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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


  1. “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. “
    You could have taken those words right out of my mouth Elsa, as that is exactly how I feel it too!
    Thank you for this beautiful blog, it holds many truths.
    It must be some kind of synchronicity that I have been thinking about stress levels a lot in the past few days. I found myself often looking at the world and everything in it from a place of tension, stress and fear and I asked myself how I could help myself to change this. The answer I found within myself was ‘smile’. When I purposely smile, even when I don’t feel like it, I can immediately feel that smile changing the way I feel and hence the way I perceive things. I could even say ‘Smile = Love’. It works both ways: smiling elicits feelings of love as much as feelings of love elicit smiling. I have been experimenting with this for a few days now and the positive change in my perception is amazing! It also made me think about how to notice when my stress levels are getting too high and prevent them from getting even higher. It might be as simple as this (and this is the strategy I’m going to test for myself 😉 ) – as long as I can smile at my actions or at whatever is happening around me, it’s okay. As soon as I feel it becomes impossible for me to smile, I need to distance myself from the things I can no longer smile at and/or slow down my actions to the extent that I can still keep on smiling. So far it works for me :-)!

    • Marja,
      I love your thoughts about this,particularly noticing when it becomes “impossible to smile” as needing distance and slowing down to find the smile again. I have struggled with the idea of using the smile, but I think you may have just given me the key to make it work. People with depressive conditions often get very good at putting a smile on to make other people feel better, and it only leads to feeling more disconnected and then sick as the body fights against something that feels inauthentic. However, if instead of trying to smile when I didn’t feel it, I think perhaps I could use it as a tell tail sign, if I don’t feel I can smile naturally, that’s my cue to slow down and take some space, until I can. I love it. Thank you!

      • I can so relate to what you say about putting a smile on your face to make other people feel better, which indeed feels very inauthentic and alienating. I’d like to add this about the way I use ‘the smile’: the key is to smile with the intention to make myself feel better, not others (although it will rub off on them too 😉 ). This way it doesn’t feel inauthentic, but instead just as an aid, a simple technique of applying certain body language to make me feel more lighthearted and less ‘angry at the whole world’ 😉 .

  2. HiElsa, I love your blog and am glad the posts are sent to my email so I can read them. I really love to share your work, and have donated to the film, but when I share your posts, thelink goest to your website which I and others find impossible to read withthe white text on the black background. Also the text is very small. If you want to keep the dark look but have it be more readable, I’d suggest looking at the this website and seeing if you can also use that theme?

    I hope the film is made and look forward to seeing it 🙂 Cheers, cynthia.

    *Cynthia Cooper *

    ** Natural Horse World Pty Ltd 80 Dam Road, Saltwater River, 7186, Tasmania, Australia.

    Phone: 0419 372279

    • Thank you Cynthia for the feedback. From my research it looks like I need to change whole style of the blog to get the font bigger and text color different … I will try changing the background color on my next posting and see if that helps at all. You also can change the font size on your own computer fairly easily. I know it is Apple + on a mac. and I am sure it is very doable on a PC as well. Hope that helps. Thank you for your support! Elsa

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