2 Most common mistakes made in At Liberty Training

Have you ever realized how much more beautiful a horse is, when he moves out of Joy? And gorgeous he looks when he walks, trots or canters without restrictions? How bouncy and forward his gaits are, if he’s moving forward from an internal positive motivation, instead of moving away from something he dislikes, wants to avoid or is afraid of? How can you make At Liberty training fun, keep your horse engaged and keep him at a distance at the same time? In this blog I address the 2 Most common mistakes made in At Liberty Training .

How to train forward movement without aversives?

R+ 'lunging' at liberty

Do you want to know how you can train your horse to move, at liberty, from a positive motivation? Teach your horse to enjoy his movements? That’s what the HippoLogic Clicker Challenge March is about: working at liberty, the R+ way!

You might wonder how you can get a forward movement in your horse to start with if doesn’t want to move?

What can you do, so you can reinforce it with a treat? Are there techniques you don’t know about? If your horse is a bit more of a Whoa-horse than a Go-horse, this might interest you.

What if…

  • … there are gentle ways to teach your horse to enjoy exercising?
  • … there is a way to teach any horse to stay engaged in at liberty work
  • you can teach your horse to offer you a wonderful walk, trot or canter without using (not even a tiny bit) of coercion?

Be generous!

If you want let your horse experience joy from movement and exercise, and especially with more ‘lazy horses’ (spoiler alert: they are *not* lazy!), you need to give, give, give and make it really worthwhile for them.

Offer clarity!

You also need to provide clarity: what do you want and what do you want to see more of? When you offer clarity, in the right way and consistently, there will come a moment the movement itself becomes reinforcing.

That’s when you can start fading out clicks and treats. One way to provide clarity is to use cones, other ways are providing your horse with clear criteria, the right appetitives, good timing and so on.

In the photo below you can see my horse Kyra cantering. She’s definitely a energy-saving horse: doesn’t seem to enjoy moving for the sake of moving. Until I could help her to release enough endorfines to turn her into a happy mover!

Now my (former) Whoa-horse offers canter at liberty, while there are a ton of blackberry leaves all around the arena to munch on! Her favorite snack!

She’s very engaged in our at liberty training, even when there are things happening in the herd in the adjacent paddock! She might look, but she also comes back to me because she wants to! And that’s an amazing feeling: your horse chooses you.

2 Most common mistakes made in At Liberty Training

This is also the mistake most clicker trainers make: they either want to fade out the clicks and treats too early (and lose the behaviour and engagement of their horses) or they use the clicks and treats too long (and the horse will only move for external motivation instead out of joy).

If you’ve ever started to jog and you couldn’t even jog across the street without becoming out of breath (that’s where I started when I started jogging) you know how hard and painful it can be to start exercising an out of shape body.

Once you’re past that initial stage you learn to LOVE to run! You get into a wonderful mental flow when jogging, or even can get runners high. That’s your natural endorphins helping you feel good. You start to look forward to your exercises. That’s what you can help your horse to do, too.

Now, if your horse is already a Go-horse, you might want to teach him to slow him down so he won’t get overexcited from his trot or canter. Or your horse is bored and walks away if he’s free to do so. That too, will be addressed in this Challenge.

Work your horse At Liberty with R+

Do you want to dip your toe into the world of at liberty work with your horse, where you really give your horse a choice? Then join me in this 14-day Clicker Challenge.

I will show you how you can teach Whoa horses to Go and Go-horses to Slow down. How you can keep your horse engaged and teach him to keep the distance that you want him to keep. All with positive reinforcement! If you want to have more fun in at liberty work, join me in this months Challenge.

This is what get in the HippoLogic Clicker Challenge March:

  • It’s a fun 14-day online Challenge, from March 1st to 14th
  • Open to all people who love to clicker train their horses
  • Choose one of the 4 available levels (or do them all!): from starter (easy) to expert (almost impossible!)
  • Share your training videos for tailored feedback and coaching in our private Facebook group during this Challenge
  • Learn valuable positive reinforcement training techniques to help you master this challenge and that you can use in all future training
  • Multiple downloadable training tools (for you to keep)
  • Accountability and support for two whole weeks to help you get results
  • Improve your skills under guidance of a professional clicker trainer

How can you join?

Click here:

I am looking forward to help you and your horse become stars in At Liberty work!

Happy Horse training!

Sandra Poppema, BSc

Sandra Poppema BSc founder of HippoLogic



Teaching horse people to connect with their horse in training so they get the relationship and the results they want.

3 thoughts on “2 Most common mistakes made in At Liberty Training”

  1. I’m new to clicker training at liberty. Scared of making mistakes. I can’t seem to get your free training program as when I try to enter all my details there is an error saying my email already exists but I do not seem to be able to access the information I need. Perhaps I need tech training too ! Xx

  2. Pingback: The use of a Target stick At Liberty - HippoLogic Horse Training

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