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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.


First Ride On Myrnah

As life with Myrnah seems to be, this week was both unassuming and life changing all at the same time. Long story short: I took my first ride on Myrnah and I am flying high about this next step in the journey.

The details are more modest and quiet than the headline would lead you to believe. I love that dichotomy of quiet unassuming details gathering together for results that seem bigger than the sum of their parts.

Tuesday morning Margaret was here to do some filming for me. Myrnah and I went through our routine of grooming, basic yielding, and walking together. We went out the gate of the paddock into the woods to explore, and, when she found the bucket with a little bit of hay in it, I noticed there was a rock right next to us. It wasn’t planned, it just made sense to step up on it and belly over her back while she nibbled bits of hay. This moment in itself is monumental because, as recently as a week ago, Myrnah would have been irritated with me for distracting her from eating. Tuesday Myrnah didn’t mind at all.

I got off and on several times- just bellied over, my full weight on her for far longer than ever before. Myrnah stayed unconcerned, so I threw a leg over her back and used the rock to push me up astride. One leg on either side, I laid on her neck, relaxed, peaceful, feeling her breath, listening to her chew, watching carefully for any signs she might like me to get off. After awhile I decided I had pushed far enough into new experiences and got off to resume my more customary position next to her.

When she finished eating, Myrnah took me on far more exploration of the woods than ever before. Showing confidence and exuberance, she sometimes picked up the trot and let me run alongside her, seemingly just for the joy of doing so.

We were out for hour more or less, before she took me back to the gate, then to the trailer letting me know she had had enough exploration and would like to go have breakfast. I like this routine we have created. At some point we will take this pattern and apply it to traveling to other places to explore. Myrnah loves the trailer as it is where she gets to eat the rich, Eastern-Washington hay. One of these mornings, when we feel ready, I will let her in the trailer, close the door, and take her somewhere new to explore together- somewhere fenced where she can’t get in trouble with traffic or danger, yet somewhere that isn’t home. We will travel around side by side or riding and explore the world, returning to the trailer for the remainder of breakfast whenever she is ready, and make the return trip home.

Until then we will continue exploring more parts of the woods close to home, continue developing her confidence carrying me, and continue honing her trust to let me direct her speed and direction with increasing accuracy.

Beyond the simple dictates of essential training I have begun to widen Myrnah and Cleo’s social context, expanding their trust in humans beyond myself, and giving a few wonderful friends the chance to walk through the steps of earning trust and feeling connection with recently wild horses.

I also put a new horse in with them for the first time this week. Lir, a two-year-old Gypsy horse was a perfect first domestic companion for them to know, even-tempered, respectful, and easygoing even in the presence of horses less so. I was there with them for the first few hours, sending Cleo or Myrnah away from Lir and me when they showed any aggression, allowing them to be close with us when they remained polite. I understand horses will work things out as they need to in a herd; I also need them to understand that aggression has no place anywhere around people. When people are present all communication needs to remain polite.

Cleo seemed to understand me completely right away. I only saw her coil for one kick at Lir. I sent her away and after that she was the model of civility when I was around. Even when I was on the other side of the paddock she might be standing next to Lir, reach out to touch him, and then look over to me quickly to make sure I was OK with that, then reach out again commencing a game of touching each other with their noses- a game that looked surprisingly similar to the games I play accustoming Cleo to being touched by me.

Myrnah was not so convinced Lir was a good addition. Time and again she would approach and then pin her ears, bare her teeth, and charge. When I was there, I would send her away. She would move a few feet off, look at me and then walk to a different spot in the paddock, as though she hadn’t a care in the world. I know she ran Lir around the paddocks some when I wasn’t there to enforce civility, but after a few days they had formed some sort of truce and would pass each other like two ships in the night, carefully avoiding aggravating each other.

Lir left on Monday to go to his other home on Orcas. The Mustangs are again on their own for a little while. Soon another companion will come up for them to get to know as winter is fast approaching and dry spaces to live are in high demand here. Hopefully, by the time spring is on the horizon, before the foal is imminent, Myrnah and Cleo will be out in a pasture bonding with the larger family of horses who will be family to the new little one.

I don’t know what it is about mile stones that makes me want to look ahead in anticipation of future mile stones. First ride on Myrnah this week, just ten weeks from being wild on the range. When the other miles stones will fall into place only time will tell.

I will keep you posted,

Elsa Sinclair


  1. Wow, has it just been ten weeks? This whole story is so extraordinary, but yet in fact so ‘ordinary’ because the sequence of the steps you have taken is so logical and natural. No single part of this journey has been surprising, unexpected or out of line, and that is probably what makes the result nothing less than a miracle :-)! Your excellent preparation and sensible thinking have proved their value in gold!

    I was surprised when I read “I love that dichotomy of quiet unassuming details gathering together for results that seem bigger than the sum of their parts”, because I wrote something to that extent on my own weblog yesterday. I call this phenomenon 1 + 1 = 3 !

    • I love that you and I seem to think so similarly Marja. 1+1 does indeed equal 3 sometimes!

  2. While impressed, I am not surprised. You obviously know what you are doing at a basic being-to-being level.
    😉 Michael

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