How and why my Seven Steps of Liberty Training developed into the Waterhole Rituals

This was a very good question from Elizabeth in Thursday’s classroom and I thought it would be useful to share my answer with you too.

Elizabeth’s question was how the 7 steps of liberty training I taught in my first video Liberty Training are related to the Waterhole Rituals. Well, the short answer is that they are basically the same although I have obviously continued to develop my Method a great deal since that first video came out. For example, the 7 steps of liberty training I taught back then didn’t incorporate treats as a training aid and the video did not go into as much detail and had fewer related programs.

I realized over many years that I needed to give people more information on how to use my Method because most people have little practice in interacting with a horse without fences or tack. I needed to find a way to give the horse more reason to want to connect with a human and “food” was the answer. By introducing the use of treats, it helped to develop the bond and keep the horse motivated to figure out what the person might want when the person was not clear and giving mixed signals.

The Liberty Training DVD helped a lot of people all over the world for twenty years or more and I continue to sell it to both long-time and newer students. Some people do not want to use treats and some horses actually don’t work well with treats. Some people, after they have the Waterhole Rituals down, would like to develop their skills even further where treats are not used. The original Method still serves a purpose for many people but I would not suggest it for new people just starting out.

In the beginning, there were many reasons that I did not use treats, one being that the horse world was all in agreement that treats for training were not acceptable. Horses do not use treats to develop a bond or so I thought. I wanted to be sure that my horses were truly bonded to me and not to the treats. I wanted the horses to want my company and bond to me as deeply as horses bond to one another. I was looking for loyalty. I wanted to trust that the bond and respect happened like it does in nature where there are no fences. I also did not want to use any sort of manipulation that you would not find with horses in nature. I wanted to prove to myself I had a real ability to communicate with a horse in the same manner horses communicate with each other. I wanted to prove my theory that the instinctual social rituals of horses that I discovered could be used by people to develop a working bond with horses. I needed to determine if I could train a horse exactly the way horses trained horses, by creating a working bond that would open a natural door enabling me to ride them. This did not, in my mind, include using food as horses do not “bribe” other horses.

On further reflection however, I realized that significant communication does occur amongst herd members in relation to food. Rather than bribery, it is based on setting boundaries around access to food. After running a herd mate off a food source, a horse will then share the food with the displaced horse provided appropriate respect is shown. This sharing, including whisker touching ceremonies, clearly involved a food reward.

So I then realized that food does play a natural part. I had seen the whisker touching ceremony as a separate interaction from the horse’s ceremonies of establishing personal boundaries. By shifting my viewpoint, I discovered that horses give food rewards and this gave rise to the answer on how to use food rewards and consequently how The Seven Steps morphed into the Waterhole Rituals and how they differ.

In my original DVD I did not go into as much detail with people. Because in my life at that time people were not that interested in horse behavior, they just wanted the connection they saw I had. Some people thought that I used a round pen for training. In the DVD it shows me working in a round pen part of the time to instruct the viewer. In fact, I only used the round pen to have the camera set up I needed to show specific points of the training. However, I do use a round pen to train a horse but much later in his training after the bond and respect are established and we have developed a partnership and teamworking skills at liberty with my Method. Then I use the round pen to develop the gaits of the horse, to develop three speeds of walk trot and canter. Once the bond is firmly established, the round pen can be a relaxing place that brings out a great work ethic in a horse because there is no place to go, so the horse gets into the rhythm of the gaits in walk, trot and canter nicely.

As any method develops over time, there will be changes. My Method has changed to more support the growing interest in bonding with horse which was always my interest anyway. Using food speeds up the bonding and exposes the aggressive side of a horse more than it would without food. It is important to find his dominate nature so you can shape his behavior into being polite and respectful. The process creates friendship. The Method works a lot faster and is easier and more supportive.

Another thing that is different is that nowadays I put a lot more emphasis on “Sharing Territory” and what can take place in these moments that is so valuable. I cannot stress too highly the incredible benefit there is to just spending time with your horse. You should never under-estimate the value this will bring you and I advise you to not to skip over this Ritual because you think that nothing is happening – because it most definitely is.

So, what do I use today? I use treats and if I find a horse that works better without them, I have the old method to fall back on. I cannot tell you how fulfilling it is for me to have the ability to win the trust, then the bond and then the respect with practically any horse and to then be able to move into a working partnership that is more dependable than even a well trained horse.

Which Method is better? That is a hard call. The Waterhole Rituals DVD does not need the Liberty Training DVD to have clarity. I made the Liberty Training DVD to be used with my clinics and so it needs more support from me. The (Introduction to the) Waterhole Rituals DVD was developed to stand alone and is obviously more my current style and approach with horses. Working a horse without treats definitely honed my skills and the Waterhole Rituals brought about a closeness that cannot be denied and is based on greater knowledge of horse behavior.

I do not therefore recommend the Liberty Training DVD over the Waterhole Rituals DVD for the reasons I mention above. It is however a part of my history and I’m sure the more experienced among you will still be able to learn something from it as you would by watching any experienced horse person at work.

By the way, several of you have been asking about when the full DVD set of the Waterhole Rituals is coming out. Unfortunately we have suffered some delays and setbacks but I hadn’t some positive news the other day about my former videographer perhaps coming to work with me again so I will let you know how that develops. In the meantime, if you have any questions on the subject of the 2 DVDs we talked about today, please feel free to ask and I will pick out several to answer.

If you have any topics that you would like me to write about on my Tuesday blogs, then let me know and maybe I will pick yours!

In fact, lets make it fun. For everyone that sends in a topic along with a self-addressed envelope (address below), I will send you a pair of UE whiskers. The whiskers are the small straps you attach to your horse’s halter that you use to do the UE exercises with. I will be selling the whiskers in the future for $10.00 a pair, plus shipping. We also will be sharing the pattern in how to make them out of leather although many people just use shoelaces. I look forward to hearing from you as ever.


P.S. Please send to your self-addressed envelop to my shipping address: Carolyn Resnick Method, 947 Eldorado Dr., Escondido, CA. 92025, USA.

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Gerry Corra - 4 years ago Reply

Nice Blog site. I’ll try to remember to visit frequently.

Catra - 6 years ago Reply

Dear Carolyn;
Yesterday I wrote on your blog how I had lost the bond with my horse (Key Largo) and I was seriously disappointed in myself. Well it rained here all day and I kept Key in her stall as we just got over having thrush from the last rains we had a few weeks ago.
I stayed with her all day in the stall next to hers. I went to sit in my chair and she called me to her so I came. She let me pet her all over her face and neck. Something she would normally walk away from. (She allowed me to groom her and clean her feet without any problems.) Then she turned completly around in her stall and started rubbing her tail on the door of her stall. Normally she would turn her butt toward me and start backing up to me, but she did not. She allowed me to comb out her tail for a couple hours. She’s had a very itchy dock so I’ve been spraying it with Listerine and this seems to be helping.
She layed down in her stall but only for a few minutes because when I went to sit down in my chair she stood up. Normally when we are outside, she will come lay next to me while I sit in my chair, but she will not let me touch her, so I don’t. I thought of going in the stall with her when she layed down, but because of how she is outside, I decided it was better not to, and just sit and wait in my chair.
She called me back over so I came to her. She just stood there inches from my face and went to sleep. She would pull away if I tried to pet her so I just stood there and waited. When she started snoring I realized she had gone to sleep. It was a very precious moment for me.
When she woke, she licked my hands and nibbled on me. It did not hurt but I let her know this was rude by pushing her away. She would then wait, but came back to try it again. Again I pushed her away and scolded her. Again she waited then came back and just nuzzeled me and I played with her whiskers and she seemed to really enjoy that.
Thank you for everything you are doing. I hope today goes as well.

Hannah Rivard - 6 years ago Reply

Hi Ms. Resnick,

Thank you for your informative response – your analogy to music was helpful for me. I know you’ve mentioned something like it before and I’m glad you said it again, because I think it connected with me on a deeper level this time. I am taking voice lessons now, as well, and the very deliberate, careful warm-ups my instructor is having me do, with so much a focus on clarity, purity, beauty, feeling, and relaxation, truly helps me see the analogy to horsemanship. Taking things slowly and allowing the purity to develop, like you said, seems slow but is so much faster.

It makes sense in another way, too. Deep down, I want my horse to truly understand, enjoy, and choose collection on his own, which seems like it would come more if it’s his own choice (as you are suggesting) versus me constantly seeking to “train” it.

I will keep you updated. 🙂

Have a super day!

Connie Funk - 6 years ago Reply

Hi Carolyn,
I was thinking of you so fondly today as I so often do when I am out with the herd observing and interacting. I had groomed them all and cleaned their feet at liberty and was moving in and around them scooping poop as they grazed. I often pause to focus on watching them individually and as a herd to see what small nuances I can detect to sharpen my antennae as a lover of horses. I have been horse sitting my friends mini mares for the winter as I have for several years and was taken with the difference in Gaela this year and how she uses the rituals with them differently. Last year was her first time with them and she wanted to be able to move and affect them from a distance like Chasta can. I could observe her watching Chasta and have her look so amazed at how she could affect their movement from another pasture over with just an eye and ear. She would stand and try the same ‘move’ and she reminded me of Samantha the witch from the old sitcom from the 50’s Bewitched who used to wiggle her nose to cast a spell. The problem with Gaela is that her nose wiggle and ears moving had no affect on these little mares! They were not necessarily above her in the pecking order–she just had no affect on them from that distance –they simply ignored her. They noticed, but did not make any effort to move. This went on for some time and Gaela was clearly frustrated but finally realized that she needed to be closer to her subjects. By the end of last year, she had no where near Chasta’s ability, but she could lead them from behind at a fairly close in range and they would oblige by walking off and stopping when she asked. Satisfied, Gaela would join them for grazing close together, their reward was her affection and protection.

Today I watched with delight to see that Chasta is still the master lead horse, but Gaela can now lead them from behind from quite a distance and at a relaxed pace and no big ear or nose wiggling, just a confidence that she gained from watching a lead horse and practice. It made me smile to watch her satisfaction over her gains and I truly knew how she felt to have patience and persistance pay off.

