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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.

 

Extended Family

From the people who come to visit every day, to the herd of thirteen horses they live within, Myrnah and Errai are surrounded always by a devoted extended family.

This week marks the start of something special when it comes to family. On Wednesday, when Myrnah and I rode through the field, past the blackberry hedge through the open gate and across the next field, it was the farthest away from the herd we have traveled since the foal joined us. For the first time ever, there was no foal jumping up and down around us. Instead of following us wherever we went, he chose to stay in the herd standing close to his Uncle Theo, watching us walk away without even a whinny to mark the change. Even when Myrnah and I rode back from the far pasture, past the herd to the bottom of the field, Errai chose to stay with his extended family. A trot along the bottom fence line and then a canter up the hill to the water troughs- only then did Errai choose to leave the herd to gallop over and join our little burst of speed.

Errai and Myrnah are both growing up.

In last week’s blog I wrote about riding the perimeter of the herd or the field with Myrnah. This week marks a breakthrough, as we were able to stretch the perimeter to include the next field away from the herd as well.

As for Errai, his confidence is increasing in leaps and bounds also. This week he is following me around so well we too are able to walk the perimeter of the herd. No sooner do we make it all the way around and back to our starting place, than he whinnies and gallops off back to his Mum in the center of the group. He is still little and so I suppose that is to be expected from time to time regardless of how good he gets at following me. Little by little we will stretch the time and the distance, and he will grow into his independence. The process is inevitable and beautiful to watch develop.

I am grateful to the larger herd and the extended family of people that are there for Myrnah and Errai when I cannot be. When I have to be away from the island for work, it is wonderful knowing they are loved and adored and cared for. Getting photos like this from a student when I am away makes my day. Errai, helping Robin bring Yahzi in from the pasture, is one of those small moments that bring joy to everyone.

Because of the brilliant family that is here at Plumb Pond, I have the most incredible support system of people and horses throughout this process. My premise may be: One horse, One trainer, One year, No tools, Just body language. However, there is a richness to the environment that Myrnah and Errai enjoy when I am not there as the one trainer. I feel blessed to be able to offer that.

That richness of family brings joy and diversity to life that I could not provide Myrnah all on my own. When I sit in the grass and watch the herd take a gallop just for fun across the pastures, or, when riding, Myrnah and I play to develop our turning skills, circling around one horse, then figure eights around two horses, then circling around a cluster of three, weaving our way back and forth through the maze of extended family, I know there is so much more happening here than what is obvious. Our extended family all around gives us a vivid backdrop for learning that brings life into focus.

So this blog is a thank-you to all the extended family here at Plumb Pond, and also to all the extended family that reads this blog from afar, sending me comments and encouragement throughout. In six weeks we will have reached our goal- One year, One horse, One trainer, No tools, Just body language. Thank-you to all my extended family of friends! You have added color and light and brilliance to this project. I may be the one trainer, but I am forever grateful I didn’t have to do this alone.

So here is to family and friends- invaluable as the extended family we are blessed to live within.

Elsa Sinclair

EquineClarity.com

14 Comments

  1. Huge thanks that we are privileged to look in on your experience from afar (and learn!) – husband and I are so enjoying the photos and description of your, Myrnah and Errai’s amazing progress. Makes us wish I’d known our horses as foals!

  2. Inspirational, and wonderful. The beauty of family is regardless of time , mistakes made, words said, actions mistaken. Family and true Friends will always be there pick up the rope, take in the slack, dry the tears, and make us laugh no matter what……. no matter what.
    Wonderful blog Liziee.
    Great work.
    C~

  3. Great blog! I feel privileged to be a tiny part of the ‘extended family’, it has been entirely my pleasure!
    Amazing progress with the riding in the other field, and even without Errai around, wow…!
    Could you elaborate a bit more on your directional cues with Myrnah? For instance, what do you do when she doesn’t want to make a turn?
    What are your plans once you have reached the One Year Goal? Will that be the end of this blog? And perhaps the start of… a documentary….. DVD’s…… a book…. :-)???

    • You are definitely part of my extended family πŸ˜‰ I look forward to your comments and love knowing this project reaches out farther than my immediate circle here.

      Directional cues for Myrnah are a turn of my upper body, outside leg forward, inside leg back, and my finger tips on the outside of her neck. Quite often Myrnah and I have discussions about turning, if she doesn’t want to turn I move my fingers farther and farther up her neck, and begin tapping instead of using steady pressure. Sometimes I do have to lean all the way forward and tap the side of her cheek with my palm. Usually that doesn’t result in a turn, but it will cause her to give to the pressure and will make her stop and bend around to touch me. Once we have reconnected and rested a moment she is usually more willing to turn the next time I ask.

