5 paths to building connection with horses

Krystle with Tex
Krystle with Tex

The paths to building connection with a horse will vary from horse to horse. Although we have the same general principles in place for each horse, we work with the horse where he is at at the moment, not where we would like him to be. While we still maintain our human goals of wanting the best for the horse, wanting to go on trail rides, solve behavioral issues, etc., our human goals often stand in the way of doing this work. So we let go of them for the time we are in the space with the horses to do liberty work.

The horses and people we worked with this past weekend each had their own starting point. It may seem elementary to say this, but we all know how many horsemanship techniques impress upon us “getting the horse to do something.”

These were our horse personalities:

Andi walking with Regalo
Andi walking with Regalo

1) Eight-year-old Regalo been at a clinic before and has done a lot of work with his owner Glorya Duer before coming this time. A Peruvian Paso, he travels lightly and is highly sensitive. In the first clinic we worked with Regalo’s fear of just about everything, including not wanting to work with different people. In the course of the two-day clinic he became so he could work with everyone and even felt he could teach the class. Since then, Glorya has taken him on some very challenging trail rides in which he took great care of her and they even participated and won best costume in a parade.

This time around Regalo was more confident but still had some nervousness if he was asked to try to do something new. We worked with what he knew and interspersed new activities. We began to insert real fun into his program with the introduction to dancing.

2) Tex, a big 14-year-old former Appaloosa racehorse, has not been to a Liberty Foundation clinic before and he

Tex giving a nice halt.
Tex giving a nice halt.

wanted to know what the activity was. When he is trailered, he’s usually going to work so this was a different activity for him. What are these people doing? was a question he might be asking. He moved around the arena and would stop and look off into the distance, and take in the sights and smells. Work with Tex revolved around mirroring, getting to stand closer to him and making a connection, ever deepening. We worked around asking Tex to slow his pace for those who could not keep up with his amazing walk. Learning how to pace himself according to a human’s pace is important for him, to deepen his ability to be a caretaking horse, even though he has been caretaking on the trail and other places for many years. For Tex, His owner spends a lot of time meditating with him, so he has that deep connection with her and was delighted to share himself with others.


3) Effie and Gizmo: I talk about these two together because Effie was a recently rescued pony mare who has befriended Gizmo, a yearling pony colt. The two are inseparable so we worked with the two together.

Ruella building the bond with Effie
Ruella building the bond with Effie








In this way they gained comfort from each other and could then start forming a relationship with whomever was working with them. We were able to then work with each individually and get some nice connections with them. It takes time for horses who have been mishandled and then spent time in shelters to shed layers of distrust. Effie was able to come forth in herself but there was still some holding back. Gizmo was also rescued but he has been handled by his owner Karen Corn almost since birth so he is super friendly and warm. I believe that a lot of Effie’s emotional healing will come from her special relationship with Gizmo. Even though he is so young, he is capable of great love, a knowledge he will share with Effie, showing the way to special trust of humans.

4) Zoe is a four-year-old Morgan filly who has previously had gentle traditional training with her owner, Krystle McCormack, a Grand National Champion in Western and English Trail and 2012 Grand National Champion in Ladies Western Pleasure.

Krystle and Zoe are entered in the American Horsewoman’s Challenge this coming weekend, which is devoted to showing young horses who have had only several months of training on them. This event requires liberty training. With a young horse and a very tight deadline, I must commend Krystle on her great progress with her filly over this short preparation time. Zoe is highly opinionated and wants to be challenged. We worked with her on her attention span, connection and her ability to work with multiple people. Zoe is a very curious, sweet girl, and just beginning her career as a super horse.

5) 25-year-old (really not sure of his age) Noble came to our Spring Clinic and made some huge strides there. Since Noble was badly starved before

Noble McGinty
Noble McGinty

rescue, his journey back to health has been a tough one. He has been in his new family home for about two years now and has made amazing progress. I believe Noble was once loved and valued, because his way with people is so generous, so kind and loving. Even with all that has happened to him, he holds no grudges or behavior issues. The challenge with him is to get him off food, so we work around that a lot. But this time, it was easy from the beginning. Noble now knows how to stand and wait quietly while a person walks around him both ways. It is especially valuable for him to know when to eat and when not to, in a simulation of how his mother would have related to him from the moment he was born, because it is part of the fresh beginning to his new life.

Video from April 2014 Weekend Liberty Clinic:

With each new person who worked with a horse, the horse moved to a different level. What had been started with one person, was deepened with the next one. The horses would let us know if or when they had had enough; for some, it never seemed to end. They were fine with everybody. We work with frequent pauses, to give them an opportunity to process the experience. It was important for the people to feel the ebb and flow, give and take, the moving in and out of connection, without taking it personally.

The clinic setting allows all this to take place without judgment or fear that you are doing the wrong thing. Our work is not linear, it is more like a flow, like fish in a stream, flowing over eddies and rocks in the way, introducing what is needed at a given time such as speed, slowness, a change in direction or energy. Once you have the tools and energy in the right place, it can become a creative dance.

Photos by Lori Hinkle

The Heartland Horse Trader


(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 susansmith@orthohorse.info  Scheduling now. Contact me for details.

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 tdaimler@cfl.rr.com (386-822-4564) Susan at susansmith@orthohorse.info (505-983-2128 or cell 505-501-2478) 9:00-4:30 p.m. Clinic is now full. Contact us if you wish to be on the waiting list.

I’m now putting together the 2015 Clinic Calendar. Let me know if you want to do a clinic at your location. Prices will vary according to location.

Susan is a member of the Independent Liberty Trainers Network. libertytrainersnetwork.com/







4 thoughts on “5 paths to building connection with horses

  1. Susan Smith, you are my favorite blogger because you give such practical and inspiring tips on connecting with horses! So happy to be associated with you!
    Ruella Yates
    Liberty Foundations
    Spirit Horse Ranch

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