Direct Your Horse at Liberty to Follow Your Lead Like a Herding Dog

Feb 15, 2021

I have had horses all my life and started training for competition at the early age of ten in Indio, Ca. on my family's ranch. My approach was to bring a horse along in creative ways.  Before I started a horse in training, I made them a family pet from the ground first, and then I creatively developed the horse for riding and showing. It was easy for me because of the bond I shared with my horses. By the time I was 14 years old, I had trained and showed three horses successfully — Mustang, who was a Mustang, in Western pleasure, Muretta Marjolaine, an American Saddlebred mare, in three gated park horse classes, and Rizeta, an Arabian mare, in English and western pleasure. 

I would have never thought of teaching my training methods to others if it hadn’t been for my experience working for Augie Handley at Shadowland in La Jolla, CA. When he hired me, my job was to start off-the-track racehorses for junior riders and give hunter and jumper lessons in equitation. Augie encouraged me to think for myself and develop classes the way I chose to. I learned how to educate horses and riders in creative ways. 

It was a large barn of 150 horses, as I remember. I was there for two years and then left. I loved my job, but it was too physical. I was exhausted. I worked six days a week, starting before sunrise and ending at nightfall. Later in my life, bit by bit, my stamina grew.  

At Augie’s school, he encouraged me to teach the programs I developed. I have been a creative teacher ever since. The first class was with 60 children in jumping equitation.  

When I started with my first junior riders, their equitation looked like they could ride well and knew what they were doing with a balanced seat. However, it only appeared that they had a  balanced seat. I learned very quickly that they easily tumbled off if a horse took a wrong turn.  They had no idea where a horse might go or how a horse processes going over a fence or how to rate a horse moving into a fence.  It takes time to learn these things, and I was bound and determined to speed up their progress. I  focused on fun games instead of equitation over fences.

I started with gymkhana games and added a few jumps in the mix.  We even did a scripted play, acting out Robin Hood adventures on horseback, they learned how to ride hard and fast. That was easy. Kids like to ride fast once they get the hang of it. The play allowed me to put new children in easy riding roles and more advanced riders into fast riding roles. When the children advanced, they chose the roles they wanted. We had costumes and music. The children in the class were rearing to go and learned to direct their horses easily. If I needed to step in for guidance, it was welcomed. 

Studying equitation over fences can be challenging and confusing. Focusing on how to ride can turn a child into thinking they might not measure up. Some have a hard time taking directions and riding at the same time.  They get into thinking too much or not enough. Running with abandon brought the horse and rider together as a unified team.  

It turned out that staying away from typical equitation lessons quickly developed my students into outstanding competitors.

I  ended up owning and operating a school of horsemanship in Sonoma, CA, known as Dances with Horses. It ran there for over 20 years and is still running at our locations in Escondido, California, Santa Cruz, California, and Costa Rica. The school focused on liberty, show, and dressage training. I taught my unique method of riding and training at liberty. My approach was to develop a horse that enjoys learning and performing. 

Today I have online classes that I teach with my business partner, Nancy Zinsmaster. I have been teaching online courses and distance coaching now for ten years.  My focus is teaching Liberty to horses to bring both horses and humans together in a more profound way. The class is not focused on training. It is about partnership building to develop better horsemanship skills. I felt this was a missing element in gaining a horse’s trust and cooperation to be intuitively connected with their human partner. It is a horsemanship program focused on a series of exercises that I call The Waterhole Rituals that develop a bond, trust, respect, willingness, and focus between the horse and human. In all my years of training and showing, The Waterhole Rituals were the reason why my horses performed so well in competition.  

An Example of a Creative Exercise in the Online Course

One of the exercises in The Waterhole Rituals is called Five Piles of Hay. It simulates pasture life. In this exercise, students direct a horse to different piles of hay. Julie, a dear friend and student of mine, came up with an added element to the game that I want to share with you today; it is quite brilliant.  

When the horse is not looking, hide a piece of carrot in one of the piles of hay. Then, point, send or ask your horse to Companion Walk with you at liberty to where the carrot is hidden. 

In no time, after the horse gets the idea that you know where the ‘special’ pile is, the result is amazing.  It turns out that you can direct your horse in many ways. Your horse will pay close attention to you and easily follow your direction, bringing out a magical connection like a herding dog with his/her master.  

The best part is that it is fun, fun, fun!!  

Try it out; your horse will thank you for it!! 

May the horse be with you and stay on the lookout for new horse and human sightings. 

Warmly, Carolyn Resnick

P.S - Wait, there's more.  If you would like to learn more about my Liberty Training method, I have a gift for you!

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