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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.


Speed and Tranquility

This week, summer seems to have finally arrived in the San Juans. The sun is out more often than the clouds can hide it, the grass is chin high, the horses are sleek and glossy, there are ducklings on the pond and the swallows swoop in and out of the barn.


I decided this week to throw caution to the wind. Let my hair down and feel space and time whip through it. My mare, Saavedra, seemed ready and willing for that kind of venture. Mostly we spend our time together slowly and carefully building our skills and communication through groundwork and riding patterns in fields or arenas. I love the subtle intricacies of developing a partnership with horses and the meditative quality of riding, aspiring to be ever more centered in fluid harmony. Sometimes though, I remember what it was like to be a kid, back in the days when it was all about speed. We loved our horses, and what we loved most with our horses was running and jumping. It wasn’t about style or grace. It was just the thrill of the chase pure and simple.


I have come too far to go all the way back. I have no desire to relive the bucking fits, runaways and bruises acquired from low hanging branches. Those are memories best left in my childhood. The speed though, I miss the speed.


So this week Saavedra and I did our ground work each day to establish connection and then, when we felt well set up as partners in crime, we lit out on the trails like the devil himself was behind us. Sometimes a girl just needs to feel twelve years old again.


It’s so much better now than it was when I was twelve though. I ride with my halter, but over the course of a couple of hours, I can count on one hand the times I actually need to pick up the reins. Mostly I can leave my horse’s nose alone and ride with my body and a little support from the string around the base of Saavedra’s neck. Today we galloped a stretch of tight turns through the woods on a slight uphill. It is nothing less than thrilling to be able to sit up before a turn, needing nothing more than the string around my horse’s neck to reinforce my body cues. To feel my horse gather underneath me in preparation for a perfectly balanced flying change to take the corner with ease, and then a burst of speed before we do it all again: corner, sprint, corner, sprint, corner, sprint- it’s just pure fun.


And then, come the end of the day, I notice the lovely languid peaceful expressions Saavedra and I both carry. There is something beautiful about physical exhaustion that leaves the mind clear.


Though I lose myself sometimes to childish fancies, I still have a project to wrap my head around. How do I build a relationship with a horse where I never need to control their nose with a halter or bit. How do I forge a connection so strong that I don’t need that piece of string around the base of my horse’s neck to reinforce communication?


Saavedra and I had a breakthrough this week. Our evening rides at liberty out in the pasture amongst the herd have been mentally demanding for me the last few weeks. Without any tools to reinforce getting us started on the right track, she has been determined to challenge me at every turn. I felt as though I was trying to reinvent the wheel and just couldn’t seem to smooth out the lumps. Thanks to a couple of great students this past weekend, I was allowed to teach a few things I myself desperately needed to remember.


1. If a horse isn’t interested in drawing to you, gently driving them away with patience, attention and tact can build a connection and bond that can draw the horse back to you.


2. The front end of a horse is easier to direct than the back end of the horse: do the easier tasks first and build from there to the more challenging tasks.


3. A steady pressure is supported by a rhythmic pressure. If you push against a horse and it doesn’t move, pushing harder just makes them want to push harder back against you. If instead you switch to a vibration or rhythmic pressure, it is easy for the horse to learn to move with and not against you.


Incredibly simple ideas that I teach everyday, and yet sometimes I seem to be my own most challenging student. Remembering that the same concepts apply, even when training horses without the tools, was a powerful moment for me. Applying those three simple concepts to my ride the other evening led to one of the most fun relaxing easy peaceful rides I have ever had in amongst the herd. Just me, the horses, and a few good ideas- nothing extra.


Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler. ~Einstein


Here is to simple and beautiful!

Elsa Sinclair


  1. Dear Elsa, I am happy and glad you are having fun. Fun and learning. That’s what this is all about…as you have reminded me many times. 😉 Michael

  2. Yes, it’s a strange thing, how we often tend to forget the simple basics and have to be reminded by the outside world. But fortunately, the outside world and everything and everyone in it is always there to mirror and remind us. Or, as Carolyn Resnick put it recently on one of her precious blog topics: “It takes a community to let us know who we are.”

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