The good boy horse

The good boy horse is one who continually does what is asked. For some trainers and owners, this is exactly what they want, a horse that does not offer any challenges. For some good boy or girl horses, life is good enough that there is no need to question too much. For others, they have had their wishes trained out of them.

Photo courtesy of Katherine Hanson

The owner may feel there is something deeper in there that would like to be addressed, even if the horse does everything he or she is asked. Some horses will do everything asked of them up to a certain point. Until they can’t stand it anymore. Until they get sick or injured.

Horses in competition can get “on a roll” with their rider or owner, and blend with the human’s goals. They can lose themselves in their owner’s excitement and relationship with their person. Schooling horses often are on automatic, they do what they are asked because they know not many are listening to their needs, and even if they did, the situation probably won’t change for them. Horses are in the moment, not thinking of a better future or that their living situation might change someday.

Zuzka, Caja Del Rio Ride, 2011.
Zuzka, Caja Del Rio Endurance Ride, 2011.

When I used to compete, I questioned if my horses got injured because they needed a rest and I wasn’t aware of the need. I saw this occur with other competitors and wondered if that was the case. I’m not saying it is the case, I just put that out there as a question. The horse is ready for a rest, or retirement. Are you paying attention?

Our gelding Patches was so tired of competition, therapy programs, and doing what he was told when we got him, he took a hiatus from doing what he was told. This was given to him through liberty work. He loved that he could make decisions. Now he is happy to go on trail rides as well as liberty work. He’s happy to do many things that are suggested to him.

IMG_1966A couple of weekends ago I did a bodywork class where we worked with an older horse who was in pain from hindquarter dysfunction and very wobbly. His eyes were flat and he did not want to move much at all. Students and I did some work on him, and his eyes became bright. He could move more fluidly, still with a little wobbliness, but his legs traveled straighter and he could cross over behind. This week he helped me in a tutorial. His eyes were bright when I went to get him and he was eager to come with me. He came into the round pen and immediately began cantering, and kept it up for a few minutes, looking in to make sure we were watching him. There was some wobbliness to that canter but there was so much joy and life in this horse’s eyes and posture! We did more work to strengthen areas that hadn’t been worked on before, and this horse was so happy. His walk back to his paddock was purposeful and he contacted the ground with his hooves as though he embraced the ground.

Good boy or girl horses will often keep going with a relationship with a human in whatever fashion that human dictates, because they

Dancing with Talk of Texas (Tex), Regional Appaloosa Grand Champion Race Horse 2006
Dancing with Talk of Texas (Tex), Regional Appaloosa Grand Champion Race Horse 2006 (from video by Lori Hinkle)

value the relationship or the attention. They generally want to please. Some are more particular about their treatment than others, but those that buckle down and do what they’re told are among the ones that may really need the gift of liberty work to lighten their load, to give them a deeper working thread with their human.

When they recognize that they are given choices, their hearts lift in response. Someone, besides another horse, is speaking their language, or making an attempt! Is it real? Often the horse won’t believe what he’s experiencing at first because he is so used to taking orders from the end of a lead rope or pair of reins. With some performance horses, it may take a little longer to trust the process, that we are not asking or making them do something. What? You’re happy with that? I’m going to sleep!

Veronica with Jackie offering to go over cavaletti.
Veronica with Jackie offering to go over cavaletti. (photo courtesy of Lori Hinkle)

But then the horse finds something in it to engage him: the whimsy, the pleasure of the contact, curiosity, and he seeks what is being offered. While he may have traveled to the ends of the earth for a human before, when it was expected, he will gladly go there a thousand times now, joyfully, when it is an option.

Related links:

On the way to performance with liberty training

Have you hugged your therapy horse today?

copyright Susan Smith (c)


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

Services include:

Bodywork: (Ortho-Bionomy for people, Equine Ortho-Bionomy, Equine Positional Release (EPR)): private sessions,  tutorials, phone consultations, Horse & Rider sessions

Distance Healing Communication

Gift certificates

Liberty Coaching:

Clinics, mini-clinics, workshops,

Private and semi-private sessions, tutorials

Consultations: by appointment:  505.501.2478 or emailing  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.

June 13 – Summer Liberty Workshop – 1-Day workshop held in Santa Fe, NM at Arrowhead Ranch. Contact for information. $140 before June 1 (Early Bird), $150 after June 1.

Kaiden knows how to greet horses in a way they understand.
Kaiden knows how to greet horses in a way they understand.

September 26-27 – Fall Liberty Weekend in Oklahoma — Susan Smith and Ruella Yates, co-instructors. Contact either of us: or ruella@libertyfoundations for further details. Cost: $325.

December 7-11 Sahaja 2015 5-Day Clinic on the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean – Susan Smith & Stina Herberg. See details:

Independent Liberty Trainers Network

Susan & Stina Team Up to Make the Sahaja Clinic an Unforgettable Experience

Sahaja 2015

Susan is a member of the Independent Liberty Trainers Network.

Associate Instructor, Advanced Practitioner – Ortho-Bionomy & Equine Ortho-Bionomy

Practitioner, Equine Positional Release

Liberty Foundations Coach




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