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Monthly Archives: October 2016

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.


Joy and Pain


Throughout this blog I have a tendency to make life look like a bed of roses, because joy is what we live for.


Is life worth living if we don’t perpetually reach for joy?


Don’t answer that question, it is meant to be left as a quandary.


The part I sometimes leave out of my writing is how hard life is as well, for me at least …


Wherever there is joy, there is also the contrast of pain and sorrow. I want with all my being for growth to be easy; I want to evolve and grow and develop so sweetly and gently that life is all about joy.


There it is, there is my mission statement:


Freedom Based Training™ is about learning to have more joy in every moment, horses and humans alike.


There does not need to be as much pain as there is in the world. Anything I can do to alleviate any of the pain that might happen in the future, that is my job. Even if it means diving into my own internal dark nights of the soul to do it, I will struggle so others can have more roses and maybe fewer thorns.


Helios brought one of those mixed moments of joy and pain for me. I felt myself magnetically drawn to do whatever I needed to do for him. I didn’t need another horse to take care of. I didn’t need the drama and chaos of building fences for a stallion enclosure, or ordering gravel and spreading it in the last moments before a possible record-breaking rain storm hit. It didn’t matter what I didn’t need though. The possible pain I might experience in doing what needed to be done was far outweighed by the possible joy Helios might bring to the world.


I have never regretted it. Helios has brought more joy to the world than I had any way of knowing when I did my mad-dash drive across Washington to pull him out of the jaws of the slaughter truck.


For all my lost sleep and corresponding emotional pain of feeling like I can never do enough, no matter how hard I try because there always seems to be more pain in the world than I can possibly beat back with the joy I know is possible.


It is all worth it when I step into Helios’ paddock and I feel him close to me. Like his namesake the sun god, being in his presence warms me to my core in an inexplicable way. Any pain either of us has is suddenly drowned out by joy that feels exponential.


Too many 3AM mornings jumping out of bed to write before sleep and dreams claim all my good ideas. Too many 1AM mornings where I am still awake editing video and photographs. Too much caffeine and sugar used artfully to propel me into the next moment of learning. This hurts and the body cannot do it forever, and yet I live to learn, and every time I learn a little more and I share that to bring a little joy to someone else’s life, all the pain of getting there is washed away.


Taming Wild is a movie about joy and connection, however, it also has its dark underbelly of pain and frustration. Taming Wild was more about learning to tame the wild impatient impulses I have as a human being than it was about taming a horse. I can’t tell you how many nights I cried myself to sleep thinking I had set myself a project that was unachievable. Who trains a horse without some sort of pressure device, or some sort of withheld reward? There were too many nights I was mired in frustration that Myrnah didn’t want to do the things I wanted to do, and making a movie about joyful connection with no means of force seemed simply an effort in emotional pain caused by perpetually pitting myself against the gut wrenching pain of disappointment.


We all want what we want when we want it! How do you build joyful connection from that selfish place?


What I have found is, the only way I know to get through that selfish place is to start with admitting it is there. That frustration, those tears, that anger are there because life didn’t shape itself to your desires fast enough.


Sit with that, feel the pain, and then do the work it takes to get where you want to go. What if “fast enough” wasn’t the operating principle anymore?


What if the amount of joy in every moment was the measuring stick we held our progress to?


That wild frustration and the pain that goes along with it, that is part of being alive. We are not always going to know what to do to move forward toward our goals.


I am not going to tell you to just let it go. You get to feel however you feel, and sometimes that hurts. What I am going to do is put all my own past pain to good use by writing down the steps I took, making sign posts and markers along the path to joy, so maybe you don’t have to take the detours I took into dark places.


The last eight weeks of sharing Freedom Based Training™ in a systematic step-by-step way through the online course has been awesome.


I had ten of the best students do the course with me this first session, and, whether they knew it or not, they asked me some of the most perfect questions throughout our study together. Every question that was asked became a ray of light illuminating some idea that I knew was going to be unbelievably useful for others going forward.


That is what I live for – more light, more joy, and more positive connection in life.


