Horsemanship isn’t built in a day

Holly Smith riding Roman style
Holly Smith riding Roman style

Yes, this is exciting, but don’t try this without professional guidance! You will need to know your horses inside and out and know you have the balance required to accomplish this feat!

“When I try this with my horse, it doesn’t work,” I’ve heard some students say about some of the Liberty Foundations.

The Liberty Foundations work extremely well, but there is work involved to get there. The initial stages are an introduction into what is possible with your horse, but until you make them a way of life and part of your daily interaction with your horse, you will not reap the benefits.

Patches_dance2 3.34.56 PMWhen you see photos of horses doing cool things on the websites of liberty trainers, it’s because we have spent hours working with them to get them to the point of relationship where there is a working connection that we can count on. The same as when you watch Cavalia horses in performance – the trainers just didn’t go out and sit in the pasture for awhile and their horses suddenly wanted to do these elegant moves in complete connection on a bright world stage with them.

It takes work. It looks easy in the beginning. And there is more to it.

From free groundwork to Bitless, bareback riding
From free groundwork to Bitless, bareback riding

The reason it may not work when you get home or try it from an online class, is because it takes time to develop. The horse needs time to begin to feel you as a member of the herd, and to respond fluidly to the foundations you are setting in place. You need to learn when your horse is connected and when he isn’t.  There can be setbacks — slow times where you think nothing is moving forward. It’s simple, but not so simple as to be picked up immediately by everyone. Also, horses are different so a horse you have at home may be harder to engage than one you worked with at a clinic. Working with different horses at a clinic is helpful because you begin to see what works and doesn’t work for each one; how one horse will embrace a certain foundation exercise and another will take weeks to learn it.

Holly_riding_romanstyleI put a picture up here of Holly Smith, who came to one of my Horses at Liberty Clinics here in Santa Fe. Holly is an accomplished horsewoman who enjoys many different forms of horsemanship, and works as a movie wrangler. She can do things with horses I can only dream of. Whether she used liberty training to get the horses to travel at the same pace and so close together, I don’t know. But you can bet she didn’t just one day get up on those two horses without learning some things first.

Just seeing these pictures of her inspires me. I feel that I may need to take lessons from Holly just as I might need a lesson in teaching a horse to piaffe or do more complex reining moves.

These activities are not part of liberty training, but liberty training can help a horse in his relationship so that he might embrace these activities with a like-minded person if he has the physical potential to do them.

I post this photo of my seven-year-old grandson feeding our horse a bucket of oats. I can’t recommend this IMG_2050simple exercise to everyone. What’s this lesson about? He is teaching the horse when he can eat and when he can’t. When I first introduced it to the same horse in this photo, when I wouldn’t let him eat from the bucket for a short time, he took the bucket and flung it out of the arena  The lesson was over for that day. But the next day, he was truly agreeable to having direction on when to eat and when not to eat. So my horse has come a long way in order to be able to do this exercise with a seven-year-old safely.

This is what Holly has to say about the Foundation work: “That [liberty] clinic last summer helped me out so much with a filly of mine. She’s doing so well using the methods you showed me. I’ve just built a bond with her using those methods that I’ve never had with any other horse before, it’s wonderful.”

Holly Smith gets it. She gets how important the work is on an elemental level. She knows horsemanship of any kind isn’t built in a day. And she can ride Roman style on two horses at the same time, so she’s got to have a lot of presence, balance, knowledge and connection with those two horses to be able to do what she does.

I think for some people, they see how simple Liberty work looks. Then when they try it, it’s harder than they think. It takes more time than they may be willing to give. It also takes a shift in consciousness, and in their energetic focus. When you are accustomed to driving a horse, or applying dominance training, standing still, using herd dynamics and gaining a leadership status from that vantage point may seem like a contradiction to everything you were ever taught.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he/she will have to accept that his life will be radically changed.”

I have altered this quote to my own liking to say, “Horses are not a gentle hobby…” because just being involved with horses will radically change a person’s life. People who may start out just wanting to ride horses will find there are so many more aspects to horsemanship than riding, and they will either embrace that or find it is too much and go on to something less demanding like a game of solitaire or crocheting.


(copyright: Susan Smith, OrthoHorse)

Services: Bodywork (Ortho-Bionomy for people, Equine Ortho-Bionomy): private sessions,  tutorials, phone consultations, Horse & Rider sessions, 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  Scheduling now. Contact me for details.

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.



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