Liberty Challenge 10



Beginners: start online in walk then trot
Intermediates: go to neck rope in walk or trot
Advanced: work at liberty in walk, trot or canter
Fun: try riding it (w/t/c)

Challenges Online/Liberty/Ridden:

  1. Front feet & back feet in hulahoops (or walk over)
  2. Trot over poles on tarp
  3. Trot/canter through scary corridor
  4. Jump
  5. Trot through weave pattern
  6. Transitions through narrow corridor (walk in/halt/backup/trot out)
  7. Walk/trot over bottle bank
  8. Walk/trot fig 8
  9. Walk/trot through curtain
  10. Trot through arch or jump hoop jump
  11. Sidepass over or near an obstacle
  12. Walk through water feature
  13. Ground tie (immobility/halt) and extreme familiarisation with objects around horse


Liberty with Solly


Ridden with Solly


Try and test all the obstacles to make sure you and your horse know what to do at each one, make sure you reward for the slightest try and as you advance you do more with each obstacle, either stay longer, transitions or all at a higher gait throughout.

Once you know what to do with each obstacle then put them together as smoothly as possible as a course (if online then keeping a ‘smile’ in the rope as much as you can).

Set it up the best way for your area so it doesn’t need to be in this order or this shape.

Do not push your horse through or over things, accept what he gives you and teach him more as you go along. Repeat as often as you can for a horse that is a slow learner and make sure you mix it up often for a horse that gets bored quickly.

Remember it’s supposed to be fun….for you AND your horse :)

Training Tips: Practice makes perfect

Storm and me practicing leading from behind123


The best tip I can give anyone doing anything is that ‘Practice makes Perfect’, that the hard work of learning something you’ve been taught well is to go over and over and over it until you get the muscle memory of it in your body and your mind.

It’s like when you learned to drive, or use a computer. To start with you were unsure and unused to what to do to make things work, how to start, stop, turn in the car, how to download, upload, find search engines, keep files for photographs BUT you learned one thing and did that for a while, then another question came up and you learned how to do that and did that for a while. Soon you were doing those first few things without thinking about it but you kept on asking questions and learning more about your car or computer until the first things were easy, light and you didn’t think about it and the new things integrated easier and faster.

It’s the same with Horsemanship. Learn your ABC’s, practice until you don’t have to think about it and then as questions about where you stand, what the horses feet should be doing, what kind of energy you need keep cropping up find out what you need, listen to your horses feedback and practice the right thing when you figure it out.

It’s the muscle memories of the practice that make everything happen when you need it to in circumstances such as in a lesson or in an emergency.  When you need to do something new in a lesson all the homework you’ve practiced doesn’t need your mind to think about it so practice opens up the door to progress. Progress for learning, for lightness, for relaxation, for ease of cues, for your thoughts being in tune with your horse, for everything you do with your horse.

SO, practice, practice, practice and if you are not sure you’re doing something right or you need more information to progress then have a lesson or watch the dvd and upload more data to your biggest muscle, your brain.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Picture Quote 3 – ‘Always end on a good note’



Not only end on a good note but start on a good note and take that all the way through each training session.

Always work towards having relaxation in mind, body and emotions for you and your horse and if something gets a bit too much or worrying for either of you then find that relaxation spot again, do something you are both good at doing  to relax together, even if that thing is just hanging out or grooming, and  that might be a good place to stop.

Relaxation is the KEY to calm, happy training as an unrelaxed, inattentive horse  can not learn what you’re trying to teach, they will only learn that learning is worrying and they’ll be less inclined to try the next time. SO…for teaching new things take it all really SLOWLY to allow the good stuff to sink in.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Picture Quote 2 – ‘Horsemanship is a dance…’



The start of horsemanship can be hard, you are learning the ABC’s of the dance and it takes time, patience, consistency and persistence to get better. It’s easy to just give up but if you keep going it is SO worth it as after the ABC’s of learning you then start to get a CONNECTION which is where all the FUN starts.

