The purpose of "At Liberty" exercise is to establish a connection between horse and human, so that the horse goes to his human for comfort. The Group (or People Barrier) consists of other persons and perhaps their horses if the horses are experienced in this game. They are "armed" with training sticks with strings that they manipulate along with body language to give the horse signals.
My experience put me as the "first" of the group to do the At Liberty exercise. I had no previous experience, neither had my horse. My horse Kachina was chosen because she was the "wild child" of the bunch. I had come to the horse clinic because Kachina basically had no respect for me except as the purveyor of her food supply. She mostly ignored me and just did her own thing. I knew she had great potential as a riding and trail horse. So, I was seeking for a connection that would bring us both a joyful experience.
I went into a separate large corral and stood in the center. The instructor guided me as to what to do, as she drove Kachina into the corral. My role was to stand in the center and watch, but offer an open countenance to encourage Kachina to approach me. The rest of the Group stood around me and the horse in a circle. As Kachina approached the barrier of humans with their sticks, they encouraged her to not only stay in the enclosure, but to approach me, the "parent". The Group did this by waving their sticks and even yelling big when the horse got too close to them. When Kachina got close to me, their actions slowed down and they stood still, taking the pressure off.
After about 15 minutes of running around, being driven into the center, Kachina stopped and faced me. I held out my hand, but did not approach her. The instructor wanted her to come up to me. My body language was to be open and approachable. The objective was to have her touch me with her nose. Eventually, she realized her safe place was with me and chose to stay close to me with no restraint. When that connection was finally made, I petted her and praised her. Then I began to move and walk away. The intention was to have her follow me. I was told by the instructor, not to look at her, but just keep walking around the enclosure. Walk forward, walk backward, turn sharply…all with the intention of the horse following me at liberty of her own will and choice.
Imagine my delight when Kachina actually did this! This was a paradigm shift for me for the rest of the clinic. The connection was certainly not "perfect", but sooooo much better. As the "parent", I had been told the purpose…which is teach the horse that there is a safe place. Kachina had no prior knowledge of what was to happen, she had to figure it out herself from clues given by the Group surrounding her.
As the others did their own liberty work, I became part of the Group. Sometimes a horse would charge at the human fence and "break through" away from his safe place. There were dangerous things on the other side of the barrier. There could be barbed wire or unsafe food or unstable footing or another horse who could deliver a lethal kick. The Group did everything they could to gently persuade the horse to enter back into safe territory. Some came back easily, some became almost defiant and charged into unsafe situations. If the Group slacked off on their vigilance, then the horse received positive reinforcement for straying through the barrier. The Group had to stay alert and vigilant and consistent in order to guide the horse back to his safe place.
So, why tell this story? A few nights ago, I was studying and pondering on the symbolism of the temple ceremony. I was given a "message" from someone who identified himself as "John".
"I notice you are studying about the symbolism of the Temple ceremony. You are on the right path. Consider looking into the symbolism of the Church."
Are you going to tell me?
" No, it is for you to discover that you might have the joy of discovery".
For the next few days I pondered over this…seeking metaphors and symbols that would represent the role of the Church. As I was meditating on Monday, January 19, I was given the thought of Horses. Ok, what about horses? Then the phrase, At Liberty. Aha, the entire experience of last October's Horsemanship Clinic unfolded in my mind as a metaphor or parable.
Our Heavenly Parents send us into the corral (Mortality). We have our free agency and can wander anywhere in the corral we want. We are surrounded by a group of people (Church) who crack sticks and make loud noises if we get too close to the edge. The Group provides assistance in striving to reach the eventual goal of reuniting Person (Savior) with Horse (us). The instructor (Heavenly Parent) keeps giving guidance to and through the Person. The Horse is mostly clueless at first, but after testing all the barriers repeatedly, eventually "gets it" that his safe place is with the Savior. Instructors (Prophets) may show up in the Group to testify of the truth and give warning and direction. They may also show up outside the Group or somewhere else in the corral. There may not be only one instructor, but many. This metaphor and analogy could be expanded and expounded upon. I think I am just beginning to get the point. As with all parables, there are many layers to uncover.
|Unfortunately, there were no photos of my "At Liberty" session with Kachina. This is a previous photo of her working with the trainer. An example of a horse getting used to something normally scary for a prey animal.|