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The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One trainer , No tools, Just body languageThe Goal:

To discover how far Equestrian Art can be developed solely using body language.

Attention, Attraction and Emotion

When I was in High School, someone wise once said to me, “There is nothing more attractive than attention.” My life so far has seen that proven true time and again.

Any good relationship, including one with a horse, should start from a base of attraction. So how do we cause a horse to want to be with us?


When I first brought Saavedra home, my wild mustang mare only four days in from the range, we tested that theory of attention and attraction and it surpassed all my expectations.

As I prepare myself for my new Mustang, and this project of challenging the “normal” course of building a relationship with a horse, I find myself looking deeply at the base structure of what makes a relationship work. Studying psychology and relationships, human and equine, I keep coming back to the idea that the relationship with others is interdependent with our relationship to ourselves.

What if the most important task in this life is to pay attention to ourselves and our emotions, then to pay attention to those near and dear to us, letting actions blossom out of that awareness. It could be as simple as noticing where my body is in space and where the horses body is in space, and how we can physically interact with the most harmony. It could delve deeper into how I feel as I stand here, how my horse tells me he feels as he stands next to me. If I have no rope to hold him to me, and no stick to threaten him into obedience to me, I had best study what would cause him to want to be with me as we learn together.

The quote that heads my blog is an intoxicating statement of what life is about for me.

“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

Life is incredible, and astonishing, and beautiful, and sad, and painful, and hard, and joyful, and bleak, and blissful, and any other adjective you can think of- life is that too.

I was once diagnosed with bipolar disorder, so perhaps I feel the extremities of emotion more than most. Perhaps that is why I strive to understand how the horse feels, and help him feel better with me at every turn. I have never chosen to go the route of medicating my condition because I couldn’t imagine life without the incredible highs. Instead I have done my best to study and understand the psychology behind the roller coaster of emotions life takes us on. Enjoy the highs, and hang on tight to the knowledge that everything changes and nothing lasts forever, when the lows hit. I believe the more I can understand and help myself, the better I can understand and help my horses. We are all in this together.

There’s an old axiom: “What you can feel, you can heal.” If I want to be healthy and strong and the best of myself, I want to feel everything, and learn from it. I will admit, from where I stand that is often overwhelming. When overwhelmed, all of us come up with coping mechanisms- ways to shut down and protect ourselves. Mine has always been food, or lack of it. When that churning, nauseating, gut-wrenching, emotional pain would hit, I could dull it with enough food to sink a ship and get on with my life; or I could embrace the pain as inescapable, hopeless despair and eat nothing. Since I was a teenager I have oscillated in weight depending on how much I was willing to feel my life and how much I was overwhelmed and felt I had to shut down those emotions to survive. My weight has been as low as 118 and as high as 178.  Thankfully, for the most part I have stayed in the middle of that range, and every year I feel I can be a little more me without shutting down, a little more aware of the emotional patterns and how to learn from them.

Horses have been one way for me to step out of my own skin when I am overwhelmed by what I feel. Relationships can be a blessing that way. When my own emotions are too intense and I need a break, I can take a step back, pay attention to my horse, watch, listen, and feel what is going on with him. My horse is often my mirror. I can see for him what he needs to do to feel better, then take my own advice and apply those actions to myself. Does my horse need to move, does he need to be still, does he need to yield, does he need to breath, does he need to be close to me, or is it better to have us at a distance from one another. Whatever I see that he needs, usually is powerful in making me feel better too.

The better I feel, the more attractive I become as a partner. The better I cause my horse to feel, the more he will want to be partnered with me. I believe there is no pinnacle, ultimate, or limit on how good one is able to feel. Here again I think we can come back to Csikszentmihalyi’s chart. The more developed our skills become, the greater challenges we will be inspired to take on. Conquering the challenges leads us to higher skills and so on…. Its just important to keep the basis of relationship in mind throughout.

Attention creates Attraction which causes partnership. Emotions cause Actions and Actions let us conquer Challenges. Conquering Challenges creates Skills. If we pay attention to Emotion, it lets us know if we are focusing on the right challenge for our current skill level.

The logic is beautiful, living the emotions can be more than we know how to handle sometimes, for both horses and humans.

It’s worth it though.

It snowed almost 6 inches this week. Playing with Saavedra at liberty the last two days in the sun and the snow with all these ideas fresh in my mind… Saavedra offered me partnership I have never been offered by any horse. I have always been a slightly domineering trainer, valuing control and obedience in my relationships with horses. I have always longed for horses who would gallop to be with me of their own volition, not because of threat or the lure of the grain pan. Relationships built on control and obedience have not brought me that kind of enthusiasm.

Thursday evening, I walked out into the paddock. Saavedra was in the woods, on the other side of the arena. She picked up her head when I ducked under the fence, and then, with a beautiful abandon, galloped flat out through the woods, across the arena, and into the paddock, all the way just to see me. All I could do was stand there and grin. She wanted to be with me, pure and simple.

Attention is powerful, Attraction is beautiful, Emotion is enlightening and Actions speak louder than words.

Elsa Sinclair

For more information on Shitani visit


  1. What a brilliant writer and analyzer you are Elsa!
    I can very much identify with what you write about feeling the extremities of emotions. Perhaps it’s part of being an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), which I clearly am.
    I also loved the video!
    Thanks again for sharing your valuable thoughts and actions!

  2. Elsa, You cues in the video are so subtle, yet specific. And it is clear that that horse is ATTRACTED to you by your attitude. A very good illustration of your text. And you know that you have helped me with my own emotional problems over the years by getting me to calmly concentrate on horse training and physiotherapy Thank you Michael

  3. I love my horse, but I think he only loves me for the apple in my pocket. But he will run up to me… umm well it might be the carrot. You shared your soul well. This was a beautiful reflection.

    • Hi Jen, I know what you mean by thinking your horse only loves you for the treat in your pocket. I study and practice the Carolyn Resnick Method with my horses and had (sometimes still have) a hard time with leaving out the treats to see if my horses are willing to bond to me without treats. And yes, there is a huge difference, they aren’t as interested as with the treats… But it’s very worth while to experiment without treats because then you really learn what it takes to create a bond. But I have to admit: it can be very humbling and frustrating at times too, because horses are so direct and honest and don’t pretend… 😉

    • Ritambhara Tyson
    • Posted February 27, 2011 at 6:21 pm
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    I love you blog this week and especially the part about attention. Yes I think it is so important in relationship to everything and especially the horse. They have such an acute awareness of everything around them, it’s what attracts me to them I think, and to be able to attend to that intense awareness is meaningful to them. I am so excited about the possibility of working with you.

  4. Elsa,

    There is something so very powerful about sharing where we are in our lives. When one does it honestly, it is hard for others to hurt us in that field because we are at the “wholeness” of being at that vwery special, sacred space; totally aware of who and what we are. It’s hard to mess with that.
    I do feel an urge to tell your viewers(since you are too humble) that it was only the second time that you worked with Shitani at liberty. It is an incredible testimony of the power of body language, attention, awareness, honesty and all else in the relationship repertoire-not just with horses but our relationships with each other. It is hard to have a wholesome relationship with a horse if we can’t with each other!
    Thanks so much for letting us love you, our horses and each other a little more!

    • Maggie, I actually had forgotten how early on in our relationship that video was taken. Shitani connects powerfully and makes me feel as though I have known him forever. He is going to make someone such an amazing partner!

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