Leslie's Latest NEWS

Coaching Takes a New Turn at Leslie Desmond School of Horsemanship

July 22, 2014


Coaching others in horse handling and riding is the main reason for my life, and so it has been since 1965.

Fewer clinics than usual were scheduled in 2014 to accommodate a shift away from public coaching to full-focus on helping my students to develop their varied horse-related careers.  I will devote 2015 and 2016 to coaching 20 students from around the world who have indicated a willingness, and demonstrated the skills and aptitude necessary to continue learning and refining their connection to horses in the spirit of Bill Dorrance's Legacy of Feel & Release. Each will do this in his or her own best way.  More information about this upcoming opportunity can be found in the post below.

The 2015 - 2016 apprenticeship still has 20 openings; it will be held in the US and EUROPE. where I will coach intermediate-advanced riders and trainers from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines. Registration materials and course description will be sent out before August 1st now that all the venues are confirmed. 

If you are a candidates for the progra, send a request for registration application along with complete contact details here: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you have already submitted this information and not received your registration paperwork, your application will be mailed in just a few days.

Over the last four decades I have had a lot of help learning how to reach horses in some very effective old-fashioned ways.  I have reached many people who also love and care for them in similar ways, and who deeply appreciate the contribution that Bill Dorrance made to their horses through his timely gift of wisdom. The realization that so many horsemen and horsewomen share my enthusiasm about Bill Dorrance's  "feel & release" philosophy and training techniques leaves me, for the time being, at a loss for words.  That so many also want to share this uncommon knowledge about horses and their ways with the next generations of horse lovers moves me greatly.

My heartfelt thanks for the successful events during 2014 is extended with gratitude to the following people:

Cape Cod, MA  Ginny Parker / Whispering Cowgirl

Rexford, NY  Union College, Aude Bechu / Double E Farm

North Egremont, MA / Mary Brazie / Sheffield Whinnies 4-H

Longmont, CO  Kathy Johnson, Michele Beehner / Medicine Horse Program

Atwater, CA   Shawna Dahl and Lisa and Tony Krogh / Krogh Ranch 

Glide, OR  Stan and Linda D. Young, Joyce and Art Redcay and Heather Barklow / Rusty Pistol Ranch

Switzerland / Gertrud Muralt and Claudia Damiani

Duluth, MN Brigid Pajunen and Leah Nelson / Spring Hill Farm

Ashland, WI David Onan and Jason and Emily Saffert / The Equestrian Coop

And soon . . . there are four clinics in Sweden, Norway, Germany and Spain.  


This marks the end of my career as a public horsemanship coach.  

After the apprenticeship program is completed in December 2016, I will be available for private coaching. In the interim, if you would like help or feedback, feel free to load your video clips to you tube and send me a link here: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 Best regards,

Leslie Desmond



P. O. Box 15

Great Barrington, MA 01230 USA

Within US: 1-602-228-7612

From outside USA: 001-602-228-7612



This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  (send inquiries here if you are unfamiliar with this approach)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  (questions about your horse's behavior, feet, general care, environment, training)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  (right-tied halters in all sizes, lead ropes 10, 15, 18, 20 and 25 ft.)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  (for application/registration/course description and venue list)

http://shop.lesliedesmond.com  (SHOP)

http://www.lesliedesmond.com   (homepage!)

http://www.facebook.com/thefeelofahorse (event updates and other features)


Scholarships available in SWEDEN for the Kalvefalls Clinic August 14 - 17, 2014



Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced riders considered for limited scholarship!


Check your schedule, visit the Kalvefalls registration page, and contact Laura for  details!







Scholarship funding made possible by Jon and Martha Andersson

Feel & Release, and its Importance to the Horse and Rider

Thoughts on Feel & Release and its Importance

 to the Horse & Rider


by Leslie Desmond


 Whether you are headed for a jump, riding a dressage test, gathering cattle, helping a child learn how to ride, or closing a gate from the saddle, the horse that understands your intent and feel will be there to do whatever is needed at the right time. 

A horse like this makes the best partner and will work very hard for your mutual benefit. If he is or isn't that partner, it is up to the person to help him become that partner. I love my job helping people to discover what a committed partner their horse can be and how to help him cultivate the inborn ability to be that way.

 As a riding coach and horse trainer, in almost three decades of travel around the world, I have met thousands of people and horses. What I have enjoyed most about this opportunity is the vast and intriguing range of different approaches people use when they are handling and riding horses. Incredibly, most of these approaches actually work! 

Horses have an astounding capacity to adapt well to different training methods, presentations and challenging situations. Effective techniques are too numerous to mention here, but there are countless variations in human presentation that horses can accept.

 While I have had some excellent coaches along the way, my search for new information to help me become a better coach continues. In recent years my focused effort to be a better student of the horses I work with has underscored much needed clarity about exactly what it is that a horse does and does not need from me in a given moment. This connection is more rewarding than I ever imagined it could be. Occasionally I take private lessons from friends who know more than I do about how horses work and what it takes to ride and handle them better than I do now. The other inspirational source of new knowledge comes from my own students directly. Their plateaus, questions, goals, and fears challenge me to re-think my old solutions to common and not-so-common training dilemmas. I’ve discovered that many approaches work, but I am convinced that the techniques that horses understands best are all woven together by a common thread called "feel".

A horse understands many kinds of feel, such as the direct feel of the weather on its body, a hand or brush on its face or shoulder, or the bridle rein against the neck and a leg against the ribs. A horse also understands indirect feel, which includes things like variations of body language, the human voice, and also our emotions like joy, fear, sadness and anxiety, and yes, even our thoughts. Another kind of indirect feel that is of great importance to the horse is his perception of the way shared spaces are used. Examples of this include the pace and sound of a human footfall approaching or going away from him, the speed and feel of our other movements, as well as more subtle things like our core focus, line of sight, posture and the way we use our arms and hands, legs and feet in relation to the horse’s eye, withers, ribs and hips during ground exercises. 

All of these aspects of ourselves that we bring to the horse register  in the horse's mind and can influence his decision about how, where, if and when to move his body. These subtle effects on the horse also apply when the rider is mounted; they combine to become the foundation for solid advancement.

It is important to remember that most refined maneuvers can astonish onlookers into fantasizing about the handler or rider in terms of "horse-whispering" and "magic" but, actually, the horse's physical reactions are rooted in its instinctive ability to read a person's intentions clearly. The horse can read human intent and emotion better and faster than most people can read a line in a newspaper. 

The horse's capacity to optimize this incredibly intuitive aspect of his nature is his instinct for self-preservation.  His instinct for self-preservation is the key to everything that concerns him.  It is the key to understanding his ability to know who is around him, what other creatures may be near -- be it another horse or cow, a person, dog, wolf, or other natural enemy.  Self-preservation is the source of his ability to know what other beings are thinking or wanting him to do, expecting him to do, or fearing that he might or will do.  

I hope that all horse owners and trainers will soon decide to give top consideration to this aspect of the horse's inner makeup in their efforts to communicate with him clearly and fairly. I believe this is something anyone involved with a horse will benefit from learning especially if they also commit to using feel and release.

With feel-and-release-based training techniques and the right blend of philosophy and horse health-and-hoof care my students form very close bonds with their horses.  And, for those who already have established a partnership with their horses, these new connections are strengthened as the "same-old" routines are phased out and new communication skills and adventures are welcomed in.

As stand-alone goals, horse handling techniques mean little to the horse until they are presented in a way that the horse can understand. When you understand how your horse works on the inside and apply this knowledge in an incremental and consistent way, the foundation you set up becomes a reliable partnership.  When this happens, confidence replaces insecurity.  Clarity replaces confusion.

When the basics are a woven into the normal pace and details of its daily life -- not only a part of specific drills or boring routines -- the horse begins to recognize and understand the intent behind the feel coming from the person.  This gives him confidence and from there he is likely to stop questioning the person and to follow the feel of the person's lead and leadership.  

When these basics have become a regular practice, the connection between person and horse becomes stronger.   The resulting partnership is based on trust that extends far in both directions. Ultimately, in its refinement, the mutual trust and reciprocal feel between a horse and a person is part of a maneuver that is born the instant it is shared.

In most cases, it is necessary that the coach understand how to teach and how to apply feel in order for the student's relationship to his or her horse develop at the right pace and in the best way.  The student, meanwhile, must invest whatever time is needed to learn all there is to know about the specific needs of the horse.  This requires limitless patience.  

It is also important to be crystal clear about the importance of making mistakes.  

It is impossible to avoid mistakes. We all make them, so we must accept them.  In order to do this, we must cultivate a calm, non-judgmental attitude toward our mistakes.  It is vital that we begin to view errors as opportunities for growth, for greater closeness, and for an ever stronger bond.  Our calm, even eager, anticipation of the next mistake eases tension, soon transforming both the horse and the person in unexpected ways.  

I know this to be true from my own experience and when this happens, everything about the friendship is refreshed . . .  it becomes deeper and a lot more fun!


VENUES CONFIRMED, SCHOLARSHIP and CLINIC UPDATE! 2015 - 2016 Apprenticeship Program

Updated:  JULY 13, 2014 


2015 – 2016 Dates and Venues Confirmed


Leslie Desmond's Apprenticeship Program




UPDATES will be posted on www.facebook.com/thefeelofahorse

Please JOIN for updates and training tips, and LIKE the PAGE!

If you have friends who would like to stay informed

about this opportunity please share homepage link and the FB (above) link!

If you are interested in learning more about how to read a horse, and to ride and handle one safely with tact and confidence . . . . 

You are welcome to audit any or all of the next 2 clinics (SWEDEN and NORWAY) and preview the fascinating and inspiring "HORSE CONNECTION" experiences that clinic participants will share with us. These opportunities shed light on some of what's to come for apprentices enrolled during the 12-week program in 2015 - 2016.  


This 12-week program is comprised of four 3-week sessions. Class size: Four studentsper session. The same number of students will be accepted for courses that are 9- 6- and 3-weeks long. The application package contains a detailed description of the materials and equipment needed, and the training topics to be covered at each venue.


Send your name and complete contact details to <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. > and an application will be sent to you. The application includes requirements for participation, payment schedule, a detailed description of the coaching format and the specific exercises and skills / goals that will be presented for study.

The deadline for applying is October 1, 2014.



Join me at one of  two European Feel & Release clinics in 2014!


August 14 - 17, 2014 Kalvfalls Horsemanship Riding Center in Österbymo, SWEDEN

August 21 - 24, 2014 / Korumdalen, Rakkestad, NORWAY 


Auditors, demo horse owners and riders who attend these clinics will get a valuable preview of the essential foundation elements in a FEEL & RELEASE training curriculum.

Currently, there is space for 21 participants in the 2015-2016 apprenticeship program. If more positions become available you will see it posted here!



After 12-week sessions are reserved, the remaining positions will be offered to apprentices able to commit for a 9-week, 6-week, and a 3-week period.

Note: Each segment of the 12-week program is 3 weeks. Spaces will be awarded on the basis of 1.) availability; 2.) qualifications; and 3.) timing of the application.

Not everyone who has the aptitude for this approach and wants to learn more, can afford to pay.  Now we have a solution!

Some long-time admirers, and generous friends of Leslie Desmond and Bill Dorrance have pooled their resources and made a limited number of scholarships for this program possible.  


Scholarships in the following amounts are available for qualified applicants: $2,500; $2,000; $1,500; $1,250 and $500.  Priority will be given to applicants who are able to commit for a full 12-week term. There is one matching, 50/50 scholarship for the 9-week, 6-week and 3-week sessions. 


 Scholarship will be awarded, first, to qualifying students who can make a time commitment of the 12-week course.  If all the 12-week sessions fill, there will not be any shorter courses to register for until after this 2-year program has been completed.

