The Independent Liberty Trainers Network is a consortium of like-minded equine liberty trainers who have developed unique horsemanship approaches that begin with liberty training- meaning the horse at liberty in a large enough space to provide complete freedom, without restraint, without pressure.
What is it we love about horses so much? Where does our love come from?
I think about how primal it is. If I find a stick in a V form that has one end 1/3 shorter than the other, I think of a horse head. If I pick up a rock in the same shape, I think of a horse and start mentally drawing in the rest of the details.
For many moons, Native Americans created fetishes starting with a rock in a shape that made them think of the animal and then carved it into the form it inspired – done with many other animal shapes as well. These fetishes are used for ceremonies and to give thanks for having particular animals in their lives – for transportation, food, clothing and shelter. Horses were a valuable resource and were seen more for what they could provide. But through that relationship, bonds were formed.
Others in my family came before me in their love for horses. Both my grandfathers loved them, yet only one of my immediate family was interested in them. I carried it forward, an obsession suppressed by other things in life for a time but that came up again at the first opportunity. For some people, riding is the obsession, for others, the presence of horses is an obsession in itself, the close bond we can form. Or, all of the above.
One of my grandfathers took care of a number of horses during World War I. They were on the front lines of battle. Cannon horses. Imagine for a moment what that might have felt like, caring for animals who were incredibly brave. Horses by their natures, are not incredibly brave, but would under normal circumstances, flee at the first sign of danger. These horses were ridden or pulled cannon wagons into the face of danger, many never to return. They watched men and horses they may have cared for fall and were surrounded by death, gunfire and violence.
To develop bravery and a deep bond with animals under this much stress is really a testament to both the men in battle and the horses’ ability to form such bonds.
There may be many animals on the ranch or farm but a horse has a special place for a lot of people. The horse may help with ranch work or have some other job. For people who didn’t have horses growing up, perhaps they discover horses in mid-life, through riding lessons, or some other contact.
Lives take turns that involve careers, children, opportunities, illnesses, commitments, many of which don’t involve horses. Horses are a commitment in themselves, so there are times when they are just too time-consuming or expensive to possess.
These days we have the luxury of loving horses without using them as our mode of transportation. A horse recognizes her ability to help humans, they will do this if they feel met and understood. When I get on a horse I feel a great sense of gratitude sweep over me, that this animal has chosen to want to be in this relationship with me. To some, it may seem like a luxury to own a horse or two who need homes, but are not necessarily tasked with a special job.
I think of how I hurry to finish work that I don’t really want to do in order to be with the horses, carve out a period of time to ride, make up excuses to be with the horses rather than do laundry or repair something. (Ask me to repair a headstall and I’m on it).
Perhaps I’m making up for all those years when I didn’t have enough of horses in my life. When I had to hide my jodphurs in the back of the closet so my mother didn’t find them and wash them, washing away that wonderful horse smell. All the years that were spend working, raising children, and being part of lives that had nothing to do with horses. I have lived a double or triple life, and one of them involves and centers around horses.
When horses are treated well, emotionally as well as physically, I believe, from my own experience, they enjoy performance. They enjoy doing things well, and being part of a partnership. They are less likely to enjoy performance if treated as a tool.
At our most recent Liberty clinic, our attendees were all deeply committed to horses, involved in different experiences with them. They came to horses in their own ways, some having had horses all their lives, competing, working with them in ranch life, while others found a love for them later in life.
However you have come to the horse, you can learn this (or may already know it): I can be accepted into herds by being still and being myself. I can meditate and a horse will want to be near me. I can learn a lot about my own energy by seeing how the horse responds to me on any given day.
Take the horse who doesn’t want to be caught or haltered. The first thing the human feels may be annoyance. The human is always thinking of his schedule; he’s supposed to meet someone and if he has to spend twenty minutes trying to catch this horse, he’ll be late. The horse feels the urgency and feels pursued, but for some horses, it might be fun to turn this into a game. For some, they may not feel good that day, not in the mood or suffering from a physical ailment the owner isn’t aware of.
It is up to the owner, or catcher in this case, to figure out what he or she is doing that might cause the horse not to want to be caught. Maybe just sit with it. Don’t approach with a halter and lead rope. Take the pressure off.
Was there time or energy to treat a horse with this level of respect when preparing a cannon horse for battle? I don’t know. But I would bet soldiers like my grandpa talked to the horses, did what they could to soothe their terror, dressed their wounds, made them feel that however hideous and awful the human-induced trauma they stepped into, someone loved and cared about them.
Today, we have more horses needing homes than ever before. We have more horses who have experienced great trauma in their lives, comparable in many ways to the cannon horses, yet without any sense of purpose attached. We have an amazing amount of knowledge at our disposal about horses, both scientific and empirical, and knowledge acquired from paying attention to them. It is not so much a luxury to spend this time with horses as it is a huge benefit and deep gift to learn and figure out why they may behave a certain way.
We have horses who put up with a lot who seem to have layer upon layer of indignity heaped on them and one day just resist, full on. We have horses who resist a lot but one day they understand, and all that resistance melts away.
Why does a horse feel it needs to buck when someone wants to get on?
Why does a horse not want to go through a gate?
Why does a horse choose one person over another?
Why does a horse cry as though it’s the end of the world when its pasture mate is walked out of sight, or even within sight?
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he/she will have to accept that his life will be radically changed.”
I would alter that quote slightly to say “Owning or loving a horse is not a gentle hobby…” because you don’t need to ride to have this grand passion.
People like my grandpa never owned his own horse nor did he ride much. After the war he became a drayman in London and took care of cart horses delivering goods. My guess is he had been “seized whole” by that love for them, never to be the same again.
As part of our “grand passion,” we care about the “why” of the horse – why he is having trouble in life, why he feels such pain at certain activities. Sometimes, a simple offering – a scratch behind the ears, a tuft of grass, is all that is needed. Sometimes a more consistent contact meets the demand.
Some days it’s valuable to remember what path brought you to horses in the first place. I’d like to hear about it.
Magic and a herd of wild horses came into my life in 2007.
I had taken up a new work challenge on the small Caribbean island of St. Vincent and had run into an abandoned and lost herd of wild horses.
Magic was one of the wild mares and she has meant a lot for our small horse school and liberty horse program.
She had many working students and, with my guidance, she taught lessons about being present, awareness, body language, speaking with a clear mind and language, leadership, kindness, courage and connection.
On a Sunday in March she got very sick with stomach pains and a strong diarrhea and just a few hours later she left us. When she had died, I took the other horses to say goodbye before we buried her in the garden. We loaded the grave with Mangoes and Moringa and planted an avocado tree on the top of the grave along with her favorite Cosmos flowers.
The Vet came and opened her to look inside to find the reasons and he could find physical failures with the heart and some of the intestines. This left us with much peace, to know the reason and knowing that she had the best life with us. She lived free in the herd, taught lessons she was able too and was one of the most “talkative”, attentive and energetic horses I have known.
We are many, Magic, that will miss you very much.
With much love, rain and sunshine always
Stina and the herd.
When Horses Say Goodbye - Magic's Message (R.I.P) - YouTube
Thank you for your message.
Magic had many working students and she made a big difference in many of the students lives.
As a teacher I would like to inspire you with this blog – hope you will enjoy!
In the Agricultural Revolution ten thousand years ago, the domestication of plants and animals led to a radical shift in the way people lived. The Industrial Revolution took place only a few hundred years ago, a similar dramatic transition took place. Big changes happened in people’s lives as society was transformed, including people’s relationship with one another and with the Planet.
Right now people are waking up, a new desire to change the world is sweeping across the planet. Many call it the Ecological Revolution, the Quiet Revolution, the Sustainability Revolution, even the Necessary Revolution. It is crucial for the survival of all beings. It involves the transition from disaster capitalism, a doomed economy of industrial growth to a new life-sustaining society committed to the recovery of the planet.
Ideas that acting on the behalf of all life on Earth has been with a few but will soon become mainstream. At our center we are doing our part to mainstream these ideas of acting on behalf of all life for future generations. We are one such organisation among one to two million organizations that are right now working towards ecological and social justice.
The commitment to act for the sake of all is growing, along with the vision, courage, and solidarity to do so with a large social movement of people marching history onwards!
People take actions to hold back and slow down the damage being caused by capitalism. Awareness is raised of the damage being done, as well as campaigns, petitions, boycotts, rallies, legal proceedings, direct actions and other forms of protest against practices that threaten our planet.
Their goal is to protect what is left of our natural life-support systems, rescuing what we can of our biodiversity, clean air and water, forests, and topsoil. Actions are taken to safeguard communities against exploitation, war, starvation, and injustice.
By taking actions lives, seeds, species and eco-systems are saved for future generations.
For every acre of forest protected, many others are lost to logging or clearance. For every species brought back from the brink, many others are lost to extinction. Protests are needed and along with stopping the damage, we need to replace or transform the very systems that cause the harm.
