What approach do you use with your horse when leading with a halter and rope? Have you ever thought about how the influence of tack affects your relationship with your horse? When using tack, many times a person will catch their horse as quickly as possible with no thought to rekindling the friendship and the horse’s desire to stick to you and follow your lead. A reason that this can happen is from thinking that the halter and rope will create the connection you need with your horse.
Tack can create sloppy connections with your horse. Think about it: If you took off the halter would you still be able to lead your horse and keep him at your side? If you can, it came from your attention to the relationship and the bond minutes before you put it on. What would your horse do if you took off his halter? Most likely you would no longer be able to lead your horse anywhere. But, if you have worked your horse at Liberty first without tack to gain the Magnetic Connection in Companion Walking, using tack would be a benefit rather than a device that enslaves the horse.
Tack can hurt the relationship with a horse because a person doesn’t put enough attention on courting the horse to want to be with them and follow their lead. If you have no concern about maintaining the connection in the moment, the response of the horse to your aids will become dull. Starting with tack often moves a horse into a slave’s attitude from the confinement of the tack.
When working a horse at liberty in a free open environment you can take nothing for granted, like you can when you have tack on a horse. It is so important for a horseman to learn how to handle a horse without tack to develop horsemanship skills so that when tack is used it is used properly.
Working with a horse at Liberty with my Method, a person learns how to manage a horse without force and you learn to bring about the willingness of the horse so the horse wants to match your movements and follow your lead. When you work with a horse at liberty you must give all your attention to developing the connection and you can not depend upon forcing the horse to do your bidding. Forcing a horse as a practice, makes for bad horsemanship. Giving up the use of force will cause a horse to give up his resistance, removing your need to force the horse to get what you want. Once a horse feels no pressure it is much easier to deal with him. The horse will then give up his resistance, which then opens the door to the possibility that he will begin to seek a connection with you.
So, what do you do when your horse leaves you when he is at Liberty if you can not use force or entrapment?
When your horse leaves you, go to the Hello Ritual and then move into the Leading from Behind Ritual in the most benign fashion, with lots of pausing to give your horse a chance to join you. Be sure that the Hello Ritual has been received well by your horse several times before you move into the Leading from Behind Ritual. It’s ok for your horse to walk away from you in the Hello Ritual as much as he needs to. From allowing this behavior you will help your horse to move into wanting a connection from you. It helps the “no” to turn into a “yes”.
Drilling is a form of force and is not allowed in my Liberty Training™ Method. The Hello Ritual is not a drill because it is done in a relaxed manner giving the horse the ability to leave you when he chooses even though you will be spending allot of time repeating this Ritual. Round Penning is a form of drilling because the horse is not able to escape the influence of his handler. The bonus of working with a horse by giving him freedom of choice gives some time for the evolution of the bond to take place and for the handler to think smarter rather than becoming antagonistic.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful not to have to use tack and still have your horse in control?
What you would gain from the experience would be magical. You would have a relationship with a horse that was like the boy's relationship in the movie "The Black Stallion". Having a friendship with a horse, I believe, is not to be missed. In that friendship is a partnership that you will never share with any other living being. Taking this path of working a horse at liberty before you would consider using tack will grow your understanding of life and open the door to seeing how the bond grows naturally with a horse and human without any effort from you. This is very important because seeing the dance bloom without effort helps one to see that force does not need to be used to train a horse.
At Liberty you learn that the bond is developed further from the training. From working a horse at Liberty first without tack you will understand how you are perceived by your horse by how he treats you. How your horse treats you lets you know that whatever happens between you is created by your influence. If you did not use tack on your horse until you could do everything with your horse without tack, you would have developed a better relationship with your horse and a better understanding of your ability to nurture, lead and direct. This, in turn, would help you make the connections you would like to have with others in your life as well. You would be able to influence at will and know how to bring well-being to them and a willingness in others to follow your lead. You will learn that giving up control and focusing on the relationship, much less training is needed to develop the performance of a horse. Sharing freedom with a horse in times of training and sharing company allows the bond to grow and evolves the training magically.
In my last clinic we focused on that step where you go from Companion Walking without tack to leading with a halter.
It is amazing to see the change in how different the horse and human behave towards each other! The horse loses the Magnetic Connection with his human partner because the human partner stops maintaining his horse with the ‘invisible thread’ he had before the tack went on. All the good work at Liberty virtually goes out the window!
I ignored this response for a long time, thinking that my students, after the shift to tack, would regain the Magnetic Connection with practice. I found that, over time, it did not come back for them. I think this is the reason people believe that Liberty work does not translate to the saddle. The only reason it does not, is that people lose the approach they used from the ground. I believe that learning how to keep this Magnetic Connection when leading your horse will make the Liberty work translate to riding your horse. It does for me and it can for you. It takes as much skill in knowing how to lead a horse with tack as leading a horse without tack. Both need to be practiced to be fair to your relationship with your horse.
This is where the story comes in that I promised to share with you, about when my Dad taught me the method I use today in keeping a horse under control and focused on me when I am leading him with tack.
This method is what to do when leading your horse in order to bring back the connection when you lose it with an extreme horse or an out-of-control, resistant stallion. This method is important to practice with any horse because it will improve your horsemanship skills.
The Story: Both my parents worked and left me home with the horses without a baby sitter. Work was right next to our house and the horses. My father was a blacksmith who owned a blacksmith and machine shop and a wholesale steel business. My parents could not keep an eye on me when they were at work. My dad told me that I was not to take the work horses out of their stalls, because if I did they would take off, get loose from me and graze on lush grass; they would eat too much and get sick. This is when we still lived in town and we had to have the horses contained.
My dad’s concern was that the horse could also go to the feed room and gorge himself on rolled oats. Because of my size I would not be able to stop the horse I had taken from the stall. I was around 8 years old at the time. This was sad news to me because I loved leading a mammoth monster of a horse around when my parents were home.
Being a kid, of course, having one of those work horses on a line and leading one around was just too tempting. So, I knew that if I was going to take one out of the barn in no way could he get away from me because of what would happen to me if he did. So, it got me to thinking I would have to be very careful. My dad must never find out!
I made a plan that if it did happen, that my horse got into the feed room, I would scoop up the grain he was not eating and hide it; then, when I had it all hidden, I would regain control of my horse. Then a terrible thought occurred to me; that I would have solved that problem, but would not have solved the problem that he would then run outside to graze on the grass. So I came to the conclusion that I would have to be very, very careful. This care is what led me to the method I use to this very day on extreme horses and all horses that lose the willingness to stay in my charge when I am leading them with tack.
What I did was to go into the stall and close the door and hang out with the horse to get the horse immersed in my presence and interested in me. Then I put a halter on the horse and led him around his stall with practice of walk and halt. I also asked him to stand quietly in the corner of the stall for long periods of time (maybe 5 or 10 minutes) to get the horse used to this ritual. I kept a close eye on how the horse was behaving. When the horse’s head was low I knew that he did not plan on doing anything. And when his head went up I knew I was losing his willingness to stay in my charge. I opened the stall door and let him look out the crack to see how he felt about that. Then I shut the stall door and put him back into the corner until I felt he was very happy to be there. Then I opened the door a little wider and repeated the process until I had the door all the way open. I did not try to take him out until I could walk him around in his stall in walk and halt and back to the corner for a respite. When I felt a wave of softening come between us, no matter what I asked, I led him outside and around, and then back into the stall to stand in the corner. Bit by bit, the time I spent out of the stall leading him away from the stall became longer and longer. Anytime I felt his head coming up, back to the corner he went. I was finally able to take my great big wonder of a horse anywhere on our property, even to eat grass, and not lose his willingness to listen to me and do what I needed him to do. My dad was never the wiser. And this is how my dad taught me how to lead a horse. That is the surprise I promised you. :)
I can help you get amazing results with Liberty Training. I hope you join us in our next online class.
When I had my training and breeding ranch I used the above method on all my horses. At one time I had 5 stallions and all were wonderfully behaved and easy to breed from this simple method my dad taught me. I hope you try it; you will get amazing results. It would help you, if you are not very skilled with horses yet, to first train your horse at liberty before you lead your horse with tack. You can take my online course that is coming up April 15, and I can help you with the Liberty Training. I know you will enjoy developing that magic you would like to experience with your horse, when friendship is the main focus of the dance you would like to share with your horse. It doesn’t matter how old your horse is or how much practice he has had being lead by tack, he can start with Liberty Training and you will see a big difference. If you would like to greatly advance your knowledge through experience please join me in March at the next advanced clinic in California: "Beyond the Waterhole Rituals".
Remember to watch out for more new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.