I remember years ago in the early 80’s designing a brochure on Liberty Training explaining the purpose of the clinic. I went into detail on how Liberty Training developed the horse to have a desire to learn, perform and follow your lead. After reading the brochure, people actually expressed the fact that they did not care what the horse experienced as long as he was not abused. What they wanted was obedience and submission. They felt the first thing a horse needed to learn was that a human is stronger and that the horse needed to bend to the will of his master in all circumstances.
They liked to use the phrase a 'well broke' horse. They felt a horse that was going to enjoy being trained would not be dependable, though they could see that my horses were more dependable than they thought a horse could be.
A well broke horse will perform what you ask but is in no way connected to you or even wants your direction. He just does it. All he is do is performing because he learned in the beginning he has no choice.
If you asked a dead broke horse to do something that he has not been taught to do he will not be able to perform because he is just a robot and will need to be trained in everything you ask out of him.
"Times they are a changing..."
As Bob Dylan sang "Times they are a changing" and nowadays people are looking for a relationship and want to communicate with their horse rather than tell him he must perform whether he wants to or not.
Trainers are now emphasizing that partnering with a horse is the most important element in successful training. I saw on Facebook a quote from Ray Hunt; "You don’t make him learn. You set it up so he can figure it out. You have to give him that dignity. Once you start giving, you won’t believe how much you get back." What Ray is talking about is a win-win for both horse and human and is the secret to bringing out the best of a horse in the shortest amount of time.
The foundation of Liberty Training is to produce a partnership you can depend upon rather than a well-broke horse. It is also a study of the nature of horses and how to increase your leadership potential and understanding.
Instead of showing a horse who’s boss it’s better to show him that he or she can trust your leadership and that it’s not a trap but a benefit to their well-being. Care must be taken to warm up a horse so that he feels a connection and wants to follow your lead, even when using tack.
What drove me to connect with the true nature of horse and form a partnership with them in their world was that I didn’t like a horse having to go through a training method that would cause him to give up his sense of self or thinking he had to follow human leadership no matter what.
What I wanted was to find a magical partnership with a horse from knowing how to bring out a horse’s trust and desire to be ridden rather than just creating a well broke horse. Well broke horses have had their spirit removed. They know they must do what they are told and some of them may like that kind of life but I was looking for something else.
So where and how do you start to develop a partnership?
Let’s start with a couple of easy, baby steps:
Step 1- Always start each day completely relaxed. Give your horse your full attention and put your agenda aside. Having an agenda and focusing on your horse can make him nervous. Pause a while to give your horse some time to feel safe in your presence.
Step 2 - Seek permission to approach your horse so you may put on his halter. Spend some time, 3-5 minutes, waiting for your horse to come up to you. If he doesn’t come, then try walking up to your horse. If your horse moves away take the pressure off your horse by walking off in the opposite direction. If your horse walks off he feels pressure and does not want to connect. Wait for your horse to settle down in one spot and become relaxed then repeat in a very slow easy manner. Take as long as it takes.
Once the halter is on, feed your horse a treat and then remove the halter and leave. Do this exercise a few times and your horse will put the halter on himself. He will equate putting on the halter as a good thing. This is a very important step to use even if your horse is easily haltered because your horse will now be more at ease and see you in a more positive light.
TIP: This is how to fix horses that don’t want to be caught.
Whatever you are planning on doing, your horse will show more trust and willingness because you waited for him to feel safe and you asked him to go with you when he was in a willing mood.
The origins of this approach
If you’ve read my book ‘Naked Liberty’, you will know well the story of how as young girl I managed to integrate myself into a herd of wild horses over the course of 3 summers.
After the first summer of observing and studying the wild horses I found myself approach horses and everything in my life differently. I felt I had not really learned anything but when I got back to my own horse Mustang I watched myself be more of a leader, one he understood better.
I also had more respect for his personal space and knew better in how to communicate with him and companion up with him before we went out on a ride. The result was that when I sat in the saddle I could read his mind more clearly and because of that I could make better choices in how to support his focus, trust, willingness and desire to follow my lead.
The question I had always asked myself about whether my horse really wanted my company was no longer a concern because I knew how to truly read a horse and understand his natural desire to connect. What made the real big difference was using the wild horse’s social bonding rituals I had witnessed.
Other than the fact I was just a child at the time, what made my study of wild horses different is that I didn’t look at horses with a dispassionate eye as a scientist would have. Instead I was a participant. I become one with the herd.
Participating with a herd, being accepted and able to participate in their social games opened my heart to know deeply the true nature of horses. I found that horses are rich in a culture which teaches horses how to care of the needs of others in the herd.
It is natural for horses to enjoy flexible boundaries games with one another. Personal boundaries increase when a horse needs space from another horse and disappear when both horses enjoy being together in soft moments in unity and harmony. These fluctuations of personal boundaries helps deepen the bond between individual horses.
The Waterhole Rituals show you how to use flexible boundaries to communicate with a horse that would bring out a horse's desire to bond and follow your lead.
With my own horses what I do once the halter is on is start Sharing Territory with him for several minutes so it becomes a ritual. It takes the edge off a horse and builds a habit in the horse to self adjust to calmness. In a short time you can depend upon the horse self adjusting his calmness and connection with you.
This way you have a two way connection, human to horse and horse to human. When your horse is fully focused on you and also relaxed, your horse will be in the proper state to follow your lead.
My approach with horses will help you develop your leadership in how to balance the give and take in an amazing way without having to behave aggressively toward your horse.
It will support you and your horse’s natural development from a performance based approach to a relationship based approach. With a performance based method your horse must follow your lead whereas with a relationship based method, you allow your horse to learn and grow their connection with you.
Taking time it takes to meet that need will brings about a magical partnership. The result will be that your performance training and riding experiences will be the best they can be.
The Waterhole Rituals start with the Chair Challenge which empowers you to connect and grow the bond with your horse effortlessly, easily and naturally from your and his natural loving instincts to bond.
To us horse lovers, horses are the greatest companionship animals on earth. If you have read up to this point, the partnership dance at liberty is calling you!
You are the true student of your horse. You will become the leader he is hoping to find through the Waterhole Rituals. Hope to see you in it soon.
Have a great weekend! Be on the lookout for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.
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