We need to rethink the way we as humans do things and its happening. Previously accepted approaches to healthcare, business, education, agriculture, transport, communication, psychology, economics, and so many other areas are being questioned and transformed. Social enterprises, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and ethical financial systems contribute to a sustainable society.
But this is not enough – a shift in consciousness is needed. At the core of our consciousness to care and have compassion for other beings and our sense of belonging to the one planet we have. A shift need to take place in the heart, the mind and view of reality. By strengthening our compassion, we fuel our courage and determination.
The state of the world with global warming and global poverty is a mess and it is hard to face this mess without going insane. By refreshing our sense of belonging in the world, we widen the web of relationships that nourish us and we start to take collective action to create life-sustaining systems and practices for all beings.
I hope this will inspire you to stand up and take collective action for the survival of future generations!
In Buddhism there is the Tibetan word “Shenpa,” that can be translated “something that hooks us,” according to Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron. It is also “the urge.”
Shenpa is what drives habitual patterns, motives and addictions. It comes in two parts: the reaction to pain and the escaping of pain. And the reaction to an insult, or something you don’t like that someone has said or done.
While it can be easily seen in overeating, binge drinking and attachment to anger, it can also be seen in overdoing and attachment to good things, like meditation or doing good for the world.
As people, we want things to remain the same. We live in a changing world that fills us with insecurity. If we experience one wonderful experience, we want all experiences with that one person or animal to continue to be that wonderful.
This is where horses come in. Horses don’t come to us seeking for us to do trot circles or train them to become Grand Prix competitors. They would be perfectly happy with space, grass, shelter, water and friends. As long as they have these things, their needs are met. They don’t generally think the way we do in this way.
So, when we come in with an agenda, we override their natural flow. But what if we drop that agenda and just hang out for a while, as though we are visiting herd members, and see what happens?
We worked with this concept in the Florida workshop this past weekend. A wide variety of equines made it possible to see how they interacted with people.
Cocoa the pony has been to the workshops before, and generally, he is a self-confident, proud pony who does his job pulling a cart very well. He doesn’t interact much with the people because he likes things the way they are. I noticed he was very good at doing what I asked, but that there wasn’t any engagement between us. Over the years of working with Cocoa, he has become more personable with his owner.
So, I stopped doing anything and I turned away from him. Within minutes he came over to me to visit and breathe with me.
Another time I was just walking behind him and I felt him moving far ahead of me, and sensed that he thought I was chasing him, even though I did not feel I was at all. It was his perception. I stopped again. Other people also had that experience with him. (The pony mare Amber demonstrated how to move Cocoa very effectively).
In Liberty Foundations, we want to be accepted by the herd but change our position in the herd organically. But sometimes our Shenpa gets in the way and we keep on asking, seeking a particular outcome.
Another gelding, Jack, didn’t want to be separated from his mares who were in heat in the next pasture. There were other visiting geldings so he needed to ensure his herd was safe. So we worked around that, and actually he began to enjoy dancing and running with his owner Anne, even taking her cue to go into the beginnings of a Spanish walk, which he’d never done before. She was naturally very excited by this.
The next day Jack simply wouldn’t leave the fence, and got frustrated with anyone trying to engage with him. He had a few brief moments of going over cavaletti and engaging, but it was clear that he didn’t want to be with people. So we let him back in with his mares.
He was a different horse the second day. It was a big lesson for all of us – we had our hopes high, we had seen Jack’s performance the day before and wondered what he could achieve the second day. He was full of such animation and joy that day, and the next, nada. We were hooked.
It was as Pema Chodron said, we want all experiences with that one person or animal to continue to be that wonderful.
We are attached. At that point it was important to check our personal energy and drop it. I noticed when I worked with Jack that when I dropped my energy and with it, my desire to move him, have him begin elevating his feet in that dancy step, he could give more attention to me. If I offered him something, companionship at the gate, a tuft of hay, he had more interest. His attention was divided at best, because of the mares, but there was a glimpse of attention to me.
While the work is simple, we also encountered the edge of the horse’s tolerance. I like to stop working before we come to that, but sometimes the horse gets there first. Prince was excellent at working with numerous people and softening in his demeanor, coming away from food and into relationship. He wanted private time in the form of frequent pauses, and he feared being crowded. We could see that when our own urge to have him do more got in the way, he didn’t want to participate further. Shenpa.
