Trained Liberty vs. Liberty Training

What is the difference between Trained Liberty and Liberty Training? With the increasing interest in Liberty and Liberty play, I have noticed that there is a distinct difference between what I call Liberty Training or Tricks and Trained Liberty.

 Liberty has been around for some time in many ways shapes or forms. It is used in circuses, entertainment, and even movies and TV. This Liberty constitutes mostly what I call Trained Liberty and tricks at Liberty. It is distinctly different than Liberty training or play. Horses trained in Liberty are taught a lot of their cues in tack and under restraint of some kind as opposed to being at Liberty and free to come and go in the conversation as well as change the agenda if they want to. Liberty taught in round pens or small areas also constitutes the possibility of the horse not having the ability to leave the conversation, change the subject and be free to communicate in a two way conversation.

What Liberty Training looks like to me is a free flowing organic conversation that changes moment by moment. I have no feeling of what my horse "Should" be doing. Only a feeling of enjoying the conversation, and the companionship intertwined with whatever we may be playing with. Take the pressure off. There is a really nice space to train in when we do that. It opens door ways to more interesting, fun training for both horse and person. This does not mean you are not communicating or even communicating quite strongly at times, It just means there is no pressure to achieve a particular outcome or result. Just you saying something, and the horse is allowed to say something. And then you listen to what the horse says. Then you say something back that seems appropriate in that moment.

I have hula hoops in my ring that are on the ground for figure guides and Mercury keeps showing me that he would like to work with the hula hoops when he is at Liberty. He clearly goes over to them and puts his front feet in the hoop. There are 4 and he will proceed to the next one and do the same. I have never taught him this and he offers it as his own idea. I am interested in this game he is showing me that he made up. Stand in the hoops with your front feet. I might then elaborate on this game by adding another piece to it. This to me, is the spirit of the Liberty play. It is free, organic and two way. Even when I am practicing more and more advanced Liberty play, I am always looking for my horses ideas, suggestions and input. I am always pleasantly surprised by what I get. I have a photo series of what to me shows the interaction I desire with my horse at Liberty. It is all spontaneous, co-creative, in the moment and a lot of fun! Happy New Year!


Double Liberty Fun!

Here is a super fun video with a pair of great horses from New Zealand. It shows one horse who was experienced with Liberty Play and the second one who was being introduced to the exercises. It was one of my favorite sessions of the trip! http://fdhvirtualclinic.vidmeup.com/view?q=52b50ea95c3cb.flv
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Energetic Inflection

I have recently been talking about and demonstrating how we can become more aware of our Energetic Inflection when communicating with our horses. Energetic Inflection is a term I use to describe what you are bringing to the the horse in your communication not just through your body but what is emanating from your body language. In other words it is very much like voice inflection.

When we speak verbally, there is so much feeling that comes through that we don't pay attention to. A person's tone combined with language, completely changes the feel of what you are communicating. For example, when someone had affection in their voice you can hear and feel it. You can also hear and feel frustration, lack of clarity, Joy, impatience, calmness, peace, and firmness.

When we use our body language, it can be heard and felt the same way (with or without voice). Some people think of energy as a vague term but I think whenever we are around any living thing we can sense the energy if we focus in on it.

What I notice a lot is not only vague, scattered, un-grounded, loud, Impatient communication but also Inflection that comes with it. Body language alone does not communicate. It is Body Language combined with Intention and Inflection. When we add Inflection, It gives our communication feel to a horse. We talk about feel a lot in horsemanship but it is mostly referring to the feel of the horse to the person. I think about both. I think about how do I feel to the horse. How am I coming across? How is my Inflection? I want to always offer an inviting feel to my horses. We have to mirror a feel to a horse that we want to get back from the horse. We can not bring jarring, abrupt energy to the horse and expect to get soft, peaceful exchanges of communication.

I worked with a mare in New Zealand. She was a very big Draft cross. She was very sensitive. Surprisingly so. So much that everything felt like "shouting" to her and she had developed some defensive responses because people had been loud with her and she didn't like it. I immediately saw that if you brought the wrong body language and inflection, that she was going to let you know by challenging you. I brought the softest, lightest, intention, body language, and Inflection I could and listened intently to her communication adjusting accordingly. I let her know we didn't have to go there if she would listen to me. We came to an understanding which pleased both of us much like a mutually fulfilling conversation with someone where you come to an understanding that makes you both happy.
Summer is very sensitive mare that requires
a very tactful, sensitive, soft inflection

Even when we hold tools (whips, wands, sticks etc.) , Inflection can be radiated through them from our energy. A tool can send a very precise, clear communication with a very nice feel behind it. Or it can be jarring ,abrupt and loud. I use the words Tai Chi to give people the imagery of how to move their bodies while communicating, with or without a tool as and extension. I also use the imagery of the Rhythmic gymnasts who use the ribbons in their routines. That's how you should use your arms or whips with or without string. With grace and flow.

