Just what is liberty training?

For those of us gifted at birth with a natural affinity for horses, or those of us who as children developed a fantasy surrounding these marvelous creatures after reading King of the Wind, Black Beauty, or Fury, we gave special anthropomorphic quality to horses and that magical relationship based on communication, trust and understanding. However, for those of us who have somehow maintained contact with horses as we matured, the relationship and training have become somehow more pragmatic, more cut and dry. The magic of horsemanship has been relegated to our youth.

Yet what if our adult dealings with the horse could be somehow aligned with our youthful dreams of a close personal bond with our horse, while at the same time facilitating and enhancing our training program? What if training could be more than simply a human's will imposed on the horse, and become instead a mutually shared partnership between horse and rider, based on a system of communication both could understand equally?

What if the horse could have a real voice and truly participate actively in his training, working with the rider to achieve success, without coercion or forceful means? ... And what if, in the process, the training time was dramatically reduced while results were significantly amplified?

All of this is definitely possible with liberty training, which is based on the actual language horses use to communicate with each other, which fosters a healthy ego in the horse, stimulating his desire to learn and motivating him to excel.

Unlike the general perception of liberty training as a system which applies pressure to the horse in a confined area, through aggressive pursuit with snapping whips and manipulation along a fence line or in a bullpen, this form of liberty training relies on the innate instincts of the horse and his basic desire to communicate in a herd environment. Rather than forcing specific behavior from the horse, my liberty training focuses on the horse's language, which is spoken through movement, not sound; through eye contact and touch. It is a ballet of shared energies, which forge a truly harmonious working relationship between horse and rider akin to dancing, where body language and compatible movement create a strong bond.

Horses in the wild have a large extended family, the herd, while in captivity they are more frequently isolated from one another and stalled for human convenience. This separation is in direct conflict with the most basic instincts and needs of the horse, which is why liberty training has such rapid and dramatic results. For thousands of years, the very survival of horses has been linked to their interrelationship in the herd, with a clearly established pecking order. They feel a responsibility and a security in the herd, structured by a hierarchy topped by the lead brood mare.

All horses in a herd are responsible to the lead brood mare, whose function in the herd is to caretake and provide order and discipline. She is to be vigilant and alert for any danger, and must, if called upon, relocate the group. As such, all individuals in the herd have a duty to keep an eye on her. This lead mare will, during the course of a day, formally elicit eye contact from the various members of her group. Should any horse fail to acknowledge her, she may kick him, haze or chase him, or outright banish him from the herd until proper respect is learned.

Being aware of this, the horseman, with an understanding of appropriate communication skills, may convince the horse that he is a viable substitute for the missing aspects of a herd in his life, and may gain the attention and respect of the horse by functioning in the following recognizable capacities: lead brood mare, mother, father, sister, brother, enemy and friend.

The basics of liberty training teach the person how to communicate with the horse in a language he can recognize as the same he would experience within the herd, thus generating the necessary concentration and commitment needed for effective horse training on any level.

Through liberty training, the horse readily comprehends the goals the trainer hopes to achieve and has the freedom to work with him as a team player. It is an exhilarating feeling between horse and trainer when the horse is allowed to be trusted as a willing participant.

As the horse recognizes that his human counterpart is actually speaking in a language he can understand, cooperation is instant, precipitated by his immense gratitude for his returned voice, coupled with the security felt upon rejoining the "herd."

I hope that all rings true for you now. Have a lovely weekend


P.S. I'm very excited as Mark and Elke are visiting tomorrow for a week!