You Asked For It, You Got It: The Liberty Neck Ring

It pays to read the search queries in your blog stats. That way you learn what information people are looking for.

I get a lot of folks searching for information on the Tellington Training Liberty Neck Ring.


From the TTouch Website:

This stiff neck ring, made of lariat rope and adjustable in size, is flexible and easy to use. The lariat is used in bridleless riding taught by TTEAM instructors and TTEAM Practitioners.

That’s a mighty short description of this little wonder tool. It also makes it seem as if the Liberty Neck ring is exclusively for advanced riders. I have used it, and I am no advanced rider.

• When a horse and rider play with the Liberty Neck Ring, they establish a sense of freedom that is radically different from the usual constraints of ringwork and controlled hacks. Every horse needs a break, a change. So do riders, even when they don’t realize it. Sometimes people forget to play with their horses.

• You don’t have to be an advanced rider to use the Liberty Neck Ring. A complete novice can use it, provided (s)he’s on a closed track or in a round pen, just in case there is a sudden loss of communication. In fact, it is a great tool for developing communication and coordination between horse and rider without the danger of the novice’s hands harming the horse’s mouth.

• Use of the Liberty Neck Ring gives the horse greater freedom to detect the rider’s decisive, more clear cues. This is very useful for novice riders.

• Likewise, Green or dull horses can be taught to pay careful attention to rider cues using the Liberty Neck Rope because they are not concerned with cues to the mouth and head.

I’m sure that more experienced riders could think of a dozen more examples of what you can do and learn from using a lariat-like tool with a horse. Please let me know in comments!

On the Liberty Neck Ring from Linda Tellington-Jones:

As a child I used to take great pleasure in mounting my horse bareback, far out in the pasture, and galloping home with a wild feeling of abandon, surrounded by a herd of horses. My running rampant made me feel like an Indian on the plains surrounded by buffalo. As a teenager, I had a wonderful mare, Angel, who would jump a three and a half foot course with nothing but a string around her neck.

In 1969 at our Pacific Coast Equestrian Research Farm and School of Horsemanship, we took two stallions and two geldings to Kansas City, Devon and Syracuse and gave demonstrations of jumping without bridles.

In 1975 I first introduced the idea of bridleless riding to Europe at Equitana. With two other riders, I demonstrated jumping a complex course, bareback, without anything on the horses’ heads. This display of riding inspired people with a sense of wonder at the ability to ride a horse with seemingly so little control. It was a lovely example of harmony between horse and rider. As a result of the Equitana demonstration, Ursula Bruns developed a method of teaching beginning adults to ride on an oval track, around the outside of a riding arena, with the neckring around their horses’ necks. Ursula found it developed a rider’s confidence in his seat and trust in the horse without resorting to holding his balance with the reins.

In 1988 we began using the neckring to improve the horse’s balance, to encourage impulsion, freedom of movement and make a major shift in a horse’s willingness to cooperate. In California, the Foxfield Riding Club had been demonstrating bridleless riding for years with a drill of a dozen or so horses, and the method of bridleless riding became popular in some parts of the country after an article appeared in several horse magazines.

Robyn says she remembers the “flash of inspiration” which prompted us to begin using the bridleless concept for improvement of performance. It was during an Advanced Training at the Equine Inn in New Hampshire. An Arab gelding, who was being ridden at second level dressage, had a serious problem with lack of impulsion and willingness to go forward. He had a slightly ewed neck and a dropped back. On the spur of the moment, while riding this horse and experiencing his unwillingness to go forward, I took a lead rope, put it around his neck, and reached forward from the saddle and removed his bridle.

After ten minutes, this gelding was moving forward with his back up, his neck soft and rounded, his focus forward. He was ridden that way by several people that week and had a dramatic change in attitude and balance. We did a whole advanced TTEAM and riding clinic with an entire group of so-called problem horses. We rode in pairs and fours and even sixes, working with the neck ring. The joy to the horses and riders is hard to describe.

In the fall of 1989, Claus Erhorn, who rode Justyn Thyme for the Olympic gold medal team in three-day eventing, asked me to spend a couple of days with him working with Justyn. Claus had a feeling that TTEAM might be able to improve performance and reduce stress in the competitive horse. He was interested to see the potential for his own horse. For me, it was fun and inspiring to work with such a great team of horse and rider. Justyn, thirteen at the time, was fantastic in the cross-country phase, but had never scored well in the dressage phase. He was a little tight in the back and lacked ideal freedom of movement in his shoulders. This is typical for the majority of three-day event horses. My first observation about Justyn as I worked on him was how strong and sound he was in the back and legs. When I saw him under saddle, I suggested getting him to
lengthen his neck and extend his head at the walk and trot. However, Claus remarked that lengthening the neck was something that he had not been able to achieve with Justyn.

I rode him about five minutes at the walk/trot/canter with his normal snaffle bridle and then put a rope around his neck and took off the bridle. Within another five minutes, he was trotting with his nose almost as low as his knees, freeing up his shoulders and using himself in a very different way. After fifteen minutes at the walk, trot and canter, I replaced the rope around his neck with the Training rollerbit and was able to get much freer movement and a lengthened from with the bit in his mouth.

Since that time Claus would work Justyn out in the woods with just the rope around his neck. Using the neckring or the rollerbit and adding a PBM saddle pad, Claus found vast improvements in Justyn. A few months later in Burley, England, he won the dressage phase for the first time. Claus attributed his success to the use of the TTEAM work.

Shortly after working with Justyn Thyme, I gave a one-day seminar in England to a group of endurance riders. While working with a very jiggy, rather nervous endurance horse, I took off the bridle and rode him with the lead rope around his neck. Within minutes, he had a flat-footed walk and a much steadier trot. He was much quieter and less nervous.

Read more about the use of the Liberty Neck Ring here.

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