So I would love to have the topic be how other horses learn the rituals by watching their leaders and how they make small gains over time like we do. Doesn’t that sound fun?

crissea grovenor - 6 years ago Reply

Hi Carolyn

As a topic – I have my tiny herd of three horses all getting on very well.
Ransom is boss, Andre comes next and Rikki is the lowest on the pecking order. He is the calmest horse takes everything in his stride.

Ransom used to lead Andre from behind very agressively across the paddock, though threre was also obvious affection between them.
Rikki was introduced quite recently back with Andre and Ransom and they chewed him abit when I was not there and he was apprehensive.

After some work in the arena on each horse individually I found all the horses settled and they are very peaceful and relaxed now as a group.
Sharing territory with them in the paddock or in the stables or individually has been the main focus as they have been moved to another agistment.

I am now ready to start the WHR more fully.

Ransom does get anxious when I take Andre away from him. So I am interested to know whether I should continue to work with each horse on the WHR alone. Or whether I should sometimes have two horses together one being worked with and the other horse being the observer, and at what point would I work with the three horses together.
How do I best deal with Ransom and separation anxiety.


Carolyn Resnick - 6 years ago Reply

Dear Hannah,
the natural collection will come like magic. I want you to take it slow. If you take it slow you will find your horse will collect naturally from the practice of these exercies and the WR exercies. He will respond as if he is trained to collect with out any rein at all.

If you thing about it a method is something that is meant to be a short cute or the fastest and most direct way to get there. My mehtod is diffrent. It is the slowest way and the least direct and will get you there like magic and many cases faster than a fast method can.
If you connect and wait and connect and wait a method is hardly needed. The horse just offer more and more and you had little to do with the progress because it happened on its own. This is in reality what we are all wanting to find and if it is not I can tell you it is what the horse is looking for.
Remember to sit with your horse doing nothing and being in the moment. From sharing territory you will gain insights you would like to gain faster that any other way I can think of.
You play the piano. Think of being present in the moment doing nothing as a practice like scales are for the piano. The practice sharing territory with your horse will give you the the ability to ride the dance you are looking for.
Sharing territory will also help you with the question you asked for.
I have not weighed the whiskes yet I get back to you on that.
Thank you for your question,

Farah - 6 years ago Reply

I find it interesting to work both with food and without. I always try to keep things in balance so if I feel food is becoming too much of the focus then I use it less or just give it to share when we are not playing or working on something. I do like to use it to work with very food oriented horses to teach them respectfulness with me an others who may do the care in the barn. I like to work the Liberty exercises both ways. Sometimes with food and sometimes without just to feel how it changes the feel.

Sandie Hucal - 6 years ago Reply

Hi Stina,

I have a herd of 9 horses and 4 donkeys, all but one of which are rescues. I just started working with the WHR’s since recently getting back from a clinic with Carolyn, so it’s too early for me to comment on the difference with the donkeys. A couple of my donkeys have been abused and are very timid, so I will just have to take it slowly.

I would also love to see a clip of you working with your donkeys if you have one.


Forest Horse - 6 years ago Reply

I too am interested in Donkey Rituals. Stina do you have any footage of working with your donkeys?

I watched this footage last night of elephants. I think you all will love it. There is only a little bit about the death and mourning actually.

stina - 6 years ago Reply

Hi Sandy,

I would just like to leave a quick comment about donkeys.
I have two Donkeys and train them with the waterhole rituals, it works wonderful.

Are you working with the waterhole rituals and if you do, how do you experience it different from working with horses?

My experience is that it works the same.

Greetings from St. Vincent
(have 6 horses and 2 donkies)

Hannah Rivard - 6 years ago Reply

Hello Ms. Resnick,

What an interesting explanation of the aspects of your method, as expressed both in your original DVD and your more recent ones. It is neat to see how they both combine to provide a very holistic method.

One blog topic idea I had was this: After completing the UEs with a halter and lead, if a person wanted to do them with a neckrope/cordeo and lead, how would he go about that?

I’m also interested in learning to develop collection at liberty, but I realize that’s not quite the realm of the UEs, which are to develop float, relaxation, and softness specifically within tack.

As far as sending in for the “whiskers,” I would love to do that. Can they fit in a regular business size envelope? If so, do you have an idea of how much they weigh/how many stamps need to be on the envelope?

Thank you!
Hannah Rivard

Marja van Run - 6 years ago Reply

This morning another subject for a blog topic popped into my mind, a question I have been thinking of for quite some time now.
In my herd of seven Icelandic horses I can observe each of the Waterhole Rituals being displayed daily and I always love to watch them. However, there’s one behaviour I often see in my herd, but miss in the seven WHR’s: leading in front (and thus – obviously – being lead in front). One of my mares in particular, who is very docile, loves being lead by other horses. I’m sure there’s absolutely no dominance involved in her behaviour, she just follows, nose-to-tail, with her eyes almost closed (as if in a trance) and goes wherever the horse in front of her takes her. This mare displays this behaviour far more pronounced than my other horses, but from time to time they all seem to like just ‘following the leader’.
In the WHR we have ‘Leading from behind’ and ‘Companion walking’, where in the first ritual a horse leads (drives) the one in front of him and in the latter ritual horses are walking side by side, but why is the situation where a horse leads the one behind him not part of the WHR we humans do with our horses? Is it perhaps because of the risk of being nipped (or worse) by the horse behind us (which you describe in your WHR DVD)? Do you agree however that it is another form of leading?
Would love to learn your viewpoint on this :-).

