Support groups for people and their horses

Sometimes we find ourselves in communities of horse people that are not supportive of our goals and dreams with our horses. These communities can take the shape of boarding barns, performance horse groups focused on a particular equine discipline, equine riding clubs, and just people who are wedded to the notion that “this is the way we’ve always done it.”


In those cases, we have choices: we can elect to leave the group, or we can figure out a way to negotiate the group and remain strong in our convictions. Let’s face it, we are going to find people who don’t share our visions with in every walk of horse life and regular life!

With Liberty Foundations, we are doing something outside what the status quo is doing. It is a paradigm shift to embark on a study of horse language.

SHR_Amy_YeagerWhere there is money involved, such as a purse for a prize for a particular event, there can be cruelty or dismissiveness of the horse in training practices. That’s not the only place; I’ve seen people be over-the-top competitive when the prize is a t-shirt. When the eye is on the prize rather than the process, the horse’s needs can end up secondary and the horse may be viewed as a tool. There is a way to compete successfully and maintain a conscientious view of how your horse is feeling and doing, however. Those who are concerned for their horses’ welfare every step of the way will have better performance records, fewer injuries and happier horses.

For those who are embarking on horse ownership and training without much experience, they can fall prey to every expert out there who wants to let them know what they’re doing wrong and how they should be doing things. This advice so often involves the phrases, “don’t let the horse take advantage of you,” “you have no leadership”, “let the horse know who’s boss.”

The growing trend among those who are seeking “another way” of being with horses is creating the need to find like-minded ones who will look to the horse for answers.

In Liberty Foundations, leadership is of utmost importance, but it’s as important for us to recognize the horse’s leadership as well as our own. It’s important for us to work on personal leadership energetically, so that the change comes from within rather than from without. Make the strong, grounded posture your own, not something tacked on from the outside.SHR_Sandra_Jackie1

We work to help people who have almost nonexistent energy who are being run over by horses to those who have such strong forward energy they scare horses. We learn to modulate energy in ourselves, to adjust also to each individual horse. The aggressive horse needs someone with forward energy, but not threatening energy. The timid horse needs someone who will be quiet and unassuming, until the timid horse gains confidence and then the energy may need to change and become more firm.

Photo by Susan Smith

When we work with our energetic body, our attention goes to the most important aspects of horse training – the relationship between our horse and ourselves. We are seeing the horse as she is, and the horse is revealing her true self to us.

No longer do the comments of outsiders matter as much. Communities can operate alongside us and we won’t be spending as much time looking at what they’re doing. They may pay more attention to what we’re doing and find it odd, but ultimately, they will see we are doing something that they can’t do.

This work cannot be achieved through force or coercion or trickery. The best Liberty Foundation work is done transparently, and done with a knowledge of the language of the horse.

Photo by Susan Smith

While I realize it’s important to have other people to talk to about what we’re doing, to reinforce what we are seeing with our own eyes, our support group is populated by horses as well as people. Horses will let us know what kind of job we’re doing. For those who need a human support group to learn to work with their horses, classes abound both in person and online.SHR_Deb_Cake1

My colleague Ruella Yates and I just held a weekend Liberty Foundations Clinic in Jones, Oklahoma. This week (October 10th) I will be doing a  “Hang with the Herd” Liberty Foundations workshop here in Santa Fe. Ruella has an online class going on currently.

Know that there are others out there who are part of the paradigm shift in working with horses in an equitable way. We are not alone.

Photos taken by Pia Christensen at this past weekend’s Liberty Foundations Clinic – unless otherwise tagged.

Copyright (c) Susan Smith


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Professional Services include:

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

Distance Healing Communication

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Ask about The Equine Body instruction & curriculum beginning in September!

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. Scheduling now for 2016. Prices will vary according to location & travel costs.


Saturday, October 10 – “Hang with the Herd” – Third in a series of Liberty Workshops. Join me and my herd under a canopy of the trees for some real quality time together –Experience herd, honesty, healing. A new Liberty Foundations 1-day workshop for those who want an introduction to the work or to reinvigorate their liberty process. PayPal and credit card payment available. Whether you have studied Liberty Foundations with me before or not, you will benefit from this workshop.

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We will interact with the herd in the morning, and work with horses in the arena in the afternoon. We may possibly go to lunch at a nearby restaurant or bring a lunch. Excellent herd to liberty experience! Space will be limited, be sure to enroll soon to ensure your spot. Location: Mac’s Overnight Stables, Canoncito (near El Dorado), Santa Fe, NM.  Time: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. $150 Early Bird before Oct. 1, $160 after Oct 1. Contact or 505-501-2478 for information.

November Equine Body Balance Study Group 2-3 hours. Time and Location to be announced!

February 6-7, 2016 — Weekend Liberty Foundations Clinic in DeLand, Florida at Curly Dee Ranch.DeLand_Liberty_Feb_2016



4 thoughts on “Support groups for people and their horses

  1. i love that you have addressed this issue, Susan. Because I think we sometimes don’t realize how much we are “bending over backwards” to adapt to a situation we are uncomfortable in, perhaps thinking that, “Well, these people are horse people too. I’m sure they have good reasons for their practices.” It’s important to realize when we and our horses are misfits in a given situation, and to honor ourselves and them and make changes that lead to a more comfortable existence for us all. Thanks for posting about this!

    1. This topic arose at our recent clinic, Leta, and it was great to be able to address it and feel the solidarity of those who are willing to look for a better way for horses. It made me realize the importance of knowing that we’re not alone in our seeking this, especially for those just beginning on this sometimes rather rocky path!

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