The Importance Of Having A Beginner’s Mind When Working With Horses at Liberty

Jun 21, 2023

Working with horses at liberty can be one of the most rewarding experiences, both for horse and human. A horse at liberty can freely express their natural tendencies and movements while the human learns to communicate with their equine partner by making choices that will bring harmony to the relationship. However, it’s essential to approach this kind of work with an open mind and humility. In this blog post, we’ll explore the benefits of having a beginner’s mind when working with horses at liberty, and the value of starting each day with an empty cup.

Be in the present moment.

The present moment is where all the magic happens. A beginner’s mind enables you to focus on the moment and appreciate the horse’s beauty and natural behavior. Horses are present at all times, so why not take a leaf out of their book and be present during your time being with them? It’s when we are present that we can achieve the most profound and authentic experiences with our horses.

Sharing Territory with your horse while sitting in a chair, asking nothing from your horse, is a great place to begin being mindful with horses. Sharing Territory with horses in a state of meditation expands our consciousness and helps us to receive insight and clarity which grows self-awareness. It is healing to our soul to be one with all that is. It quietly influences our lives and helps us to move forward to take the next step. You will find that this calm inner state you feel while meditating with your horse will stay with you in the flow of the day and spill over to everything you do.

Let go of preconceived ideas.

When working with horses at liberty, leave preconceived ideas at the door. It’s essential to approach each interaction as a new experience and to be open to learning from the horse with no expectations of what the outcome will be. 

Expectations can cloud your thoughts on where you need to put your focus.

When this happens, you have slipped into “Trainer’s Mind”. This is when you take for granted that your horse should perform for you because your horse knows how to or because your horse did well yesterday. Usually, we have slipped into Trainer’s Mind when we see the faults of our horse, or in ourselves, rather than taking a pause and going back to that place we can get a “YES” from our horse. 

Letting go of preconceived ideas and having an empty cup will allow you to be mentally present and pick up valuable information from the horse that you would otherwise miss.

Find an Entry Point of Connection with your horse.

The "Entry Point of Connection"  is a concept, developed by Carolyn Resnick, and has much value as a guide for helping students make well-planned choices in how to communicate, connect, and train a horse using the Waterhole Rituals. When showing up to your horse with an empty cup,  with no expectations for a specific outcome, you can more easily find an Entry Point of Connection with your horse. 

The Entry Point of Connection is found when your leadership approach causes a horse to respond to you with grace and ease. The definition of The Entry Point of Connection is choosing the one thing that is the easiest thing for your horse to do, at the moment, that you know for sure would be safe to ask, and that your horse would be receptive to you asking.

Ask yourself the question, “What can I ask my horse to do that he would respond positively to?” Your answer to this question will help you to choose the best approach to take with your horse.

Learn from your mistakes

Working with horses at liberty is a learning experience for both horse and human. Mistakes are inevitable, but it’s how we learn from them that makes all the difference. A good trainer will take responsibility for their mistakes and use them as an opportunity for growth. This means reflecting on what went wrong and finding ways to improve in the future. Having a beginner’s mind means being open to making mistakes, acknowledging them, and using them as opportunities to learn. Remember that horses are very forgiving animals and are not quick to label humans as a failure. Instead, they respond to our energy and ability to grow and adapt. 

One strategy to assist with this goal is to keep a journal or logbook detailing each session with the horse. Recording details such as the horse’s behavior, your approach, and any changes you made throughout the session can help provide valuable insight into where things went wrong or right during training. Having this tangible record can also aid in identifying patterns that could indicate areas for improvement.


Working with horses at liberty can be challenging at times, but it’s essential to keep an open mind and persevere. Patience and consistency are key in building trust between horse and human. Horses will learn quickly if they can rely on you for consistency and clear boundaries. By taking the time to get to know your horse’s personality, understanding their needs, and managing their environment carefully, you can help them feel safe enough to open up and develop a trusting relationship with you. 

With a beginner’s mind, each interaction is an opportunity to learn something new and to grow as a horseman. This mindset will allow you to push through difficult moments and appreciate the progress you make, no matter how small it may be. Perseverance is the foundation of any successful equestrian partnership, so don’t give up when things get difficult - keep trying!

In conclusion, having a beginner’s mind when working with horses at liberty is crucial. Letting go of preconceived ideas, being present, learning from mistakes, and persevering are just some of the benefits of having an open and humble mindset. Incorporating these approaches into your interactions with horses will result in a deeper, more authentic connection with your equine partner. Remember to start each day with an empty cup, be open to what each experience brings, and enjoy the ride


Nan Zintsmaster

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