Andrea Schwiegel - 6 years ago Reply

OOps, sorry, I sent my comment twice!

Andrea Schwiegel - 6 years ago Reply

It’s always very fascinating to read what you write, Carolyn, and since I’ve signed up in your Blog, I’ve learned so much about horses and my perception of them has completely changed. I am now studying with both of your DVD’s, Waterhole Rituals and also Liberty Training (that finally arrived – I was so worried that it got lost on the long way to Italy), and I find we need both of them to have a complete Idea of your method and how to apply it to different horses. We have to observe the horse very well before we decide how to approach it. It’s really a life-long study, so I think I’ll be occupied for the rest of my life ! :))
I have one question regarding the eye-contact, if I got it right. If the horse does not react to it and does not move his back, do I always have to drive him off the food? Just to establish who’s the leader.And after that invite him again to come and share the food with me?

As for possible topics I have some proposals:

1. How should we compose a herd with horses that didn’t grow up together ? One male with several females or can we put more males with females together?
How should we introduce a newcomer to the herd? Should we intervene or leave them to themselves?

2. How should we approach desensitived horses, that are really fed up with people and how to begin working with them in liberty?

3. I would love to hear your opinion on the topic “barefoot versus horse-shoes”. We have not many experts on that in my region. I heard opinions that also orthopaedic shoes do more harm to the hoof than no shoes. I don’t know, if that’s a topic to discuss here, but if anybody knows hoof-experts in Italy in my region (I live near Rome), I’d be grateful to hear from you.

As to body-language I’d like to leave a comment: Elizabeth says, that some people have this natural gift. I believe that everybody has this, but has forgotten about it, as we are so conditioned in our daily life, which reflects also in our movements. They are more mecanical than natural. Being with horses helps us to let the tension in our bodies go and let the movement flow. Be more in our body than in our head.
My best regards

Andrea Schwiegel - 6 years ago Reply

It’s always very fascinating to read what you write, Carolyn, and since I’ve signed up in your Blog, I’ve learned so much about horses and my perception of them has completely changed. I am now studying with both of your DVD’s, Waterhole Rituals and also Liberty Training (that finally arrived – I was so worried that it got lost on the long way to Italy), and I find we need both of them to have a complete Idea of your method and how to apply it to different horses. We have to observe the horse very well before we decide how to approach it. It’s really a life-long study, so I think I’ll be occupied for the rest of my life ! :))
I have one question regarding the eye-contact, if I got it right. If the horse does not react to it and does not move his back, do I always have to drive him off the food? Just to establish who’s the leader.And after that invite him again to come and share the food with me?

As for possible topics I have some proposals:

1. How should we compose a herd with horses that didn’t grow up together ? One male with several females or can we put more males with females together?
How should we introduce a newcomer to the herd? Should be intervene or leave them to themselves?

2. How should we approach desensitived horses, that are really fed up with people and how to begin working with them in liberty?

3. I would love to hear your opinion on the topic “barefoot versus horse-shoes”. We have not many experts on that in my region. I heard opinions that also orthopaedic shoes do more harm to the hoof than no shoes. I don’t know, if that’s a topic to discuss here, but if anybody knows hoof-experts in Italy in my region (I live near Rome), I’d be grateful to hear from you.

As to body-language I’d like to leave a comment: Elizabeth says, that some people have this natural gift. I believe that everybody has this, but has forgotten about it, as we are so conditioned in our daily life, which reflects also in our movements. They are more mecanical than natural. Being with horses helps us to let the tension in our bodies go and let the movement flow. Be more in our body than in our head.
My best regards

Sandie Hucal - 6 years ago Reply

Hi Carolyn,

A topic that I would be very interested in is working with donkeys/ burros. Their behaviour differs in some significant ways (e.g. not flight animals, territorial, herd dispersed over greater areas…) from horses. In light of this how would the approach to the Water Hole Rituals differ when working with longears? Are there any gurus of wild burro behaviour you would recommend as a resource?

Thank you,

Leanna Kielian - 6 years ago Reply

Another idea for a possible topic…. Are individual horse’s personal habits related to their performance?….For example are horses that are really neat in their stalls and very consistant about where they place their feces more careful clearing poles when they are jumping? What about those horses that check everything in their paddock and stall each time they return to it? I have heard that sex and or neutering plays a part in how horses may approach a cross country course. Just curious on your thoughts and opinions.
Hope you are fairing well with the weather down south.
Very Sincerely,

sherry thomson - 6 years ago Reply

Hi Rosemary,
I have been working with my filly now 9mnths old doing the beginning of the UE excersizes and she adapts and learns rapidly I just do things exactly the way Carolyn suggests I just don’t expect too much and watch for her shift in connection to me,if she is losing focus we just walk around the property .
The herd actually bring her to me in the pasture, the pasture is long and in the past I would walk all of the way to the back to get her and the other horses 7 of them and a pony would walk with us to the gate but now they bring her to the gate and also now a couple of the 2 yr. olds come to me so I do WHR with them and leave her but they are totally auk with it. I would love it if Carolyn would do use your suggestion as a topic I love working with the babies .
Namaste Sherry

