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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.


Safety Before Comfort


In Freedom Based Training the thing we learn most about is Feel and Timing. This elusive Feel and Timing concept is talked about throughout ALL horse training, and its value applies universally to any training system regardless of how brutally fast you choose to train or how peacefully and slowly you choose to nurture evolution.


When we take away all the small spaces and all the tools (including food rewards), what we have left is a relationship with a horse where they are willing to be fully honest with you, as their partner, about how good your Feel and Timing is… and how much personal development you need to invest in.


Freedom Based Training slows down the horse training process in a way that allows us to read the horse and see clearly what we did right, and what we did wrong, and make the personal changes to our actions. Learning Where to be, When to be and How to be to make life better for horse and human together!


The better your Feel and your Timing, the faster you will be able to train a horse quickly, and the deeper a relationship you will be able to build slowly. I am more interested in the latter.


The question I think I get asked most often is:

“Where can I practice Freedom Based Training?”

In the pasture in the middle of the herd?

In a separate paddock?

In the round pen where my horse can’t see anyone else?

While they are eating grass?

When they are on sand or gravel with no grass around?

Or in the woods…

Or in the field…

Or with my dogs playing underfoot…

Or quietly alone?


The varieties of locations we can be with our horses will always have an effect on how things go. Depending on the challenge we feel in the location, our feel and timing is going to need to be adequately on point to accommodate any anxiety that is produced by where we are together. The challenge that is posed by any particular location is going to be the sum of what the horse feels and what the human feels because that is the partnership in development.


If I am very confident, then I can support a horse that is less confident, and that also goes the other way around. A horse that is very confident can support me if I am feeling unconfident.

Confidence usually leads to good Feel and Timing, and that understanding of where to be, when to be, and how to be together is what relationship depends on.


So where do we practice? Where do we work? Where do we train? The answer to those questions is always, where you are most confident. You in this case refers to the collective confidence of both you and your horse combined.


Start there, because confidence is safety, and safety always comes first.


Later, test out your Feel and your Timing by going together to places that hold more tension or anxiety for you to work through together. Choosing where to work or train is the first question of Feel and Timing. Knowing WHERE to be.


This week Myrnah and I discovered a location we hadn’t considered before, and I have to admit that it stretched my comfort and confidence in an uncomfortable way, but I am going to share the story with you.


When I read a horse, I can see lack of confidence in clear ways (if I am paying attention). This lack of confidence, a feeling of being unsafe, or emotional unstable, is always going to show up as either fight, flight or freeze.


Fight can be as subtle as the ears pinning for a moment or the tail angrily swishing… or it can be outright dangerous as in a strike, bite, kick, or attack.


Flight can be as subtle as a horse that continues to turn or shift abruptly so they have the last word on position relative to their partner… or it can be as obvious as an outright bolt.


Freeze can be as subtle as a fixation on any particular point of attention… or it can be as obvious as a horse unable to breathe or move until they faint or fall over.


This week I discovered that Myrnah and I work well in amongst the other horses, and we work well as soon as we are far away from them. However, there is a “WHERE” that we have always chosen to push through without addressing – that in-between place where you have begun to walk away from the herd but you haven’t left completely yet.

I noticed this is where “fight” comes up for Myrnah, which tells me, she doesn’t feel entirely safe walking away from the herd with me. It’s not terrible, I can go out there without any tools, without any food rewards, and ask her to come with me and she will, but the pinned ears as we walk through that in-between no-man’s land leaving the herd is unpleasant for her until we get far enough away to feel confident again.


That place of leaving the herd is our challenging location – the WHERE that will help us grow together.


I hate to admit that something as simple as this is tripping me up as a trainer. Clearly this is where my Feel and Timing need to be more on point so that Myrnah learns to feel safe here, to trust me in this situation, and eventually to enjoy walking away from the herd as my partner.


Safety comes first, comfort second, because a horse can only be as comfortable as they feel safe.


How do we make a horse feel safe? By acting like a leader. Passive leader, assertive leader, dominant leader, take your pick and choose your time frame. The horse doesn’t mind which you choose, but they do need to feel they have a leader they can trust in order to build a sense of safety.


With Myrnah, my biggest fascination is the passive and assertive conversations. Those are the leadership roles I want to be best at. A passive leader develops trust so slowly you can barely see it happening, but the end result is something so deep there is nothing quite like the connection that comes from it.


