Category: Horseback Riding

Thoughts and comments about Horseback Riding in Las Vegas

What is Straightness Training?

What is Straightness Training?

The horse is not naturally built to carry weight. Therefore, if we want to ride, we need to prepare the horse to carry us properly. This is done through gymnastic exercises for the horse, from the ground and from the saddle.  I follow the Straightness Training system, which was designed to follow the Old Grand Master’s style of training the horse to become strong, supple, and last a lifetime.  Check out straightness training to learn more and visit the company that provides this training system.

As of January 2022, I am signed up in the Straightness Training Basic Instructor Program where I will be studying and learning how to teach this system to riders.   For the last 6 years, I have been teaching my horses the system of Straightness Training and learning the basics of LFS, Lateral Bend, Forward Down and Stepping Under.  I graduated Grade 1 with my Oldenberg mare in 2019 and plan to graduate another horse in Grade 1 early this spring of 2022.  As I’ve been working in Grade 2 with my mare, I’ve learned and am improving the qualities of BSSTR, Balance, Suppleness, Shape, Tempo and Rhythm.  It’s amazing how easy it is to just ‘try it’ and get out there!  But learning and then growing the work into Quality Movements is something different altogether.  I believe the Instructor Program will help me even more in this area.

Following is a general description of Straightness Training.  Be sure to check out the main website: for a lot of great articles and information.

Natural Asymmetry

Every horse is naturally asymmetrical. Just like every human, every horse is left- or right handed, both in the front legs and the hind legs. Also, the horse is bent to the left or right in its body and it carries more weight on the front legs than on the hind legs. This causes an uneven distribution of the weight over the four legs. When the rider does not recognize and correct this imbalance, this can lead to problems. The goal of straightness training is to develop the horse symmetrically in body and limbs.

Straightness training consists of a series of gymnastic exercises for the horse in which it learns to stretch, to tense and to relax its muscles in balance. This makes the horse fit, supple, strong and muscular so it can carry the rider more easily.

Straightness training during dressage makes the horse symmetrical in body and limbs.  It also develops the horse’s balance and divides the weight equally over all four legs. By straightening the horse, it is enabled to carry the rider properly. Also, well thought through gymnastic exercises keep the horse fit as a riding horse until old age.

For which horse is it suitable?

All horses and ponies, untrained, experienced or even with a problematic background, can be schooled following the steps of straightness training.

The goal of the gymnastic education within straightness training is for the rider to reach a perfect harmony with his or her horse. Well thought-through gymnastic exercises make the horse able to perform as a riding horse until a very high age. Because of the logically structured exercises, horse and rider are trained according to his possibilities and talents, both physically and mentally, towards a level that is comfortable for both.

What are the benefits of straightness training for you and your horse?

  • You will learn to train within a logical system of well thought-through gymnastic exercises and you will develop yourself to become the personal fitness trainer of your horse.
  • You will be able to develop your horse from a horse with (riding) problems towards a soft, cooperative riding horse.
  • You will get more insight in how riding problems are created, and learn to fix and prevent these problems. Because of the clear structured system, you will always have a good basic work to fall back on and to help you find the solutions to whatever riding problems you might encounter.
  • With straightness training basics as physiotherapy, you can reduce and prevent back problems and strain injuries in your horse.
  • And from that you can take it another step forward: You can develop your horse’s talents to their maximum.
  • Your horse will develop physically: it will become more supple and easier to maneuver, it will become stronger and will reach more bending in its hindquarter/haunches, and will be easier and lighter to collect.
  • Your horse will develop mentally and emotionally: your horse will become stronger, more self-assured and will scare less easily. Your horse will become more loyal and affectionate towards you, and will show less resistance and stress.
  • Your horse will develop spiritually: he will be the best horse he can be, he will feels his inner calm strength, his pride and unique, authentic self.
  • And of course also the rider will develop physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to become the best rider and trainer s/he can be!

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What is Classical Dressage?

What is Classical Dressage?

Classical dressage evolved from ancient movements and training for the battlefield.  Classical riding is the art of riding in harmony with, rather than against, the horse.

A painting of the Spanish Riding School in 1783

Correct classical riding only occurs when the rider has a good seat and a correct and well-balanced body position, moves with the horse’s motion, and applies and times the aids correctly.

The origins of classical dressage and collection lie in the natural ability of the horse and its movements in the wild. In fact, most modern definitions of dressage state that the goal is to have the horse perform under saddle with the degree of athleticism and grace that it naturally shows when free.

