"Follow your horse," said my grandfather. "Just follow him. It makes him feel safe." And so I did. At age 7, I followed my beloved Prince, then moving up beside him in celebration of the deep bond we shared. We always ended up at a rail fence, a tree stump, a truck fender...a place to slip easily on the back of my best friend. Later, I asked why following a horse is a good thing to do, and I was told the old stories of the Horse People. When the Native People wanted one of the wild horses who roamed the Plains, someone would start following that horse. It was made clear this wasn't chasing the horse down, but 'walking the horse down.' After following for varying lengths of time, depending on the horse, the horse would become curious, slow down, and the man would go to the shoulder, turning the horse. By this time, the horse knew no harm was intended, and would walk home to the encampment, completely at liberty. What an amazing thing.
My childhood dream came true, and now I live with my herd at Spirit Horse Ranch, teaching horses and the people who love them at Liberty in my Liberty Foundations Training. One of the Foundations taught is called Walking a Horse Down, in the words remembered from childhood. Each horse learns to allow following, and the grandfathers were correct: It does make a horse feel safe. I found, through observing herds of horses and extensive research, that each band of horses, wild or domestic (if they are permitted to live naturally in a herd) chooses a leader, based on age and experience. That leader is not necessarily a dominant horse; careful observation will show that the true leader is a horse I call a Caretaking Leader. I teach my students how to be accepted into the herd through the herd's own language and become that Caretaking Leader. Once the First Foundations are learned, the practice of Walking a Horse Down proceeds with purity and clarity, leading to acceptance as a herd leader. It all happens so easily, so peacefully. The leadership, steady and strong, brings harmony to the herd, harmony to each individual horse. At best, the practice causes a horse to feel safe when she is with you, eliminating a good deal of 'spooking' behavior.
Larry Wahweotten, a Prairie Band Potawatomi from Augusta, Kansas, enrolled in one of my clinics. I knew the name was Native American, and spoke to him, asking about his interest in Liberty training. His answers were stunning to me, as I knew Walking a Horse Down was an ancient rite with horses, and it was used by the Plains Tribes. Larry became my student in a method he believes to be close to what his mother’s family, who were Horse People, practiced in the old times.
Larry told me he'd heard of Walking a Horse Down, saying "I would guess the Indians of the past would have had to use some of the same techniques involved in your Liberty Training. I have only been with horses a little over 20 years; in that time I’ve been into Natural Horsemanship and everything I could find to play with horses. As a Native American, I’ve never found a book or written knowledge concerning horsemanship or any of the beliefs we are taught in this life as Indians; all has been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. What I’ve learned of horses I’ve taken from teachers of today, but there has ALWAYS been the question of, 'How did they do this horse stuff back in the day when there was nobody to learn from except the horse.' I think Liberty Training is probably the answer to how those old Indians handled horses back then, so, I am looking forward to learning all I can." During his clinic with me, we captured this video of Larry in the age-old practice of Walking a Horse Down. The sound track is "Drum Lit", by Redstone Oklahoma. Listen to the sound and go back in time.
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Small coaching groups are forming, as well as private coaching by appointment at Spirit Horse Ranch near Oklahoma City; if you’d like to learn, we’d love to welcome you.
Several Liberty Foundations Clinics are planned for 2014, and online classes and coaching will be available soon. Telephone coaching is available now. May I help you and your horse?
(c) Ruella Yates, 2013