By Dawn Cranfield
Feel and Release Equestrian Clinic at Rancharrah in Reno, Leslie Desmond Offers her Gift
Last weekend, Leslie Desmond brought her unique style of horse training to Rancharrah Elite Events Center in Reno, Nevada. Desmond’s Feel and Release Equestrian Clinic was attended by approximately 100 horse enthusiasts from northern Nevada.
Desmond and her team of six interns came to Reno for the four-day clinic to show riders, trainers, and horse owners the art of Feel and Release. Intern Katrina Stowasser from Colorado was excited about the opportunity to work with Desmond on the trip; she has been an intern with her since February using mostly phone calls and email after meeting her at a clinic. Three interns traveled from California, one from Oregon, and another from Ohio.
Desmond learned the Feel and Release technique from her mentor, the late Bill Dorrance, with whom she co-authored the book True Horsemanship Through Feel. Dorrance is a legendary horseman and rancher from Salinas, California, and is considered to be among the founders of the modern natural horsemanship movement.
“Because no two people and no two horses are the same,” said Dorrance, “a fella is going to have his own experience with that horse. But even if a fella might think he ought to have the same experience that another fella had, if he was thinking about that other fella’s experience, he might miss out on a good bit of his own that was taking place with the horse right then.” (Passing the gift…)
The approach to training horses in this method is calm, respectful, and shows a love and understanding for the animals Desmond is working with. She explains that her style may be abrupt with the riders at times, but it is a lot easier to apologize later for hurting a rider’s feelings than to have them get on a horse that is not properly trained or ready.
Those who attended Desmond’s clinic seemed to understand or accept the necessity for the trainer’s apparent brusqueness, “I’m a really sensitive person, and I was a little nervous to talk to her, but when I went up to her and told her how much I appreciated what she was doing and how much I was learning, she softened and just hugged me,” said Ari Krause, life coach and horse enthusiast.
Krause had been familiar with Desmond’s work and has known of Dorrance and his methods as well. She now has Desmond’s audio books and with the knowledge of the four-day clinic, is anxious to put what she learned to use. She will use what she has learned and “definitely add it to my toolbox”. She believes the principles can be added to life in general as well as to horse training.
Lyn Mundt brought her horse, Tessa, in as a demonstration horse for the four-day clinic. Tessa participated in four 90-minute demonstrations, one each day, where she was progressively taught skills using the Feel and Release method. Mundt “loves (Desmond’s) philosophy and mission” and is “excited to go home and try her technique.” She went on to say that “After she learned (on Sunday) the way she broke it down, the Feel and Release, I totally got my money’s worth.”
When asked which horse was her favorite horse was, Desmond pointed to Sunday Jubilee, “This one right here.” She continued on, “This is the reason I am here. Any time I am with a horse, my favorite is the one I am with. It should be the reason we are all here.”
Sunday Jubilee, a mustang owned by Sally Summers of Nevada’s Horse Power, was another one of the horse participating in the demonstrations. According to Summers, Sunday Jubilee is the first mustang ever to be at Rancharrah.
Horse Power, a non-profit that works for financially aiding organizations that care for all equine, was the presenting sponsor of the event. Other sponsors included Centaurgenics, Timberline Saddle and Natural Horsemanship Association of Northern Nevada (NHANN).
Rebekka Rhodes, worked tirelessly for months prior to the event ensuring it would be successful. She was pleased with the results, saying, “I felt the event was superb, and gave us a glimpse of the things that were possible with horses through Leslie’s techniques of ‘Feel and Release’. Many people felt their brains were simply bursting because there was so much to take in, but it was such a wonderful venue with fabulous people, that it allowed everyone to take in as much as they possibly could.
“Rancharrah’s event contact, Ms. Brandi Flowers, complimented the volunteers and event organizers on the stellar performance — everything went so smoothly. Personally I was thrilled with how everything went for the event. The line up of horses and people was simply perfect to showcase Leslie’s skills, and demonstrate to everyone the value of her work at every level of horsemanship that can exist.”
I wish I had been the one to coin the phrase “Horse Whisperer, because I would certainly use it with Desmond, she definitely connected with the animals in a way I have never seen. I am not certain if they were responding to her, or if she could anticipate what they were going to do next; either way, it was extraordinary what she could do with Feel and Release.