Going on a Picnic with Sunshine to Develop her Training for Bridle-less Riding

Photo by Teddie Ziegler
Photo by Teddie Ziegler

Chapter Seven - Going on a Picnic with SunshineAnything that I am sharing with you on horse training at liberty is something that anyone is capable of doing without me personally being there to guide you, for many reasons. One reason is that you can allow the horses' response to guide you to your next step or response. The other is that I guide you in baby steps on things you know you can get done with your horse the way you would like to. Another reason is that some of my readers have a background with my online classes that give you a general overview and a basic understanding of working with your personal horse at liberty.

You are training your horse from a purely organic experience, like a child at play that knows the basic nature of horses. What I am guiding you to do is to train your horse to ride bridle-less in a field without ever needing tack. There are many ways I train for bridle-less riding. The story I am sharing with you in this blog is how I accomplished this with Sunshine.

When I left you last week I left you with a problem to solve and that was how to train your horse how not to crowd the gate when you are trying to get through it yourself. Solving this problem has allot of residual benefits - you gain more respect, cooperation, patience, and a horse that will pay more attention to your direction. This activity also teaches your horse that if he listens to you, when he does not want to, there is a benefit to do so.  This soon activates your horses' behavior to try to figure out what it is that you are asking him to do. This speeds up the learning ability of the horse and to listen to the subtleties of aids.

Many wrote in the comments about what they did that worked for them in solving the crowding the gate issue. Thank you for responding. It helps others to formulate their own approach in their training at liberty with their own horses.

Now for what I did!


Don’t think it is better to do it my way, it is only a suggestion to help you move forward with your own horse.

What I did was to throw a carrot out away from the gate and when she went to get it I could walk in without her crowding me. The next step was that I waited until she moved away and then when she did I tossed another carrot out and she got her reward for a job well done. After that all I needed to do was point my figure and she would back away, turn around, and go to the spot that I was pointing to.  Then I tossed her a carrot reward.

I want to reassure you that when you approach horse training from the heart, training horses is quite simple and can be experienced without drama effortlessly, easily, and naturally. The first and most important quality to possess to be successful in the training of your horse is to find training as rewarding as the relationship you share with your horse. You have got to love your horse as he is, believe in him, believe in yourself, be creative and know that taking time to sit down and come up with a plan for training works. You have got to love training and be able to develop your horse’s attitude to feel the same way about being trained as you do.

This approach will get you to know the true nature of your horse. It is centaur training; meaning that you and your horse are as one. This oneness comes from being truly authentic! Both you and your horse are developing a connection that you both want to share with one another. I think of centaur training as the horse training you and you training your horse effortlessly, easily, and naturally - sharing a one minded consciousness that comes from a loving partnership in harmony and unity.


After Sunshine learned how not to crowd the gate and to be patient. I could then go into her field while she was eating her carrot and I could put down her lunch, spread out my blanket, and we could eat together at the same time. I taught her to back up when I was sitting on the blanket. When she was finished with her lunch, if she came over to me, she didn't crowd me because she initially did not want to step on my blanket. She had learned to back up from the gate crowding lesson so now I could ask for the same behavior, but in another situation.

Next lesson:

I then went to her next lesson which was that I could send her away from me when there was no gate between us, I needed a gas pedal. This I did after she had finished her lunch and I had finished mine. The reason I felt this was important was that I needed to be able to control her behavior in respecting my personal space and that I could carry her grain anywhere in the field without her trying to get me to put it down. I wanted her to walk out with me to the pine trees to have our picnic together without her trying to grab her grain out of my arms. I could not defend myself because I had her food, my food, and my blanket. So I needed to have her polite and respectful by not pestering me on our walk out to the back of the field.

How I put the gas pedal on Sunshine:

The next step is a simple thing to do - I repeated what I did at the gate. I threw a carrot away from me but now what I added was that when she went to get the carrot with enthusiastic energy, I raised my energy and ran in place clapping my hands to invite her to go faster. If she did not race to the carrot I raced to the carrot and picked it up and tossed it again.  Sometimes I pretended that I ate her carrot because she was too late. This lesson was learned in 5 minutes.  In 5 more minutes I could send her out at a fast pace and when she took off I threw the carrot in front of her. In 10 minutes of play I had trained Sunshine to have a great gas pedal without the need for the treats.  Because following my cues for the send off was so much fun, the carrot was of no interest anymore. She learned this easily and enjoyed the game.

It was also easy to get her to pick up speed from her earlier training in the park stables where she had learned the words for trot, canter, and halt from running in the park with her on a lead line and ground driving. In no time at all, at liberty, I could say trot and she would go off at a trot and I could ask her to halt coming towards me and she would halt to get a carrot. She learned the word wait in the same style I had taught her to leave and come back to me.

Helpful hint while training your horse at liberty!

A horse will stay more interested in his training and will learn faster when they do not get a treat every time for doing what you ask. This is the reason and how it was explained to me. If people always won at a game every time they would loose interest because there is no more suspense left in the game, in fact there is no game left. Animals are like us in this way.

How to progress with using treats:

The working formula goes like this; first a treat is given each time until you can see that your horse understands the game and that a carrot is the reward. After that you give a carrot, or treat, two thirds of the time and then offer less and less until there are no more treats for the game. The game becomes the reward and the horse starts responding from habit instead of for the treat.

My next step with Sunshine was to have a picnic with her in the back woods. So this caused me to have to carry her food and my food to the back woods and find a place to spread out my blanket. I spread out the blanket, putting my food down and then her food down and then I would need her to wait for me to sit down and then give her permission to start eating.

You might try this and then leave a comment about what took place.

There are two Waterhole Rituals that are perfect for developing cooperation around food.  Do you remember the name of exercises?

From your creativity and imagination, how did you train your horse to wait for you to lay down your blanket and wait for your signal that it was ok to start eating?

Have a great weekend!  Be on the lookout for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.

Warmly, Carolyn