Liberty, Part 3

Liberty Parts 1 and 2 detailed how to prepare a horse to work at liberty and how to ask the horse to start and stop. We will move on now to turning the horse.

We will remain on a long line; neither the horse nor you are yet confident enough to go off line! There should be a good deal of slack held in your right hand between you and your horse, as in the previous two lessons.

Are you remembering to lean when you ask your horse to walk forward and to stop? Great! You will be using the same principle here. Instead of leaning, though, you will be turning your shoulders to provide the cue before you begin to turn. Please do not drop your shoulders into the turn; your riding instructor will get mad at me! Plus, you never want the horse to drop his shoulder in a turn, so don’t get in the habit yourself.

Start the horse walking forward (refer to Liberty Part 2 for help if you need it). Plan ahead; are you going to turn right or left? Is there enough room for both you and the horse? Let’s start with a right turn, because it is easier. Move your left shoulder forward and your right shoulder back, and turn your head in the direction you want to go. Exaggerate all this at first. Your cues will get more subtle with time. Hold this for only a second or two before you begin to turn. If your horse is really in tune with body language, he might even turn without some help from you just from this cue. If he does, praise him! If not, add a gentle tug on the lead rope as you are turning to get him on the same page. If he doesn’t respond appropriately to this cue, you may need to review teaching a horse to lead, which can be found in this post.

Practice turning right, no more than 90 degrees at a time. Less is preferable, until your horse always keeps his jaw bone at your shoulder.

The next post will involve turning left. Turning right is enough to think about for now; it is easier, and it is safer for you as the handler. You’ve probably been taught since you first started riding that you don’t turn a horse left!

Happy turning,

The Horsegentler