Horses naturally use collection when playing, fighting, competing and courting with each other. When trying to impress other horses, they make themselves look bigger, just as other animals do. They achieve this by lifting the forehand, raising the neck and making it bigger by flexing the poll, while at the same time transforming their gaits to emphasize more upwards movement. When fighting, the horse will collect because in collection he can produce lightning speed reactions for kicking, rearing, spinning, striking with the front feet, bucking and jumping.

This natural ability to collect is visible in every horse of any breed, and probably inspired early trainers to reproduce that kind of behavior in more controlled circumstances. This origin also points out why, according to most Classical dressage trainers, every healthy horse, regardless of its breed, can perform classical dressage movements, including the Haute Ecole jumps, or Airs above the ground, even though it may perform them a little differently from the ideal performance due to the build of its body.

The ultimate goal of dressage training is to develop a horse to its ability as an athlete: maximum performance with a minimum of effort. The training scale (as set for in the German riding instruction) is to physically develop the horse in a consistent manner with longevity in mind. Dressage is fitness training and needs to be treated as such, with thought, compassion and patience.

Content adapted from Wikipedia

What is Natural Horsemanship?

What is Natural Horsemanship?

Natural Horsemanship

A human approaches a semi-wild horse in a non-threatening stance

Natural Horsemanship is a collective term for horse training techniques which share principles of developing a rapport with horses, using methods derived from observation of the natural behavior of free horses and rejecting abusive training methods.

Natural horsemanship practitioners often describe their approach as being a radical departure from “traditional” techniques, which are often portrayed as being based in the use of unnecessary force. Users and practitioners relate benefits both in relation to horse behavior, and also to the idea of a true partnership. High-profile practitioners of natural horsemanship such as Pat Parelli and John Lyons provide their methods through educational books, television appearances, live shows and other media.

The idea of working in sympathy with a horse in order to obtain cooperation is not new, with documented instances as far back as the two part treatise On Horsemanship by Xenophon (c. 430 – 354 BCE), which amongst other points, emphasized operant conditioning and emphasized reassurance over punishment.[1] Later classical dressage practitioners such as Antoine de Pluvinel (1555–1620 CE) and François Robichon de La Guérinière (1688–1751) also emphasized gentle techniques.  However, gentle training methods have always had to compete with harsher methods, which often appear to obtain faster, but less predictable results. In particular, the cowboy tradition of the American west, where the economics of needing to “break” large numbers of feral horses in a short period of time led to the development of a number of harsh training methods that the natural horsemanship movement specifically has set out to replace.

The modern natural horsemanship movement, though not originally described as such, developed primarily in the United States Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain states, where the “buckaroo” or vaquero-style cowboy tradition was the strongest. Brothers Tom and Bill Dorrance were early modern practitioners, who had background in the buckaroo tradition. They had a particularly strong influence on Ray Hunt, who in turn became a significant influence upon Buck Brannaman and many others such as Pat Parelli, who was also influenced by Dorrance and Hunt but also came from the rodeo world.

In Europe a number of variations are practiced that developed independently of the American model, influenced by Spanish or Hungarian horsemanship traditions as well as the teachings of Classical dressage. Some include work rooted in the use of human body language to communicate effectively to the horse.

Adapted from Wikipedia

What is Equine Assisted or Guided Learning? The Power of Therapeutic Horsemanship

What is Equine Assisted or Guided Learning? The Power of Therapeutic Horsemanship

​While I do not personally provide​ formal ​equine assisted riding services, I am a firm believer in the ​therapeutic power that comes from horseback riding.

​“The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.”  Winston Churchill

​The emerging field of Equine Assisted Activities is seeing a dynamic growth around the world.

​There are many national and internationally-recognized organizations, such as Equine Guided Learning (EGL), Equine Guided Education Association (EAGALA), Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH), EponaQuest, Equine Experiential Education (3A), which teach, support and often certify individuals and businesses to offer programs with horses for self improvement – including physical, professional, and personal development  The overall field is known as Equine Assisted Learning (EAL).  The mental or physical health therapeutic field is known as hippo-therapy.

Many people have come to realize that horses are good for us, not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally as well.  Horse owners have figured out for themselves that time spent with their horse(s) is their “special” time and find great solace in being with their horses either in sports or as pets.

