CRIC: Reflections on Ritual#1

Note: CRIC stands for Carolyn Resnick Inner Circle, a program she is offering (for monetary compensation) to provide Internet coaching and which I am currently enrolled.

While I discuss Carolyns’ methods (”Waterhole Rituals’) I am expressing only my opinion to materials – DVD’s, online YouTube videos, her public blog etc… and my impressions of it, as well as how I use it with my own horses, as a review. I am not trained or endorsed by Carolyn Resnick.


As I sat with Pandora today, Sharing Territory, and also hanging with Hubby, we discussed Waterhole Ritual #1. My conclusion is that a lot of this is about Feel and this is why it is so hard for it to communicate it to another.

For example, as we sat there talking in the alley, Pandora just couldn’t forget that Hubby had given her a cookie. She became quite a polite pest about it that ended up being a bit too rude for comfort. I swished her away by shaking the tail of the lunge whip.

She ambled off about two or three steps and then ate grass nearby for awhile before coming over again, where we repeated the “Got Treats?” “No.” “What about this pocket?” “NO!” “Can I just put my nose in your pocket?” “Go AWAY!”

Now if that had been ZZ you would have felt a far different emotional vibe. The vibe wouldn’t have been pony’s persistent curiousity, but rather a strong-willed, very pushy, evasion into your space. Depending on her mood, and the strength of your character, you may have felt an uneasiness in your stomach, a shot of adrenalin and a compulsion to escape (BTW I never feel any of these things… but I know she can induce them).

#1 Work with a horse that you feel comfortable with telling to go away. A horse that is neither over reactive with too much flight, but also someone that isn’t so dominant that you worry about your safety.

The next thing I noticed about WR#1 was that I had done the Sharing Territory Ritual in several different places around the farm: the pasture with two horses; the alley where Pony could visit with another horse; the alley where there was no other horses to visit; the dirt arena; and the back roundpen that is rather cut off from the farm traffic, is small but has grass. Each place gave a different feel to the work.

When I was in the pasture, the horses had the most free will to move away. I felt the least threatened. The atmosphere was very lazy and flowing. It was the hardest to get the horses to approach me but I enjoyed just sitting and watching them so it wasn’t a big deal.

When there are other horses it’s the hardest to get a feeling of mutal interest between the target horse and I.

When we were in the roundpen, with the grass distraction but in a smaller space, pony enjoyed grazing beside me, coming over to check me out (rather like Saying Hello) and then going back to grazing. I think it built connection but was again more of putting the ball in her court (which I don’t think was a bad thing).

In the alley with no horses and little grass, I got the best interest but that verged on pesky. If you have little time, this would be the quickest way to engage your horse.

#2 Depending on how you want the relationship to evolve I would experiment with different places and enticements  (i.e. hay, treats). Each will give you a different feel to how the horse is relating and I think it’s important so you can compare your impressions.

Carolyn talks about using treats (she wants them outside the fenceline/area you are sitting) in order to encourage the horse that is not coming over to come over. With a horse that is too pesky about hand treating (and pony can be that way), I liked the solution another participant came up with which was sitting next to the hay feeder.

Since I use treats for clicker training, I don’t often give the horses treats for “nothing.” I also like to keep treating pony to a minimum when there is not a clear “job” because she gets too pushy about it. When I do  just give treats, I tend to place them into the feed pan as opposed to hand feeding.

I also think any horse has the potential to get pushy with treats, and I guess you need to know your own horse and his limits as to what you are going to allow. One  of the statements Carolyn made in her book? dvd? was is the  horse taking the treats, or you are gifting them? Only you, with feel, know which is the emotional vibe being presented.

Personally, with ZZ who is pushy/dominant I allow her standing beside me as long as she is not touching or rubbing on me. Since she uses contact for dominance, at this stage only I initiate touch. However, with pony I allow her to touch me of her own free will because I know that, although it might be inquisitive and pesky, it will be polite (no biting or pushing).

Another area of confusion with his ritual is the sending away. I think Carolyn wants the horse to be a bit of a rubberband without breakingt: the horse is close by, comes to investigates you, eventually gets pesky, you use only enough pressure to send the horse away a short distance, horse slowly comes back, becomes pesky, and you send away, etc… until the horse comes back in a calm state sharing the territory you created and being respectful about it.

As long as the horse is calmly sharing my territory – no pushing, aggressive touching, defensive moves, then I allow the horse to stay. When the horse does any sort of behavior that I feel is invasive, disrespectful or even dangerous to me, he must leave.

For example, in the dirt arena I was seated under the tree on the mounting block when ZZ came over. She first ate grass around the fencline in front and behind me. I felt no emotional vibe that was threatening; actually the opposite as it felt serene and soft. Eventually, she just stood beside me for about 10 minutes both of us without doing a thing.

However, the above didn’t happen overnight. I had to send her away and several times I had to be really strong about it. Carolyn talks about using your core energy and actually I disagree with her somewhat: there are some horses, personality wise, that no matter how strong your core only the most charismatic trainers are going to be able to send the horse away.

Look at what Hempfling does with his Borderline Demonstrations. Do you think in a million years that the average human being could take out a stallion that had been kept in a stall for months and only let out to breed could be controlled by YOU? Humph.

#3 For safety’s sake you must understand how your horse responds to being sent away (a lot of horses might do this by turning and striking you!) and how much pressure it takes from YOU to get the horse to move away at an acceptable distance (greater threat = greater distance).

When I ask my horse to move away I do it with pressure that moves them in a distance from me that equaled the level of pushiness I felt. For example, with pony today, I just shook the tassel of the lunge whip and she moved about a yard away to eat grass, when she could have left me in an area that allowed over a hundred yards of movement.

However, with ZZ if she is really pushing against me I may drive her 6-10 feet away. If her threat is just little, I just shake the tassel of the lungewhip and she moves a foot or two and re-settles eating grass or just standing with me.

I hope that clarifies MY thoughts about how I use this ritual, and in closing remember, this isn’t a Certified Opinion. 🙂

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