We can all do that for each other!


Pain is still going to be there, sometimes it is unavoidable; but, with a little help from our friends the way out of darkness just might be signposted, so just keep moving and joy will find you soon enough again.


This is where my joy and my sadness get all wrapped up and I don’t know which is which. I have the honor and joy of telling you Helios, who came through my life in such a powerful way recently, has found his person, and no, it isn’t me.


I will be honest, it hurts to let him go; but it hurts less when I see the joy emanating from him and Shelby when they are together. Helios gets to continue living at my barn, and I will still be part of his herd and be allowed to soak up some of his sunshine every day. I also get to be part of the joy Shelby and Helios emanate when they are together. That is priceless.


I think Helios is an example for me of what could be. I have never met a horse so clear about his interest in being with you, and paying attention, and being part of a relationship, while still maintaining VERY clearly what he is and is not yet comfortable with.


None of my other wild horses have ever been this slow or this perpetually positive and joyful. It was a full ten days before Helios considered putting a foot back in the horse trailer. He got minimal hay meals twice a day in the doorway, and tons of hay available just a little farther in, if he would step in, but nope, he waited until he was fully ready and comfortable before stepping in to eat his fill. All my other mustangs were in and out a million times in the first few days (even Myrnah who had unlimited hay outside the trailer as well). My other mustangs may not have been comfortable yet, but they were willing to try.


Helios waited until he was comfortable and then proceeded to step in and out easily and regularly like he had been doing it his whole life.


Same thing with being touched. It was almost three weeks before Helios permitted anyone to touch him. He would touch us, but any hand outstretched to him past his nose was promptly and decisively evaded. My other mustangs were interested in the fact that I wanted to touch them within the first couple of days, even if they were unsure or apprehensive. Helios knows what he is ready for, knows what is too much, and throughout it all continues to be a beam of light in his positive attention and interest. He loves people!


Perhaps I have something to learn about the timing of progress, respecting personal boundaries, and how that affects positivity, interest and joy.


I will leave you with that idea to ponder.


Here is to pain, and here is to the joy that makes it all worth it, and sometimes even replaces it completely.


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.


The Unfolding of Trust

Have you ever faced a decision where you knew what to do, yet you thought of a million reasons why maybe you shouldn’t?

That place where the head and the heart come face to face and hold each other in a stand off.

Your heart calls you and says this is right, while your head says hold off, back down, don’t even think about it, let it go…

Sunday of this week, my heart won.

This is Helios.

I don’t know why this particular horse caught my eye on Saturday night. I see and hear about a million horses that get loaded from feedlots onto the trucks headed for slaughter every week. Horses unwanted, their potential in this world discarded.

I can’t save them all, so instead I focus on the most good I can put out into the world. I keep my head down and work on my book, share the movie Taming Wild as far and wide as I can, and look people in the eye and pour myself into being there for everyone I reach. We are a society of people who long for connection and yet we often feel we are only beginning to understand HOW to connect.

How is it we can need something to the very core of our being and yet hardly know anything about how to fulfill that need?

None of us are islands, we are designed to integrate with others; and yet so many of us become paralyzed in feeling alone!

Even though I have devoted my life to the understanding of being connected, I still find myself feeling SO alone sometimes. Afraid that connection will lead to being trapped, I fight it, even though this work of connection is my whole life. Maybe that is why this work is my whole life…

Freedom and Connection… when I find the balance between the two, that is when I am happiest.

Maybe that is the heartstring that pinged and wouldn’t stop humming on Saturday night.

Here was this horse, too wary of being trapped to let any person near him. Connection was his only hope of being saved, and yet he was holding onto his freedom with every scrap of his being.

They were calling him Sport and reaching out to anyone who might listen. Four years old, untouched and seemingly untouchable. Brought to the feedlot from the Indian reservation where they breed thousands of horses and seemingly cull most of them to slaughter, keeping only the ones they like best.

This one was strong, sound, beautiful… So much potential, but who is able to take on the project of an untouchable four-year-old stallion?

