By: Roy Bragg
COMFORT — Cinnamon, a 24-year-old mare who’s blind in her right eye, stood alone in the corner of a corral on a Hill Country ranch.
The horse didn’t want to be there. Linda Salinas, the only person in the pen, approached her slowly.
Salinas closed in. Wearing a headset that fed her near-whisper through the public address system, she explained how she was going to train the horse without laying a hand, a whip or any tack on her.
“First, I’m going to take territory on her,” Salinas said. “I’m going to claim that space.”
As is the case with real estate agents and street gangs, territory is a big deal to a horse. Salinas was attempting to quietly and peacefully let Cinnamon know that there was a new sheriff in town and that it was her.
Mission accomplished. Cinnamon trotted off as Salinas got close. Like a basketball player posting up under the basket, Salinas took Cinnamon’s place in the corner.
“This establishes me at the top of the pecking order,” Salinas said. “Cinnamon is free to interact with me or ignore.”
Salinas, who lives near Charlotte, N.C., came to the EquiSol Healing Center, located just outside of Comfort, to teach a three-day clinic in a specialized form of horse training known euphemistically as “The Seven Waterhole Rituals.” The women in attendance, who hail from Central Texas, San Antonio and the Houston suburbs, paid $450 each to attend.
Developed by California trainer Carolyn Resnick, the “Seven Waterhole Rituals” purpose is to communicate with the horse on its level, without resorting to spoken commands or physical domination. The Seven Waterhole Rituals are sharing territory, saying hello, taking territory, leading from behind, eye contact, companion walking and trotting. With a little persistence and an open mind, a trainer armed with Resnick’s techniques can persuade a horse to buy in to the idea of a human leading the herd.
The Resnick method comes with a bonus, says Sylvia Sitters, who owns EquiSol with husband Ken Huffhines.
It works on people, too.
Some mental health professionals have been using equine therapy for decades, said Lynn Thomas, founder and executive director of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning, a nonprofit based in Santaquin, Utah.