Inside The American Horsewoman’s Challenge with Ruella Yates

Honoring women’s contribution to training North America’s horses, a first-ever event displays exciting performances!


Opening Ceremony with Ruella

A brand-new major horse event, the American Horsewoman’s Challenge, included liberty work to encourage a new generation of horsewomen: those who are interested in developing deep relationship with the horse! What joy I take in being on the cutting edge of such an exciting time in the history of horse training! The AHC was held at the Lazy E Arena near Guthrie, OK, one of the premier competition arenas in the world. The event will return here next year for what will become an annual event.

Two of my Liberty Foundations students, Mary Kitzmiller and Krystle Pennington McCormack, were chosen to compete in the Challenge, so naturally I became very interested and volunteered to help with check-in, which involved much paperwork, but I was rewarded with getting to know incoming horsewomen and horses from across the United States and Canada! I also met Producer Jim Hutchins, whose brainchild was this competition involving only women! The son of a strong woman and brother to four equally strong sisters, “Hutch” knows women have the strength to make a horse feel safe and protected. Women know how to form bonds and nurture relationships. These skills were apparent in the competition, as well as solid horsemanship!

As we worked, Hutch asked me if I’d do a Liberty Demo at the Opening Ceremony the next night. Feeling privileged to speak for the Free Horse, I agreed, not knowing the plan…and therein lies my story!


Mary Kitzmiller, TX

Among the women checking in was Mary Kitzmiller, the premier woman mustang trainer in the world. Mary is known for her hard work, amazing horsemanship and gentle ways with horses. She’s been at this for several years, so I wasn’t surprised to see her here! Mary visited my Spirit Horse Ranch Liberty Foundations two years ago to improve her Liberty skills, knowing that would be effective in her training for the Mustang Makeover competitions. Since that time I’ve watched her progress with interest, knowing she would reach the top. The photo on the right is from Western Horseman Magazine’s October issue. Hear more about Mary in Western Horseman’s video and interview below!



Krystle McCormack and Zoe

It was no surprise to see Krystle Pennington McCormack check in with her Morgan filly Zoe (Little Miss Renegade), but I was surprised to see another horse step out of her trailer. Krystle said with a smile that Pocket came along to ‘babysit his sister.’ Krystle was one of the show’s several younger women starting to make a name for themselves in the training business.
Krystle, an accomplished award-winning rider and teacher, brought Zoe to me two weeks before the competition for help with Liberty; we had made great progress. I had never seen the other horse, a Morgan gelding named Pocket. Knowing what I know now, his name could have been Destiny!

With one day to prepare for the Liberty Demo, I found my own amazing horse had injured his hip and needed time to heal. No problem, I thought! I work with new horses all the time! I asked Krystle’s permission to work with her Morgan gelding, Pocket, knowing he was on site! Pocket had no liberty training, so it became my own Challenge to see what we could do.

What Happened in the Opening Ceremony

AHC3Friday night’s Opening Ceremony was beautiful, from what I could see in the distance! I was at the far end of the arena with Pocket, Krystle Pennington McCormack’s champion Morgan gelding, sealing the bond. Plans for the show had changed, and the script called for beginning with a young girl on a stick horse in the arena, progressing through the stages of a woman’s life with horses. Much beauty in the horses, women, and live music from Michael Martin Murphy and Templeton Thompson. Pocket and I closed the show alone in the arena at Liberty. That blessed horse united with a woman he barely knew in a remarkable way; I was so in the moment with him that I was hardly aware of bright lights, music and the audience. He moved with me, turned with me, stepped away, returned to me. He arched his lovely neck, leaned down toward me, and I kissed him on the muzzle, exchanging breath. Please watch the slide show below of special moments in that lovely time.

How it Happened

How did I make connection and convince a horse that I was a Caretaking Leader in little more than an hour? I used the power of Liberty Foundations, which I teach in lessons, clinics and online classes. I’ve been practicing this on a professional level for enough years that it is second nature to me, and horses recognize their own safety in the practice. I went to Pocket’s stall, greeted him and went inside, sitting in a corner of his stall in Meditation. In a few minutes I arose and moved with him in that small space.

A roundpen was available the next morning at sunrise, as high winds and 40-degree temperatures signaled a cold front from Canada. It was on green grass, but still Pocket was available to me, listening and making his decision about me. That evening I entered the Lazy E, met him, hoping for the best. Opening the gate to the huge arena, I removed his lead rope and set him free.

Would you like to learn Liberty Foundations Online with Ruella?

A new class begins January 14, 2015!

OnlineLFGift yourself and your horse with 7 weeks of Liberty Foundations Training Online with Ruella Yates!

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Invest now in the magic that can happen when you train the Liberty Foundations way with Free Horses without force.

Read what students in Ruella’s first Liberty Foundations Online Class say about their experience here

Your Online Class will include a private online Classroom with lessons, photos and video teaching planned for your best understanding of building an amazing bond with your horse!

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