Can Liberty work transfer to riding?

Today, I would like to share a small video putting the question whether Liberty Training can translate to riding without other elements.

Through Liberty Training I can communicate pretty well with my horses and they are willing, focused, patient and energetic. My horses respond to small signals from my voice, my hands and my body position. This is great and it is a really good feeling of unity and connection with my horses. After studying and teaching liberty training for a few years I wanted to transfer the connection I had on the ground to the saddle, only to realize this was not possible without developing a really good seat.

I could train my horses gently to accept tack like halters, reins, blanket and saddle before introducing weight and rider. After a while we could without any problems sit on the horses, but from there I had no progress in the riding. From the ground I communicate with my horses using a lot of signals visible for the horse, my body language, energy and eye contact. However, once you sit in the saddle the communication aids are very different. And after a while there was no progress to be found… I could sit on my horses that gladly stood still to have their saddle and rider on and accepted me there on their backs, but then to communicate…we were getting nowhere.

There were two main problems of course – how to teach the horses the right cues and how to communicate with the seat, weight and balance. I realized to have progress I needed a teacher and some working students with experience in riding and training the green horse for riding. This was a good move in progressing with my Horse School. Two months ago my new teacher Gabriel finally arrived.

Over the past weeks I have been riding two times a day for 10-15 minutes with no reins and stirrups and done a lot of Gabriel is such a good instructor because he is able to add something new to every lesson and you finish the lesson with a clear summary of your progress.

Learning to use my seat
Learning to use my seat

So you can be a master with liberty and have your horse move with the lightest little finger signals, but this certainly does not mean you can ride them. The key here is the seat. The horse cannot carry you properly if you do not have a good seat. The horse cannot move freely if you do not have a good balanced and independent seat.

Here are a few things I have been working on:

  • To be able to use gentle leg aids without having any loss of balance
  • To recognize and use my core energy
  • To be able to ride a circle without leaning in, even a single millimeter
  • To be able to give leg signal as well as hand signal at the same time in trot without moving my upper body out of place
  • To keep my legs in the correct position so the horse can easily move under me.
  • Improve my coordination and be able to keep focus on legs, hands and position in the saddle at the same time
    Strengthen all my leg muscles for riding.
  • To keep a good rhythm and flow in the transitions between walk, trot and halt.

All these exercises were done without reins and stirrups.

I progressed and my teacher suggested it was time to find a good dressage horse and try what I now knew on a trained horse. How interesting!

So we did some research and found a dressage stable in Barbados.

I found a good stable and decided to take a lesson with one of Akoele’s well trained dressage horses. This was interesting and very new as my horses live a very different life than Akoele’s horses. I liked Akoele’s stable, she has about 15 horses and she used to compete in dressage. The atmosphere in the stable was relaxed and the horses looked good. Akoele was very respectful to her horses and the people around her. She assigned me to ride a well trained 8 year old mare and I was going to have a lesson in a real dressage arena.

My first dressage lesson at Akoele's stables in Barbados.
My first dressage lesson at Akoele’s stables in Barbados.

I could ride 40 minutes with stirrups no problem, the 8 year old trained mare responded to all my leg aids both the right and wrong ones. When I was following the rhythm well and had the right balance and position, I could clearly feel how much easier it was for the horse to move under me and the horse could easily add energy.

So where I am now is that I have got the foundation of understanding: that without a good seat, the horse cannot carry you properly and you cannot do the best to protect the horse’s back and do any good riding.

Also I have realized that it is not possible to learn to ride yourself, you need to have a good instructor on the ground and start with out reins and without stirrups.

So simply transforming liberty work to riding is not possible.

Life is full of learning and looking back, I cannot believe I once thought it was possible to use a shortcut going from Liberty work to Riding… and it’s so simple because the horse cannot understand your very different signals from the saddle, because he doesn’t know “what you’re talking about.” Imagine all the signals you give to your horse from the saddle conscious and unconscious — with your weight, legs, balance, hips – how can your horse understand these signals?

I would love to hear from you on the topic on what is a good seat and examples and ideas on how to get it.

Kind regards Stina


  1. Det er så utrolig inspirerende å se hva slags forhold du har med hesten din. Samtidig er alle behovene hennes dekket fra før av, hun har tilgang til flokk, mat og ikke minst et stort areal med nydelige omgivelser. Likevel velger hun å komme til deg for å være med deg. Dette er så inspirerende for meg, og jeg setter stor pris på at du deler så mange videoer/tekster/bilder av din måte å få kontakt med hester på .Det har gjort at jeg innser at det faktisk kan være mulig. Mer enn noe annet kunne jeg ønske at jeg kunne få et sånt forhold til en hest, tusen takk for at du viser meg at det ikke bare er en drøm som ikke kan bli til virkelighet!

      • Ja, jeg kunne veldig gjerne tenke meg å være med på et kurs! Er det satt opp datoer for når dere skal holde kurs i Norge? Hilsen Kristin

  2. I do believe that you can ride at Liberty, I know I ride at Liberty. I just rode 25ks bareback and brideless on a major ride. I know it can be done. The trouble with riding with cues or training on the ground with cues is that you are training intelligent tricks. There’s nothing wrong with that at all if that the limit of your ability, but a horse can “run through the bit” or in our case “run through the cues” if you don’t have a basis of communication and an ability to converse with the horse. this works equally well on the ground and in the saddle. Don’t give up so easily!

    • Thank you Suzie for your comment. Wonderful to hear you rode sucha long ride, must have been beautiful! Much sunshine and thank you for reading my blog.

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