Relationship doctor
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Spirit, not spurs

In the midst of a workout at Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley, Ray Berta directs his horse, Star, to relax and prepare for further exercises. (Myung J. Chun / LAT)
Trainer Ellen Eckstein works a horse in the corral of her Templeton, Calif., ranch. In the late ‘70s she found herself frustrated with her progress at dressage. With Tom Dorrance’s help, she learned how to free up her horses’ gaits while maintaining control over the animals. (Myung J. Chun / LAT)
Juan Valezquez competes in the Bill Dorrance Old Style Calf Branding event at the Carmel Valley Ranchers’ Days rodeo. The calf will be “branded” with white paint. (Myung J. Chun / LAT)
Berta succeeds at teaching a horse good habits and predictable responses by getting “inside the horse’s mind and emotions” to understand how to make the animal comfortable. (Myung J. Chun / LAT)
Berta works on control techniques with Sarah Coleman and her 5-year-old Arabian. His goal with all clients is to give both horse and rider a positive experience. (Myung J. Chun / LAT)
As her well-worn book attests, Eckstein is a Dorrance disciple. (Myung J. Chun / LAT)
Ray Berta visits his old mustang at Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley. Berta, who may be the area’s busiest working horse trainer, bases his techniques on the method of “natural horsemanship” taught by Bill and Tom Dorrance. For Berta, the key concept is “feel”: Horses are motivated not by fear and pain - or by rewards and treats - but by tension and release. (Myung J. Chun / LAT)