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Leslie Desmond Demonstration Aug. 2003

It’s all about intent..

I was very fortunate to be able to watch Leslie Desmond give a demonstration in Köln - Germany on the 30th of August 2003. The demo was supposed to last for four hours, but six hours later we all still had our eyes fixed on Leslie and the way she works with horses. Amazing stuff! I will try to give you an idea of what she tried to teach us all that day.



The first horse Leslie worked with couldn’t be tied, didn’t lead well and had some other “peoples problems”, as Leslie put it. The mare had just never been learned to keep the slack in the rope and would pull everything apart, drag anything with her when being tied. The way Leslie tried to teach the horse to keep the slack in the rope was by making sure Leslie herself kept the slack in the rope. She went along with the horse and her movements, trying to blend in, and always keeping the slack in the rope. After a while the horse would start blending in with Leslie’s movements and would also start concentrating on keeping the slack in the rope. When they crossed this point in the learning progress, Leslie could start leading the mare. The mare would follow to make sure the slack remained.

Then a whole new approach began to appear. If Leslie would start with taking out the slack in the rope, thus asking the mare to take a step forward, instead of releasing at the point of the mare taking the step or ‘giving a try’, Leslie would release even before the slack had totally disappeared or before the mare had made a move! The mare looked very bewildered (and so did we all!), but this did arouse her curiosity.. When Leslie tried this a second time or even a third time, starting to take out the slack in the rope, the mare was very fast to take a step forward, so that she could ‘beat’ Leslie to it, being the first one to leave the slack in the rope. It was truly amazing to watch this horse WANTING to be the first one to keep the slack in the rope. Once this had been established Leslie could do anything and the mare made sure the slack was in the rope. Even when startled by something she would jump aside but ALWAYS keeping that slack available.


“If you can’t ask a horse to move all four feet independently from the ground, why go and sit on that same horse and try to control him from the saddle?” Once again she pressed how important your groundwork is, before attempting to ride a horse, tie or trailer a horse or do any kind of other work with a horse. You must be able to ask the horse to move his feet. Also the horse must be able to move all four feet independently. This was especially important to work on with the mare as she had a lot of brace in her. Even while just standing she had her hind feet set squarely in a brace ready to pull back and do a runner. So Leslie concentrated on learning the mare to always move one hind foot forward for a release and relaxation. The mare caught on to what Leslie wanted and after a lot of practise she would automatically cock that hind foot to get/keep the slack and get the release!

“Now how do you get a horse to move his feet? Just ask!” The way Leslie would ask the horse to move his hindquarters over was to look at that spot on the ground where his hindquarters are, bring up some energy in her body and think; “hey, I really need that spot of ground there, can you just move over?!” And the mare would jump away, as if standing in a fire! ..and of course making sure the slack was still left in that rope! The next time Leslie needed even less ‘thought’ to get the horse to move her hindquarters over. Asking the horse to step her feet under and over. Now, moving over the shoulder (pivoting on the hind) was a bit harder, as many horses are only led from the left side, making the horse dull to moving over their shoulder. The second horse couldn’t even move his shoulder over to the right, as he had been drilled never to pull away from the person leading him. When Leslie asked him to move his shoulder over to the right, all he could do was lift his withers and jump both front feet over to the right. Leslie needed to do some work with this gelding to free up his feet.

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