Diary of a liberty horse coach

Many people ask me how often I do liberty work with my horses, and do I do it before I ride, or after?



Roxy free lunging


I thought it might be helpful to chronicle a week’s worth of activity with my own horses. This is activity on a week when I am not traveling to clinics and the weather is agreeable. As we know, doing horse work is dependent on so many variables. When asked the question about when I do liberty work, I often reply, “it depends.” It depends on the horse, me, my time, the weather, what exercise the horse needs, and available spaces to work. Some people have said to me they barely have time to ride let alone add liberty work to the mix.

IMG_3216I used to say when I was competing that you needed several things to be a go in order to go to an event: truck, trailer, horse, money, time off work and your own health. If all those things were fine then you could usually go. If one of those things wasn’t a go, you stayed home.

So it is with liberty training, although the variables are different. Work in small increments, only as much as the horse is comfortable with, and gradually the horse’s ability to hold his attention span and interest will increase. This suits most people’s busy schedules, as long as they can let go of being goal oriented and expecting certain results. The “results” may come later, but the trick is to not worry about them.IMG_1242

Fortunately, the time between your liberty work sessions is valuable for the horse too. It allows her to process what has happened with you and make the connection between it and her daily practice with other horses. She knows you are not a horse, but appreciates your effort at communication.




Bodywork on two horses.

Liberty “Go and Come” Foundation and “Side-by-Side Walking” plus line work with Jazzmine

SaturdayIMG_3105Me_Zuzka_newcaja Sept_October 018

No liberty work

Rode Jazzmine in the drill team


Liberty work:

“Ears up” for Patches

Pasture time, walking with Zuzka

“Ball play” with Khami and Patches (Friend Susie played with the guys)

“Flower exercise” and “standing meditation” with Jazzmine


Zuzka and I went on a 2-3 hour trail ride


Riding Jazzmine in arena. Clientsdrill team


Client horses


Client horses and people


People clients


Riding Jazzmine

The week was more impressive than most for me in terms of liberty work with my own horses.  As always, regular maintenance, clients, office work, family and riding also had to be factored in. The weather was on and off.

IMG_2883Obviously, we are doing liberty work in order to benefit in some way, but if we go into it with set goals in mind, we are very likely to be disappointed. The work is based on what the horse needs; the human will have concerns about a specific behavior or challenge with the horse. The satisfaction of goals may come in a clinic or private lesson, or it may come much later. Without the horse getting its needs met, then he will do for us by rote, and not because he wants to enter into a relationship with us. This is the primary difference between this work and other types of horse training. You will notice that many horses will do their job just fine, but there may be no light in their eyes or curiosity about what they are doing if they have been trained without being asked their opinion or given choices. Some horses really enjoy their jobs, do not check out, but still think you are asking them to do a “job” and will have an agenda about it.

When that happens I think the horse has been “humanized” in a way, and it’s healthy for her to get a sense of her own preferences, which will make her work even more interesting to her.

If you are interested in working on this approach with your horses, check out my contact info below. Our weekend clinic, April 5 and 6, will be held in Oklahoma. It’s a great opportunity for people and horses to deepen the work and get to know one another in a new way. Horses learn by watching too, so they will move ahead very quickly in the clinic setting.


(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 susansmith@orthohorse.info 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. susansmith@orthohorse.info 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: http://www.susith.com/orthohorse/freehorseatlibcall.mp3

On the schedule for 2014:

April 5-6 Spirit Horse Ranch Liberty Foundations Clinic, Jones, Oklahoma, Presented by coaches Ruella Yates and Susan Smith. Contact Ruella Yates ruella@libertyfoundations.com, (405-771-4274) or myself for registration and information. Space is limited. Private bodywork sessions and lessons are being scheduled now. I’m also doing Horse & Rider “Back in the Saddle” bodywork sessions for you and your horse – amazing opportunity to integrate in the saddle – ask about them!

May 3 Arrowhead Ranch, One-Day Liberty Horsemanship Clinic – 9 – 4:30 p.m. Contact Susan Smith for details.

Check out this from Ruella Yates, my hostess and co-clinician at SHR in April – 10 Liberty Tips from Spirit Horse Ranch:

Ruella Yates, who is the marvel behind the HorseConscious Facebook page, has just released a brand new ebook called: “10 Liberty Tips From Spirit Horse Ranch” based upon her Liberty Foundations teachings.

What’s great about the book is that it’s packed full of really valuable advice yet very easy to consume and put into practice. I highly recommend you snag yourself a copy here:



Quiet time with oats
Quiet time with oats

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