Changes in Nature.
I went for a walk with Spirit today, together with Niki and Caroline (the other working students). They had decided to take Jack and Elena for a walk and we all walked on a well-known trail for the horses. However, around Christmas we had a huge storm here at St. Vincent with resulted in landslides and flooding in some places. It had completely reshaped this trail with many deep holes in the ground and threes being taken by the water. At a good viewpoint Spirit stopped and looked intensely down in the valley where the river was running. You can tell by the picture that it had increased 5-6 times in size during the storm taking a lot of plants and threes with it. It seemed as if Spirit was noticing this change and wondered what had happened.
I just had the most beautiful experience with Spirit and Magic today. I went out to sit with them in the walking pen and watch the sun set. The sunsets here in the Caribbean are so special and beautiful to watch because the sun moves so fast you can see it moving with your eyes. In 5 minutes it went from being a fair distance from the horizon to just being covered by the earth. Before it got that far I sat and watched the clouds letting my creative imagination roam free – something I haven’t allowed myself time to do, since I was a small child. One cloud had shape like a bagel, one like topped whipped cream on a cake, one like a rabbit. While I watched some of the sheep from the school had escaped from their enclosure and made their way into the horse walk pen. I sat and watched as they walk closer to the fence. Spirit and Magic had been standing for some time at the gate close to me, but then Spirit decided to move. She walked over and positioned herself in the path of the sheep direction.
They stopped immediately. They watched each other for a while and then spirit moved over and did what looked like the ritual: “taking territory” but in a gentle way. She lowered her head and walked towards them. They quickly understood her message and moved back. She stopped as soon as the sheep had given a responds. They reacted to her stopping by starting to eat some large leafs (ones that the horses don’t like) growing next to them. Spirit although had not eaten before now started to eat some grass along the side of the fence. They stood there for a while just eating close to each other. This shows how universal the language of the Waterhole Rituals is. All animals instantly understand the body language and the energy put behind these actions, which shows how natural and simple it is to communicate even with other animals than horses. Carolyn Resnick writes about this exact experience about a big cat she met in the woods when following the wild herd and how that cat also responded to her energy and behavior in a peaceful and curious way. It is amazing to experience how clear and powerful yet so gentle this language is.
This morning started perfectly with a training session with Stina and the horses Spirit and Magic.
Magic was trained in single lining where I learned how to move a horse from standing behind it. She did well so I worked with Spirit who is a much more sensitive horse who has not been worked much the last couple of years. She reacts instantly on every movement she sees and can sense very small signals from your state of mind. She does not like to be touched and tried to avoid it if possible. I wanted her to be ok with me touching her, so I decided to share territory in the first hour. When she came closer to me and showed interest in saying hello, I read it to be a sign of her to be willing to go to the next “level”. I got up from my chair and very soft and slow touched her stomach. She instantly put her ears back and took a step to the side away from me. At the same time I took a step away from her and moved away slowly. I sat down again and read for 10 minutes. I got back up and tried again.
This time she moved her skin as if she was surprised but stayed in the same spot. I did nothing more than 2 seconds of touch in the same place. After waiting again 10 minutes I tried again. This time she continued eating like nothing was happening and she was relaxed. I did not want to push her so I still moved away afterwards. This went on for 1 hour and in the end I was able to touch both sides of her and let my hand run from the shoulder on to the hindquarter without any reaction from her side. I learned during this how important it is to breathe deeply and relaxed and to be determined when deciding to touch. If I was hesitating so would she. I also felt a huge difference in my body if I tried the same while being barefooted on the green grass. It was like a magnetic stream was flowing through my body when being barefooted. It is amazing to walk barefooted for the first time since I was a young child.
A wonderful experience
The horse was so trusting and comfortable the entire time that it felt very natural and in a flow.
Today I had a wonderful experience with the horses Magic and Elena. The rain was pouring down so Stina, Niki (working student) and I had to be creative about what we could do with the horse (not having a riding hall). We decide to do “one pile of hay”. We would be calling each of their names and when they come they would get a treat, we would then tell them to go and do something else and only when their mind would be away from the treats would we call them back for a treat.
After a few times Magic decides to lie down, Stina quickly grabbed the chance to teach magic to be comfortable with her walking around Magic when she would stay lying down. Stina would use treats to encourage Magic to stay and let her know that it was a behavior we would like her to have. Magic stayed down for some time and was very relaxed and appeared comfortable for the duration and Stina was able to touch and walk around Magic many times. It was amazing to experience how naturally this kind of training can be done when you take the time to be with the horse and then take the opportunity when it arises. The horse was so trusting and comfortable the entire time that it felt very natural and in a flow.
