Tag Archives: Waterhole Rituals

Liberty walking with your horse deepens the working bond

Walking with your horse deepens the bond between human and the horse in a special way. Once you’ve brought your horse through the other practices*, liberty walking with your horse without a lead rope or any tack at all has a different energy to it. From there you can really assess your horse’s energy and how she changes and drops away from you, while at the same time you can feel her “glue.” The more you encourage walking side by side the better the horse gets at walking with you, and it is something you can enjoy together.

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In the first day of a clinic, I like to be able to bring some horses along to this point. It’s great because people can really feel the connection then, and learn not to get hurt feelings if the horse drops off. Also when first starting out, we may only get a couple of steps of a walk together, but we can build on that until we have more of a commitment from the horse.

cropped-rosalie_me21.jpgIt is also the beginning of the dance. Some horses really like to dance with people and once they know this piece, it is fairly easy to transition to the dance. The next step we take is to send the horse off when she drifts off from us and draw her back. Although this might appear like natural horsemanship, the climate is very different because it’s being done in a small arena, not in a round pen. The horse has lots of room to escape your influence.

Many people think this is just what horses will do with you anyway, but they are referring to a horse following along behind you like a dog. Walking side by side with your horse, as though you are with a friend, is the way we do this, like taking a pleasant walk. This way the horse begins to feel you as another herd member, and will stop and sniff or nibble something, while you wait. This is what horses do together in the wild. They mirror each other’s motions, walk, sniff, drink, graze together. This practice teaches us to be patient, and at the same time to see what’s important to the horse. If the horse seems to be ignoring you, you can move away and find something interesting to engage your attention.  The horse may come over to see what you’re doing.

If the horse doesn’t do this, not to worry. The attention to this practice will increase the connection between you over time. You can also move to another practice if the connection wavers, or introduce another interesting element.

What is the importance of this? You might ask. You can build in stops, gait changes, turns, circles, backing up, and head lifts to this walk with your horse. You can move up to a trot or canter together. You can begin to feel if the horse pushes at you or has no interest. You can get the distance you want between you and your horse, a comfortable, companionable distance. What brings them back when they leave? Is it the same or different each time? It teaches you to really track their energy and your own and to know them so much better. If your energy is off, the horse will not want to walk with you. How do you learn to pay attention to your own emotions and what you present?

Teaching what the "glue" feels like.
Teaching what the “glue” feels like.

This walk is the precursor to being able to draw your horse to you, not the way they come in the round pen where they really don’t have many choices, but how they may come from across a corral or even a big field. In a bigger space horses know they have the freedom to just leave you. Their eyes become wide when they realize that you want them to be themselves, and also offer a huge space in which to do it. Then, the idea of connecting up becomes even more intriguing.

At the upcoming Weekend Liberty Clinic, we will have many opportunities to explore this ritual with our horses.



(copyright: Susan Smith, OrthoHorse)

Services: Bodywork (Ortho-Bionomy for people, Equine Ortho-Bionomy): private sessions,  tutorials, phone consultations, Horse & Rider sessions, distance healing communication and gift certificates

Liberty Coaching: clinics, mini-clinics, workshops, private and semi-private sessions, tutorials, consultations: by appointment:  505.501.2478 or emailing susansmith@orthohorse.info  Scheduling now. Contact me for details.

October 7: Liberty Foundations Online classes – beginning and advanced – offered by Susan Smith (October 7-beginning), four calls, and Ruella Yates (October 7-advanced), Horses at Liberty Online and Spirit Horse Ranch Online. PayPal button available on my website homepage and on the Events page. Contact me for other payment arrangements.

December 13-14 – Horses at Liberty Weekend Clinic, DeLand, Florida Bring your Horse into Deep Working Connection with Liberty Horsemanship. Instructor: Susan Smith. Contact Anne Daimler tdaimler@cfl.rr.com (386-822-4564) Susan at susansmith@orthohorse.info (505-983-2128 or cell 505-501-2478) 9:00-4:30 p.m.

Susan is a member of the Independent Liberty Trainers Network. libertytrainersnetwork.com/


When should I stop riding my older horse?

When should I stop riding my older horse? This question comes up periodically, because at some point in every horse’s life, they get too old to be ridden. That’s the truth of the matter. They simply don’t enjoy it any more, and even if they do, they are physically unable to continue to carry a rider safely.

Riding my mare Opal one blustery day when she had a lot of energy. She was retired early because of melanomas. Photo taken Winter, 1998.

Riding my mare Opal one blustery day when she had a lot of energy. She was retired early because of melanomas. Photo taken Winter, 1998.

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Degrees of working connection in equine liberty training

When people say they have a good “bond” with their horse, it can mean a lot of different things. I have talked in the past about the difference between an emotional bond and a working bond. What we work on developing in liberty training is the working bond. But the degrees of bond or connection people have with their horses when they come to liberty work can be varied. Here are some possibilities, including some not-so-good bonds:

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Practical application of liberty horse training

Training is something not just for horse trainers to do, but for horse owners too.


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Horse time!

What time is it? What does it matter? If you’re dealing with a horse, trying to get her to load in the trailer, or perform some activity by the end of your lesson, the lack of interest in your agenda can be frustrating at times. Most of us who work with horses know there is such a thing as “horse time.”


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Spring Santa Fe Clinic builds the working bond with horses

Each liberty clinic forms a community. Some of the six attendees at the March 30th clinic held in Santa Fe at Arrowhead Ranch knew something about the Waterhole Rituals by Carolyn Resnick before coming, and some did not know them at all. We started out getting a feeling for the Rituals with a short video. In the arena, we worked at first with each other, which helps to ground everyone and helps them get the rhythm of motion with a horse. Later we would see how to adjust energy to each individual horse’s needs.

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I thought I had a good bond with my horse…

I hear this phrase from a lot of people. It’s startling and disappointing for people who have gotten a horse that they think likes them and then they find out the horse doesn’t want to do what he or she is asked. In some cases, the horse has “chosen” them in some way, and they feel a special bond with the horse right from the beginning. Why isn’t that bond carrying them through? Why aren’t they riding that horse through magical landscapes with the sun setting golden in the west?

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Poetry in motion – reciprocal movement in horse work

Reciprocal movement or “mirroring” – when horses mirror each other’s movement – helps horses help each other in healing and is supportive of the herd as a whole. I use this movement in horse bodywork and it is also used in liberty training – a prerequisite to dancing.


When horse training isn’t working

Ray Hunt used to say, is it getting better with your horse, is it the same, or is it getting worse? If it is getting worse or remaining the same without any improvement, it’s time for a change or maybe to do some things the same but add in a little something else.


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Horses Need Homes – NOW!

Very often we hear about horses that need homes – desperately, right now! They can be horses that are rescues, or horses that have fallen on hard times, just moved from place to place after having had a long life with people who love them. Sometimes the people can’t take care of them any more. This has happened a lot since the economy crashed and more horses ended up without homes. A divorce, serious illness or job loss can be disastrous for much-loved family horses.


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