Saturday, January 16, 2021

Where Am I Going With This 'At Liberty' Work?


Like anything we do with our horses, eventually we have to ask why. Where are we going? What do we want to accomplish? What's our goal?

We might answer those questions: 1. We're not "going" anywhere. We're just enjoying where we are. 2. Wisdom has taught us we don't always get that which we hoped to "accomplish", (haha, wisdom learned the hard way!) and that a horse has its own time, a relationship its own path.  Just being out there is the "accomplishment. And everyday is a NEW day, a new horse in front of you--maybe a little less willing--or more willing--or happy--or grumpy.... 3. And last, "goals"--what goals? -- Isn't this about a lifetime relationship? There's no end point, no top of the hill, I made it moment. The learning goes on and on and on....forever. My horse is 2, and he might live to be 40. We have a long, long road ahead.

Okay, so we're mature badass and wise horsewomen, and we know ALL those things. We've learned that the people we see who still have a continued life with horses are those who are in it for the LOVE of the minute (rhymes with flute), day-to-day, learning, growing, wandering, meandering, failing, getting back up, and enjoying the ride "Life With Horses." 

👆 They're the ones who aren't only learning about horses, but about themselves.  Respecting the mirror that horses are. Respecting the trust they place in us. Us in them. 

With all that in mind, bear with me a moment as I reflect on where "At Liberty" might take us. Might.

👉 It might teach me more about my horse--when he is most in tune to me--when he loses connection.

👉 It might teach me more about what my horse will do when he comes to extreme pressure points: a flapping bag, a water crossing, a wild, unexpected animal, a barking dog, a bicycler sneaking up on us on a trail, a swirling sheet of metal blown loose from a barn in a storm. (Yes, that happened to my friends on a ride.)

👉 It might teach my horse to stay with me when he comes to extreme pressure points. 

👉 It might teach my horse that he can trust me. By his side.  On his back.  I'm not trying to hurt him, I'm trying to be with him.  And we are like one.

👉 By learning more about my horse, it might teach me to trust my horse more.

👉 As time is the measure of all relationships, it provides an opportunity for me to invest more TIME into my horse partner, in a way that is non-stressful, and relationship building.

I used to follow Mustang Maddie's At Liberty Work on Facebook. She pointed out that you have to find their motivation. Your hope is that the being together is the motivation, but let's face it, there are days your horse would rather be grazing with the herd.  You work as far as you can with personal motivation, but a little food motivation isn't a bad thing either--if done right. Mustang Maddie has a treat receiving position--the handler at their horse's side--not giving the treat if they're mugging you for it.

I try to do as much as I can without treats, but if I feel Tumbleweed's connection waning, I throw in a treat when he accomplishes a task as asked.  And, he definitely knows when he's done it "as asked," versus avoiding it.  When he avoids he knows better than to expect a treat.  When he does it as I asked, he knows to look for one.

If you want to see a little of our work from yesterday, here are 2 clips. (unedited) You'll wish I had my Pivo when I wander off screen for short segments. hehe.

Or, you can just see a few photos taken from the clips and save 8 minutes.  It's the difference between seeing the cake being baked or finished baking. hehe. Want a piece of cake? I do. Like a piece of carrot cake...yum...but I digress.  Where was I?

On the bridge, stop on the bridge, off the bridge

jogging over poles and tires, seeing if he'll keep pace.

Today I'm going to go out and see if he will stay with me around the large pasture. I want to walk it, jog it, and then see if he will stop, back up, sidepass--in the open field. I don't have a Pivo yet, so I'm not sure if there will be any photos or videos.  We'll see if I can finagle it with no cameraman. ha!


  1. This is wonderful. I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments about the journey.

    1. It’s all about enjoying the time together. 🥰

  2. The journey is half the fun. If we get what we were trying for all the better. We never stop learning no matter how long we’ve been at it. The best we can do is enjoy our time with our horses and show them the love and respect we have for them. It all comes back to us the more we time we spend alongside them.

    1. It sure does! Time is the key to success. Put in the time, and you will get the relationship.

  3. Horsemanship is a lifelong journey. Part of the reason I enjoy working with the youngsters so much is that I learn as much as they do, it's all about being adaptable and dealing with the horse you have at that particular moment- they are never the same one day to the next!
    You are doing so well with Tumbleweed, I sure am glad he is your horse.

    1. Thank you! Me too! He was the perfect horse at the perfect moment. ❤️ Working with babies takes a special person, and you are that person. You give them a solid start, and it’s not easy when you’re working with what is basically a wild horse. Every yes or no or hiccup is imprinting on them. It’s a great responsibility. Good job, Shirley!! 👏👏👏

  4. You are an inspiring horsewomen! I do not know much about the building blocks of working with a horse at liberty. Looking forward to learning more about your process.


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