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Monthly Archives: July 2011


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.




Beach Time!

It’s Thursday evening as I sit here and write this, curled up on the couch in a cabin by the beach. All the students have packed their trailers and headed home with their horses leaving Cameron, Zak and me alone on Long Beach with our few remaining equine partners. Tomorrow we pack up and head north ourselves, leaving behind the romantic vistas of sand and surf.


Just outside the cabin, a brief walk over the dune, twenty-six miles of flat sandy beach stretching north and south graced with a perfect mix of sun and cloud and a light breeze, hosted a great group of people and made for a fabulous beach clinic.


As I am sure you all know by now. I love my job. I feel like the luckiest person on earth getting to spend my time watching horses and riders grow closer, clearer, stronger and happier together.

This week my horse Zohari was the best assistant teacher I ever could have asked for. From matching pace with any student traveling down the beach, to running around with me on the sand bars completely at liberty, strings and stick left behind on the sand, the two of us moved as one. To top it off today, I asked Zohari to lie down on the beach providing a good example of relaxation and an excellent back rest as I talked a student through the process of calming an adrenaline-charged, fearful horse, new and unfamiliar with the beach environment.

Zohari, my horse who has been often afraid of his own shadow bloomed into an amazing partner this weekend, with confidence I had no idea he was capable of.


So here is to the fun, the new, the unexpected, and the best of ourselves we are always becoming.


Elsa Sinclair


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.

 Counting Down

We have an approved travel plan! We leave Seattle early Monday morning, August 8th, and arrive in Burns, Oregon that evening. The gather happens Tuesday the 9th, and we spend until Friday watching, assessing, and finally choosing the horses that will come home with us. John Parkey, Cameron Sinclair, Margaret Longley and myself will spend our hours staring through binoculars, taking pictures, and videoing the development of decision. One horse will be for my year of documented process, the driving force for this blog. The second will be a companion for the ride home, and a horse I will start, using methods of natural horsemanship known and loved by many. Once started this horse will go on to be someone else’s partner, leaving me to focus with my own horse. It will be interesting in the first months to compare the two horses and their developmental progress in relationship with humans.

Friday, August 12th, John Parkey flies home; Margaret, Cameron and myself attend the Parelli Rendezvous in Redmond, then back to Burns where hopefully our horses have been sorted, freeze-branded and will be ready to come home with us Monday night the 15th.  In order to catch a ferry to San Juan at the end of the trip, we will have to start our journey at the end of a working day for the corrals in Burns. After loading the horses we will drive through the night to catch the first ferry home Tuesday morning, the 16th, if all goes as planned.

This morning the round pen panels went up, an initial home for the mustangs beside my house, leaving me pleasantly surprised by how much space we have. The rules state that we need 6 foot fences, and the ability to split the horses up into different pens. I would like the horses to feel as free as possible within those constraints. The more space the better.

For almost seven months now I have thought about, written up, and shared via my blog, ideas that might help me with the upcoming year developing a partnership with my new mustang. I delved into stories from my past remembering horses that have taught me, and people who have shaped the way I think. I have developed ideas from my experiences about the aspects of training that will be important to pay attention to. Now here I am counting down the days, and I must finally admit I don’t really know how this is all going to go. Regardless of how much I think I know, I am only human, and like everyone else, life is a process of trial and error, learning as we go.

Here is a great talk on letting go of being right, and letting the results we find guide us as we go.

I have done and will continue to do all I know how. I will also freely admit I am looking forward to developing this process one step at a time, and figuring what comes next when I get there.

So keep checking in each Friday and I will keep you posted as to the developments of the week.

Next week I spend teaching a clinic at the beach.

The following week will have me home packing and preparing for the trip.

The week after that is all about Mustangs coming in, fresh from the wild.

The week following will see us traveling north with the two new mustangs and settling us in home.

After that, who knows what happens.

Counting down into the unknown.

Elsa Sinclair

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.


 A Year of Living Honestly


I find myself drawing closer to this challenge. Me, a Mustang fresh off the range, and a relationship based on honesty- no tools of force to muddy the waters between what the horse wants to do and what the horse is required to do. I gave myself seven months to get ready, and somehow six months later I am still teasing apart the knots in my mind of how this will all work. It’s time; I need to quit mucking about pretending this is happening sometime in the future. This project is happening now. I have one more month to get myself together, prepared for a process I believe will be unlike anything I have done before.

Honesty, integrity, and authenticity. Somehow I crave all these things from my relationship with my horse, and I also want our wants to develop on a shared and common path. I want my horse to honestly want what I want. When I want to travel left, I want my horse to want to travel left as well. When I want to stop, or speed up, or spin around I want my horse to be an extension of my intentions. A horse is not a machine though. A horse has honest desires than may have nothing to do with mine. When I want to run, my horse may want to nap, when I want to nap, my horse may want to play. This year is going to be a melding of honesty and integrity into a partnership that is hopefully stronger than simply one character yielding to another.

Yielding is important, perhaps even a vital component to relationship, but there is a large difference between choosing to yield to another versus yielding because there is no other choice. Each time we choose to yield, we choose to be part of something larger than ourselves. We bond, and connect, and become stronger. When we are forced to yield to another, the stress of that yielding creates a rift in our honesty. We wanted something other than the course we felt forced to take. That rift tears us apart. We learn to vacillate between helplessness and fighting to be heard.

Over the next year, I would like this horse to choose me- to choose to yield to my ideas honestly, with integrity and authenticity, to become part of me and gain a sense of strength and connection without losing any sense of self in the process.

If I expect that of my horse, I get to expect that of myself as well. Honestly yielding needs to become a way of life, not just a concept I expect from others. I need to experience the things I ask for.

When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself. ~ Louis Nizer

This project is fairly simple, yet surprisingly challenging. I need the horse to choose to go, stop, speed up, slow down, turn left and turn right in harmony with me. Sounds easy right?

So what do I need from myself that is fairly simple, yet surprisingly challenging? How about drinking enough water every day, feeding myself real food instead of living on stimulants that just make me feel good for a couple of hours, finding a balance of exercise, rest, work, play, quiet, and socialization. Simple, yet seemingly not easy for me.

What if I task myself to yield willingly for one year to living honestly up to my own standards? Sure, there is a catch-22 here. I am setting myself the task to yield honestly as I will ask my horse to yield to me, for one year. Will that one year challenge make me feel forced into action, or inspire me to positive change?

I don’t want to drink as much water as I know makes me feel better. I don’t feel like it. It’s inconvenient. If I force myself to do it I feel stressed- angry that the human body is so needy, helpless as I go through the motions of doing what’s good for me, fighting to be heard as I childishly stomp my foot and say I don’t want to!

My horse is going to go through that too. After four or five years of living independently, making all his own decisions as to when to go, stop, speed up, slow down, turn left or turn right, learning to consistently choose to yield and connect to another is going to be a challenge.

So here goes: what I ask of my horse, I will ask of myself.

Can I honestly and willingly yield to caring for myself in all the ways I believe I should? For one year. One year of living honestly.

Live connected and bonded within myself, my beliefs and my actions authentically aligned. So when I ask this horse to connect and bond with me, I know I am doing all I can to understand the leap of faith it takes to yield willingly and move forward.

One year of living honestly starts now. Wish me luck!

Elsa Sinclair

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.


Splish Splash!!!

The first week of July, still and warm, the sultry air lulling my soul into a sleepy rapture- I watch as the gleeful children and their horses playfully splash in and out of the pond, and I can’t help but grin. The ease with which they play in the water, bareback, with only a halter and one rope, the horses clearly enjoying the game as much as the children. I reflect back to my childhood and feel that perhaps the happy splashing and playing we did with our horses had slightly more sinister edge to it then. When I was a child I never questioned why some horses could be ridden in a hackamore, and some needed a curb bit with a chain that tightened hard under the chin to keep control. It was just the way things were. When one of the horses didn’t want to go swimming it became a fun challenge to switch horses and see which one of us was a strong enough rider to force the reluctant one into the water. From my childhood perspective all I remember is the exhilarating fun of the activity…. In hindsight I wish I had known then what I know now.


