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:
- Your horse can be following you.
- They can actually be trying to herd you.
- 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.