Friday, March 19, 2010

Carolyn Resnick

I've been meaning to write this post for about a week now but all my creative writing juices seem to be going into my assignments at the moment. Probably the best place for them to go but I miss writing here.

Anyway, a friend lent me the DVD of Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals. Her explanation of how she wants to train her horse and how she wants to be her horses leader match really closely with what I want. I like how her method is based on the natural interactions of horses in the wild herds she has studied. however this is also a downfall which I'll explain a bit later. Her theory is that there are certain rituals of interaction that horses follow in a herd. There is some dominance based stuff like one step called Taking Territory which involves chasing a horse off his food and keeping him away until you are ready for him to eat his food. But it is mixed with a lot of trust building and leadership defining.

Step 1 - Sharing Space
Step 2 - Saying Hello
Step 3 - Taking Territory
Step 4- Leading from behind
Step 5 - Eye Contact
Step 6 - Magnetic connection
Step 7 - Come up and Go trot

Her website is

We are slowly working through the steps. We can get to step 5 without too many difficulties but after that things kind of fall apart, so much more work is needed on those initial steps. They are fun to do and at the moment Fox seems to be willing to go with it.

While her concepts appeal to me and the methods she goes about them are generally agreeable to me, it is still too much about being the 'alpha horse'. I believe that leads to problems and still prefer the attraction based training aka clicker training so I throw a bit more of that in. The main point of me not wanting to be the 'alpha horse' is that I don't want a horse/horse relationship, I want a horse/human relationship.

The good thing is that these two methods are pretty compatible so I'm just mixing and matching and going with what feels right. Liberty training is another thing that I like and is the same as attraction based training. You are giving the horse the option to be with you and your goals are to make him want to be with you.

So yet again, another perspective. I really like the fact that I am now confident enough to say yes I like that bit of your training and that bit of another persons and no I don't like that bit and being able to melding them into something that works for Fox and I which I think is the number one goal of interacting with your horse.

An update on where Fox and I are in our rehab. The stiffness is mostly gone, still noticeable but only if your looking for it. We are up to half an hour hand walks which Fox is still loving. I took him up the hill behind his paddock a few days ago to start getting those butt muscles working again. I also want to start pole work but the arena is still closed grrrrrrr, apparently the ground is too hard now. But it's ok for her horse to graze on and run round like a mad thing whenever Fox and I walk past -eyeroll-. All I want to do is walk Fox over a few poles. But I knew I would have problems moving back here. The grass is almost all gone too so I'm on the lookout for another place again -sigh-.

So we're getting there and I hope in a few weeks I will be able to have my first ride!


  1. She has interested me for quite some time so thanks for the information. I would like to watch a DVD sometime as reading her blog is not enough for me to understand what is going on. I am with you on not wanting to spend a lot of time focusing on the "domination" or herd leader mentality. I don't know if you have read any of Karen Pryor yet but I just finished "reaching the Animal Mind" and I really enjoyed it. It goes into the history of clicker training and gives many stories, studies and advise about clicker training.

  2. I'm thrilled about Fox's recovery! Keep up the good work! Of course it would be great for his muscles to walk over poles... too bad that it's not working out. Another thing to get his butt muscles working is to back him up little hills. I know it sounds insane, but maybe you could give it a try if Fox is good at backing in a straight line.

    For the Horse/horse - Horse/human realtionship, horses kind of see you as another horse... you come and go from the herd, so it's hard for them to understand what is okay to do here. When I got my horse, she was the only horse around. She thought I was her horse buddy and it escaladed until my sister got a full kick to the chest. She's okay today, but that changed my whole perspective about horses. So I started being snarky with her. Never letting her too close to me, chasing her off of her food and making her move whenever I felt like it. I also programmed myself to never move when she came too close, but to push her back if she did step inside my bubble. I vowed never to move and I started building trust with Dandy. Just the other day, she was so happy to see me, that she came running my way. I tested her, to see if she would stop before entering my bubble... she didn't show intention to stop, so I raised one hand and yelled "WHOA!" in a calm firm voice. She stopped immediatly by sitting on her hind legs. She then stood there until I allowed her to come closer... then stopped out of my bubble and I walked over to pet her.

    I can surely say that I am up to Step 6 with Dandy, she is glued to me and walks off lead with me all the time. I have done a bit of come Up and Go trot, but it is not enough to say that I have achieved that Step... I don't even know if she would still do it! Hahahaha! She does come up when I ask her and she does get out of the way with a flick of the hand, but I don't have control over how fast she moves away... Dandy is blind in one eye, so it hinders our ability to work well from the left... I still work from the left and always will, she is used to it now... but for other stuff where I am standing at a distance from her... I get either no response, or too strong of a response.

    Anyways, by fear of trailing off (I think I did already), I will stop now! lol

    Keep up the good work with Fox, you'll be happy with the results!

  3. Golden - yes the website is a bit frustrating. Tells you not quite enough info to get you going. The DVD is really good definately worth trying to find. Thanks for that other name, I'll have a look.

    Dandy - Thanks for those tips on working Fox's butt. Never would have thought to back up hills!
    This horse dominance thing for me is very tricky as yes I do do a bit, I chase him out of my personal space and away from food and make him stay away etc. These things do seem like sensible things to do, however I have done a lot of research on positive reinforcement v pressure and release and dominance based training and there is so much evidence that positive reinforcement training is a lot more beneficial to both the animal being trained and the human. Unfortunately knowing these things makes it hard for me to work purely on dominance. Even the American Veterinary Association has a very low view of dominance based training after all these new studies have been done. I'm not saying that dominance based training doesn't work it obviously does as seen in the massive followings of Pat Parelli and Caesar Milan the dog trainer. But that's not the way I want the majority of my interactions with my animals to be.