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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.


Freedom-Based Training


In all my years with horses, the year I focused with Myrnah to learn something new and film “Taming Wild” was the most powerful learning I have ever done.


Why you might ask?

Because of the freedom involved.


It sounds like a contradiction in terms, freedom-based training, and I think it is in the very best way. The contradiction and balance of extremities adds such richness to this life.


Freedom: The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.


Training: The act of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behavior.


With horse training we aim to develop a certain range of skills and responses we can count on in the relationship, so where does freedom come in?


I believe freedom is something we all long for, and relationship is something we all want also. The very basic importance of relationship to each one of us curbs our freedoms. Can we actually fully say or do what we want in relationship without fearing the consequences?


Will the relationship still exist in the way we want after we say or do whatever we wanted in the moment? How can that sense of freedom coexist with living in community in a way that feeds and supports us?


How do we do that?


I believe the more specific our needs of someone else, the less freedom they have to be who they are and do what they need to do. However, if we have no requests at all, the relationship and sense of community suffer.


The more tools we use to train a horse (food rewards, bridles, sticks, ropes, fences etc.), the more specific our pressure gets. Do this and get what you want, or do this and avoid what you don’t want. We use tools to expedite training in the directions we want it to develop. I want to be clear; I don’t think this is wrong because I believe good training builds good partnership and a sense of community that is beautiful.


However, when we add awareness of how essential the need for freedom is in life, that is where our individual natures get to shine within the setting of relationship.


When Myrnah and I took away all the tools that were not our bodies, we greatly limited how fast we could get specific about training. Training still happened and helped us develop a relationship, but in a very gradual way that also honored her basic need for freedom.


Here is how it works.


Body movements are the words that make up conversations between horse and rider. Stillness, quietness and harmony are the punctuation and emphasis. When we move in ways that are different from each other, it is a basic request for change that would create harmony. When we move or are still together, it emphasizes how much we enjoy our togetherness.


Myrnah had the freedom to make her own choices; however, it was important that I be honest with her about which choices I felt comfortable with and which I didn’t.


Wait, but doesn’t that limit her freedom?


Yes, however, she has a whole range of choices she could make with very minor consequence, and that is pretty close to freedom. The only thing she gains by making choices that keep me happy, is my harmony with her.


The real training we are doing together is learning how to harmonize with each other.


Here are the nuts and bolts of the process:


  1. I can always ask Myrnah to move.

(What she does after she moves is up to her.)


  1. If movement results in something that feels connected, we harmonize. If movement leads to disconnection, we simply keep moving until we find connection.


That’s it.


Freedom means, if I ask for something that is too difficult for Myrnah and she can’t find connection, I have to give up that specific idea for the moment and ask for something she is willing to do.


Freedom-based training is very slow. Freedom-based training is very deep. Freedom-based training allows us to be who we are, while slowly adapting to the needs of our environment and our community.


I believe spending a year focused on freedom-based training developed me more than anything else I have ever done, and it was also one of the hardest things I have ever done.


This project was so challenging for me, I have still not chosen to do it again fully with any other horses.


What I have done is incorporate periods of time in all of my other horse relationships where we walk through the same exercises Myrnah and I did together. That in itself has had a profound impact.


Freedom-based training does not need to be one hundred percent of the time, or one hundred percent of your life in order to be incredibly beneficial.


I believe freedom-based training pays dividends you have to experience to believe, and it is worth every moment spent.


I encourage you to consider freedom and training and the beauty and balance of their seeming contradictions.


Elsa Sinclair



This blog aims to be an ongoing weekly inspiration, for all of you readers- long time, occasional and new to the group -welcome!


The book “Taming Wild” is in process and will describe and explain more in detail the process and the work Myrnah and I did together in our first year. We hope to have that finished and available in 2016.


For those of you who might like to be part of a larger community, there will be an on-line course starting in the Fall of 2016 where in I will start with a new horse and walk through the process step by step with you. The course will be designed to be useful as an add-on to the other training and living you do with your horse, or a complete system for those of you who like to dive in the deep end. Any amount of time spent in freedom-based training is beneficial in ways you can only know when you have experienced it. I look forward to sharing the journey with you!


  1. I love this concept so much! I remember you telling me early on the difference you felt with Myrna and the other horses you have started and that was that was the lack of anxiety you felt with Myrna. My question is how does this work with a horse that you have had for ten years , I’m really curious about how it would work. I love that you will be doing an on line course! Can’t wait to see the film. Wish I could have a conversation with you. Do you ever get back here to Orcas?

  2. so lovely–thank you–a beautiful way to start the New Year– Connie

  3. Hi Elsa ….. just received my download of the film, the download counter clicking away as I type this comment ….. in this household a far more eagerly anticipated film than the new Star Wars that’s for sure! I have looked forward for months for this moment but it is after midnight and it has been a long tiring day with our own horses. Mmmmmm ……. Still more than a gigabyte to go with our slow internet connection. So, what to do? Well I’ve decided to be super-sensible and wait for the download to complete its’ thing to make sure everything is OK and then go to bed with the delicious prospect of watching it tomorrow when I’m rested and fresh and able to enjoy it with full awareness. My word …. have I finally learned some sense in my 55th year?

    The questions you pose in this “Freedom” blog will I am sure have so much resonance as I watch the film so I will reserve any further comments until after the viewing. Yeeeehah! It’s here at last! Thank you for a great start to the New Year and best wishes to you for a healthy and happy 2016!

  4. Elsa, I have watched the film twice now and the overwhelming feeling that radiates from the screen is the energy of gentle patience. It is just an amazing record of an extraordinary project and the thing that most impressed itself on me was this energy of gentle patience and your persistence to quietly work through Myrnah’s resistance to being ridden without increasing your energy level with a grim determination to make it happen …..simply allowing Myrnah the freedom to say No for as long as she wished. You have inspired me to try again with one of our own horses using the approach that you have documented in this film so wonderfully …… it is a beautiful film, so artistically photographed …… I am struggling to find the words that encapsulate the feelings that it evokes …… I just keep coming back to that phrase which for me sums it up……. “an energy of gentle patience”. Thank you and well done.

    Kind Regards

  5. Thanks for another great blog Elsa.
    I saw the film today. It was wonderful and full of peace and harmony. I’m happy to hear that there’s also a book with more details in process and an online course. Looking forward to those too!

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