May the herd be with you

In the pasture, the horses usually gallop off to one particular favorite place, up over the ridge to where some colts are stabled. Then I hike up there and my mare Zuzka rounds everyone up when I ask the horses to come back with me. This time, my gelding Khami took over, and he got everyone going.

IMG_2679  They got distracted by my neighbor whistling at them to encourage them to run, they got excited, so I had to go through the routine again. I put a halter on Khami in case they got distracted another time. I had an appointment so I couldn’t play longer.IMG_1756

As we were walking back together, stopping every so often for a bite of grass, the other two came trotting up, one behind and one beside me.  Their rhythmic steps and mine kept a steady cadence, their breaths strong and measured. I felt part of the herd in sync with their rhythms — all of us together, moving as one.IMG_2684

Their moods change and shift with the weather, feeding times, what they are seeking. This week I could tell that Khami needed something from me, probably food, as it was nearing dinnertime. I usually don’t start any training or liberty activities near dinner, because I want them to have a relaxed meal time without me trying to interfere with it. Since it was about an hour until dinner, I thought about this. Khami was not letting the others get near me, and wanted attention from me. This is a horse for whom basic Liberty Foundations can get boring if I don’t spice it up a little. He basically says, “Hey look at my resume, I’m a retired endurance horse and I know how to do everything. So don’t bug me.”

IMG_1027I decided to do a treasure hunt. So that I didn’t get mobbed by the horses while carrying a bucket of oats, I put a mixture of oats and pellets in piles under the fence so they could each be eating while I placed the other piles. One did come and follow me and the bucket, but he was respectful and got to know where the other piles were (He has been wanting special attention lately). Once he was settled, I could then direct each horse in turn to the treasure, which was slightly different in each pile. One might have oats and timothy hay pellets, while another had hay cubes and oats, and another might have carrot pieces and hay pellets. Each horse was delighted and none of them felt slighted or that they had to overtake the other.

This was another way in which the herd was operating together, their curiosity driving them, to be with me so that I could find a pile for each one. I would approach each and motion or ask for him to come with me and show the next pile. Amazingly they waited until I approached each one, rather than coming up to me en masse and demanding to know where the treasure was – like the greedy ones in the Treasure of Sierra Madre or something.

Before people do this with an entire herd, I would suggest taking the energetic temperature of the group beforehand. Then make sure you place your piles under the fence spaced well apart, so you can get in and put down your additional piles of goodies without having the banditos breathing down your neck.IMG_1753

On a treasure hunt...
On a treasure hunt…

If you are working with just one horse on this activity, then I suggest putting the goodies down in the arena or pasture before you enter with the horse. Then guide him or her to each pile. The horse thinks it’s great that you know where they are. After awhile, the horse is less interested in the treats and more interested in the relationship you have formed together. At boarding barns, I use small feed pans or buckets for the goodies since often management doesn’t want stray feed lying around in the common areas.

When I do this with one horse in a pasture, for example, that horse and I spend some very special time together, seeking the treasure spots. Sometimes I forget where I’ve put them and the horse delights in finding the pile and leading me to it! I love that because it demonstrates to me that we are a team, both looking for the treasure, both excited to find it for the other.IMG_1604

Make sure your horse has a good grounding in Liberty Foundations before attempting this one, specifically the pasture treasure hunt!

This is a great exercise for the horse who has done everything.  I’m working currently on engaging “the horse who has done everything” like my gelding Khami. In clinics I encounter horses like this who seem to feel the Liberty Foundations are too elementary for them, or they have been to so many clinics and learned so many things they want to second-guess the activity. Stay tuned for a blog by this title and we can explore some exciting options for these competitive and well-schooled horses!


Keep an eye on the calendar as more events will be added as they are planned.

copyright: Susan Smith, OrthoHorse)

Services: Bodywork: (Ortho-Bionomy for people, Equine Ortho-Bionomy, Equine Positional Release (EPR)): 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.

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


January 27-March 4 or 18, 2015Horses at Liberty Online Advanced will continue the instruction for those students who have taken an introductory online or in-person clinic from me.

The work builds on what has been taught in the introductory course with refining movements, body language, knowing what and when to ask for change, celebrating the horse’s gifts of engagement. Cost: $311

Payment for the Advanced Online can be made by check, PayPal or credit card. A PayPal button for each of those events is available on the home page of my website,

March/April Clinic in Santa Fe: Stay tuned for dates!

April 10-12 – Spring Liberty Weekend in Oklahoma — Susan Smith and Ruella Yates, co-instructors. Contact either of us: or ruella@libertyfoundations for further details.

September 26-27 – Fall Weekend Liberty Foundations Clinic in Oklahoma — Susan Smith and Ruella Yates, co-instructors. Contact either of us: or ruella@libertyfoundations for further details.

Who will benefit from this work?

All horses and humans, but specifically:

  • Horses who have not responded to traditional natural horsesmanship
  • Horses who have been frightened, abused and in other ways traumatized
  • Horses who may be aggressive or too passive in their herd situations
  • Horses who have problems with humans
  • All humans who may be puzzled about relationship with horses and want to deepen their connection.

Susan is a member of the Independent Liberty Trainers Network.




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