If you follow my blog you know that training my horse Nazir is not always a Sunday walk in the Park. By now, I know that I have sometimes failed to interpret his behaviour correctly in the past and that I would like to develop a much more trustful relationship with him. Forever searching for ideas to bring me closer to this goal, I sometimes check out different online programs. For now, I didn’t stick with any of them as there was usually too much pressure involved and too much bull**** about leadership. I don’t need to tell my horse who is boss and I certainly don’t want to make the wrong thing uncomfortable. So I was very happy to come across a program that perfectly fits my own philosophy: The Horsefulness Liberty Training Program by Karine Vandenborre.
The program consists of eight modules with educational videos, pdfs, video recordings of feedback sessions, and mp3s. There is an additional bonus module about how to carry the Horsefulness Training philosophy on to groundwork (which I’m already very curious about as I do a lot of groundwork myself). The modules become accessible one after each other, after a certain period of time (usually about 2-3 weeks). I like the idea that not all the content is available right away. Knowing myself, I would most likely try too much at once and move on to the next module too fast. It is a step by step program that tells you exactly what to look for in your horse, explains a lot about your body language, and how you can tell when you are ready for the next step. Below every video and pdf you can ask questions and, in addition, there is a very friendly facebook group, members only, in which Karine answers all your questions, too. At 300 Euros, the program has a reasonable price. Once paid, you have life-long access, also to future updates.
So how is the Horsefulness Liberty Program different from other liberty programs and why did I choose to follow it?
The name “Horsefulness” combines the words horsemanship, the art of handling horses, and mindfulness, “an attitude of life in which you practise yourself in conscious and non-jugdemental attention, both to yourself and everything around you”, as Karine writes in the program. For her, it is very important to build up a true connection to the horse based on trust and understanding of the horse’s signals. “Horsefulness Training teaches you the importance to constantly be aware of how your horse thinks, reacts, learns, lives…But also how you position yourself and how you respond to your horse. It teaches you to handle your horse in a non-judgemental way and with full attention.”
The program addresses common myths about leadership and hierarchy with horses, where these myths come from, and how they can have a negative impact on the horse-human relationship. The first exercises take place in the horse’s paddock or pasture, the later ones are practiced in a large enclosed arena or paddock, not in a round pen. In Karine’s opinion, a round pen is too small and doesn’t give the horse the space to express himself freely: “A horse that can communicate with you in a large space, can and will tell you a lot more.” If, by accident, we would use too much pressure, the horse would not be able to get away in a round pen. In a large space, we learn much better when we are doing something wrong. On the other hand, we can also be more confident about defining our own space without the danger of putting too much pressure on the horse, as the horse can simply go away.
“Liberty Training is all about creating trust and friendship, clear communication, togetherness and openness! It’s to develop a deep bond with your horse.” (Karine Vandenborre)
During the program, you practise the 8 connection exercises:
(1) Bonding time: you simply spend time with your horse. Sitting on his paddock or hanging out wherever he is. You don’t want anything from him. The horse can decide to come to you or not and a feeling of togetherness grows. The program explains how to deal with different horse characters and their possible reactions to your presence in the paddock.
(2) Greet & Go: In this exercise you learn to notice and respect the horse’s boundaries and invite him to make contact. After saying “hello”, you immediately leave again and show your horse that you don’t always want something from him. You learn how to approach different types of horses.
(3) Greet & Groom: This exercise quickly became my all-time favourite thing to do. When your horse allows you to approach him, you can groom him on his favourite places. You learn to see when your horse feels like grooming and when he would rather be left alone. You are encouraged to become aware of how you approach the horse.
(4) Your Spot, My Spot: Within a group of horses, there is contextual hierarchy and in this module you learn how to make your horse give up his spot without chasing him. The horse learns to give his spot willingly to the trainer and let himself be moved by the trainer. Depending on the horse you are working with, you will use different body language.
(5) Easy Herding: This exercise increases the group feeling between you and your horse even more, as horses interpret that who herds them in a friendly way is part of the group. There are different steps of this exercise: “following”, “search for me”, “active herding”, “passive herding. If you combine those you will be able to ask your horse to slow down, to halt, to go faster, to turn, and to make loops. The horse is free to go away at any time and there are no negative consequences if he decides to go.
(6) Liberty Leading: Can be a spontaneous result of all the previous exercises already. However, in this module you learn how to encourage your horse to be lead by you, in the lead or partner position. If the horse doesn’t want to follow when we invite it, more time should be spend again on connecting.
(7) Spontaneous Circling: Just like all the other exercises, spontaneous circling is trained without pressure and is not about disengaging the hind quarters but about actual following. You learn how to invite your horse to make circles around you in walk, trot and canter.
(8) The Boomerang: In this exercise you learn how to ask you horse to walk away from you and to invite him to come back quickly in a trot or canter. “If you send your horse away in the correct and playful way, it will want to return by itself!”
“Liberty Training the way I teach isn’t a quick-fix method, it asks a lot of empathy and feeling, and above all, letting go of control.” (Karine Vandenborre)
How did this program affect my relationship with Nazir?
