conscious horsemanship

Train your horse with only a chair and a reed

Doing Carolyn Resnick’s Chair Challenge! First week of experiences

I’m taking 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.

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 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

Continue reading with Week 2.

(c) 2016 Carrie Eastman  All rights reserved


  • jmci

    Horses love to spend quiet time, don't they? Once, one of our horses got me positioned by his left side and proceeded to stand there for 1 hour and 45 minutes. It was me who finally had to leave and go in the house!
    Have you come across Jenny Pearce? (

  • jmci

    I've been thinking about the ways my horses move my feet. In as much as I am generally groping in the dark whereas the horses clearly are intelligent and focused, it behooves me to let them take over leadership pretty regularly. When they move each other's feet, it's because they have the authority to do so, and their technique ranges from out-and-out snakey-head attack to a subtle driving from behind. Or occasionally backing up and threatening to kick. They wouldn't try to move me aggressively, and don't try to subtly drive me, as they probably realize either I'd refuse or I'd be too thick to notice. So they seem to have two ways of doing it – one is to bump me with their heads. And, unlike their confreres, I can refuse to budge if I choose. The other way is to walk away from me and turn around to look at me pointedly. Actually it's mostly just one of our horses who does this. He's also skilled at stopping me very courteously. You're obviously willing to hand over leadership to your horses – viz your new riding teacher. It's liberating to realize that it's safe to do so, isn't it? Nice to be able to let them come up with the ideas sometimes. Especially as they're often such good ideas. Handing over leadership is so different from agreeing to be a doormat.

  • carrie

    Generally speaking, on the ground, my horses are not allowed to move my feet. Period. Unless I very specifically invite them to do so in a game. Even when Lucky is acting as the riding teacher, while he has the choice whether or not to be mounted or to teach, he is not allowed to move me around. This feels important for safety. I very much like to see what ideas they come up with, and they are certainly always teaching me new things. It is definitely a dance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Malcare WordPress Security