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The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One trainer, No tools, Just body language

The Goal:

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

Zoey (aka Cashco)

It was 2 a.m. and I couldn’t sleep. I had been married for eight years to a man who was either asleep beside me or sitting at a desk on the other side of the world in the opposite time zone, never more than a few key strokes of the computer away.

On this particular night I was alone, newly divorced, newly relocated to a summer home on my parents property, newly embarking on a brand new life. I wasn’t sure what this new life of mine was going to look like, but I knew it had horses in it. At that moment in the wee hours of the morning, I decided I needed another one. After returning from living in Norway earlier that year, Saavedra my beautiful black mustang was my one and only equine partner. She handles my intensity well, yet sometimes I know I need to back off and give her time to think. I needed another horse to play with, to help me lighten up on all I expected of Saavedra.

So I searched the internet for sale adds. I was looking for a Thoroughbred. I missed the cat-like athleticism I had enjoyed with Ransom. I was looking for a hot-tempered, high-energy horse- a horse self-motivated to action. As a trainer I had had experience with Left Brain Extroverts and Introverts, and lots of experience with Right Brain Introverts, but very little experience with a Right Brain Extrovert horse. I felt that was a gap in my education, a gap that might just be filled by the high-spirited Thoroughbred I was dreaming of.

I found ten horses that seemed to fit my criteria. I emailed the owners and explained that while I didn’t have the funds to buy a horse at this time in my life, I felt I could provide an incredible home if they were interested. I had three replies out of the ten. Two, on further investigation, were not the horse I was looking for. The third sounded like it couldn’t be more perfect.

Zoey was her name. Or Cashco if you want to go by her official race records. She was high energy and came with the reputation that she was wonderful if she was ridden for hours a day six days a week. She had done endurance racing and was sound and healthy, just a bit of a difficult handful of a horse when underworked- exactly what I was looking for.

Many emails later her owner had decided yes, she would like to give Zoey to me on the understanding that I would keep in touch, and, should Zoey ever need to be sold, the owner would have first right of refusal to buy her back.

I get offered horses all the time. I knew I needed to think rationally and make sure this was the right horse for me, so I went to see her for the first time without a trailer in tow. I needed to meet her and then go home and consider if we were really right for each-other. All the best intentions were swept aside when I met Zoey- it was love at first sight. She radiated energy like a fire cracker about to blow. She moved as though there was a cushion of air under each foot, effortlessly propelling her into the next step. We played at liberty in the large indoor arena and never had I experienced a horse so interested in me: who I was, what I wanted, what in the world was I trying to do when I made movements she didn’t understand. I never got the feeling she would necessarily obey requests from me, I just got the feeling she really was curious and wanted to know me. She offered me close range circling at the trot and with an arc to her body, wrapped around me with breathtaking lightness and grace. Everything she did was like a dancer, as much attachment to the air as the ground.

I was hopelessly in love. I could see the challenges but I loved them too. She was the type of horse who was going to do whatever she wanted to do, to hell with the consequences. She was an action horse- life needed doing all the time!

For a year and a half Zoey and Saavedra were my mares. They were great friends and complete opposites in temperament. It was perfect for me. They stretched my training skills in every direction as I laughed and appreciated each of them for who they were.

Zoey was always a physical challenge for me to keep up. I have been spoiled by my tough little Arabian horses and indestructible Mustangs. Zoey, even when she was on full lush Northwest pasture, seemed to need extra oats to keep her weight on. In the winter the extra feeding and blanketing was a daily effort. Lucky for me I loved that contact with her every day, and between my mother and my friends Zoey had good care even when I was away working on the weekends.

In March of 2010, my parents begin to contemplate moving off of San Juan Island. Being a single parent and working full time means I lean on them a great deal. I was confronted with a huge change in my life and came to the conclusion I had to let Zoey go. As it was, my work schedule had become so busy that I was not giving her the work I knew she wanted. She was a horse who would pace the fence in anticipation of something more exciting happening any time she saw someone show up at the barn. Leave the trailer door open and she would dart inside and stand there looking at you as if to say, come one, hurry up, we have places to go! When I would leave for the weekend to work, my Mustang mare never seemed to mind the time off but Zoey would pine for life outside of the pasture.

I believed I had found the perfect rider for her back at the barn where I had first met Zoey. The two of them seemed so beautifully matched. Unfortunately I lived eight hours drive away, so while I did my best to set them up for success in their first weekend together, I was not there to support them though the challenges they later faced. There was a mix up with paper work and communication and the original owner took over the care of Zoey again.

My dear sweet impulsive mare ended up with excellent care, but very little work. The life of stall and paddock without extra work and exercise did not sit well with her. One day, in an unfortunate series of events that I don’t know all the details of, she ended up kicking someone in the stomach. Though I offered to take her back to my home to live with me again, the difficult decision was made by her owner to put her to sleep. She was deemed dangerous and untrustworthy.

While this story breaks my heart, I understand. All of us only have the time we have. While I adored Zoey, she needed more from me in terms of time and attention than I could give her. If she had come home to be my horse again, I wouldn’t have even considered taking on the Mustang project I am embarking on now.

So while I couldn’t save Zoey, in her place there is a Mustang who will get to come live with me in the Fall, a Mustang who will teach me what it is to communicate on horse terms: no ropes, no sticks, no small pens, just us- horse and human seeing what we can do together in complete cooperation.

Elsa Sinclair



  1. Thank you for that part of your own powerful story I honor Zoey for sharing your life for however short. Maybe she pointed the way towards your new mustang. Sometimes this happens. Lots of Love, Michael

  2. Wow, what an amazing story. The animals that come into our lives are surely here for good reasons. So sad that she and you couldn’t continue your dance together, but she has paved the way for something else for you. And I am sure you honor her for that opportunity. It seems like this is our animals role in our lives, to teach us and show is a better way of being. Blessings to Zoey for that!

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