Can you ride the same horse that you play with at liberty? Is riding going to damage the partnership? How can you combine the two styles and how do you introduce them?
Extra is my liberty horse and she gallops around me with her red mane whipping and tail like a ball of fire chasing her down the field. She prances up to me snorting and blowing. Everything about this dragon of a horse screams “freedom.”
Extra is also my riding horse and when we are practicing dressage she rocks back on her haunches with her withers high, her neck arched into the contact of the bridle. She is balanced and safely supporting me in the saddle.
Can they possibly be the same horse?
I say HELL YAH! And so does Extra. But originally I was very confused about combining the two styles.
In my liberty work I was very focused on developing my friendship with Extra and giving her the choice to choose her involvement in our schooling sessions. Under tack there are far less options for her to have a voice in the session so I was nervous that the riding would wreck our relationship.Extra has been very clear that she prefers liberty training to riding. She demonstrates this by running into the arena for her liberty sessions and running right back out when I cart my saddle out of the tack room. I didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what she prefers doing. However, I would rather play games and eat cookies than do aerobics as well.
Unfortunately Extra’s waist line (if you can find it) was suffering greatly under the play games and eat cookies regime. You need only to watch my Christmas training session video to see the effects of a steady diet of liberty. So riding is back on. I could chase Extra around to get her fit, but then I would have to run around lots too. Uhm…riders aren’t known for their ribbons in track and field. That’s why we get made fun of in the Olympics.
It seemed like riding and liberty would cancel each other out. But au contraire, the styles compliment each other.
If you want to see a horse who has strongly benefited from combining liberty on the ground, tackless riding and conventional riding then check out Maddie and Indy’s video.
I want to ride a horse that I can trust, a horse that responds to me, can carry me easily and wants to be around me. I’m not interested in getting on a 1 ton animal that I have no relationship with. Been there done that. I’ve got the injuries to prove it.
Currently there aren’t a lot of competitions or clinics out there for liberty fanatics. And if you want to gallop cross country and jump or explore the mountains then horseback is a great way to do it. Yes, you could run alongside your horse and do all of these things, but I think we covered the average horse person and the “running” thing already. (If Lacey’s person, Danna, is reading this she is thinking “but I love running!” Yes, Danna, but you are a rare bird in the horse world.) So riding is good!
My students and I practice liberty and ride too. We have no set schedule for this. Sometimes we do only liberty. Sometimes we tack up and ride the whole sessions. At other times we play at liberty, then ride in a session, or we ride and then untack and play at liberty.
If you are new to liberty and you want a great relationship then do more liberty than riding for awhile. If you have an amazing relationship and you really want to ride then ride, but don’t forget your liberty sessions because your horse loves to see you on the ground and to communicate through body language.
I haven’t noticed a dip in our friendship since I increased the ridden work with Extra. We are still pals. But I established a very strong foundation between us through our play time and our passive companionship time. We are still doing that because it is a passion of mine and I believe that you need to always feed your relationship.
Liberty is going to help your riding horse develop greater balance, forward movement and collection if you use the right exercises. Extra can canter and maintain a 10 metre circle around me at liberty. Under saddle she isn’t there yet, but I can see her confidence in herself building.
There is a place for liberty in your work and there is also a space for riding. Have fun combining them!
How you are currently balancing the two styles? What concerns do you have about it? Please write in the comments below.