I have seen several horses that when approached with certain Language and Inflection were apt to feel confronted and as a result took defensive postures with people. They were merely saying "If your going to speak to me like that, You're not going to get very far" As would all of us if we were approached that way. In the clinic I showed how we can un-intentionally "offend" our horses and make them feel Confronted which in turn feels dominant which in turn often provokes dominant attitudes (especially in dominant horses). In the New Zealand clinic I did some exercises with people practicing on each other. One person had to be the horse and the other had to be the person. We practiced different Inflections and Body Language. People definitely got it! See if you can see the feel in the Inflection in these picture below. Happy Holidays! http://www.fdhorsemanship.com/
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Down Unda fun!

I am back from down under and I had two great clinics where yet again, the horses and people were incredible and fun!

I went to Australia first and I love this particular one because we actually have 4 rings going at once on the second day and it is is so interesting to see all the different levels of horses and people working at the same time. Our class pony Oscar, offered his own unique lessons in Liberty. He was a fabulous character. One of his best lessons was though he was cheeky, there were times when he offered valuable insight into how to approach him in a way which didn't feel confrontational. It illustrated how a horse can show many expressions of communication with his face, body and ears and it is important to be able to read why those expressions are there and not just dismiss them as dominance, or cheekiness.

Oscar and I conversing

I also had some outstanding sessions with several horses including a young filly who didn't want to be touched on her face. She had a halter on and it couldn't be removed. In one hour at liberty she went from no way to loving being touched by her owner, myself and another person! I also met two mares who reminded me about the why I am so drawn to the soul of a horse. I did nothing with them, Just enjoyed there presence while I worked with the filly. This to me is the essence of my connection to horses.

In New Zealand, I got to work with some horses that I have been working with on Virtual Coach (http://www.fdhorsemanship.com/#!services/vstc1=virtual-coach) and in Clinic. I was pleased to see how these horses had come so far. I also saw many new horses and had the pleasure of meeting a horse named Chesi. Chesi was an interesting horse because I was told he was was very backed off people, sensitive and did not want to be approached. I met him the first day at Liberty and through one simple exchange in a matter of minutes Chesi and I made a great connection! So great that in fact he and I were doing some Liberty dressage dancing almost immediately. It showed how a horse and person can dance together spontaneously when the energetic inflection is right. I told everyone that I normally didn't go so far with a horse so quickly but that Chesi was offering and who was I to turn down a dance with a beautiful horse! He is an extremely sensitive and intelligent horse and he was an example of a horse that just needed to be understood.

Another fun lesson was with a returning participant who brought two horses. I suggested we play with them together and it was soooo fun. They were both cheeky and one was experienced in Liberty and the other was a new horse for the person. We were letting the more experienced horse show the other one horse to do the exercises and then we would play with whoever wanted at different intervals.

I am always bringing new exercises as much as possible to further people's connection and communication with their horses. I introduced the concept of Energetic Inflection at the New Zealand Clinic.We practiced on each other with one person being a horse and the other being the person. We did several different approaches to illustrate how it would feel to the horse when we change our Energetic Inflection. It was clear to everyone after practicing on each other how this subtle shift could make a huge difference to a horse and how they received your communication.

By popular demand, I did a short demo of Selection at both clinics. Because I have the unique ability to travel and try this in different countries and horses, I have had fascinating variation in choices made by horses. I have learned so much also from seeing what deficiencies or issues horses are struggling with regionally.

I want to thank my organizers Shaunna, Christin and Bek for helping make yet another successful trip and clinic. Thanks to the horses for being a constant source of inspiration and for all the magic they bring. I wish everyone Happy Holidays and I have lots more videos, Clinics and classes coming up in 2014. Also remember you can join FDH Virtual Clinic to get continued support post clinic, see exercises from the clinics and more, as well as group Skype check ups with members. See more pics below!
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Practicing Energetic Inflection on each other

See if you can see the difference in this picture

Double draw!

A happy to be touched yearling

Bek and Paddy, Particpants and Virtual Coach students

Elvira and Christin, Participants
and Virtual Coach students