Talking, Listening to the Animals Key to Young Horse Trainer’s Success – Press Release 4/4/2005

DATE 04/04/2005 7:15 AM

This is part of an occasional series by the Sanpete Country Travel and Utah Heritage Highway 89 Alliance on the people and places along U.S. Highway 89.

Talking, Listening to the Animals Key to Young Horse Trainer’s Success.

Ruth (Mellor) Livingston’s gift for working with horses was spotted by one of the best-known trainers in the country when she was only 15 years old.She was enrolled in a clinic taught by horseman Richard Shrake, renowned internationally for his resistance free training techniques that involve learning to understand what a horse is saying.

“After the clinic was over, he called me up and said he’d like to take me under his wing,” Livingston said. She started studying with Shrake and, at age 17, became the youngest-ever person to be nationally certified in resistance free training. She traveled around the country with Shrake training and hosting clinics.

“I guess I was just a natural at it,” she says with a laugh. Livingston’s love for horses developed at age 10 when she moved to the small town of Chester after her mother had remarried. Her stepfather was involved with horses and fostered Livingston’s interest in the animals.

Now, at age 23, she runs her own successful horse training center, Silver Dance Ranch, in Moroni. She works with horses in need of all kinds of training, from getting them ready to accept riders to preparing them for competition and to figuring out complex behavior issues. She also holds horse clinics around the state, including a session for “spooked horses” in Lakeshore later this month and a youth clinic in Ephraim in May.

“I love the idea what I can take a 1,250-pound animal and get inside of its head and have it communicate with me,” says Livingston, who has three show horses of her own. “I can work with that animal, train it and teach it to do all kinds of amazing things that it otherwise would never have done.”

While she laughs off comparisons to Robert Redford’s character in the popular movie “The Horse Whisperer,” a key to Livingston’s training program is watching, listening to and learning from the animals, the same kinds of techniques utilized in the movie.

“Horses do talk to you. You can see so much in their body language, and you learn to pick up on that,” she says. “A flick of an ear, a look in the eye, a swish of the tail, all of these little things can tell you a lot about the animal’s frame of mind and whether they are ready to listen and learn from you.”

Learning to know what the horse is telling the person working with him is what resistance free training is all about, Livingston says. “You work with the horse’s mind first, building respect and confidence between horse and trainer, using the lowest amount of resistance possible,” she says. The goal is to help people and horses develop a relationship through patience, kindness and understanding.

The most common problem people have with horses is that they don’t fully understand the workings of the horse world, Livingston says. “A lot of people think that horses are like other pets, and that if they feed them, take care of them and love them, the horse will love them back. But with horses, respect must be taught first, and love comes out of that,” she says. In the horse world, animals push one another around and a hierarchy is established, she says. The most domineering horse becomes the most respected and trusted horse and emerges as the leader. “All of the other horses love that horse because they trust him; they know that he will take care of them.”

Because trust is a vital part of the horse world, it’s also crucial in the horse-training world. “For horses to fully trust you, you have to you become one with the horse in a sense, you have to earn their trust,” Livingston says. “Most of the problems with horses are based on trust issues: a horse gets pushy, dominant or scared, and problems arise from that.”

When she is working with a horse, Livingston has the animal live at her ranch where she feeds, cares for and works with them daily. During the winter, she can accommodate up to six horses at a time, and during the warmer months, up to 11. “While I am working with a horse, I allow the owners to come in and observe and take lessons to figure out what is going on with the horse,” she says.

For more information on the Silver Dance Ranch, phone (435) 851-6758 or email

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For more information Contact:Monte Bona
Sanpete County Travel and Heritage Council
(435) 462-2502
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