There are studies underway to determine the true positive effect that horses have on humans, but we may never totally understand the depth of the relationship between horse and human.   Many anecdotal studies have shown that people are calmer when with horses, and have developed a greater ability to be more sensitive to others after spending time with horses.   It is commonly known that horses are very sensitive creatures and are given credit as being empathetic and aware of a person’s emotional state.   It is a mystery that such a physically powerful creature can be so sensitive and aware of the rider or handler’s state of being. Advanced riders are highly aware of their own ‘state’ when riding their horses and as a result, consciously manage their emotions on purpose to create either higher or lower energy, depending on the desired outcome, in the horse’s energy.   If someone is “upset,” or “having a bad day,” it is common knowledge among horse trainers that horses pick up and mirror the state of the person they are in contact with.

The Equine Assisted Learning industry has been helping people become aware of and improve their physical, mental, and emotional “state”, and is helping people manage and improve their skills most quickly.   It is clear that horses have a most wonderful effect on people.

We often think of therapeutic horsemanship as something that used for people who are dealing with some type of physical, mental or emotional challenge, however the truth is that there are benefits for everyone.

According to Elaine Gagné, Ed.D, MCC, of Equine Guided Learning in Colorado Springs, CO, ​ “Horses have amazing powers of perception and communication that can help us (humans) to be more self aware, identify important desired changes in our behavior, increase our powers of communication and develop our leadership ability.”   In her business ​Elaine works with people who are either business owners, entrepreneurs, or employees to increase their leadership capacity.  One of Elaine’s clients stated, 

“I will never forget the breakthroughs I made with Elaine and her horses! I established boundaries and clarified specific actions I needed to take to re-establish and maintain a better balance in my life. I realized that balance is not possible without being aware of boundaries.  In the past, I have gone to seminars, used techniques, and said affirmations to try to make changes; but I usually forget after a while. It is the experience of working with a horse that is not easily forgotten.”

There are several providers of Equine Assisted Learning programs for anyone looking to have a unique yet powerful experience with a horse.    A simple Google search will show the trend in this dynamic and growing industry.  Programs vary in form from simple to very in-depth.  Simple programs may last a day, such as that of Equine Guided Learning, or many days and years as that of EponaQuest, among others, offering certifications for those wishing to become EAL educators.  There are even groups helping veterans find joy and happiness with horses after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when nothing else would work.   It has been known for a long time that mentally challenged individuals find great joy with horses, and paraplegic riders feel they have “legs” when riding.

Riding and non-riding programs are available to anyone interested in this dynamically growing industry.  A professional coach or therapist, and a horse handler in combination typically present the program to ensure a level of safety.

Spirit Therapies is the only licensed and certified EAGALA and PATH facility in Las Vegas, NV.

What is Western Dressage?

What is Western Dressage?

​Come experience what all the fuss is about!   Western Dressage is classical dressage training for the western horse.  All breeds are welcome, all riders, all levels, all levels.  Learn to apply classical training principles as a foundation for any discipline.

Western Dressage is Taking Off !

More information coming soon.

Las Vegas and Henderson Public Equestrian Parks

Las Vegas and Henderson Public Equestrian Parks

Horseback Riding at Bradley Equestrian Park

Horseback Riding at Bradley Equestrian Park

​Have you ever wanted to just load up the horses and take them to a park but weren’t sure where to go and what to expect when you arrived?      

This article ​contains ​basic information about a some of the Public Equestrian Parks in Las Vegas and Henderson.  For more details about a specific park, visit the park website or call the park’s managing entity.   Most of the information you need is available on the website. The parks are owned or managed by different government entities or management groups but it helps to know as much as you can so you can plan your day for success!

​Horseman’s Park​ 

5800 E. Flamingo Rd., Las Vegas, NV 89122 - 702-455-8206

Horseman’s Park is located in southeast Clark County with easy access from US 93/95, I-515 off the Flamingo Rd Exit.  The largest public equestrian park in Clark County, in the Southeast side of town, Horseman’s Park boasts 38 acres of space with all the amenities  needed for a major event.  Many of the horse shows are held at Horseman’s Park throughout the year.   It is a one-stop, all-inclusive facility, designed for a Professional Event from Rodeos, to Team Roping, to Jumping, to Barrels, to Vaulting, to Bull Sales.  

The Main Arena, with a seating capacity of 2800 and ADA accessibility, the Flamingo Arena, (with seating for 400) a cutting arena, two practice arenas, corrals and livestock pens, wash racks, restrooms and showers, oversize parking, picnic area with open turf, show offices, announcer’s stand, 320 stalls, RV parking with electricity are both available for your event.

