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Monthly Archives: October 2015

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.


Taking the Challenge


I want to give you something a little different for the blog this week.


When I started this project with Myrnah I believed it was something truly different than anything that had been done before. I still believe that is true because I have not found anyone willing to train horses without the added incentive of food rewarding behavior, or the added pressure of a whip or rope or fence to push them against. If any of you know it exists, please let me know. I would be so curious to know more.


What I HAVE found, though, is many people pushing limits and taking on challenges all over the world:


How can we exist with horses in a better way?


I find that so very beautiful, worth paying attention to. I encourage each and every one of us everyday to explore what is possible:


How can we live our own lives in better ways?


For now, I leave you with a little inspiration.


Here is Emma Massingale with “The Island Project”:


And here is Honza Bláha with “Open Borders”:


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.


Depth in Relationship


I see a pattern that predicts the depth of a relationship. Horses being my specialty, that is where it shows up with the most clarity, but I have a feeling this idea exists in all relationships.


How much time together is spent enjoying exactly who our partner is, in that moment, and how much time is spent attempting to change our partner into something we think we would like more, or complaining about their actions without any developmental course.


As gritty relational beings I believe all those things have time and place. The time we spend noticing what we don’t like or working to change it is grist for the mill. It polishes us and carves us into our future selves and helps us find the things we really love.


The depth and intensity of a relationship, though, is dependent on the positive counterbalance. HOW MUCH can we love and appreciate the creature that is in front of us exactly as they are? That HOW MUCH is what predicts how deeply we feel connected to them.


If we are always complaining, wishing someone were different, or trying to change them, how can we have a deep relationship with who they really are?


Echart Tolle says, “ When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.”


I believe there is a certain amount of “madness” that makes life interesting. Some amount of complaining is food for the mind and contrast to help us see where we want to go and what we want to do.


Some amount of action is what makes us feel alive. What we can change, what we can move, what we can motivate, that power is heady and rich.


Depth and intensity, though, is all about what we already love, right now.


Our relationships depend on how we treat our lives. The percentage of time I spend with my horses complaining, developing, or enjoying dictates how that relationship is going to feel.


For me, relationships feel best when I spend somewhere between 50% and 80% of my time enjoying what is and getting to know and understand my horses better exactly as they are. Then we add in some time devoted to developmental change, training and moving toward better skills, with just a handful of complaining and searching thrown in to help me know where I want to go.


That is what works for me.


What works for you? Notice this week how much time you spend in a relationship, complaining, taking action, or enjoying what is. Then notice how it affects your relationships to everything around you.


It is your life and your relationships, you are the one who gets to feel what you feel, so notice how you spend your time and how it feels when you shift the percentages. Does it work for you to spend a little more time training and changing? Or a little more time enjoying and soaking up the beauty of the moment. Or a little more time complaining and working though what it is you really want in life?


It is your life, live it intentionally and develop the relationships you want. No one else can do it for 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.


Showing up


What is this thing I do with Myrnah? Is it a method of training? Is it a form of meditation? Is it for my benefit? Is it for her benefit? Why take away all the tools and all the bribes? What is the point behind doing everything differently?


I will tell you, for me the magic is in the mundane. When I show up to spend time with Myrnah I know she gets to be who she is, and the things I do have very little power to change her. The things we do together develop US together, and very slowly over time entrain us to be better partners for each other.


Tom Dorrance said it perfectly:

“First you go with the horse. Then the horse goes with you. Then you go together.” –


It is the same things I do with Myrnah that everyone does with their horse. We move forward, backward, left and right, sometimes more together, and sometimes less together. It is the attention and persistence toward partnership, that is what this is about.


If we think of this as a training method, we have to accept that without tools or bribes there is a great deal more of

“First you go with the horse.”

than most people are truly comfortable with. That is perhaps what makes this more of a form of meditation than a training method.


Is this thing Myrnah and I do together for my benefit or for hers? How does one even quantify a benefit? Are we happier for this way of existing together?


I find those questions really difficult to answer. I believe we are happier, but at the same time we are often more frustrated, and at the same time we are more peaceful together, and we are also more at odds with each other at times. The answers are as complicated as the questions.