Once you have a connection you can start COMMUNICATION and once you get that then long CONVERSATIONS can be had between you and your horse. These conversations are ‘THE DANCE’ and it feels soft, light, together and fabulous.

SO…..keep learning the steps so that you and your horse have wonderful dances together :)

Picture Quote 1 – ‘To have a true connection…’



Are you and your horse friends? Do you do friend things together?

One of the nicest and easiest way to become friends with your horse is to treat him to things you can do together that don’t demand anything from him and where you have no intent.

Some things you can try are:

  1. Going for in-hand walks together, grazing the hedgerows or grass along the tracks.
  2. Hanging out together in his field. Set up a chair and just ‘be’ together.
  3. Slow, peaceful grooming is very nice. Take as much time as you want and find your horses itchy spots.
  4. Sit down while your horse is laying down dozing and relax together.
  5. Stand with your horse, your hand on his/her shoulder and take each step they do, take the step the way they do and move the way they do, even listen to their breathing and try to breath with them.
  6. If you horse enjoys playing with ‘things’ then maybe even bring in a new ‘toy’ like a large ball and allow him just to play with it himself. You can push it back to him/her but don’t have any intent on making the play structured.

By doing things with no intent with your horse you can really strengthen the bond you have with him/her. SO try to ‘just be a horse with your horse’ for a while and get connected.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Training Tips: What are you looking for when training?

This is often the hardest thing to know or be aware of when you’re learning horsemanship…..what are you looking for when playing/training/riding? To have an end result or goal is one way of looking at it, but another way is to use the training techniques to achieve something far more important….a well balanced horse….physically, mentally AND emotionally.

My main aim when working with a horse is first and foremost for the horse to be RELAXED. Calmness helps find curiosity and with those two things the horse is very teachable because he/she can take things in well and remember good experiences. If the horse is worried or fearful he/she will also be bracey in it’s body and mind and won’t remember anything good apart from how it felt when something was being done to it so relaxation is my first and last criteria of any session. To see relaxation in the horse we also see confidence and rhythm in it’s paces, these two are missing with a fearful horse.




The next criteria on my list is COOPERATION, which is shown through the horse being willing to accept my requests and to enjoy interacting with me.

My third criteria when working with a horse is IMPULSION. This isn’t impulsiveness and doesn’t mean the horse runs around without stopping, it means the horse has the same amount of whoa and go, that it can stop lightly and nicely just as easily as it goes forward in any gait and is all about balance. When the balance of whoa and go are good then you’ll see the horse be more balanced in it’s own body, it’s core will be more engaged and so will his hindquarters. This is pure athletic energy that allows the horse to go or stop with a whisper.

And my last criteria is FLEXIBILITY and this means that the horse is equal on it’s left and right sides and is as  symmetrical as possible. This way the horse can go in a straight line without the reins holding it in place. All horses (and humans) are born A-symmetrical and we all need working on to help become more symmetrical. Once we’re more symmetrical  we’re straighter and our aids become lighter, our reins can be lighter and not have to be used for keeping the horse straight and we can start to ride the dance of horsemanship.

While working through the HS Criteria list I often go back to RELAXATION when a horse needs me to help find that, this is the most important of all the criteria as without this one ingredient good learning doesn’t occur SO make sure it’s there at the beginning of the session and at the end. I also move around working on one or more of the criteria using my Horsemanship Techniques and work out what each horse needs on each particular day.

A horse that is fearful may just need calming to find that relaxation with me from the start. A horse that is more of an alpha may need me to help it find relaxation and willingness when playing with some techniques. Some horses may need to be working more on willingness and impulsion and others may need lots of flexibility play whilst still trying to find relaxation.

So, each time I handle a horse I am thinking of what the horse needs at that moment, what it needs to progress and what the owner wants to learn or where it’s training is leading to. Having the criteria to make sure whatever I do helps keeps the horse RELAXED, WILLING, FLEXIBLE with balanced IMPULSION is the key to progressing without any brace…brace in it’s body, brace in it’s mind or brace emotionally.

