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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.

Rest in Movement

It sounds like a contradiction, rest in movement, yet I think it is contradictions like this that make us feel alive. Last week I talked about draw and drive, using those concepts to build a connection between partners. I believe it is the combination of two contrary ideas that is often a powerful force of creation. Draw and drive bond horse and rider to each other in a way that feels magical, yet, when looked at closely, we find it can in fact be understood and built logically one step at a time.

Rest in movement is another one of those apparent contradictions that seem to bring power and grace into life. As of this week Myrnah is not sure she agrees, though I do jest a little here. In reality Myrnah continues to amaze me with how gracefully she moves forward to the next step in our process, time and time again.

In training horses we work with the idea of pressure and release to cause growth and development. When Myrnah and Cleo were first with me, in order for them to feel release, I needed to turn my body away, take my eyes off of them, and maybe even sit down on the ground and be very still- all pressure released in an obvious way. To add pressure all I needed to do was stare directly at them; that seemed to be all it took for them to feel the need to respond. As time went on and they became more confident, I was able to release pressure simply by becoming still and quiet with them, wherever I was already standing. Putting pressure on sometimes required my walking over and causing them to take a step in some direction they wouldn’t have chosen on their own, in order for them to think about me.

Up until this week I have felt I needed to follow Myrnah’s lead letting her dictate how much of any one task she felt ready to do. I wanted her to feel that working with me was easy, with releases of pressure simple to ask for. All she needed to do was reach over and touch me with her nose to ask for a break and it was readily given. Slowly, over time, I was able to ask her to keep moving through a task, past her request for a break, helping her build a stronger work ethic. If I pushed too far I could see her get frustrated; she would start to bite at me and pin her ears, letting me know she needed more release.

This week we had a breakthrough. We went out in the woods for a walk and I had the thought that Myrnah was ready for more. So, instead of letting her just wander from one bite of fern to another, I asked her to keep walking. Every time she tried to stop I asked her to move- anywhere she wanted to go, just continual movement. Interestingly, she didn’t seem to get frustrated, or ask me quit the game by reaching around to touch me; she just kept trying to stop where she wanted, and then patiently walked on when I asked. Occasionally she would take me back to the paddock gate, and I would gently push her away; she would circle round to face it again, and I would gently push her away again. Sometime it would take eight, nine, ten circles before she would take me out into the woods again. We walked for 20 minutes that day, and by the end Myrnah was starting to develop a rhythm and an easy swing to her walk. As long as she kept moving, I was quiet and peaceful, simply walking alongside her, my hand on her withers and my feet in time with hers- no pressure, just the two of us resting in movement.


The next day we took the rest in movement idea out the other side of the paddock into the front yard where there is lots of grass to eat. That indeed proved much more challenging. It is hard to keep moving when there is a buffet underfoot calling Myrnah’s name with every stride. I again was thoroughly impressed that she didn’t get frustrated with me; she simply pitted her perseverance against mine and gently and slowly came around to my way of thinking. When Myrnah finally was brave enough to walk us through the narrow path between the garden and the car, taking us to a new area above the pond, I chose that moment to stop, take the pressure off, and let her graze for awhile. Rest in movement is a new skill for us; rest while grazing is an established release and reward. When a horse offers me a supreme effort of bravery or focus, I do my best to let them know I fully appreciate it.

The interesting side effect to this rest in movement practice is the affection I get afterward, as both Myrnah and Cleo surprise me with the dramatic increase of nuzzling and focused appreciative contact. I don’t know whether they are thanking me for the simple relaxation that movement brings, or the dominant role I take on by moving them that allows them feel safe and part of my herd, or something else all together.

Whatever the reason, rest in movement seems to have fallen into place perfectly as the next obvious step, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.


Elsa Sinclair


  1. You and Myrnah (and perhaps Cleo?) are showing a steepening learning curve—so much trust, this far in just under ten weeks!?
    I’ve seen pros fail to come to terms with the basics and their new mount in TEN MONTHS, so both you and your new mustangs are breaking the old horse-training rules—perhaps even writing new rules, that might set a new challenge for others to meet.
    You just raised the bar and there is no going back for the rest of us—This is do-able and teachable; no room for lazy excuses——I accept that challenge! 😉 Michael

  2. This gradual but steady progress is wonderful Elsa. It’s apparent that Myrnah is naturally growing into perceiving you as her leader, whom she can trust and be safe with. She clearly shows that progress by gradually accepting more and longer pressure from you without feeling the need to resist. I thoroughly enjoy being able to ‘walk along’ with the two of you!

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  1. […] week was all about traveling together, developing our ease and relaxation in movement. Myrnah more or less got to choose where we traveled; I just asked her to keep moving. Everything […]

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