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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.


Why Freedom Based Training™?


This perhaps starts as far back as my childhood and that dang pony I couldn’t catch, that pony that no one could catch. There I was, ten years old, sitting in the pasture with a can of grain in one hand and a halter in the other.


A crowd of horses gathered around me wanting the sweet taste the rattle of grain promised, and the cute fat little brown pony way down at the bottom of the valley as far away from us as she could be, wanting nothing to do with me or the grain or the other horses.


Tears of frustration welling up in my eyes, anger surfacing as I chased the other horses away, determination pulling me up by my boot straps as I trudged after the pony yet again.


I spent innumerable uncomfortable hours in that pasture, focused on that pony as a disappearing dot across the expanses of grass blowing in the wind. The emotions ran rampant for me as every obvious failure to catch her slammed me in the gut as a personal accusation that I was unwanted and unliked. At the same time, I was drawn to her expression of freedom like the strongest magnet imaginable.


Every other horse in the field would hear the rattle of grain or the snap of a carrot and would drop every personal intention they had for a sweet taste. Where is the self-respect in that?


My pony, Chocolate, had a sense of personal freedom and choice that the other horses seemed to have given up somewhere along the path of their lives. Or maybe they had never had it…


When it came to putting a halter on Chocolate and bringing her in for a ride, it wasn’t the lure of a treat that brought us together; it was instead our coming together on a much different plane. Don’t misunderstand, the carrots or grain was still necessary and helpful in the process, but it wasn’t enough all by itself. I had to dig deeper and relate to that pony as an individual with all her own wants and needs just like I had.


Two unique and complex individuals coming together, neither one of us willing to give up our sense of self to adjust to the other, and both of us determined – there was no giving up!


I have come to realize, years later, it was Chocolate’s sense of freedom that I loved best. There was no chance of my giving up, not because I wanted to take any of that freedom away from her. There was no giving up because I wanted to be close enough to her to feel it too. I wanted to become part of her sense of freedom.


This was perhaps some of the beginning of Freedom Based Training.


Ultimately it came down to the question that started the project the movie Taming Wild was all about.


What if a horse had everything it needed: food, water, companionship, freedom, comfort. What if the only things I had to offer the horse were encased in the body I walked around in – no stick picked off a bush to use as a communication tool, no rope or halter to make myself bigger or stronger than I am, no fence to trap the horse up against, and no special food item that they can’t get without me.


If I only used the body and intellect I was born with, could that be enough to cause the horse to want to be my partner. Maybe even enough to let me ride?


As far as I know, I am the only horse trainer alive who has attempted this.


Yes, it is possible.


Yes, it is the most difficult thing I have ever done.


Yes, it is worth it.


Importantly though, since the project and the movie, I have found that Freedom Based Training doesn’t need to exist to the exclusion of other kinds of training.


The work I learned to do with Myrnah I did because I had to. The honoring of your horses freedom, wants and desires, in balance with honoring your own freedom, wants and desires become crystal clear when you have no plan B.


What I have found is, when people choose to take a couple of hours a week or more to do some freedom based work with their horses, everything else gets better too.


You do not need to choose the all or nothing path. Just take some time to be with your horse in freedom, respecting and beginning to understand your horse’s needs and wants and how they correlate with yours.


Whether you take Carolyn Resnick’s chair challenge, or join my course in Freedom Based Training, or develop your own journey with your horse, choose to take a little time to consider freedom. It’s worth it, no matter how you do it.


Trudging around the pastures following my pony, Chocolate, at ten years old wasn’t something I consciously chose at the time, Looking back, however, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. That was the only way that pony could help me spend time with her in freedom, and I learned so very much about her and about myself in the process.


We all long to be free, and we also long to be together, learning to have both is what life is all about.


Hooves and Heartbeats,



  1. “You do not need to choose the all or nothing path.” This is such a timely comment Elsa, thank you. In most areas of our lives where something Big and Important is concerned we often procrastinate, convincing ourselves that all the planets have to be aligned before we can possibly make a start on such an undertaking. Working together with our horses falls readily into this category, particularly the decision about how to go about it.

    Our horses surely do not wait for us with any awareness whatsoever of when this special moment might be, wondering whether all the conditions are “just right” to enjoy spending some time with us? How foolish we are (read I am!) to subconsciously hold such a belief. When we turn up they happily spend time with us …. no previously prepared plans about what they’re going to do when we get there. They just respond naturally in the moment to our presence. I could start right now and my horse wouldn’t care or indeed have any inkling whatsoever whether I had made all the mental and physical preparations I thought were necessary. What strange creatures we are we humans that we find it so difficult to simply BE together with other living creatures that often just enjoy BEING with us.

    You have shown us one very special way to BE with horses in your blog and your film Taming Wild. So why am I waiting to begin my own journey? Why is it so difficult? I guess it is because somewhere in the back of my mind I have that very human trait – an agenda! Yes, I might aim to spend time just BEING with my horse but deep down there is also a reason for it … I can’t help but want something from the interaction and all that nebulous, uncrystallized wanting and needing gets in the way of the BEING together, in fact often prevents it from even getting started.

    Right now I do not have an answer to my own ponderings, no resolution to the dilemma to act upon so perhaps the best idea is to just go and BE with my horses and not only have no Plan B but have no Plan A either! Perhaps then I might learn something about how to respond naturally in the moment to their presence? ……….. Or is that an agenda too?

    “We all long to be free, and we also long to be together, learning to have both is what life is all about.” Amen to that.

    Kindest Regards

  2. Oh Chocolate. She made us earn it, didn’t she? Fond memories of her wily tricks to be sure she had my full attention! She made us better riders and better humans.

    • Yes she did! I love that you can take this walk down memory lane with me 😉 Everyone’s memories are unique to their particular experience, but regardless of the variations. Chocolate was precious to SO many of us growing up!

  3. Thank you again Elsa for sharing your valuable thoughts. They are getting to the simplicity of the core of truth more and more (until perhaps at some point there will be nothing more to write about ;-)? )

    And a thank-you as well to Gary Whinn; Gary, I can relate so much to what you wrote, especially the procrastinating. Yes, it is difficult because of our agenda, but I feel another important reason is our fear of failure – or more specific: what we EXPERIENCE as – or THINK is – failure. We all were that child once that had to learn how to walk – we would fall down and stand up again and again and again, until we could walk, but as adults we seem to have lost that perseverance somewhere down the line.

    • Mai!

      I wonder the same thing? Will I always find more ways to write about the simplicity of what we do? Or at some point will there be no more to write? This work is more about being than it is about doing, it is more about being part of life than it is about changing life. Yet it is still seemingly fascinating enough for me to write about endlessly it seems 😉

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