The Definition of Reciprocal Movements while Working with Horses at Liberty

Carolyn, Honey, TrinityReciprocal movements that are shared between a horse and a trainer are what cause the training of the horse to be easy or difficult. Reciprocal movements are what make any and all relationships work, or not work. Reciprocal movements can be abusive, or they can be the graceful art of horsemanship. When a trainer puts his attention on choosing his approach from each response of the horse, I call  Reciprocal Movement Training.

I saw a man training his horse by responding in just the right way. His name was Ray Hackworth.  He was working with a quarter horse stallion to develop trust, respect, and friendship so he would have a working bond with his horse. I did this training myself, but I learned a lot from watching his approach and the pauses he offered to his stallion.  The Reciprocal movements he chose to share with the stallion bit by bit, brought the connection, willingness, and trust he set out to gain.  Watching him made me a better trainer.

Linda, Honey, TrinityFive piles of hay is a training exercise to learn how to train a horse through reciprocal movements.  The job of the trainer sharing five piles of hay is to interact with their horse like horses do while grazing. Horses in nature use reciprocal movements as a way to create respect and trust.  The interactions that horses share while grazing, tighten their ability to communicate with one another. The interactions they share also create a unified herd. The interactions that take place are scattered between their grazing. Sometimes long periods of time pass with no communication, very much like how Ray chose to interact with his stallion he was training.

Ray chose to hang out with his horse in harmony and then occasionally he would influence his horse to respond to him. Sometimes when his stallion walked toward him on his way to the watering trough he would step out of his way, allowing the horse to move him, and other times he would make the stallion move around him. I could see he chose his approach, by how his stallion was feeling about him in the moment. If the stallion was intimidating Ray, He would then let his stallion know, that he would be walking around Ray. If his horse was polite and willing, he would then move out of his horse’s path. In this approach he could shape the horse to know how to behave in his company.  The stallion soon learned that Ray was in charge from the flexible boundaries, through the reciprocal movements he chose, and a working bond was formed.  This is the purpose of the Five Plies of Hay Exercise.

Honey, TrinityFrom the training of the Five Piles of Hay Exercise, you will be able to direct your horse at Liberty effortlessly, easily, and naturally just like horses do that live in harmony with one another.

Before you do the Five Piles of Hay exercise, it is of great value that you have a horse that has a good gas pedal response to your driving aids. This way your horse will accept your direction easily. You want your horse to be relaxed when he responds to you. If he responds to your driving aids by getting excited, this is a time to take a long pause and wait for him to become relaxed once again before connecting with him, or requesting any more response from him.

Here are all the ways you can interact with your horse to shape your horses behavior with the Five Piles of Hay Exercise.

  • You can stand close to your horse while he is eating, Sharing Territory with him.
  • You can walk away from him.
  • You can move him to a new pile of hay.
  • You call follow him around.
  • You can ask him to leave his pile.
  • You can move out of his way.
  • You can ask him to move around you, and out of your way.
  • You can ask your horse to stop.

Photo by Teddie ZieglerFrom all of these choices, you can create a brilliant liberty horse that will be connected to you like the boy in the movie, the Black Stallion. Bit by bit this exercise can help you to prepare your horse to work with you in a partnership. Taking the time to build respect, trust, leadership, and a consistent connection, will enhance the performance of a horse  for any and all equestrian pursuits.

For those of you who are interested in direct guidance in my Method at this time, on the subject of Reciprocal Movements and my whole program, Linda Salinas is offering a clinic at her beautiful farm in North Carolina. The date of the clinic is May 2nd– May 4th.

For a special treat, you can bring your horse to learn with you, or work with her beautiful horses in the clinic. It is a three-day clinic on self-realization, through the training of horses using the Waterhole Rituals.