This is to me true freedom and the dream I have always been looking for
I am a working student with Stina Herberg for 3 months. I came originally to learn about a method of working with horses at liberty. I have been riding the traditional way taught in many riding schools in Denmark where you are told to force the horse and never let it “get away” with anything less than you ask from it. You are given a whip and are asked to pull the reins very hard with the bid in the mouth of the horse. I always felt it was wrong but was too young to know of any alternatives. Instead I sought the country side where I could find a horse owner who was less ambitious and more willing to just let me take rides in the nature and the surrounding fields. That way I could just enjoy the company of the horse and have fun with the horse without any fixed goals of how the riding was supposed to look like. I did that for nearly 15 years. In the end I felt a deep need for getting my own horse. I had been on a self-exploring journey to find my true passion because my work was not fully satisfying.
I found out that horses were the one thing that always made me feel good, so I decided to get my own. The Friesian I ended up buying was a beautiful gelding that had won many prizes in the Friesian “stud book” when he was young, however after being sent to Holland for training at the age of 4, he returned home to Denmark with no willingness to allow a rider on his back. The owner had many horses to train so focused on the others hoping that someone would buy him. Many where interested because of his amazing charisma and good appearance however after trying to sit on him, they all refused to buy him. He would not move and if he did it would be backwards. If pressure was applied he would buck or rear. He was longed a few time a week for 5 years but otherwise left alone.
I came and fell in love with him immediately. I was sure that his good nature/mind would be the key to getting him back as a riding horse. I spent many months just being with him on the ground and after 6 months I was able to sit on him and have him walk forward without questioning. After another few months he was trotting happily and with great speed! I was very pleased however, I then moved him to a new stable closer to my home.
This obviously took him out of his comfort zone and he changed from being very calm and easy to work with, into a frenzy I could not get in contact with. This horse that would normally walk at a slow speed and needed some encouragement to move was all of a sudden trotting panicky around me as soon as he got out of the stable. I realized that all the horsemanship techniques I tried were all in vain and I knew I did not understand the signals he gave. I needed to be able to speak his language in order to get his attention back.
That’s when I heard of StinaHerberg and Carolyn Resnick method. I contacted Stina and was fortunately given the possibility of coming for 3 months as working student. This first month have taught me how and when my horse acts dominantly and given me rituals to work with to state my ranking towards him. I am sure that when I start to act like a leader he will have much more faith in following and listening to me when I start using the Waterhole Rituals. Furthermore, I can see that the Carolyn Resnick method is applicable to all of my future training with my horse all the way to dressage which can be carried out in accordance with my values because the horse is at liberty and at the same time the horse as a natural self-bearing without me having to pull the reins to push hard with my legs to force this posture. This is to me true freedom and the dream I have always been looking for, but took me 30 years to find. I look forward to working with the Waterhole Rituals with my Friesian when I go back to Denmark. – Kira . .
Why I am here as a Working Student
I have been a working student with Stina for over a 1 month now. The reason why, I decided to join the Carolyn Resnick method with Stina, is that I have had a traditional career working for different FMCG companies working in marketing and branding using my master degree in Marketing and economics from a Business University. Somehow, I just never felt satisfied. I missed the feeling of making a difference that could be seen elsewhere than simply on the turnover and profit of the company. I wanted to feel a sense of purpose and meaningfulness and joy with what I was doing. After being treated for breast cancer at the age of 28 and malign melanoma 1 ½ year later, I realized how precious life is and how important it is that we spend each day doing something that we enjoy and really like deep inside. I realized that the things I regarded as important before where not at all important when I was lying in a bed at the hospital receiving chemo not knowing if I would survive to experience another New Year or ever getting the chance to have children – not know if my life would be taken away in 1 year, 2 years or 5 years.
What really mattered was my friends and family who supported me and lifted my spirit when the side effects was draining all my energy away and I didn’t know if it would be the chemo or the cancer that would be taking my life. I realized how important it was for my survival that I did something every day that I felt good about and brought about a feeling of happiness. It could be just going to brush my horse (I was too weak to lift up the saddle, let along getting on the horse – even though it was a 25 year old mare who would be very caretaking towards me in my situation) or sometimes just spending the little energy I had on taking a walk in my neighborhood looking at each individual three on the way, noticing the leafs and the small spider webs I never noticed before. This was what kept my hope and willingness to survive up. Not sitting in an office focusing on the sales figures and the profit every week. I left the well paid secure job now knowing that the only thing that brought my true joy and happiness was being around horses.
I then heard about Stina and the method she follows from Carolyn Resnick and it brought back my childhood memory of what I originally was hoping to find with the horse: a close trusting bond that would make a horse wish my company and follow me from his own will. This is why I am here with Stina. I hope it will me a more clear understanding of horses and how I can shape a new future with free horses as the focal point. – Kira
Thank you Kira for sharing your experiences through your beautiful blogs.
Kind regards Stina