The benefits of free schooling -
to keep your horse exercised when you do not have enough time to school or ride, of if you are unfit or unwell
to keep your horse listening to you, the calm leader strong, moving his feet at your request
to teach a young horse balance and confidence
to teach a young horse to lift his feet, trot over trotting poles, simple small jumps
to encourage bending, circles, transitions and correct canter lead
to encourage full use of muscles equally on both sides of your horse
to gain respect, trust and 'join up'
At first, you horse may not even move when you ask him to! He may stand by the fence, and swing his bum around towards you whichever way you wish to go. So to start training a horse to free school you may like to use two people - one by the head, running alongside, and one in the middle of the arena. You can use a long line, a long whip, or simply your core energy and body signals, depending on the needs of your horse, to get him going, but once moving he should trot around freely in either direction listening to your commands. Keep your eye firmly on the area just behind his mid-line to keep the hind quarters connected to your gaze, but also watch his ears and his eye - they will let you know if he is listening to you or not. Eventually he will walk, trot and canter on command, change direction (by changing your core enrgy to block his front shoulders), even change the rein across the diagonal. He will stop on request, stand, back up and join-up whenever you ask - it just takes a little fun training to get him to listen!
If you still find it difficult to get a young or inexperienced horse moving, try free schooling with a more experienced horse - he will soon learn what to do, and how much fun it can be. We often free school just to get the horse to listen to us, to focus his attention on us, and as a precursor to more difficult challenges at 'liberty'.
We ask many of our horses to do the horse agility challenges without a line attached, or to simply walk and trot around the arena with us, in and out of poles, stand, back up, or even leg yield on request. Eventually you will be able to dismount your horse wherever you are, ask him to stand whilst you open and close a gate, or walk with you through the woods and riding trails, as he and you have beome a true herd and you are the leader.
If you would like some mroe help on any of this then please give us a call and come along for a personalised workshop to get you on the road to leadership and partnership.