We get to show up and feel more of everything together. We get to show up for each other regardless of how it feels, good or bad.


Showing up and feeling what we feel from moment to moment together, that is the work.


On one particular day at the beach Myrnah was tired from traveling; I wanted to ride and she did not. If I had some tools or bribes, I could have quickly won her over to my way of thinking, getting us efficiently to Tom Dorrance’s final idea: “Then you go together.” –


I find, though, there is a whole world of getting to know each other in deep and profound ways that we pass right over when we rush to the end.


“First you go with the horse.”

allows you to ask what the horse wants.


And then there is a dance where you ask the horse to go with your idea for a moment, which is the second part: “Then the horse goes with you”.


In our linear, human way of thinking we tend to want the third part to happen directly: “Then you go together”. –



I will tell you, training methods have been developed with tools and bribes to get us there fairly efficiently. What I do is different, and it requires that I show up willing to dance the first part of the dance for as long as it takes to get us to: “Then you go together.” –


It is not easier, it is not faster, I am really not even sure it is better. But what I can tell you is, it is a richer experience with a horse than any I have had before.


The depth of connection Myrnah and I have together is more fulfilling than anything I have ever known and that makes it worth it.


You get out what you put in though, so, on that day that Myrnah was tired from traveling and I really wanted to ride when she didn’t, four hours later she was ready to give me a short ride.


Those four hours consisted of walking and stopping and turning and, for a while, lying down together to take a nap. My job was to show up and follow her, and then ask her to follow me, and then follow her some more.


This experience is about showing up and being who we are together, even if our wants do not always line up right away. It is humbling and beautiful to show up with a will to align and work together, and a total acceptance that it will take the time it takes.


One day at the beach we were walking through the dunes and crossed a section of the path where there was some bear scat. Shortly after that we saw two people walking through the grass off in the distance. Those shapes moving against the backdrop of the yellow dunes combined with the smells to put Myrnah on alert- meant we were no longer walking to the beach on my time frame. She felt she needed to watch those shapes moving though the distant grass with total devotion, which meant, if I was “following the horse”, I needed to watch them too.


From time to time I could ask her to take a few more steps toward the beach with me, and then we would watch some more. It was a very long time before we made it all the way to the ocean together. Feeling her fear, feeling my frustration, all of that was part of showing up that day, and the payoff is how much deeper our relationship is for the chance to experience it together.


I had other horses with me at the beach this past week. I had tools and rewards to help get us to the end goal of working together. We had wonderful rides, and I loved every moment I spent with them.


The work I do with Myrnah though…. It really is deeper and richer and ultimately more satisfying that any work I have ever done with a horse.


Myrnah and I may have started off together with a simple challenge, to find out if this way of working together is even a possible or viable training method, but along the way we found gold in the day-to-day process.


The personal value of a relationship this deep and rich from moment to moment is a worth above and beyond any end result we could ever achieve.


Elsa SinclairIMG_1077

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.




October finds us taking a week away to the beach. Sand, Salt, Surf and the freedom that comes from wide-open spaces. Myrnah and I needed this time to just be with each other.


Living in the city, navigating traffic for hours on end each day, too many hours spent in front of a computer attending to the many details the movie demands, and chasing a schedule to pay the bills….. Sometimes the beauty of simply living gets lost in such business.


Long Beach, WA and the sweet cabin Naytura Haus nestled in the dunes was the spot Myrnah and I finished up filming the project in our first year together. Now it seems fitting to be here again as the movie is reaching its final editing stages.


I find myself reflecting on freedom this week and the balance we all seek as we notice there is a certain amount of commitment and focus and determination required to develop something new. All that intensity of focus can feel like the opposite of freedom sometimes. What happens when you let go?


Out on the beach, away from home, I keep a rope on Myrnah when we are out walking together, a reminder for both of us to stay connected. We mostly don’t test the limits of that connection; it’s just there to make me feel safer. However, the other day I found myself tired of carrying the rope around all the time, so off it came.


All went well for a time, walking, exploring, watching the world go by, Myrnah and I soaking up our freedom together. Then we found ourselves playing in the waves, and I pushed a little too hard, asking Myrnah for one turn too many too soon, and Myrnah’s independence overrode her desire to stay with me. With a head toss and a spin she ran off.


