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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.

 

Patient Persistence 

Yes, we are still waiting for this foal and Myrnah just keeps getting bigger. There is little new to report about Myrnah and me. It is simply patient persistence through the hours spending time together, developing small skills while we wait. We ride out for meandering, walking treks around the paddocks; we practice small precision tasks of steering and stopping at specific points; and we make the best of the beautiful spring weather, napping stretched out in the grass side by side.

I am finding the relationship I have with Myrnah is more unique than anything I have experienced consistently with a horse up to this point. The connection and voluntary partnership she offers me blows me away every day. If Myrnah was the only horse I worked with, I might begin to take it for granted. The standards of relating seem so simple and so obviously functional that I almost begin to believe all horse-human relationships are like this. When I reach out to her, she always reaches out to me too. When I speak to her she pays attention and makes eye contact. When I ask her something she says yes, or she says no, and the conversation continues simply, beautifully, and easily. One wants to think all relationships between horse and human are this clear, yet I am finding that isn’t so.

 

In the last few weeks I have spent hours in the field working with my other horses in the same way that I work with Myrnah. Through those hours I am beginning to see how truly unique my relationship with Myrnah is. The way I have trained Myrnah is like raising a child. There are no short cuts, just continual patient persistence as we develop an understanding and patterns of communication. The results form a relationship that seems far more functional on a basic level than most you see between horse and rider.

 

Saavedra, my black mustang mare, and I have been partners for a very long time. I have used Natural Horsemanship Techniques to train her; I have used psychology and phases of pressure, lateral thinking and positive reinforcement. I am finding now that I have also completely relied on dominance to build our relationship. Without that dominance we have almost nothing- even bribery has a limited effect on her. I find myself wondering: How might things be different if I had trained her in the way I am now training Myrnah?

 

So I tasked myself: one hour playing in the field with Saavedra, just like I do with Myrnah. To my intense frustration I found I couldn’t even get her to follow me more than thirty feet from the herd, and she blew me off and ignored me as much as she possibly could. I knew if I had a rope or a stick she would give me perfect attention and do whatever I asked.  This however was different- a game of patient persistence. The interesting thing was, when we would get brief yet brilliant moments of draw and connection, her whole expression would soften, like all the tension was melting out of her more completely than I had ever seen before.

After an hour of working with it and really not feeling like I had gotten any tangible success, I quit on a good note, tried not to be frustrated, and lay down at her feet in the field. I expected her to walk away. Saavedra is a fairly aloof and independent mare; it’s just her personality. Instead she stood over me like a mother standing over a foal. For twenty minutes she stood over me, reaching down every so often to nuzzle me softly. Then she walked a small distance away and lay down to sleep next to me. These two things are completely out of character, and honestly made my week. My horse who usually acts like she doesn’t care about me unless I make her care… she changed her tune and wanted to be with me just because I had changed mine.

Two days later I tried again. The same frustration and difficulty was played out, and yet, when I gave up and lay down in the grass an hour later, the horse Saavedra chose to be, ever so gently nuzzling me as I lay curled up by her feet, was a different partner from the horse I thought I knew so well. Then, to top off the event, Myrnah sauntered over and wanted to stand over me too. Pinned ears and bared teeth ensued and I had to stand up for a moment to explain to them they both were welcome to be there with me. They seemed to understand and accept that, and I resumed my nap while my two beautiful mares stood watch over me.

When I attempted to do the work with Ram, he played along for about two minutes and then proceeded to gallop to the other side of the field every time I asked him to touch my hand. I know if I had carrots, or a stick, or a rope, he would toe the line and do what I asked in fairly short order. However, to play the game without using the dominance card, or the bribery card, is completely different.

To train horses without using dominance takes so much patient persistence, I honestly would be surprised if anyone follows in my footsteps and attempts to do what I have done with Myrnah. I am not even sure if I have the patience to do it again myself. Yet, having felt what this relationship is like with Myrnah, I am not sure I can settle for less.

Tuesday, I lay down in the field under Saavedra’s nose. I fell asleep and when I woke up a half hour later all nine horses in my herd had lain down in a cluster around me- everyone asleep, without a single horse left standing on watch. Not only did they gather around me to sleep, they also felt safe enough to lie down without anyone watching over them.

I don’t know exactly why they all felt so comfortable gathering around me, but I have a feeling it has something to do with the patient persistent work this week has me studying. This work started with Myrnah, yet it’s effects continue to ripple out through everything I do.

Elsa Sinclair

EquineClarity.com

 

P.S. My daughter Cameron has started her own blog this week- all about her work with Antheia. Just as she is doing all her own training with Antheia, while I simply stand back and offer suggestions, she is also doing all her own writing, picture choice and layout in the new blog. I just stand back, offer support where I can, and grin when I see she too understands how rewarding this game of patience and persistence can be. Check out the new blog here:

 A Girl and A Mustang

8 Comments

  1. Fantastic—IT’S WORKING! You can be proud. 😉 Michael
    P.s. Your herd sleeping around you is an incredible mental image….MORE! M

  2. A very well thought out and wonderful blog, you are an excellent writer my dear.

  3. Beautiful! Love Cameron’s blog too. Her grey mare is just gorgeous inside and out.

  4. “Yet, having felt what this relationship is like with Myrnah, I am not sure I can settle for less.”
    I have been wondering about that Elsa. I think I couldn’t settle for less….. I work with Carolyn Resnick’s method, which means I even want my horse to run away if they – for whatever reason – should feel like it. I want to get to know each and every facet of their personalities and what better way is there than to give them every possible opportunity to express their personal opinions (which b.t.w. doesn’t mean I agree with all those opinions ;-)).

    All those horses sleeping around you is AMAZING, like a kind of energy circle! You might be right that your recent free work with some horses could have brought this on, I think it has. I have seen so many big changes because of ‘simple’ liberty exercises in my own herd myself.

  5. Love this story, and my girls and I read Cameron’s blog and enjoyed it. I am inspired once again.

  6. Elsa,

    You are making me feel like I am not going to live long enough to experience all the incredible things I want to experience with my horses!!!!!!
    Myrnah acts like that with you because she is so GRATEFUL!!!!! You have given her the most important gift of all-PEACE!
    She looks at you and sees and feels PEACE! GOD! How powerful is THAT????

  7. God I LOVE this so much! Thank you for sharing so generously! You are such an inspiration to so many. Your movie was earth shatteringly moving – I cried through most of it. 🤗

    • Thank you Christina! So many people find themselves crying through the movie… even through it isn’t sad at all, it is moving. (I have to admit, I have watched it a million times and I still cry a little when I watch it 😉


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