Cherokee is an older mare I have always felt was angry. She had a hard life before Anne took her in, and has also suffered a lot in her body. With a horse with this kind of anger, you want to stay clear of what she is carrying. Drop your energy into your feet, keep it light. She has her own Shenpa, a negative expectation. At the same time, she wants human attention.
We chose an exercise that would engage her and please her at the same time. She became light and curious in her being, and the anger she arrived with dissipated.
It has taken awhile for Penny to come around to separating from her herd, but last year she made some big strides. This year, she was in heat and wasn’t happy leaving her herd. She could work well with her owner Gabi, and did quiet down with others also. When she engages, she is very soft and willing, but when she gets anxious, sometimes she doesn’t know you’re there.
Penny and Gabi Free Lunging - YouTube
We worked with separating horses who spend all their days together and reuniting them. We worked in short segments, extending their attention span, and coming up against a wall of resistance in others.
Not only do we have a different horse on a different day, we are also different. On some days, the horses graze close to one another, on other days they are far apart. The heart of the horse beats with the rhythm of the herd, a group heartbeat. Our challenge is to get our hearts to beat with it, dropping expectations, reshaping what we want from the horse. If we become a valid herd member, then the horse will be able to separate out from the herd more easily, and attention to us will increase.
(c) Susan Smith, Horses at Liberty Foundation Training, Equine Body Balance (TM)
Events for information on upcoming clinics and workshops. 2018 calendar is developing! Workshops scheduled for Santa Fe,Wisconsin, Colorado, Oregon and Maryland!
The first Permaculture Design course at our center is finishing today. The participants are showing amazing creativity in designing gardens with natural fences, chicken coups, flowers, food trees and vegetable beds to the benefits of the villagers.
Students learn to measure the height of the horizon, number of sun hours, size of shades, distance between trees and estimate growth. During this ten-day intensive course with Professor Malan, students have got deeper in touch with their inner genius.
To become a good permaculture designer, you need to start out observing the villagers in their gardens and notice their movements and habits.
You don’t start creating beds, planting lettuce, pruning trees and building fences. You start doing nothing and just observe.
The horizon is the line at which the earth’s surface and the sky appear to meet, or the height of the horizon can also mean the limit of a person’s mental perception, experience, or interest.
Now what does this have to do with horses?
In my experience spending time being with and observing to understand horses is crucial to develop a good working relationship. It is also crucial to not put up any limits to your goals, put a lid on your creativity or limit your mental perception.
So adding creativity to the question What is the height of the horizon answers could vary from
To acheive a good and close relationship with your horse, abilities such as creativity, presence and curiosity are crucial elements. We are all born with these skills but lose them as we enter the school system.
Here is an interesting article on creativity and a video by George Land, who found out that creativity decreases after entering school. He tested the creativity of 1,600 children ranging in ages from three-to-five years old in a program.
He tested and re-tested the same children at 10 years of age, and again at 15 years of age.
The results were astounding.
Test results amongst 5 year olds: 98% creativity
Test results amongst 10 year olds: 30% creativity
Test results amongst 15 year olds: 12% creativity
Same test given to 280,000 adults: 2% creativity
TEDxTucson George Land The Failure Of Success - YouTube
So returning to the garden, to nature, to the present and learn from the school of life can bring back creativity and curiosity for both humans and horses.
Last September I rescued two more horses Ayiti & Kadoo, they did not look very good when we first meet. Enjoy a few recent photos and a video of Kadoo who is lucky to be living in a herd outside where his curiosity is allowed to grow by the day. Ayiti’s curiosity is returning as well as she feels better in her body and gains trust in humans.
Ayiti is the name of the island called Hispaniola where you have the two countries of Haiti and Dominican Republic. Haiti’s real name is Ayiti. It is a remarkable country in today’s world. When the Europeans “discovered” Hispaniola they shortly after decided that it was their island and started to make the people living there work for them. The work was so hard that most people died. The European Invaders kidnapped people in Africa to continue the work on the plantations so Europeans could get coffee, sugar, cotton, etc for free. No people would find themselves in this situation if they have any possibility to get out of it, so several kidnapped people – former enslaved people – escaped to the side of the island today called Haiti and liberated this part of the island.
Kadoo means “pumpkin” in Persian. The national liberation dish in Ayiti is Pumpkin Soup. Pumpkin is also a very cute name for one of the cutest horses that ever set his four feet at our center.
I have chosen to call the video series of Ayiti and Kadoo – A story of Liberation – as liberation comes in many ways: Liberation from Oppression, Liberation from Disease, Liberation of Consumerism and Liberation to become your true authentic self and indulge yourself in the mission of serving the planet, people and horses.
