How do I build trust with my horse? – Liberty Foundations Clinic at Spirit Horse Ranch

“Both equines and humans learned to overcome fear and step into trust and love. Hope you enjoy the picture of you and beautiful Starwyn.” – Lisa Malone
“Every time I close my eyes even for a moment I see those beautiful horses faces.” – Lucy Taylor


“The clinic was an eye opening inspiration! And fun too. Ruella Yates and Susan Smith are superb teachers, and Noble McGinty is such a sweetheart!!” – Mike Hunter

Mike Hunter, Noble McGinty, Ruella Yates
Mike Hunter, Noble McGinty, Ruella Yates

“The weekend clinic is still having a beautiful affect on my herd. The energy was so perfect, with just the right mix of people; Susan Smith, my co-clinician and I spoke of this. We were in a beautiful flow, and my horses felt it. They have been unusually close to me since, wanting to bask in the glow. I came outside to sit on the patio this evening, and Renn galloped in when he heard the door open, accompanied by the rest. They gathered around me in peace.” – Ruella Yates

Ruella telling Starwyn's story, the story of an incredibly brave little Welsh pony.
Ruella telling Starwyn’s story, the story of an incredibly brave little Welsh pony.

Horse work can appear very mechanical because there is a lot of repetition, but once the steps are learned, the real work begins. That’s how it is with the liberty foundation work that Ruella Yates and myself teach, and how the horses perceive it. Now you know the language, they say, now you must learn to speak it and understand it when it is being spoken to you.

Karen Corn and Holly liberty dancing
Karen Corn and Holly dancing

Our weekend clinic taught by Ruella and myself began with a three-hour tutorial that I taught on equine bodywork on Friday. Visiting and ranch horses were evaluated and students learned some skills in how to do bodywork on their own horses, with work on the hindquarters, shoulders and legs that translated to the spine. This work addresses a large part the physical problems horses suffer. Among the students were an equine chiropractor, horse trainer and nurse who were all amazed as I have often been at the powerful effect of Equine Ortho-Bionomy.

Included in the evening was a potluck, Natural Horsekeeping talk by Ruella Yates, and demonstration of Ortho-Bionomy table work for humans by myself.

Saturday and Sunday were devoted to the liberty foundation clinic. On Saturday we drove out to Karen and Tony Corn’s farm in driving rain, to work in their covered barn. They shared their home and horses and ponies with us, including the amazing ponies, Jasmine and her foal Gizmo, as well as super star mini-horse Elijah, an old hand at this work, and Majesty, the beautiful chocolate Palomino mare.

Ruella with Majesty
Ruella with Majesty

In the small cozy barn, with rain an insistent tat-tat on the metal roof, we worked with energetic principles and brought the horses into connection with participants in the way of the herd. By following herd behavior and dynamics we can enter into a relationship with horses that they recognize, as I’ve said before, as a song from the herd, perhaps the herd they never had. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t grow up in a herd, all horses recognize this combination of body language, voice and movement that keeps them functioning in a healthy manner. Those horses who are well versed in the work with humans guided the new people in their new study. Students came to Oklahoma from as far away as California, Texas and Kansas to learn how to work a horse at liberty, and some were first time students to the method and to horses!

I will tell the story of the weekend through pictures. The first day, Saturday was spent on the real basics for the students, shaping their body language and actions so the horses could recognize it. The second day at Spirit Horse Ranch was spent on refining that and working with two of the same horses who moved even further through the practice, offering beautiful walking and dancing. Karen Corn’s exquisite demonstration of liberty dancing with one of the blond bombshells (we had three palomino mares at the clinic!) was not to be missed.

Laruie with her mare, Holly
Laurie with her mare, Holly
From the Rituals to Bitless, bareback riding
From Free Ground to Bitless, bareback riding

I also conducted a demonstration of bitless bareback riding with Ruella’s Paint gelding, Renaissance Painter (Renn), who was a perfect companion for this type of work. Renn is well versed in all the liberty work and a safe mount without tack. Together and with the group we were able to show the transition from ritual to riding, using a new game that we developed, the “Riding Trick-or-Treat Game.” Because the “blond bombshells” wanted to have a similar experience as Renn (and they strongly believed “blondes have more fun”), we also worked as a group on the “send and draw” with the two mares.

One of the things that was a deepening lesson to me was that the horses responded best to a lack of expectation, a “being in the moment.” It is something I know but was reinforced by how they would respond when someone didn’t approach them in this spirit, and when that person shifted their energy so they were without an agenda and used the right language.

This led to some delightful surprises in connection on all levels.

To see ongoing students’ progression with the work, who I have known for the past two years, is really heartening. Their dedication to this wonderful path for themselves and their horses is without parallel. The way each person evolves with their horses and those belonging to others is really a thing of beauty, because each person has within them the potential to become a trainer in their own right. I figure it is really a mixture of determination, intuition, and knowledge of the principles of the work that make a trainer.The intuition takes awhile to develop, the basic steps are easy to learn and will carry you a long way. As you do the steps your understanding and intuition will deepen, but one must be willing to put in the time. Hopefully the determination and deepening experience will be the engine that will carry you along.

Elijah helps teach Beth all about horses
Elijah helps teach Beth all about horses

Unlike many other methods, this method can change the behavior of entire herds and the individuals with in it. Thats why it is used in some corporate team building activiites. We are going to horses to find out how to develop cooperative, safe, and productive behavior!

Even this, only begins to touch the tip of the iceberg of the connection and enjoyment you can have with your horse. I do hope that everyone continues their journey with their horses.

It was a pleasure being part of such a memorable clinic and meeting everyone. I sense that this is also a beginning of some long-lasting friendships.


Transition from Free Groundwork to Bitless, Bareback Riding Video:


Fascinating article on Ortho-Bionomy: Better than a pain pill?

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

Liberty Training: clinics, mini-clinics, workshops, private and semi-private sessions, tutorials, consultations: by appointment:  505.501.2478 or emailing

Looking forward to Fall Lessons – semi-private, private and small group sessions. Scheduling now. We have small groups and privates scheduled for Santa Fe and Corrales and El Dorado currently. Contact me for details.

Watch for the schedule for 2014. Ruella Yates and Susan Smith plan to offer another Liberty Foundations Equine Clinic at Spirit Horse Ranch near Oklahoma City, in the spring, 2014. Co-teaching: Ruella Yates, Liberty Foundations Trainer and Susan Smith, Holistic Liberty Trainer. Contact Ruella Yates at, or 405-771-4274 or Susan Smith @ 505-501-2478. I will also be offering clinics locally in the Santa Fe area beginning in the spring 2014.


2 thoughts on “How do I build trust with my horse? – Liberty Foundations Clinic at Spirit Horse Ranch

  1. The pictures tell the story, another fabulous weekend of horses and people learning the Liberty way! Thanks for sharing with us.

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