Remember this can be done online if you’re just starting liberty work yet but as you go along maybe test liberty or put the rope around the horses neck and don’t touch it but a good way of getting the horse back if they walk off. Then when things get better take the halter off and just have the rope around the horses neck…soon you’ll be working totally at liberty.
1) Trot to a hula hoop, transition down to a walk and put hind feet into hula hoop
2) Walk to gate together, open gate then back horse through gateway, close gate and walk off.
3) Transitions: walk forward 3 steps. halt. walk back 3 steps. halt. walk sideways (towards or away) 3 steps. halt. walk off.
4) Front feet on a pedestal. halt. Move hindquarters around the pedestal keeping front feet on pedestal 360*
5) Weave at a trot through 4-6 cones. Up to you how you position the cones, straight line or circle!
6) Trot through scary corner, but halt before leaving it. Back all the way through SC and then trot forwards out of it again
7) Halt horse inside a square made of posts and then walk around horse familiarising to some noise, either extreme friendly game with stick/string or swishing of flag or coins in your pocket even…you find what you horse is okay with and use that. Remember this is not about frightening your horse, it’s about allowing them to gradually get used to scary stuff.
8) Trot over a bottle bank (crushed bottles put inside a square made of poles). Try to make it so that horse doesn’t jump it and actually touches/crushes some bottles.
9) Fig 8’s x 2, using jumps.
10) Trailer load or simulate trailer load. Either squeeze horse in from outside or lead in normally, horse must be relaxed and rope must be in a nice ‘smile’ (slightly loose). Halt then back up any way you want.
Do it mostly in trot if possible, run on either side of the horse, changing when you can and remember to ‘HAVE FUN’
1) Hula Hoop over horses head Take this slowly, make sure you can put a hoop of rope over first, this can be quite scary to some horses!
2) Trot through 2 poles on the ground, halt after poles, back up through poles and then trot through again
3) Horse to fig 8 around 2 barrels – handler to stand one side Use any two obstacles, barrels are just bigger but cones, electric posts, tyres, cola bottles…whatever you have…this task is all about equality of draw/drive
4) Horse to trot through some form of arch, decorated if possible to represent tree branches if you happen to have two trees close together with branches then fab, if not then try using some old water/drainage pipe with wood in the sides OR whatever you used for a curtain last month would be good but with maybe soft tree branches or plastic flowers around the edges! be creative but keep it safe
5) Horse to push a ball 10′ Horse can use front feet or nose, any size ball from a large tennis ball to a NH ball…your choice
6) Small jump and halt within 2 strides after jump Try to just use your energy/breathing for this task, see if your horse and you are connected!
7) Horse to circle around you in walk or trot This goes together with task 8….circle inside the cone circle then go to task 8 afterwards
8) Horse to weave around cones put out in a circle around you – walk or trot 6 cones works well. Again this is about connection, draw and drive in equal doses
9) Walk through a labyrinth of poles Takes 6 poles, keep them a good distance apart and work over the year on making those distances smaller
10) Horse trot to halt and then familiarisation with an umbrella You may only be able to walk around horse with umbrella closed. You may be able to work on opening/closing umbrella by horses side. Ultimately you want to be able to open/close umbrella pretty close to horse whilst walking around him/her.
Try this challenge at trot as much as you can but remember to progress you need to gently push yourself and your horse out of your comfort zones. It’s up to you to go as slow as you think you both need but to progress to faster when you can.
1) Go through gateway – aim is to stop horse before gate, you open gate and go through without horse moving and then at your request ask horse to come through gateway then turn to face gate whilst you close it. (either use gate to arena or field if safe to do so, or make a gate out of two electric polyposts and a bit of white tape or rope).
