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Monthly Archives: July 2015

IMG_2176The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range,

One Trainer,

Many Students,

Communication through body language,

Tools used only for safety, never to train.


The Goal:

To discover how far Equestrian Art can be developed solely using body language.


Thank you all for your support on the Front_Of_Card_ELSADocumentary. Take a look at the trailer here, and please donate to the completion of the project.


Focus, Persistence, and Confidence


I saw a beautiful quote this week from John Lyons.

There are only two emotions that belong in the saddle; one is a sense of humor, and the other is patience.”


I got to thinking about emotion, and, while we may strive for humor and patience when we are with the horses, what do we actually need to DO to feel those things?

Emotion is an end result of the thoughts we consider and the actions we take. Trying to control the emotions when they are already happening is a very difficult proposition. So what can we actually DO to find ourselves in that place where what we feel is patience and a sense of humor.

We need a plan and some keys to focus our thoughts and our actions so that what we end up feeling is good.

Key number one: Focus.

IMG_2202 1This is all about the thoughts we think. We observe where we are, we have an idea of where we want to go and we think about the possible steps it takes to get from one to the other.

Our focus is the encompassing of thoughts around where we are, where we want to be, and what might happen between.

Focus is the ability to stay with those thoughts instead of the myriad of other things we might think. Focus is the ability to see many different options of what might happen between point A and point B. Focus is our mental plasticity and flexibility without distraction.

To take us back to an earlier blog, The Three Keys, focus is the movements we make as we work our way from where we are to where we want to be.

Key number two: Persistence.

If focus is about thoughts and movement, persistence is all about action and connection.

When we work with a horse the important word is WITH. Any meaningful action is all about Connection!

The action of connecting is all about persistence!

Don’t give up until you feel that connection, stay with it, keep moving, keep trying things, keep thinking, keep working, keep playing, keep on and on and on with unfailing persistence…. Until you feel connection.

Then be quiet!

Key number three: Confidence.


Confidence is the quiet where you revel in that phenomenal experience of connection.

The only movement associated with confidence is the rhythm of being alive, the in-breath following the out-breath with inexorable reliability – the metronome feeling of foot falls and breathing, of heart beat and pulse.

In being quietly alive, in a feeling of connection, we experience the confidence that is perhaps the most important part of horse training.

I say that confidence is the most important part of horse training because horses respond to confidence more than anything else! I can say with all my heart, regardless of anything else you do or don’t do, BE CONFIDENT!

Confidence is followed like the strongest magnet. Confidence is revered and pursued. Confidence is yours for the creating! Confidence is your birthright, your superpower, the ultimate key to anything and everything.

So, no matter what the world throws at you, find your confidence again and again and again.

These three keys are just stepping stones for finding that important confidence, because as Ray Hunt once said,

“Confidence is knowing you are prepared”IMG_1226

I am saying, the thing you most need to be prepared for is finding your confidence, and here is how you do that.

The steps for finding our confidence are:

The thoughts that become movements taking us from where we are to where we want to be, one step at a time – FOCUS.

The actions we take definitively that cause us to feel connected in body, heart and soul, because we were designed to thrive in connection. Don’t give up until you feel it – PERSISTENCE.

The quiet where we simply exist in the rhythm of being alive, breathing out, breathing in as we appreciate the moment and the journey we took to get here. That quiet appreciation is – CONFIDENCE.

I can give you the keys; now your job is to go live them because as Bill Dorrance said:

“You can’t teach feel, you have to experience it!IMG_2163

Focus, Persistence, Confidence

Movement, Connection, Quiet.

Take these keys, try them out, and I bet you will find the emotions John Lyons is encouraging you to seek:

There are only two emotions that belong in the saddle; one is a sense of humor, and the other is patience.”

Just remember, it all comes down to confidence in the end, and that is yours to create.


Elsa Sinclair

IMG_2158 1

The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One Trainer, Many Students, Communication through body language, Tools used only for safety, never to train


The Goal:

To discover how far Equestrian Art can be developed solely using body language.


Why am I Here?

Sometimes, everywhere I look, life seems filled with a profound misery: friends diagnosed with cancer, family struggling through divorce and betrayal, loved ones battling depression and questions of self-worth, and life throwing challenge after challenge at us all. Life can feel so hard! Too hard! Why are we here, why do we choose to get up each day and fight though these storms? How is it worth the pain? And what makes this journey smooth sailing for some, while barely tolerable for others?

I do believe we are hard-wired for difficulty. A challenge or seemingly insurmountable task is the sweetest focus, if we can BELIEVE it is possible. That reach, that just out of grasp, that thing we have to stretch for- that is life!

So what makes the difference between those of us who thrive on the difficulty, and those that are beaten down by it? Those who revel in the moment-to-moment evolution of self, and those who go to sleep at night, hoping against hope that they just won’t ever wake up again.

While we ARE hard-wired for challenge, IMG_1246what I believe we are NOT hard-wired for is feeling alone, disconnected, and without support. This connection or lack thereof is the very basis for our ability to thrive, survive or feel like we are failing miserably at life.

So, if that feeling of connection is what makes the difference, why is it that some of us have it and some of us don’t?

Some of us feel connected and supported though all of life’s ups and downs, while others of us can’t figure out where to get coffee in the morning without feeling sure the whole world is against us, and perhaps everyone would be better off if we just jumped off a bridge. I know that sounds overly blasé and Pollyanna positive on the one side, and melodramatic and ridiculously doom-and-gloom on the other, but both are perfectly normal, frequent human experiences. Like I talked about last week, we all live on a range somewhere between one extreme and the other; and stress levels are often the deciding factor on where we fall in that range on any given day. So what determines those stress levels? What makes or breaks us in the question of thriving or barely surviving in this life?

The feeling of connection: the more connected we feel, the more we can handle life’s stresses; the less connected we feel, the more life’s stresses drag us down. It really is as simple as that.

So then we must ask, What is the determining factor in feeling connected? One can argue nature or nurture all day long. Were we born with it; or was it developed in us? Is it brain chemicals; or a habitual patterning of the way we think? Why are some people resilient beyond belief, while others seem to crumple under the slightest touch? Does it matter which it is? Or does it only matter what we might do about it now.


Right now is the only point in time we have the power to do anything! Right now, we can make this better or worse!

So when I ask myself, Why am I here? Connection is the answer.

If I can offer a light at the end of the tunnel, If I can reach out a hand, if I can be that small moment of connection for you that helps you find more connection and less stress, I am here for YOU.

Horses – they struggle with the same stress. Their need for a herd, family, IMG_1223connection and confidence of feeling can make or break them. The feeling of connection is vital to their well-being and while some of them seem born with an unbeatable attitude that can handle any stress thrown at them with undeniable grace, most horses, as with most people, could use a helping hand- someone reaching out to them to let them know they are not alone. We are in this life together, and, when we can truly believe that, everything becomes easier.

This feeling of connection is a two-way street. When we reach out to help someone else feel connected, we ourselves in turn get to feel that connection also. More connection equals less stress.

There are many brilliant minds out there tackling this issue of connection and how we develop the feeling we need to thrive.

Berne Brown and Johann Hari are perhaps two that have shed the most light on the subject for me.

Berne Brown

Johann Hari

I choose to work with horses – letting them help me find and feel what it is to be connected, because for many of us, animals can reach us and allow us to reach them, when everyone and everything else seems too far away.

This process Myrnah helped me develop in our first year together is all about connection. The connection that let me train her without force is the same connection that lets Myrnah feel better in her own skin and the same connection that lets me feel better in mine. This connection is what our documentary is about – horse training, and also so much more.

So please, take a look at our documentary trailer, and donate even just a little toward getting the film finished. This is for all of us, and the feeling of connection that gives us the ability to thrive!

Thank You!