The assertive leader can only come into play when both partners are reasonably stable emotionally. If there is too much fight, flight or freeze, the choices must become more passive or more dominant to help a horse feel safe.


Being assertive is asking for things in a way where when you accept the “yes” answer from the horse that means you are the leader and the “no” answer from the horse means you are now the follower. If a horse is unstable emotionally, they do not want a follower, they want a leader to make them feel safer. So every time you ask them for something assertively and they say “no”… you have just made them feel less safe. How does a horse say no? By showing you some degree of, Fight, Flight or Freeze.


So here Myrnah and I were, walking away from the herd together and I finally confronted the fact that I was not addressing her ears-back demeanor. She was showing me a small degree of fight, and I was not willing to become more passive or more dominant. I just kept pushing through it assertively every time I asked her to leave the herd, and every time we walked away from the herd, she told me she felt unsafe doing it.


I needed to hone my Feel and Timing in this situation!

Where to be, When to be and How to be.


So I worked on being a passive leader and making decisions around her that caused her to feel better. I waited for the right moment when her confidence was highest, and I had appropriately rewarded that good feeling in her. Only then did I ask her to take a step away from the herd, and if it was a confident step, I made sure to reward it with partnership in the best ways I knew how.


I would love to tell you my feel and timing was so perfect that I only asked at the right times and we accomplished this task of walking away from the herd in complete and full confidence, but that is not true. I am learning, and sometimes I asked at the wrong time, and Myrnah told me about it with ears back showing me how she felt. So, I would back her up a step closer to the herd and ask her how she felt now. If she still felt unsafe, we would back another step closer to the herd, continuing on one step at a time until she felt better. Then I would work on strengthening my passive leadership until I felt it was strong enough for me to ask for a step away from the herd.


I spent three hours working on this project this afternoon, and I am thrilled to say that slowly, gently and surely we made it from the far pasture through the blackberry bushes all the way up to the water troughs away from the herd, and then walked back to the herd again together, and all our steps forward were confident and positive. If they were not, we backed up closer to the herd until it felt better and then tried forward again at a better time.


I believe, by taking the time to hone my Feel and my Timing like this, I become a better horse trainer. At some other time, if speed is essential and I need to step into a dominant conversation with a horse, I will be able to do it better because I took the time to learn where to be, when to be and how to be with horses.


I encourage you to take the time to learn when you can. Use your understanding of location to challenge the skills you have built in places of confidence, and let those challenges perpetually strengthen the bond you have with your horse.


Feel and Timing is what relationship is all about.


Using your feel and timing correctly builds a sense of safety.


Safety is the foundation that comfort and enjoyment grow from.


Enjoy all the moments you spend developing with your horse, and regardless of whether you choose to train faster or slower, hone your feel and timing of where to be, when to be, and how to be, so that everyone feels safe. That is what I wish for everyone.

Hooves and Heartbeats,


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.


Stretching the Comfort Zone


Pontipool, Canada; Marlow, England; Odemira, Portugal and Ittre, Belgium have been the Freedom Based Training travel itinerary in May.


Let me be honest though… It’s personal too. It isn’t just Freedom Based Training making its way around the world; it’s me, Elsa Sinclair, navigating trains, planes, and maps and meeting hundreds of new people in a moment-to-moment existence that seems almost too good to be true. Travel is indeed my second home and it feels so VERY good to be home.


While I do certainly miss Myrnah, Cleo, and Zohari, and the rest of my family. What I know as I travel is that when I get back home to my first home where my family lives, I will be a better version of myself.

This is all about stretching my comfort zone and doing things I have not thought about doing before. This is about teaching horses and people I have never met and being open to their being uniquely different from anyone I have known before. This is about paying attention and valuing the differences I see from moment to moment and learning the next pieces of the puzzle that fall into place as I step into a student’s perspective for a few minutes and I share with them my understanding and let it become a part of theirs.


When I began this journey in the beginning of May in Toronto, Canada it was cold and I was warned to be ready for rain. My trip out to Pontipool was beautiful and Lindsey and her family were lovely hosts as we geared up for a day of demos and a clinic day following.


