At liberty

Liberty training is also an important training pillar in Straightness Training.

Because especially at liberty, the “science” and the “art” of ST come together.

The SCIENCE of Straightness Training

In ST we have the mantra of “Think First, Act Later.”

So the science is about “thinking”, about studying theory, from the outside-in, understanding why we do the things we do when training horses, knowing the exercises intellectually, rationally, conceptually.

This comes from thinking and studying.

The ART of Straightness Training

The art of ST is about “acting”, it’s about knowing how to work in the moment, how to deal in practice with the challenges that arise, it’s about following your feeling, from the inside-out, intuitively.

This comes from experience and practice.

Wonderful Blend

Now ST allows you to bring the two concepts of science and art together:

  • It gives you the concepts so you can understand the asymmetry, anatomy, the biomechanics, the gymnastic benefit of all the exercises we do, along with the science and psychology of animal training and behavior.
  • And it allows you to fill in the details, your personal piece of art, which is unique to each person, because your own experiences, emotions, and energy play a role in your connection with your horse.

Especially ST at liberty and riding without reins give you this wonderful blend of both the science and art of Straightness Training.

Because with the tools, to a great extend you can ‘make’ a horse do things.

But without any tools, you need a deeper connection, to master your energy, and you need to be able to inspire your horse to get things done.

The “Truth”

When you take off the cavesson, the curb, the reins, the longe line, you’re left with one thing: the truth.

You might be able to do a wonderful piaffe with your horse and a bridle, but is he able to do it without?

Does he WANT to do the piaffe rather then to be MADE to perform this exercise?

Does he have not only a balanced body, but also a balanced mind?

And do you have a balanced relationship, so that he stays with you during the exersise and doesn’t leave you?

You can check out this ‘truth’ by doing Straightness Training at liberty.

You will find out if your horse trusts you, if he respects you, if he likes to work with you and if he WANTS to do what you want!

Because at liberty you can’t control your horse physically, you can’t MAKE him do something, and you can’t MAKE him to behave.


Investigate the truth…

At liberty you can do a lot of investigation:

  • How does your horse responds to only your inner thoughts, feeling, energy and body language?
  • Does he see the whip as an extension of your energy or is he afraid of it?
  • Is he able to bend to the inside on a circle without any help of cavesson, reins or longe-line?
  • Does he WANT to curve his body to the inside? Or do you notice that you actually have to MAKE him bend all the time?
  • So is his MIND with you during the circle? Is he “thinking” to the inside?
  • Does he show self carriage in the more difficult exercises at liberty or can’t he do it without the ‘side wheels’ you give him (support of reins/legs)?
  • Is he asking questions and doing suggestions? Does he offer to do things for you?
  • So is there a nice dialogue between you and the horse?
  • Or is it more like a monologue with only you expressing your thoughts and wants?
  • Is his reaction “Bye, I’m outta here” or “Hello, I’m in!” 

  • “Bye, I’m outta here!”
  • No lateral bend
  • Tension
  • Hollow back, high head & neck
  • Out of balance
  • Thinking outside
  • “Hello, I’m in!”
  • Lateral bend
  • Relaxation
  • Round back, low head & neck
  • Balance
  • Thinking inside


“AHA, that’s interesting”

Whatever end result you get, don’t think “OH NO”, but think “AHA, that’s interesting”.

 Whatever happens, whatever the truth is, take responsibility.

See it as a study: study yourself, study your horse, study the body, mind, emotions & spirit, study the relationship.

Know what you want, and change your approach if you don’t have what you want.

The end result of proper straightness training is:

  • A balanced body of the horse
  • A balanced mind of the horse
  • Balanced emotions of the horse
  • A balanced spirit of the horse
  • A balanced body of the rider
  • A balanced mind of the rider
  • Balanced emotions of the rider
  • A balanced spirit of the horse
  • A balanced relationship between both

You need to see which element is getting out of balance and you have to address it.

So if something is out of balance, see it as a challenge!

Liberty With 1 Horse

Prince Elmelund:

Liberty With 2 Horses

Maestro & Toronto:

Liberty With 3 Horses

Romanesque, Prince Elmelund & El Blanco:

It’s a hobby of mine to figure out how to get multiple minds, energies and bodies aligned to do some simple tasks as standing still, moving forwards and on circles. Fascinating laboratory.

Romanesque and Prince Elmelund are a very cooperative team, and in this video I added El Blanco to the team.

El Blanco had been trained together with Toronto at liberty, so he’s also familiar with the concept of working in a team.

I was curious if he would figure out himself that it was about joining forces with this new team – and he did.

Very quickly he decided to join, although he was a bit careful with connecting to Prince Elmelund’s ‘energy bubble’, but once he found out that PE was okay with it, and with a little encouragement, he got closer.

By adding El Blanco to the team of Romanesque and Prince Elmelund, we have another influencer on the communication, energy, and conversations.Very interesting to see the influence of a third horse on the group dynamics.

Three to thrive:

Liberty With 4 Horses


Doing liberty with four horses for the first time really made me feel like a beginner juggler, trying to keep all four balls in the air at the same time;

Because either I lost them all, or I lost three of them, or two, but finally I could keep them all in the air, phew  .

In this juggling challenge I merged two solid duos:

  • Duo 1: Romanesque & Prince Elmelund
  • Duo 2: Maestro & Toronto

The members of each duo can get along really well and know the concept when they work together as a team at liberty. And all four horses are living together 24/7, so I thought it would not be such a big deal to merge these two duos to one team of four.

Well, it was not that simple to keep all minds, all energies, all bodies aligned; I lost quite some balls along the way, and had to figure out a way to pick them up again. Fortunately most of the time they came back by themselves, they just had to figure out how to deal with each other’s energy bubbles so close to each other.

So in the end we managed to end up with a few good cooperative steps:

Liberty With 5 Horses

In this video, you’ll meet my five horses (from left to right):

  • Romanesque – Born 1998 – Dutch warmblood
  • Prince Elmelund – 2005 – Frederiksborger
  • Maestro – 1994 – Dutch Warmblood
  • Toronto – 2000 – Dutch Warmblood
  • El Blanco – 2001-2019 – PRE (Andalusier)

Links to Related and Recommended Articles

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