California Riding Magazine • January, 2008

Liberty in Las Vegas
and Beyond

Cynthia Royal's vision illuminates
a new path for equestrians.

It’s been your dream since childhood, ever since reading The Black Stallion – to play with a horse in a game of wild exuberance, then ride him without saddle or bridle. Later, your memories were rekindled as Gandalf the Wizard rode his magical steed Shadowfax in the Lord of The Rings movies.

Is this only the stuff of legend or an active imagination? Or is it possible to ride a horse in the harmony of cooperation, rather than in a demonstration of domination?

Imagine a place where interactions between horses and humans are limited only by the possibilities. A place where the eagerness of the horses to spend time with you is as strong as that of your household pet. Imagine a place where a horse’s natural tendencies are the primary ingredient in deciding his career. Imagine this is all done in a manner without force and without restraint, founded instead on an intimate relationship of friendship and respect. And imagine it rolled into a concept so simple it has mass appeal, yet carries a higher message to humanity.

IMAGINE – Discover The Magic is such a place, right here in San Diego County. Flowing from the mind spring of passion, epiphany and vision, IMAGINE is on a quest to bring a revolution in inter-species interaction and a follow-your-dreams message center stage.
Enter Cynthia Royal - IMAGINE Founder and Equestrian Director. Exposed to movie star horses in early childhood by family friend and trainer of Trigger and The Black Stallion, horses have always played a staring role in Cynthia’s life.

Entering the equestrian world through common conventions of tack and training norms, she has always sought a more compassionate way. As a child, offended at the idea of cold steel in her pony’s mouth, she crafted a simple string bridle. Her intrinsic ability to interact with animals in an intuitive and uncomplicated way led to forays into the study of many alternative methods. Continually experimenting with what felt right, she gravitated to techniques most harmonious to the horse and her beliefs.

A Love of Liberty

In the end, this brought her back time and again to her true passion of interacting with horses unrestrained by tack in the seldom seen art of “liberty,” as demonstrated by her horse Blanco, who starred as the luminous white horse Shadowfax in the Lord of The Rings movies.
“A 1,200 lb. animal charging toward you and rearing on command, hooves only inches from your head is exhilarating,” says Cynthia, whose horses perform guided by subtle cues of voice and movement. “It’s a testament to the connection possible when a horse and human truly connect.” An extension of this is her ability to ride without saddle or bridle. “Bridleless riding is magical,” explains Cynthia. “It’s a moment of oneness - like being in a dream.”

Today, she uses an approach based on horse language and culture. Just as it can be difficult to talk to someone in a foreign country, it is even more difficult to communicate with your horse without the use of a common language. Rather than trying to apply human inventions of restraint and force that a horse doesn’t understand, such as a round pen or tack, establishing the lines of communication through this approach results in a dialog horses instinctively understand. To develop a relationship with your horse into one of eager willingness, Cynthia says you must first be seen as both his family and friend, then establish yourself as benevolent leader. She interacts with horses from the ground in a free and open environment, mimicking social herd behavior. Although it may sound complicated, she says: “It is as simple, yet profound, as a human handshake, allowing you to transcend behavioral issues and pave the way to further training in any discipline.”

Working with Pura Raza Espanola or P.R.E. horses, Andalusians, Lusitanos and other Iberian crosses, she is able to achieve results, such as working multiple stallions together at liberty, free and without the use of any tack. Yet, she points out, her results are not magic - but a well-founded technique that should be taught to every horseperson and every horse, regardless of their age or previous experience.

An Auspicious Vision

Cynthia’s carpe diem moment came after Salmonella poisoning requiring two heart surgeries caused a near fatal brush with death. In the months to follow, her body healed, but her psyche was left with a burning question: How to focus on solely her love of working with liberty horses that did not require joining the circus. The answer would not be long in coming.

One night, she was awakened by a dream, so rich in every detail, she awoke with a start. Within this dream, she had experienced the sights, sounds, smells and feel of every corner, every composition of a glorious theatrical show. This show – unlike any other in existence – was her mission. To build it. To perform in it. To share the glory of it with all those who would come to see.

And so, as this story goes, with the clarity she’d been waiting for, she traded in corporate life to focus on creating this vision. An extension of her passion for horses, love of fantasy entertainment and desire to inspire others, IMAGINE – Discover The Fantasy is in the initial stages of development. An intricate weave of fantasy, the latest in technological set design and a cast of the world’s most beautiful horses, this total immersion experience where dreams and reality will converge will be based in Las Vegas.

As with any adventure, the path has produced many twists and turns, one of those being her partner, Tony Royal. In the foothills north of Los Angeles, Tony grew up in an area resembling the set of an old western movie. In this place of canyons, rattlesnakes and tumbleweeds, he was inseparable from his first horse. Received when but a small boy, Tony could be found riding and sometimes sleeping with his animal friend. By 13, Tony was trick riding his horse bareback. As his youthful interests grew, Tony became friends with the Hollywood wranglers and stunt men that also called the area home. For a young boy, this combination created an appetite for adventure and daredevil acts. Motorcycles or anything involving speed and danger caught his interest, earning him a much warranted bad-boy reputation – as well as a few scars.

Despite (or perhaps because of) his precocious behavior, he had the chance to appear as a regular extra on the well-known CHiPs television series starring Eric Estrada and Larry Wilcox. Finding the work to be a thrill, he credits the experience to his current love of being center stage.

Then, like many adults, he found himself with a career in corporate America. However, as fate would have it and the fires of childhood passions still burning bright, he met Cynthia performing with her movie star horse Blanco and fell in love, bringing him back full circle into the world of entertainment.

With their entourage of horses in tow, they’ve toured major expos throughout North America. Intriguing audiences everywhere with the depth of relationship they share with their horses, they saw a demonstrated hunger for people to experience a more intimate relationship with their own horses. In an effort to share their knowledge on a wider scale, Tony and Cynthia have developed a television show aptly named Horse Talk and corresponding DVD video training series. Part education, part reality TV, the show is a behind-the-scenes peak into the performing life they share with their horses and the relationship-based training methods they employ. The show will travel to private farms helping owners better understand their horses and interact with them in a way the horse will understand.
Between TV and Vegas show endeavors, they’re gearing up for a busy 2008 season. See them with Lord of The Rings Shadowfax star Blanco and all their trick and liberty horses in their 2008 Follow Your Dreams Tour with appearances at expos, events and private facilities throughout North America where they’ll perform and give up-close-and-personal clinics.

In their booth at Equine Affaire in Pomona, Jan. 30-Feb. 3, you can apply to be on their TV show Horse Talk, as well as register in free daily drawings for a:

  • Private meeting and photo with Blanco and Cynthia
  • Breeding to any of three P.R.E. Liberty stallions
  • Two-disk set of their DVD video training series

For more information on the tour, video training series, television or Las Vegas shows (including sponsorship and investment opportunities) or to book a group or private clinic at your facility or theirs, please visit: