I have been following the work of Carolyn Resnick and her long time student, Robin Gates
for many years. Like Carolyn, I was drawn to mustangs, and taught by mustangs, but these mustangs were in my front yard and the meadows surrounding my house on Orcas Island. while once wild, now they were becoming gentle and used to people, especially me.
I had totally changed the way I was working with horses, focusing on relationship and draw, and looking for their willingness and happiness, never wanting to overwhelm them and dominate them as I had been taught. I found when I played with my horses this way, they were happy and I felt joyful and renewed from being with them. When I resorted to the ways I had been taught (in times of frustration) I would feel awful, sick in my heart. I decided I didn't care how long it took to gentle and train and eventually ride my horses, I wanted my horses to keep their happy expressions, their spirits, and allow their personalities to shine.
So, I watched them, and I hung out with them, when I asked something of one of them, and they didn't respond, I went softer, asked for less, praised more. I did what I saw the herd leader do, pushing all the horses ahead of him, around the arena. I used treats to gain greater focus. I sang to them. I sat with them as they lay sleeping. I greeted them by name each time I came and went, they called to me if I went off for a walk without them. They came to me when I called, they watched for me and moved towards me on the farm, they looked to me for help when they were hurt or sick.
Then, I stumbled upon 'Naked Liberty'. Imagine my happiness to find I wasn't the only one doing things with horses in a unique way, in fact, Carolyn had been forging this path for her lifetime! She'd learned from mustangs in the wild, she had been honing her skills since she was a child. I read every blog post she made.. I watched all her videos, I attended seminars with Robin Gates. And I did the work, first with one horse and then another, more with my two main horses, and less with my husband's horses, who are also school horses.
This winter in the wet weather, I worked with my 4 mustangs as a herd and less often as pairs. I have been amazed at the changes I have seen in them this spring, as lessons began again, and I started riding.
The horse I have been working with the longest, my oldest pal, Rascal is GLUED TO ME whenever I go out he is just right there, at attention, at my shoulder ready and waiting to do what ever I ask. It just blows my mind! When being ridden in dressage, he is also so much lighter, more attentive, forward and anxious to please.
Rascal is also a teacher and when I start students on him (only after they get good at all their ground skills and connecting) he is such a good caretaker of all of them. I always give a passenger lesson while walking with Rascal. He is not just good, he is perfect. He is so willing and so engaged that he talks to me, humming and deep rumbles in his throat, nickers. The last lesson I gave with him, he hummed and talked to me the entire hour!
I find this the greatest honor, the biggest reward, instead of a dull, turned off horse, wanting to get away from working, Rascal is delighted to be with me and teaching.