California Riding Magazine • April, 2012

LionHeart Ranch:
Bethany Bernatsky
New trainer is perfect match for unique training and boarding facility.

LionHeart Ranch is a unique training and boarding facility because of its all-encompassing emphasis on the well-being of the horses who live there. The ranch provides the best quality in basics like feed, footing and 24-hour supervision, and its holistic approach goes several steps beyond. Regular visits from master practitioners in many alternative medicine and bodywork modalities are among the many non-basic amenities that LionHeart provides.

LionHeart's owner Dr. Lisa Guerin is thrilled t o find a new resident trainer, Bethany Bernatsky, whose experiences, outlook and gifts as a horsewoman are a perfect fit with the ranch's mission.

Bethany has an impressive resume as a rider and trainer. Mentored as a young adult by Ukranian classical riding master and Olympian Mykola Pawlenko, Bethany also trained for three years with German Reitlehrer, Wolfgang May, a student of Willi Schultheis. She trained and showed upper level dressage for many years and managed several stables across the country. Bethany became an assistant head trainer and principal rider for the Royal Lipizzan Stallion Show, under Gerhard Ablinger. And, although she did not take the job, she was the first female ever offered the job of trainer/coach at Tempel Farms, the famous Lipizzan breeding and training program in the Chicago area.

Bethany's impressive resume hasn't gone to her head. "She is an excellent rider and a beautiful person," says Lisa. "She's a gentle, ethical, heart-centered person." Lisa, an accomplished horsewoman herself, notes that it's hard to "find an upper level dressage trainer who doesn't demand and force a horse into a frame, but rather works respectfully and patiently to help the horse into that frame organically and willingly. I appreciate that."

LionHeart's enthusiasm for Bethany is reciprocated. Throughout her 30-years of working with horses, Bethany has always made the horse's welfare a priority. It's much easier to do that when the facility you are working in shares that mission. LionHeart's holistic approach was very attractive to Bethany. "It's really important to be part of a facility that values each and every horse, no matter the breed and/or discipline," she explains. "I appreciate the fact that the horse's mental and physical well-being are kept at the forefront of the whole facility.

That's a big help to me as a trainer. What I'm doing is part of what the whole ranch stands for, instead of something that I'm trying to perpetuate on my own."

A significant side benefit of catering to the horse's welfare is that happy, healthy horses tend to perform much better. "When horses are physically and mentally taken care of, that leads into their willingness to work and be trained," Bethany says.

She and LionHeart welcome dressage riders of all levels and with varying goals. Bethany is more than capable of coaching horses and riders to the highest levels in dressage, but she enjoys opportunities to apply her classical knowledge to horses and riders pursuing any goal. And that includes young riders as LionHeart recently started a program for youth 6 and older.

LionHeart is equally intent on being a good place for people. When owner Lisa bought and rebuilt the facilities in 2004, her vision was a place where first-rate care and amenities, educational opportunities and inspired management would help set horses and people on a journey of realizing their full potential. She is a somatic psychologist who specializes in embodied leadership, recovery from trauma and addiction and is the founder and director of Instinctual Recovery™, a nationally-recognized equine therapy program.

LionHeart's care for its people is another aspect that drew Bethany to her new position. "Over the years I've witnessed such positive influences that horses have on people's lives. I appreciated that Lisa and the team at LionHeart are working with that same sensibility.
"Horses have therapeutic aspects for everybody," Bethany continues. "Time with horses is meant to be a good time, a positive experience and a counterbalance to the chaos often going on in their outside lives."

LionHeart's traditional amenities are many. They include a 200' x 100' lighted, covered arena with laser-leveled sand and rubber footing, mirrors, a sound system and panoramic views and a regulation-size dressage court with full letters. Four large turnouts, a big pasture, 60' covered round pen and covered outdoor paddocks provide great free exercise spaces. The European-style indoor barn has an eco-friendly fly control system and the beautiful, quiet property set in the Santa Monica Mountains has direct access to surrounding trail networks. Holistic bodywork and customized nutrition plans are expertly offered to complement boarding packages and the ranch regularly hosts clinics and is home to a highly regarded equine therapy program.
It all adds up to high quality care and training in a low-key environment at LionHeart Ranch.

For more information on LionHeart Ranch, Instinctual Recovery and Bethany Bernatsky, visit