if we really want to communicate with them.
At liberty we develop our horse’s desire to be close to us, their respect, trust, willingness, concentration, responsiveness and, eventually, a magnetic bond like the one amongst horses in a herd. At liberty we can see clearly the actual relationship we have with our horse.
And what is it good for?
For shaping our horse’s character and for educating them through a natural and common language; while at the same time nurturing a true bond that leads to a communication that is as subtle and sophisticated as it is easy.
The Rituals are focused on the qualities of the bond at liberty, but the positive effects of this new communication spontaneously reflect on the horse’s behaviour under saddle.
Which types of horses is it for?
Any type of horse at any stage of training. The Waterhole Rituals can be the foundation for starting a colt, a complement for the education of a grown horse or a way to improve the quality of life of a pasture companion or a retired horse.
Why is it called The Foundation for All Equestrian Pursuits?
Because it is. The Waterhole Rituals can be used parallel to usual training without changing the routine: one session of Liberty Training immediately before the usual training session constitutes a physical and psychological warm up; it also rekindles the emotional bond and magnetic connection with our horse. A work session or a simple trail ride, with the bond in place, become pleasant and exceptional experiences for both rider and horse.
Sports riders find in Liberty Training a way towards a more intimate connection under saddle, a more comfortable and effective communication. This reflects on horse that is more self-confident and becomes imbued with a sense of loyalty.
Exhibit horse trainers and handlers can develop a champion performance, with movements full of that brilliance and true exuberance that come from the horse’s intention to show himself. And none of that anxiety that is so often found in these horses.
Finally, those who find pleasure riding their horse on the trail or just sharing their company can enjoy themselves and grow getting to know a new horse, with many more sides to him than you imagined.
In moments like this I am not focused on training the horse. Here, I am deepening on a key aspect of the relationship: the magnetic bond between us. However, the “side effects” are already visible.
How is it done?
To work at liberty we need a spacious place in which the horse feels comfortable. Almost any space will do: from a closed arena (never a round pen) to a valley or a mountain without fences. Wherever we choose to work, we provide hay (if there is no grass) and water that we allow the horse to access at will.
As for us, we just need an element to enhance our gestures. A medium sized whip, a thin wicker stick or a tree branch will do the trick, as long as we know how to move them without being abrupt or hitting the horse. But ideally, we will work with a reed or something as soft and flexible that will transmit fluid movements and will not hurt the horse if we touch him by accident.
Horses communicate with each other mainly through movements, postures and gestures, whose efficiency depends mostly on the intention of the performer, and barely on their physical condition. In the world of horses, hierarchy is based upon qualities like attention, an awareness of the herd’s needs and the ability to alternate between a nurturing leadership and a directive one.
Through the Waterhole Rituals we may develop games like “longeing with no longe line”. These allow the natural movements of the horse to surface without having to force anything. A horse’s motion gains a lot when he moves while playing and being drawn to something, rather than being coerced or because he is avoiding a stimulus. This demands, on the part of the trainer, full attention and great body awareness, two qualities we can develop naturally through the rituals. The reward is unmeasurable.
The Rituals give us behaviour guidelines to educate our horse, working with their tendencies and instincts, not against them.
When we give a horse the choice to be with us or not, our natural leadership emerges. A leadership that doesn’t need manuals or special tools, as it is always present in the moment. And true communication begins.
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