Horse Personalities Inc.


last updated:December 4, 2011


Liberty News & Views

Liberty News and Views is a place we express our comments on the events we have had a part in creating and experiencing with you and the horses. It is a chance for us to get our ideas on the table in hopes of learning and improvement. It is sometimes just a place to relive the good times and the special people who love horses as much as we do.  

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Communication Workshop in Dawson Creek
Weekend Workshop at Liberty Stables
Half-day Workshop with the Arrowwood River Wranglers
The Mane Event
Red Deer April 09
Dawson Creek Riding Club
Chinook County
Alberta Dressage Ass.

Well, were we surprised to learn that 13 people signed up to spend the weekend (July 24 to 26) learning how to communicate with their horses. Typically, people come to clinics to learn how to handle or ride their horses better. This group wanted to learn how to improve their understanding of their horses and hence their relationships! How awesome!

So, on Friday night, we met all the horses and their people. They came into the big, beautiful arena they have up there in Dawson Creek one at a time to be at liberty with their horses. We tried to figure out what their personalities might be based on Dessa’s book, “Is Your Horse a Rock Star: Understanding Your Horse’s Personality”. A few of the people had attended the clinic in February and so were quite familiar with the personalities. Several were brand new to it.

We met Billy Joel, a 21 year-old Rock Star (DECF) with a new horse owner. He was so cute! We had a few objects laying around the arena. Dessa noticed that Billy was being quiet. She sensed he had a playful side and so she said to Jennifer (his person) to run across the tarp. Well, Billy gave a hop, arched his neck and followed her! The rest of the weekend, we saw an engaged, happy, playful, fun horse and Jennifer was over the moon when she saw his true personality.

We met Gal, the Prize Fighter (DLCA), who turned out to be so athletic and beautiful and playful. During free jumping on Sunday afternoon, she got pretty confident about coming out of the chute running right for her person (Judie) and doing these spinning stops on a dime. Wow!

The young horse Little Joe was exhausted by the end of it all. His person (Terri) spent quite a bit of time de-sensitizing him and getting him used to having her stand by his bum. He got so he could be “in the Shed”, one of the ground tools we taught. The Shed is the place in the arena where you take your horse to just stand with your energy down – no pressure. Horses learn to understand this and so they relax right into it. Jewels was a really good girl. Her person, Katelyn, was able to ride her without any trouble. Jewels showed us she was nicely trained, patient and athletic.

Kathy brought one of her beautiful young horses named Baja. Kathy is clearly passionate about horses. In her spare time from a demanding job, Kathy breeds some wonderful horses and her handling of them as youngsters is wonderful! Rose brought Drake, a beautiful big boy, a soft People Pleaser (SEAF) who is taking Rose on a wonderful journey. Drake is good friends with Bart, the Skeptic (DLAA), owned and ridden by Valerie. They have a fabulous friendship. Skeptics are not without their challenges. Trust is of the utmost importance and we saw Valerie’s awareness develop nicely over the weekend. And she got the feel and connection between the front leg and the lift of the rein which could be helpful in dressage, Valerie and Bart’s chosen activity.

Caylie, our youngest participant introduced us to Snort. Snort now has a different name because it became evident that her name did not suit her, a soft, sensitive, beautiful Goddess (SECF). Caylie’s homework was to find a new name for Snort which she did. She is now called Keira. We discovered that Keira had some physical issues to work on with Caylie’s help.

Giselle and Chance were two of our youngest horses besides Baja. Giselle’s person, Anne, has her hands full. Giselle is big, beautiful and really wants to be in Anne’s life. Chance had an interesting story. She was born a hermaphrodite (both sets of sex organs). Lori, Chance’s person, told us Chance had to be gelded. She is an energetic, curious, confident mare – a Macho Man we thought (DECA). Roxie, a 4 year-old nicely started quarter horse mare came with Buddy and ended up with Cindy. Long story. Turns out Cindy and Roxie are going to help each other get over Cindy’s fear.

Jennifer introduced us to Sierra and then to Mr. T. Picture a cute Wall Flower (SLAF) named Mr. T! Jennifer enjoyed learning how to move Mr. T around riding bareback. She got so she could move his shoulder, hind end and back him with the lightest of feel. Bailey and his person Melanie got introduced to the barrels which turned out to be a neat activity since we think Bailey was Aloof and Aloof horses like to have a job.

Dessa and I enjoyed exploring the 4 P’s with everyone: Personality, Pendulum, Play and Progression. You can’t go wrong with these tools in your tool box! Dessa introduced the concepts of Inner and Outer Purpose showing us that being in the moment, being less goal-driven, is not only fun but effective in teaching ourselves and our horses. We taught some of the folks how to listen to their horses using the Pendulum. As for riding, Dessa taught us about bringing together Energy, Balance and Relaxation, a concept she learned from Karen Rohlf (Dressage Naturally). The moment in a maneuver when all of these are present is called the Sweet Spot: everything is in complete balance between horse and rider.

