Adapting the Waterhole Rituals to Fit the Moment

Today I am sharing another question from my Insider Circle program. This is a common beginning experience. The student writes:

Three times I have attempted the circle game with my horse. The first time he behaved liked he invented the game. I thought, “This is easy.”

The second day with the circle game when I moved him off his hay he would walk a few steps forward then circle to my side and stand there looking at me. I would have felt bad chasing him off after he faced up to me, so I rewarded him instead. But, I worried that he thought that is what I wanted.

Then today when we were going to play the circle game I attempted to move him off his hay, he walked off in the opposite direction of the hay piles and stood about fifty feet from me, looking at me.

Looked to me like he didn’t want to play. So, I fed him carrots instead. I fed him carrots when he came up to me, then I chased him away and fed him carrots for moving away. So, what do you think?

So let me first explain what the circle game is and then I will go on to tell you what I said in reply. The circle game is to encourage what I call 'reciprocal movement.' You place 5 piles of hay around the arena and then when your horse is eating at 1 of them, you move him gently off towards the next pile. The idea is to build on Sharing Territory so that there starts to be some give and take in the relationship. Anyway, this is what I replied:

I would suggest that when he turns to face you you would stand a look at him for a while then ask him kindly to please move on and take it slow and get him to leave you. Just be really slow. If it takes you a couple of minutes to encourage him to move on that would be good.

What you are doing is making him move on, which is the wrong position to take. Be sweet, encourage and pause, but get him back to the task of him leaving you. Take it slow. When he then moves on make a great big fuss and give him a treat. 
If you are too confused about this or it feels unfair pass on this game for now and choose the carrot game instead. The carrot game can be a good replacement. [The carrot game is where 2 or more people all have carrots and take it in turns to send the horse back and forth to get the next carrot. A game enjoyed by all!]

As you are working with the Waterhole Rituals there will be times when you will need to switch it up to keep progressing. You will soon learn when to make the transitions. This is part of the learning experience.

Hope this helps you see how the bond forms!