Rosemary Crowley - 6 years ago Reply

Well, after considering all the blogs and comments, I would like to suggest a topic for a blog from you, Carolyn…

Maybe there are not a lot of us, but what do you do with a yearling or coming 2 year old to get them ready for this type of training and consideration for their future work with us? Most of the blogs are about older trained horses and some problem older horses, but what about the untouched, or minimally handled young horses.. What can we do at this early impressionable stage of their lives to enhance their future training and handling?

I know mine need to be handled daily for trimming and moving from one place to another, and just interacting with. How do we approach them and their “childish’ antics? I read somewhere that the young are allowed “forgiveness” for their “ignorant’ approaches and then, one day, they are considered “grown up” and and reprimanded and shown the “herd laws”. Is this true and how do you know when to discipline a youngster or counteract his behavior?

I think this would be a great article for those of us with “babies” to start in the correct way.

Thank you.


stina - 6 years ago Reply

checking in – very interesting reading.
Kind regards Stina in St. Vincent

Bill Scott - 6 years ago Reply

Your transition to using treats in your WHRs is interesting in that you discovered that using treat would speed up the training process. A couple of years ago Equus magazine, I think was…, had an article in it reporting on a study a University in France had done on the use of treats in training horses. They used two groups of young untrained horses. The Control group was not given any treats in the training process. The Study group was given treats. They found that the Study group learned the training exercises faster than the Control group. They also reported, the horse that was the slowest learner in the Study group learned faster that the quickest/smartest horse in the Control group.
The article was short and didn’t go into any details of how or when the treats were given or what training exercises they were teaching. But you discovered the same thing as you worked with horses in your WHRs.
So.. armed with this information I wanted to see if it would work on my horses, and it did. But the down side of using the treats was that they became very mouthy and looked for the treats when ever you would walk up to them. I then had to address that problem which I worked through.
We have so much to learn about horses and the more you know the more you realize how little know. Anyway that’s how it is for me.

Elizabeth - 6 years ago Reply

WOW, thank you Carolyn for answering my question in such a great way!
I was to soon ;-), but can I still send in my envelop?

I find it very interesting how you thought about and came up with the idea to integrate treats to help horses and owners understand each other.
Because learning the bodylanguage you use is indeed not easy for a lot of people.
I’ve had lessons in body-language with different horses myself (in liberty, hempfling-like style) for a couple of years on a regular basis, and my experience is that it has to be learned by being coached-while-doing (unless you have really great natural gift for it). And even then it is a learning process which takes al lot of time (a life time) and experience, because it is such a personal journey. Connecting with horses through bodylanguage is magical, but you’re always confronted with your own personality and that of the horse at any particular moment. It has to become almost a sixth sense or second nature, for your body to know how to connect in that way. My experience is it’s not something which can be learned using a simple how-to book or dvd.

But not anyone can find a good ‘live’ teacher of course, and I admire the way you’re so motivated and succesful in helping and explaining so clearly from a distance. I’ve learned a lot from you’re dvd’s. First the WHR and now also the Liberty training have given me a lot of aha’s, items to explore. You give a structure but don’t simplify by any means. As with the use of treats, you explain how to go about, but you’re also always aware of the unwanted side-effects it could have, and give that also a lot of attention.

As for my use of treats, my horse, like others have written, gets completely fixated on them. It makes it impossible to work with her. When I work with her now, I reward her by scratching her favorite spot. She loves that, she beggs for it (on the topic of: horses don’t want to be touched > hahahaha!).
However I have done the food control exercises from the WHR, putting a stack of hay in the paddock, which I owned, and she could have some from me if she behaved. I had to get her to be more polite, because she was sometimes suddenly pulling me away to graze, not respecting me at all, when we were taking a walk together. It was dangerous. This foodexercises have worked very well for us.

Sorry if my English is not correct, it’s sometimes difficult in a foreign language to explain, hope it is clear enough.

Best wishes!

Renee McMillen - 6 years ago Reply

Hello Carolyn, It is very interesting to read an idea being shared about working with your horses like using treats and to observe what happens. Most of the post so far have explained what I have witnessed too. I have also had to slow down on the treats and requests more before dishing them out.
Another note:
My lead mare was very offended when I took over the food territory. The less dominant mare came back in when i offered for her to share the food but the lead mare stood away. It felt like I had broken our relationship. She stayed pretty much aloof when I turned her out, even when I companioned walked with the other mare and took her to a hay pile. Finally, In the end when I put the other mare in a corral and the lead mare seemed to get insecure she came galloping to me and the other mare. I took her over to a hay pile then before I put her into the pasture. She is hard for me to read. I want to be careful as she is so obliging to me.
Thank you for your invite to share ideas. The questions usually come into my head when i am with the horses not at the computer! Renee

