Carolyn Resnick Horsemanship: Liberty Horse Training

The Foundation for All Equestrian Pursuits Through the Horse-Human Connection.

This is a response from a student, MaryGaye LeBoeuf, to the last blog about rudeness in your horse.  I loved her outlook on my Method and her outlook on rude behavior and how it plays into her daily life.  I wanted to share this with everyone.  Thank you MaryGaye for your post.

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MaryGaye and CowboyRudeness. Having what used to be the rudest horse that could be imagined, I hated missing your Webcast the other day; but duty called elsewhere. However, whatever was said, I know that your advice was gold! I know because my rudest of rude horses, Cowboy, has become a very refined gentlehorse under your tutelage. However, your Blog triggered for me, the precise reason why what you have taught us, makes such a difference: “Politeness.”

As you know, Cowboy was a horse that charged, head down, ears pinned, mouth open, teeth exposed, at any horse that came within 20-30 feet of him. He would run right over the top of me to do it, too. At feeding time, he kicked the walls, charged the horses on either side of him, biting at the wire stall dividers. On trail rides, he would charge, bite and kick at other horses. His idea of a “tea party” was to violently clear 20 other horses from around a huge round bale before choosing his spot to eat. Then he would allow a select few other horses to timidly approach the bale and get permission to eat on the other side of the bale. In addition to occasionally running over the top of me, Cowboy was very skilled at pushing me all over the place, without me even knowing I was moving.

RespectThat is all History. Yesterday while Cowboy, Nemo and I were having an extended tea party over the small hay cart, I was thinking about your blog and the concept of “politeness” of which you wrote, finally became abundantly clear. As I watched the boys enjoy their tea party for almost two hours – while having to occasionally, yet gently, suggest that Cowboy step away from the tea table to remember his manners, I pondered the differences between “respect” and “politeness.” As always, Carolyn, you have managed to state something profound, in the simplest way possible.

This is what I have figured out. Normally, people talk about the horse “respecting” us. But “respect” is a loaded word. It involves boundaries and obedience, but it has connotations not applicable to your teachings. There’s the respect a new marine in boot camp feels for his drill sergeant. That’s not what we’re looking for. Then there’s the respect a grandchild feels for an elderly grandparent. A student’s respect for a favorite teacher, or principal. These are close to “polite”, but even in these examples, there’s usually a bit of awe, sometimes discomfort and possibly fear. And sometimes in such relationships there’s little testing of the limits. Then, there’s the “respect” that some horse people demand, with whips, spurs, bigger and fiercer bits etc ad nauseam. Well, really, that last example is not respect, its torture, but some people would call it “respect.”

MaryGaye and CowboyBut “politeness” is very different. Politeness infers respect and boundaries, but it also means softness and gentleness, caring, and most especially, empathy for the others around you – wanting to make the other person feel welcome. Endeavoring to behave in calm, quiet, thoughtful ways that will make the other person feel comfortable. However, politeness also calls for clear boundaries and a certain code of conduct. Whoever is “mother” for any tea party has very clear duties, as do the other participants. There are boundaries for everyone’s roles. And it is knowing the boundaries to proper decorum and everyone’s roles and duties, that makes tea a calm, relaxing, enjoyable event for all participants. It is when someone comes to the tea party and violates the rules and boundaries, that things turn topsy turvy, to the mental, physical, emotional and social discomfort of all. Often these negative consequences are felt most strongly by the violator. It is the violator that feels confused, left out, and angry – not only does he not know the rules, but now other people are angry and rejecting him for violating those rules.

Cowboy and NemoThat was Cowboy. He didn’t know how to be polite with horses or people, and I didn’t know how to teach him. He was unhappy, alone and frustrated. The Waterhole Rituals changed all of that. Through the Waterhole Rituals you taught me and Cowboy how to be polite: human to horse, horse to human, and horse to horse (and even human to human). By doing everything at Liberty, I had to learn and truly understand the rules – otherwise, Cowboy would not have paid any attention to me. If I had used tack, I would have ended up using some degree of force, however small, in teaching and enforcing the rules. There can be no force in true Liberty. Thus, the understanding of the rules and what it takes to invoke behavior consistent with those rules, is on a much deeper level – now it only takes a mere noise in my throat, a word, the pointing of a finger, or the movement of a reed, and Cowboy understands and responds. Cowboy loves having rules and knowing what they are!!! He is only unhappy when I forget the rules or don’t enforce them consistently.

