I think my breakthrough came when I was thinking of percentages – how much time would I be spending on certain activities – and how Dante would arrange the chart if he was putting it together.
Considering the recommendations for all activities to be Horse led (which wasn’t going to happen in the Real World) and the knowledge I didn’t want all of our work together to be Traditional because it didn’t gain me what I wanted in the end – a Friendship.
With that in mind, I’ve put this together….
FRIENDSHIP – HORSE FREE-will Activities where the Horse has the maximum ability to say NO, and you use the least amount of pressure (emotional or physical).
GOAL 30-50% of your time spent with your horse. For example, if you ride for 40 minutes, you need to spend another 20-40 as a Friend. For someone who boards at a distance, this will be a huge challenge to your schedule but the more you infest in this part, the higher the motivation the horse will give during training.
Sharing Space – Parallel Universe. You are within the horses boundary circle but not participating with each other, i.e. mucking stall, cleaning buckets, reading. While I’ve been doing this on purpose to achieve a result, more details can be found by doing a search for Carolyn Resnick.
Sharing Space – Observation. Watching and recording the horse’s movements in his natural environment. Which leg does he lead with, what canter depart does he prefer, what companions does he hang with, where does he like to roll? Etc…
Sharing Mood – Play with the idea of mimicking your horse. When the horse snorts and blows you snort; when he stomps his leg, you stomp yours. You walk when he does, you trot when he does. Your actions need to be deliberate. Add this into your Companionship Walking where you both start to imitate each other (i.e. he starts to trot when you lift your own leg and stomp it down for example).
Greeting – Willingly comes to the person (no halter, lead etc…) Should be the very first activity you are attempting. Generally, horse owners walk out to the horse and halter him in the field; this activity you wait for the horse to come to you. If your horse doesn’t do this activity, I’ll be posting an exercise to show you how to get there.
Companionship – Walking. Human follows Horse, horse directs movement, direction. This is not done in a harassing way – if the horse shows discomfort you disengage. No tack. If you don’t have a pasture or large arena you can use, add tack but still allow the horse to choose direction and speed. You may want to bring calming New Age or instrumental music on your headphones or a blanket to sit on when your horse pauses and grazes for long periods.
Companionship – Walking. Horse follows Human, with no equipment, in large space big enough to leave at any time. The key is the ability to leave with a big enough space to do so, and no punishment or retribution. This is an exercise similar to getting the horse to come to you – carrots and clicker training can be used to elicit attention from your horse – games like Following a Target or Chase the Tiger encourages this behavior also.
Horse permits free grooming (not tied, no halter) – good exercise to see what tools the horse likes or doesn’t, pinpointing sore body areas, determining amount of pressure-touch your horse enjoys and what amount crosses his comfort threshold.
LIBERTY DRESSAGE GAMES – Horse is free of tack or restraint, engagement is encouraged and reinforced using +R clicker training. Behaviors are caught and then shaped (as opposed to -R where punishment or pressure – like a whip or rope – forces a behavior and then you reward).
GOAL 50% or more in the beginning as training proceeds can be diminished but still aim 30%+ of your horse time.
- Horse comes with called (recall)
- Horse does a variety of stretches
- Horse walks, trots and canters by mimicking person
- Standing at Mounting Block (horse selects the time)
- Horse follows a Target, knows Touch a Target
- Playing with a ball, kicking a ball
- Chasing the Tiger
- Leg Lifts by cue
- Alternating Leg Lifts
- Lifting the Nuchal Ligament (rising the withers)
- Free lunging – no tack but horse moves around you in a circle or oval as directed
- Standing at Mounting Block (horse selects the time)
- Horse lowers the hindquarters on cue, elevating the front (School Halt)
The biggest problem or error I see with Liberty work is overdoing it. In the end the repetitive clicker training almost starts behaving like traditional pressure based training. If you feel this is happening return to Friendship – and start working in a larger and larger area where your horse can leave and say no.
HUMAN DIRECTED ACTIVITIES – Horse has little option for saying no if approached traditionally. Doing too many of these activities result in horses that are shut down, withdrawn, bored, start “acting up” though there is no physical reason for it, or basically could give a rat’s ass you are at the barn. As always, the cure to this is returning to Friendship time and listening, not punishing, your horse when he says no.
GOAL 20% – 50% of your time spent with your horse. Be creative with your training and see how you can push traditional into +R styled training or Friendship games by increasing rewards, lessening the pressure you use and allowing the horse to have input on what is happening to him. The more investment in Friendship and Liberty, the more you can ride while maintaining the bond-connection you desire.
- Standing at Mounting Block
- In-hand work such as Straightness Training
- Riding, including Trail riding
- Lunging with halter/bridle and lungeline, such as Art2ride
- Crossing ground poles
- Vet exams, dental work, farrier