Supple at Liberty to Develop Your Ultimate Riding Horse!

I just had an incredible training session with my mare, Whimsy! What does an incredible session look like? It’s a session where you have complete connection with your horse and your horse gives everything they’ve got to practice the exercises. We were working on hard stuff! (Tips at the end of this blog for how to get started on these exercises) .

At liberty a great session is taken up a notch because Whimsy could have taken any time to go graze on the lush grass at the edge of the ring. I let her start out grazing for the first five minutes so there was no mistaking the offer was on the table, but Whimsy didn’t leave.

During the session I was asking her to bend and stretch at a stand still as well as during the walk and trot. I asked her to step under her body with her hind quarters, to carry her weight better and balance, to bring up her back and to curve around circles even on her asymmetrical side where she falls in on her shoulder. We worked on halting within the shoulder-in, and not falling forward into the transition.


If you would like to learn movements like these suppling exercises or would like to learn to simply teach your horse to stay with you then consider coming to one of my workshops !


As I write this blog there are still two spots open for horses and handlers in my June 13-14th workshop at my farm in Duncan.

You are also welcome to participate for the weekend without a horse.  Check out the workshop page for more information.

The intro workshop in Duncan was great fun!  See the highlight pics at the very bottom of this post.

Horses want to feel fit, healthy and balanced. They are dancers at heart because a strong and nible horse can out dance that predator in the tough moments. Whim feels confident and capable of performing the exercises because we have started out slowly over time. She is traveling better and carrying weight with more balance and ease.

Whim wants to come out. She has been pushing my mare, Extra, out of the way lately and getting between Extra and the halter. She wants to please and an opportunity for cookies is something she doesn’t want to pass up either!

I’ve attached pictures of horses practicing so you can see what these exercises look like.

In this picture series Charlie is trying his first basic standing stretches at liberty.


To get started stand with your horse square and push your hand down to the ground. Visualize your horse dropping her head and imagine your energy running slowly out your fingers towards the ground. If you bend and stretch as if touching your toes and breath out your horse often will mirror you. Once you have the stretch directly forward and down straight (first pic of Julie and Charlie) then you can ask for stretches down and to the side as you see Julie doing with Charlie in the 2nd two photos.

If your horse ignores your cue then offer a treat in your hand as you stretch to the ground, but phase this out since you want to teach the cue not just get your horse following a treat. You can reward with treats AFTER stretches.

heather_nelson_liberty_training_sprite_stretchesOnce your horse is doing this stretch well at the halt then start walking forward and also point towards the ground and stretch your own back out as you walk slowly as I’m doing with Sprite in the photo. Your horse will typically drop their head to mirror you and to check out what in the blazes you are so fascinated by on the ground!

To get your horse curving around you at the walk (like the picture of Madelyn and Kanses at the top) pretend you have your horse’s nose on an invisible magic thread and guide their nose around you and forward as you cue them from the hindquarter to walk on (this is another one where you can start out by holding a treat in your hand if your horse absolutely will not bend).

If your horse does not have a basic understanding of how to walk forward then you will need to cue them

forward with a wave or tap from a lead rope or whip on their hindquarters. Stop your horse by halting your own feet, holding a hand up and saying “Whoa” and breathing out shortly after he has taken a couple of steps where he was “wrapping” around you.

Many horses will have difficulty curving around you and may step on or bump you with the shoulder. It’s rarely because your horse is disrespectful and usually because they are so poorly balanced and stiff that they drop into the centre of circles with their shoulder and you happen to be in the way. You need to push your horse’s shoulder out or tap them out to teach them to lift, step and curve around the circle instead of plow around it.

If you have questions about the stretching please post in the comments below.

The pics below show the highlights from the last Duncan Intro Workshop.  It was a great spring day!








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