Let me first tell you though, cold is my Achilles’ heel, and I wasn’t sure if my comfort zone would stretch or if I would break into a million unfixable pieces during those two bone-chilling days. The only thing to do was to live what I teach and live from moment to moment with the best feel and timing I could find.


That is what this life is all about when you do it right… Feel and Timing.


The weather might still be cold, the rain, and snow may show up unexpectedly, and you find wrestling three pieces of luggage through the airport and on and off several trains is much harder than you ever imagined it would be. Especially when you clumsily drop one large suitcase at the top of an almost empty escalator and watch it bump end-over-end down as you yell to the people at the bottom, “WATCH OUT!”, and breathe a sigh of relief as a nimble man jumps out of the way just in time.


That’s the trick isn’t it – just in time; and how to FEEL what just in time is for the next move in the next moment, regardless of how embarrassing or challenging your previous moment was. You take them as they come and reach for the next best choice in the moment ahead of you. Because here is the thing to remember, the next moment always has the potential to be golden. You do not have a crystal ball or any real way to predict the future, but when you pay attention and learn how to be in the right place at the right time, life starts gifting you with better events than you had any way of knowing before they happened.

Standing up on the mounting block that day in Canada, I was in awe of all the people who gathered in their coats and hats and mittens to listen to me and watch the horses and students as they walked through the process of understanding Freedom Based Training. Thank-you to the kind and generous souls who handed me their extra coats and mittens and hand warmers; your timing was perfect and your help was invaluable to stretching my comfort zone and confirming for me that being cold for a little while isn’t the end of the world. Some incredible moments came out of the experience and I am so glad I was there.


From Toronto, Canada, I got on a plane and slept my journey all the way to London, England. Hedgerows and cottages, cobblestone streets and horse yards, and everything lined up with a sweet English feel. I am in love and also feel so very brash and American as every time I open my mouth to speak I worry about being coarse and different among my refined English companions. Nicole and Sienna took amazing care of me that week and seven-year-old Sienna took every opportunity to enjoy and appreciate my brash American way of speaking, explaining to me what the British version was of what I was trying to say as we played games of I spy from the car on our way to and from the horse yard, school, and the clinic I was there to teach.

By the time I stepped in front of some sixty people to teach for the weekend, I felt loved and confident in who I was and what I was there to share, brash American accent and all. Thank-you, Sienna for your feel and timing in helping me grow my comfort zone.


What I teach is this idea of starting wherever we are and taking stock of what is felt and where the comfort zone is in that moment, on that day, in that location. From there, and only from there, can we start to stretch our comfort zone a little and become, one moment at a time, better versions of ourselves. I find the best way to do that is in connection with others. Our connection to others is what helps us stretch beyond what we know to discover comfort in things we didn’t know we could enjoy.


One of the standout, stretch-the-comfort-zone moments of the Marlow clinic was with a Thoroughbred named Lawrence and his person, Lucy. Lawrence was upset, really upset! His friends were out of sight and he was in a round pen next to other horses and people he did not know. He felt so very alone, and all he could think to do was run, and call, and pace in desperation to feel better. How can we help someone who is so sure they are all alone? My heart tore apart a little every time I saw Lawrence spin around, trapped in his own angst. So I did the only thing I could think of to help him as quickly as possible – I asked for help. With Lucy safely on the outside of the round pen mirroring him as best she could, I asked all fifty auditors to help us by walking with as much rhythm and confidence they could to be like Lawrence – move when he moves, stop when he stops, change direction when he changes direction. Without buying into his distress, be there for him, and let him know he is not alone. Every move he made was heard, and understood, and responded to by the entire herd of people.

Now while I have done this before with three or four people, I have never done it with fifty, and the results were astonishing. I have so much gratitude to Lawrence for gifting us that moment. In appreciating him exactly as he was, Lawrence quickly calmed down, and the unbearable emotions he was feeling settled faster than I would have ever guessed possible. While his horse friends were out of sight, he suddenly realized he had a whole herd around him who cared and would keep him safe. Once he understood that, then he was ready to delve into the work with Lucy and develop their pair bond in a location that previously had been just way too far out of his comfort zone.


Comfort zones grow; that’s how they are designed. With a little help from our friends our comfort zones get bigger, and then we find we have more in life to enjoy.