The story will continue for many years and all the students who will join our courses here and come as working students will bring with them their piece of liberation which can be liberated to speak up, liberated to set boundaries, liberated to be present or being liberated to be exactly who you are and find your true purpose in life.
I am happy to share Kadoo’s life which will include chapters such as
Kadoo creating a new foal with Spirit
Kadoo and a new stallion
Kadoo’s life with his mares
Kadoo’s energetic sunset dance
Kadoo’s first rainforest ride
Here are 10 highlights from 2017 and I once again would like to thank you all who choose to find your way to our amazing small center here at the end of the road on the unknown island in the eastern Caribbean.
2017 Highlight – Norway Liberty Training Clinic
The video you will see is the very first meeting between Elena and Magic in the same field as Ayiti and Kadoo and as their start up of forming a new family herd.
Elena and Magic used to live with the rest of the herd members, but as our beautiful lead mare Darling passed away two years ago, I have keept the herd in two groups of these two mares and then Jack and Spirit. After the passing of Darling, Jack would always chase Magic and Elena and they both would always provoke him in a way. I got worried they would hurt themselves. This might not been the result of their interactions, but because of my own fear that something might happen they have over the past year lived in these two groups.
It is very fascinating to follow the horses as they now make a new family after 10 years. Magic and Elena got to start as they both greeted Ayiti more respectfully and kindly than Jack (who is with Spirit). So we decided to team up Ayiti and Kadoo with Magic and Elena. We will team up Ayiti and Kadoo with Jack and Spirit when Kadoo is bigger so we are sure that he cannot get hurt in any confrontations. This might not happen at all, but I just like to avoid any possible situations.
In 2008, we lost the foal Honey born to Darling. Somehow Honey had gotten kicked in the jaw and over a week I watched the tiny beautiful foal lose all her strength and die as she could not eat and there was nothing we could do.
I cried rivers of tears and buried Honey. Afterwards, when I passed the grave with Darling she stopped and called out. I remember her calling as it was yesterday and still ponder how she could know where we buried Honey. There is of-course a simple possibility that she could feel, lots of emotions flowing through my soul as we passed the grave.
But there will always be something’s which is unexplainable.
Take your time to watch the video, it has so much beautiful language of boundary setting, curiosity, energy, foal talk and finally teaming up.
Ayiti & Kadoo - Setting Boundaries (8) - YouTube
First you will see Elena and Magic enter the field where Ayiti and Kadoo are and they are very excited to find their manure. Once they have soaked up some new smells they are very excited to meet the two newcomers.
Ayiti keeps her borders clear and prefers to walk away while Magic and Elena are very curious and continue to follow them. Elena sometimes like to take charge, Magic is very curious, Elena keeps eyes on Magic and Kadoo makes his submissive moves and Ayiti keeps Kadoo with her and soon can communicate with ears, raised head and a small lift of her leg that Elena and Magic shall keep distance until she invites.
In the end of the video the horses returned to grazing and then once we moved the horses to the guava field, Elena actually got everyone running including Ayiti and it was the first time we saw her choose to canter.
It was touching as it was like Ayiti has so much inside her to be reawakened and liberated. As they run Ayiti got new light in her eyes and further steps of making a new family were taken.
Kadoo is now 4 months old and he will stay with the mares for some months more and it will be exciting to follow them.
Thank you all for following our journey and I wish you all the best for the new year.
Kind regards Stina
Elena, Magic, Jack, Spirit, Ayiti and Kadoo
Sahaja 2018 – Liberty Training Clinic will happen in December 2018 at our beautiful center:
Once again, I address the thing I’m not all that good at: resolutions for the New Year. I try to make them easy and attainable, otherwise they go the way of crash diets and best laid plans that get forgotten the moment stress or a better offer sets in.
This Christmas we had the joy of having our wonderful family: son Cory, wife Amber and three-year-old grandson Avery visiting. Their visit brought many new insights to me, as it reminded me what it was like to be new parents . The care of new parents is so special and sweet, and all-consuming.
The other thing dear little Avery brought to me was the sheer joy of discovery. He got to feed and pet horses for the first time. If I’d had the video running I would’ve captured his squeals of delight and jumping up and down. I did catch this photo of Avery feeding Patches a carrot with his mom standing by.
