Updated: Sep 7
Horses are incredibly perceptive. They are far more tuned in to their senses then we are and can perceive the most delicates shifts in energy and respond instantaneously as needed. They are also highly social, domesticated animals that have evolved into extremely capable learners. These attributes give them the unique ability to develop transformational partnerships with us that can help us become better versions of ourselves in many ways.
Human beings tend to get locked into thought patterns that can overwhelm our consciousness. This is an unhealthy state of being that makes it difficult for us to feel joy or reach our potential. Working with horses draws our awareness to our senses which enables us to obtain and sustain a mindfulness state that eliminates these thought patterns and helps us focus on the moment at hand.
In order to earn leadership status relative to the horse, we must prove that we can obtain and sustain a higher level of awareness than him throughout the interaction. This cannot be faked. The horse will provide indisputable, immediate feedback that reflects our actions. He will respond the way we would like him to only if we do things correctly so he is invaluable guide towards gaining control of our energy and awareness.
One of the first steps we take to achieve Balanced Liberty with the horse is to synchronize with him. We initiate this with an approach and retreat exercise we refer to as mirroring. This is the process in which we work on polarizing the sending and receiving energies that we share with the horse. This opens our lines of communication with him using his natural language and teaches us about his individual tendencies and sensitivities to energy. This process also helps us find balance between trust (receiving) and respect (sending). When we become adept at mirroring, we can then work to summon and sustain varying degrees of energy to influence the horses movement in many different ways with a steadily increasing level of fluidity and grace.
This is no simple task but it is incredibly absorbing, so it offers us a feasible path towards mind-body coordination, wellness, and residual joy. We work on ourselves without realizing it while working with the horses. We must be in control of our energy, compulsions, and emotions to be successful at these exercises. Our interaction with the horse becomes increasingly more enriching and profound and we strengthen our aptitude for authentic leadership and further mindfulness practice.
Working with horses at liberty not only offers us a path for personal transformation, it also grounds us to nature. Nature is the only barometer for absolute truth. Horses are a part of nature. They can guide us down an honest path that teaches valuable life skills while also enhancing the quality of our lives. We practice patience, poise, empathy, and compromise with an animal that can absorb our attention just by the sheer magnitude of his presence. We learn concentration skills because the only way to hold the focus of the horse is to hold it ourselves. We become better communicators because in order to teach a horse a cue, we must break it down into components that he can understand. We then need to observe or "listen" to him closely enough to acknowledge his responses so the language can continue to evolve.
This is not easy. It's not supposed to be. Meaningful relationships must be earned. This is an extremely dynamic and challenged-based approach to horsemanship. It is not for everyone ... but for those who possess the patience and discipline to work through the challenges that will inevitably arise, it is highly rewarding and transformational for both horse and human.
We have many students who have fallen in love with our liberty system. We use it as the bottom layer of our training program and add further complexity as the language develops and the connection strengthens. It is a wonderful way to be with horses and translates well into classical work both in hand and under saddle.