sherry thomson - 6 years ago Reply

Hi Carolyn,
I just received my 2 DVD’S WHR and Liberty Training, I can’t wait to dive into this material . Just to let you know that your energy is magical and really out there I will share this exchange with you. Just yesterday I was at my lawyers office going through some details regarding my divorce I was explaining to her that I needed to sell my business because it was tied in with my past life with my former husband she asked me what I wished to do and I replied that I would love to spend all of my time and energy working with my horses ( a miracle story ) which are a gift I have been blessed with. She got really excited and stopped our meeting to show me your web site after which I told her that I was doing an online course with you and patiently awaiting more of your material. When you have a big heart like you obviously do your word travels. Also my lawyer is not even involved with horses. WOW, isn’t life great…….. Thank you for that wonderful energy and the gift of your time and experience. Namaste Sherry Thomson

Katja Behrens - 6 years ago Reply

Thank you Carolyn for the uninterrupted effort you make to share your love and wisdom.
Reading your book I feel so strongly what the magic connection is about. I guess everybody must know this feeling because it means to be connected with your own soul and heart.
I like how you emphasise again and again the importance of just being with the horse. Whatever I achieve with the hores right now – the main thing which is valid and consistent is the growing relationship with the horse and the growing awareness of the beauty to share the magic of this connection, to discover new/old worlds.
My horse I care for in the moment is not strong in showing his feelings but the more time I just spend with him and respecting him, trying to connect on a soul base and how it feels natural for him, the more we get this magic connection which is more than communicating with each other and be a leader.
Something gets revealed which is beyond that- call it love, call it magic, call it the universal experience. It is just beautiful and very enrichened.
It is all about time. Somewhere I read once “time is god” and now I think I start to understand what that meant.

Leanna Kielian - 6 years ago Reply


I really appreciate reading your evolution wiith your teaching methods, especially since I started with your Liberty Video and Book, now it seems so long ago. About treats, we were all told I think not to use them but the Spanish Riding School does and a year ago I took our Filly to a Veterinary Behaviorist at UCD, Dr. Berger and she brought out a bucket of treats to work with True’s needle issues(actual diagnosis is veterinary procedural aversion due to early heath challenges). My only criticism would be that it is considered behavioral conditioning from the veterinary standpoint and I have learned from the horses and you Carolyn that relationship is so much deeper and complex than operant conditioning. We still have not mastered IV injections with her the way my older Sage Prefect handles them…Food, ask if he is ready, IV (legend shot and Food. When Prefect is ready is does not move at all and I can give injection very slowly if necessary. We originally did this with a twitch after the food and he would let you know when he was ready to put it on. This is a horse that previously caused a DVM to waste a shot and completely give up and have me give the injection. They didn’t take the time to say hello! I think they went straight to his butt, really! I learned so much from this that I ASK all the horses are you ready? and tell them I have to do it and I am sorry before worming, injections etc and use either food or scratches if food isn’t appropriate at that time both before and after. With the exception of True they are all awesome and it didn’t take very long. True will show you where she wants her scratches immediately after worming but needles are still more difficult. And while she would touch the intranasal vaccine with practice and treats she still didn’t want it up her nose. I must say I can’t really blame her. She does however know what I am sorry means and if by accident you bop her(for example my reed got her face cnce) she is actively looking for I am sorry and will immediatly deflate if you say so. She is so much more complex than the other four horses. This leads me to my big question and because I have worked for so many veterinarians and have my Animal Science Degree, that didn’t consider how to handle animals according to what might work for the animal, how do you teach a horse to tolerate uncomfortable veterinary procedures? And how do you teach a horse to trust others that may only let you handle it? In True’s case we are making progress, she will let me with approach and retreat to give IM injections and doesn’t hold it against me. But two people is red alert. We are getting to a point where I may be able to work more closely with you, if that is possible, prior to now we couldn’t. I was making good progress with the farriers and on the last visit I had to go back to sedation. She really does like approach and retreat for many things including spray bottles which she is really doing well with, spray all you want, even near her ears when she is ready. The cowboy method of spraying until they stop moving was a complete failure way back. She is putting her self in place for the halter over the fence and doesn’t move from just giving her the time with approach and retreat. Putting a whole apple or a bit of alfalfa on a post where she can see it( as the when we are done reward )seems to set a good tone. With her food seems to signal that it is not a war. Moving off the reed is getting so much softer(it was horrible and completely opposite of Murphy the TB) and she is leaving when asked now as well. Sorry I didn’t mean to write so much, I think True is our Templado. We really didn’t anticipate this journey, but we are growing from it and John recently took up Aikido because True won’t pay attention to him unless he is grounded, it is fascinating to watch her from distance observing him center himself. Carolyn I am sure you can see we have a long way to go but also see how much we have learned from you and smile.

