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Posts Tagged ‘The Art of Liberty Training for Horses’

Long-reining is an incredible type of groundwork that can advance your connection and communication with a horse in ways you might not believe—until you get in the saddle and experience the unbelievable softness and willingness in your horse that long-reining techniques tap and nurture.

But before you pick up a set of long-reins and try to master “feel”—that invisible sense of understanding between you and a horse—with a horse, Dan James of Double Dan Horsemanship recommends practicing with another person. His answer is a simple game that James first learned from fellow horseman and TSB author Jonathan Field (Field wrote THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES). Field and James use the “Bucket  Game” to demonstrate to their students how to become aware of the two-way conversation you have with your horse whenever you work with him, and how to begin to develop “feel”—the ability to read subtle nonverbal communication, innate in us all.

The Bucket Game begins with two people holding the ends of a stretched-out long rein while each standing on upside-down buckets. With this small platform as the base of stability, communication and feel become paramount—any tug of the rope from the other person is magnified. The object of the game, of course, is to either collect all the long-rein or get the other person off her bucket.

bucketgame

At this point, it does not become a simple tug-of-war where you just try to take rein with brute force. Why? On the ground, you can spread your feet, or lean back to brace into an all-out pull. But, on a bucket, you don’t have that luxury and must be more precise with your movements. You have to feel the rein to know when to make contact or when to release a bit of slack before you get yanked off your bucket. Like fishing, you reel in and feed out line, trying to anticipate the other person’s moves. With “feel,” you will be able to pull the other person off her bucket or tug the rein from her hands because you can read her unspoken
communication and time your responses to topple her balance.

How does this relate to your horse? In the book LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP, Dan James and his partner Dan Steers explain one possible scenario:

Imagine a horse that tends to march off too quickly when you ask him to go while leading or driving him. You don’t want him to charge forward with too much speed without you having learned feel or it can turn into an uncomfortable situation with you out of balance and possibly out of control. This is somewhat like one car towing another car, they say: When the car in the lead moves, it can snap the second car forward at the moment the slack goes out of the chain that connects them. This is just like getting jerked off a bucket or getting pulled off your feet when your horse moves off before you are ready. But when you can anticipate a horse’s movements, you can react better to them and eventually, modify them.

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Dan James uses long-reining on the ground to develop softness and communication with his horses, before he gets in the saddle.

Remember, the horse is constantly communicating his intentions to you—and horses are always honest about their plans. With long-reining, you will learn to read a slight shift of weight or the tension your horse puts on the rein as a signal to what he is going to do. Gaining this skill on the ground will help you become a better, more in-tune rider in the saddle. And the Bucket Game gives you a head start—it’s an easy way to practice, and ultimately helps ensure a happier horse.

LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP and THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES are both available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for LONG-REINING

CLICK HERE for LIBERTY

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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It’s hard to imagine some people anywhere else but beside or on the back of a horse. Renowned horseman Jonathan Field, author of THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, is one of those people. The way he moves when playing with his horses at liberty, the way he and his Quarter Horse Hal clear a fence bareback and brideless, these are images of an individual at one with the herd around him.

So what is his “typical” day really like? Is it all running through grassy meadows and viewing vistas from the back of a horse? When it comes right down to it, Jonathan says each portion of his year can be quite different, whether it is one of the 170 days he spends on the road teaching his techniques and presenting his liberty acts at expos and events, one of the summer days spent leading weeklong camps on his James Creek Ranch, or fall when he and his family host clinics at their farm near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. As summer winds down in North America, Jonathan gives us a glimpse of what a day in his life might be like, during the months ahead at the Field Horsemanship Centre.

 

Photo by Robin Duncan.

Photo by Robin Duncan.

 

5:30 am – Wake up, start with a coffee. These days, I wake up about as fast as a Kenworth truck! So…another coffee!

6:00 am – Head across the field to the barn. Start with my young horses. This could be a short (15-minute) training session on the ground with three or four of them, or a few 45-minute rides on a couple. In the middle of a clinic tour, I like to get many short sessions on them each week rather then only a few longer sessions.