Elsa Sinclair


The Project: One Mustang directly off the range, One Trainer,                          Many Students, Communication through body language, Tools used only for safety, never to train


The Goal: To discover how far Equestrian Art can be developed solely using body language.

Thank you all for your support on the Front_Of_Card_ELSADocumentary. Take a look at the trailer here, and donate to the completion of the project.

All in a Range


I attended a lecture a while back – one that spoke to the very core of my work with horses, and as often happens, also the core of my life’s principles. That is how it is for me – this work with horses – it addresses much of what I have yet to understand about life, and becomes a testing ground for new solutions.

As Myrnah and I work through an idea, traveling through space and time, testing the merit of a concept, it also percolates into my life as a whole. This is horse training, but also it is so much more about living and understanding what it is to be alive, day in and day out.

This particular idea is based on a cycle we all tend to run.

Tension or Stress – leads to…

Injury – leads to…

Pain – leads to…

Bad Behavior – leads to…

Tension …and so on.

Hang in there with me – before we brace ourselves against the negativity of this theory, lets think about tension or stress for a moment and explore the possibilities.

Tension and stress at low levels are a beautiful adaptive process that creates learning and growth. When we work a muscle to make it stronger we must stress it a small amount, drawing the body’s attention to it to build something stronger; then, as the strength is increased, the tension or stress fades away leaving in its wake a new and improved version of what once was.

Tension and stress at increasing intensities can also be beautiful when we give them the support and time to heal IMG_1224and recover and build for the better. Tension and stress could be considered the fuel for building; we just need to remember fuel is often combustible, and if not handled with respect can ignite, leaving us burned instead of fed.

The only inevitability in life is change – with every moment of every day we are changing and nothing is ever truly static. Our only power here is to direct those changes into the creation of a better life – to be fed by our tension or stress, not hurt by it.

Yet we often find ourselves black and blue and exhausted as we fight hard against change, throwing ourselves against a wall of inevitability.

So coming back to the cycle I mentioned earlier.

Tension or Stress – leads to…

Injury – leads to…

Pain – leads to…

Bad Behavior – leads to…

Tension …and so on.

It sounds terrible, but let’s put the words on a range of intensity and see what happens:

Awareness / Tension / Stress – leads to…

Change / Remodeling / Injury – leads to…

Feeling / Emotion / Pain – leads to…

Motion /Action / Bad Behavior – leads to…

Awareness / Tension / Stress… and so on.

You can change the words to suit your experience, because each situation has its own unique attributes and we each experience life uniquely. Regardless of the exact words, the awareness of this cycle is a powerful tool for shaping our lives with perhaps a little less bruising.

In horse training the range and cycle is a very measurable, observable thing. We usually start with some sort of AWARENESS, a desire for something to be different than it is – which causes CHANGE in our thoughts which leads to FEELING something as we head into MOTION – which leads to AWARENESS in the horse, causing it to CHANGE, which causes it to feel and that FEELING motivates MOTION which leads to AWARENESS – and so on…. I wrote about this years ago in the blog post ‘Emotion in Motion’.

The key here is the range of intensity, how much intensity can any one individual handle positively?

If the range of intensity ends up too high it looks like this:

We might start with some sort of STRESS, a desire for something to be different than it is – which causes INJURY in our thoughts (this idiot horse is going to kill me if I let this continue!) which leads to PAIN as we brace every muscle against impending doom, Heading into BAD BEHAVIOR where we abuse the horse in the hopes of bringing AWARENESS… only awareness is on the other side of the range, the easy side… and it takes one wise and gentle soul of a horse to transmute our stress and pain into something positive. More likely our BAD BEHAVIOR will just cause more STRESS, leading the horse to INJURE itself or others, and when it feels the PAIN of that injury it cascades into more varieties of BAD BEHAVIOR …..

Intensity is where we have power, actions speak louder than words. IMG_1216Every time we take an action we must ask, does this lead to a manageable amount of tension? Do we have the wisdom to develop awareness from a terrible situation, or must we first lower the stress so we can coax understanding from this fight to the death.

