Testing new skills in an old environment

When working student Jonna returned to Sweden, we continued our lessons, this time online! Here is what Jonna writes about testing her new liberty training skills in Sweden.

It was interesting to come home and meet my mum’s horses again after all I’ve learned about Natural horsemanship and liberty training in St Vincent. I’ve known these horses for more than 10 years but when I came home in December after eight months away I saw them for the first time in a way I’ve never seen them before.

Three black pets get stimulation and exercise in one go
Three black pets get stimulation and exercise in one go

They are old but have had a great life so they are both very vital and active. We have always kept them in big pastures and have many pastures to move them around between. They go inside over night during the winter but in a stable with no isolation so the air is fresh. That way they also grow the fur they need to keep themselves warm so we don’t use blankets unless we have worked with them so they are sweaty. Our oldest mare Prima is the one we ride and she is about to turn 35 (!). She is smooth and young in her body but her sight is no longer the best and her hooves are starting to break and not repair like before. This is not something that bothers her yet when riding. She is not a beginner horse to ride since she is extremely fast and always want to go, go, go!
Our gelding, Ursut, is a 25 year old horse that we no longer ride. He has always been stumbling and in the end when we rode him he fell down completely when stumbling while riding. It is a mysterious why he stumbles, the veterinarians says that he doesn’t have any pain anywhere and that he is just heavy in front and distracted in his mind when he walks. His task nowadays is to keep Prima company.
The horses are very used to their routines; they know exactly what time they get their hay and exactly when they go in at night and out in the morning, you don’t get a happy face if you’re late with these tasks.
photo 2So, coming home from Stina’s horses in the Caribbean, which are very open minded and polite, I met something else at home; winter horses that are dependent on routines and not very respectful around food. I needed to think about how to approach them so I wrote to Stina and got some tips.
I started to just hang around the horses, I sat (not so long because of the cold) in their pasture and in the stable. I could see them get very confused. They already know me and it was weird to them that I was there without doing anything, not feeding, not brushing, not riding. I also started to work them at liberty. Saying hello, respecting each other’s personal space and leading from behind. I got to know my horse’s personalities in a way I hadn’t before. Ursut has always been very bossy and expressive but I could read hos language better now so it becomes more fun now than it have been in the past.
My brother’s wife came by one day when I was working with Ursut and got really interested in learning so it is an excellent exercise for me to teach with my own horses. She is riding Prima sometimes but she doesn’t know Ursut so well . We have worked together with connection with both of the horses and she loves this way of being with them.

“I didn´t feel like the horses liked me so much before, it is really cool to work like this in a way both me and the horses enjoy!” Lisa

A little different climate than in St Vincent (Prima, Ursut)
A little different climate than in St Vincent
(Prima, Ursut)

I’ve experimented a bit with different ways to find a way for Ursut to get more stimulation. One day I took some carrots in my pockets, let him go to see if he was following me when I was riding Prima. He happily followed like a dog and came when I called him to get carrots. I have started to file his hooves (also something I learned at Stina´s) since they were pretty long. When he gets even better hooves I´m planning to take him with us on longer rides in the forest, loose.

Three black pets get stimulation and exercise in one go
Ursut doesn’t like when we leave him in the stable alone while we ride with Prima. He neighs and sometimes kicks the door with his knees. I’ve tried to spread out small pieces of carrots so that he can be busy finding them. Also, I think his behavior will get better just by regular stimulation in the weeks. We have cows on our small farm so I would like to introduce him to some cows and maybe put him there while we are gone. I´m working on this one.
With Prima, except the connection work, I´m trying to get her more responsive to break. She wants to run very fast all the time and is hard to stop. It takes a lot of effort from the rider to make her slow down. I believe It´s extremely important for her that the rider is comfortable using his/her seat more than anything else when riding her, this so we don’t cause pain in her mouth since she uses a bit. She is very sensitive to the seat so it’s not necessary to pull her in her mouth. The first ride I had on her since I came home I rode her with just reins and halter and it worked just as fine. I find it important to be an example for the others who ride her to show them that it is possible to ride her without a bridle, even though she is very fast and strong. I’m also training her to calm down and relax in between her runs by feeding her with carrots every time we make a halt. She has to stand still and chew before we go again.
photo 1The horses have a very big pasture with some trees, open spaces, a little mountain and a stream but since I came home I´ve notice that they only stay in one corner. They are using only about one third of the pasture. It´s the corner where they go in and out and where they get their feed. So one day I fed them the hay in the upper part of the pasture, they followed me there, started eating but then turned around, left the food and went back to the same old corner again. The next day I did the same but I closed a gate so they couldn´t get back to the lower part where the corner is. I kept them there for the day. The next day I had the gate open and let them choose where to be. The whole day, except feeding time, they were walking around in the upper part! Today, they are walking around during the day in the whole pasture.
They are also learning to be polite and ask for the food before they get it, it is getting better but it is going to take some time before I get as polite horses as Stina’s.

It was exciting but very hard to come home to my mum´s horses, it became like a test from what I´ve really learned from being away. It was frustrating at first, I didn´t know how to improve my horses lives in a way that works for my mum since I no longer live at home. But I told myself to let it take time and just observe and be open-minded (another thing Stina taught me) through this, my inspiration got huge and with that came many ideas and creative solutions.

The creativity is still flowing and I get more and more ideas the more time I spend with the horses.

I and my mum´s horses thank you Stina, I´ve learned something for life that improves peoples and their horse’s life!


Thank you so much Jonna for sharing your experiences using your new knowledge.

What many students learn from my lessons and at my clinics is creativity and to use various approaches to solve a task. I think also a bit of humor helps so that when the horse does the “wrong” thing, you can laugh a bit and think of the horse as being creative and also think that your instruction or suggestion was not clear so the horse could understand what you wanted her to to.

Here at the SVG Horse School we are soon ready to welcome a new working student and in one of the next blogs you will be able to meet her.

Right now I am the “horse girl” and I take care of all horse task myself. The best about this situation is that I get to invent some new systems and improve our set up. Most of my “horse time” goes to just take care of the horses so not much training is happening. It’s very nice and me and my horses enjoy it alot.

Soon I will publish the dates for the next Sahaja Clinics so I hope to see you in 2016 here in St. Vincent.

Several of the Independent Liberty Trainers offer online coaching – you can find the info on this page along with the new events calendar!

Happy Weekend everyone!

Much sunshine



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