dancing horses

dancing horses

Friday, October 22, 2021

Freedom of Choice

 Carmen and I continue to play with liberty work. To be honest I feel a bit like a fraud when I say 'liberty' because I really don't know what I'm doing. I basically remove the halter and then read Carmen's body language and see how we can intersect. It's fun and it really lets me know where she is mentally. I can get her to do almost everything with the halter and lead line. It's when I take that off that it's clear as to whether she's with me through choice. 

I stand on the tarp and it makes her happy

I've been doing a lot of riding lately so today felt like a good day to play. I set up my camera on a gorilla pod and put it on a jump standard. You can definitely see that I'm not a professional. 

The biggest thing I have found is to not get flustered when she chooses to leave or doesn't do what I think I want. I just breathe and treat it as a misunderstanding. I do get her to go and work but not in a punishing way at all. 

Today I started with doing it with a halter on and helping her to understand what I want (also trying that under saddle). The 'following exercise' is one I learned from Tristan Tucker. The idea is that the horse follows in a relaxed way without crowding or leaving. In this one the task is to slalom through some cones and then stop between the two. 

Based on this I would say that she clearly understands and is relaxed. When I took the halter off she had a couple errors (going to the left of the cone instead of following me on the right). Which tells me that she doesn't quite get the exercise without the lead. A couple soft corrections and she was right there. 

She gets a little closer, which is likely a comfort thing and one that I don't worry about so much. I can build on that. You can see she gets really relaxed with it.

Another activity I've been playing with is getting Carmen to seek the tarp as a place to rest. The idea is that she looks for the place to rest and it's a thing that would be considered as problematic. It's fun to see how working on this a tiny amount led to her figuring it out. First with the halter:

Can we appreciate how good her ground tie is? The cue is an easing of all pressure as she approaches the tarp. If she stops we rest. If she carries on I just ask her to go and repeat. It's fun to watch her try to figure out whether near counts or how many feet on the tarp are required. 

Then with her freedom. The cool thing about this is how she can definitely leave. And actually did once but came right back around. The truth is Carmen enjoys puzzles like this. Another funny thing happens at almost the end (around 1 minute). Carmen in the video is approaching the phone:
Me: Don't knock that over
Carmen: I'm just checking, I think you have the angle wrong. 
Me: ***
Carmen:  *nudge* hee hee hee

I swear she looks so smug here. I'm also grateful for her not stepping on the phone. 

(sorry for the angle being off but you can see what we're doing): 

I'm going to play with riding on the tarp one of these days. 

I also played with some of the TRT tools: plastic bag on a stick and the flag. Carmen let me approach and rub her with it while standing still and being totally free. I love the information that that gives me about how we're doing. There's a ton of confidence that we both gain from it. I'm hoping at some point this will transition to bridleless riding. 

I also want to thank everyone for your kind words about Carmen's tumour. I so appreciated every single message. Leah- thank you for sharing your story with me. It helped me to feel so much better. 

Carmen: can you believe she's making me work
even though I have a tumour?


  1. Always happy if my experience can help even one person ❤️ it was terrifying to go through at the time and there was even less info out there 10 years ago than there is now.

    I love seeing the liberty videos - Spanish horses just WANT to be with people and I love watching you and Carmen explore things at liberty!

    1. It’s a lot of fun. I used to think I couldn’t do it because she’d just want to eat the grass. But she doesn’t really (well sometimes)

  2. Awesome work! So sorry to read about Carmen's tumour... hope the surgery is 100% successful.
    Have you checked out the liberty training videos from Double Dan Horsemanship?

    1. No, I haven’t heard of him. I will check them out

  3. You can see her wheels turning trying to figure things out and give the right answers. I really think she enjoys this work!

  4. Sounds like a great addition to your dressage training. And fun too! I've been doing a lot of target training, standing on mats, and easy liberty work with my three and it's amazing how much more focused they are and ready and willing to solve the puzzle. It also seems to help the under saddle since they know there is a puzzle to be solved and they get right on figuring it out to get the reward or release of pressure.

    1. It is a great addition. I also find it makes me more thoughtful about the cues I'm giving and finding the path.

  5. Oh no, I missed your last post, good luck with the surgery!!
    So if the horse does just ignore you at liberty (hypothetically speaking of course, my horse would never do that!) would you just stick with the halter for a while?

    1. It depends. I usually start with the halter and when I'm pretty sure we're connected I slip it off and test. If she leaves me I let her and create some energy so she moves and then try to draw her back to me.


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