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Leslie Desmond Interview, Part Two

Published: 4/11/2013
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Editor's Note:
Fourteen years ago, Leslie Desmond wrote the popular True Horsemanship Through Feel with the late and legendary Bill Dorrance. Since its first edition came out in 1999, the renowned horsewoman has produced scores of DVDs, audio CDs, and traveled extensively to teach thousands about horse-human partnerships and the feel of release.

In her travels, Desmond herself has been watching and learning. I asked her about the growing field of equine research and learned she's been doing her own, focusing on how human emotion effects horses.
She sat for a NickerNews/BestHorsePractices interview before starting her clinic at Stone Tree Acres in Marion, MA.

Read Part I here.

The Leslie Desmond interview continues:

LD: I have for the last six years requested very in-depth answers from [clients] before working with their horse, asking for it two to three months in advance. They sit down and turn this thing into a work a truth. It’s an Investment of time and energy investment and in themselves for change. It’s what I consider it empirical data.

Then I have a two-hour demo or a six day course or something in between to show them that it is actually their own view and perspective on that animal that is creating what they do or don’t like about them. The things they don’t like are generally the things that I am asked to address.
Lo and behold, when I spend time with that horse or am handling that horse, they don’t see the horse they know. They then have to ask, ‘Ok how did you do that? I want to learn that technique. I want to learn that trick.’

The thing is…I’m not trying to fix the fact that he bucks, I’d rather present him with a set of my own behaviors and my own expectations that doesn’t include bucking.

I don’t want to see him or her go through all of the things that lead up to bucking and then fix the symptom of what should have been a different presentation, that would have left bucking or the bad attitude out of it.
So in other words, if we can set the horse up to succeed, there is nothing to fix.

That emotional predisposition in our culture is to fix what’s broken, to look at what’s wrong, to quantify the negative.

I very rarely get someone who will say, “I’m celebrating this horse from the minute I get up to the minute I go to bed because he’s fantastic. I just want to see what we can do to make it better…I only get the occasional feedback like that. And that horse is usually pulsating with that person’s love and that person’s thrill.

MBG: But you could say you’re like a doctor. Of course you’re not doing to see the horses that are pulsating with the positivity of their owners. You don’t see the healthy patients.

LD: No, but when I handle them, they don’t do anything different, I just don’t let it last as long.
When I work with them it’s not about an expectation of this or that. I am in the moment with them. I don’t get the same results [as with their owners]. I get the same presentation maybe but I don’t let it last as long because I respond in a way. Or my firmness is never tied to an emotion.
So in that sense, I’m doing research on horse behavior and horse health. Yes, I do.

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6/3/2013 marti
Thanks for bringing us the interview! I love how Leslie wrote Bill's book - word for word just as I can imagine he spoke. It made me sad not to have ever known him because he seemed wonderful. However in reading her interview, it seems like Bill lives on through her! Good stuff!!

"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man." - Winston Churchill