With Ginger, our liberty training is pretty simple. We started out by getting him to come when he is called. When we lunge when we ask the horse to stop, they must square up to us. This is so we can tell them to go either way or bring them into our circle. If you want to know more about the way we lunge you can read more here. Now the horse is stopped squared and looking for us for direction, we call the horse. If he comes right away, great! We give them lots of rewarding pets. If not we have to gently ask him to step towards us by pull and release on the lead rope, similar to leading, until the horse reaches us then lots of love and reward.
We practice this often, it strengthens the coming when called and sending out exercises when lunging. Eventually the horse learns its name, usually after three or four sessions. Now its about using it often. I call Ginger every chance I get. When he is out in his paddock, I’ll call him up and just love on him. This is important because you can burn a horse out if every time you call it is to put a halter on and work. It can also be really helpful if you have a little treat for them when you call. I also reinforce that I have to be able to touch him, or put on his halter before he walks away. I think we have all seen the horse that will run up to you to take the treat and run away before you can catch them. My method is to wait to give him his treat until the halter is on and secured.
We start round penning at this point, asking the horse to whoa and come, loving on them and sending them out again. This is basically how liberty will be in the show. Next step is to introduce the grocery bag attached to a carrot stick, desensitize so the horse is not scared of it. Now the horse just needs to learn the swooshing sound of the bag means play time. We let Ginger into his paddock and only swoosh the bag if he stops. After a minute and a half we stop, drop our whip and pick up his halter and ask him to come, put the halter on and reward him. He usually will play along for two more times, and since we usually do this on his off days, he is done for the day.
Now we just have to add the music!