Building trust between humans and horses a labour of love for horse-whisperer Lorie Duff

Lorie Duff. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

EASTERN ONTARIO — Lorie Duff continues to make tracks far and wide as a proponent and instructor of a ‘horse-whispering’ technique she calls ‘Liberty.’

Duff, whose Liberty Lane Farm operation is hosting a horsemanship clinic at a North Dundas facility this weekend, espouses a natural way of building trust and confidence between equine owners and their animals.

She has showcased the results with her own horse, Titan, wowing crowds at the RCMP Musical Ride in Ottawa  — where the duo have guested two years running — and their first appearance at the Calgary Stampede, where they performed alongside the Canadian Cowgirls.

“It’s about communication, trust and respect,” says Duff, explaining that she uses “an extension of my arm” to “communicate pressure and release” with the five-year-old animal. She emphasizes that no discipline is used to forge the bond that ultimately allows her to have Tritan bow to the crowd while she stands beside the animal — as the pair did in the most recent North Dundas Parade of Lights.

“He’s a great partner,” she says of Titan, describing their relationship as a “two-way street.” As an example, she describes a teaching event where the horse was suffering a painful flare-up of an autoimmune condition on one shoulder while in front of an audience. As a result, Titan was reluctant to perform up to par, and Duff respected the animal’s choice. Getting him to proceed anyway “would have taken away his liberty of his choice to communicate with me.”

Her time-consuming technique allows her to break young horses for riding, usually without a bucking episode when a rider gets onto the animal for the first time.

She says she’s been told that her style puts her in the realm of mentor, lecturer and motivational speaker. Participants in one of her clinics are apt to learn that “this really, truly is about us, not the horse, what we’re doing as people,” she explains.

Originally moving from Newfoundland and Labrador in 2007 after working in the construction industry, Duff returned to the province of her birth to hold a recent ‘Liberty’ clinic — and enjoyed seeing nervous horse owners “having these ‘aha moments: I can do this, too.’”

The program starts with “being safe, so you can trust your horse and your horse can trust you,” she says. “The trust, respect, … it starts with being safe. Trust.”

Duff’s work has taken her all over North America — and beyond. Later this year, she’s set to attend an event in Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa. And she’s off to Lexington, Kentucky, later this month for the prestigious ‘Road to the Horse’ horsemanship event, where she’s a sponsor. Next month, she’s headed to the Can Am Expo in Markham, Ontario.

The 43-year-old mother of two has also forged links within the entertainment industry. Last November, Duff was in the Big Apple for the Equus Film Festival where her music video, set to “Humble and Kind” — sung by Lori McKenna — was in contention.She’s represented by a show business agent whose clients include some cast members on CBC’s Heartland. The show’s Shaun Johnston — Grandpa Jack — was a featured guest at a Liberty Lane Farm during a symposium Duff organized in North Dundas in the summer of 2016.

See Duff in action, in her video, below.

Duff is interviewed at the Equus Film Festival, below.

 

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