I am currently in module five, so I cannot tell you about the full effect of the program yet. However, I find the difference in Nazir’s behaviour very remarkable already! Here are some of the things I have noticed:
I’m very curious what more this program can do for us!
I used the principles of the program when I worked with the wonderful pony mare Jette in Denmark (you can read about it here). She trusted me so quickly, I could not believe it. I also practice with the other horse’s in Nazir’s paddock and I love how they have come to accept me as part of their herd. When I sit on the paddock, all of them come to greet me and to see what I’m doing there. Sometimes one of them stands close to me and sleeps.
Thank you Karine, you have added another piece of the puzzle to my approach to horse training!
Here is the link to two free e-books, in which you can learn more about Karine’s training philosophy: http://hfa.horsefulness.be/free-e-book/
If you would like to join the program, click this link: http://horsefulnesslibertytrainingprogram.com/join-the-program-2/ (This is not an affiliate link. I solely recommend this program because I like the way it influences my work with the horses.)
If you are also a member of the program, I’d love to read your comments below!
Have a good time with your horses,
You are a wonderful student and horsewoman Bettina, because YOU did it, I only gave the tips 😉
Lots of love to you and wonderful Nazir 💙
Thanks so much Karine!
Nice summary and insights Bettina. I started the program to learn how to work with a feral mare. I was in the bonding time module #1 when we had a wreck. It was going to take time to get her back and with this program, I learned what to do during the “time” and how to shape our comeback. Thank goodness I had this program because I did it right and her response is a high point in my life! She takes a long with each module so far, but that’s ok.
I also use the program with my other two horses that I’ve had for 10+ years. Our relationship and how I approach them is a turn around and the difference is astounding. I thank my “formerly wild” mare for bringing the program to all of us.
Yesterday I got scared with my gelding and reverted back to being tough. With the wisdom of the program, I caught myself as quickly as I could, forgave myself, and used the tools I’ve learned here. Even though getting scared is rare now, like yesterday, old tapes will play. When I catch myself and think, “Isn’t that interesting” and stay calm, as we’ve been guided to do, I am filled with gratitude. We’ve come so very far and I know we are continuing. For me and my horses, what can possibly be better than that? -k
Funny how old habits come up when one is scared, right? I also find myself become quite tough when I get scared. Well, we’re aware of it and work to do it better, that counts 🙂
Just found this blog and it really struck a cord. I’ve been disillusioned with many “natural horsemanship” programs as the training is still based on dominance and not a partnership. Many of these horses are very robotic and I want my horse’s personality to shine not stamp it down. Glad I found this blog and I just downloaded the ebook and will be looking more into this. Thank you!
That’s exactly how I felt, too. I did these horsemanship exercises with my horse and then looked him in the eye and I didn’t like what I saw. For me the hardest thing was to start trusting what I felt to be right, to listen to my own ideas about how I want to train my horse. Now I have a sort of base, my own ethics, against which I can check all the stuff that I come across.
Glad you liked my blog, thanks for stopping by and good luck with your own “journey” 😉
In our learning of how to ride, this falls under the general category heading of understanding your horse. We learned how to ride without a crop (whip) and without spurs. (We wear spurs only as an accessory on our boots.) Our instructors, Mark and Trish, have taught us those are unnecessary when it comes to riding. We learned the value of understand your horse and their inclinations, and how it varies from one horse to another. We’ve never been tough or harsh with a horse in the years we’ve been riding. If something doesn’t work today, that’s okay. There are other days to work on it. Most likely, not enough preparatory work was done.
I’m glad you’ve found a program that is working for you. Gentleness and patience has always worked for us.
I’m Sophie BURY, founder of the French equestrian startup, Equi-Hub.
What’s Equi-Hub ?
Equi-Hub is a collaborative website which is gathering all french equestrian blogs.
Now, we are proud to open our service to all the English-speaking equestrian blogs community. Our target is to create the widest bloggers equestrian community… of the web… and more 🙂
Why Equi-Hub ?
Equi-Hub is a very personal project : i’m blogger too on Horse-Connect (www.horse-connect.fr) – Sorry, it’s french 🙂
With my husband, Hervé, we have created Equi-Hub to meet a requirement of all horse riders & lovers : Staying in touch with equestrian trends.
On our french version (created on august 2015 and available on http://www.equi-hub.fr), we have gathered more than 5500 posts produced by 84 french bloggers. All the posts are classified by categories :
– Equestrian culture
– Horse’s Health& Care
– Equestrian Life
– Horse practices.
To begin the Equi-Hub international adventure, i would like to propose you to reference your equestrian blog.
It’s totally free of charge and the inscription is very fast and simple :
First, you would have to create an account on http://www.equi-hub.com
In a second time, please,send me by mail the RSS flow of your blog.
I hope you will be interested by Equi-Hub project and will join our community!
Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have some questions about the Equi-Hub project !
A gentle pat to the beautiful Nazir !
With kindest equestrian regards,
Tel. + 33 6 40 20 60 91
Hi Sophie, thank you very much for your proposition, I’ll have a look at equi-hub for sure. Many greetings from Warsaw 😀
Really informative and makes a whole lot of sense 🙂
I have re-shared as I think my readers would find this really interesting!
You are very welcome and thanks so much for sharing!
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