Each situation and partnership has its own unique answer to that question. With Myrnah I am choosing to train without any fence, or halter, or bribe to hold her close to me. So for us, if tension becomes too high, she will simply walk away. Myrnah has a release valve on the intensity she feels is functional for her.

If I am training with a halter, I have a means of trapping the horse to stay with me even if the tension gets uncomfortable. The connection of a rope gives me the power to say, you are stronger and more adaptable than you think, trust me, stay here and watch the feeling and the change as it unfolds for us. That is why training with tools is faster than training at liberty.

Training with tools though, if we are not careful, often can cause a great deal of what we consider bad behavior in horses. When we cause too much stress and the horse cannot get away, it will fight back: Biting, kicking, bolting, pushing into pressure, refusing to yield… all these things are last resort efforts to avoid pain (emotional or physical) Yet these actions one might call bad behavior are usually not controllable by the one doing them; they are just gut reactions striking out in self defense! Sadly, too often the more we fight, the more we feel we have to fight, and the cycle only intensifies into an unmanageable range of suffering.

So what do we do to change the intensity of the cycle? We lower stress, and we take actions that coax us into less and less tension. IMG_1239With horses I find the simplest answer is walking. We even hear it referred to often in our common speech. “Walk me through that so I understand” and “Walk it off! Walk off the pain!” and “Walk with me?”. Meaning – spend time with me so we get to know each other better.

It is said horses in the wild walk fifteen to twenty miles a day sometimes to find food and water. I believe that walking together is often what facilitates the bonding of a herd into their functional family unit.

I often find bonding and feeling like we are not alone is the key for easing tension and stress. Whether it is a walk together, or a massage, or an easy conversation, we all crave the bonding and the peace it brings us.

Perhaps that is why it is so much more than horse training for me; it’s all about my personal journey into being healthy. The condition of being bipolar has no cure, and often feels very dysfunctional and isolating. STRESS, a desire for something to be different than it is – causing INJURY in my thoughts where everything about me is wrong and worthless, which leads to PAIN as I brace every muscle and become a searing bundle of nerve endings with no escape from this body, which leads to the BAD BEHAVIOR of addiction, self medication, self abuse… all out of my control at that point, just gut responses to seek some form of relief…

In seeking, sometimes with the help of our friends, or our horses we find ways to change our cycles. Finding our way out of insanity, finding ways to lower stress, and learning tools to bring our range of living into a functional beautiful pattern again.

When I wrote the blog last week, I was touched by how many people reached out to me and seemed to understand. Intensity of emotion and the crippling affects of unmitigated pain is not an experience reserved for people with depressive disorders; this is a very human experience, and perhaps to some degree, an animal one as well. We all live somewhere in the range of intensity, cycling through life to the best of our abilities.

My personal journey, and experience with pain gives me an intense motivation to find actions that lead to living a life with some degree of peace and grace. If I can pass my hard learned lessons on to help others, I will consider this a life well lived!

May your life be filled with just the right amount of tension and growth for you!


Elsa Sinclair

Meditations on Equestrian Art

Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. ~Mary Oliver


The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One Trainer, Many Students, Communication through body language, Tools used only for safety, never to train


The Goal:  To discover how far Equestrian Art can be developed solely using body language.


And it begins again….. Perhaps it never ended, only paused for a brief moment. Life is like that, with horses and everything else.

Our pause, on the blog here, has not been completely still; it has in fact been quietly moving. Myrnah and I have been working, in slow evolution along with Cleo and Saavedra and Zohari and so many others. One small tendril at a time reaching out to embrace another student, dusty arenas and grassy pastures holding us as we delve a little deeper- deeper into what it is to walk with a horse, shoulder-to-shoulder feeling that bond of choice and understanding with another being while delving into one’s self.


I often find myself asking why? Why do I do THIS work with horses? The practice we walk here seems sometimes too permissive, too allowing of behaviors that other training practices would cut short. Yet, being here with the horse, allowing her to be authentic and true to herself is the most healing work I have ever done. Yes, healing for me. The development of the horse though this training, while profound, has always been secondary to the peace is brings ME, time and again.

