The term Join Up is a universally used phrase that a lot of people view as the horse being connected to the person and following the person around wherever they go. It is seen as a horses’ acceptance of your leadership.

Let’s talk about Mirroring and how it is different. When a horse mirrors you they are matching your movements, speed, direction and language. They are next to you not behind you on the left or the right.

What happens when a horse is behind you? Well several things can be going on:

  1. Your horse can be following you.
  2. They can actually be trying to herd you.
  3. If they are dominant, they could actually try to bite you as horses do to each other.

When a horse is next to you Mirroring, they can do what I call matching your foot fall. They will literally synchronize with your movements.  I have spent a lot of time and had a lot of fun experimenting with my horses all the way up to Spanish Walk, lateral work and collection or Liberty Dressage. Why would you want to do this? Well here is a good example or a training problem solved by this type of work. A long time ago I had a mare who was very difficult in her riding. She would not stand still and she would bolt and rear if she didn’t want to do what you requested. She was well trained when she was willing to be but had strong opinions. I abandoned riding her for a time and thought if I could get her to mirror me speeding up, slowing down and halting, She would start thinking with me. She did and she got better and better at watching me for cues to change speed. I fixed the problem not by riding and training. I worked on our Connection and Natural Communication. I watched her with her best friend in the pasture. She did everything the other mare did because they were bonded and connected. They spent hours every day together in Companion Time. I knew I would have to use the same Liberty exercises to nurture the same Connection to me.

When I am working on Mirroring, I like to see if I can communicate to my horse to stay at least with their Muzzle at my shoulder. As we get more in sync for more advanced movements, there is a sweet spot right around the shoulder wither area that is really the best position to work together. This work is particularly useful for both very energetic horses and lower energy horses. They both benefit from changes of energy, transitions and bending patterns. Young horses learn to follow your energy for future work under saddle.

I have worked with many difficult horses and many of them have a common thread. They have not been given any reason or motivation to work with a person. Many assume a horse should just do what we want. They should not have any opinion about what they are asked to do. I don’t judge the horse for saying No to me. I want to know why they are saying No and then figure it out from there.

I have seen my students do amazing things through mirroring and Liberty training with their horses. What can you do? Share any special things you can do at Liberty with your horse that you are proud of in the comments section.

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Mirroring vs. Join Up

10 Comments

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  • Maria Duran.
    Reply

    Thank you Farah. Very beautiful blog. Indeed right now I’m working with my horse to match my speed. But he is a very lazy one and it’s hard for me to motivate him to trot by my side. I’m planing a little pattern that includes spanish walk, backwards, sideways and a little troting. We both love to be together and the idea of doing this together instead of me asking him to do it is very beautiful. Do you have any tip to motivate my horse to trot by my side? He does it but he is doing it out of time because he doesn’ t like it too much. Love your blogs!

    • FarahD
      FarahD
      Reply

      Hi Maria thanks for your comment and question. Can you get him to go ahead of you in the trot? So see if you can get him to go say to the right or left in trot and then follow in a passive way unless he starts walking. Try a few times until he can read you lifting your energy consistently. Reward the smallest effort and build from there. Hope this helps :)

      • Domenico
        Reply

        Hi Farah,
        I’m new in the blog and in your web site! Beautiful blog and videos !! my English is not good but I’m learning….I work with my horse on mirroring (comapnion walking?) but sometimes the horse stops and I try to indicate him of follow me but it show resistance
        I would like to have an horse much motiveted…can you help me?

        • FarahD
          FarahD
          Reply

          Try switching to being in a position behind the withers but not directly behind the horse. See if you can encourage him to go forward ahead of you when he gets stuck.

  • DOMENICO
    Reply

    Hi Farah, my English is not very well but I’m learning
    I’m now in your blog!! I sew your videos ,,,,very interesting for to learn; I work with mirroring (Companion walking?) but sometimes it stops and hesitates to follow me ; Iwould like to have much motivation in my horse …can you help me?
    Thanks

    • FarahD
      FarahD
      Reply

      Hi Domenico thank you for your question and thanks for your interest in my work :) I can give you some tips like take your time and try to build up in very small steps. It is easier. It is very normal for your horse to change what he is doing all the time. The more you play the more it will improve. If you like I could help you with a Virtual coaching session if you make a video of you and your horse. I can help you much more when I can see what you are doing with your horse. Let me know if this is something you would be interested in. Here is the link http://fdhorsemanship.com/services/virtual-coach/

  • Jayne Forster
    Reply

    Great blog thanks. We now have some groovy salsa moves. With my horse responding to the change of direction in my hips,thanks for that one We can also mirror me holding an umbrella, even above my head now,this has progressed to riding from liberty and I could ride her with it and have just started to open it and flap it a bit.I love your liberty, line ,mounted approach and do everything that way now. Thanks Farah.

  • Camilla Mowbray
    Reply

    So true! Mirroring as described this way also fits the “new” evolving sciences relating to neurophysiology, “neuroception”, polyvagal theory etc. Exciting times for horses and humans.