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Dances With Horses Inc. News

A Fall Welcome
From Frank Bell & Dances With Horses Inc.

After record-breaking temperatures in the west, we’re reveling in my favorite time of the year. We’re all more comfortable with cool mornings and evenings and the absence of bugs. Our horses have more stamina and just feel better. It’s the ideal time of year to get some extra riding in before winter and leave our horses in a great place mentally and physically, especially if they won’t be ridden during the colder months. Be sure to feed up the hard keepers adding a little extra weight as we head into winter.

Along with the colder weather and hard morning frosts come some hidden dangers. It’s imperative that horses are warmed up religiously before riding. My 7-Steps is designed to help set the horses up for successful and safe riding. This takes place on the ground before getting on. If your horse is too high and bouncing off the walls, do the 6th step, ballet on the ground prior to riding. When the horse is right, he’ll invite the ride. Then in the saddle if the horse gets too frisky, again resort to ballet in the saddle. This will use the horse’s energy constructively while promoting both of your safety. I cannot stress these exercises enough and have absolute first hand experience with dealing with overly charged up horses. The complete 7-Steps are covered in my video "Discover the Horse You Never Knew."

It’s common for the first few inches of the ground to freeze this time of year. When the sun comes out the very top layer will melt and the footing will appear safe. Tight turns can be dangerous. Be careful riding in potentially slippery areas. Best to check the ground before performing sharp turns, rollbacks, etc. Again, this is something at which I have first hand personal knowledge. I’ve gone down with more than one horse in these exact situations.

If you won’t be riding your horses during the winter, it’s a good chance to spread and toughen up your horses’ feet. Shoeing can reduce strength and contract horses’ feet. Allowing horses to go barefoot usually does nothing but improve their hooves. Come spring those feet are in great shape and ready for work. Consult with your farrier about this issue. Remember, no feet, no horse


6th Annual Wild Horse Workshop
This year the workshop took place in Tooele, Utah from September 14-21. It was deemed a great success not so much by adoption standards, but indeed by the thoroughness in the gentling of about three dozen horses. Our record number of trainers demonstrating varied techniques was a real boon to the participants who observed wide-ranging philosophies. All participants got their hands on lots of mustangs with dramatically differing personalities. By week’s end we had more quiet horses than ever. There were several happenings of note including:

Robert Denlinger’s Navajo Ring. Robert specializes in creating a human round pen. Typically a dozen people will surround the horse and offer little pressure, but obvious boundaries. As the horse settles his curiosity pushes him to take a sniff here and accept a rub there. Gradually the circle closes until loving humans with nothing to offer but gentle touch surround the horse. At the end of the week, Robert and his crew had wild horses playing kickball in the round pen!

Willis Lamb saved the day late in the week as a wired up black stallion had several of us swiftly climbing the fences to make room for this over-charged animal. Willis introduced poles on the ground and balls in the pen to force concentration. He allowed the horse to settle and focus, and then entered the 24’ square pen. Willis hugged one side and stayed very visible performing jumping jacks and exhibited much activity to get the horse used to an active human. It was remarkable to watch this hyped stallion settle, focus, and finally accept Willis gesture of an extended hand. Willis exited when black beauty had taken a good sniff. The next day a completely different horse entered the pen. Within minutes Willis was making contact, followed by several participants; then Barbara Bourgnone- performed her incredibly effective skull tapping technique to help settle this magnificent creature. The results with that stallion as well as a variety of other distrusting and slightly freaked horses were equally as impressive.

The very accomplished Hue Simpson of the Tellington Touch School introduced the focusing technique that Willis employed in past years. Hue has helped us all understand some evolved methods of gaining ground with the less focused wild ones that can challenge even the most seasoned of trainers.

I was asked to do a trailer loading before lunch mid-week. I had a good- sized gentled and adopted three-year-old bay to work with, but immediately noted the high step-up of the stock trailer. After about fifteen minutes it became apparent that this was a difficult set up. The horse fully understood what I wanted, but couldn’t rock back onto his haunches enough to lighten his front and get a foot up. Instead of trying to bull my way through the loading, I stopped and deferred to the whole group. With a dozen seasoned trainers we had a wealth of knowledge to draw from. Our senior charter member John Sharp made a few suggestions including driving the horse over poles to teach him to lift his front feet. More to the point John suggested lowering the back by either raising the front or shoveling out behind the wheels and backing up a bit. He drove his cart over to the front of the trailer and within minutes Cliff Tipton had the back lowered by half to where it was only about 8” above the ground instead of 16. I started over and within a few minutes the bay gelding had a foot, then two in the trailer. With lots of praise he finally went in comfortably and happily. A half dozen round trips in and out and he was begging to go home with his new owners.

The benefit of this whole procedure cannot be underestimated. Far too often we get into our heads ‘the way’ to do something and it just doesn’t work. Sometimes the horse isn’t ready. Sometimes we’re handicapped by the set- up, as we were that day. Taking the time to think and regroup is invaluable and a necessary element to all horse training. It was a very valuable learning experience for everyone in attendance including your truly. A hearty thanks especially to John Sharp whose experience helped us all see a different way to help the horse into the trailer.

The second day Brent Huyett sent an attractive yearling sorrel stallion my way. Brent had a hunch that my technique of gentling with the pole followed by the chute could bring this one along quickly. I eased in and tried something new to me. I lowered my stature, extended my face and whistled into is nose. He greeted me eagerly and seemed curious enough to extend his head to mine. Within a few minutes I was stroking his face and neck, then practicing a little give and take as I suggested he bring his head into me from the side while using his nose-handle. I then drove him into the chute and with the help of my A-Team, had him happily accepting human touch all over his body. With the halter on and the little sorrel understanding the basic principals of leading and backing, I opened the chute into the 24’ square pen. Within a few minutes this exceptionally bright yearling was doing ballet on the ground like a seasoned ballroom dancer. I vowed to not allow him to leave the premises without someone paying a pretty price for him. That pretty price was not paid at the auction, so I am the proud owner of my first mustang. He’ll be arriving at my home in Idaho in late October.

For a thorough description of gentling horses using the pole, read ‘Fishing for Mustangs’ at:


American Horse Trainers Symposium in Turlock, California

The last weekend of September found our gang assembled in Turlock for a weekend symposium. With some very interesting horses, we put on a great show in the warm California sun. Steve Sikora did a great foal-handling demonstration. He started by showing just how good it can be with one he’d spent some time with; then took a little buckskin filly and showed her the way. Within a half hour she was leading, stopping, and backing like a champ. He even had her turning on the haunches as he moved into her. It was an impressive transformation. Josh Lyons started a three-year-old black stallion that’d had very little work. This was a real project that took Josh, master starter of horses, a full three and a half hours. It was a great demonstration for the audience to see the steps and time necessary with a difficult horse. As the sun set Josh mounted and rode the horse successfully and without incident. The next day Clay Harper started a trailer loading with the same horse, but in a short while wisely decided the horse was not ready. The stallion had progressed well the day before, but was not quite ready to enter the trailer, which might have set the horse back. Clay regrouped and then helped an attractive bay with loading issues find his way comfortably into the stock trailer. Again it was a great lesson and demonstration for the public to see. Sometimes even the most experienced of trainers have to take a step backwards to do the right thing.

I did my 7-Steps Safety System on an incredibly well trained and attractive two-year-old gruela. The horse was perfect to the point of having very little to fix. Had my suitcase been a bit larger, he’d have gone home with me. The next day I did problem solving with a couple quarter horses with clipping and foot handling issues. Again, by the time I’d run through the same steps I use on all horses, the issues hardly existed. The lesson for the crowd was about preparation. A bit of TLC and trust building set the stage to succeed quite easily and both horses performed beautifully by the end of the session.