Learning should always be done through relaxation, confidence, curiosity and FUN.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Training Tips: Stepping out of your Comfort Zone to progress

You may have heard about ‘Comfort Zones’ and to get out of your own to progress, this is true but there is also more to it. To progress you need to step out of your comfort zone but if you step too far you may get worried, out of your depth or plain put off going there again SO here is a quick outline of how to progress without going too far.





Here is a good image of your comfort zone, it has the learning zone just outside and the wilderness on the outer edge.








To learn anything you need to step out of and back into your comfort zone to the learning zone. Doing  this often  can help build your knowledge through consistency but you don’t want to go too far through that section or you could find yourself in the wilderness zone where you could end up lost and too scared to go out of your comfort zone again, sometimes for a while and sometimes forever, so just keep dipping in and out of the learning section.






By stepping in and out of your comfort zone you will increase your confidence  and build a solid foundation of knowledge which will increase the size of your comfort zone. This then takes the learning zone further out so you have to go further for that but it also takes the wilderness zone miles away too.




I call this approach and retreat with learning, keeping your CZ safe. It’s accumulative learning and works not just for us but for our horses too. Approach and retreat with scary objects, new learning and building confidence and knowledge at our and our horses own rate keeps things safe and calm and good learning can only happen when those are in place.

SO…keep your Comfort Zone safe but don’t forget to dip into the Learning Zone to PROGRESS :)

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy



Intent, to me, is the thought and feel behind a request. We need to think about whether we’re asking in a dominant way (move NOW…), or a request (let’s move together…), or is it a plead (please, please move but please don’t leave me…) Trying to be an Alpha to our horses means that we need to request.

There are many types of intentions behind our requests too, such as love, fear, nerves.

Horses are very good at reading our intentions whether they are good or bad but also if we are calm and confident or nervous and fearful.

So, how should we use our intent around horses?

If we hold thoughts of dominating the horse then we have already mentally lost the horses trust and respect and can often be the reason why the horse starts being dominant with us as they feel our intent and defend themselves. (Of course this isn’t the only reason horses behave like this!)

Also if we plead then we are not being an alpha and the horse will be required to step up to do that job herself/himself.

If we hold onto thoughts of love, calmness and confidence then the horse will show calmness and confidence with us. What often happens though is that our mental intent or thoughts try to be calm, confident and full of love but are incongruent or conflicted with our energy and body language which may show fear and uncertainty. The horse can read this immediately and feels unsafe around us.

We must work on having our inside and outside intent the same so that the horse sees, feels and reads us and we don’t confuse them. Horses don’t have this incongruent behaviour, it’s a very human, predatory thing to do.

If we learn to think more of our herd requests as a ‘we’ connection, ‘we are backing up’, ‘ we are moving into canter’ then put some energy out and take the space under the horses feet either with a tool such as a training arm and string, swinging a rope or actually going to the spot and taking the space the horse is standing on then the requests start talking about ‘space’ and how to shape it the way we want our horses to be.

SO, if we start to ‘mirror our horses’, use ‘awareness and focus’, play with the game of ‘stick 2 me’, remember to request things using ‘alpha phases’ from ‘herd dynamics’ we can ‘shape the space’ between us and our horses with confident and positive ‘intent’ to create harmonious connections and ‘invisible horsemanship’ that is so refined, light, soft and balanced that we have the dance partner we always wanted.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Positive Thoughts

IMG_0320One of the hardest things I’ve found is to be able to train or teach a horse whilst still having fun.

Horses that are innately internal and sensitive, introverted and wise (what normal folk call stubborn, lazy and stupid) are often the horses we can offend the most. They don’t show their feelings like extroverts do, they don’t run around taking offence at our high energy or kick out in a strop. They are much more subtle than that! Introverted horses need to feel they are loved just for themselves and training can’t seem like normal training to them or they become mentally, emotionally and physically braced and a brace in the mind is a brace in the body! Sometimes this brace looks like stubbornness, sometimes an extreme brace can make a horse look lame!

So, how can we find a way to help train our shy horses? I think we need to look back at our childhoods and remember why we love horses in the first place. We often have no idea why these beautiful animals tug at our hearts so much but we do know that as children we just want to run with them, play with them, brush them and love them unconditionally.

How can we train with fun you ask?

I feel we need to ‘Find the Child Within Us’ again to train with fun. Once any safety issues are smoothed out then we can still train with fun, this way we stop making it ‘personal’ to our horses and they will enjoy training and being around us.

Firstly what we we need to do is change the mental attitude we may bring to our horses when training. Our mental attitudes often are of doing things TO the horse, doing things to bring about CHANGES to the horse, doing things to the horse that changes his attitude or physicality! This is just too personal for a horse to take, it’s like ‘Bullying your Best Friend’!! If we think of our horses with us as a herd, of being partners, of being best friends and then ask for things in a way that isn’t personal then the horse won’t be offended.

Here are some idea’s:

1) When asking your horse to back up try saying something like ‘ooh, dropped something, better pick that up quickly’ and smile whilst stepping forward towards your horse. I did this the other day with my very introverted mare and she went back very willingly as there wasn’t anything about moving her backwards in my thoughts or voice, no demands, just needing to do something and she moved out of the way for me.

2) When moving hq’s maybe try saying something like… ‘ooh, forgot my gloves at the gateway’ and walk towards the horses hindquarters whilst bringing the rope slightly upwards. Horse will move their hq’s over quickly without us being specific about a particular move. We could also do same thing but move towards horses forehand for a forehand move over whilst walking.

3) Even when doing something like circling or other circular/half circular patterns we can have a totally different attitude to doing these by adding lots of ‘YES’s’ when every little thing goes right….lightness onto circle, YES, bending to the inside, YES, how beautiful horsey is, YES. Works very well when riding too, lightness off leg, YES, turning without brace, YES, leg yielding like floating dance together, YES.

4) Extreme familiarisation  with stick and string can be more of a feeling of helping horses swish flies away, very good fun and they really appreciate it, with this ‘helping horse’ in our minds we have no anxiety, no agenda too.

5) With impulsion try claiming the space ‘ behind the horse in a game of ‘tag’ which gives it more of a game attitude.

6) Finding impulsion when riding can be challenging for an introverted horse too. BUT if you start with small point 2 points (going from one thing to another like corners, cones, barrels) and putting things in your mind like ‘quick, we need to get to the corner before the bear eats us’ (moving away from something) OR ‘wow, there’s a chocolate biscuit on the barrel how quickly can we get to it before someone else gets it’ (moving towards something). People are usually motivated positively by either  ‘moving away’ or ‘moving towards’ things, find out which you are motivated by and use this technique for positive results.


Extroverted horses enjoy this method too as they are often very playful. If they are a worried type of horse this can work too as by making things a ‘game’ and with a playful attitude it takes fear pressure off and they can relax and learn more easily.

Our attitude and thoughts can really make a big difference between making training fun or making training work!

I hope you manage to find the child inside you and remember to have FUN 😉

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Shaping Space


Moving to more refined requests with our horses is where we all want to be, using strategies such as ‘Undemanding Time’, ‘Mirroring Your Horse’, ‘Stick 2 Me’ and having ‘Awareness & Focus’ with ‘The Connection’ we should find that we are becoming more harmonious with our horses, the ‘dance’ is starting.

(Check all ‘titles’ above in previous ‘ARTICLES’)

How do we refine the moves we already know? How do we make non-personal, non-threatening requests to a horse?

I do it using a mental image of moving ‘Space’ rather than moving a horse’s body.  Here’s how I try to think of space between me and a horse:

1) SHARING SPACE: This is where I ask a horse to be close with me on a shared mutual path. Sometimes this may mean the horse is following me, sometimes I am following the horse but eventually I have found that we start being together in a mutual dance of understanding.  I use this sharing space method of connecting in my  ‘STICK 2 ME’ training which  is talked about in another article.

2) PROTECTING SPACE: This is where I set up and keep the space distance between me and my horse(s) as we walk or keeping the space that is around us within a herd situation.

