'Liberty Training' © - A Definition:
"Liberty training is designed to bring a horse a sense of freedom and safety without using any tack, including no halters or rope. You work with a horse at liberty in a free, open environment where a horse does not feel constrained or restricted. This is performed in a large pasture or a rectangular arena, not in a round pen."
General guidelines for training at 'Liberty':
- Never use any tack, including a halter or a rope.
- Never use force or punishment.
- Your horse always has the freedom to say yes or no.
- If your horse leaves you, you must then leave him so as not to pressure him.
If you don't, your horse will lose his sense of freedom and will no longer volunteer performance and put forth his best effort.
The origins of the term Liberty Training
I first came up with, and coined, the term 'Liberty Training'© in 1976 *, when I began teaching the method at the training and breeding center I had at the time in Sonoma County, Ca, which was called Stonehenge Arabians.
The idea of training a horse without tack was not the way people used to start a horse in foundation training at that time. What I was bringing to the world was new.
This is why I called it 'Liberty Training' as the horse was completely free and at liberty from the start. There was no training with tack first and then we took the tack off. It was training without tack and then later you could add tack and ride how you wanted.
I had also done a successful clinic in Palm Springs for the Palm Springs Arabian Association, where I worked with 20 horses as a demonstration of the value of training at liberty. My audience at the time was around 150 people and each day it grew larger and larger as people really liked what they saw and heard.
The first ever Liberty Training video
Then Lawler Enterprises came to me and asked me to do a video of my method and so my first video was made, which was simply called 'Liberty Training'. This was the early '80s and was the first time the general public had come across training at liberty and yet now it is taught by everyone.
As a result of the video, I began to do a lot of clinics around the U.S and people started learning Liberty Training. Equestrians loved the results of the connection that they developed with their horses at liberty and what’s more, the results were permanent.
They were able to work a horse at liberty by getting a better connection at all levels in their relationship with their horse. They learned how to call their horse off food and walk and trot doing intricate patterns with their horses at their side better than they could with tack.
Their horses gave up their unwanted behaviors without their owners even having to address them and were much more willing and engaged during performances.
The results were almost instant
My students told me that they found that their horses were so much more responsive and connected with them under saddle, from show horses to family riding horses. They also found that their horsemanship skills zoomed forward in such a way that they were now able to handle issues with their horses that before the clinic they could not fix.
Students would write to me and tell me that they now enjoyed bringing their horse along from a new ability they acquired from just a three-day course with me. The secret was the freedom of my Liberty Training where a horse had the freedom to say no, which flipped a switch in him to bond naturally and follow your leadership. In this freedom both the horse and the human are able to connect in their own way, which brings about a living connection horseman could depend upon.
However happy my students were, I was over the moon. I was an overnight success. I had a tiger by the tail. In other words, I had a clinic every weekend either at my ranch or on the road. This went on for three years and then I put my focus on exclusively traveling on the road to bring horses and humans together in this new way – at liberty.
The word spreads about Liberty Training...
For two years I traveled with Laurie Parker, my travel manager, giving clinics across the U.S., from California to Florida and back again. I was booked most weekends. Laurie handled the bookings and the driving.
Before my book 'Naked Liberty' was written, while giving my clinics, I used to share a bit about my childhood learning the culture of horses in nature and getting accepted into their community. While sharing my stories, people used to say that I needed to write a book. At first I thought I could not write a book. How does one write a book of words where there were no words but just thoughts and feelings. But I did want to share them and over many years I managed to write a book about my childhood with horses sharing the experiences that were important lessons that lead me to training horses at liberty and the method I teach today.
The next phase of my life came from after the publication of 'Naked Liberty' and Stormy May’s documentary video 'Path of the Horse', which took me to the next level and enabled me to take my clinics online and then I was able to reach the equestrian world globally.
Everyone can learn and benefit from working at liberty
My Dad was my mentor and without his guidance my life with horses would probably be like most people, as I would not have cultivated my gift. I would have set it aside and followed standard methods of training horses that would have removed my innate nature to connect deeply with horses. He said something to me once though that I later disagreed with. He said, "You can not teach people how to connect with horses. That is something you were born with."
However, I felt that everyone could learn to connect in the same way that I found to connect. I felt that everyone had an innate ability and that I could awaken this within them. My feeling was that horses and humans have a lot in common and I wanted to get people to see the similarities.
I saw that Liberty Training would teach a person the skills to be able to communicate and train a horse from their own natural abilities. I could show people how horses respond to our influence without using force and on the horse’s own terms. It was my gift with horses and I found that I could share this gift easily with others because it is so simple.
How I got people to acquire this kind of leadership was to have them lead their horse at liberty to their favorite music after I had worked with the horse to bring out the magnetic connection.
This connection is a dependable connection, like when a foal shadows its mother and how horses are able to move in unity in a herd. This ability to feel and direct a horse from a magnetic connection instantly opens a person up with how to fit in with a horse and lead at the same time. It is quite magical. It brings out the type of leadership a horse would choose to follow.
I heard over and over from people who had taken my three-day clinic, "Oh why did I not think of that? Of course, it is so simple and easy. I can do that." These students were able to step into their own ability to connect and train their horse.