Special pricing is available for Youth or Community Events.  The Park offers nearby lodging, and even offers overnight boarding for travelers.    ​

Western Trails Equestrian Park

7500 Cameron Street, Las Vegas, NV  89139 - (702) 455-8200

​Western Trails Equestrian Park is located in southwest Clark County with easy access from I-15 off the Blue Diamond Exit.   The park sits on nine acres of manicured arena, a round pen, a dressage court and bridle paths that wind around inside the park.   There’s an amphitheater in this park too!  Park hours are 6 am to 11 pm on a first-come, first-served basis.  It truly is a clean, comfortable, wide open park. 

Check out the Western Trails Neighborhood Park Facebook Page to see what they are all about!

​Bradley Bridle Park

8225 N Bradley Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89131 - (702) 229-6718

Bradley Bridle Park is very convenient if you live in the North side of town, and is easily accessible from I-215 and Bradley Rd Exit.   The park is on the corner of Horse and Bradley Rd.  This is a great park with desert area close by for those who love the trail!   Bradley Bridle Park is owned and operated by the City of Las Vegas.  

You can make reservations for equestrian special events and to reserve a picnic pavilion but otherwise, it is on a first-come, first-served basis.  Bradley Bridle Park has a large arena with lights and bleacher seating, two roundpens, one lighted, a covered stall, restrooms, a perimeter trail, and three shaded picnic areas.   ​

​Floyd Lamb Park

9200 Tule Springs Rd., Las Vegas, NV  89131 - (702) 229-6718

Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs is a large day-use only facility on the Northwest side of the valley easy access off Durango and the 95.  ​ This is a nice park if you are interested in riding on the trails around the park or into the desert, but does not have riding arenas, round pens or stalls.  Tables and grills are located throughout the park, some covered cluster sites are available for small groups.  All areas are on a first-come, first served basis.  

Groups of 25 or more require advance reservations for use of group use areas.  Park gate hours are 8 am to 8 pm May thru August, and 9 am to 5 pm September thru April.   Park Fees are:  Daily Per Car:  $6 including car and horse trailer.   

​Equestrian Park South

1200 Equestrian Dr., Henderson, NV - (702)267-4000

Equestrian Park South is a large park in Henderson​m, is located off Boulder Hwy, Equestrian Drive and Magic Way.  Operated by the City of Henderson, this is a really nice and clean park with fabulous views of the desert and mountains.  Boasting 170 acres, 1.8 mile dirt horse path, a paved biking/walking trail, with parking for horse trailers, open grass area and restrooms, this is a wonderful equestrian facility.  

In addition, the park features three adjoining loops, a 1.4 mile equestrian trail to the north which connects Saguaro Park, Equestrian Park South, Equestrian Park North, Equestrian Trailhead, and River Mountains Loop Trail. The hours are 6:00 am – midnight.   ​

I hope this information has been useful.  

Wherever you decide to ride, be safe, have fun and above all, enjoy your time with your horse!

Callie Klein, Riding Instructor

What is Centered Riding?

What is Centered Riding?

centered riding - woman riding horse

Centered Riding  is a proven and effective unique way of teaching and applying the classical principles of riding, using body awareness, centering, and imagery developed by Sally Swift. ​It encompasses all seats and styles of riding.

"The ultimate goal of Centered Riding is not to be a discipline unto itself. It must go forward in its purest and least complicated form so it can be integrated into all disciplines of riding." Sally Swift (1913 - 2009)

Centered Riding  teaches you how to help your body do what you need to do to ride well.  

Centered Riding techniques help promote suppleness, stability, and clearer aids, making riding more comfortable for both horse and rider.  As you learn and experience the principles through your horse’s motion and responses, you and your horse “tune in” to each other and work together in harmony.  These techniques can increase confidence and enjoyment and release tension in horses and riders, making training easier.

Centered Riding  is based on a knowledge of human and horse anatomy, balance, movement, and on understanding how the mind affects the body and how both affect the horse.  It used centering and grounding techniques from the oriental martial arts, along with body awareness, mental imagery and sports psychology.  Through increasing body awareness, inhibiting old patterns, and replacing them with a more balanced, free, and coordinated use of self, both horse and rider can move more freely and comfortably, and develop their best performance.

Centered Riding Basics 

  • Soft Eyes encourage visual and physical awareness, better peripheral vision, and improved “feel.”
  • Breathing using the diaphragm and breathing correctly for better posture, relaxation, and energy.
  • Balance or Building Blocks aligns the rider’s body for improved balance, straightness, and ease of movement.
  • Centering using the center of balance, movement and control, located deep in the body, gives quiet strength, harmony and power, as in the oriental martial arts.

Who can benefit from Centered Riding?  