If there are leftover scholarship funds, they will be awarded to qualifying applicants who can attend and pay 75% of the 9-week, 6 week or 3 week course. 

Details about the logistics and fees will be sent to those who complete contact details, here: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  Write "Scholarship Requested" in the subject line, please.

Can't make the 12-week commitment? Why not get on the waiting list for a shorter course, or for a program in the future!

These fill quickly and spots are granted on a first-come, first-served bases for applicants who meet the criteria. 



Classes will be held in CALIFORNIA, (Muir Trail Ranch, Douglas Ranch and a private facility in Coalfax, CA); OREGON, TEXAS, SWEDEN, and NORWAY.

in Rakkestad, NORWAY at Korumdalen;

in Österbymo, SWEDEN at Kalvefalls;

in Glide, Oregon, USA at The Seven Springs Ranch;

in Tarpley, Texas, USA at JC Horseshoe Ranch and Horse Ranch Texas.


We are happy to invite you to the session held at a small, private facility in Tàrrega (Lleida) SPAIN where the focus is advanced English (Hunter/Jumper) equitation, and jumping.  For apprentices with an aptitude for healing, the horses that will be brought weekly to the Coalfax, CA, venue afford that opportunity. From 1 - 3 horses per person will be provided by a horse rescue in El Dorado Hills, CA (www.allaboutequine.org / https://www.facebook.com/allaboutequineanimalrescueinc).  

The overall condition of the rescued horses, as well as the needs, wants, and the mental and physical capacities of each horse are the primary focus of this apprenticeship program segment. Students will also learn invaluable remedial hoof-care techniques, and how to re-start a fresh, troubled, neglected or poorly-started colt. The condition and potential of older horses donated for the three-week course will be evaluated; Leslie will help students learn how to develop and implement a fitting program for their rehabilitation and, when possible, a smooth adjustment to new owners and permanent homes. 

2015 VENUE OPTIONS - limit 4 students per venue. Apprentices in the 12-week program must pick two.



February 7 - 28 JC Horseshoe Ranch / Tarpley, TX


March 14 - April 3 Douglas Ranch / Paicines, CA


April 18 - May 9 Private venue in Colfax, CA


June 3 - 24 Korumdalen / Rakkestad, NORWAY


July 5 - 26 Kalvfalls Ranch / Österbymo, SWEDEN


August 1 - 22 Muir Trail Ranch / Lakeshore, CA


Sept 13 - Oct. 4   Glacier Valley Ranch / Ward, Colorado


Oct 24 - Nov 14     The Seven Springs Ranch / Glide, Oregon


Nov 28 - Dec 19 Tarrega (Lleida) SPAIN


2016 DATES CONFIRMED -- PLAN AHEAD!  Venues to be announced soon.


Feb 6 - 27

March 6 - 27

April 3 - 25

May 1 - 22

June  5 - 26

July 3 - 24

August 7 - 28

September 4 - 25

October 2 - 23

November 6 - 27




Each student-apprentice will be learning alongside 3 others who work with horses at approximately the same ability level. Trainers and advanced students are apt to be in the same class and, likewise, students who have long since passed the beginner stage but are in need of new skills, ideas, confidence and better feel will share my time learning new skills with others who want to be coached at a similar pace and direction.

Leslie Desmond’s Apprenticeship Classes will help each apprentice who is currently at the intermediate – advanced level of horse handling and riding to reach their goals and to refine their skills. You will learn how to develop: light hands and subtle movements; finesse with the horses and other students; patience with self, the horses and others; and, a thorough foundation for advanced work. Anyone who is ready to "push the envelope" will also learn how to incorporate a higher degree of self-respect into their daily encounters with humans and animals. As a result, they will experience a phenomenon called “inter-species cohesion”, which is a first-hand experience of the very tight connection that is experienced when two members of “the pair” share a thought that leads, seamlessly, to an action.

Last, participants will learn how to maintain a consistently high regard for the horses and other people in the program, and learn how to work with horses in a way that promotes a lasting bond.

All these things are an important part of daily practice and, because they are very significant, they have been woven into all aspects of the study and practice of better horsemanship using Feel & Release.