Here we are on twenty-six miles of wide-open beach, dunes, and woods stretching behind and my horse is trotting full speed away, and then stretching out into a gallop along down the beach.


Is this how our story ends? I took her out of the wild, brought her into my world and my story with all its corresponding focus and intensity. I may have always pushed her away from fences and used big spaces, encouraging her to feel free, but its different when you know the fences are there.


Here we were, real freedom, and I was watching the tail of my horse disappearing at a gallop in a straight line away from me. What happens now?


And then miraculously, she turned.


Galloping back to me, Myrnah ran head thrown up, nostrils flared, hooves pounding, and then circling around me just as fast as she had run away, all her power and speed and freedom coming back into my world.


I found myself remembering, “If they never run away, how can they ever run back?” Having a horse gallop straight toward you and watching all of their power and grace is one of the most beautiful experiences. When you know its just because they want to be with you…. There really is nothing quite like that feeling in that moment.


In THIS experimental training process with Myrnah my goal was to use only my body and presence as pressure or reward. I found it is possible, and it does forge a bond and understanding that is incomparable. It also leaves one wondering in moments, is that bond and connection enough?


In normal training, if I have a little more pressure available to me with a whip or rope to push my horse, or a little more reward, paying them for learning and working with grain or cookies or carrots, then doing things like running away and running back or working together at distance, all feel more reliable. I hold power over what my horse wants, and with practice, my horse finds herself wanting to work with me more than being free and independent.


In training a horse, you get out what you put in. I think that sometimes the more you bring to the relationship in terms of food or intensity pays back and you feel more connected.


In training Myrnah, this is more about how much of myself I can bring. I get out of this relationship what I put into it. If all I have is myself to give, can that be enough?


I believe it can be.


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

Photo Sep 28, 10 54 06 PMThe Goal:

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


We all have less control than we think, and a lot more choices than we realize.

With horses we find ourselves in this magical situation where we can fly through time and space with a power and speed we could never have on our own. And we also find there is a state of calmness we tap into, simply being around them, that is broader and deeper and more easily reached than without them.

Millions of people are drawn into close relationships with horses every year wanting these feelings and experiences and then finding themselves up against the interesting reality that horses have choices in this too.

There will be those magical moments when the horse seems to want just what you want. Then there will be all the other moments, the sort of moments where you want calm and your horse is edgy or your horse wants to nap and you want to canter. This is where people start fighting for control.

Photo Sep 28, 6 42 19 PM

Somehow we think, if we take enough riding lessons or learn enough training theory or buy the perfect piece of equipment, we will find the means to control this thousand-pound animal into being the extension of ourselves we always dreamed of.

The sad part is sometimes we feel successful in gaining the control we thought we wanted. Our horse goes fast when we want to go fast and settles down when we want that too. Then we find ourselves longing a little for more of the magic that drew us into this relationship in the first place. We may have gained the control we thought we wanted, but we find ourselves wishing the horses seemed to want that relationship and these experiences as much as we do.

No matter how hard we try, gaining more control does not lead to the kind of magical connection experiences that drew us here in the first place. With intention and practice we may gain a great deal of control, but it will never be enough to get us what we really want.

Control is where we look into the past and wish we had done something differently so this moment would have turned out differently. Control is where we are concerned about what is going to happen in the future and think about ways we can make it turn out right. This might make us feel safer, but we lose the magic of being alive with all this control.

While we may have less control than we think, we tend to have way more choices than we realize. This is where we have the power to get what we want in life.

Photo Sep 28, 10 57 49 PM

Choice is about responding to current events.

Most of us make choices habitually without much thought, doing the things we have always done with only small variations on the theme.

So here is my challenge to all of you: Choose to consider your actions and your choices. For everything you do today, take a moment and think outside the box. Is there a choice you might make in this moment that you have never considered before? What would happen if you did? There are more options than you can imagine in every moment.

The choices you make today build what happens tomorrow, and, while you may have a lot less control over tomorrow than you think, you do have a lot more options today than you realize. When we start realizing that with our horses, that’s when they can be the partners we have been wanting all along.

Elsa Sinclair

Photo Sep 28, 10 54 48 PM