There are the physical aspects of this work: the breakdown of how to walk through the practice, the introduction of the ideas to new students, the organization of film footage, and the launching of the Kickstarter this week. The documentary is finally in it’s homestretch! Please take a look, help me spread the word, and help us fund the completion of the film with the fullness it deserves.

Then, there is the personal side of this story: the heart and soul of this project that reaches deep into who we are as people, who we are as horses, who we are together, and the longing that gave birth to this project.

The title of this blog is not used lightly. I usually play my cards close to my chest in this part of the story, sharing only the parts of myself that might be publicly digestible and acceptable. Today I am going to take some advice from Brene Brown; “When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending.” Myrnah, and this project, Meditation on Equestrian Art: this has been me writing a new ending for myself.

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”

lookWhen I was sixteen I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. There is a shame that comes with emotions one can’t control, and that shame leads quickly to a double life. The person we want to be, the one who is lovable and can engage with the world, all charm and beauty intact, then, there is the other person- battered by inexplicable grief. Emotion so deep with an undertow so strong, all rational thought is lost for a time.

As a society, we live for emotion, every movie and novel is a chance to live vicariously though someone else’s emotional experience. These are packaged nicely, with a beginning, middle and end, with a rise and fall of intensity, and with the comfort of being able to know it was just a story, and one can step neatly out of it, back into a rational experience at any time. For a person with a depressive disorder, there is no stepping out of the story. The emotion becomes the only thing that exists.

You might be surprised how many of us walk beside you, work beside you, are your best friends, lovers, children, and you have no idea the internal war that is waged, day in and day out.

Our shame is a powerful thing as we battle to stay in control of emotions we can’t be in control of. Often each battle we win, only makes us feel closer to losing the war. We never own up to how often we stand on the edge of a bridge, wondering, Is this the moment I jump? Or drive our cars wondering how fast we would need to go, and what solid thing we would need to hit to end the pain.

To admit those things would be to hurt the ones we love, and this isn’t about hurting our loved ones, this is about surviving ourselves.

I consider myself to be high functioning. I love my job, I love the understanding I bring to people and horses. It means the world to me that I bring this light to others. On the flip side, it is my family who has often paid the price as I sort through how to survive being me.

I am loved and I love deeply…. And yet still, when a spouse or a lover comes around the corner in the kitchen to find me curled in a corner, knees pressed to my chest, rocking back and forth as I quietly sob out a sadness that seems to have no origin, it takes a toll on them. And when it repeats too often…. and intrudes in too many ways, in too many places, I find myself trying even harder to separate into two people- one public and one buried.

We all long for a happily ever after, but this disease often doesn’t end well. Three out of five people diagnosed with bipolar disorder end in suicide. There is no known cure for this, only an array of drugs to dampen the intensity with the hope that that is enough to get us through each episode.

I have always chosen to live without drugs- to feel every moment of each high and each low, because I want to experience the fullness of every moment of life I get to live, or am able to survive. Perhaps I am just one of the lucky ones who can survive this course without drugs. I think, though, it’s the horses.Kiss

The horses have always been there for me. They have been strong for me when I was weak, and fast for me when I was slow, and my stabile when the world rocked under my feet.

When all I can feel is soul searing grief that rips me to shreds, the horses, they lean in, their shoulder against mine, their weight and warmth there for me to lean on until this passes, because it always does. In the wake of such grief, there is a clarity that comes to be and an awareness of how poignantly beautiful life really is.

Myrnah and I may have embarked on a revolutionary training process, clarity and purpose brought to life; and it may have been successful beyond what I had ever imagined. Yet, beyond that physical process, this story is also very personal. This journey is about healing and heartache, authenticity and rewriting the end of my story, one hoofbeat at a time.

It’s not over yet. The best is yet to come.

Elsa Sinclair