2) Put back feet and front feet into hula hoops so that all four feet are in two hoops – aim is to have a relaxed horse moving into them without worrying. (Remember that it’s not about the task, it’s about keeping your relationship with your horse and so do what you can and progress in your own time…it doesn’t need to be done NOW, it’s a challenge that needs time and patience)
3) Horse to trot through a narrow corridor – aim is for horse to be calm, relaxed and happy. (Make corridor as long and as tall as your horse can deal with or that you can make. If horse not happy about it then make it shorter in length and lower so that you don’t worry horse…progress during year to help horse to find this challenge easier)
4) Trot over pole and halt with pole under belly – (ie. front feet over only), wait 5 seconds then back horse off pole any way you want – aim is to have clarity on the stop and wait and a clean back up without hitting pole. (Refined way of on/off with this task is for handler to stay beside the horses shoulder but you can work in front of horse and ask for a backup from there if you want, refine it so that you can eventually stay by horses side when backing up)
5) Horse trots through a scary corner – handler on outside, making sure horse is calm and not rushing this. Make your corner only as scary as only your horse can take, flapping flags, bags, bunting, balloons, scary masks…what ever you have or you can make. (Remember again this is about getting this task better and better so start really small and do NOT frighten your horse)
6) Stand in front of horse and ask horse to sideways around you whilst you turn pivot – (Aim is for horse to be as straight as possible whilst doing this, he will have to move his hq’s more than his forehand on this one. GO slowly with this, if it’s hard for your horse then only ask for a couple of steps, it doesn’t have to be a full circle, ONLY what you and your horse can do but challenge yourself during the year to make it better).
7) Elongated weave with you at horses side – put 4 poles down parallel to each other about 3-4′ apart and go up and around each one in turn (see picture. (Main aim of this is to show that horse can follow you when you do left turns and away from you when you do right turns without getting upset)
8) Small jump – size only for what your horse can jump. (Aim is that horse does not rush jump or runs away afterwards, that he stays calmly with you throughout jump)
9) Go through a curtain – do whatever you can for this, I know curtains aren’t something everyone has…if no curtain then tarp over horse whilst standing still is good. If you have a curtain and horse is worried, tie back the strands on both sides and work up to just one side down and then both sides down.
10) Park horse (stand still) – walk away from him/her for between 10-20′ and then walk back. (Aim is for horse to relax and stand still…Walk straight away from his/her face and back up or even try leaving the lead rope on the floor (ground tying) and walking around your horse. Progression can be made with you further away from horse or even skipping around horse.
See if you can challenge yourself and your horse to trot as much as possible through this course and see if you can stay on your horses right side.
1) Back horse between two obstacles like barrels. (Make obstacles wider apart and low for horses new to these challenges. For newbies also you could come forward and then back through two obstacles. For those that are good at liberty set your barrels upright and close together)
2) Trot over a bottle bank. (A bottle bank is a small or large area set upwith 4 poles made into a square. Put as many, or as few if new to this, flattened plastic bottles as you can into that area. As you progress you can fill it up a LOT…for newbies walk through this or if your horse is frightened then YOU walk through it and horse around it…remember it makes quite a noise to get used to! Build it up over the month to where you can walk or trot horse through bank)
3) Trot tight weave – handler to stay on one side of the cones, horse to weave. (Place cones or obstacles about 4-5 paces apart, 4-6 obstacles if possible. If new to this then walk you and your horse through the pattern. If good at liberty then trot through them and make it slightly harder than the normal wider apart obstacles but don’t make it impossible for your horse to achieve some success with this..again build up the level of weave during the month)
4) Trot horse between two flags – handler to walk outside obstacles. (For newbies just ask your horse to walk through the flags and make flags a big distance apart. For those who are good at liberty challenge you and your horse to trot through flags only 1 large pace apart)
5) Trot fig 8. (Horse to do the fig 8, handler to stand just outside the pattern. For newbies you may want to walk the fig 8 with your horse by your side first and build it up gradually)
6) Familiarisation with small tarp. (Horse to stand still whilst you play with small tarp around and on horse…start small and open up as you go. For newbies you may want to use just a small plastic bag)
7) Transitions: walk/trot/halt/backup/walk/trot/halt/backup (Looking for sharp connection in the up and downward trans, using breath in to go, breath out to halt. Newbies don’t have to do backup or trot but try it all month to see if you can get another transition in your repetoire)
8) Carry two pillowcases for 10′ in walk or trot. (Have two pillowcases or sacks or plastic bags if your horse is not frightened by them, fill them with something soft like scrunched up newespaper, hay, straw or even old teddy bears, tie them at the tops and tie them together so that there is a cord or rope between them so that they can go over the horses back safely. For newbies make sure your horse is happy with the unfamiliar item, play with it a LOT before trying it at walk, keep your hand on the bag nearest you so that you can take it off if necessary)
9) 2 or 4 feet on a pedestal. (If no pedestal just put something strange or unusual for the horse to put 2 or 4 feet on, not a tarp though, something like an old carpet, old towel, piece of flat wood, rubber mat etc?)
