Tag Archives: Liberty Neck Ring

Bridleless Riding Video: Age-Old Tool Used With Success By Young Rider

In an earlier post, I wrote about the Tellington TTouch Liberty Neck Ring. Readers responded with stories about their experiences using similar tools, and I learned that there is along history of riders using ropes in this way.


What’s cool about this video is that it shows Sallie, a young teenage girl I met in Middleburg, Va., several years ago when she was eleven years old. She’s now riding beautifully, as you can see. As a developing rider, she’s using this age-old tool for the first time. You can see that it provides her and her horse with freedom, softness, and greater communication. You can also see the beautiful horse country of Middleburg, Va. in the background!

It felt like he was taking care of me and we were trusting each other more

[Jan 14 2010: Sorry folks, I had to remove the video from YouTube because it had music in the background playing on someone’s car radio. We don’t of course, own the copyrights to that music.]

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

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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Watch Poky Go!

Watch Poky Go!

More ways to help a reluctant horse move forward.

In the Saddle

Oh boy do I have experience with this. One of my most piercing memories of riding with this issue is of riding with a Tellington TTouch for Horses and TTouch for You Training in Kohala, Hawaii at Na’alapa Stables in Paniolo cowboy country last year. This open range ride on a 12,000 acre ranch was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had. But the first half of the ride was marred by the all-too-familiar struggle with my Belgian mount, who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent. He knew his job and wasn’t planning on doing one thing more than the minimum. When frustrated, we tend to revert to old patterns. I squeezed and I kicked and I urged him forward with my seat. I flung my reins forward and sat as still as a statue. Nothing worked. Linda Tellington-Jones rode quietly up to me and said,

if you just let him be himself, you’ll have more fun.

I was suddenly struck by the fact that I’d been more intent on performing for my equestrian idol than on the experience at hand. I was so embarrassed. I still am. I had been doing exactly what I would have cautioned another rider against! And I was caught red-handed by someone who hoped I knew better. When I finally gave up and allowed him to plod, I started having more fun. No changing this guy in the course of three hours.

Go boy, go!

Go boy, go!

Given the opportunity to work with Poky in the ring, I might have tried the following:

1. The Half Walk. This is not to be confused with half steps which are used in developing collection.

As classical masters knew, walk-trot or walk-canter transitions correctly performed advanced the whole training of the horse and eventually produced the collected forms of the gaits. For instance, a collected walk transition to trot gives ‘half steps’ and later on the piaffe (trot in place).

What we are after here is not an exercise in lengthening and shortening for elasticity but in maintaining the attention to stay slow and short. Riding the horse at different paces and practicing transitions is nothing new. But how often do we ask them to maintain the slower, shorter walk? Asking the horse to work a non-habitual pace wakes up his mind and body to the rider’s cues. The end result is a quicker, more responsive horse.
More info on transitions and half steps:Dingo’s Breakfast Club

2. Liberty Neck Ring. Remember riding as a kid with a circle of rope or baling twine around your horse’s neck? If you haven’t done this, now’s the time. The simple act of removing the bridle and bit awakens the horse and rider to new possibilities for communication. This “necklace” of stiffened rope acts as a less confining steering wheel. Use of the Liberty Neck Ring exaggerates your shifts in weight and movements of your upper body. Your cues become very clear. Less interpretation form the horse leads to quicker, more definitive responses. When the horse feels freedom, his movements become free. Don’t try this outside the ring, for obvious reasons.

So often, horses do not get the opportunity to express freedom of movement in the ring. Time to stretch out and move naturally like the miracles they are is limited to the pasture. Sharing this incredible freedom with the horse should be what riding is all about. The process of using the Liberty Neck Ring returns both horse and rider to this elemental partnership in motion. Even if only for a bit, mutual enjoyment of natural movement, cue and response, and asking rather than telling allows Poky to respond in a playful manner that shows him you appreciate him for what he is: a natural horse who wants to work with you.

3. Promise Wrap. This is a simple ace bandage or stretchy standing wrap (NOT a polo!) applied to the horse first on the ground and then under saddle to give new awareness of his hindquarters. Since many poky horses tend to leave their hindquarters behind, or have poor awareness of what their hind ends are doing, you can remind them that they have these motors for impulsion back there. Oh look! If it’s there, why not use it?

There are a lot more things a handler can do to get a horse moving without resorting to dominance, a heavy seat and strong hands or whips and chains.

I am interested in learning what others do in such a situation. Please do let me know.

Send in your posts!

Carnival of the Horses, November 1, 2008

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