Working with the liberty rein over cavaletti

This week I posted a video of Jazzmine going over cavaletti using only the liberty rein. In the past, I have taken her over cavaletti at liberty with just a halter, to guide her if she loses her connection with me. This is our first exercise with the liberty rein.

Nancy and Aspen
Nancy and Aspen

The pre-requisite to doing this type of work is to do the Liberty Foundation Training that I teach so that the horse has a fully ready connection. Why I wanted to use the liberty rein going over cavaletti was to be able to extend the connection between us. In liberty work, we will work with the horse completely at liberty, not in a round pen preferably, but in a bigger arena so that the horse truly feels she can get away from her handler.

This gives her the space to be able to come back to you as she wants. Once a strong connection has been established, the horse will walk with you in side by side walking and you will be able to direct her. At times, even the most connected horse may break connection and drift off and want to look at another horse, or investigate something, and you may go with her and mirror her activities, or send her off and get her to come back to you. But you have no way other than your voice, body language and positioning to influence her.

Just by being so limited in your own way of relating, without a halter, creates a situation where you let go of a lot of expectations. Then you begin to see that it isn’t limiting, but instead provides a whole other scope of interacting with the horse, developing an understanding for what she can give you.

In this video I wanted to also show how liberty work could lead directly into working with a liberty rein, which, when used correctly, is a very light form of connection or guidance.

Ultimately we are going to put some kind of equipment on a horse to work with it in other ways, since we can’t take the horse anywhere off the ranch without a halter and lead rope. And we are probably going to want to ride it too, which is not usually done in most settings without some form of tack. The only place I see this done is to show off something, like in equine spectaculars or the Mustang Makeover or comparable competitions. This is not what most people are expecting to do with a horse, although it is admirable.

In working with the liberty rein I want to have the horse do a specific thing without tack, but I want her to come with me and not drift away and break connection. I want her to extend the time she spends with me on a specific activity, in this case the cavaletti, and extend her attention span, which is what we ultimately expect when we have a horse under saddle.

With the liberty rein, I realized I had to get clear on what I expect from the horse and feel what I want. I had in mind this weightless connection with Jazzie. I wanted the connection to feel like nothing but like everything. I think that’s what makes the liberty rein really valuable; you are establishing feel with a line connection.

In using the rein, I found that I didn’t need to use it as much as I thought I would. I started out using the halter for direction, but once Jazzie felt the rein, she decided we didn’t need the halter any more and she preferred the cue from the rein, so I removed the halter. She was so light to the touch with the rein, I was able to begin with a number of practices we use in liberty training such as side by side walking, mirroring, halting and turning together, using the liberty rein as a guide.

It was also really interesting to see how well Jazzie kept her connection to me, while another horse was in the arena working with her owner. As I worked with her, my hand on the rein became less frequent, really only used for guiding her in a turn. I also saw that while she was focused on treats when we started, she soon became less interested in the treats at the fence and more interested in what we were doing together.Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 9.19.46 PM

I was happy that she liked this so much. As a riding horse, Jazzie is very strong under saddle and I am working with different ways of developing her responsiveness to lighter and lighter aids. This is definitely now in our toolbox and hopefully we will be able to take this to the saddle as well.

If you are interested in learning Liberty Foundations Training as a practice to deepen your relationship with your horse, consider the events listed below.


Services: Bodywork (Ortho-Bionomy for people, Equine Positional Release/Equine Ortho-Bionomy): private sessions (including Horse & Rider 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 Winter Lessons – semi-private, private and small group sessions. Scheduling now. Contact me for details.

New on the schedule for 2014:

January 18, OrthoHorse Tutorial – Arrowhead Ranch, Santa Fe, Susan Smith, Advanced Registered Practitioner Ortho-Bionomy 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. FULL. 1:30-4:30 p.m. OPEN. Don’t miss this opportunity! Three slots available!

February OrthoHorse Tutorial (Times TBA)

March 1-2 Horses at Liberty Foundation Training Weekend Clinic, DeLand, Florida. Contact Anne Daimler, (386-822-4564) or myself for registration and information. Space is limited. OrthoHorse Tutorial also offered before the clinic: February 28 (see flyers below). An afternoon Tutorial may be offered by popular demand.

April 5-6 Spirit Horse Ranch Liberty Foundations Clinic, Jones Oklahoma, Presented by trainers Ruella Yates and Susan Smith. Contact Ruella Yates, (405-771-4274) or myself for registration and information. Space is limited.

DeLand_Liberty_March_2014_3OrthoHorse Tutes


2 thoughts on “Working with the liberty rein over cavaletti

  1. Really like this post and video, Susan! I’m looking forward to adding the liberty rein to our program in the Liberty Foundations spring clinic at Spirit Horse Ranch.
    Best of everything in the Year of the Horse,
    Ruella Yates

Share here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s