Benton couple have passion for horses, no strings attached

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published February 7, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 6, 2013 at 3:07 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Curt Youngblood

Jim Langley puts his quarter horse cross, Traveler, through his paces at the Holtzman Riding Academy. There, Langley works with Judy Holtzman to train the horse. Holtzman owns the academy with her husband, Ray.

— Self-proclaimed horse fanatic Judy Holtzman trotted her way into Arkansas from Michigan in 1980 with her husband, Ray. The couple own and operate the Holtzman Riding Academy in Benton, which they formed in 1983.

“I’m a city girl from just outside of Detroit, Mich., and when my husband and I got married, we were both interested in horses,” Judy Holtzman said. “I had never owned a horse in my life, but I was crazy about horses.”

When the couple moved to Arkansas, she said, they had “horses instead of kids at first.”

“I was so engrossed in horses that I wanted to learn more and more,” Holtzman said. “I did a lot of studying, and I went to seminars and clinics and tried to learn everything I could about them.”

Over the years, the couple have had quarter horses, paint horses, mustangs and Clydesdales.

“When I was young, I had favorites. You have favorite colors, breeds, but as I’ve gotten older, [I’ve learned] there is no bad horse,” Holtzman said. “I like them all.”

What’s unique about the Holtzmans’ establishment is that Judy is the only Certified Resistance Free horse trainer in Arkansas.

“You teach them in a way that you’re not pulling and jerking,” she said. “A lot of people think you have to force a horse to do something, but you don’t.”

Learning the basics of horses and how they operate is the foundation of what Holtzman does at the riding academy.

“There are things you should and shouldn’t do around a horse,” she said. “You can do the wrong thing and get hurt.”

Before she starts working with students, she shows them how to approach a horse properly and how to act around the animal.

“It makes [the students] more at ease,” she said.

The first thing Holtzman does with a new student is to give a groundwork lesson.

“Most places that people go to ride, they go out there, they get on a horse, and they ride. They get on cold,” she said. “I want [the student] to get acquainted with that horse and learn how to behave around that horse.”

When Holtzman begins training a horse, its first lesson begins with groundwork as well.

“Groundwork is when you actually get into a horse’s mind,” she said. “You can do enough work on the ground with that horse so that you can teach that horse to listen to leg pressures, listen to its reins. You can do emergency stops, side passes, teach them to back up and everything.”

Holtzman’s newest endeavor is teaching students how to “start” a horse, resistance free.

“They can start their horse themselves, under my supervision,” she said.

She’s started the program with one of her assistants, Mike Langley, who is training a 2-year-old horse.

“He’s been able to just go on with this horse, and it’s just amazing,” Holtzman said.

Along with lessons in training a horse resistance free, Holtzman gives riding lessons to students who range from age 4 to 84.

“[The 84-year old man] came out when he was 79, and he’s loved horses his whole life, but he had never ridden one,” she said.

Horses each have a different personality and are magical animals, Holtzman said.

More information on the Holtzman Riding Academy can be found at

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501)244-4307 or

Online News Editor Lisa Burnett can be reached at

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