I’ve had some folks ask me how I learned to work with my horses at liberty. Below are resources to check out and my own process of learning this new path. Each person and horse will do this a bit differently. The core principle is universal and simple – the horse is allowed to say no.
For me, I had always dreamed of a true partnership with a horse, from the time I was a child and first read The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. I had glimmers of what was possible throughout my early riding years, mixed with a whole lot of me dominating my horse. After all, that is what is commonly taught.
Mary Summer Rain mentioned in her book Spirit Song about asking her neighbors if she could borrow a horse, then climbing on the horse bareback with no tack while the horse willingly and happily took her out for a day’s ride exploring, then brought her home again. I was intriqued by this glimmer of hope for a different way of relating.
Then I found Linda Tellington-Jones and TTEAM. I saw how my horses responded to that respectful training system, contrasted with how they responded to some popular natural horsemanship techniques (I’m skipping over bashing specific training approaches. Your horses will offer an opinion if you listen)
My very first ride without a bridle ever, on Poco, the horse that gave me whiplash bolting.
After reading Linda’s books I stumbled upon (or was led?) to the conscious horsemanship school of thought. These would be the teachers like Carolyn Resnick, Linda Kohanov, Alexander Nevzorov and too many others to name. I highly recommend visiting the site https://www.horseconscious.com/ and researching each of the advisory board members, including those mentioned above.
For me, the actual step-by-step instruction in how to start this relationship came from Carolyn Resnick’s Waterhole Rituals. I found her process easy to understand and follow, and I felt safe doing it. Every one of my horses has responded positively to the approach. I encourage you to check out her website, as she has an active blog as well as many class options. She welcomes comments on her blog, and many times helped me with applying her techniques.
I have posted many times about bits and pieces of the process. I have written about my thoughts about this process of conscious horsemanship here and here. I laid out some simple first steps to get started, Sitting together and Walking together.
Most recently, my horses’ themselves have taken to teaching me. They present me with lessons, when and how they see fit. I can say that each lesson has been useful and perfectly timed and has improved our relationship. Jeep taught me about boundaries and personal space, Lucky has been working on my riding skills, and Salty taught me about choices and circumstances. I have not written about my riding lessons with Lucky yet. I will.
I hope this post gives you some ideas for finding your own starting point. Please comment if I can help.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or American Veterinary Medical Association, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your veterinarian about any changes to your animal’s health program.