Carolyn Resnick Horsemanship: Liberty Horse Training

The Foundation for All Equestrian Pursuits Through the Horse-Human Connection.

Free Lesson #2


My blog today is on my second free lesson on preparing a horse for bit-less dressage.  As you remember from our first free lesson, my video was on mounting Honey from the fence.  We spent many days on mounting from the fence until Honey began to expect this exercise and enjoy the process. He now thinks that mounting is a grooming behavior that he has come to enjoy. The first time Kai tried to ride him away from the fence Honey fell into his old pattern of being in a hurry and wanted to go faster and faster until I assumed he would have taken off into a full run trying to get rid of Kai.  However, because Honey now has a strong foundation in the Waterhole Rituals we could turn him around. Kai knew not to try to pull back on Honey’s rope because we have been told if you try to stop him he would rear, so I called him to me and he came over in a hurry and Kai then stepped off of him quickly before Honey had time to think.

So we went back to more preliminary exercises relating to halt and slowing down like leading from behind, Single Lining and some exercises on turning left and right from the ground in hand, where in every turn we asked for a halt. This was done very slowly between Kai and I working together.  Sometimes I would ask for a halt from the ground while Kai was on Honey’s back and sometimes Kai would direct Honey himself.

Now Honey can be ridden in a walk, trot and halt without being in a hurry when he is warmed up and is listening well to the aids.  Kai is back in Spain and I am now more focused on our next lesson that I am sharing with you today… more Single Lining.

Single Lining

single liningThis exercise is a warm up exercise for training, pleasure riding, bitless dressage and double lining (ground driving).  Single Lining puts a horse’s mind into preforming and paying attention to the rider’s seat and rein aids by putting a horse under the rider’s seat. Most riders feel their job is to stay on the horse rather than it being the job of the horse to stay under them. When riding it is allot easier to stay on a horse when the horse would make every effort to stay under the rider’s seat.  When a rider puts more focus on staying on the horse rather than the horse staying under him, there is allot of control being lost from making the wrong choices in what to ask from the horse.  What I have noticed is that many riders can not tell if a horse is under their seat or not. A horse is not truly under the rider’s seat if the horse is either going faster or slower than what the rider is asking.  Many times the rider is indefinite in how fast they want their horse to travel.

When you ask for a turn from the horse if the horse does not follow the exact path of the turn the rider wants, then the horse is not under the rider’s seat. All of this can be fixed from warming up daily with the Single Lining exercises.  As you go along, the residual effect of Single Lining will grow and grow to a magical connection.

What Single Lining does is develop a horse to be truly between the seat and the hands of the rider without the rider needing to signal the horse in-between the initial request.  The Single Lining causes a horse to self govern his own performance; self carriage becomes natural to him. When a horse is truly under your seat you would be able to ask only once with a light aid for a halt and your horse would halt. You could also ask for a horse to take the speed you would like and the horse would maintain it without any direction from you once he has taken the pace that you have asked for. In other words, Single Lining creates a rated horse from the ground without the train it from the saddle.

The result of Single Lining will create a feeling that only your thoughts or from your desire alone, are controlling your horse’s performance. The aids you use would be aids as light as a fly’s touch. For a horse to respond to aids this light it comes for a deep desire to perform and be there for his rider. This is what Single Lining will do for you and your horse.

This Exercise is not for Everyone but can be Accomplish by Anyone

Some people will not have the time or the patience.  Be prepared to give this exercise 30 days at the least 3 days a week, at best 5 days a week, before you could use Single Lining as an effective warm up program for your horse before riding. You can not over do this exercise. The exercise is mostly done at a walk, at least for the first 30 days. Walk is an amazing gate to use to connect with your horse. Later we will be adding some trot work but not for a couple of months. Relax into the program and it will do wonders for you and your horse. Your skills for training will advance quickly, removing years of practices and experiences.

Let’s get Started

Remember always start with the Waterhole Rituals and then into the Uberstriechen Exercises from the ones you have learned. You do not need to know them all. You should not need to put more than 20 minutes of work into the Waterhole Rituals and the Uberstriechen Exercises before you start with the Single Lining exercises.  You can spend another 15 to 20 minutes on Single Lining.

