Practical application of liberty horse training

Training is something not just for horse trainers to do, but for horse owners too.


I really wonder how many people have gotten a horse that they haven’t had to train to do something. Even though a horse may be well trained when you get her, there are things you might like the horse to do that she doesn’t, that you want her to learn. The way we train the Waterhole Rituals created by Carolyn Resnick is to take the horse back to its basic training. Even horses with lots of good gentle training appreciate this method because they appreciate being addressed in a language they understand, rather than being expected to understand people language.

Teaching what the "glue" feels like.
Teaching what the “glue” feels like.


When I work at liberty with a horse, different things reveal themselves than if I am working with them with tack on. The plan is that they will respond with tack as they do when I work at liberty. A liberty horse has more interest in what’s going on because she is being worked with choice. She can leave any time she wants.  She doesn’t have to just give in to the program, because I’m asking her to. When I line work I watch to see if the horse I’m working is interested in what I’m doing. The eyes will tell a lot. If she isn’t interested I’ll see what might interest her about the activity and if there is nothing, I go back to lunging at liberty or go to some other piece. I have to keep the work fluid so that she too is an active participant, not just doing it in a rote fashion “because I said so.” I can move back and forth between liberty and in hand work or saddle work.

Liberty training has practical application to all the things we might do with a horse because it gives the horse a sense of purpose and enjoyment in the activities we want to share with them. It deepens our relationship. I used to have a hard time just doing round pen work with a horse because I would get bored. If I got bored I know the horse was bored. The horse would come in just so I would stop asking it to go around the perimeter of the pen. The activity was not something we both enjoyed, so it became “work.” When I call liberty training “work” it is also synonymous with “play” because there is a playful element to it, we both enjoy it. Even just sitting sharing space can be playful, quiet, meditative, contemplative, and leads to other rituals.

I also feel that we are suited to train horses different ways, so that for me, round pen work was not a good fit for me the way I was doing it. Now after doing liberty training, I have learned to use the round pen as a training tool and not get bored. I can use it to teach a horse to change and adjust their gaits, and for some liberty work where I might want a smaller space.  In riding, I’m going to need a horse that knows different speeds, can help me open and close gates, is unafraid of different footing, loads and travels well in the trailer, doesn’t pull at the lead line, does not brace during in hand or saddle work, and who can do lateral work and use her body efficiently. All of these things can be started in liberty training and will evolve into work with tack when the time is right and in many cases can be explored while you are doing liberty training.cropped-zuzka_dance01.png

Roxy free lungingcropped-img_32162.jpg

I can also work with more than one horse at a time, and I can work in a pasture. Once the horse is trained at liberty, the space we can use can increase because we have a working connection binding the horse to their person. Even if my horse takes off, she’ll come back and walk with me. This takes time to develop because there are levels of relationship to develop, so I don’t recommend those new to liberty training just let their horses go in a 700-acre pasture and expect them to stay close by. In some horses who are more bonded to their people, it may happen right away!

Bodywork (Ortho-Bionomy, Equine Positional Release/Equine Ortho-Bionomy): private sessions,  tutorials, phone consultations, distance healing and gift certificates

Liberty Training: clinics, workshops, private sessions, tutorials, consultations: by appointment:  505.501.2478 or emailing

The upcoming Horses at Liberty Weekend Clinic will be held August 3-4 in Estancia, New Mexico. Cost is $300 Early Bird Discount if you sign up before July 10. After that date the cost will be $350. Learn from a Suggested Trainer of the Carolyn Resnick Method. Contact me if interested!

 Liberty Foundations Waterhole Rituals Equine Clinic at Spirit Horse Ranch near Oklahoma City, co-teaching: Ruella Yates and Susan Smith. Liberty Horse Training. September 28-29, 2013. Contact Ruella Yates at, or 405-771-4274.

Khami is very good at gates.
Khami is very good at gates.

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