Waterhole Ritual 2: Saying Hello

I’ve been discussing Carolyn Resnick’s 7 waterhole Rituals. (Read more about Carolyn here.) The second ritual, Saying Hello, deals with how we approach and greet our horses, especially at the beginning of the relationship.

Many people are incredibly unobservant of their horse’s body language. They barge in with halter and lead, get the horse, and then drag the reluctant horse out of the pasture. There is little respect for the horse’s space or wishes.

Carolyn talks about watching thresholds and never approaching uninvited. If we begin to approach, and the horse backs away or appears nervous, then we’ve crossed a threshold and we need to back away as well. This is similar to the approach and retreat ideas that many horse trainers use.

Also, at the beginning, we should approach, let the horse sniff and smell us and then immediately back away and leave. Backing away takes off the pressure and helps the horse realize we meant no harm. Also, by leaving, we continue to build interest and curiosity in our horses. The horse soon learns he has little to fear, because, as Carolyn says, she’s “never going to ask him to do something he doesn’t want to do.”
By backing away, we set the horse up for success. If we dally around too long, a shy or unconfident horse will often leave. If this gets repeated and we continue to put too much pressure on the horse, our presence becomes a cue for the horse to leave. Instead, if we leave first and the horse remains, then we’ve set the horse up for success. He begins to gradually realize that we aren’t all that bad.

If you liked this post, take a moment to share it!

, , , ,

Don't miss out on great information about animal training! Subscribe now to the Stale Cheerios newsletter and receive email updates when new posts are published.

Disclaimer: StaleCheerios posts occasionally contain affiliate links. Affiliate links are one way that StaleCheerios can continue providing top-quality content to you completely for free. Thank you for supporting our hard work! Learn more here.

  • Don

    Exactly. We can though, leave at an angle, as well as leave with our hand. This is what we used to call when I was a kid about 60 years ago, “The Draw.” It's a very kind way of getting on with business yet doing so in ways compatible with horse nature.

    If you are interested I've posted a couple of things in a training diary and a blog on the subject, one about teaching a very anti halter filly, about 8 months old, to instead of me chase her to put the halter on for her to chase me to get the halter from me – all using The Draw.


    This an other techniques are my own method drawn from my 60 years, on and off, with horses. These days I've come to think of it as the Mother Mare method. That is who I draw my practice from. Well, that and a number of years working in dealing with aberrant human behavior.

    If you want to know why a human does what they do, and you can find out about their primary caregiver and how they parented you will have the answers. Hence, the Mother Mare principle in handling horses.

    Is that lovely picture you, doing the News Nose with those two blaze faced horses? You are revealing your intent, your secrets, your thoughts, and even your subconscious to those horses by trading breath with them. And in time, say 40 more years you might come to trust the feelings that come to you as you drink in their breath and understand they are telling YOU the same things about them. If only we had the nose to hear, eh? We can do it a little if we are still and trust.


  • Amy

    I did a search for the Waterhole Rituals and was so please to find your blog! I am a native of Denton, Texas and a graduate of UNT. I'm in southern California right now for work and live quite close to Carolyn. We haven't met, but I was just turned on to her by the fantastic guy I have doing teeth on a mare I just rescued. It's wonderful to read about putting these rituals to work, and even more fun to find the UNT connection. The horse world is tiny. I will keep reading! Best of luck!

    Amy Cox