Even the next day when the weather had turned cool and the horses were not so enthusiastic to jump in the water, it fed me to my core to watch the kids using tact, patience and understanding to coax their horses into the game.


What is exciting to me is knowing there is no such thing as perfection. Every day I know a little more than I did before, every day I can set up the learning environment for my students with a little more grace. I am in love with the ease I see in the partnerships all around me every day, and I still know it is only going to keep getting better.

I want to say I can’t wait to see where we are ten years from now… but in all honesty I am having too much fun right now, I wouldn’t want to miss one moment of it.


So splish splash everyone and enjoy your summer!


Elsa Sinclair

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.


Life is a conversation…

 Have you ever noticed, in order for there to be a plot to a story there has to be some form of miscommunication. Deceitful, accidental, or blatantly confrontational- no matter the form or style- to have a story we need two or more entities who misunderstand each other. As the human race it seems our entertainment is based on that conflict: how will the situation work out? TV, video games, movies, novels, theater all depend on exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution or catastrophe… we are hooked to the excitement of a story. We may say with all honesty we just want world peace, or whirled peas depending on the humor quotient. How much peace do we actually enjoy in our personal lives though? How addicted are we to finding a problem and working it out, or living vicariously through others working through some miscommunication. As we are hooked on the excitement of the unknown, how much space is left for the simple contemplative enjoyment of what is known and understood.

If we look at life as being a conversation, an exchange of ideas, we accept our need for misunderstanding to develop into clarity and understanding. I believe it is part of what makes us feel connected to the world around us. A good conversation will hold a rich mix of questions, answers, silences, and anecdotes of times past that shed light on times present. We seek to understand, be understood, and feel part of something greater than ourselves.

Life as a conversation sounds idyllic, but it is not always so. As humans we sometimes crave the idyllic, and we sometimes seem to crave intense, which is where it gets messy.

A conversation between two characters is fun until it isn’t. When a misunderstanding becomes overwhelming and no one can see a way through it, someone is going to look for a way out- basic instinct of fight or flight.

I face a quandary here. As a horse trainer, I have to admit there are days when I create problems with a horse so I can have the fun of fixing them. I get a little high on the intensity of conversation between me and the horse. Asking a question of the horse that he doesn’t understand the answer to, leads to a entertaining miscommunication, make it a big enough question with no option to escape and we get to tap into all the emotions of fear, love, hate, anger and then as we work through the mess there is relief, joy, exuberance and connection.

Now, I am about to begin a project in which the horse can walk away from me at any time. There is nothing holding him in the conversation with me, except his inclination. If I get too big, or dramatic, or augmentative for the high of riding that intensity, I will find myself having a conversation all by myself. Perhaps that will be the conversation I need to have that day- that, however, is not my goal. I would like to connect with this horse and develop the communication between horse and rider completely voluntarily on both sides.

The flip side of this dilemma is I am going to be filming this project and making a documentary of the evolution of our relationship. If this horse and I do keep the conversation beautiful, peaceful and easy, is there enough drama for a good story? Part of me hopes for no drama- just a simple artful development of understanding; the other part of me feels the irresistible draw of intensity- riding the emotions of working through the bigger questions that come up. Do we break the questions down into bite-size pieces and sort through them one manageable piece at a time? Or do we bite off more than we can chew, and surf the drama of sorting out the tangle of emotions that ensue. With no way to force the horse into holding up his side of the conversation, nothing to hold off the horse’s natural flight instinct, I think we will be leaning toward slow, peaceful and easy.

This is a wild horse, though, and I am not always good at quiet conversations, so we will film in the style of cinema verite, and see what story emerges throughout the course of the next year.

Regardless of whether this story holds enough drama for anyone else, it is a conversation that fascinates me. If I am lucky, it will be a conversation that intrigues my horse as well.

Elsa Sinclair,