Lots of people think of liberty work as a goal. They train a skill until they can do it at liberty.
But I’ve found liberty work most helpful as a tool, not a goal.
I don’t want the horse to stay with me at liberty because it never occurs to them that they can leave, or because they’ll have unpleasant consequences of leaving (chasing, “make them work”). I want the horse to stay with me at liberty because they choose to. The trick to this is that in order to achieve that, they have to know they CAN leave, without consequence, but that staying will mean reinforcement and fun.
That’s the hardest part, for us, as the human in the relationship, to let the horse walk away without taking it personally, or falling back into old habits of control.
One day last year I was playing with Little Duke in the pasture. I’d say, “ready? GO!!” and run as fast as I could (admittedly, not that fast) and he would buck and play next to me. I would laugh and feed him a treat and we’d do it again.
There I was, 40 years old, and playing with my pony in the pasture at liberty like every little girl dreams of. Only, when I was a little girl, I was far to focused on doing things “right” to win ribbons and this sort of play wasn’t even on my radar.
Liberty has changed my horse life. I always said that driving was the most fun you could have with your Miniature Horse, but I’m not sure I believe that anymore. The fact that my horses choose to spend time with me, with absolutely nothing keeping them there, that they will play and engage, and be creative in coming up with their own silly tricks and game – it’s magical.
If you’d like to learn more about incorporating liberty into your routine with your horse, and get all the tips to get started, liberty is our topic this month inside the Study Group – click the banner below to join us today!