When I first started learning about join-up and Monty Roberts’ techniques I never expected to find such rewards from working at liberty with horses. Initially I used join-up to build a relationship with Archie and to gain his confidence as in the early days he was nervous and unsure about a lot of things! Over the last year that has developed further and we are now having a go at liberty work. On days when we both fancy a bit of play and nothing too strenuous, mixing some loose schooling and liberty work can be really rewarding. It’s particularly good to help us reconnect as Archie is a champion sulker when I’ve been away on holiday.
The video (above) shows a little bit about what we have been doing at liberty, I have been very much just taking things as Archie offers them and playing around.
Learning to follow me came fairly quickly as part of effective join-up, and so the next step was teaching him to back up. It’s a useful skill to have in your toolbox for everyday situations, especially at dinner time when it stops Archie barging me out of the way to get to his feed!
Since Archie is inherently lazy and would love to spend all day in bed or chilling in the field teaching him to follow me in trot took a little while, and he still has a tendency to stand in the middle of the arena as I run around him like a lunatic. Something I’m sure he does purely for his own amusement.
When Archie has previously had physiotherapy we have noted that he is reluctant to cross his right hind leg underneath him on a circle, and so working at liberty has been a great chance to improve on his flexion. He has needed plenty of encouragement to get him flexing and moving over his right hind leg but it has finally started to make a difference. Something I was delighted to hear that Samantha Bardill our physio noted the last time she came out to see him.
If you have ever thought about liberty work but have been unsure where to start, I would highly recommend learning about join-up (there is masses of information online if you are new to it), and spending some time getting to know your horse without lines or reins. A round pen certainly makes this easier but you can do it in any space.
For me liberty work is about learning to communicate more effectively with Archie, and to put it simply, I believe that honest communication is the bedrock of any long-lasting and successful relationship.