From London I hopped a quick plane ride to Lisbon where Francine picked me up and drove me out to Odemira. I had known Francine from before I started filming the movie; we have exchanged emails about the blog for years and finally here we were together in person! The rolling grass hills, the cork trees, the sun, and the blue skies, and then the horses meandering among the buildings of the farm, free to come and go as they pleased. Freedom exemplified!

So beautiful, and then I discovered that internet access was very limited out on the land here. Oh no! How does Elsa exist without constant contact with the outside world? There will be emails that go unanswered and so much guilt as I worry I am letting people down! There is that comfort zone stretching again! So I walked the land, and breathed in the sweet scent of mint under my feet as I picked oranges off the trees, and reveled in the sweet, sticky, deliciousness of simply being with myself.


The workshop in Odemira was my favorite setup for learning. Instead of working a pair at a time with people and their own horses, we instead had herds to work with. Creating pair bonds from moment-to-moment within the herd in natural ways, I could present the ideas we were going to consider for the day, and then, a few at a time, we could step into the herd to practice. The goal was timing and feel, starting where the horse was and, through partnership, developing connection that ever so gently started to stretch the horse’s comfort zone and help them become better versions of themselves. At a moment of peak enjoyment we would step out of the arena and leave the horse to think about it for a moment before another student stepped in to make their connection with the horse and work the process all over again.

I find horses love this work and do not ever get tired of it. Body language is their first language and connection is something they thrive on. However, people get fatigued doing this work that is new to them, so the format of working in and out of a herd gives people a chance to alternate between working and watching others work as they process what they have learned.

From Odemira I caught the train back to Lisbon and followed instructions to get on the train, the one headed to the left, and get off after the big bridge in Lisbon… What? That’s it? What if I do it wrong? I don’t speak Portuguese… Take a deep breath – that’s my comfort zone stretching again. There is a beautiful little stray dog making the rounds at the train station greeting everyone like it’s his job. If he can figure out where to be, when to be, how to be… then so can I. I heard an English couple confirm with someone which direction the train to Lisbon came from and where to get on. I think to myself, I can do this and it is all going to work out. After the big bridge, I got off the train and Sandi met me at the station taking me to a beautiful apartment in Lisbon with fast working internet so I could Skype to Idaho in the middle of the night for a Q&A with a gathering of people at a screening of Taming Wild. Who knew I could be on two sides of the world at the same time?


From Portugal I flew to Belgium to meet with Florentine and get ready for the last clinic of the European tour. We dropped my bags at the house, had a quick hello with the horses, and then were off to a conference and a screening of Taming Wild. It was then that I remembered, we are in Belgium and everything is in French. While I love French, I have to admit, I understand none of it. Florentine and Fabrice were there for me every step of the way as I listened and nodded and paid deep attention to everyone who spoke to me, understanding nothing of what they were saying until my fabulous translators stepped to help me out. So here again, with a little help from my friends, my comfort zone was growing and life was getting more enjoyable every day.

There is a different rhythm to teaching one sentence at a time and listening to its translation before you speak the next one. There is time to think and weigh your next comment before you speak it. The feel and the timing slow down and let you see the nuances of choice in every moment.


The work I teach with horses is much the same and it differs from most training where the horse is taught to conform to our wants, and needs, with each moment happening almost faster than we can prepare for it. Freedom Based Training, instead, slows everything down and endeavors to understand the world from the horse’s perspective first. Then, a movement at a time, we connect with the horse and learn slowly, a sentence at a time, the feel and the timing of developing the relationship together.


While Freedom Based Training is the majority of my life and what I do with horses, for most people I share it with it will be simply a part of what they do with their horses. What I am finding as I share this work is that taking even a little time to slow down and understand the relationship deeply builds a stability that lets you enjoy life so much more, even when it speeds up again.

The more connected we feel to each other, the easier it becomes to stretch and grow. This is what I teach.


Canada and Europe have been amazing, and I can’t wait for Colorado, and California in the next few weeks.


I have decided to postpone the filming of the big movie until August of 2018, leaving me room to travel and teach and finish my book between now and then. There are plans in the works for a short movie to be filmed this February, I promise to keep everyone posted as things develop.


A huge thank-you to all of you who hosted me and made me feel welcome everywhere I traveled. My comfort zone is a little bigger because of you. I do hope I have passed that gift forward and helped people and horses grow and develop together everywhere I went.


