Liberty Training ® - A Definition:
Liberty training is designed to bring a horse a sense of freedom and safety without using any tack, including halters or ropes. Working with a horse in this way will increase the horse's desire to interact and will create a deeper bond and a dependable performance under saddle. Liberty Training is designed to develop optimum horsemanship skills and is the foundation for any and all equestrian pursuits. "
It all began at a successful clinic in Palm Springs, for the Palm Springs Arabian Association, where I worked with 20 horses to demonstrate the value of training horses at Liberty. My audience was around 150 people, and each day, it grew larger and larger as people liked what they saw and heard. Word got around!
I first came up with and coined the term 'Liberty Training' © in 1976 *, when I began teaching the method at the training and breeding center I had at the time in Sonoma County, Ca, called Stonehenge Arabians.
The idea of training a horse without tack was not how people used to start a horse in foundation training at that time. What I was bringing to the horse world was new.
This is why I called it 'Liberty Training,' as the horse was completely free and at Liberty from the start.
We began training the horse with no tack. Later, tack could be used to ride if a person wanted to use it.
Word got around fast!!
Soon, word got around about my clinic. People were talking! Lawler Enterprises came to me and asked me to do a video of my method, and so, my first video was made, which was simply called 'Liberty Training'. This was the early '80s and was the first time the general public came across Liberty Training®. Now it is trendy and taught by many!
As a result of the video, I began to do many clinics around the U.S, and people started learning Liberty Training®. Equestrians loved the results of the connection they developed with their horses at Liberty, and what's more, the results were permanent!
They were able to work a horse at Liberty by getting a better connection at all levels in their relationship with their horse. They learned how to call their horse off food and walk and trot, making intricate patterns with their horses at their side, better than they could with tack.
Their horses gave up their unwanted behaviors without their owners, even addressing them, and were much more willing and engaged during performances.
The results were almost instant!
Training a horse at Liberty
My students told me that they found that their horses were so much more responsive and connected with them under saddle, from show horses to family riding horses. They also found that their horsemanship skills zoomed forward so that they could now handle issues with their horses that they could not fix before the clinic.
Students would write to me and tell me that they now enjoyed bringing their horse along from a new ability they acquired from just a three-day course with me. The secret was the freedom of my Liberty Training, where a horse had the freedom to say no, which flipped a switch in him to bond naturally and follow your leadership. In this freedom, both the horse and the human can connect in their way, which brings about a connection horseman could depend upon.
However happy my students were, I was over the moon. I was an overnight success. I had a tiger by the tail. In other words, I had a clinic every weekend, either at my ranch or on the road. This went on for three years, and then I focused exclusively on traveling the country to bring horses and humans together in this new way – at Liberty.
Everyone can learn and benefit from working at Liberty.
My Dad was my mentor, and without his guidance, my life with horses would probably be like most people, as I would not have cultivated my gift. I would have set it aside and followed standard training horses methods that would have removed my innate nature to connect deeply with horses. He said something to me once though I later disagreed with. He said, "You can not teach people how to connect with horses. That is something you were born with."
However, I felt that everyone could learn to connect with horses in the same way that I learned to connect. I felt that everyone had an innate ability and that I could awaken this within them. I felt that horses and humans have a lot in common, and I wanted to get people to see the similarities.
I saw that Liberty Training would teach a person how to communicate and train a horse from their natural abilities. I could show people how horses respond to our influence without using force, and on the horse's terms. My connection with horses is a gift, and I found that I could easily share this gift with others because it is so simple!
I began to teach people how to acquire this ability by working with their horses to develop a Magnetic Connection and then having them lead their horse, at Liberty, to their favorite music.
A magnetic connection is a dependable connection, like when a foal shadows its mother and how horses can move in unity in a herd. In conclusion, this ability to feel and direct a horse from a Magnetic Connection instantly opens a person up with how to fit in with a horse and lead simultaneously. It is quite magical. It brings out the type of leadership a horse would choose to follow.
I heard over and over from people who had taken my three-day clinic, "Oh why did I not think of that? Of course, it is so simple and easy. I can do that." These students were able to step into their own ability to connect and train their horses.
How you start and what to avoid
The first thing you need to do is surrender the opinions of others and your own and leave your agenda at the door so that you can step into your natural talents, the ones you were born with, to train a horse from their instincts. By observing a horse in this way, you will find that your horse becomes alive to his true nature, and in that state of mind, he will be open to a feeling of trust and will naturally follow your leadership.
You are looking to bring out your horse's social side by waiting for him to come to you on his terms. This will bring out his instinct to fit in, bond, connect, and follow your lead. This is only true though if the horse is not being forced.
So often, I see pressure being used to make a horse comply with what a trainer or his students want, all in the name of 'Natural Horsemanship'. There is nothing natural about that for a horse.
The same goes for forcing a horse to bond by confining him in a round pen, which brings about his prey mentality and natural fear and resistance. Yes, it might be useful at that moment, but it is usually not long-lasting, so you have to use the same coercion the next time and the next time. More importantly, it goes against the nature of the horse.
Little by little, his spirit dies until all you see is that horrible, blank stare where the horse has given up and checked out. Have you ever noticed that? When you do, it's a result of this continuous pressure, and very sad to see.
The irony is that most people think that training at Liberty takes too long and something you should only do later when the horse is fully trained, but the opposite is true. It takes more time and skill to train a horse using pressure, whereas you need next to no skill to train at Liberty. It is also far more effective training at Liberty because once you have developed a bond and trust with a horse, ALL training becomes so much easier.
If you find you are not getting along with your horse during your training together, it will be because you are too aggressive or too ineffective. To fit in, and be a leader at the same time, is generally not natural for people, especially women. In the human world, leadership often brings entitlement, which scares a horse and brings out his resistance. Fitting in as a leader is what brings the partnership alive.
If you take away nothing else from this article, please remember this: When your horse can work with you at Liberty and feel a sense of freedom, he stops acting like you are the predator, which in turn, opens the door to a whole new world of possibility between you.
Your horse is not lazy, stubborn, mean, or dumb - horses learn faster than we do - all they want is to connect with you and be able to trust you.
Liberty Training will bring you a completely different horse – one you never even knew existed. It will be more like having a highly trained, herding dog who feels a bond and enjoys his work, rather than an unhappy and reluctant stranger.