If another horse comes up that I am not working with I will protect the space me and my horse are in from others and often when working with two horses at once I protect my space, the space of the horse to my left and also the one to my right individually so that there are no other herd dynamics going on between them and whilst they are with me they both know that I will protect their space so that we can all relax in a peaceful environment.

If horses of different levels in the herd hierarchy are working with me at one time I let them know I am alpha by protecting my own space well and they are all then on the next level down but none of them higher or lower than each other, just me above only, that way they can relax and listen to my requests without worrying about being moved by the other horse.

3) CLAIMING SPACE: If  the space I create with a horse is changed by that horse moving in to me, thereby taking my space, I reclaim the part I have lost. I also use this claim of space to ask for transitions, I claim the space behind them so that I am not telling the horse to move faster ‘or else’, I am just claiming the grazing under their back feet, this is less bossy and a way herd members move others without being dominant. Being aware of the space I set up at all  times helps make me mentally strong in the herd.

4) SHAPING SPACE: I try to get my own body to create a shape that I ask the horse to copy, once the space between us is understood a horse will very usually bend or move the way we ask and copy our own energy levels to remain synchronised in the herd ‘dance’. Working with this on the ground first helps both parties to create that shape and then recreate it when riding. Shaping space can get very refined, sometimes I ask the horse to just move one part slightly differently to create the shape needed for a move, such as moving the barrel just a small bit away from me to create a better arc in the whole of his body to help with turns and circles. This sort of shaping involves mentally and physically claiming the small area back from the horses space or bubble.

5) OPENING & CLOSING SPACE: I mentally open area’s that I would like the horse to go into and as those spaces open I close others mentally to shut off where I don’t want us to go. This can be refined and very specific in such things as gait, speed of gait, lateral moves but starts with just the basics of left, right, forward, stop and backup.

6) BLOCKING SPACE: I use a ‘block’ if a horse comes into my space without  asking or tries to take my space by walking into it. This does not mean I don’t allow horses to play or have their own ideas but sometimes with some horses we need to re-direct their thoughts to something we’re trying to teach them or to block and protect our space if they get high energy at an inappropriate time.

When using space shaping techniques I make sure that I check myself regularly to see if I am asking something of the horse that I am truly showing in my own body because if we don’t ask the right question or ask the question right in our thoughts and body then the result won’t be what we thought it would be. With new requests I tend to exaggerated my body movements to help my horse see the shape I’m making but once the horse understands that can quickly be refined into more elegant movements.

Also I use a mental image of me in a personal space ‘bubble’, the horse in its own personal space ‘bubble’ but those bubbles are touching when we’re connected and I can change that bubble diameter for draw/drive or to have the horse closer or further away. I know it may sound farfetched but if you work visually then having these kinds of pictures in your mind helps the connection as it defines the space you’re in better so that the horse can pick up on that intuitively. Once I’ve sorted this all in my brain it comes instinctually and I don’t have to mentally ‘think’ about it in such detail. My main thoughts would be on where we’re going, what gait and if we’re shaping correctly for the movement we’re doing also I’m constantly reminding myself of ‘what I am trying to achieve’ with each movement/shape.

Thinking on this ‘bubble’ connection we must not think of our horses running off when at liberty if they have a yeehaa moment, they are always connected to us, our bubbles just have to extend to accommodate the space between us, they forget we can’t ‘play’ like they can. If we think or feel disconnected it is US that has disconnected not them. They don’t think about us not keeping up with them, they’re just playing, so keep ‘mentally’ connected, recall them or keep the connection until you are closer. On that note you must remember to ‘disconnect’ when leaving them to go home.

It really is all about ‘Space’, how much is between us, is it mutually shared, is personal space understood, are there still claiming space issues from your horse or are you in control of your space? Horses really do learn to read our thoughts as our thoughts shape our bodies without us realising it SO make sure you are fully aware of what your body shapes are conveying to your horse and once you find that harmony within space then just ‘dance’ together.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy