California Riding Magazine • September, 2009

The Feel Of A Horse
International trainers’ coach
Leslie Desmond embarks on
book promotion and demonstration tour.

This is a rare opportunity to see renowned horsewoman Leslie Desmond work with horses through “feel and release.” The tour celebrates the release of her two new books: The Feel Of A Horse and Riding With Bill, both drawn from Desmond’s many years working with the late, master horseman and rancher Bill Dorrance.

The demonstrations are open to the public and are intended for all in pursuit of Desmond’s trademark “true horsemanship through feel.” They will include detailed explanations and exercises that lead to a better feel of a horse and will help participants deepen their connection with their equine partner. “Q&A sessions will contain hints and tips on where to start with your own horse after you get home,” Desmond says.

The auditing fee is $25. The West Coast tour dates will be published soon on

In the mid to late 1990s, Desmond co-wrote and published True Horsemanship Through Feel with Dorrance, who lived in Central California’s Salinas. As she begins her demo tour of the United States, Desmond is excited about the publication of her two new books.

The Feel Of A Horse covers Dorrance’s philosophy of better horse handling and contains detailed explanations about illustrations of feel-based techniques. InRiding With Bill, Leslie shares anecdotes from the four years she spent writing, training and riding with her mentor, who passed away in 1999 at age 93. “Those years were packed full of lessons about horses and cattle and rawhide and branding, to be sure,” Desmond reflects fondly. “They were also richly appointed with his little gems of wisdom, wry remarks, sharp dry humor and really delightful wit.”

The excerpts below, from Riding With Bill, provide a glimpse of such gems.

“I recorded many of my observations of Bill’s efforts to help others—from teens to cowboys to housewives and horse trainers—so they could get a handle on what he called their ‘better feel,’ as he preferred to call it. ‘A fella wants to make the right thing obvious to the horse on the start,’ Bill would say. ‘Adjusting your presentation’ is another way of saying this. ‘Feel of the horse, so the horse can feel of you’ is another way. ‘Set the horse up to succeed’ is another way. ‘Go with the horse, so that horse can pick up your feel and then go with you,’ ‘blend with the horse’ and such phrases that, by now, are familiar to many people, are a part of this.

“Bill demanded that I stop using a few select everyday words in his home. And I did. One was the word ‘hate,’ (he loved chocolate, and I hated it) and the other was the word ‘best.’ (I thought Fushi was my best horse, he said there certainly was a better one). Those words were extreme in his view, easily misunderstood, and left the listener in a ‘poor position.’”

“Bill kept a watchman’s hours and was in bed by 8 or 9 p.m. so he could be up well before dawn, usually around 2 or 3 a.m. I could hear him shuffle out to the living room, click on the lamp, and soon I’d hear a thud as the cumbersome ranch ledger landed on his desk. The chair would scuffle over the cracked plastic rug protector, he would sharpen a pencil and review the economics of the ranch. A number in most every block, a carefully printed tiny entry on each corresponding line. He kept good records, and encouraged me to do the same.
“’A fella doesn’t want to own more than he can take care of,’ Bill said. ‘And he oughtn’t get into debt at all if he can help it.’”

“Bill Dorrance did not swing a rope at the horse, bump and jerk the lead rope, or kiss and cluck,” Desmond sums up. “From the folding chair where he sat, he r-e-l-e-a-s-e-d them.”

Please visit or contact her at 602-228-7612 or for release dates and ordering details. Information on the tour and new books is contained in these links:

Riding With Bill and The Feel Of A Horse books:

True Horsemanship Through Feel:

The Feel of a Horse demo tour: