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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.


The Weight of Choices


Myrnah has been and continues to be my greatest teacher when it comes to making choices.


When we moved from our Island lifestyle with all its rural freedoms, life changed somewhat. Our home in Redmond, WA is beautifully situated up on a hill overlooking a busy set of soccer fields and a high traffic trail system. Myrnah and I like to head out on the trail fairly often and I find this a meditation on choices.


The interesting thing about Myrnah and my relationship is she has a great deal more freedom of choice than in most horse/human relationships and that always brings me food for thought.


With the traffic on the trail I do, out of consideration to all our fellow travelers, put a few more limits on Myrnah. A rope looped around the base of her neck, there mostly for show, but also requiring a little more consistent closeness from both of us. Occasionally, if I ask too much without any tools to back up my leadership, the rope puts a limit on how far away she can walk from me when she says no.


Myrnah, like any horse given her full free choices, would find the nearest patch of grass, graze until she had her fill, and then head home to her friends in the pasture. Partnered together with me there develops a weight to our choices.


The things Myrnah and I choose together need to weigh lightly on our natural inclinations. If I ask too much too soon, the burden of those requests becomes a heavy weight on our bond and I quickly find out Myrnah remembers how to say no.


If there are too many “no” answers in a row, I start losing credibility as a leader. A leader knows how to ask questions that have “yes” answers naturally. This is the weight I feel of choices.


What can I ask for? How much do I need to ask Myrnah to do the things she wants to do already? How often can I push or stretch us to do more of what I want and put her wants on hold for a moment.


In our initial year together Myrnah and I did all the filming for the movie and lived firmly together in our framework of freedom based training. I learned more in that year with her than I have in any year of my life. The following year I gave Myrnah time off to play with her friends in the pasture while I buckled down to work. Our third year together I introduced conventional tack and more normal horse human interaction rules, and I was amazed at how smoothly and easily Myrnah accepted bridle and saddle and rules after so much freedom.


I feel strongly that I want my horses to be educated enough to be able to make their way in the world, finding good homes and lives even if I were to die and leave them unexpectedly. That third year of our time together felt important for Myrnah’s education; I needed to know she could have a happy life even if it was less freedom-based.


Now, though, I find I want the life lessons Myrnah brings me when she has the freedom to express herself. The weight of my choices are endlessly interesting to me. Can I tread lightly enough on our bond that the answers stay predominantly yes? Can I strengthen our bond to a place where I can ask for more things outside of her comfort zone and we are strong enough together to carry that weight of choice?


Time – how much time we spend together – this is the biggest factor in strengthening our bond. So, I am going to keep this blog short so I can get back out to the barn.


I leave you with this one thought to ponder this week. How much can you ask from anyone with confidence they will say yes? Then ask yourself, how heavy does that question and answer and choice of action weigh on your bond?


Weight builds strength when it’s used consciously in the right intervals. Not enough weight and the bond between you will lack strength, too much weight too soon and life feels too hard with too much fight and push-back driving individuals apart instead of bonding them together.


Food for thought.


Elsa Sinclair


    • Ritambhara Tyson
    • Posted November 14, 2015 at 7:33 am
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    • Reply

    Thank you, Elsa, I am loving your insights.

  1. Interesting food for thought Elsa – fear of getting it “wrong” can easily prevent us from trying anything new at all, worried that we might weight it too strongly and spoil the connection we already have ….. sometimes forgetting that we developed that connection in the first place by trying different things, different approaches and tailoring our subsequent efforts accordingly having experienced the outcome! However, I wonder how much the quality of the connection is based on the sheer amount of time spent together as you sometimes realize quite suddenly that a horse will do something for you without you having consciously tried to achieve that result in the first place …… it just sort of happened over time by some strange kind of mental osmosis or something as the connection between you and your horse developed naturally over time. On the whole I think we human beings tend towards impatience and rarely “take the time it takes” even though many great horsemen and horsewomen have advocated this good advice! Clearly you personally recognize time as one of the most important factors and so I will leave it there so that we can both “get out to the barn” as you Americans say or out to the stable as we Brits tend to say. Happy meditating on choices ……..

    Best wishes

    • Ahhhh yes… so true…. and also yes, maybe someday I will have a proper stable to retreat to 😉 For now, my American barn with horses gathered round will suffice to feed my soul 😉

  2. YES! Gary, you confirm exactly what Elsa has tried to teach me for years! I didn’t get it for a long time but she just kept telling me. I get it now and it is a most empowering gift!
    We humans can be such over-achievers and in that process often miss the Gift of Giving of what they know, from the horse!
    I cannot say how many times my young horses automatically did something (without me asking) that was a natural progression of learning in their development.(Ha! Maybe I should say in MY development). There have been many things I haven’t had to “train” because when we take the time and are considerate and ALLOW the horse to make choices, it happens in the natural progression of learning.
    It’s SO BLOODY COOL!!!!
    I love you for this gift, Elsa!

    • Love you too Maggie!

      Time is such a gift. May we all keep getting better at appreciating it for the grand teacher it is!

  3. Your questions to ponder are incredibly important ones. I wish you the very best in New York and am so eager to see your finished film. I look forward to continuing to learn from your amazing experiences and abilities. My best to you, Connie Funk

    • Connie, I look forward to knowing you better to as we all learn from each other 😉 I can’t wait to see the movie in a the big theater tomorrow! And I so very much look forward to sharing it near and far!

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