Horsemanship for the 21st Century: It’s All About the Club

Riding lessons are great. But they’re expensive and only for an hour. The No Dust Club costs pennies and offers support all the time.

Lela Roby knows it. So do John Woods, Paula Jackson, and Beth Roberts. They all came to the No Dust Clinic last weekend in Kentucky and they’re all No Dust Club members. They all rode for half price (because they’re members) and they all got personal help with their horses. More importantly, they learned how to manage problem behavior themselves. And, since they’re all club members they’ll have plenty of on-going personal support from Dennis online for much much less than they would pay for riding lessons. They’ll have access to an online library of training solutions whenever they want, they’ll get a training DVD in the mail every month, and they’ll get discounts on gear.

Lela Roby had to tranquilize her horse to get to the No Dust Clinic in Kentucky. The mare was so hysterical about the trailer, it took three doses of drugs, five people, and 2 ½ hours just to load her. Lela’s mare left the clinic untranquilized and happy to go into her trailer. If Lela has trouble in the future, her No Dust membership gives her online access to Dennis’ classes where she can ask questions directly. And she has access to the Reis Ranch Universal Horsemanship library where she’ll find plenty of training footage on trailer loading.

No Dust Club member John Woods came to Kentucky because his horse was afraid of being touched around the legs. John says, “He [the horse] wasn’t the one needing training, it was the owner. [Dennis and Deborah’s] training methods are the best, and we have seen a lot.”

Beth Roberts brought her horse to Kentucky because her horse could not relax and has recently started bucking. She says Dennis helped her ask for a disengagement of the hindquarters properly. Since Beth is a club member, she’ll have access to plenty of video footage online to help her if she needs it. Plus she’ll be able to log on to one online class and one online training weekend per month where she’ll be able to ask Dennis and Deborah questions directly. “It was like a new horse,” says Beth. “I just love the whole Universal Horsemanship program. Dennis and Deborah are THE best!!! I always learn when I’m around them. It’s never the same ‘dog and pony show.’”

If you are a horse lover, you can’t afford not to join the No Dust Club. For $20 per month you’ll get volumes of valuable education and other benefits:
-a free Reis Ranch Ultimate Horseman’s Flag when you join
-6 free Problem Solving DVDs
-a Training DVD mailed to you every month
-One Live Online Weekend and one Live Online Class per month where you can watch in real time and ask Dennis and Deborah questions
-Access to Reis Ranch’s huge online training library
-15% Off all Reis Ranch horse handling equipment
-15% Off Lubrisyn
-25% all Wrangler products
AND Free financing on Mentor Series Home Study Courses

PLUS RIDE WITH DENNIS FREE ON FRIDAYS AND ½ PRICE FOR THE WEEKEND. $400 (reg. $800). Join now and ride this weekend!

We want photos of club members and their horses. If you are a club member, send us a .jpg photo of your horse and the story of why he is special. If your horse is chosen, you’ll win valuable prizes and your horse will be featured on RFD TV.

Go To and join right now. You can’t afford not to.

On The Road Again

Deborah and I are on the road again, cris-crossing the country, meeting horse lovers from coast to coast.  It’s a lot of hard work and sacrifice.  And it’s hard to be away from home.  Taking care of our horses on the road, stopping at a different place every night, the endless hours of driving, and eating meals at truck stops all take a toll. 

But the gifts we get make it worthwhile.  From snow in the Sierra Nevada to the mighty majestic Mississippi River, there is no better way to appreciate the beauty and blessings of the USA. The smell of rain in the Nevada desert and the smell of fresh cut grass in Georgia make us miss the Sonoma County Spring a little less.  Even though they’re in good hands, we think about Rocky and Oliver, the horses we left at home, every day.  And even though it was hard to leave them, that’s okay too because we get to meet people like Paula Jackson and her Quarter Horse Gelding.

We met Paula and Skips Raging Apache in Shelbyville, KY last weekend.  The gelding had put Paula in the hospital for 11 days and a wheelchair for 30 more with his bucking and spooking.  Helping people and horses like Paula and her gelding makes Deborah and I feel like the luckiest people in the world.  At the end of the weekend Paula was able to comfortably canter her horse around the arena. 

There is nothing that feeds our souls more than to share the gift of understanding and horsemanship with someone else.  We feel confident traveling down the road toward Florida this week because we know Paula has all the support she will need to keep her new relationship with her horse.  She’s a No Dust Club member and a Mentor Series owner.  She’ll be able to visit Deborah and I in our online classroom to ask questions if she needs to, and she’ll be able to go to our online training library. So even though Deborah and I are on our way to our next tour stop in Tampa, we haven’t really left Paula and all the other Kentucky clinic participants.  Club members are always connected.

We can’t wait to meet horse lovers all across these amazing United States.  We’ll see you all on the road and if you’re a No Dust Club member, you’ll be with us wherever we go!

Don’t Disrespect Your Halter and Your Horse Won’t Disrespect You

The halter.  It’s probably the most overlooked, underappreciated tool in your tack room.  In fact, it’s probably not in your tack room at all.  It’s on the ground, somewhere in the barn aisle, or slung haphazardly over a hook on your horse’s stall.  It’s crusty and muddy – an afterthought.  Sound familiar?

It could be doing a lot more than just leading your horse from the barn to the pasture.  Your halter could really help you lead your horse in every sense – on every level.  Your halter could be the means to articulate your horsemanship – to explain your body language, your gestures, and your intention.  But you need to choose the right one.  And even with all the halters in tack stores and catalogs, finding a good one is not as easy as you think.

With the right horseman’s halter and lead rope, and a good horseman’s education your halter could be your ticket to herd leadership (not just leading to the pasture).  Your halter could be a powerful teaching and refining tool.

At Reis Ranch we make our own halters because we know how indispensable this tool is for our horsemanship.  And as common as this tool is for every horse lover, we’ve never found one in any store or catalog that is made for the Universal Horsemanship standard of articulate horsemanship we speak and teach at Reis Ranch.

A horseman’s halter should be constructed of sturdy rope.  We use marine line made for boats.  We use 9/16- inch thickness for the lead rope and ¼- inch thickness for the halter.  There are no metal parts which could bruise the sensitive areas of the head, and the lead rope is 12 feet long with a leather “popper” at the end.  All our halters are hand made with correctly tied bowline and fiador knots placed properly for the delicate anatomy of a horse’s face.  They are hand spliced for smooth, even edges.

We use marine line for its weight and strength – it’s designed to hold a boat in its berth during a storm.  If a horse pulls back against a lead rope, it should not break.  Otherwise the horse will learn that he gets a release of pressure from this dangerous behavior. A horseman’s halter should be used to teach the horse gently and permanently to give to pressure.

The weight of a halter and lead rope is critical for an accurate, articulate “feel.”  If the halter and lead is used properly to correct the horse, he should feel the correction immediately.  Most important, the horse should feel his release immediately when he responds to the correction.  Horses learn when pressure is released so a flimsy lead rope with metal hardware will give an imprecise feel.  When you use a nylon halter and cotton lead with metal parts with your horse you might as well speak Swahili to him.

The narrow rope we use for our halters is so that only a minimal amount of pressure is necessary if the horse does get corrected.  When pressure is applied over a small surface area it is more easily felt.  If the same amount of pressure is applied over a wide area like the nylon webbing common in most store-bought halters, much more pressure will be necessary to make an impression.  Articulate horsemanship is known as horse whispering, not horse shouting.

Reis Ranch horseman’s lead ropes are 12 feet long so we can be clear about our personal space or “bubble” with our horses.  We have found that 12 feet is the perfect distance – close enough to use an accurate feel with the rope if necessary, and far enough away so the horse can see his leader easily.  (Because horses have eyes on the side of their heads, a leader who stands too close will not be easily seen.)

Of course any tool can only be as good as the person using it.  But a poor tool even in expert hands is mediocre at best.  If it’s a tool you use for your horse every day, make sure it’s the best.  And make sure you strive to be articulate in your horsemanship.

Find Reis Ranch’s horseman’s halter at

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The Magic in Mistakes

Mistakes.  We all make them.  We all cringe.  We are our own worst critics.  Often we beat ourselves up after a mistake.  We chastise, criticize, and mentally flog ourselves for hours, days, or even weeks afterward. Meanwhile life goes on without us while we are stuck in the past with our miserable memory of the awful miscalculation, misspeak, misstep, or mistake.  This can be especially true when our horses or horsemanship are involved.  We love our horses and we want to be perfect for them.

But we’re human—the very definition of nowhere near perfect.  Life and our horsemanship would be better if we could find a way to make friends with our mistakes.  If we could learn, not just to live, but to thrive with the inevitable mistakes we are all going to make we’d all be happier healthier humans.  And wouldn’t it be great if all those mistakes could actually be good for our horsemanship?

Our mistakes can be the best thing for our horsemanship – it’s just about perspective.  What if you paid attention to the result of a mistake instead of the mistake itself?  It probably wasn’t very pretty, but look anyway.  There’s good information there.  How did the horse react? What happened after that?  Ah ha! This is new information about your horse.  Consider it.  File it away.  You just learned something about your horse you didn’t know before.  This new information could prove valuable later on.

Have you ever had a ride with your horse when you knew things weren’t right?  You know you made some kind of mistake.  There was some kind of miscommunication.  You just don’t know what it was.  Instead of getting down on yourself, say, “Hmmmm.”  Remember as much as you can about the situation.  Sometime in the future you may learn something new or hear something that jogs your memory, and that frustrating ride will make sense.  You will have learned something.

The trick is to only make the same mistake once and treat it like the gift that it is.  Observe the mistake and the result—even if you don’t quite understand it yet.  Repair it the best way you can and move on.  Don’t judge it.  Don’t punish yourself or your horse.  Ask yourself how this mistake is a blessing, what it has taught you, and how it can help you and your horse move forward.  And if the answer doesn’t immediately present itself, don’t worry.  It will in time.  Keep learning.  Keep practicing.  Keep asking questions and pay attention to what your horse has to tell you.  Give your mistakes the respect they deserve.

So What is “Dressage” Anyway?

Dressage. It’s a mysterious word–it sounds pretty and invokes images of a pegasus-like horse almost dancing with a flowing mane and tail.  But what is it really?  What does it mean if you ride dressage?  And if you just enjoy a nice trail ride now and again, or ride in a western saddle and chase cows why should you care?

Dressage is a French word that means “training.” It comes from the verb dresser, to train.  The United States Dressage Federation defines it as the development of the horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to work, making him calm, supple, and attentive to his rider.  Sounds good, right?

A dressage rider understands how a horse learns — physically and mentally.  A dressage rider knows lots of dressage “exercises” that will help the horse develop correctly and keep him happy while he is learning.  But a dressage rider would never just work on an exercise at random.  A dressage rider always has a plan (based on the classical training scale).  A dressage rider is always engaged with the process of the plan.  There’s a short-range, medium range, and long-range plan.  Always.

A dressage rider is at least as fit and balanced as the horse, knows her weaknesses, knows how these can affect her horse, and uses qualified “eyes on the ground” regularly.  A dressage rider always seeks ways to educate herself.  She studies with knowledgeable professionals.  She reads and watches videos.  She attends workshops.  And she does these things because, as a horse lover, she has chosen a lifestyle.  Not because she wants to win prizes.

How can you tell a dressage rider?  It’s not the shadbelly or the white saddle pad or the tall black boots.  It’s not the braids in her horse’s mane.  If you look carefully you could very well see a dressage rider going down the trail on a furry pony or chasing barrels at a local gymkhana.

A true dressage rider is a true horseman.  You can tell a dressage rider by her happy, calm, balanced horse.  You can tell a dressage rider by her horse’s soft expression and willing eye.  You can tell a dressage rider by how much her horse likes her and how easily he loads in a horse trailer.

Half-passes and flying lead changes may be the mark of a dressage rider, but only if they are done out of willingness, and with softness and understanding.

The United States is Our Living Room!

From the flight deck of Peterbilt #1 — 18 wheels a rollin’:

Sometimes I’m asked about traveling to seminars, the daunting miles, the heavy workload, and the cost involved. My answer is always the same. The United States is our living room.

Deborah and I were able to make it across this amazing country in less than 4 days — from Penngrove, California to Pendleton, South Carolina. We hauled our 53′ trailer and our three horses. We were completely self contained. Our new truck has every creature comfort. It has the latest navigation system and USB ports for music, movies, and the internet.

The unrestricted freedom we feel on the open road from coast to coast is unparalleled. There are no words to express how great our country is. And there are no words of thanks big enough to express our gratefulness for the people and horses we meet along the way. We are continually amazed at how blessed, fortunate, and lucky we are.

See you in Tulsa, OK!  God Bless America!
-Dennis & Deborah , Hondo, Amadeus,
Small& Medium  — ROAD WARRIORS

No Matter Your Costume, Remember the Classical Training Scale

A painter needs the primary colors (blue, yellow, and red) to make a painting. A musician needs notes to make a song. A writer needs the alphabet to make a word. And a rider needs the classical training scale to become a horseman.

Whether or not your saddle has a horn, keep in mind that without rhythm and relaxation, suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness, and collection, you’ll have a hole in your horsemanship. It might express itself in bucking (lack of relaxation) or trouble turning (lack of straightness). Maybe your horse is jigging on the trail. Or maybe he’s running out in front of the jumps.

Look at the problem you’re having and think about where on the training scale your problem fits. Then go back to your basics and strengthen the weak spot.
A trail horse who jigs lacks rhythm. A jumping horse running out in front of the jumps lacks straightness. A cutting horse that lets the cow get by him may lack suppleness.

If you can pinpoint the missing piece, you can rebuild. You can fix, reinforce and refine. You can make a plan because you have a horseman’s building blocks. Rhythm and relaxation, suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness, and collection are the building blocks – the horseman’s palette. Bring them with you no matter where you ride.