As some of you already know, I live in Costa Rica and manage Majestic Properties. We have beautiful vacation rentals on Lake Arenal with spectacular views of the Arenal Volcano. Shortly after we opened, I was on the hunt for a decent saddle when I stumbled upon four emaciated horses in desperate need of help. My husband and I came to the rescue with our close friend Lilander who is a fellow horse lover. We drove back the following day and brought the horses home with us. Since we already had three horses of our own, we needed to find an additional source of income to support our growing family. We started an Equine and Wellness Center which we named Kindred Connections. Our original plan was to invite like-minded clinicians to Costa Rica to hold clinics in the form of vacation getaways or retreats. Our intention was to use the income generated from this business for the feeding and care of the horses since the medical bills were piling up daily. We also wanted to learn different methods of training which is a difficult endeavor in Costa Rica.
I first reached out to Carolyn Resnick who put me in touch with Linda Salinas. Linda is a certified trainer in Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Ritual method of training horses at liberty. Linda is Carolyn's only trainer who travels abroad. After speaking to Linda, I knew this would be the method for me! The Waterhole Rituals are based on Carolyn's life work of interacting with horses in the wild which she began as a small child. For many years, Carolyn observed the manner in which wild horses interact and she developed a method of training based on herd dynamics. Her method stresses that the horse has a voice and he is free to decide if he wants to stay or go. There is no tack used and this method is practiced in an open area or in a space large enough for the horse to escape your influence if he so desires. It is all about connection and being at one with nature. We can also allow ourselves to "get into the zone" and live moment to moment just as the horses do with no agenda.
In March of 2015, our first clinic with Linda at our facility in Costa Rica came to fruition and what an amazing clinic it turned out to be! It was magical to watch Linda work with these shy rescue horses who did not trust humans at all. Linda commented that these were by far the most difficult horses that she had ever worked with. Participants also worked with the horses each day. Slowly but surely we made progress. By Day 5, all the horses were enjoying The Waterhole Rituals and could hardly wait for their turn in the arena. Linda taught us to make the arena the "sweet spot" which is better than anywhere else. It is a place where the horses can feel safe to explore, participate, and connect if they so choose. I think we accomplished that goal! After Linda's clinic ended, the miracles continued. Much to my surprise the next day, I discovered that Apache had jumped a fence to get to the "sweet spot" where he stood patiently waiting. Each morning my horses now gather around the arena as they wait their turn to play. Linda's clinic was a life-changing experience for me. I knew that I had finally found a method of training that feels right and gives the horses a voice. This method has changed the lives of my horses as well!
As the following weeks and months flew by, Linda and I kept in touch. I could feel a shift within me. Due to the clinic and training horses at liberty, I began to feel a great sense of peace and a deeper knowing of myself. I began seeking all the information I could find about the field of Equine Facilitated Learning. I quickly realized that I wanted to further my knowledge of EFL and liberty training. It is an amazing feeling to be connected as one with nature just as it is meant to be. I soon came to the realization that I want to share this feeling with the world. I have had many conversations with Linda about this and she is supportive of my new path. To me, it is no coincidence that I manage these beautiful homes in Costa Rica and felt led to rescue a herd of horses. I am meant to do this!
After much research and soul-searching, I decided to take a 5 day private intensive Waterhole Ritual clinic with Linda Salinas at her lovely farm in North Carolina. I felt that additional training in Carolyn Resnick's method was the right choice for me. I scheduled the clinic to coincide with a visit to see my dear old Dad who also lives in North Carolina. Shortly before our clinic, Linda discovered that she had been selected as a participant in a clinic to be taught in South Carolina by Frederic Pignon who is a world-renowned liberty trainer. Since this was happening right before my clinic, I went a few days early. I was thrilled for Linda and I just knew I had to be there for her. I am so glad I went! It was an incredible experience to see Linda and her horse Shadow in the arena with Frederic. Of course, they stole the show. Shadow was a comedian and he "showed off" every chance he got. It was really something to see!
Now it was time for my private clinic with Linda and I needed to get down to business! Although I know the Waterhole Rituals and have been studying with both Linda and Carolyn for over a year, I knew this was going to be something different; something special. The first day, we started with the basics, beginning with a beautiful meditation while sharing territory with a horse in the arena. Sharing territory helps to create a bond with horses. I would then proceed to say hello to the horse, which creates trust. Linda brought a variety of horses into the arena throughout the day and the time passed quickly. As we worked through each ritual, I realized it was not me who was training the horse but instead the horse was training me. After all, Linda's horses do know the rituals quite well! It was interesting to note that although they know the rituals, they did not make it easy on me. They definitely made me work for it. I soon realized that it truly is ALL ABOUT CONNECTION! I had to find the place deep within my soul that was comfortable with simply just "being." Once I found that place, it was like magic. The horses were right there confirming that this is how I am supposed to BE. They clearly communicated this many times. When I wasn't fully present, neither were they.
At the end of the second day, Linda suggested that we go into the pasture to sit and share territory with the horses while discussing our thoughts about the day. As the horses milled about, I was telling Linda about a profound experience that I had in the arena earlier in the day. At that exact moment, Blackjack slowly approached and stood over me as if he were protecting me. As he moved closer and closer, Linda and I watched in awe. He seemed to be in an altered state and it was obvious that energy was flowing through him. He moved so close that his chin was over my head and his legs were almost touching my knees. Next, Bella (a young and frisky mare) came over and stood horizontally behind me. The two horses had made a T-shape over me. This had continued for almost an hour when I began to feel a strong vibration from the middle of my chest going up my neck and out through the top of my head. At that exact moment, a woodpecker began pecking his music. When he stopped, the vibration ended. Bella and Blackjack commenced licking and chewing. Then, they walked away as their work was done. Linda and I were speechless. We went inside to look up the symbology of the woodpecker. We found that it is the totem for a strong Sun and Moon in the medicine wheel of astrology, corresponding to Cancer which is my sign. It reflects new bounding leaps of spiritual growth and major creative changes in physical and material life. Furthermore, woodpecker stimulates new healing energies and reflects that you will experience emotions more intensely. This confirmed to me that Bella and Blackjack really had been sending healing energy and love during the time that they stood over me!
These were the moments that I learned so much about myself. Once I let go of the mental chatter in my head (the stuff that keeps us stuck in the past) and became fully present in the moment, I felt a connection with the horses and I felt connected to myself as well. I learned that in order to heal, one must first of all have the courage to FEEL. When I became honest with myself and let my vulnerability show, I connected with the horses almost instantaneously. They are truly amazing creatures.
Before I knew it, our five days together had come to an end. During my private intensive with Linda and her herd, I experienced numerous magical healing moments and learned more about myself in the process than I possibly could have imagined. Horses are natural born healers. They continue to teach me so much about myself, give me clear direction, and boost my confidence that I am on my right path. Thank you Carolyn for your method, Linda for your insight, skill, and patience, and most of all a special thank you to all of our equine partners who generously make all of this possible. Who knows? You may only be five days from discovering YOUR heart's desire as well!