conscious horsemanship,  Featured,  training

Carolyn Resnick’s Chair Challenge, bliss, and character


Doing Carolyn Resnick’s Chair Challenge! Four weeks of learning

I took an online class with Carolyn Resnick called the Chair Challenge.  I have used her methods before a bit with the herd, and love learning more from her.  She’s my favorite conscious horsemanship teacher. When the special offer showed up in my Inbox to do the Chair Challenge, I jumped at the opportunity. Carolyn talks more about the importance of sitting with horses here.
This is the journal of that 4 week experience with Sugar, Salty, Lucky, T and Malenna.

Day 1
Explored their territory.
They were curious.  They have seen me do this before so no huge revelations.  I did get almost a sense that they found it reassuring for my to inspect their areas at sunset.  Malenna came over and hung out with me.  T followed me for a bit.  I made sure to stop at manure piles, handle the hay, ruffle the water surface, and get into each corner.  I’m going to make this a nightly routine around dusk whenever possible.

Day 2
Time to introduce reed, make sure they are brave with the reed, and use the reed to move them out of my space.  I am using a very thin, very flexible short branch off a poplar tree for now.  I’d love to find some local willow or wild reeds to harvest.  I’m keeping my eyes open for some.

Day 3
Introducing the chair and sitting in the chair.
Malenna is the only one not well-experienced with this.  I keep a mounting block (T sees chairs as toys) in the paddock and regularly sit with them all.  See my earlier blog post  http://carrieeastman.blogspot.com/2014/09/3-horses-3-training-plans-same.html about some of our experiences sitting together.  In warm weather, I often take my laptop out to the field and work in the herd.

Day 4
Sitting, then exploring how your horse would like to be approached.  This is actually something we have all worked on together before.  T especially has been my biggest teacher about proper approach etiquette.  He actually used his energy to push me back out of his space to show me the edges of his energy bubble.  This was a good refresher today, and also, Carolyn offered the very important detail to approach from head-on, catching both eyes.  Being off to the side, even a little, becomes a cue to move.

Day 5
Really neat tip from today’s lesson:  Put your chair in the middle of a tarp if you need extra help keeping your horse out of your space.  And I learned that the key is how your feet move, or don’t move.  Sitting removes the chances that the horse can force your feet to move, even by accident.

I’ve also realized something about Lucky. He loves to hang out with me while I sit or stand quietly. He is respectful when I do.  Yet, he walks away when offered a halter.  He will often follow at liberty though.  I’m not clear what he is trying to tell me yet, just that there is something I am not hearing.

In general, I’m finding that my entire day is more centered and calmer when I make the time to sit with the horses, meditate, focus on gratitude and appreciation for all the sounds and sights and smells of my surroundings.  I find that my mind snaps into clarity and quiet much faster and easier.  I am also making time to share territory with my goat herd, and getting similar reactions from them.

If you would like to read more about Carolyn’s work and classes, please go to www.carolynresnick.com


Day 6
Explored their territory from my chair.
Using only the senses I can use while sitting, I tuned in to everything around me while sitting with them.  In my daily chores, I often get so focused on what I’m doing that I forget about “being”.  I had forgotten how many sounds and smells there are, the breeze, the birds, the animals, the crunch of the gravel when I move my feet. I found myself feeling more connected with my surroundings.  Later, when I was working, I slowed down and appreciated more.

Day 7
Today I got to read a book.  I planned to read my new purchase about raising and training foals. Instead I ended up catching up on Facebook posts.  I’m curious to experiment and see if they prefer when I read a printed book versus play with an electronic device…  I’ll test that out next week.

Day 8
Putting myself in my horse’s shoes.  Well, in their case, bare hooves.  Today I walked around their areas before sitting, really looking, listening, smelling and feeling to understand how they see their environment.  I can honestly say that their environment is richer than mine in the house.  So much to smell and taste and hear, and always changing.  I feel a greater sense of peace and connection, and this feeling is carrying over beyond the daily time with the horses.  The horses are becoming more responsive to me, moving away with a lighter suggestion, talking to me more, and kinder with each other.  And breakthrough!  Malenna came over and sniffed me, then relaxed peacefully next to me. Being so tiny, she appears to be used to being pushed around, so when she’s given a choice about being touched, she just walks away.  This is the first step in her learning to be friends with humans. I’m so thrilled!

Day 9
Today was sitting, then exploring how your horse would like to be approached.  This is actually something we have all worked on together before.  T especially has been my biggest teacher about proper approach etiquette.  He actually used his energy to push me back out of his space to show me the edges of his energy bubble.  This was a good refresher today, and also, Carolyn offered the very important detail to approach from head-on, catching both eyes.  Being off to the side, even a little, becomes a cue to move.  I find I easily lapse back into incorrect approach, especially with the pony Malenna.

Malenna!  Hip cocked and resting

Regarding goats and chairs
It’s kidding season, so I’m spending a lot more time in the goat pens, just sitting.  I’m having similar experiences with the goats.  They are friendlier, more interested in me, the kids are bolder.  I feel centered and peaceful with the goats, too. I did find that the chair puts me up taller than the goats, and while the kids see that as a climbing dare, the adults prefer that I sit closer to the ground.

In general, I’m finding that my entire day is more centered and calmer when I make the time to sit with the horses, meditate, focus on gratitude and appreciation for all the sounds and sights and smells of my surroundings.  I find that my mind snaps into clarity and quiet much faster and easier.  I am also making time to share territory with my goat herd, and getting similar reactions from them.

Day 10 – Day 13
Rather than write each day separately, I’m recording overall impressions, results, and changes.  Both in me and in the horse herd.  Some particular quotes and insights particularly struck me this week.

From Carolyn herself  “I found the formula into the horses’ world. It was simple; it was my job to wait for the horses to respond and acknowledge my presence. I had to be in a proper state of bliss…”

Bliss.  How often have I felt bliss?  And when/where/why?  This thought really got me pondering.  I realized that bliss for me is timeless.  It is present time only.  It has happened most often outdoors. Most often when there were no distractions, just an appreciation for the moment.  And the bliss was ecstatic.  Sometimes just peaceful.  A knowing.  If this is how horses live every moment, wow.

Life on the farm has gotten busy with spring repairs and kidding season.  I have found it challenging to make time to just sit with all the things I want or need to do.  Being versus doing.  Life for us humans is really a balancing act of those two, flipping back and forth.

In the midst of this chair challenge, I am also rehabbing one of the mares and getting 2 others fit again for some upcoming classes we are attending.  This means working.  And sometimes asking them to push a bit past what is comfortable.  So every day I am seeking that balance of how much I can ask, how far I can push the healing, while at the same time honoring their “no”.  I cannot say I have found one simple answer. Every interaction seems to take a slightly different approach. The best I can offer is that I am listening harder than I have ever listened in my life.  I’m really having to swallow ego, and admit when I’m wrong, apologize, and find a different way.  I feel like I am being molded as much as they are.

Deep stuff.  Stay tuned as things unfold.

If you would like to read more about Carolyn’s work and classes, please go to www.carolynresnick.com

Day 14 and beyond
As I move around the farm, sometimes I just put the tools down and lean on the fence, or sit on the hay bale, or stand quietly and find that place of bliss.  I watch the horses.  I tune into the farm.  They are responding to this.  I’m finding I can request that they move a bit or respect my space with a raised eyebrow, a look, a thought, perhaps a hand pointing.  Even T, the strongest-willed and honestly most aggressive, he is softening.

Which brings me to a quote that really resonated with me last week, and continues to.

“We do not have to handle any situation where he might bite us or kick us.  We create the order, not by reprimanding the horse for a negative behavior, but by the distance that we allow him to have from us.”

As I move about cleaning, I am in an enclosure with 4 horses and sometimes a pony.  The entire area is no bigger than a riding ring.  Safety is a priority.  And I find that the less I crowd them, the softer I make my requests, the bigger the escape opening I allow, the softer and safer they get.

And yet another important point – our level of focus and concentration around a horse is one of the ways he judges your leadership.

Which brings me to my last quote from the challenge.

“Until a horse will allow his character to be adjusted by us,
 he does not accept training from us.”


I’m realizing that this quote could really be turned about.  


“Until a person will allow his character to be adjusted by a horse,
 he cannot fully learn from the horse.”

Fast forward to summer 2017…

Since completing the Chair Challenge, I have doubled the herd.  Expanded onto a new bigger farm. Been offered riding lessons from a horse.  Well, more like insistence.  No riding until you learn these basics from our point of view.  Leave the tack, just get on.  You can read more about that here.

And now I am custodian of a stallion.  A very rare black Arabian stallion.  My dream horse from childhood.  He is noble and kind and an excellent teacher.  The learning continues.

I find that reading back over this post, I am reminded to tune in, find my bliss.  Slow down.  Pay attention.  Make this a way of living, a daily walking meditation.

Until next post, may you and your herd find your bliss together.  Amen.

If you would like to read more about Carolyn’s work and classes, please go to www.carolynresnick.com

(c) 2016 Carrie Eastman  All rights reserved

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