The direct result of the Waterhole Rituals and your work with me and Cowboy is a happier and more polite existence for us both – along with my elderly Arabian gelding, Prince and friend Nemo. Actually, it was having tea parties with Prince, each taking turns with bites of carrots or senior feed, that brought another revelation about politeness. Because I was so focused on making sure Cowboy remained polite, I found myself ignoring Prince’s rude behavior – being pushy and grabby, moving from his “spot.” Then I noticed that when Prince would act rudely, Cowboy was responding with what appeared to be “rude behavior”. Of course, at first, it was Cowboy who was reprimanded for being rude. Well, as usual, I have to be hit over the head with a rock before I see what is plainly before me – Cowboy was not being “rude” he was trying to correct Prince’s rudeness. That dilemma has been resolved — as Cowboy was trying to tell me, everyone has to be polite – the same rules apply to everyone, horse and humans.

shadowAs always, Carolyn, your words are an inspiration to my thought, reasoning, direction and action in my aspiration to become the best horsewoman I can possibly be. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!

Love MaryGaye

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Thank you MaryGaye for such moving and wonderful words and a great testimonial.  I hope everyone has a great weekend!  Be on the lookout for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.

Warmly, Carolyn

The Tea Party with Cowboy and Nemo -

 

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Related posts:

  1. The Easter Egg Hunt with My Horse by MaryGaye LeBoeuf
  2. Self Realization through the Training of Horses at Liberty
  3. The Easter Egg Hunt with My Horse by MaryGaye LeBoeuf

35 Responses to “How the Waterhole Rituals have Changed my Horse by MaryGaye LeBoeuf”

  1. 19
    avatar Michelle says:

    What a great way to describe the difference between politeness and the respect most often expected from horses! I think a lot of horse owners—even those who say they love horses to bits—demand respect made of awe and fear, not because they wouldn’t enjoy politeness, but because they believe respect is the best they can expect from what they consider to be a “stock animal.” They think politeness, or soft awareness and empathy, could come only from a “sentient being”, and they either don’t regard horses in that way, or they honestly don’t know how to create a two-way form of empathy.

    Carolyn was so, so fortunate to have the empathetic, caring parents and life experiences she did and now those who are able to learn this new way of being with horses are equally fortunate!

    A video showing the difference between a horse trained to “respect” his human vs. one trained to offer “politeness” would be a *huge* gift to both horses and humans, I think.

    So many people who love animals, myself included, lack confidence when it comes to feeling empathy in human social interactions because we never felt or learned it in our families growing up. Without dwelling on it, we are left to guess at “proper decorum” and our failures at it end up making it feel like a lot of straightjacket rules limiting what comes naturally, so we downgrade its importance. We love our animals but let them walk all over us until we learn how to stop doing that, then find it takes an enormous amount of constant awareness to be consistent in our energy and responses with them. And then we start to get glimpses of what empathy feels like to give and receive. I’m happy to report that after establishing many habits with Dodger through what I’ve learned from Carolyn, I’m much better at taking it into my other (animal and human) relationships but the confidence still takes time. Anyway, that is so huge (and I hope I’m not the only one here who understands what I’m talking about…)!

    So…I’m grateful to Carolyn for modeling an amazing level of empathy for me through this blog and the course I took, and to you, MaryGaye, I give a huge thank you for stopping me cold when I read the part below, which helped me suddenly see the connection between empathy and “proper decorum”:

    “There are boundaries for everyone’s roles. And it is knowing the boundaries to proper decorum and everyone’s roles and duties, that makes tea a calm, relaxing, enjoyable event for all participants. It is when someone comes to the tea party and violates the rules and boundaries, that things turn topsy turvy, to the mental, physical, emotional and social discomfort of all. Often these negative consequences are felt most strongly by the violator. It is the violator that feels confused, left out, and angry – not only does he not know the rules, but now other people are angry and rejecting him for violating those rules.”

  2. 18
    avatar Joy Greenhalgh-UK-IC-Broc, Cirrus and Kate says:

    Dear MaryGaye and Carolyn,

    This series of blogs and the webinar is AWESOME ! It has really made me think and refine my approach.

    I don’t change Broc’s name, but I do give different attachments to his name and as we had a pic~nic together he became Broc The Politeness Trainer! As surely as I was showing him what I felt was polite, he was showing me what he felt was polite !!!!!!

    I was trying to ask him to keep a nice distance , and gently tapped the ground. He stamped the ground with his hoof to tell me I didn’t need to be so rude ~ a tiny little wave would do thankyou very much. And so these little interactions went back and forth till we got sorted and comfortable settling down to a very harmonious, peaceful and enjoyable pic~nic.

