How to Make the Transition from the Ground at Liberty™ to the Saddle, for a Seasoned Rider

Nov 16, 2020

This blog is a continuation of last week's blog. I discussed the Waterhole Rituals™ warm-up program's value to enhance the riding and training of your horse under saddle.

The Waterhole Rituals has always been my go-to warm-up program for all forms of riding, whether you are into pleasure, showing, or dressage. It bridges the gap from the ground to the saddle by preparing the horse to be completely focused on wanting to perform. 

The Waterhole Ritual program is my secret to having a horse ready to follow my lead from the saddle. When I first get on, I can feel the horse and I are united. I can feel an energy exchange in my seat, reins, and legs. At that moment, my horse is waiting and anticipating my direction. I then know the connection I had on the ground has transferred to the saddle.

I far prefer the Waterhole Rituals over lunging a horse as a warm-up. Lunging doesn't build the relationship you need to share with a horse under saddle. The Waterhole Rituals focus on partnership interactions that are natural to horses. They develop the kind of bond and leadership you need while riding your horse safely.

If your horse warms up with The Waterhole Rituals, you will notice that performance under saddle will be enhanced remarkably.

The following is a routine you can use to bring your horse's attention to your seat, leg, and rein aids. I am happy to offer this exercise to help you transfer the unique leadership connection you gained in the Waterhole Rituals to the saddle.


To transfer the connection from the ground to the saddle, be sure your horse is comfortable in his surroundings and willing to stand still before you get on. Start this way to keep your horse focused on you, so the connection you have on the ground will translate to the saddle. Once you are in the saddle, sit quietly to let your horse relax and feel a connection with you. Do not let your horse walk off on his own. Having him step out  at your request keeps your leadership in place and partnership united.

Once your horse is standing still, turn his head in the direction you want him to travel. Your horse must be able to turn his head while standing still. A flexible horse while standing will be more willing to follow your lead when you ask him to move forward. It causes your horse to keep more focus on you and your leadership.

When his head is pointing in the direction you want him to go, encourage him to go using your leg aids in a requesting manner rather than a telling manner.

Use one aid at a time.
In other words, don't ask him to move forward and turn at the same time. Break everything down. Wait, bend, and then ask him to step out in the direction of the bend. Doing so will prevent him from turning like a stick and leading with his shoulder. If the horse's spine does not bend, it causes the horse to put too much weight on his shoulders. Putting the horse on the forehand makes it hard for the horse to maneuver. It also puts too much pressure on the lower legs due to the horse not carrying his weight evenly throughout his body.

The first act of collection happens when the horse shares the same intention as his rider.

Once you have asked your horse to walk from a halt, let your horse travel at the speed he chooses, then keep him at that speed. When you establish his pace, ask him to travel faster if he is slow. If he is traveling fast, ask him to slow down. Doing so keeps the horse's gas pedal working for you.

You are switching from body language at liberty to rein and leg aids to control your horse's speed.

On some days, if your horse is too slow, you might need to ask your horse to move out quickly from halt to wake him up to keep your horse focused on following your lead. While controlling your horse's speed, simultaneously focus on your rein aids to keep your horse going in the direction you want. If your horse wants to go one way, ask him to go in another or halt to regain your control. This approach from the saddle mimics the same communication you used working from the ground in the Waterhole Rituals practice.

The practice of the Waterhole Rituals will cause your horse to enjoy following your lead from the saddle. At this point, your horse is warmed up and focused on performing from your rein and legs aids. Enjoy!


In conclusion: A horse needs consistent partnership activities from the ground to the saddle to be your dream horse. The amount of time you spend brings about a better connection and cooperation. If you stay in a leadership position, your horse will continue to take care of you and have the same kind of partnership with you under saddle as previously established on the ground.

From the Waterhole Rituals, you will learn how to be in charge of your horse. The Waterhole Rituals prepares the horse to be safe and willing under saddle. But you need to have riding skills, as well.

If you and your horse are a match under saddle, you will welcome the warm-up program to bring out your horse's best under saddle. If what you are practicing is causing an adverse reaction, you can contact me for support.

Thank you for reading my blog. May the horse be with you, and stay on the lookout for new horse and human sightings.

Carolyn Resnick



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