Debbie Antolak - 6 years ago Reply

Hi Carolyn, I have both your dvd’s and noticed the changes you have made over the years. I did find that watching your older Liberty Training after the Waterhole dvd actually helped me a lot. I have not done the WHR course with you (and would love to do so), so I felt they definitely complemented each other for my learning.
My boys respond very well with the use of treats and are usually polite about it or all it takes is my hand up and I say no and they usually take a step back. If for some reason I don’t have treats they still respond well to my body language so I feel its nice to know I don’t have to rely on the treats.
I am learning so much through everyones posts and your responses but I am hoping I can come up with a good question to send to you too:)

Pamelaa - 6 years ago Reply

Laurinda, I have a pretty girthy horse too, and I do what you do – tighten the girth in stages in the ring, usually between walk and trot transition. I have found my horse will stop before we trot if I forget to tighten the girth.

I am a big fan of using cookie treats (I’d use carrots but they make my horse nutty). I’ve never had a problem catching a horse that knows I will give them a cookie either. Treats work great in training with nervous horses is what I have found, so I carry them when I ride. The horses in my barn where I board that don’t ever get treats are usually more aggressive if they ever do receive one, and I think that is from neediness. These horses usually have very strict owners who treat them like a commodity – never getting a chance for self expression or closeness with a person.

Marja van Run - 6 years ago Reply

Very interesting Carolyn, your explanation of the food and treats issue. Some time ago you already gave me a different view on clicker training. It was like you said, that I’m actually afraid that I can’t get anything done with my horses without the clicks and treats anymore. This was an eye opener and I use less treats now and no clicker training at this moment. I like the way you use treats with the WHR as a very natural part of horse interaction.
Like in Regina’s story I use the filling of the hayfeeders to teach my horses to stay at a respectful distance until I am ready. I noticed a strange thing however: it’s always the two horses who are at the bottom of the pecking order being more impatient and less respectful than the others, trying to come nearer to the hayfeeder. I am always very consistently sending them back, but they keep on trying. Sometimes I even get help from the herd leader who chases them away. I told my friend about it and she had the very same experience with her horses, so I think it’s no exception.
So here’s my question: could you perhaps elaborate in a blog topic about pecking order? Sometimes pecking order seems to be quite illogical. Another example: our herd leader likes the company of his two grand daughters, who are low in the pecking order, while eating hay, but he doesn’t allow another mare, who is higher ranked than these two, to eat with him.
I’m very intrigued by pecking order and would like to know more about it. Pecking order is certainly very practical at feeding time: I always feed my horses their daily grain and vitamins in pecking order, starting with the leader ofcourse. They all wait for their bucket politely. But when I would do this in another order, that would mean WAR!

Laurinda Reinhart - 6 years ago Reply

Hi Carolyn,
thanks for explaining about the 2 dvds. I wasn’t sure which one would be the better choice for me.

Barbara, I’ve had some luck using massage when there are girthing issues. You could hire a therapist and/or acquire a good book on the subject if you are comfortable and feel safe doing body work on your horse. I’ve taken a level one class in reiki and massage and continue to learn. This will be another kind of ‘dance’ with your horse as he will be telling you, sometimes harshly if you aren’t careful, what hurts, is sensitive or ticklish. In the end he will gain trust as the tension/pain leaves his body and he relearns that girthing need not be torturous. The horses that I’ve worked on have had pain issues foremost, and bad experiences secondly…both reinforcing each other. Feeding a little hay can be a good distraction once the other issues are dealt with. Lightly tightening the girth at first and waiting to further tighten at the ring is good too. I hope this helps. I am interested in what others have found that works for them.

Happy Trails!
Laurinda Reinhart

Kerrie Stepnick - 6 years ago Reply

Hi Carolyn,

Thanks for this post.

Apropos of today’s theme, I wanted to let you know that the modification of carrots seems to be working – Capricho had gone through a little nippy phase, looking for treats, and at first I stopped giving him anything. But during our liberty play, it helps to supply some motivation.

We compromised as follows: I will ask him to circle and dance, maybe back, turn, bow, a few things… and then his final step is to stand still and let me circle him completely (per the UE exercise), after which he finally gets his carrot.

I believe this is improving his thinking and concentration. In any case he works well now in a huge area at liberty, and will do several things in a row with no expectation of treats. His eyes do get bit when I have just about finished walking around him, but I’m impressing upon him that if he moves out of place, there’s no carrot!

Christian Gundermann - 6 years ago Reply

Dear Carolyn,

glad to see that you explain again about your work with horses around food and how you came to it. Learning to put treats into a food pan in the middle of the arena and teaching the horse to go there only when I take them there, has been a break-through in respect, willingness, and enthusiasm with my horses. It was after accomplishing this, in combination with the Eye Contact ritual, that there was a marked increase in “what do you want me to do now” attitude in them.

My best,


Regina Walter - 6 years ago Reply

Thank you Carolyn. I’m going to put some thought into a topic. I stopped hand feeding treats almost completely because my two were getting so focused on possible treats in my hand and thats all they were thinking about. Now I have a treat bucket that they can sink their nose into at appropriate times and that is working much better for me.

The other thing I started about a month ago was when I am feeding their supplements morning & evening, they have to stand politely several feet away from me and wait while I dump them in their tubs. I do the same thing with their hay as well. Then I will turn to them and look for them to be looking at me head on with ears forward, I will then give them the verbal ok to come forward. If they come forward and try to take it before I have finished, I have my whip in hand and clear my space til they move away and focus on me again. That has made a very good impact on my older guy who tends to pin his ears. Feeding time has become a calm and relaxed event now instead of them hovering and being impatient.