Put on some good music. Have letters up about 20 feet or so apart.  I use the letters on a dressage court. I like to pretend that I am at my Spanish Riding School introducing the arena to a horse for the start of his bit-less riding schooling. It is my job to do this exercise each day until the horse accepts the exercise as a natural part of his work at the school before I change up my horse’s program. All horses at the school do these exercises in the morning at the same time and this helps the new horses to fall in line.

The horses that are ready to be introduced to the Single Lining are well trained at Liberty and Companion Walking, trotting, halt and pausing.  The horse can also do the clover leaf pattern around a food bucket. Don’t forget to do your Sharing Territory exercises everyday to keep the bond growing deeper and deeper.  Whatever you are already doing with your horse, you may continue doing.

First Step

along fence

Walk along the fence of the arena in a relaxed manner, stopping at each letter and waiting there until the horse is happy to stand on a short slack line until moving on. Ask for halt like in Companion Walking just past the letter so his shoulder is at the letter. When he is halted on a slack line shorten the line until the slack is out of the line then move up to his head keeping the connection and ask him to turn towards the letter as if you are going to ask him to make a turn to the outside like in a roll back. When the horse turns enough so that his front feet have put the horse at a 45 degree angle to the fence and that you can now see the letter, and his nose is right at the letter, ask him to halt and wait at the letter on a short relaxed rein. Your horse might fuss, so do not move on until he is relaxed.  This will teach patience, tolerance and a willingness to allow you to control his behavior.  In this exercise we do not use treats.  We are developing a work ethic in our horses.  This is the exercise you will do every day for 30 days…So simple to do and the rewards will be magical!
What your horse is learning is that when he feels contact on the inside rein from you asking him to halt and him walking into the contact, he will not fall onto his shoulder or try to face you which would cause the horse to come off his path. What he learns is to take the inside rein and move into halt from this exercise.

Always find out what speed your horse’s natural walking speed is. When you know what that speed is, ask him to go faster or slower than he would like to go.  This way you take the leadership roll in a very unobtrusive way. If he is slow, you will ask him to move faster and if he is fast, you will ask him to go slower.  This will teach your horse to rate himself easily.

If at any time your horse tries to turn around and face you, when the horse feels a pull on the line from not halting when you did or you are walking slower that he his, walk up to him to stop the turn. As you walk up to him keep the slack out of the line. Once your horse has halted move up closer to his head and ask for a halt at close range. You should have the rope held about 4 inches or less from the halter.  Use a strong aid to taking control of the horse to steady him that is not punitive and then when he halts move him to the wall at a 45 degree angle to the fence and have him relax there indefinitely. Hold the rope and hold the fence as if he is tied there.  Don’t move on until he is completely relaxed on a shot relaxed line.

longer lineSo simple and so easy but in the beginning it is a bit clumsy and that is perfectly all right, even expected . Your clumsiness will get better quickly and will not hurt the training of your horse. When moving him over to the wall pick up your energy and his speed as if you are in a hurry to move him over to the fence.  This will call attention to your horse that time is of an essence. He will learn from this exercise to move quickly and then to relax immediately. These abilities are needed for dressage.  There is the pause and a horse’s ability to respond immediately, the timing, connection and the rhythm that creates the gates and the dance of dressage.

In my online bit-less Dressage program I will cover more advanced details. Hope to see you in it. I want my free programs to really work for you too. Hope this is of great benefit as it has been for me for the years I have used it for training all my horses.


Free Lesson Video #2 


Happy Holidays

As I am approaching New Years Eve, I feel very present to the wonders of nature and what amazing adventures this next year has to offer to our little family here at Dances with horses and to all of us that are truly imbibing in the magic that each day provides to us.

I want to wish you all a Happy New Year and hope your celebrations around the world are all magical.

Be on the look out for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.

Warmly, Carolyn




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71 Responses to “Second Free Lesson on Training a Horse for Bit-Less Dressage and Pleasure Riding”

  1. 41

    Dear Carolyn,

    Thank you ever so much for this wonderfully instructive blog and video. I am practicing the single lining with Amigo, my young two and a half year old horse. Single lining is one of the exercises you asked for to qualify for your bit-less class. I wasn’t able to submit that video because we had not yet practiced that. So I don’t know whether or not I qualify for your class. Nevertheless, this is a marvelous exercise. Amigo gets increasingly attentive and light as we practice, and I really understand what you mean by self-carriage and how eventually a horse will respond by a person’s intent alone. I love the emphasis on lightness and what you say about a horse being between the hands and the seat and there not being a need for a signal between the initial signal. Ground work is so much fun!

    I, too, would love to see a video of Honey’s blow up because there is so much to learn from how you responded to it.

    I wish you a new year filled with wonderful horse experiences and beautiful people in your life. I wish your mother all the best.


  2. 40

    dear carolyn,

    just today, january 2nd, i have read your latest blog and learned several things while reading the responses.

    that you have indeed acquired the new little dog who had been hit by a car during the BTWH clinic and that her name is Lady. how lovely for Apollo.

    i also learned that your sweet mum has been hospitalized. i am dearly sorry and hope so much that it is not too serious and that she will be back to her self very soon. i so enjoyed meeting her in december. she is a love.

    i was finally able to reunite with wren, my horse and boy! have we had a great time together in the few days i was able to be with him over the holidays.

    i started completely over. sharing territory. then went to uberstreicken number 1. i understand how wren’s resistance to even my gentle feather hold on his halter with both my hands as i stand in front of him, reflects resistance to the bridle. i found an unending well of patience in myself, as i allowed his head to fly up and down, with my hands following him…then i witnessed him coming round to relaxation but working hard to resist that relaxation! i only held his head but a moment and then walked around him and then gave him a carrot as a reward when his head was straight and he was ‘looking out the window.’

    the next day when i worked with this first uberstreicken i decided to try it even though he had no halter on his head. i held his head lightly with his hands and i found zero resistance, he relaxed so deeply into my hands…part of this response i believe was due to my work the day before but moreso, that fact that he was halter-less. so i will continue to work with him with and without a halter on these first uberstreickens.

    i felt myself falling into a new place, deeper place of ease and understanding of the flexibilty and joy that can be found, cultivated and released while training my horse. i find it a superior metaphor for Life. a conversation i would love to share with you.

    when working with wren at his 3 speeds of walk, once when i asked for halt he decided he would keep going…then he started trotting away from me into a circle and i said to him, “oh! free lunging! what a wonderful idea, now why didn’t I think of that?!;-)”…so we free lunged until he walked and then halted when i asked. i gave him a carrot for that halt, then companion walked with him to my ‘original’ halt spot and indeed he was ready to work again, and halted and backed quite happily when i gently asked.

    the short anecdote above, revealed to me a secret of life for me. it’s all so filled with ease…when we allow ourselves the flexibility to go with the flux and glow of what life offers in that one short moment, repeatedly…we can never go wrong. we start always where we are, right where we are. forever. and be grateful.

    i love my horse. i love my life. i love you.

    thank you. from all my cells.


  3. 39
    Mary Augustine says:

    I have been doing this exercise with my Nokota Horse – Dakotah for three days now. He seemed to like it right away. I have a corner in my arena that seems to make almost all horses “come alive”. I think it is the combination of the trees in that area. After doing this exercise twice I noticed that he was paying more attention to me than what might have been in the woods. I did end up stopping more often as we approached the corner as this put more attention on the task. We ended up stopping in the corner and he put his head down to sniff instead of doing his self-taught piaffe that usually occurs in this area

    Carolyn, I can not thank you enough for all the information you offer us. You are changing my relationship with Dakotah one day at a time.


    • 39.1

      Dear Mary,
      Thanks for sharing this. Horses really need this exercise for the reason you have described. If you take the time to get the horse comfortable with all the areas of arena it makes a more confident horse the you can depend upon.
      This is one of the reasons for this exercise which I did not mention in the blog. Single Lining is an introduction to the work space and at first needs to be view from the perspective.



  4. 38
    Leanna Kielian says:


    True and I send to you and your Mother Paulina an ocean of healing energy and strength to assist in anyway way that you need it, so you both can start the New Year with the best heath possible. Much love to Apollo, his new friend and all the horses that bring so much grace(with your loving help) to your home.

  5. 37
    Anne Lervik says:

    Happy New Year, Carolyn!

    I really appreciate being able to follow Honey’s journey even though I am away for school and can’t train right now myself. Soaking up as much as I can :)

    Hoping that your mother will recover soon, and that you will have a great 2013 with all your friends and family :)

    Best wishes,


  6. 36
    Laura Nelson says:

    Dear Carolyn,

    Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to you and those you love. As I know first-hand, hospital-time for a loved one is the most emotionally draining experience in life. My heart goes out to you and your Mom. May all be well, and soon.

    Congratulations on the clarity and precision of this excellent lesson. I look forward to sharing it with my beloved Zar (who totally enjoyed the first one) as well as the new OTTB and dressage-discard rescues in my barn. If you wish, I shall keep you posted on our progress.

  7. 35
    Christine says:

    Happy New Year, to you too Carolyn!

    Here’s to a 2013 filled with horses!

  8. 34
    Sharolyn Wandzura Sharolyn says:

    Dear Carolyn,
    Thank-you for this detailed lesson, so many details for me to keep practicing. New Year means new plans for me. I’m adding daily single lining to Mannah’s program!! We are having fun with the helmet camera these days … you were right it is tricky to control what we capture when he is wearing it! Mostly the footage is of me laughing cause the camera is like a third eye but he doesn’t seem to mind at all. I cannot wait to get it made into a video to share; I have the camera borrowed until the weekend. :)
    Big hugs to you and healthy speedy recovery to Paulina.

  9. 33

    To everyone thank you for your letters and I send you all my love. I am with my mother in the hospital most all day so I am running a lot right now. I want you all to know that your care for me bring be warmth and good cheer. I want you all to know that I send you the same wishes and deep appreciations for having you in my life as well.

    Warmly and Happy New Year to all of us and this great world we live in

  10. 32

    Hi Carolyn,

    This year, as I reflect on all the many blessings and gifts, I have to say that coming to the BTWHR clinic this past March was the best. Meeting you, and all the wonderful people that you attract has been so special. I am doing things with my horses, that I never dreamed I could do, thanks to you and your method. It has taught me so much and continues to do so.

    I hope your mom is better. I wish you, your family, and all your creatures/beauties a beautiful New Year.

    I look forward to seeing you in April. I can’t wait.

    Off to single line. I’m at the clumsy part!!!!!!

    Happy New Year Carolyn,

    Much love to you always,


  11. 31
    Mary Elizabeth Bradford says:

    Happy New Year Carolyn. Simply Amazing – thank you so much.

  12. 30
    Anne-Marie says:

    Thanks for a very useful post.

    Happy New Year


  13. 29
    Tamara Blits says:

    Dear Carolyn; I love the easy ways you teach horses to understand. I’m going to try this, as soon as I can. Dakota likes to keep going, when I ride him, and I always turn him into the fence, to slow him down. It has been so cold, I haven’t been seeing him everyday. Thank you for your videos. They are very helpful. I like the way Dakota has learned to relax, this exercise will surely help. I think working on the ground is most important. I don’t ride him very much. Tried the fence lesson. He needs more work on that too. you are always helpful. Thank you for sharing, and helping so many with your lessons. Happy new year!!!!!!

  14. 29
    Carol Caddes, San Juan Capistrano, CA, EC 2011, EC 2012, BTWR 2011, 2012 says:

    Thanks, Carolyn,
    Will be mindful of the rituals and their progression.

    Would also like to see the blow up. I learn so much by watching your body language whether in smooth or rocky times.

    So glad to hear Apollo liked Lady. And Paulina? Was she smitten as well. And you?

    Would love for you to meet Norman. It’s all so exciting!

    Blessings in the New Year


  15. 29
    Wilma (IC fall 2011) says:

    Hello again Carolyn
    The foal’s first time outside at 1.5 days.

    I played with her in the large stall 10 x 20 at liberty and then introducing the line. Here she is at 3 months approx. using the halter and line for the first time outside. You will see that although she follows light pressure, she doesn’t really know what to do with firmer pressure when she runs into it.

    I hope you will enjoy especially the first one, as it reminded me of your book.

  16. 29

    Everyone loves the little girl dog!!

  17. 29.1

    Dear Amanda,
    I will look into this matter today. What was the date of your email?

  18. 29.1

    Dear Susan,
    Thank you for your kind observance and your appreciation on my lessons.


  19. 29.1.1
    Amanda says:

    I cannot find the email now! It was at least two weeks ago…. I sent another to you tonight through your blog contact, so hopefully I’ll hear back from you! It’s titled: Yearling

    The other issue about my order is resolved now! Shipped today, so I’m very pleased, hopefully your DVD’s will help me with most of my questions!!

    Thanks for everything, and the lovely work you do!
    Wish you (or your working students) were in Ontario…