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Monthly Archives: October 2018

The Project:

Horses from many walks of life, 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.

Introducing Arion

This week was a whirlwind of activity as it came time to go pick up our second stallion for the filming of “Taming Wild: Evolution”. Kevin and I took the amazingly beautiful eighteen-hour drive down to Nevada on Tuesday and then returned home with Arion driving through Wednesday night and arriving home with him Thursday.

When we arrived at the corrals Ari was waiting for us in a small corral next to the loading chute. As we spent a few minutes with the brand inspector getting all the necessary paperwork done, I marveled at the way Ari seemed at ease and at home, as if he owned the space he was living in. He might have been captive, but he didn’t act like it.

He walked down the chute and into the trailer with more rhythm and confidence than any other mustang I have ever picked up, and then we started the long trip without fanfare.


Bringing a wild mustang home, I always feel deeply for them as they are exposed to so many new and dramatic experiences from the rocking of the horse trailer they must balance in, to the semi-trucks passing, and the lights flashing around them. In Ari’s case, he handled all this chaos of the travel with an unusual calm interest in everything. As I drove I could feel him shifting a little from one side of the trailer to the other as he watched the world, but there were surprisingly few sharp movements.

That is the beautiful thing about mustangs, their adaptability. Mustangs grow up traveling constantly and encountering new things every day with the support of their family around them. While the trip into domestic life may seem shocking, the average mustang is well prepared to adapt.

Ari is from a herd management area in Nevada known as the Eagle HMA, and to give you some sense of his ability to adapt, here is a description of where he is from.

Covering 660,610 acres, the Eagle HMA consists of large mountain ranges bounded by valleys. Elevations range from about 5,673 feet in the valleys to as high as 9,296 feet on Mt. Wilson. The Eagle HMA affords a classic Great Basin environment marked by extremes of every kind. Summertime temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and winter lows can fall well below zero or lower. Precipitation in eastern Nevada occurs mostly in the winter in the form of snow with sparse summer moisture. As a result of limited water, the HMA is prone to drought every few years. Wildlife in the area includes mule deer, elk, mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats. There are also prairie falcon, ravens, quail, starlings, and horned larks. Reptiles include many species of lizards, venomous (rattlesnakes) and non-venomous snakes.

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In comparison to where Ari grew up for the first eight years of his life, he now has landed in the softest lush paradise. He has no idea how much easier this winter will be for him than winters past.

As for me, I have big plans, goals, and dreams for Ari and I. Watching him waltz into his new paddock like he owns it makes me grateful for his history and where he comes from.


I am going to need a great deal of adaptability from this horse as he settles into domestic life with me, and he is showing that he is up to the challenge.

For the moment, I have Atlas and Ari in separate paddocks. They can see each other but not touch yet. Atlas pretends there is no other horse on the property, and Ari watches Atlas quietly from the hill. Once Ari has had a chance to rest and get comfortable in his new home we will let them in together to have a more normal social horse life. I have no idea what that will look like with these two stallions, but I look forward to seeing it all evolve.

Until then, each horse gets to have me for a companion as much of every day as I can manage.


Freedom Based Training® is quiet work, spending time together and getting to know each other one quiet moment at a time. There are a million details of how this works and I am sure these two stallions will teach me a million more details about how to do this work better.

If you are curious about the details, join us for weekly videos and conversations on:

So much interesting development to come as soon as Ari and I rest up and recover from our travel north!

Hooves and Heartbeats,



The Project:

Horses from many walks of life, 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. 


“First you go with the horse”

I have so much respect for this quote from Tom Dorrance;

“First you go with the horse. Then the horse goes with you. Then you go together.”

I am not sure he ever meant the first part to be taken to the extreme I do, but I would like to imagine he would be intrigued if he were here looking over my shoulder.









I chose Atlas to join me for this project because he had a reputation for being a dangerous aggressive horse, and I wanted to learn something about that. The interesting thing is, almost none of that aggression has shown up in our almost 75 hours of training we have done in the last four weeks. I fully believe if I do my job right, we never need to trigger those past habits of aggression. Instead we will perpetually strengthen habits of conscientious communication, until Atlas has no need to use aggression with humans any more.