Evergreen Amundson - 6 years ago Reply

thank you Carolyn for this explanation.
I had an interesting session with the herd a few days ago. I sat in their three sided shelter, on a haybale, reading a book. I covered the haybale with a blanket which was not large enough to drape over the whole bale, each side was exposed.
My belgian Sundown came in first and I let him take bites from one side of the haybale while I sat. He was followed by Scarlett, the lead mare. Sundown let Scarlett approach but not take bites from the bale. She could only eat what he threw on the ground. Very interesting.

They ate for a while while I read. Then I noticed Eddie, gelding second in the pecking order, standing to one side of the entrance of the shelter wanting some hay too. I decided Sundown and Scarlett had enough so I asked them to leave and allowed Eddie to come in and eat. Scarlett was put out by this, and each time she tried to come back in, I asked her to leave. Eddie was nervous at first, but when he saw that I was protecting him, he settled and ate.

Reina stood apart the whole time, watching. When I decided Eddie had enough, I asked him to leave and invited Reina in. Scarlett was too close to the entrance so I had to ask Scarlett to go farther away. I then took a handfull of hay from the bale and drew in Reina. Reina began to eat and I had to stand guard for her as well, keeping Scarlett at bay.

The interesting part was that Scarlett began to learn where the line was that she could not cross. As soon as she crossed a certain point, I got up and asked her to leave. She kept a close eye on me and whenever my attention was drawn away, she would try to creep in past the line.

By the end of the session, I believe I established a firmer foundation of leadership with Scarlett, and developed a closer bond with Eddie and Reina, who saw that I was willing to protect them.

A long story, but I think it shows how food can be used, just as you talk about in your post. It was a beautiful session and I learned more about the herd dynamics.

Evergreen Amundosn

Patti - 6 years ago Reply

I am starting with the first 2 steps of the Waterhole Rituals. My Icelandic mare is very friendly, very happy to be with me. My gelding, is his usual skeptical self, & will not approach closely to hang out. He will hang back a bit, behind the mare, when I am petting, sitting with her.
Should I do anything to encourage the gelding? Or just keep sitting & waiting?
I am quite happy about the results of this method so far.
Will get the DVD when it is available.
Thank you,

Barbara - 6 years ago Reply

Hello Carolyn,

What a timely writing regarding your first liberty training work and your current waterhole rituals interactions. I’m going back and forth on whether to hand feed my Arabian cookie treats while doing the waterhole work. While chair sitting he sniffs me looking for the treats. I’m afraid he is going to take bite of me. So when he persists to do his treat search I send him away. He walks away slowly still thinking of the treats. I started the other day to stop hand feeding the cookies to him, and will see if things get better. I agree the treats are a great motivator to keep him interested in his job, but my horse I think it is too much of a motivator. I have also hand fed him cookies (and used a feed bag) during the girthing/tacking up procedure. He dislikes being girthed up. I believe he had some rough handling with the girth before I got him. But he gets so demanding about wanting the food, tossing his head, and opening his mouth…. I want my treats….now…. I had to stop hand feeding them while tacking up. If you or any of your online students have any suggestions on how to approach this girthing issue, to keep my buddy happy, I would very much appreciate to hear from you.

I can’t wait for your new DVD(s) on the Seven Waterhole Rituals come out. I have enjoyed the current one so much.

Be Well,

Yours truly,

Barbara Janesick
[email protected]

Toni Farrell - 6 years ago Reply


Thank you for your post. I learned from a trainer long ago that the leader controls the resources (food), and that we should not “give away” our resources. The use of treats in exchange for respect and asked for behaviors can be a powerful tool. I thought your observation about running a herd mate off until appropriate respect is shown, was great. Thank you for all your insights and information. Much can be learned here.


Tonnya - 6 years ago Reply

Hi Carolyn,
Denmark is propably to far away, but if you think not, then I will send an envelope.
I have a suggestion: Body-awareness in Horses and Horse’s Senses.
Of course related to WHR.
I ask because I have noticed that Greifing seems to not take notice of his surroundings (solid things) so much. Fx in his box/stall he frequently bangs his head into the bars or wall. Also when I sit with him and he turns from his water to his food, he has to move his behind pretty close to me (I sit in the doorway). He would not hurt me but he doesnt seem to know where his behind is. His stall is the usual size. Outside is better but he still shows signs, like coming to close to fence, trees etc.
I think his eyesight is fine. No problems spotting a carrot from distance !
He doesnt seem to mind, so Im just wondering.
I have just startet TTouch with him, But maybe you have another way of dealing with it ??
My friend also had a huge mare who fx would try to pass between 2 trees (not possible) instead of going around the 2 trees. The small tree would bend and she didnt mind at all.
I used to think that she reminded me of a woman trying out a pair of jeans going: Oh I can fit those small jeans there… and then, That went well – no problem !
A ‘behind-is-moving-alert’ for her would have been nice and she was the kindest and respectful ‘girl’ ever.
So what am I not understanding or how do we help horses with body-awareness. Or do they have exactly what they need ?
Maybe someone else has similar experiences ?

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