10) Off pedestal and ask horse to stand still whilst you skip around him/her. (You can keep one hand on horse whilst gently walking around him, you can trot around him or you can skip, whatever you and your horses level)
There is a lot of scope for changing, rearranging things as you want them but make sure whatever you do is within your horses scope for now and we’ll build on things as we go to incorporate more familiarisation with strange things and higher gaits.
It can be done in walk or trot or a combination of both…build things up slowly and keep your horses confidence. Also if you’ve not done any liberty yet or are having teething problems there is nothing wrong with practicing online to help you and your horse. Try to keep the horse with a slight ‘smile’ in the rope (ie. not tight but not too loose) and have the horse beside you so you are more shoulder to shoulder…not behind you.
1) 2 front feet into a hulahoop. (it could also be a bicycle tyre or a , the aim is to help confidence putting feet into things)
2) Weave around 4-6 cones, this month try to stay one side yourself and ask your horse to weave in and out
3) Horse walk through ‘L’ pole shape (stay out of the shape yourself, give the L lane all to your horse)
4) Small jump (doesn’t have to be big, if horse is confident you can make it bigger, if horse unconifident just stepping over it is good)
5) Walk through a ‘Scary Corner’ (make the corner up with posts and bunting or plastic bags flapping..anything that could be scary to a horse…now, if you’ve not done this before just put up a couple of things into the corner and walk by it or squeeze by it. If your horse has done this before then put up two ‘lanes’ of bunting or plastic bags and ask the horse to walk through it with you on the OUTSIDE. Not until your horse is truly confident, calm and happy about scary plastic things, flags, banners etc should you go in before the horse. Keep safe with this one and stay out of being in front of the horse until you are very good at this!)
6) Transitions: walk a straight line doing transitions: walk/halt/walk/halt/walk/halt…as many as you want or can. Keep confidence and relaxation throughout and a tip to use your breathing for these transitions. Big breath in and go, big breath out and halt.
7) Familiarisation with a flag. Either on a safe, short stick or free flowing in your hands (you can use a flag, towel, sheet, whatever you have available). With a horse new to this make the flag small and rub him/her all over. When more confident try opening it up and draping it over the horses back, neck, head. If very confident and horse is calm and relaxed then flap it all around the horse and you can move around too. See how much you can do, this is one of those things where you can start small and build up over weeks to where horse will stand still whilst you walk around it waving the flag!)
8) Sidepass along a fence line. Go slowly with this, go online if it’s hard at liberty. Do a few steps to start and more when confident.
9) Tarp: walk onto the tarp, halt in the centre for 5 seconds and then walk off.
10) Pick up feet one at a time. Either walk around the horse picking up one at a time or if more confident can you pick up the feet from one side!
Have fun with the challenges, build up each one individually and then string them together more and more until you can do it with true confidence.
A challenge you can do with your horse at liberty but also online or even ridden.
These challenges are not about being perfect but about getting ‘Connected’ to your horse and about learning new things by taking yourself and your horse out of your comfort zones a bit on maybe one or two tasks each month. None of the tasks has to be done in this order or even with these items, (ie. if you don’t have cones, use polypoles, or tyres or anything you have as markers) do what you can for you and your horse and later push yourselves a bit to progress. With this I mean that if your horse is frightened of a particular thing then do something you horse can do to start with to help with confidence but make things harder as you and your horse get more confident with things.
SO, if your horse is worried about going over a jump then just walk over a pole on the ground. If your horse is worried about a hulahoop then see if he can put his foot/feet into a box made from 4 small poles. If your horse is worried about tarpaulins then try asking him to go over something not so worrying like a piece of carpet. Use your imagination but also use your common sense and never push a horse into or over anything they are worried about. Use approach and retreat to help your horse find confidence to do the tasks you ask over the month,
Try to set up all the obstacles/tasks so that they flow nicely from one to the next either in a circle or a fig 8 shape.
Ultimately and hopefully you will graduate to doing these things at liberty and maybe liberty ridden too. Remember it’s about having FUN and that means fun for you and YOUR HORSE. Enjoy
LIBERTY CHALLENGE 1 – (in walk with horse on your right)
1) Walk a circle together to the left in walk
2) Walk a circle together to the right in walk
3) Halt for 5 seconds
4) Walk through a narrow gap of two poles, handler on the outside
5) Weave through 4 cones together
6) 1 or 2 feet in a hulahoop…you choose which feet
7) Small jump together (either jump with horse or walk alongside outside of jump)
8) Walk over a tarp
9) Walk over a pole without hitting it
10) Halt and back up so that horses back feet are at or very near pole you just walked over