And we tackled in a discussion what we can do about the fear that edges into our relationships with our horses.

All in all, it was a most amazing weekend. Thanks to Rose and her people, including Judie, our “chauffeur”, for putting it all together and for making our experience fun and easy.

Billy Joel & Jennifer
Rose & Drake
Trail Riding
Camp 09
Mane Event
Chilliwack Oct. 09
Lori & Chance
Buddy & Roxie
Weekend Workshop at Liberty Stables (June 6th & 7th/09)

We thought that holding a workshop in June (June 6th and 7th), we’d be okay weather-wise. But no, it snowed, and snowed, and snowed. It’s at times like that when we feel very fortunate to have a snuggly indoor arena and barn!

Everyone who was supposed to come, arrived safely for the workshop. We had a great time though admittedly, the weather dampened people’s enthusiasm ever so slightly. We had 8 horses and their people. The horses ranged in age from 3 to 14 years old. They were mostly recreational horses, although one is being re-introduced into her jumping career after considerable time off. The people ranged in experience (notice I didn’t specify age!).

The weekend was about relationships. What does my horse need from me? Where is my horse showing resistance? How can I change what I’m doing in order to remove any resistance? How can we both get to a place of acceptance and relaxation?

We spent quite a bit of time on Saturday (after doing liberty and ground work and getting the horses tacked up) just getting on. It was interesting in that almost all the horses walked away from the mounting block, which is a common place for resistance. Dessa decided this was a good place to take the time it takes and so the participants chiseled away at the resistance and gradually, everyone got on. But it wasn’t easy. It took a ton of patience. At one point, a gentleman just walked his horse away from the mounting block and sat down. They took a time out and it was the best thing they could have done.

The workshop was fun, it was relaxing as you can see in the pictures, and it was awesome to see the breakthroughs. One of the highlights for me was in discovering that one of the horses, a much-loved 14 year-old mare, had some significant physical issues that were causing her quite a bit of discomfort. By the time the weekend was over, she’d had her feet “balanced” by a spectator who was also a barefoot trimmer, and plans were in the works for dentistry and chiropractic treatment. Wow! That horse is going to feel so much better.

The weekend wrapped up with free-jumping on Sunday afternoon. Usually, the horses and people are pretty tired by then and free-jumping is an easy way to see how horses learn and to spend a few quality, low-stress minutes with each horse. It is also a great way to see how knowing a horse’s personality can inform us about what to expect in a new learning situation and how best to make the horse feel comfortable to minimize resistance – one of the keys to a great relationship.

We love doing these workshops at Liberty because it allows us to “experiment” and tinker with the format. The next workshop will be in Dawson Creek at the end of July and so we are ready to try out some new ideas!


Dessa demonstrating a flexion.
Fun and curiosity are absolutely honoured.

Half-Day Workshop with the Arrowwood River Wranglers

On Sunday, June 14th, we travelled to the community of Arrowwood east of Okotoks where we met some wonderful 4-H’ers and their horses. It was a hot, sunny day and so being outside in the arena at Lorna Malmberg’s was perfect. We introduced the kids, who ranged in age from about 6 to 16, to the horse personalities using the work sheets.

Dessa then demonstrated how you can use liberty to get to know your horse and to better see what their personality might be. We found out that one of the horses, a Skeptic (Dominant, Lazy, Afraid and Aloof), was difficult to catch. Sure enough, she sure showed us that. This beautiful paint mare gave Dessa and her person a great opportunity to demonstrate how to catch a resistant horse. It’s done with patience, perseverance and a technique we call “catch and release”. This is basically going out to the pasture without an expectation of doing anything with the horse other than to put the halter on and then letting him/her go. It’s huge for building relationship in that the horse learns that being caught isn’t always about going to work. We use this technique at Liberty Stables and now find that none of the horses are hard to catch.

The kids got to do some ground work. They practiced what we call “Dominant Leading” which is getting the horse to respectfully follow his/her person.

Several of the kids got to ride in this workshop. We discovered some beautiful riders in the group. They were reiners and western pleasure enthusiasts. They rode with a light feel which is awesome to see. Some of the kids needed help with diagonals and so we got that happening and then some of the more experienced riders got some ideas from Dessa on smooth canter depart transitions.

The workshop was followed by a hot dog lunch which we enjoyed immensely! Thanks to the Club for organizing this experience!

A beautiful alert mare.
Skeptic mare we worked with for catching.
Great bonding with horse & Dessa.

The Mane Event Red Deer April 09

It was a few weeks and several snow storms ago that Dessa and I attended our third Mane Event. It took place in Red Deer on April 24th to 26th. Our booth was across from the Miniature Horse and Canadian Horse Clubs. The event was excellently organized as usual. We encountered zero glitches – at least those caused by the organizers. I had trouble finding parking a couple of times after going on a Tim’s run!