How you start and what to avoid
The first thing you need to do is to surrender the opinions of others as well as your own and leave your agenda at the door, so that you can step into your own natural talents you were born with in order to train a horse from their own instincts. By observing a horse in this way you will find that your horse becomes alive to his true nature, and in that state of mind he will be open to a feeling of trust and will naturally follow your leadership.
What you are looking to do is bring out the social side in your horse by waiting for him to come to you on his own terms. This will bring out his instinct to fit in, bond, connect and follow your lead. This is only true though if the horse is not being forced.
So often I see pressure being used to make a horse comply with what a trainer or his students want, all in the name of 'Natural Horsemanship'. There is nothing natural about that for a horse.
The same goes for forcing a horse to bond by confining him in a round pen, which just brings about his prey mentality and his natural fear and resistance. Yes, it might be effective in the moment but it is usually not long-lasting so you have use the same coercion the next time and the next time. More importantly though, it goes against the whole nature of the horse.
Little by little, his spirit dies until all you see is that horrible, blank stare where the horse has simply given up and checked out. Have you ever noticed that? When you do it's a result of this sort of continuous pressure and very sad to see.
The irony is that most people think that training at liberty takes too long and something you should only do later when the horse is fully trained. But the opposite is actually true, it takes more time and skill to train using pressure. Whereas you need next to no skill to train at liberty and it's far more effective because once the bond is in place and the trust is set between you, ALL training becomes so much easier.
If you find you are not getting along with your horse during your training together, it will be because you are being too aggressive or too ineffective. To fit in and be a leader at the same time is generally not natural for people, especially women. In the human world, leadership often brings with it a feeling of entitlement, which scares a horse and brings out his resistance. Fitting in as a leader is what brings the partnership alive.
If you take away nothing else from this article, please remember this: When your horse can work with you at liberty and feel a sense of freedom, he stops acting like you are the predator, which in turn opens the door to a whole new world of possibility between you.
Your horse is not lazy or stubborn or mean or dumb - horses learn faster than we do - all they want is to connect with you and dance.
Ultimately what Liberty Training will bring you is a completely different horse – one you never even knew existed. It will be more like having a highly trained, herding dog who feels a bond and enjoys his work, rather than an unhappy and reluctant stranger.
So what are you waiting for?
Carpe diem - seize the day and start Liberty Training your horse today!
Be on the lookout for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.
P.S. If you are current student of mine, I'd love to read of your experiences of working at liberty using the Waterhole Rituals and during the internal launch of the Chair Challenge, so please share in the Comments below - thanks!
The Benefits of Liberty Training
The benefits for you of Liberty Training © and working at liberty
- Your horsemanship skills will accelerate such that you will be able to handle issues with your horse you could not fix before.
- It will bring unity and harmony between you and your horse.
- You will see an improvement in your horse’s response to your leadership with any and all pursuits on the ground and under saddle.
- Your horse is easier to read than with tack, which gives you a better understanding in how to go about your communication with your horse.
- Often you will safer than when using tack as you are not physically attached to your horse, especially when he becomes.
- Helps you learn how be more effective with your body language.
- It improves your all-round in relating to horses and this only continues to grow.
- Your instincts kick in to action and guide you in how to approach training your horse.
- Deepens the bond you share with your horse.
- It is a perfect daily warm up by exercising the bond, trust, respect, willingness, focus, connection and energy as a way to re-establish the willingness of your horse to respond to halt, walk, trot, and canter in a controlled rhythm for a perfect performance under saddle.
The benefits for your horse of Liberty Training © and working at liberty
- Most horses give up their ‘vices’ without you even having to address the issues.
- Your horse will be much more willing and engaged during show performances.
- It will work and improve all horse from shy horses, dominant horses, food aggressive horses and horses that are not trained to seasoned horses, young horses, old horses and even fearful horses.
- Your horse will be much more responsive and connected with you under saddle, whether you are riding a show horse or a family riding horse.
- It will bring your horse feelings of safety and security when with you.
- It helps develop healthy muscles and allows your horse to enjoy spontaneous freedom of movement.
- It increases your horse’s desire to learn and perform as now he finds it exciting and fun to be with you.
- It brings profound well-being to your horse’s spirit when he does not feel pressured.
- It develops your horse’s intelligence because he is excited to learn new things and to perform for you effortlessly, easily and naturally at liberty.
- It will bring your horse so much joy when he is allowed to spontaneously dance at liberty because it matches the social interactions of a herd.
- It will create a healthy ego in your horse from knowing he shares a 50-50 partnership with you.
Benefits to you for all your equestrian pursuits:
- Dressage riders can balance the energy and focus of the horse so that the horse brings the appropriate energy needed for what he is being asked to perform, from a relaxed walk on a loose rein to an extended trot with suspension.
- For cutting horses, reining and working cow horses, Liberty Training is a way to warm the muscles up to be able to move freely in spontaneous movement. It will also increase the desire for a horse to work a cow.
- For pleasure riding horses, it will bring about relaxation and a more dependable ride.
- For competitive horses over fences, Liberty Training allows a horse to listen to their instincts and take directions, while at the same time deepening his ability to be in sync with his rider.
- For English pleasure and Western pleasure, Liberty Training develops a horse to be in tune with his rider and focused on listening to the rider’s aids.
* NOTE: 'Liberty Training' © is a copyrighted term registered and belonging to Carolyn Resnick