Carolyn and LindaLinda has a new website – She has written her second blog.  I have not read it yet but I am really looking forward to reading it. It is a subject that Linda and I have often talked about. It is a look at how sharing time with animals brings about a natural ability for telepathic communication with them and how it relates to knowing how to connect with your horse in the moment. The article is titled Animal communicators and “Kissing a Rino”, which is a phrase I have always used to explain the fullest ability of communication with an animal, that combines knowing an animal’s behavior and intuition.  Here is the link to the blog…

Linda incorporates telepathic communication with my Method to guide equestrians in the training of horses at Liberty.  The program is for all trainers and horse owners.  Training through communication with a horse at Liberty, is a new experience for most equestrians, when the horse is allowed to have a voice and where politeness and fair play guides the way for both the horse and the human. At Liberty  using the Waterhole Rituals social behavior directs the training of the horse. Don’t miss out while Spring is in the air at the Salinas farm with Linda Salinas. For information about the clinic go to her website or click the link below for her flyer.

Have a great weekend!  Be on the lookout for new horse and human sightings, and may the horse be with you.

Warmly, Carolyn


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Sylvie-Sophie - a couple of years ago Reply

Dear Carolyn
Some weeks ago I wrote to you concerning my young horse, that always snapped at me playfully. You advised me to send him away whenever he does it, and to deepen the Waterhole Rituals.
Your advice helped a lot. He doesn’t do this anymore and we got very very close!
Today though we had a very bad experience.
I’m also a trained hoof practitioner and I already was very stressed out because I knew that I’d have another two appointments later on. My horse was not as patient as he was usually. And I worked myself up into my anger about his being impatient. I scolded him and I yelled at him 🙁 Something that he doesn’t know me doing to him. I actually thought that I had left this behind me a long time ago: being impatient with a horse.
Then the situation went really bad. He snapped at me, and layed back his ears whenever I asked him to yield his hind quarters so that I could pick up his hoof. And I got even angrier because of that. He also got angrier every time. Then suddenly he turned his hind quarters directly to me and he threatended to kick. I was stunned – and I tried again, to see if this was just a one time thing, a slip-up. Again I asked him to yield his hind quarters. But it was no accident – he again threatened to kick me. I was still allowed to pick up his hooves to work with them, but whenever I tried to make him yield to the side he turned directly to me threateningly.
I worked on his hooves and finished them. Like I said, this still was no problem. But I wasn’t even allowed to touch his hind quarters any more.
Even later on when we had finished the hooves a while ago, he wouldn’t let me even near his hind quarters. I was allowed to touch him and stroke him. He even followed me around in the stables. He let me groom him. Everything else was like before, but whenever I tried and put any kind of pressure on his hind quarters to make him yield to any side he would threaten me.
What happened?
I am SO sad right now.
I hope that you can give me any kind of advice? Because I really am at my wits’ end, and stressed out. I don’t know how to handle this situation with my horse 🙁

    Carolyn Resnick
    Carolyn Resnick - a couple of years ago Reply

    Dear Sylvie,

    This might help you, and your horse, stand at his hip with a carrot. When he shifts his hindquarters he gets a reward. Keep this up and see what develops.
    I know you can repair the damage because you feel remorse. Having remorse will help you to pick an appraoch to move on to a deeper connection.
    Another thing you might try is ask yourself what would you advise someone else to do in your same situation. This will cause you to step back and view your situation with more clearly.
    Hope this helps,

karin kozlowski - a couple of years ago Reply

Dear Carolyn,

Thank you so much for this excellent explanation of reciprocal movements and how it can help create a connection with a horse like the one in Black Stallion. In fact, I once again watched that movie last night. This morning I learned that Mickey Rooney had died. He was wonderful in that movie. My favorite part of that movie is at the end during the credits, with just the beautiful music and Alec and Black deeply engaged on the beach.

I checked out Linda Salina’s blog and her accounts of Kevin Richardson and Lawrence Anthony. I agree with Linda that most of us are capable of developing deep connections with animals and nature.