The big news of the weekend was that we sold out of books (175)! In fact, I had to mail several books to people who agreed to pre-pay. Awesome! All weekend, people were coming up to the booth having heard about the book. We loved hearing the stories of the Macho Men, Prize Fighters and so on. We “typed” lots of horses as well for people.

Dessa was scheduled to give a presentation on horse personalities on Saturday afternoon. Leading up to that, people were saying they were looking forward to attending. I quietly sat there thinking, “oh my, there’s going to be a crowd. I wonder if Dessa’s prepared for that?” And so I carefully asked Dessa Saturday morning if she’d given any thought to her presentation, anything she might like to change, add, delete, and so on. She was mortally offended:

“Is my talk too boring for you?”

“No, of course not,” I said. “I could listen to that talk over and over and over again! [I just go to my happy place, I thought to myself.] Just thought that it never hurts to take a quick look and tweak if need be.” (Oops, I blew it.)

So, as I gathered up some books and my laptop to go over to the speaking area, I hoped that all would be well. We walked up the busy corridor past several booths. It felt a bit like walking a rock star to the stage. Sure enough, when we arrived, the chairs were all full and people were milling around waiting. Dessa looked at me and said, “they must be here from the guy before me.” “Nope. They’re here for you! Gulp!”

We got set up and by the time we started, people were finding spots on the floor in front of us! Dessa wore a head mike and the slides were on the overhead ready to go. And we were off. The presentation was awesome! Dessa did her usual excellent job of winding stories into the descriptions of the personalities. People were nodding their heads as they identified their horse’s personality. They loved the stories!

The highlight of the weekend was the number of people who came up and told others standing around the table what an awesome and enlightening book Is Your Horse a Rock Star? is, and thanking Dessa for helping them to truly get to know, appreciate and understand their horses. Dave Elston’s cartoons were a big hit as usual. The atmosphere was light, fun and very positive.

We are looking forward to attending the Chilliwack Mane Event in October. Dessa is hopeful she can do two presentations there – one on the introduction to horse personalities and the other on what we’ve learned since the book.

Book sale table at Mane Event in Red Deer. (April 09)
Book signing at Mane Event in Red Deer 09.
Dawson Creek Riding Club

In honor of the Dawson Creek Riding Club’s 10th Anniversary, they put on a 2 ½ day clinic/workshop featuring Dessa Hockley, assisted by Cathy Thomas. The workshop (Feb. 27 to March 1) took place in the beautiful new Dawson Creek Agri-plex featuring a huge indoor arena and over 100 stalls. We met 12 participants and several spectators on Friday night and had fun “typing” each horse according to the horse personalities found in Dessa’s book, “Is Your Horse a Rock Star?” The youngest equine participants were two years old. Cheeky, cute and extremely curious, those young horses showed us how to be clear about what we are asking as well as to do their training in really short sessions. They were quite tired by the end of the weekend – and so were their people! The other participants were wonderful people who love horses and are interested in approaching training from a relationship point of view. Most rode in halters after doing basic ground work to teach a language that the horses could understand and then recognize when being ridden. The workshop ended with free jumping on Sunday afternoon. It was so rewarding to work with people who understand body positioning as we encouraged the horses around and through the jumping chute. It was quite evident that relationships were being forged as the horses began to seek their people out after doing their rounds. Thanks so much to Rose and Holly for organizing this event. Rumor has it, we’ll be back in Dawson Creek in July (2009)!

Dawson Creek 2009
Chinook County Alberta Dressage Association
The Chinook Country division of the Alberta Dressage Association hosted a 2-hour horse personality demonstration on March 14th. The arena, located east of Lethbridge, was perfect for the demo. We met six beautiful horses. As usual, they displayed some interesting personalities. Three of the six horses were retired race horses though still quite young and fairly recently “off the track”. We noticed that it was difficult to see their traits. All three appeared to be SEA (Submissive Energetic and Afraid). Two appeared to be Aloof and so were possibly Perfectionists (SEAA). The last one was Friendly and so was possibly a People Pleaser (SEAF).

We were all pondering whether these horses were actually these personalities, or whether they were still in race track mode. Excellent question. The answer is, we don’t know. However, we decided it would be best to work with them as if they were Perfectionists and People Pleasers until such time as they got more comfortable in their new lives.

Dessa was able to demonstrate the benefits of “Dominant Leading” (see the book for more information) in establishing respect and trust with the People Pleasing race horse. Within minutes, his emotions began to settle and was able to look around at his environment and notice things.

The other three horses were really neat. One of them actually was a Rock Star. We also had a prize Fighter with a “floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee” kind of attitude. Very fun. Thanks so much to the Dressage Club for hosting this fun event!

Leithbridge Rock Star
Lethbridge Prize Fighter
More pictures at the Chinook County A.D.A
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© photography by Cathy Thomas All rights reserved. 2008