Centered Riding applies to all kinds of horsemanship and any type of horse or rider, helping riders to achieve their own and their horse’s best potential by removing fear, pressure, and unnecessary tension and helping riders understand how to use their bodies better.  Centered Riding techniques have been used by riders, trainers,, and instructors of all levels, from beginners and pleasure riders to Olympic competitors.  Centered Riding is used extensively in therapeutic riding, and has helped many riders cope with old injuries or chronic conditions  Most of all, it is fascinating and fun!

About Centered Riding Instructors​

Centered Riding was developed by Sally Swift, author of the best-selling book and videotapes.  Today, it is taught by Centered Riding instructors around the world.  Instructors become qualified by completing a Centered Riding Instructor Course, and are required to prove their techniques in bi-annual certification courses.

I am proud to be the ​only Certified Centered Riding Instructor in Nevada.


To learn more about Centered Riding go to

Benefits of Attending a Western Dressage 1-2-3 Clinic

Benefits of Attending a Western Dressage 1-2-3 Clinic

​Guest Post by Susanne J. Rowe

​Western Dressage: Classical Horsemanship for Today's Rider

On an overcast winter day a group of horses and riders gather in Sandy Valley. The scene is reminiscent of the Old West—the horses wear hefty leather saddles and their riders wear blue jeans and cowboy boots. But this is no rodeo. The Sandy Valley group is participating in a Western Dressage 1-2-3 clinic sponsored by the North American Western Dressage organization. Today’s clinic will include plenty of riding and end with a videotaping session.

Western Dressage is based on the principles of classical horsemanship—remember those dancing white Lipizzaner stallions?

Why would today’s cowboys be interested in dancing horses?​

Western Dressage techniques improve the horse and rider’s performance by teaching the horse to collect, or bring his hindquarters underneath him, in preparation for a change in direction or speed. The horse becomes more responsive to the rider’s signals, or aids, such as yielding to leg pressure or shifts in the rider’s weight. Riders benefit, too, by learning to clearly communicate their wishes.

Callie Klein of Cloud Nine Ranch LLC is presenting today’s clinic at Sandy Valley’s BJC Arena.

Klein is a recognized professional with the North American Western Dressage association and developed the curriculum for the Western Dressage 1-2-3 clinics. Klein is also a graduate of the Western Dressage Association of America’s Train The Trainer™ program and her extensive background in Natural Horsemanship informs the way she instructs. “I teach about the natural ways that horses communicate among one other, how horses understand humans, and how you can develop communication and create harmony with your horse—on and off the saddle.”

Sharon Fiato is attending the clinic riding her colorful gaited horse, Chip. Fiato’s goal is to improve her partnership with Chip while developing Chip’s flexibility, balance, and overall athleticism. Western Dressage techniques work to improve performance with all horses regardless of breed, size, ability, or previous training.

The Western Dressage 1-2-3 clinics are uniquely organized. After only a few hours of instruction, the horse and rider learn several patterns. These patterns are known as “tests” and have increasing levels of difficulty. Each pattern includes changes in direction and transitions in the horse’s speed. Locations in the arena are marked and cue the rider where to perform each part of the test. Then the pair is videotaped performing their chosen pattern. The videotape is sent to a judge who is certified with the North American Western Dressage association. Within a week, the judge finalizes a score sheet for each horse and rider’s performance and assigns a number, or grade, for that test. The rider can use the grade and judge’s feedback to work towards improving performance. All results are kept confidential unless the rider chooses to compete for a North American Western Dressage achievement award.

Klein enjoys teaching students Western Dressage principles and techniques.

“My clinics are really fun and a valuable platform for learning. Our virtual shows are an awesome low-key opportunity to get a certified judge’s feedback without the pressure or high cost of attending a show.”

The relaxed atmosphere helps riders increase their confidence, try something new, and most of all have fun with their horses. Each three hour clinic includes group instruction, work both off and on the horse, and the virtual test video session with a certified Western Dressage judge’s score and comments. 

Learn more about Callie's Western Dressage 1-2-3 Clinics.

Western Dressage Interview

Western Dressage Interview

A few years ago, I was contacted by one of the bloggers, Michelle Binder, for the USEF website and their blog called Equestrian Weekly. I was so honored that she took time to meet me to write an article for the blog about bringing Western Dressage to the Las Vegas community. We had a great time together, sharing the importance of Dressage as a positive training pattern or roadmap for every horse. Both of us have a background in Natural Horsemanship and Dressage. We found we have a lot in common.  Since this interview I have become a Western Dressage Professional, teaching students and trainers the foundation of Dressage and how it can help their horses.  There are many avenues to learn more about Western Dressage and North American Western Dressage is very active in promoting with a positive community. Check out