When I read his body language and hear him tell me about his discomfort and then respond appropriately, then he does not need to yell at me about it with aggression. If you look at his ears, you can clearly see the distances Atlas is comfortable with here and the distance he is learning to tolerate.





If I barged in any closer, he might feel forced to explain to me more clearly how he felt about it at this stage of our relationship. So I listen carefully and respond appropriately now, setting an example for Atlas of how he might do that for me later in our relationship.

In order to build the communication between us I have two different kinds of leadership I am using and a counter balance of flow and harmony.

During meal times and rest times we often practice going between:

1. Supportive leadership (using more movement or intensity around the horse to cause the horse to feel better).


2. Passive leadership (the art of moving to different physical position in relation to the horse at the best possible time).


3. Flow (The harmony and ease of BEING together). 





Just like all of us, horses sometimes get stuck in patterns of thought that make them feel grumpy or irritated, or downright angry.




With a little supportive leadership used at an appropriate distance it feels good to help Atlas find his inner zen again. The more we practice together the more I start to see hints of Atlas’ curious investigative side emerge. Sometimes so much that he gets himself in trouble a bit.







It makes me smile to see him feel brave enough FINALLY to test his environment ever so gently.

If you are curious to know more about HOW all of this communication is building between Atlas and me, and WHY I believe we can strengthen his new ways of thinking so they completely eclipse his old patterns of being aggressive, please join us on for videos and more questions, answers and discussions. It is fascinating work and I love sharing it with you all!

Hooves and Heartbeats,



The Project:

Horses from many walks of life, 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.


Fall is here in the Pacific Northwest and we are blessed with bouts of rain and sprinkles of sunshine intermixed. The leaves are starting to drop from the trees in a torrent of color, and Atlas and I watch all the changes from our safe little spot on the hillside.


It is good there are so many changes around us to watch because within the relationship it seems there are no changes at all.


I can step as close as half a horse length from Atlas, but it is always in the range of tolerance for him, accompanied by tight muscles, a wary eye and indecision, does he pin his ears and threaten me, or run away?


For the most part, I am able to read likely outcomes and adjust my position for the best possible development of feeling. Neither, the fight nor the flight materializes, and I adjust back out to a more comfortable distance on the best feeling/thinking moment possible.


We repeat this dance over and over and over. Investing hours in our plateau of progress.


When I teach students, I explain that plateaus are so very important. We need them to build reliability and stability in new skills. Yet when I am living this one with Atlas I find myself wondering, is this it? What if this plateau lasts the entire year? What if I can’t get closer to him than half a horse length for the entire filming of Taming Wild Evolution?


It is important though to trust the process and simply do the work. Count my breaths, pay attention, and respond, respond, respond. This is how we build the foundation for everything in our future.


Day after day I walk out, and we spend hours practicing the fact that one and two horse lengths apart is completely comfortable now. We invest in living it, feeling it, enjoying it.


I school myself to revel in the success of this, instead of longing for the next variation of connection.


If Atlas were comfortable with me touching him already, that is what I would want to practice most. Instead, we have work to do still before I am allowed that next exciting step of progress. This plateau we are on currently allows me to fully invest and enjoy the distances of the one or two horse lengths we are good at now, that we were not good at when he first came. Every upward step of progress we make is going to need its plateau where we are not doing anything new, we are simply practicing what is recently new to us.


I counsel myself to count my blessings and believe in the power and importance of the plateau, and I am also human, so I worry this plateau is forever!


This week I was granted a little respite from the yearning for progress as it was time to go pick out the second horse for the project. A Mustang, as fresh from the wild as I could find. The travel and the excitement of possibilities thrilled me and yet, as I walked into the adoption facility with thousands of horses to choose from my heart broke and I braced myself against the waves of sadness that came over me.


Why would I do this to myself? The majority of horse owners never set foot in a place like this. They never go look at the masses in need. Out of sight out of mind it isn’t their problem, it is someone else’s problem.


I found myself wishing I was home again peacefully standing with Atlas on our comfortable place of seemingly no progress. Yet here I was, at the Mustang corrals facing the fact I couldn’t do it all, I could only reach for the piece within my grasp, I could only help one of these horses in front of me.