I had a couple other horses on stand-by so then moved off to the side and taught a big 18-year-old mare how to give to the bit and stop on a dime. The horse had never learned to bend at the pole when asked to stop. We worked on that for a few minutes on the ground; then in the saddle. I never released her until she softened...every single time. Within minutes her owner had it working as well and was smiling ear to ear. Her husband hadn’t ever gotten along with the horse, so that was the next project. I helped him mount correctly and give black mare a good rubbing on the withers. Then we talked about getting loosened up in the saddle and reassuring her with his relaxed body language. He’d been so uptight that his energy was traveling right through to her. Within a few minutes they were riding with a completely new level of trust and communication. Success and more big smiles!

The next horse was a stocky and very nervous seven-year-old chestnut quarter horse that had been bucking her owner off. I immediately found holes everywhere and deemed the horse unbroken. This horse was terrified of ropes anywhere, but especially around his backside. I tactfully taught him to unwind away from the pressure, but it wasn’t easy for him. He was so close to losing it and would almost go down onto his hind end when he initially felt the rope behind him. With some patience and nurturing he began to understand the concept and relax. I didn’t move on until he had completely accepted the rope on his opposite side and could rationally move away from that pressure. This is one of the best exercises I’ve discovered in my training career. When horses can do this confidently they are moving from pressure, changing eyes, disengaging their hindquarters, and the hind legs are being desensitized. Invaluable.

I then saddled this guy and proceeded to drive him off by tapping the lead on the saddle. Again I found a very sticky spot. He reacted quite irrationally and moved very impulsively. This is also one of my favorite exercises that generally tell just how ready a horse is to ride. I had to back up and lightly tap the saddle with my open hand; then progress to slapping it harder and harder; then ask him to walk off and handle the same. The true test is can the horse stay rational while moving. This took some time and patience, but he finally settled and handled it beautifully and invited me to ride. I mounted him, bent his head in each direction, and reassured him. We then worked on one-rein stops at a walk and trot in each direction. By the second his confidence improved until he finally let out a big sigh, licked his lips, and lowered his head in what was probably his first letting down in years.

As I rode him I inquired about his feeding program. His pregnant owner informed me she fed alfalfa and sweet feed. We then moved into a strong lecture about feeding. This horse was clearly overfed and needed a much lower protein feed. The poor guy was about jumping out of his skin because of a bad feeding program. I told her I’d rather see a rib or two and ride a sane horse, than have an overweight skitzy one. The owner went home with my foundation video on these remarkable 7-Steps "Discover the Horse You Never Knew" as well as with one of my 12’ halter/lead combos. This way she had the right information and tools to succeed with her overfed horse. I am still waiting for a report.

The glaring message in these last two horses is about seeking the right information, which isn’t always so easy to find. All these people were doing what they thought was right, but were way off the mark, even dangerously so. It’s imperative that we take the time to find competent knowledgeable help. It seems like all horse people become experts from the moment they begin leading a horse. So be careful to qualify the people you take information from. While the feed store was quite happy with their program for the chestnut gelding, the horse was in a bad way. Additionally the owner had no ground skills to offer this energetic animal. This was a bad accident waiting to happen. Thankfully she found me and was too far along in her pregnancy to ride anyway. We found her local help and nudged her into Clay’s upcoming clinic. With a bit of luck this coupling will succeed.


Late summer and even fall in the Bahamas is not a very comfortable time. It’s hot and humid and there is an abundance of bugs; a bit like southern Florida. But the tenacious Mimi Rehor is busy fencing the new preserve for the remaining 15 horses. With a little luck the horse will enter onto their new domain and live again as wild horses that move and forage and reproduce. Mimi always needs financial help to realize her amazing goal of saving this valuable herd of Spanish Barbs. Mimi’s site is

Hats off to Mimi Rehor and her organization of loyal volunteers.


Friends of Horses
Earlier in the summer at our American Horse Trainers symposium in Parker, CO, I became acquainted with this organization. They’d brought my subject for my 7-Step Demonstration. This attractive dapple gray thoroughbred gelding had been rescued from slaughter and was a bit of a case. He’d dumped several competent riders and was desperately in need of help. I worked my program and found some notable holes as well as some pain issues. But he progressed beautifully and we ended up sharing a great ride. He was the perfect demo horse as the crowd saw big changes as I put my 7-Steps to work.

Since that time I’ve gotten very involved with this remarkable group from Friends of Horses. These people are truly saints who have rescued and placed in good homes over seventy 70 horses in the last year! The pictures of emaciated animals entering the facility, followed by buffed out beautiful creatures when they leave brings tears to my eyes. They are now using my 7 Step Safety System and teaching it to their volunteers who are in turn making amazing strides on a daily basis. The younger volunteers are working with the foals and will be showcased in a show in early November.

Please visit their site and support their wonderful efforts:


Dances With Horses Product Updates
One of the outcomes from the Wild Horse Workshop will be our new ‘Gentling the Wild Horse Video.’ This will be an amazing work as the subject gray yearling in the beginning is literally self-destructing running into the side of the pen and then over time and many loving hands transforms right before your eyes into a quietly leading respectful young horse. By the end of this two-hour session the horse is tied happily to the side of the pen. Since this horse was adopted, we’ll be able to follow his progress for years to come. The video will be the actual two-hour footage of this amazing yet typical process of gentling wild horses. Read about this remarkable technique on my site: ‘Fishing for Mustangs.’

All our videos are now available in DVD at:


Video of the Month Club Speaking of videos and DVD's, our video of the month program is being well received. Since we have twelve videos and an audio book, it’s quite convenient for many people to start this way. Each month a new video arrives allowing the student to totally focus on that one for the month. Sometimes starting with the whole set is a bit overwhelming. If you already have one or more videos, you can sign up for the remaining titles. Log onto our site for more information on this handy way to get started.


Now Available ...
Gentling Poles One of the most important tools in the gentling of wild or difficult to touch horses is the pole. Just about any type of pole is useful, but we prefer either lodge pole pine or bamboo. Bamboo tends to be brittle, though very effective and light in weight. The lodge poles are sturdier, heavier, and longer lasting. We are offering them right from our own forests. UPS will handle poles to 9’. Let us know if you’d like a custom gentling pole.


Frank's Book on the 7-Step System I’ve had requests for a book on my 7-Step Safety System for years and have as well been collecting stories of the exceptional horses I’ve helped for sometime. Many of these stories have been in equine publications and magazines and some are available on my site.I recently partnered with fellow natural horsemanship trainer and author Sylvia Scott in Virginia in producing a book that captures my journey with horses, my 7 Steps, and some of the most memorable transformations of the horses I’ve helped. While were still wrestling with the title and publishers make many suggestions and changes, it does look like this could become a reality within the next half year. Please let us know if you’d be interested in ordering one of the early-signed copies. It will be chocked full of pictures both instructional and entertaining of my incredible journey with the creature that completely changed my life.


Any 3 Videos of your choice for $100.00 (plus s/h)
(Offer good through 12-15-2003 - includes VHS or DVD format - just mention this newsletter)


Announcing one of my favorite games . . . . . BANDITO
( Inventor = my wife Alex! )
After 6 years in the works, I'm proud to announce that Alex's game has become a reality! In the process there has been four prototypes with four names . . . the game is called "BANDITO." BANDITO is a fun group game that seems to bring out the silly, cleaver, bluffing side of all that play it. With a little luck, a little strategy and a lot of laughing, shaking, and bluffing, you end up one of the players who outlasts the others and goes into a "mexican standoff" to win whatever prize, or just for fun.
The game is available at or (great Christmas idea for 10 or older). For those of you who have played it with us, it would be a big support if you would go to the website and do a positive review under Bandito. It will make a huge difference for our acceptance into the stores. Please pass this on to your game playing friends.

Thanks in advance for your support . . . Alex Danea


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