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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.


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,


  1. I think true intimacy is being able to stay in a “room” and complete a conversation even in the face of misunderstanding. To keep explaining in a way that helps the other individual understand is sometimes tedious, but with a practice of kindness and perseverance the outcome is always a greater intimacy and connection.
    This won’t be boring!

  2. If anyone can bridge the horse-human communication gap,it is you. And another time-worn phrase concerning the documentary,”Let’s shoot this thing!” I know it will be entertaining as your quest unfolds and you document this because, once again, it is you doing it. 😉 Michael

  3. “If this horse and I do keep the conversation beautiful, peaceful and easy, is there enough drama for a good story?”
    For me: abolutely! But to be honest, I don’t think this question is of any importance. In my opinion the best documentary is made when you focus on your process with this horse entirely, without worrying whether it would be interesting enough for a documentary, and regardless of how the process would look. Worrying about how it would look, if there would be enough drama etc. would only distract you from building a connection with the horse, which is after all the only thing you want to show in the documentary.

    “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.”
    I don’t think you have to worry about this either. I’m sure that, if you would choose the ‘bite-size pieces’, there would no doubt be a moment when you still would be ‘biting off more than you could chew’, even if you hadn’t planned it, because change is inherent to life and life will take care of its own balance ;-).

  4. Ohhh this is good… I am on the edge of my seat. Watching, waiting, seeing it all unfold. Learning that communication is what it is all about.

  5. You ask some excellent questions. We, as humans, seem addicted to drama and the ensuing problem-solving challenges that accompany it. All to often, it results in a win-lose scenario with sadness and hard feelings enduring long past the termination of the relationship. Horses do not share our addiction….survival is drama enough…they don’t need to make up drama to feel valued and/or alive. Your experience will probably be heavily front-loaded with plenty of drama in the beginning, evolving into a healthy relationship of mutual admiration and respect. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our human relationships could follow the same pattern?

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