Sunday, July 9th, 2017
I love this boy!
Paul and I each have a horse; Junior is Paul’s horse, Buck is mine. Buck has nestled into my heart in a unique way – if you haven’t read my post about Buck’s history, click on the word “Buck” at the top of this post and go back and read it.
Sinply put, Buck has taken a while to crack. His trust threshold was nearly impossible to tackle; he is always afraid of something. Lots of slow work, and lots of patience.
But oh, how it has been worth it!
Once Buck decided he could trust me, he enveloped me in love. I quickly learned that his tough exterior contained a sweet teddy bear underneath. The need, the craving, he had for connection was almost overwhelming. Liberty, or free lunging, was such an excellent tool for us to connect and become partners.
Liberty is simply the act of the horse moving around you in a circle, with no point of physical connection. Through verbal cues and body language the horse can change gaits, change directions by either turn toward the rail or toward the middle, stop, and backup.
While this sounds relatively simple, it’s an incredibly powerful tool. Both horse and human must work together for it to work, and because there is no point of contact the horse makes the choice to listen. This gives the horse the power, which was so important for Buck. He needed to feel that he had a choice and could move away from me if he felt unsure. As he realized that I was asking instead of telling him what I needed from him, he slowly obliged me.
Now liberty is one of his favorite things. He is incredibly smart, and he loves the challenge of it. He loves the accomplishment of understanding and executing a requested cue, and we’re currently working on the completion of more subtle cues. Such as holding out a two fingers for a trot, and a flat hand for a walk. He’s doing very well! It’s so rewarding for me to watch him want to connect with me and understand what I’m asking, and to see his confidence skyrocket
Look at this picture – his forward movement exerts confidence. One ear is pointed forward, one is angled toward me. Looking where he’s going, but continually watching me for a cue.
My favorite part of liberty is the “woah.” Why? Because of the respect he has for me as a herd member. Body language is EVERYTHING with prey/herd animals. That is how they communicate with one another. Slight shifts forward or backward, where you point your eyes, showing the weakest part of your body or standing tall. It all translates to them. So when I bend at the waist (showing the back of my neck) and look to the ground (removing all forward pressure), he will stop and turn to face me. I then will stand up and turn and tilt my shoulder toward him (encouraging him to approach by not being facing forward threateningly or facing my back to him like a dominant herd member would), he will walk up to me. The best part? He walks toward me with HIS shoulder angled to me, inviting ME to approach. We will then walk to each other until our shoulders touch.
It’s like magic. There is no other feeling like that out there. Like I can talk with and communicate to this animal. Horses are such special animals. Their depth of understanding and sense of herd is so strong. They want to please, you just have to give them the opportunity.