We are all in this together, becoming better versions of ourselves a day at a time with a little help from our friends. I know the horses won’t be reading this blog, but for those of you who shared your horses with me on this trip, go out and thank them for me. I am better because of all of you.

Hooves and Heartbeats,







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.



(This Blog Post was also a newsletter in May of 2017, re posted as a blog in June after an amazing tour of teaching Clinics and Workshops.)

I said something recently and it has been echoing around my mind ever since as a thing perhaps more profound than it first sounds.


“Travel is my second home”


This is the basis for my existence on a much deeper level than it sounds on first read.


We are all traveling through time, every moment of every day, how at home we feel in that journey has a great deal to do with our quality of life.


What I teach in my courses and I perpetually hone in my own life are the skills of feel and timing. Where to be. When to be. How to be.


This river of time that we are all traveling together is going to flow onward regardless of what we do, no one I know has mastered how to stop time, or go back and change the past. All we can do is find our FLOW, our harmony and, our places where we can effect change in future events.

Where to be. When to be. How to be.


I believe that all of us, horses and humans alike, are perpetually migrating though three states as we consider anything in life. Tolerance, Acceptance and Enjoyment. To have a truly great life we want to travel through the first two as efficiently as possible and dwell in the third for as much time as much as we know how.


Tolerance may look more like lack of tolerance sometimes, but that just means we are at the beginning of the migration. The key to traveling through tolerance is “Where to be” The question to ask is: Where in physical space can I locate myself in relation to this thing I am considering so it is tolerable – this is feel!


Acceptance is all about the ability to stay with something we are considering without having to change our relationship to it. The key to traveling through acceptance is “When to be” Even through acceptance is about the ability to stay with something, the wisdom of acceptance is knowing WHEN to change something. The skill of knowing when to do something more challenging and knowing when to do something easier is what puts you on the path to enjoyment. The question to ask is: Is it feeling better or is it feeling worse? Aim to retreat to something easier on the best feelings possible -this is timing!

Enjoyment is all about “How to be” with anything we are considering. Having passed through tolerance with an understanding of feel, and passed through acceptance with an understanding of timing, now we put feel and timing together to understand the degree of energy for the current moment. The question to ask is: What degree of energy would make this moment the most enjoyable?


To the degree we know how to use our feel and our timing is the degree we can feel at home traveling this journey of life.


Personally, I may be at my happiest when stepping onto an airplane, or traveling through the countryside with a horse, but the travel goes so much deeper than that. The travel that is important to me is the migration through my own feelings and the grace with which I make myself at home in the process.

If you want to know more about any of this, come join us at one of the tour stops coming up, or consider being part of a Freedom Based Training online course. The course runs four times a year, Summer, Fall, Spring, and Winter on an ongoing basis.


I look forward to seeing many of you on tour in the next couple of months. This world of collaboration and community with horses just keeps getting better and better, thank you for traveling this journey with me!


Hooves & Heartbeats,


May 6th – Demo at the Natural Horsemanship trade show Pontypool, Ontario, Canada

May 7th  Clinic – Partridge Horse Hill, Pontypool, Ontario, Canada

May 13 & 14 Clinic – Buckinghamshire, UK

May 18th – 21st Workshop – São Luís, Odemira, Portugal

May 25th – 28th Clinic – Ittre, Belgium

June 2nd Taming Wild Screening – Delta, CO, USA

June 3rd & 4th Workshop – Eckert, CO, USA

June 8th Workshop – Agoura Hills, CA, USA

June 10th Taming Wild Screening – Santa Rosa, CA, USA

July 1st & 2nd Workshop – Bend, OR, USA

August 5th & 6th Workshop – Victor, ID, USA

Aug. 26th & 27 Clinic – Mullingar, Ireland

Sept. 2nd-5th Clinic – Buckinghamshire, UK

Sept. 6th-10th Clinic – Ittre, Belgium

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.


Soaking Up The Silence


December in the Pacific Northwest brings its own character-building atmosphere into play. I am finding each year I love it a little more than I did the year before. Enveloped in fog, kissed by frost, christened by the perpetual moisture in the air: rain, snow, sleet, mist or some combination of all at the same time. