Liberty Philosophy

 

My Thoughts on the Essence of Liberty

One could define liberty training as simply working with a horse with no physical connection (rope/lead) linking the horse and human. However, to me, this is not necessarily liberty. Liberty means freedom; thus, to be at true liberty, the horse needs to feel free. Liberty is about the horse’s mental and emotional state rather than what he is doing with his body. When a horse is out in the pasture grazing, dozing or playing with his companions, he is at liberty.  Liberty training is the ability for the horse to stay in this mental and emotional state whilst choosing to remain mentally connected to the trainer.  

 

Think about a foal that is out in the pasture with his mother. The foal will run and play, explore movement and his surroundings; however, he will constantly stay mentally and autonomously connected to his mother. I am not saying that I would like my horses to see me as their mother, but I seek a similar state of autonomy and connection.  

 

Achieving this form of liberty training comes down to an understanding of how horses think, feel and experience the world. I believe it is crucial to remember that these beautiful creatures do not choose their life and do not ask to be in the presence of human beings. They are not in this world to serve us and certainly do not “owe” us anything, even if we provide them with the best possible care. Therefore, we should not feel entitled to their cooperation.  

 

Unfortunately, there are many training methods out there these days that force the horse to “do” liberty. Horses are such submissive creatures that it is possible to convince them to do anything within their physical limitations. Liberty training, in this way, might look cool to some, but the true connection between horse and human will not be there. The spark in the eye or beautiful, joyful expression in the movement will not be there.  

Approach

Liberty begins by establishing a connection between you and your horse. As the training progresses, we can start to motivate the horse to do something that every horse was born to do: move! Some horses have lost their joy in movement and get labelled “lazy”; seeing these horses find their spark again is one of the most rewarding parts of this kind of training! When a horse starts to play and enjoy movement, they naturally go through moments of true self-carriage and collection. We can reward these moments to allow the horse to become more conscious of these movements and encourage him to continue exploring down this path. We can also incorporate the principles of the Academic Art of Riding to help guide the horse towards healthy biomechanics. High-energy training should be complemented with low-energy training to avoid causing the horse to become unmotivated because it’s too tiring. Trick training can be an incredibly fun, low-energy way to break up the sessions!

However, the liberty horsemanship extends far beyond what we do during each training session. In order to have a horse that is willing and able to engage, connect and use expressive movement, he needs to be healthy and free from pain/discomfort and stress. While moderate to severe issues are often quite obvious, mild signs of pain or distress can be much harder to recognize. It is so important for horse owners to learn to recognize the subtle signs to be able to help their horse sooner rather than later. Therefore, the Equine Connection Academy also focuses on the pillars of equine health as well as training the eye to notice the small but critical changes in equine movement, posture and behaviour.

 

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