7:30 am – Run back across the field for “breaky” with the family—my wife Angie and my two boys Weston (9) and Mason (6). We visit about school and the “happenings” of the day.

8:00 am – 12 Clinic Participants start pulling in for Day 1 of a four-day clinic. Each day runs from 9 to 5. I aim to keep the number of attendees at my clinics at no more than 12 so everyone gets lots of direct hands-on help. I have a wide variety of students—from very new horse owners all the way to riders competing at international levels, and pretty much everywhere in between, in every discipline. Equine-psychology-based foundational training is what many riders need to learn when they encounter issues with their horses. I help people set this foundation—the “rock” they can build their “house” (or horse!) on.

 

Jonathan schooling one of his young horses. Photo by Angie Field.

Jonathan schooling one of his young horses. Photo by Angie Field.

 

9:00 am – Clinic starts with introductions and a session on training and riding theory.

10:00 am – Bring horses into the arena for a two-hour ground-skills session. Our key topic on Day 1 is all about leadership, and we learn how everything we do with our ground training either creates or takes away from a great connection while riding.

12:00 pm – Break for lunch. I am off to my office (thankfully on the property!) for a quick bite and to check in with messages.

1:30 pm – The riding portion of the clinic starts. We focus on three key elements in a Course 1 Clinic: Safety when horses become herdbound, spooky, or otherwise worried; rider equitation; and useful exercises to take home.

 

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3:30 pm – A short break—I like to visit with attendees and have a laugh. Who has some good jokes? (Audience appropriate of course!) Want to hear a couple of my favorites?

What’s the hardest part about learning to ride a horse?

The ground!

What happened to the horse that swallowed a dollar bill?

It bucked!

5:00 pm – As the clinic wraps up for the day, I stick around to help anybody who may need a bit of extra time. I grab a snack if I can.

6:30 pm – I arrive at the Boxing Club. This past winter I took up training in a boxing gym three evenings a week. Why you ask?! I like to try different things and this is something I’ve always wanted to do—maybe because I have always been a bit scared to do it! I’m too old (…38…) to become a real boxer, but the training is very intense, and I love being pushed to try to keep up with the young aspiring boxers (mostly age 16 to mid-20s). Also, I go to the boxing gym with my best friend from kindergarten (yep, you heard that right), and we get to spend some great time together.

 

Jonathan in training at the Boxing Club. Photo by Angie Field.

Jonathan in training at the Boxing Club. Photo by Angie Field.

 

8:00 pm – Arrive home for maybe a light dinner (I try not to fill the tank too full when I don’t need it before bed) and time to spend with the kids and tuck them in and do our nightly reading. We need to get those reading minutes up so we can get a sticker from their class! (Well, so they can get the sticker from their class…)

9:00 pm – Last emails and taking care of any office requirements of the day. Plus, I set up anything I may need for the next day’s clinic.

9:20 pm – Walk through the barn, check the horses, and put out the night feed hay nets.

9:40 pm – I shut off my phone! Now’s time to visit with Angie or maybe we start a movie.

10:30 pm – Headed for bed…

11:00 pm – …hopefully sleeping!

 

Read more about Jonathan Field and discover his horsemanship philosophy and the liberty techniques that can lead to connection with your horse like you’ve never known it before in THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, available at the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Be sure to read the other installments in the TSB “Horseworld by the Hour” blog series:

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

CLINTON ANDERSON

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How did this...

How did this…

 

How to make the perfect first pony?

Take equal parts patience and naughtiness, fold in a dozen years’ experience, general good nature, and a kind heart. Add a healthy dollop of sturdiness and a sprinkle of smarts. Mix gently with strokes, treats, and a child’s adoration.

And voila. You have the beginnings of an equestrian career.

 

...become this? It started with a good pony.

…become this? It started with a good pony.

 

In his beautiful and illuminating book THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, horseman Jonathan Field shares the story of his first, perfect pony, and how his early years bonded to a little buckskin were the reason he strives for horse-human harmony today.

“I was lucky enough to be born into a horse-loving family,” Jonathan writes. “My mother was a dressage enthusiast and my father a working cowboy, farrier, and colt-starter. Horses were a part of family conversation as long as I can remember. where my parents grew up, sometimes they actually rode their horse to a one-room schoolhouse!

“My earliest memories are of being around horses, hanging out in the barn cleaning stalls, and traveling with my mom to shows on the weekend with my first horse, a beautiful buckskin named Wee Mite Buck. Mite was the best horse I could have had as a kid. My parents did the right thing and found a really quiet, well-trained kid’s horse. Mite was a sweetheart!

 

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“I remember on my way to my first show as we drove into the show grounds and I saw all the horses, trailers, and people, I said to Mom, ‘I never want to do this again.’ I was so nervous.

“We got Mite unloaded from our little two-horse straight-haul and ready for our first class, a flat hack-style class. Thinking the worst, I reluctantly entered the arena, but I listened to the announcer and followed his directions. He would say, ‘Trot please, trot,’ and Mite would trot; ‘Walk please, walk,’ and Mite would walk. When we all lined up and my name was called to get my first-place ribbon, I began to think this showing thing was actually pretty good fun.

“It was no different in the Western and trail classes. As we drove out of the show grounds that evening, I was holding that big high-point ribbon in my hands, and I thought I was pretty good. Of course, Mite was the real star, but I didn’t know it at the time. And leaving through the same gate I had entered with such trepidation earlier that day, I couldn’t wait for my next show with Mite!

“Looking back, Mite did more for me then I could have ever imagined. She was so good that she made showing fun for a nine-year-old boy—one of only two boys on the show grounds that day. All my friends had taken up other sports, but I had Mite—and lots of girls to hang out with, too.

“For the next several years, Mite helped to build my confidence and solidify my commitment to horses. My next horse, Cody, made me realize how little I actually knew. It took everything I had just to stay on him and survive the day. If my first horse had been Cody instead of Mite, I’m sure I wouldn’t be here sharing this book with you. Without my knowing, Mite had inspired me to become a horseman.

 

How did this...

How did this…

 

“For years after Mite, I longed for a relationship with a horse similar to one I had with her. However, I couldn’t reproduce it with other horses no matter what I did. But my closeness and connection with Mite showed me what was possible with a horse, so I always kept trying…It wasn’t until I played with horses at liberty 20 years later that I got back the pure excitement and joy I had with Mite.

“My experiences have enabled me, many times, to ride off into the sunset with a happy and willing partner–my horse–and I would wish that for you, too.”

 

...become this? A desire to have fun and connect with horses.

…become this? A desire to have fun and connect with horses.

 

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Read more stories about the horses Jonathan has worked with over the years, as well as learn for yourself how fun and beneficial playing at liberty can be for you and your horse. It can be the first step to connection like you’ve never experienced before. THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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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.”

 

Grand Prix dressage rider Yvonne Barteau and GP Raymeister.

Grand Prix dressage rider Yvonne Barteau and GP Raymeister.

 

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.”

 

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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.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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We’ve all heard and by now probably rolled our eyes at the popular maxim, “If you love something, set it free.” Certainly, when it comes to horses, there is an amount of truth to the idea…and we’re not talking about a made-for-TV moment where the young hero opens the paddock gate and lets the beautiful steed gallop away. The truth we speak of is giving the horse freedom of choice: the opportunity to choose to be with you, rather than making that choice for him by keeping him at your side or under saddle through coercion.

In THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, horseman and clinician Jonathan Field talks about establishing this kind of connection—the one where you “free” the horse from having to stay with you for all the usual reasons (halters, ropes, saddles, fences, for example) and instead give him far better reasons to seek a partnership with you, in all that you do together.

“Through experience, I have learned there needs to be a balance between asking a horse to be connected with me and allowing him to be free, looking away,” writes Jonathan. “If you get this balance right, the horse wants to be with you even more, so you don’t have to constantly drive to get his attention.

“Sometimes, there is so much focus on keeping the horse with the person that the horse develops a lot of tension about the interaction. You may see that with a horse that looks sour at liberty. This becomes what I call ‘connection tension.’ A horse is connected, but hates it and is wishing for relief other than what he can find with his person. In years gone by, I have been there with my horses; I would look at them, wondering why they were so upset. I changed how I went about things and now watch my horses to tell me if I am on the right track. As it turned out, the very thing I spent most of my time trying to avoid was just what my horses needed: a breather and the opportunity to move freely to relieve the tension of focusing.

“The obvious worry about a horse leaving is, ‘What if he doesn’t come back?’ I get that, but an even worse situation can occur: What happens when our horse is with us, but he hates it? That defeats the entire purpose of trying to build communication with him. Something we need to teach our horse is that disconnection isn’t a negative reaction he is getting away with. By making it part of our flow at liberty, he will learn to return to us. In that moment of disconnect, he needs to be comfortable to quickly come right back. It’s a moving dynamic; we need to develop the feel and eye to see it.”

 

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Find out how to develop the confidence to “let go” and encourage your horse moments of disconnect, so that your periods of connection are stronger and more consistent, in THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

 You can see Jonathan Field in person at the 2015 Horse Expo Pomona January 30-February 1! Click here for more information.

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CLICK TO PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY

CLICK TO PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY

 

TSB and Jonathan Field are bringing horse lovers and riders a book like no other! THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES provides over 200 pages of in-depth instruction alongside 350 beautiful color photographs taken on Jonathan’s breathtaking ranch in British Columbia. This is horsemanship beyond the rope, and connection like you’ve never experienced it before.

You can get a SNEAK PEEK at one of the lessons from Jonathan’s new book in the November issue of Canadian Horse Journal, which is out for distribution starting today. Order your issue or subscribe online, find it wherever quality equestrian magazines are sold, or pick up a copy at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto November 7-16.

Jonathan Field was on the cover of the May 2014 issue of Canadian Horse Journal.

Jonathan Field was on the cover of the May 2014 issue of Canadian Horse Journal.

Canadian Horse Journal is Canada’s favorite horse magazine. Covering all breeds and disciplines, it is the leading resource for horse health information and expert training advice including features by renowned international horseman, Jonathan Field. If horses are your passion, Canadian Horse Journal is your magazine. Visit the Canadian Horse Journal website at www.HORSEJournals.com and subscribe at: http://www.horsejournals.com/subscribe-canadianhorsejournal.

 

You can PRE-ORDER THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES by Jonathan Field at the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP NOW

 

Did you see this amazing video? Click the image below to watch the VIMEO STAFF PICK Red Bull short-documentary about Jonathan. (Scenes from this mini-doc are included in Jonathan’s book!)

 

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CLICK IMAGE TO WATCH VIDEO

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Jonathan Field names George Morris as one of his mentors. Click the image to read about Jonathan's work with George in 2013

Jonathan Field names George Morris as one of his mentors. Click the image to read about Jonathan’s work with George in Florida in 2013.

Canadian horseman Jonathan Field is recognized all over North America, and the world, for his engaging ability to explain and articulate his knowledge of horses and relate to his audiences. Like other trainers, he has a herd of horses he performs with live to sold out crowds, but what is wonderful about Jonathan is that most of his main demonstration and liberty horses are “cast away problem horses” that he has taken on, retrained, and grown with so that together they could become “stars” of the horse world.

After first traveling to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the 2012 Road to the Horse Colt-Starting Competition, Jonathan is now making a return trip south from his ranch in British Columbia to the 2014 competition in Lexington, Kentucky.

“It’s such an honor to be going back to Road to the Horse to represent my country while sharing my knowledge on starting young horses,” says Jonathan. “Traveling to Kentucky for a second Road to the Horse experience is exciting because I have much better idea about the event, how it is judged, and how to approach the competition in terms of strategy—however, having said all that, we must always remember that in the end it’s all about doing right by our young horses and their future. The horses that we are lucky to get to work with at Road to the Horse are the ones that ultimately determine how each of us go about our work over the weekend and how far we get.”

 

Watch this short video to hear Jonathan share a little bit of his story:

 

We at TSB wish Jonathan the best of luck the weekend of March 13-16, 2014, and we hope he, and the other competitors in the international field of horse trainers, can help demonstrate how we can all achieve a safe, educated, engaged start with young stock that can, “down the road,” lead to the ultimate connection with any horse.

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Jonathan Field’s forthcoming book THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES is available for preorder from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO PREORDER NOW

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