Elsa’s head, says look away, you have only so many hours in the day, stay focused on your work of helping so many horses and so many people around the world. Elsa’s heart raises her hand, reaches out and says, I will take him….

Once the words are spoken, you can’t take them back. The slaughter truck is coming in the morning and no one else is going to take this horse.

Elsa will. Elsa’s heart knows it’s what she needs to do.

An understanding of freedom within connection, that’s all this horse needs and I can help him with that.

This horse isn’t staying with me forever, but for right now, until the right person comes along for him, Helios and I are going to teach each other about Freedom and Connection.

My life is already brimming with too many things that need to be done, how am I going to do this too? I texted a friend:

“I have done something really foolish. I rescued a 4 year old stallion off the slaughter truck yesterday.”

In her beautiful wisdom she texted right back:

“I’m excited for you. Done is done, so where it might have been foolish beforehand, it is now the best decision ever! I’m thrilled for both of you, for the adventure ahead!!! Go Elsa!”

She was right, best decision ever.

Monday was a beautiful chaos of moving fence panels and setting up space for a stallion where there was none before.

Tuesday morning Kevin and I left before dawn and drove the trailer to eastern Washington. Here I was driving three and a half hours to pick up a horse from a picture and a plea for help. My head in disbelief said, we don’t even know how tall he is, we don’t know anything about him! My heart said, it’s all right, we will find out what we need to know as we go.

The taciturn feedlot owner directed us to pull through the loading chutes and closed the gates around the trailer. I walked with him back to where the grey horse stood watching us amid a sea of metal bars. The man said,

“He’s not crazy, this one, just wild. He moves around pretty good, you ready for this?”

Was I ready for this? Dark eyes staring out at me from a chiseled thoroughbred-type head… so much higher up than I had imagined, I don’t know why I thought he was going to be small, but face to face I suddenly discovered he definitely was not small. 16 hands maybe?

There wasn’t much time to think about it as we followed the horse through the chutes to the trailer. No particular plan because, as I said, the man running the place was short on words and I was too shell-shocked to ask questions. Then we were there at the trailer, a little dance as the horse realized there was nowhere else to go, in he went and the man said in his laconic way, “Shut the doors.”

Kevin and I swung the doors shut fast as I saw two massive hooves double-barrel at the impending trap. The speed and the power of this horse took my breath away for a moment. What had I gotten myself into?

I turned and asked the man, “Is there any paperwork I need to do, any sale papers?” He looked patient with the girl who clearly didn’t know anything about how this all worked, “No ma’am, he’s not branded or anything. He’s yours now, good luck.”

Driving home we stopped from time to time so I could sit with the big grey horse for a few moments, him in the back section of the trailer, me up in front of the divider. He didn’t seem afraid, simply decisive about keeping distance between us. I didn’t know why, but I was happier than I had been in a long time.

It was raining when we got home. Helios leapt out into his new paddock, seemingly very relieved to escape the small space at last. Then he stood on the hill and surveyed the territory with a quiet ease. I was happier than I had been in a long time.

My mares came out, took a look at the new horse, and then wandered back around the corner to the shed, leaving the cute little paint mare we have boarded with us to dance the fence line tossing her head and flirting with the newcomer.

Helios stood quiet on the hill like the sun god we had named him after, shining down on the world around him, and I was happier than I had been in a long time.

This is the work I live for. I may spend most of my time teaching and writing and helping others develop their relationships with their horses, and I love that. Traveling to teach workshops and most recently developing an in depth study of Freedom Based Training™ with students around the world where we study together connected via computers, internet and technology. This is exciting and profoundly gratifying as I watch connection and understanding blossom for others all around me.

Closer to home, this beginning process of unfolding trust with a new horse; this is where I learned how to do what I do. This work is at the core of who I am and who I want to be. I have a feeling Helios is going to teach me as much about freedom and connection as I am going to teach him.

A girl and a horse and an unfolding of trust, I am happier than I have been in a very long time.

Thank you heart!

Elsa Sinclair