LEARNINGS FROM LIBERTY

Worked with youngster in the arena at liberty today. I’ve done this type of thing many times with many horses and its always revealing about the horse’s individual nature.

Its easy sometimes to not see everything we need to see about a horse when every interaction involves the horse at the end of a rope or reins, but at liberty its like working naked. Not in the real sense of the word naked, its winter here on exmoor! - naked as in there’s nothing hiding what happened between us. I first saw this stuff done by a mad woman in the wilds of exmoor in the 1980’s… and I later married her(!!!). I was impressed at the time and had never seen anything like it.

Of course now we see more and more of this stuff going on by various exponents, much in a round pen. A round pen is useful as it saves you doing too much running yourself, but it does take away some of the horse’s choices in terms of leaving…

In the past I have even worked at liberty in the endless space of the open moorland here and if the horse decides to leave you may not see them for a week! That was fun.Today I worked at liberty in my 20x40metre arena. Not ideal because its got corners for the horse to get stuck in, but good enough and showed me a lot about the horse I’m working with and about what we need to develop together and some of how I may need to go about it.

She’s quite a bold character and quite sure of herself in the world. I saw that today. I like it. The flip-side is her lack of innate insecurity, something which is common in most prey animals including horses, means she isn’t that reliant on anybody, including me who dreams riding off in the sunset on her, with her going at my speed and in the direction I decide… so, there is work to do, and the liberty work shows me much… and it can be fun for both of us…

The other thing she showed me is where the edge of my nerve is: standing in the centre of the arena while she charged full speed down the arena directly at me was an interesting pattern!… do I move or do I stand my ground? If I move, which way do I move? … interesting and fun learning.

Having worked with her at liberty I watch her with more insight when turned out with the herd. I watch how she shows the same kind of tendencies, I see how she would like to challenge those ‘above her’ and where her boundaries are about how far she will push it. I see how much resolve she has and I also see how the other horses work with her at liberty. She is quite a strong character, she’s not a push-over for the other horses. She’s calm and easy in some ways, but that strength will give me something to work with. It also gives her a sense of inner confidence that will be great to have when, later down the line, I ride her alone in the forest and meet up with new things she’s never seen before…

When looking at that inner confidence of hers you can see how and why the spanish horse has been used in history to conquer and explore…


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