      I think I need to write a blog about what happens next. Essentially my plan is to continue as we are with a few alterations. August 10th our year is up and I will begin halter training just for situations like riding around traffic, so I feel I have that specific pressure to move us quickly out of the way if we need to for safety. I will add a saddle so I can begin to exercise her more and spend more time riding with the pressure distributed across her back. Other than long rides, and safety situations I will continue exactly as we have been and keep blogging about the process. In September we have a two week trip to Long Beach WA planned. Miles and miles of flat sandy beaches and waves to play in. We will use a halter for the trailer (with four other horses and cars around it seems safer) and to get to and from the beach each day. Hopefully beyond that we will be able to work at liberty and get some good filming done for the completion of the documentary. Perhaps a book too… for now, I have a few more weeks to think about the completing our first year in style. Wish me luck. πŸ˜‰

      • A book would be awesome…, you sure have the writing skills for it! In what form will the documentary be presented? A series of DVD’s?
        Thanks for elaborating on the turning cues. I have been trying the same with one of my mares for a while, with the same response you described getting from Myrnah: quite some discussions, but usually the tapping does give some response in the right direction ;-).
        This year with Myrnah has been wonderful to show what can be achieved with no tools at all. It will bring some extremely important – and much needed! – knowledge to the horse world. I think in the end it won’t be necessary to always keep up this ultimate liberty in the training of a horse, because in many ways tools can be really helpful in the teaching and learning process. But what a big difference it will make if the decisions in when and how to use those tools will come from that place of ultimate liberty. Then tools can be used entirely as they were meant to be: as AIDS instead of means to force the horse. I sense that’s one of the most important things you are meaning to show with this project.
        Of course I wish you luck with completing the year in style! Lots and lots of it :-)!!!

  4. So lovely to read your posts and follow the progress of Errai as well as Myrnah. You are truly inpirational!

    • Thank you Cynthia, I love this project so much on a day to day, moment to moment basis. Adding to that the fact that I get to share it and you find it inspiring… perfect.

  5. With your continuing permission, Jodi put the picture of Errai and Yahzi on her Facebook…”Share the cute!” πŸ˜‰

  6. Wonderful how your relationship has evolved, and always a pleasure to read and see the great pictures too! Thank you for sharing! I’ve been wondering: along with Myrna you brought another horse from the wild, how is he/she doing? This horse was probably trained with tack? I almost sort of feel sorry for that horse… comparing to how lucky Myrna has been having such freedom of choice… Wich is not fair to you of course, as I need to have my horse on tack too. But it would be interesting to compare how they both are doing after a year.

    • Toby,
      Cleo was the other horse I brought back from the wild. The intention was she would start her training with me and then go on to be an endurance horse for a client of mine. After a few months it was clear she was a great deal hotter a horse than either of us had anticipated. My dream partner, but far too reactive and unpredictable for most people. It came as a surprise as all the other mustangs I have brought in from the wild have been lovely and easy, Cleo is a little different. You don’t need to feel sorry for her though, Cleo is getting nothing but the best of everything I know. Cleo is like my soul mate in a horse and I believe she will be my main horse for the rest of her life. I do put a halter on her sometimes, but only when I think it will make it easier for her to understand what we are working on together. Mostly Cleo and I work at liberty and take everything very slowly. I have no year long goal with her like I do with Myrnah, so there is no hurry with anything. She gets the best of every skill Myrnah teaches me with none of the push to prove this can be done. Myrnah will be much further along at the end of the year than Cleo, but her temperament was easy to push through training. Also because of the blog and the video work and the following I have for Myrnah’s project, I spend far more hours with her every day than I do with Cleo. The work I do with Cleo is just for me and her, we can take it slow, less is more, and I just love every minute of it.

      • So glad to hear your reply to Toby’s question …have been wondering about Cleo πŸ™‚

        • Toby Houtman
        • Posted July 16, 2012 at 12:49 am
        • Permalink

        Thanks for responding about Cleo, and how wonderful that she turned out to be your horse soul mate! I can imagine without the pressure of reporting progress and without the time factor your process with her is even more special and rewarding to both you and her. Lots of fun and luck to you both!

  7. This is intriguing! Surely this must be how our relationship with horses first began.


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