Horses generally love an open gate. An open gate even if it’s one they’ve been through before, signifies something different, something to be curious about. Going places. Perhaps the grass tastes different there, or there will be an adventure.
I’m very interested in what makes horses curious. I want my horses to have curiosity, and I watch their eyes carefully, as well as their entire facial expressions, to make sure they aren’t bored with what we’re doing. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell when we’re in the middle of some other training besides liberty, under saddle perhaps, where they are concentrating on what I’m asking. Even liberty work, where they have choices, can feel as if they are engaged with the requests.
On a new trail, they have great curiosity. That’s not why I started riding trails but it definitely helps to feel the enthusiasm of my horse when we encounter a new trail. I want that in liberty, schooling and all forms of interaction with my horse.
My mare Zuzka was very excited a couple of weekends ago, when we left our new place to explore the trails for the first time. Zuzka is an explorer by nature, and loves new trails. Once out of the gate, she charged up the trail as though she owned it, big feet contacting the ground and leaping up over the rocky parts. I felt her big energy move forward into the new land and terrain. I love how she feels under me – little stout, surefooted powerhouse, yet she never feels small. I love what we’ve built together, so that I always feel safe with her, even if she has her own ideas of where to go and how fast to get there.
Recently, I took my young mare Jazzie through a gate at the back of the barn. The area isn’t very interesting to me, but it’s different. It’s full of weeds and leads into an arroyo. She is the only horse I know who is less enthusiastic about going through a gate. She never tries to escape through one, and sometimes gets concerned about new things. I feel it’s important to show her there’s nothing to be afraid of. We’re doing it together. She went through the gate, scooting a bit in the beginning because she worries about her tail. Then she was through and she let out a little snort of satisfaction.
Everything was new and different. Her eyes were wide and full of curiosity about where she was, as though she had slipped into the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I was pleased with the result because it opened her up before we did other lessons. She was pleased with her accomplishment.
It reminded me that I need to be creative in introducing activities that will surprise and delight…or stretch the horse a little.
The “open gate” can represent anything new and different, anything that sparks interest in the horse. Sometimes it’s a different configuration of cavalettis, sometimes the gate itself, a new trail, a new patch of grass. Variety of food, such as offered in a grazing situation, can provide a great deal of satisfaction for the horse. At endurance rides, horses always wanted somebody else’s hay. It was part of the excitement of the event.
Within the Liberty Foundation clinic setting, we set up situations that may engage a horse’s curiosity. It may be an invitation to come with the person, food, interesting additions to the arena, getting to visit with another horse friend, certain people.
Get to know what floats your horse’s boat. It may the same for awhile, then shift to something else. Since horses get interested in new things, it helps if we’re open to noticing those. I noticed recently that my older gelding, Khami, loves to go visit the mustang colts on the ranch. They are two- and three-year-olds, and he finds them fascinating. His enthusiasm about the colts is precious. Does he feel they need parenting? Is there something about their youth that excites him?
We may never know what the attraction is, and perhaps it doesn’t matter. Keep in mind that life must be rich and full for horses too, like we would like it for ourselves. Our ideas of what that might look like might differ from those of horses, but we all know that although we need routines, we also need a little spice to enrich our lives.
copyright Susan Smith (c)
Keep an eye on the calendar as more events will be added as they are planned.
Bodywork: (Ortho-Bionomy for people, Equine Ortho-Bionomy, Equine Positional Release (EPR)): private sessions, tutorials, phone consultations, Horse & Rider sessions
Distance Healing Communication
Clinics, mini-clinics, workshops,
Private and semi-private sessions, tutorials
Consultations: by appointment: 505.501.2478 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Contact me for details.
Let me know if you want to do a clinic in your area. Prices will vary according to location & travel costs.
September 26-27 – Fall Liberty Weekend in Oklahoma — Susan Smith and Ruella Yates, co-instructors. Contact either of us: email@example.com or ruella@libertyfoundations for further details.
December 7-11 Sahaja 2015 5-Day Clinic on the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean – Susan Smith & Stina Herberg. See details:
Susan is a member of the Independent Liberty Trainers Network. libertytrainersnetwork.com/
Associate Instructor, Advanced Practitioner – Ortho-Bionomy & Equine Ortho-Bionomy
Practitioner, Equine Positional Release
Liberty Foundations Coach