So this brings to me to the first two Horse-olutions for you for the New Year:
Add a global view to your vision. If you find yourself getting really focused on one thing: a behavioral issue, a health issue, etc., take a step backward and see the bigger picture. In working at liberty and bodywork, many times I’ve experienced a horse who couldn’t stand the scrutiny of the person working with him. Either she was too close or her concern was too great. I ask her to take a step backward and the horse will turn his head to her and acknowledge her beautifully. Her recognition of his need for space was profound. This is a metaphor for life.
Continue the joy of discovery. A new trail, a new experience. Just yesterday my mare Jazzie decided she wanted to take a different trail home, and we bounded through the arroyo and up a hill to arch around some houses to home. The joy in her was so much fun. I was reminded of Avery with his squeals of delight at getting
to pet the horses, and finding a special bond with one of them in particular. As a child my parents took me into the English countryside for picnics. The highlight of that trip was getting to pet a horse over a fence. Perhaps that was the start of the addiction for me.
Maybe you’ll discover something new in one of your horses, or in your life. I wrote about this last year, but new never gets old!
Respect differences. Notice how you interact with different people. Horses do that too. They don’t respond to everyone the same way. Sometimes you are drawn to people and sometimes repelled by them. Sometimes you think you will be friends with someone but the friendship never quite happens. Horses are capable of great bonds with each other and people. Notice what they are and protect your horses from those they aren’t comfortable with, and fill their lives with positive relationships if you can.
These two share a special and immediate friendship.
Work with energy. Energy is part of the previous horse-olution but is part of everything we do. Horses seek positive, grounding energy in humans. It’s not necessary to do anything, just be yourself. If you don’t know yourself well, the horse may know you better than you know yourself. If you’re anxious and your anxiety transfers to your horse, pay attention to that. Maybe change your agenda for the day or until you can become still inside.
Just know that every emotion you have, the horse experiences. They may not understand its complexity, but they feel it. The horse’s presence may be calming, but make sure your presence is not disruptive to the horse so he or she doesn’t absorb it and act on it. Don’t hide your emotions, but on the other hand, I think it’s best not to use your horse as a dumping ground for emotional baggage.
Judith reading a poem with Zuzka listening.
Talk to your horses and around your horses. This past week my granddaughter Ariana and I were working on some teaching videos with the horses. The sounds of our voices put them to sleep. Of course, that could mean we’re incredibly boring, but I tend to think it was soothing to them. I did some hands-on, and all the horses not receiving any work dozed off.
I’ve noticed that when I’m mucking, or brushing, if I talk to them, they become very relaxed. They like my noticing things about them, asking how they got this scratch or noticing where they are sore.
Work with other horses. It’s easy to think all horses do the same things, and there are some general things that all horses do. But when you get a chance to work with multiple horses, it broadens your view of the horse world.
When I meet horses, I want to take in their personalities. Who are they? What do they want to show me?
When I only worked with my own horses, I had a limited view of them. Since I see many horses, I can bring the knowledge I gain from others home to my horses and they benefit. That’s why the workshop setting is so valuable; we get to work with many horses and see differences and similarities.
We can also gain a more neutral perspective.
Remember gratitude. With all the wants entering into daily life, I remind myself to be grateful for what is. For family, the horses I have, the health I have, the work I’m entrusted to do. With each year, new opportunities arise and others fall away. To mourn the loss of beloved beings is natural, and takes time and a holding place. Gratitude has its place in honoring what was loved and what is still here to be loved. Spring will come and a new order can rebalance losses and gains in ways we never can predict.
Breathe. My mare Zuzka started teaching breathing exercises at workshops about two and
Zuzka and Ruella sharing breath, a special ritual for their first meeting.
a half years ago. She wanted people to just stand and breathe with her. She wanted me to breathe with her. No touching, nothing else. While I was teaching a lesson, she decided she didn’t want to do the lesson, it was time to stop and breathe.
That was a more important lesson to me than what was on my agenda!
This way of breathing is a way of being together without doing. She may want to breathe on your face, or synchronize breath with you. While doing bodywork, often I will feel the horse breathe into a tight or sore spot. This is another way of using breath in a very constructive manner.
Yoga breathing exercises are great, yet I know no horse who has taken a yoga class – they know this on their own. Zuzka’s message is quite simple: stop doing and breathe.
The breathing is something I now do often – before I ride or do groundwork, or when I feel I’m not quite centered. Just taking that moment can make all the difference.
Happy New Year! My wish is for your new year to be full of joy and promise!
(c) Susan Smith, Horses at Liberty Foundation Training, Equine Body Balance (TM)
Please see my
Events for information on upcoming clinics and workshops.