 Students may bring their own horse or horses. (Stallions may or might not be possible to incorporate into a class. This depends on the venue.)

A complete gear list will be included in the registration package. Everyone is expected bring their personal using gear if they possess it (bridle, halter and rope, saddle, chaps, lass rope, rain gear, cold or hot weather riding gear, depending on the season, helmet, etc.).

English and Western riders are likely to be in the same classes unless a candidate for this program makes a compelling case to work only with students who share their commitment to a particular riding style or discipline. If there are enough candidates who share the desire to be coached in a specific discipline with others of similar orientation, it will be seriously considered and likely done.

All apprentices attending will receive a mix of private and group instruction from Leslie.  In Lakeshore, CA,  and Paicines, CA and Glide, OR, applicants will get their fill (or, almost!) of wilderness riding, colt starting, problem solving, ground work, maintenance of equine mental and physical health. There will be group instruction daily, and between three and five 90-minute, private coaching sessions each week. Students have the option to sit in on the other private lessons, as well. The schedule provides for one day off each week for taking care of personal matters, sight-seeing, and a bit of extra rest if needed!

The physical layout, location and the weather patterns at each venue will be the determining factor in the choice of learning formats. Details about each venue and the learning possibilities at each one are contained in the registration packet.

To get your name on the list for consideration for the 12-week course, send your complete contact details to Leslie here: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . These sessions will be filled before the others are available. After December 1, 2014, it will be known if a 9-week course is offered. The opportunity to participate in a 6-week course will be available if any spaces are left after the 12 and 9 week sessions are filled. Last but not least, if you cannot commit to a course of 6, 9, or 12 weeks, then it is a good plan to have your name on the list for the 3-week spaces that will be available if cancellations crop up the longer-term sessions.

If you already sent this information to another email address, it has been received and your name is on the list. Packages will be mailed in the POST when the final venues are confirmed.


Arrangements for horse accommodations will be made directly between the student and management/owner of the host facility. Health certificates are required. It could be possible for advanced students to purchase a colt from the host facility’s herd, or other source, and train it during the two-year program.

Venues: The classes will be held in Europe and the US. Once a class is formed, that group will continue working together as a group for the duration of the course.

Time of year: Year round! An effort will be made to avoid extreme weather conditions for the sake of all! These details will be available to applicants.


Safety: All saddles must be outfitted with breakaway stirrups so there is no risk of getting dragged by a foot. This is a link to the source of this time-tested equipment: www.breakawaystirrups.com. I will issue a $50 cash refund to apprentices who purchase this brand of western safety stirrups because I believe in their value that much.

Safety of the riders and horses is my number one concern and for this reason all students will wear a helmet when riding. I wish there were a better solution for the inherent risk that goes along with horse handling and riding! If there is, I am not aware of it. Be sure the helmet fits you well, please.

Insurance: All students must provide proof of current health insurance coverage and sign a liability waiver agreeing not to sue the program hosts, Leslie Desmond, her assistants or other professionals whose knowledge and skills will make this an exceptional experience from which to learn and grow.

All host facilities and sponsors are named as additional insureds and provided with a Certificate of Insurance as a matter of course.

Thank you very much for your interest in this program. I look forward to working with the horses and YOU!

Leslie Desmond
International School of Horsemanship, LLC
PO Box 1057
Great Barrington, MA 01230 USA

My turn to give . . .

It is my turn . . . to give to organizations that help horses and people!

In the next two weeks 25 copies of Bill Dorrance's book, "True Horsemanship Through Feel", and 25 complimentary 10-CD audio book sets "Horse Handling and Riding Through Feel" will be sent to organizations that help horses to help people.

The Requirements are as follows: The organization must have 501 (3) (c) status, and be staffed primarily by volunteers. The organization's name, address and FEIN number must be included with the request, as well as contact details for the Board of Director's president and Manager/Director.
Please send details to me here: <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. >

Thanks to all of you who are helping horses to help the people who also love and care for them!

This really means the world to me.