    I am beginning to understand the meaning and power of “ask”.

    Many thanks to both of you for a fantastic lesson.

    All the best, Joy

    • 18.1

      Dear Joy,
      You are getting lost, I believe. What happening is that when you asked you did not ask strong enough so you got some flack.. If you had asked strong enough and with the right timing he would not object. I am added this because I care about you and I do not want to see you get lost.

      Warmly,
      Carolyn

      • 18.1.1
        avatar Joy Greenhalgh-UK-IC-Broc, Cirrus and Kate says:

        Thankyou Carolyn!

        I will surely keep this advice very, very, very, very fixed in my mind and watch vigilantly for not getting lost in this way.
        Overall the pic~nic turned out really well but I realise now I did get lost ,but found my way in the end.
        Every event, no matter how seemingly small, is of significance.

        All the best, Joy

  3. 17
    avatar Erica Dixon UK Izzy: EC spring '11, BTWHR's Dec 12; spring 13 IC; autumn 13 EC says:

    Marygaye – thank you for such a wonderful blog. You hit the nail on the head there with the difference between respect & politeness. I shall remember this if I am ever trying to explain it in the future! I so love having polite horses & I hope they love having a polite human too!

    Best wishes

    Erica

  4. 16
    avatar a little something for the weekend | The Essential Horse says:

    [...] tea party teaches [...]

  5. 15
    avatar Jayne Forster NooNoo,IC,UK says:

    Dear MaryGaye,
    Thanks so much for sharing your experience and your video,I think I rather like cowboy!He looks like a big character.

    • 15.1
      avatar MaryGaye says:

      Jayne, thank you for your note! When I received your note, I remembered your blog earlier this year and went back and reread it and watched the video. I loved the blog; what a tough journey you and Noo Noo have had, and what a wonderful turn it has taken with the Waterhole Rituals! My favorite part of the video was where you were working on high and low energy and you stopped and NooNoo touched her muzzle to the back of your head. What a moment of connection! It seemed like she wanted to let you know she was with you all the way!

      I really appreciate your comments on Cowboy! He is a big character in every way! And thanks to Carolyn, I’ve learned the best way to have a relationship with all that “character.”

      Have a Great Day!

      MaryGaye

  6. 14
    avatar Carol Caddes, San Juan Capistrano, CA, EC 2011, EC 2012, BTWR 2011, 2012 says:

    Hi MaryGaye,

    A insightful blog and a lovely video. I so appreciate your journey with Cowboy. I’m on a similar journey. Carolyn has helped me so much with my horse Norman and his rudeness. People said to me that he was a man’s horse las well!

    Things got better when I was willing to wait for politeness and be humble about how much I had to learn.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story

    GMy best
    Carol

    • 14.1
      avatar MaryGaye says:

      Carol, thank you for your note! I am so glad you enjoyed the blog and video. It’s a tough journey, isn’t it? Until Carolyn, when people told us our boys were “a man’s horse” they meant we were supposed to get bigger and tougher with the horse — well, it’s impossible to be bigger and tougher than a 1200 lb horse. What they really meant was, we needed to be bigger and scarier. I don’t want to be scary and I doubt you do either.

      Carolyn has taught us that what our horses really respond to, is politeness; with the emphasis on extra polite, meaning knowing and obeying all the rules and boundaries, all the time. And they’re always testing us to see if we remember the rules and whether we are going to follow the rules each time they’re with us. It’s like having a “pop quiz” every day. They demand very high standards of conduct from us. I love it!

      I am so glad that you have found Carolyn, and you and Norman are finding the partnership and peace that the Waterhole Rituals bring.

      Have a Great Day

      MaryGaye

  7. 13
    avatar Anna-karin Hägglund says:

    Thank you MaryGaye for your story!
    I like your thoughts around respect and politeness and that politeness infers so much more than respect. And it is true that we all feel so much better when we know how to be polite, both humans and horses.

    Best Wishes

    Anna-Karin

    • 13.1
      avatar MaryGaye says:

      Thank you for your note Anna-Karin. Politeness is the key to being comfortable in all of our surroundings!

      Best Wishes

      MaryGaye

  8. 12
    avatar MaryGaye says:

    Thank you for your note, Kay. You’re right, what Cowboy told me was very important and an epithany for me. It’s the give and take of everyone, that makes politeness truly work. Then, your last sentence made me chuckle. My mother asked me the other night, with more than a trace of irony, if there was any subject that I could not relate back to horses (she’s asked similar questions regarding horses, since I was 4 years old). My response was: once you begin to explore the connection and understand horse behavior, you find that most of the lessons that humans need to learn about appropriate human behavior and social psychology, including everything from being a good friend and mother, to running this country and being a good citizen, can be learned from horses. It’s wonderful to hear that you are seeing changes in Galahad and yourself since starting with Carolyn. And, from my experience, the changes will just keep on coming — you will have so much fun. It’s startling sometimes to realize the depth of the changes that practicing the Waterhole Rituals will bring about in horse and human.

    Wishing you and Galahad the best of journeys with the Waterhole Rituals!

    MaryGaye

  9. 11

    Hi MaryGaye,

    I enjoyed reading your blog this week and watching the video. I just love that Cowboy! What a great job you have done with him.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • 11.1
      avatar MaryGaye says:

      Linda. Thank you for your note. I am so glad you enjoyed the blog and video. The video was a little “sketchy” but, I think, got the point across. It makes me so happy to hear your comments about Cowboy — he is a horse to love — there’s a lot going on inside that big beautiful head. However, there was a time when most people’s comments to me about Cowboy was about how obnoxious he was and asking me when was I going to get rid of him. Many comments were made about him being a man’s horse (so obviously unsuited for me). It was very sad and many tears were shed. I knew that sweet boy was in there, but didn’t know how to bring it out. But Carolyn and the WHR changed all that! The WHR were the key! People are amazed at how Cowboy has changed and is no longer “a man’s horse.” He’s MaryGaye’s big, sweet polite horse. Happy dance!

      Have a Beautiful Day!

      MaryGaye

  10. 10

    thanks for sharing your story MaryGaye

  11. 9
    avatar Tammy Miller says:

    That was great! I too have a dominant gelding and he shares a paddock with a timid mare. He wouldn’t share at the feeder with her, it’s circular so she could come back in timidly and after a few times he’d give in, but I wanted it to be better and more polite. So when I brought the hay out I brought a dressage whip with me, the tip broke off so it was the perfect length, I’d stand at the feeder with them, and when he gave her dirty looks or pinned his ears, I gently asked him to back away with the stick and said ah ah, not nice, or something like that. When he had a contrite look I’d let him back to the hay, like the video. It worked so well that now they get along great, yes sometimes he still moves her off, but it’s much, much improved and he’s nicer to her in general now. Thanks for sharing, hope it helps others.

    • 9.1
      avatar MaryGaye says:

      Tammy. Thank you for your note and for sharing your experiences with your horses. It’s so fun to read about what other people are doing to bring about politeness in their horses. It gives me new ideas, and I’m always looking for new ideas. I love hearing that it has made your gelding more polite overall with your mare. Isn’t it amazing how well horses learn to be polite if we just gently and politely show them how? It doesn’t take force. One man I know used a large tractor to chase a dominant gelding around the pasture at full speed, to try and teach the horse to share the hay with other horses. It didn’t work — the horse still dominates the hay, but now he’s afraid of tractors. Sigh. Well, so much the better that we are learning about politeness and horses from Carolyn!

      Best Wishes.

      MaryGaye

  12. 8
    avatar amanda savill says:

    Hi MaryGaye
    that was brilliant – thank you.
    Love, amanda

    • 8.1
      avatar MaryGaye says:

      Hi Amanda! Thank you so much for your note. I am so glad you enjoyed my story.

      Love

      MaryGaye

  13. 7
    avatar Caroline says:

    Thank you MaryGaye for your words and sharing your stroy. The words make a lot of sense.

    • 7.1
      avatar MaryGaye says:

      Thank you Caroline for your note. I am so glad you enjoyed the story!

      Have a wonderful day!

      MaryGaye

  14. 6

    Thanks for your story and video MaryGaye. In the video I especially liked the moment at 2:10, which indeed showed what you were talking about: how easily you can now make Cowboy change his mind when he makes a dominant gesture.
    I have the same experience in my herd: with the WHR I have managed to bring both the most dominant and the most submissive horse to a more social type of behaviour.

    Marja

    • 6.1
      avatar MaryGaye says:

      Marja — thank you for your note! It is wonderful to read that you have had a similar experience with your herd! The WHR change everything from the human to the horse to the herd. It’s fascinating, isn’t it? I’m so glad you enjoyed the video. It’s a little vague, with the close up view of partial horse faces and noses. But when I took the video, I never dreamed it would end up on Carolyn’s blog. However, I wanted to include it all on the blog because you can see both horses’ demeanors as the party progresses. Cowboy: standing straight on, head in the cart, eating like he was in charge, versus Nemo: standing to the side, head tilted, ears slightly back, being quite deferential. Then, just as you spotted, all of a sudden Cowboy forgot his manners and tried to dominate Nemo. But when that happened, I was able to ask Cowboy to step away and wait, until I invited him back to the “table” to eat. Not so long ago, I could have jumped up and down and banged cymbals and Cowboy would not have stepped away from that cart. But the Waterhole Rituals have taught us so much — especially about concern for being polite. So, I was quite tickled when Cowboy moved away so quickly and then waited to be invited back. Then when he came back, he was so careful to be gentle and polite and eat from his corner. In the meantime, Nemo’s little face lit up and he took the advantage and moved over to eat closer to Cowboy’s side of the wheelbarrow. But instead of attacking Nemo as he would have in the past, Cowboy continued to watch me as if saying “I’m being good.” I bet you’ve had similar experiences with your herd. Isn’t it fun?

      I hope you have a wonderful day!!

      MaryGaye

  15. 5
    avatar Frances says:

    Hi there, I just read MaryGaye’s story whilst i woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep-wow! It was like a light bulb moment when I read about the difference between respect and politeness. I’d never really thought about it before, but it truly made enormous sense! What a good start to my day, its something I shall remember when i go about my daily tasks-thank you for sharing this with us. Blessings to you all and your equines x

    • 5.1
      avatar MaryGaye says:

      Thank you Francis, for your note! Your appreciation and enthusiasm makes me smile! Seeing the difference between respect and politeness, was kind of “eureka moment” for me too. After that, I could see it in everything around me, horses, humans, dogs. . . I hope you have a wonderful day filled with politeness in everyone you meet!

      Best Wishes

      MaryGaye

  16. 4
    avatar Sally says:

    MaryGaye, I had never before thought about the profound difference between politeness and respect. Thank you for that.

    Sally

  17. 3
    avatar Stina says:

    Hi Mary and Carolyn,

    your story is so good, thank you for sharing.

    Stina

    • 3.1
      avatar MaryGaye says:

      Stina, thank you for your note. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. Seeing photos of your work with the Waterhole Rituals there is St. Vincent, is always fun and inspiring.

      Hugs and best wishes.

      MaryGaye

  18. 2

    Thanks, MaryGaye, for sharing your experience with us! It’s wonderful to hear your insights about rudeness, and especially this part: “…Cowboy was trying to tell me [that] everyone has to be polite – the same rules apply to everyone, horse and humans.” SO important!

    I’ve seen so many changes in my Galahad since beginning our studies with Carolyn this spring, and now am beginning to become aware of changes in myself as well. It’s wonderful how everything we learn with our horses applies to the rest of our lives as well.

    Hugs!

    – Kay

    • 2.1
      avatar MaryGaye says:

      Thank you for your note, Kay. You’re right, what Cowboy told me was very important and an epithany for me. It’s the give and take of everyone, that makes politeness work. The last line of your note made me chuckle. My mother asked me the other night, with more than a trace of irony, if there was any subject that I could not relate back to horses (she’s been asking me similar questions about horses since I was 4 years old). My response was: once you begin to explore the connection and understand horse behavior, you find that most of the lessons humans need to learn about appropriate human behavior and social psychology, including everything from being a good friend and mother, to running a country and being a good citizen, can be learned from horses. It’s fascinating. It’s wonderful to hear that you are seeing changes in Galahad and yourself since starting with Carolyn. And, from my experience, the changes will just keep on coming. It’s startling sometimes to realize the depth of the changes practicing the Waterhole Rituals will bring about in horse and human.

      Wishing you and Galahad the best of journeys with the Waterhole Rituals!

      MaryGaye

  19. 1
    avatar Kristin says:

    Thank you MaryGaye for going into such detail. I reread your Easter egg hunt and loved the reminder of the process!

    Best to you,

    Kristin

    • 1.1
      avatar MaryGaye says:

      Kristin: Thank you for your note! You comment about the detail is appreciated. I worry about the detail being too detailed, but I don’t know any other way to tell the story. That’s so cool that you reread the Easter Egg Hunt! The game and writing about it was very fun and the results quite startling. Since then, every once in a while, Cowboy will tell me he wants to go on another Hunt, by putting his muzzle to the ground and gently prodding his nose around in the grass as he does when he finds an egg, and then he looks up at me and “says” “where’s the egg?” It’s very funny. Of course, very soon thereafter we have another hunt.

      Best Wishes

      MaryGaye