Walking with your horse deepens the bond between human and the horse in a special way. Once you’ve brought your horse through the other practices*, liberty walking with your horse without a lead rope or any tack at all has a different energy to it. From there you can really assess your horse’s energy and how she changes and drops away from you, while at the same time you can feel her “glue.” The more you encourage walking side by side the better the horse gets at walking with you, and it is something you can enjoy together.
In the first day of a clinic, I like to be able to bring some horses along to this point. It’s great because people can really feel the connection then, and learn not to get hurt feelings if the horse drops off. Also when first starting out, we may only get a couple of steps of a walk together, but we can build on that until we have more of a commitment from the horse.
It is also the beginning of the dance. Some horses really like to dance with people and once they know this piece, it is fairly easy to transition to the dance. The next step we take is to send the horse off when she drifts off from us and draw her back. Although this might appear like natural horsemanship, the climate is very different because it’s being done in a small arena, not in a round pen. The horse has lots of room to escape your influence.
Many people think this is just what horses will do with you anyway, but they are referring to a horse following along behind you like a dog. Walking side by side with your horse, as though you are with a friend, is the way we do this, like taking a pleasant walk. This way the horse begins to feel you as another herd member, and will stop and sniff or nibble something, while you wait. This is what horses do together in the wild. They mirror each other’s motions, walk, sniff, drink, graze together. This practice teaches us to be patient, and at the same time to see what’s important to the horse. If the horse seems to be ignoring you, you can move away and find something interesting to engage your attention. The horse may come over to see what you’re doing.
If the horse doesn’t do this, not to worry. The attention to this practice will increase the connection between you over time. You can also move to another practice if the connection wavers, or introduce another interesting element.
What is the importance of this? You might ask. You can build in stops, gait changes, turns, circles, backing up, and head lifts to this walk with your horse. You can move up to a trot or canter together. You can begin to feel if the horse pushes at you or has no interest. You can get the distance you want between you and your horse, a comfortable, companionable distance. What brings them back when they leave? Is it the same or different each time? It teaches you to really track their energy and your own and to know them so much better. If your energy is off, the horse will not want to walk with you. How do you learn to pay attention to your own emotions and what you present?
This walk is the precursor to being able to draw your horse to you, not the way they come in the round pen where they really don’t have many choices, but how they may come from across a corral or even a big field. In a bigger space horses know they have the freedom to just leave you. Their eyes become wide when they realize that you want them to be themselves, and also offer a huge space in which to do it. Then, the idea of connecting up becomes even more intriguing.
At the upcoming Weekend Liberty Clinic, we will have many opportunities to explore this ritual with our horses.
(copyright: Susan Smith, OrthoHorse)
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org (386-822-4564) Susan at email@example.com (505-983-2128 or cell 505-501-2478) 9:00-4:30 p.m.
Susan is a member of the Independent Liberty Trainers Network. libertytrainersnetwork.com/