1. freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.
2. freedom from external or foreign rule; independence.
3. freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power orright of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.
4. freedom from captivity, confinement, or physical restraint:
Playing with your horse at liberty, is for me one of the best feelings in the world. My goal is to be able to play at liberty without any aids (round pens,
arena or carrot stick). Just me, my horse….. and the connection between us.
Sounds great, but how can we get there! Liberty is a great test of the truth, the more you have been making your horse do things rather than setting it up so he offers it, the more difficulty you will have when you take the rope off. So it is a good test of your
advancement of skills and relationship with your horse.
Set yourself up for success before taking the line off – make sure you can confidently play all seven games with the belly of the rope on the ground or even more fun, tuck it into your belt or jacket and pretend you don’t have it. Make sure you keep your body language
congruent with when you do have the rope in your hand – it’s amazing how we suddenly start doing strange things with our “free” hand when we are not holding the rope!! I even hold a “pretend” rope sometimes!
Next, think about where you are going to start your liberty sessions. A round corral or yard is perfect. You can use electric fence posts and tape (not electrified!), in the field or
section off part of an arena.
Then comes the preparation for taking the line off. Your horse should be calm and left brain and connected. You should be emotionally fit and have the ability to read your
horses behaviour, especially knowing the difference between when he is being dominant or unconfident.
Remember teach on line, test at liberty, fix on line – be careful not to try to fix things at liberty, this could cause you to get frustrated or get stronger in your phases. Have a low threshold to go back on line, get it right again, then have a few more successful attempts on line before you try it at liberty again. Have a plan but be ready to abandon it in order to preserve your relationship. Now, go and have fun playing the 7 games at liberty!
Is your horse a ball or a chair?
Porcupine game – are you winning it?
Linda describes a great exercise- go get a ball and chair and push them around. Which best describes your horse?
Winning the porcupine game will build respect and trust from your horse. It is about teaching your horse to follow a feel and respond appropriately to steady
pressure. It prepares your horse for the bit, rein, legs etc.
Some horses over react or get dull. This may because you are not starting with phase 1 each time – check out your phases. Another thing I have observed is when a student says, “look how light he is” and the horse promptly moves before the student has touched them. This is a horse avoiding the porcupine game, not being light to it! Left brain horses will do this to avoid the game altogether or the reverse is they then give you opposition
reflex, their “you’re not the boss of me” attitude! Either way, you are not winning the game…
Unconfident horses can over react – run away from your touch. The ball will do the same, push the ball again with too much energy through your fingers and see what happens.
To help your horse not feel the need to run away, slow down, ask for one or two steps and rub them until their feet stop moving.
As you progress through your horsemanship
journey, it’s important to have a number of “savvy arrows” in your quiver to draw on when you need some extra support or strategies. The more arrows you have, the less likely it will be that you will run out of answers which can lead to
frustration. Remember, when you are feeling
frustrated, it generally means you that you don’t have a strategy for that situation. Turn this into a positive and think to yourself that this means you are about to learn something new! This is how you can turn frustration into fascination!
Have a Goal !
The beginning of the year is a good time to reflect on our journey ahead for the summer.
Our job as a good leader is to have a goal and know where we are going. However, the time line, is and must, remain in the hands (hooves) of our horse. This way we can keep the relationship first and not become direct line (one of the great partnership killers).
Goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant/realistic and have a timeline – ie be a SMART goal. This is a great model to follow, but a good leader will apply this to their horse in a way that keeps the relationship intact above all else. For example, I plan to film my level 3 with Harry this summer. It is not in my control to pass the audition, but it is in my control to film it. Therefore, I set “to film” as my goal versus “to pass my L3”. I will work toward all the ingredients as best I can and respect that Harry holds the timeline for his progress.
To be particular versus critical will help preserve your relationship in achieving the goals, both with your horse but also with yourself. It is easy to become critical especially when striving for higher levels of excellence and by putting a time scale on something we want to achieve. But this will make your horse feel wrong and will inhibit learning rather than
facilitate it. Getting more particular helps build respect.
One way to be particular rather than critical is to remember to isolate, separate and
recombine. For example, if I am working on my back up, I will practice improving the straightness or the speed or the distance. Not all at once. When all 3 ingredients are good, then I can recombine and put it together with a happy, confident horse who feels like a winner – that to me, is what it is all about after all 🙂
Savvy Tip – January 2014
Spend undemanding time with your horse and protect your herd of 2
Spending undemanding time with your horse is one of the best ways to build a relationship with him. In our busy lives, it’s very easy to arrive at the yard, get all the chores done, exercise or play with our horse, then turn them out and head off to do the school run,
supermarket shop etc etc etc. Spend truly
undemanding time with him from time to time and you will build a huge amount of rapport with your horse.
Taking every opportunity to protect your little herd of 2 whenever you are with your horse, will prove to your horse that you are the alpha and the source of safety, comfort and play. It will cause your less confident horse to feel safer and it will help your dominant horse to
relax and feel that they don’t need to be dominant or defensive to other horses when you are with them. Just gently use the end of your rope or your carrot stick in a friendly
rhythmic motion to keep other horses away. Just take care not to cause the other horse/s to get scared or inadvertently push them on to another human!