My horse is driving me crazy!

This comment makes me laugh but it is also serious business! Horses can drive us crazy because of our lack of understanding or their lack of understanding of our lack of understanding.


There are days like this, when our horse is not well connected with us and is literally, driving us crazy. Or steps on our feet and maybe we were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it doesn’t feel any better, no matter what the reason. Or jumps back suddenly, startling at something we aren’t aware of. It is times like these I wish I had eyes in the back of my head!Screen Shot 2013-04-05 at 8.35.57 AM

I was thinking about this the other day, when my gelding decided not to listen and pulled to the end of the lead rope to go snag some grass, as I was taking him out of his corral. I was in a very human mood, needing to get somewhere, with not the time to school him really, but I took him back through the gate and had him do it nicely, then stand and wait for me to secure the gate as he normally does.

Sometimes the reason people bring horses to me for liberty work is because the horse is driving them crazy and they don’t know how to communicate with the horse. In the case of my horse, I thought maybe I should spend more time with him, sit with him, do a few exercises that he enjoys. I also had to take into account my impatience, urgency, and irritation, and shift my energy so that I wasn’t in that emotional space.

Often the Liberty Foundations expose what the horse is lacking. He is not listening, then we can sit with him and walk him down.  I often experiment with the different possibilities in order to see what works for the horse or what she may offer me. I also work with my own energy and how I might need to change it to make things work better for both of us. This work is not step-by-step, it is dynamic and fluid, and once we know the foundations we can move among them and add our own creative ideas as the lesson progresses.

Bentley_clinic1Recently I did a lesson with a young woman who had a very powerful, full-of-himself horse. He also had difficulty in his relationships with other horses, always bullying and bossing them around. I think he was driving her a little crazy, even though she loved him a lot.

The way he reached out to greet her when we did the greeting exercise was as though she was beneath him. He had this air of visiting royalty, deigning to shake hands with a peon. He did not do that with me; he extended his neck in curiosity but not with that same haughty attitude. I thought that was where her problems with him lie. He felt he was in charge of every situation, even though she is an excellent horsewoman.

Our job was to get him to recognize her as the leader and enjoy that relationship. She did not have to take his leadership away from him, only make sure he recognized her and show him some interesting options. We accomplished this in the lesson by also working with her approach, and she went home to try it out in the context of the herd. Her horse began to treat the other horses with more respect also.cropped-screen-shot-2012-04-09-at-4-47-51-pm.png

With this horse, I recommended that she keep up the work, because he may backslide to his old ways if not reminded of his place in the “universal herd,” meaning including the humans. This type of horse has a long history of this behavior and way of relating to others, so it takes time for the new neural pathways to be activated on a regular basis without some reminders. My very strong-willed horses need to be reminded and I can usually tell when it’s time to do certain foundations with them.

Horses don’t have to be this type to benefit from this work – horses who have suffered abuse may use the work as a safety net in their lives,  that helps shape their lives and give it reasonable boundaries. In fact, I don’t know any horses that don’t benefit from this work if done correctly. For some abused horses, the fact that someone is not asking them to do anything difficult can be immensely comforting. Performance horses also enjoy the relief of this language that feels closer to home than the world they inhabit at shows, races or other events.

What's on his mind?
What’s on his mind?
I know how to get in the trailer but I'm not sure I want to today.
I know how to get in the trailer but I’m not sure I want to today.

So, if you have a horse who a) doesn’t get along in his herd, b) won’t move, c) is shy or frightened, d) is too pushy or aggressive, e) presents other problems — you may need to introduce Liberty Foundations into his curriculum. See the announcement below to find out about upcoming clinics in your area, or to travel to. Private instruction is also available. The more you can see the work done with other horses, the more it will deepen in you and you will be able to determine which of the tools to use in work with your own horses.

Here is a video I made with my horse Patches, who is beyond the basics in his liberty training but as you can see, still needs reminders of leadership. If you want to do this with your horse, it does require some basic Liberty Foundation Training:


(copyright: Susan Smith, OrthoHorse)

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

Liberty Coaching: clinics, mini-clinics, workshops, private and semi-private sessions, tutorials, consultations: by appointment:  505.501.2478 or emailing Spring Lessons – semi-private, private and small group sessions. Scheduling now. Contact me for details.

If you want to host a clinic in your area, contact me to make arrangements. Prices will vary according to location and travel. 505-501-2478

I conducted a free Liberty Coaching Call on March 12. If you did not have a chance to listen, here is the link:

September 26 – Spirit Horse Ranch – Private Liberty Lessons & Ortho-Bionomy for both people and horses. OrthoHorse Tutorial 9-12. Contact me 505-501-2478 or Ruella at 405-771-4274 (

September 27-28 – Spirit Horse Ranch Two-Day Liberty Foundations Clinic, Oklahoma City, OklahomaEngaging the Hearts and Minds of Horses. Susan Smith and Ruella Yates, co-teaching. Contact me 505-501-2478 or Ruella at 405-771-4274 (

October 7: Liberty Foundations Online classes – beginning and advanced – offered by Susan Smith (October 7-beginning), four calls, and Ruella Yates (October 7-advanced), Horses at Liberty Online and Spirit Horse Ranch Online. PayPal button available on my website homepage and on the Events page. Contact me for other payment arrangements.

December 13-14 – Horses at Liberty Weekend Clinic, DeLand, Florida Bring your Horse into Deep Working Connection with Liberty Horsemanship. Instructor: Susan Smith. Contact Anne Daimler (386-822-4564) Susan at (505-983-2128 or cell 505-501-2478) 9:00-4:30 p.m.

Susan is a member of the Independent Liberty Trainers Network.


Quiet time with oats
Quiet time with oats

3 thoughts on “My horse is driving me crazy!

  1. Just outstanding, Susan. I’d like to recommend this to all our students. The video is excellent; I like that it shows a progression, from a horse who really doesn’t want to do the ‘Flower,’ to a soft, willing horse. This is real life that people can learn from!
    Ruella Yates
    Spirit Horse Ranch Liberty Foundations

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