Shawna Karrasch works with four-year-old Jett
In this video Shawna is teaching Jett to liberty lead. In Positive Reinforcement, that is defined as leading without the help of equipment, instead using your body and movement. No halter, no lead rope, no target.
Jett is a four- year-old Percheron/Paint cross and still very new to Positive Reinforcement (R+) training. At the time of filming, he had done bridge conditioning, so he knew what the clicker meant. This was his first session liberty leading.
He was alert and focused, so this resulted in a productive session. Note that not every horse starts off strong when learning something new. It’s important to focus on the horse you have at that moment and go at their pace.
Liberty leading is an excellent tool as it builds focus as well as leading skills. It also begins the important practice of impulse control, which is quite a beneficial skill for a young horse. When the horse learns they can choose to settle, they begin to regulate their emotions. The change starts from the inside. It results in genuine relaxation and the ability to refocus. Good things begin as they start to settle.
We would rather teach them to choose to regulate their energy than using equipment to physically limit their ability to act on their urge to play, spook or act up in another way. The biggest issue with using the equipment is that it creates a physical limitation, which can exacerbate the emotional situation. If the horse cannot access their coping mechanisms this can lead to stress and potentially highly charged situations. The equipment doesn’t change whether they are worried or over-stimulated, it doesn’t address changing their emotional state. When they know they can choose to settle, this is a good emotional choice for all involved.
Liberty leading is a foundation exercise that we go back to over and over again. As you watch the video, keep in mind that we had a sudden and drastic cold snap on this day in early fall. So there was a significant temperature drop overnight. Which actually made for a more challenging training session. Also remember that the clicker tells them that they just did something that we like and to check in with us for some sort of reinforcement. Shawna tries to click on the behavior that she would like to see more of.
We hope that you find this video helpful.