I didn’t get a chance to comment on your previous blog–Sally’s account of sharing territory. It was exceptional and delightful! Sharing territory is the foundation for my horse’s willingness to accept my leadership. I adore ST. It has even influenced a change in behavior of a little, introverted mustang in Roscoe’s herd. The mustang avoids human contact, but he has observed Roscoe and me together for a very long time, and he decided to make contact with me. What a great surprise!


    Carolyn Resnick
    Carolyn Resnick - a couple of years ago Reply

    Dear Karin,
    I love life so much more when I connect with nature, and from that connection animals begin to include me in their lives, and begin to enjoy my company.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences.
    Black Stallion watching and reading of Linda’s article and I had no idea that Mickey Rooney had passed.

    Thank you for sharing,


JoyNichols - a couple of years ago Reply

I will have to put out 8 piles of hay since I have 6 horses. More fun to watch than tv. My youngest horse is trying her best this winter to move up in the pecking order. Once in a while she did intimidate the 11 year old mare above her. But she is always on the bottom the next day. I am going to increase her food a little because she appears to be having a growth spurt. It is getting up into the 50s temps here and the horses have been dancing and showing off. The mud and hair is starting to fly.

Erica Dixon Izzy & Bijoux EC Spring 2011, BTWHR's 2012, IC Spring 2013, EC August 2013 - a couple of years ago Reply

Great blog! I put piles of hay out in the field yesterday evening & sat down to watch the horses play ‘piles of hay’. I always put more piles out than there are horses so they know there is plenty & there is no argy bargy. There is face pulling from some at the start as to who gets which pile & to set personal boundaries. Followed by much contented munching. Contended munching is a very therapeutic sound for me! Especially mixed in with the birds all singing in the spring air. Then it is interesting to me to see who moves who & in what way. I learn a lot about the horses from this. 🙂
See you in class

Desiree Taylor & Barbie * the Netherlands * IC - a couple of years ago Reply

This is excellent. The more I read about and do the 5 piles of hay, the more brilliant the exercise becomes, it seems.

Thank you,

Anna-karin Hägglund , Sweden/ Ameri Kahn / In the box, 2* EC, BTWHR dec 2012. - a couple of years ago Reply

Thank you for another great blog!

Today I will go out and do 5PH with the horses. We have a great spring weather. The air is crispy and clear and the birds are singing.

Have a great weekend!


CarolynBourchier - a couple of years ago Reply

Checking in. Your explanation was wonderful. Hit the nail on the head!
Perfectly clear, thank you.
Love as always
Carolyn B x

Andrea Schwiegel - a couple of years ago Reply

Hello Carolyn and thank you always.
My mare is now in company of 4 other horses and they have their 5 piles of hay. So I can learn easily from them by watching them in their reciprocal movements between the piles. Thanks to your teaching I now know what I have to look for and I am able now to have a deeper understanding of their language and recognize how precise their comunication is. It’s always fascinating, and I have to admit that since I ‘ve discovered the real horse-world thanks to persons like you, I completely forgot about riding – it’s no more important. Just walking with your horse, feeling the bond, sensing what she wants to tell you is just so beautiful.
Greeting from heart
Andrea (Italy)

UlrikeKraft - a couple of years ago Reply

Dear Carolyn,

the 5 Piles of Hay Game is my favorite thing and always helps me get a connection with my horse. When ever my mind gets too busy or the bond broke for some reason I go back to 5PH, even if I don’t have it set up I can always use the grass on the ground in the same way. It’s been my comfort zone since starting your program.

Thanks for explaining it again in detail,


Anne-Marie - a couple of years ago Reply

Thank you Carolyn. The post is a great reminder.

Thanks for the link to Lindas’ website. I read the book “The Elephant Whisperer”. Recommended reading, a great book about a wonderful and courageous man, and wonderful animals.


    Brenda - a couple of years ago Reply

    Oh, the Elephant Whisperer is wonderful. It immediately made me think of Naked Liberty.

StephanieMorse - a couple of years ago Reply

thanks Carolyn

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