If every horse owner in the United States adopted one mustang, there wouldn’t be enough mustangs to go around and I wouldn’t have this luxury of choice this week as I search for my perfect partner for this particular project.


As it stands, I have a luxury of choice and so I stood on the edge of the corral with a pair of binoculars looking through this group of 70-80 stallions for the one that might come home with me. They all must go somewhere, which one goes somewhere with me?


The Mustangs I was looking at this week had been brought in off the range out of hardship. If they continued in freedom, lack of food and water would lead to starvation and death in numbers unacceptable to us. So, the government rounds them up and brings them into facilities like this. Here they wait for someone to adopt them or they get shipped off to spend the rest of their lives in long term holding.


If one is coming home with me, I have to choose it first. While every horse is as deserving as the next, I do have criteria that will help me find the right horse for my particular situation.


Eyes squinting through my binoculars I look for ease of movement, a horse that is basically comfortable in its body. Natural rhythm in movement is a sign of confidence. I want a horse that has that kind of confidence in their body.


Then I look at height, because I have already chosen the other horse, Atlas, for the film and he happens to be tall, I would like this one to be relatively tall also.


Then I watch the interactions between individuals. Some of them make friends easily and seem to be loyal, always with the same small group. Others have many friends, others are loners and others have many enemies, though honestly I see very little fighting in the group. These horses came from hardship, and now here where they have plenty of food and plenty of water, their priority is to eat, drink and get healthy, fighting amongst each other is not a priority. I am looking for a horse that has many friends and seems to have some skill in relating to others.

Once I have spent hours weighing these factors I find I have written down a list of six numbers that I bring back to the office for more information on age. When the horses are run through the chute for branding, worming and vaccination they also have their teeth checked and approximate age written down.


The six horses I have chosen range from two to twelve years old, and I go back to the pen to watch some more. The two younger horses are out of the running, I need a horse I can potentially ride in the next year and I won’t put weight on the back of a horse still growing. Also, the younger horses still have the potential of being adopted by other people, beautiful horses with so much life ahead of them.


It is the older horses I am drawn to. In the eyes of most adopters these horses know too much, and they will fight training with much more determination and strength than the younger ones. That doesn’t bother me, I want a horse I will learn from as much as anything else.


Two of the older horses are hard to see, they hide behind the masses of their friends and shy away from the camera. These two do not want to be movie stars.


My list is down to a buckskin horse and a brown horse. As I point my camera in through the rails of the arena the brown horse walks over to the hay feeder right next to me, pausing to look at me, look at the horizon, and then back to me. Picture perfect poses against a backdrop of painted hills. He eats a little food, turns to inspect me again, and then goes back to filling his belly and finding his health and strength for whatever comes next. Unconcerned even though he has only been in captivity for a couple of weeks, it becomes clear this is the horse that needs to come home with me. This is my partner without a doubt.


This eight-year-old, brown horse with rhythm and confidence to his movements, this is the horse that will teach me more about connection.


This horse probably isn’t the easiest horse to train. There are plenty of equally good Mustangs in front of me with more natural fear of humans. Those horses would be an easier choice, perhaps even a smarter choice for me.


There is something about this brown stallion though that reminds me of Myrnah, and how grateful I am for everything she taught me. So, I choose him for the fact that I think he will teach me more than I teach him and that is point of the project.


Atlas, whom I already have at home, this new brown stallion and I will discover each other, and along the way we will also discover new ways to develop together. Then I get to pass all I learn on to you.


For now, I am back at home with Atlas enjoying the views from our lovely plateau of progress and dreaming of the day soon ahead when the new stallion arrives to joins us.


Once both horses are here I have this foolish idea that the two stallions are going to take turns having plateaus of progress and I will always get to have the excitement of the upward surge of skill with one or the other… I know that is likely not how it will work in reality, but a girl can dream.


I do hope you join us on Patreon for weekly update videos and an interactive group where questions and answers are pondered.


It is going to be exciting as we get rolling into the full project in the weeks ahead with both stallions home at Sanctuary Lane!


Hooves and Heartbeats,