On the 17th of September two new horses, Ayiti & Kadoo, joined our herd. On this page you can follow their lives and liberation. Liberation comes in many forms such as liberation from fear, anger, hunger and disease.
Ayiti is a young mare of around 7 years and she is the mother of Kadoo who was born on the 24th of August. They came to us because their previous two owners could not, for unfortunate reasons, get around to take care of them.
The first two months Ayiti & Kadoo lived in a big field at the workshop and were just eating and getting to know their new home. Their health improved and they gained more trust as working student went to see and feed them fruits every day. After two months of settling in, we moved them for the first time to another field closer to the other horses and the center. By December they had meet Jack, Spirit, Elena and Magic and made a new family with two of the mares.
We are videoing the whole process and we hope you enjoy and stay with us from from the rescue to the magical dance and jungle ride.
Ayiti & Kadoo: Arrival to their new home. (1) - YouTube
CHAPTER 2 – GAINING WEIGHT
Ayiti & Kadoo: Gaining Weight (2) - YouTube
CHAPTER 3 – TRUST AND ENERGY
Ayiti & Kadoo: Trust and Energy (3) - YouTube
CHAPTER 4 – WE MOVED!
Ayiti & Kadoo: We Moved! (4) - YouTube
CHAPTER 5 – THE FLAG IS UP IN THE FITNESS FIELD.
Ayiti & Kadoo: The Flag is Up! (5) - YouTube
CHAPTER 6 – WARM RAYS IN THE WALKING FIELD
Ayiti & Kadoo - Warm Rays in the Walking Field (6) - YouTube
Chapter 7 – Meeting Magic. Elena, Jack and Spirit
Chapter 8 – Pecking order, boundaries and making a herd with Elena and Magic
Chapter 9 – Learning from Elena and Magic humans are OK.
Chapter 10 – Learning to Walk properly between fields.
The “seeking mechanism” is a part of most mammals, according to neuroscientist and psychobiologist Jaak Panksepp, author of the book and concept, Affective Neuroscience, the study of the neural mechanisms of emotion. For the sake of understanding our horses, it is a huge part of what makes us interesting to them. Curiosity about food, what we’re doing, what we might do with them, can help nurture and define our training process.
In nature, horses will seek different types of grasses, seek shelter, water, companionship, safety. Those are basic needs. How do we engage their interest? Is it always with a cookie, or can we engage them in other ways?
At the same time horses spend all day doing repetitive actions, such as moving each other off food, or space, and so that may seem very dull and uninteresting to us. They are moving each other for their health, and to find out what the other horse might be eating that might be more tasty. And that brings us back to the seeking mechanism. With their noses to the ground, they are seeking new plants, smells and experiences.
This type of natural foraging isn’t something we can provide much of in the west. Our grasses get eaten and take awhile to grow back since we have limited rainfall. But when rainfall occurs, grass pops up overnight, and the horses’ excitement about those new shoots is noticeable.
Here are some ways we can foster curiosity in the horse and get him interested in what we might have to offer:
Take an interest in what your horse is interested in. This may not be easy to do if you’ve got limited time, but it can make a huge difference to how the horse views you and how relaxed he feels in your presence.
When you think about other humans, it’s difficult to be in the presence of someone who has no interest in what you’re interested in. In this way, horses are a lot like us.
Jicarita Peak ride, 12,000 feet elevation
2. Change things around. Ride somewhere different, do some of your schooling on the trail or down the road in someone else’s arena. My horses always loved the trail, though I know all horses don’t. I took them everywhere, all over our state and three adjacent states, riding new trails.
Take the focus off the horse. Kids get so immersed in what they’re doing, horses can often find them fascinating. In order to be more interesting, sometimes I’ll take a piece of tack to repair and sit with the horses, so I’m fully engaged with something other than the horse. In this photo, Kaiden is playing with one of his toys, and Patches wants to be a part of it. Little did I know at the time that building a fort would be an activity of interest for my young mare, Jazzie.
4. Introduce something new. While my mares are not very interested in toys, my geldings have always enjoyed big exercise balls. You can see the different responses of these four…
Patches showing off
Zuzka is not thrilled
5. Add laughter to your day. I’ve had some funny experiences with laughter and horses. Once in a clinic, we had a very shut down horse who thought humans only wanted him to do things, so he simply went through the motions like a robot. We changed things up and brought him into the arena while we were doing a human energetic exercise. People began laughing as they practiced being horses and played with the idea of moving each other around. This horse Tank was so curious about the people laughing that he came to hang out with us so he could be part of the fun. This changed everything for him. From thereon he began to have fun and got very engaged with each person who worked with him.
