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The Project:

Mustangs 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.


Finding Your Niche


As the rain sheets down outside in the wee hours of the morning, I am curled up on the couch with the dogs all around me and I am thinking about how I got here? How is it that this is my place in society? What were the actions that led to this moment?


Or perhaps it wasn’t my actions at all that brought me to this place in life. Perhaps it was the actions of all the tribe around me, supporting and propelling me forward as I learned.


When I help horses and people to develop their relationships, I have this theory I operate on. The theory is that each one of us has this wild streak inside us that wants what we want when we want it! All of us are perpetually making decisions about how independent we are going to be to chase after our wants, or how much we are comfortable dominating or motivating others to give up their personal wants to instead team up with our cause.


Here is the key thing to realize though. We all crave a community, and, to the degree the community is self-motivated and intertwined with us and our actions through free will, we are more content individually as well.


Horses crave a herd-life existence; I believe people do as well.

I also believe that this community living is an endless dance between the personal wants of an individual and the wants and needs of their partners. You see these wants and needs are many and varied, and this is the original barter system we all live with.


You scratch my back, I will scratch yours.


There is this funny thing I see in my herd of horses that illustrates the challenge. We have both Arabian horses and Mustang horses mixed together in a herd and their needs and wants are very different when it comes to scratching each other’s backs. Mustangs have fairly tough skin and really like another horse to dig in hard with the teeth and give a good deep scratch. The Arabians on the other hand are fairly thin skinned and like an easy gentle itch. When a Mustang and an Arabian stand together to itch each other’s backs you will see the Arabian cringing as they drop their back lower and lower away from the vigorous attention of the Mustang, while the Mustang itches harder and harder as if in an effort to show their partner how they would like to be itched.


In their effort to get what they want, both horses are left somewhat incapable of giving their partner the right attention.


Now as human beings I think we get ourselves in these kind of binds all the time, and it is a task of our intelligent brains to sort out how to give our partner what they need or want while communicating our own needs and wants. We are all different, we are all unique, and that is what makes our world so very interesting and diverse to live in. It is also the very crux of every challenge we face.

As it is the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, I am inspired to thank all my teachers and all my students who have helped me understand this diversity and beautiful mosaic of characters that make up my community.


I couldn’t do what I do today if it were not for everyone who has taught me along the way. Yes, EVERYONE, I have interacted with in all different levels of the intensity spectrum has given me an important piece of the puzzle.


This gratitude I speak of is very important to me, and I feel I need to speak of it given the extremely gentle and quiet nature of the work I do with horses now. Sometimes the community I am in would ask me to disown or march against the more dominant methods of training horses and that is not my style. I do not believe in a “me-against-the-world” model of living. I believe I am learning from the world as I interact with it and make my own choices.


Every day I am learning from my community and every day that is making me a better part of my community. I will always have my own personal wild streak that wants what it wants when it wants it. I will also always have my heart and my intellect to help me tame that wild streak into something that helps me be a beautiful part of my community, and that is something I want perhaps even more than the personal wants and needs.

There is an evolution of being for all of us and the right teachers and students appear at the right times to help us carve our own niche in the community.


I am profoundly grateful to my early Pony Club teachers who taught one perception of what community with horses might be, and my time with the Linda Tellington Jones community as they showed me what community with horses looked like from their perspective. The French classical dressage masters, and also the more German perspective on dressage, the event trainers, the endurance riders, the Centered Riding, Feldenkrais and Alexander technique practitioners. The huge range of communities that bridge every variety of perspective, from clicker training and Friendship Training to behaviorists, ethology, and telepathic communication. The Natural Horsemanship trainers from Tom Dorance and Ray Hunt to John Lyons, Parelli and Buck Branaman. This list is by no means exhaustive and I am grateful to all of them and many more for what they taught me. There are videos on the internet of my studying Parelli skills, and, while that is not the kind of work I do with horses anymore, I would not be able to do what I do now if it were not for the education I have had in the past and all the teachers who showed me what they know.


I am grateful to all the teachers who have discovered their niche in the community and then shared it with me. I only hope to be able to do the same and share who I am in my community through the niche I have built around Freedom Based Training.


Freedom Based Training is just one perspective out of many; it is not more right than anyone else’s perspective. However I do believe what I do and what I teach will, in its own way, help shape the larger equine community. If I can add a little bit of beauty to the world while I am here, then I have done my part.


For all of you who enjoy Freedom Based Training with me, I encourage you to take it in, make it yours and let it become a vital part of who you are in your unique niche in the world.


I don’t hope train anyone to be exactly like me. You can be YOU, with your own wild streak and your own ways of taming your wild streak to find your niche in the community.

I am here cheering you on, appreciating you for being part of my community, glad I am a little part of yours sharing so much good in the world.


Hooves and Heartbeats,



P.S. If you haven’t had a chance yet, please stop by the Kickstarter for the second Taming Wild Movie and take a moment to support it. I really need all my community to propel this movie through to the finish. Thank you! ~Elsa


  1. wonderful post. I love the image of the arabian and mustang grooming session. That will stay with me. thank you!

    • Thank you! They are all so unique and I just find it fascinating to watch them work at sorting out their differences…. in all sorts of ways! I’m am glad you enjoyed that observation. 🙂

  2. Dear Elsa,

    I would like to suggest another reason to the ones you have mentioned here of how you perhaps found your niche doing what you are doing and I suppose it is not so much about your doing as your Being. Most people are predominantly left brain or right brain. The right brain intuitives seem to have more than their fair share of “feel” so useful in working with horses and the left brain logicals tend to rely quite heavily on “methods” and so are often drawn to those teachers who give a clear At to B to C approach to getting a result with horses Not always much fun for the horses unfortunately..

    You seem to have a rare balance of right and left brain qualities which enables you to work so successfully with a lot of “feel” around horses and yet you have a strong left brain capability to analyse afterwards what has happened or is happening and to put that so creatively into feely touchy words that we left brainers can really understand! I am sure such a well balanced, perhaps even 50/50, quality of Being is really quite rare but I just wanted to let you know that for us predominantly left brain logicals you are like a beacon of light in the right brain arena of horses. So thank you for finding your niche and congratulations on the success of the latest Kickstarter campaign. I cannot wait for “Taming Wild: Pura Vida”

    Gratefully yours

    • Thank you Gary! I really do enjoy the mix of the left and right brain work. I think of my self as a little more left brain actually, but I envy those right brain artists so much I have studied them working intensely and done my best to embrace that side of the thinking also! It is all in the balance… but my theory is, if we can be curious enough about what that balance is, we get better and better at developing it!

  3. Thank you for a beautiful post. I have long felt the same about my gratitude to my teachers.. ALL of them! Without the unique flavours they shared with me, i could never have gone on to bake my own cake! Each cake i bake is slightly difference to the last, as my time with horses changes my awareness and perspective…heres to a life of ever expanding reciepes!

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