In the horse industry, we often feel bound to our chosen discipline, breed, or horse sport. We proclaim our undying devotion to specific organizations and vow to remain true, in sickness and in health, to trainers, instructors, and clinicians. We divide ourselves into helmets and hats, jodhpurs and jeans, competitors and non.
But there is a strangeness to this self-imposed segregation in that we can all surely come together, whatever our difference in preferred coat color and saddle shape, in agreement over one thing: our love for the horse. And, it is no secret that “cross-training” is as good for the equine athlete as it is for the human athlete, so it benefits us on multiple levels to open our minds to the “other” and maybe even give it a try.
One master of multiple disciplines is Jonathan Field, author of the stunning book THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, in which he teaches us how developing communication skills and our relationship with our horse through liberty benefits all that we do—both on the ground and in the saddle. Quick responses to subtle cues, clear aids, and a relaxed and attentive horse: These are the keys to liberty, and they are also objectives when you ride, drive, and interact with your horse on a daily basis around the barn.
“I read THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES all in one evening and enjoyed and agreed with all of the very great wisdom that Jonathan so precisely shared,” says Grand Prix dressage rider Yvonne Barteau. “He is a true horseman, and I have seen him work a number of times in the past and think this book is a great portrayal of his life, his training, and his process. Every horseperson should read this book, even if they do not want to do liberty work.”
In addition to kudos from the dressage world, Jonathan has worked closely with the legendary George Morris, including creating a DVD set with the former US show jumping chef d’equipe. For more information check out the trailer below, or visit Jonathan’s website JonathanField.net.
Jonathan tells the following story about a jumper he reschooled in THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES:
“Many years ago I took on Tommy, a jumping horse that was given to me for free. I was his last resort. I was told that Tommy wasn’t ever easy to ride, and it got worse when jumps were present. He’d start at a nice pace, but as soon as he was pointed at the first jump, he would speed up twice as fast. Two jumps later, he’d be even faster, and finally, he’d bolt. Soon, all it took was the sight of a jump to cause the bolt reaction.
“The key with a horse like Tommy is recognizing the weak link in the communication between horse and human. In his case it was neutral, which is very common for performance horses. They come into the arena, are worked hard, and only rest back at the barn. Neutral or active neutral is not a part of the training program. So, with each ride they get a little more wired from anticipation. Because of those nerves, their flight instinct gets closer to the surface.
“Flight instinct can’t be taken completely out of any horse, and I never took it out of Tommy. I just recognized the best way to help him was to recreate the arena as a place of comfort, relaxation, and connection to the rider. I also had to keep him moving in a controlled way when he wasn’t connected to me.”
You can read the rest of the story about Tommy, as well as learn how teaching your horse neutral and active neutral can benefit all that you do together in THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
Plus, preview a lesson from the book on how to find the neutral sweet spot by CLICKING HERE.
Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.