Tank wants to be part of the fun
Jaak Panksepp did a lot of research on varying topics, but one I love is the research on laughter in non-human animals. He researched primates, dogs, and rats, but no horses. While I have no clinical research, I think it would be fun to see if horses emit sounds like laughter, and will laugh with us. Certainly sometimes their expressions suggest that they do!
(c) Susan Smith, Horses at Liberty Foundation Training, Equine Body Balance (TM)
Please see my
Events for information on upcoming clinics and workshops. 2018 calendar is developing! Workshops scheduled for Santa Fe, Florida, Wisconsin and Oregon!
I am Anita. I am a certified Eponaquest Instructor, EAGALA Instructor, Yoga teacher, OneHorseLife Teacher and a certified Health Coach.
For most of my 47-year long life, I have been around, loving, enjoying, riding, playing with, been curious about and learning from horses.
Attending a traditional riding school at a young age left me with many more questions than answers on how to connect with these wonderful animals.
I bought my first horse with my first salary from my first job as an Engineer in Water & Environmental Planning. Inferno was, what I later realized very similar to myself, a very thin and stressed horse, who only knew how to run very fast – with poor brakes! Therefore, I started searching, searching for knowledge on how to help her to become the best horse she could be – and how to make myself the best horse-owner I could be.
The search for knowledge has not always been easy as I found that the knowledge I was searching for was not always easily accessible. It has taken me on several journeys, some far away abroad to foreign countries. There have been many incredible horse-people that has inspired me through the years, people like; Carolyn Resnick, Linda Kohanov, Anna Marciniak, Klaus F. Hempfling, Fredrik Pignon, Jean Francois Pignon, Marc Rashid, Bill Dorrance, Marjike De Jong, Karen Rolf and Alexander Nevzorov, and Stina Herberg, to mention a few.
After a period of searching and learning, I increasingly came to the conclusion that the greatest teachers of them all – was my horses!
What we can learn from the horses is so infinitely more valuable than what we can teach them!
Throughout the years, it has become more and more evident to me how strong, positive and important the influence from my horses has been in my life. There was a period in my life were I was exposed to quite stressful events in both my personal and professional life. An airplane crash pushed both my body and soul through trauma. Several years as an emergency humanitarian aid worker in war zones and places exposed to natural disasters subjected me to severe burnout and PTSD.
Having been subjected to these stressful events in my life, every time I went to my horse, riding her or just being with her, I started to notice that the only thing REAL that existed was the two of us: My horse and I. Nothing else was important.
In fact, that horse helped me to find my way back to myself. More than any other therapy could have done. Just by being a horse!
One day, during a horse trainer event, I met a shaman woman. She wrote the name “Linda Kohanov” and the title of Linda’s wonderful book “The Tao of Equus” in my notebook. I didn’t even know there was something called Horse Assisted Therapy at that point. Coming home from that event, I started to read Linda’s book. I was stunned about how much I resonated with her story and from my own experience with the incredible healing power of horses. I started to look for opportunities to learn more, and this brought me on several journeys to Germany, England and finally to Linda’s place in the desert in Arizona. In all these places I visited, I met some wonderful horses and people. The energy surrounding these events felt wonderful, peaceful, respectful and understanding. I proudly received my Eponaquest Instructor training certification in 2015.
I still enjoy training horses. I have an intention to make these new ways of horse training built on friendship and mutual communication more accessible to people.
However, what originally started as a search for knowledge on how to train horses, has made me realize that what is more important, is what we can learn from them.
My desire has become to facilitate people to experience the partnership that can exist between human and horses. A partnership where boundaries are mutually respected, where emotions are understood as the language of connection and interaction. To teach humans about reconnecting with their deepest intuition, and with nature, inviting horses as our teachers.
In these days when our planet is threatened by manmade climate changes and global warming, a result of humans turning their back to their origin and mother earth, it is time to reconnect with nature and make the ancient wisdom help us back into balance. Like a friend of mine once said; Man and nature can never be divided because man is nature!
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Anita will be one of the facilitators at the very first EPONA workshop in the Caribbean from 25th of February till the 2nd of March, 2018. Learn more here
I am very excited to meet Anita and Caroline in St. Vincent in February. Let me know if you are interested to join, this workshop has six places.
Our nation was called Yurumein before the British invaded and changed our name. During the workshop I will share the unique, strong and shocking story of our island which is today called St. Vincent.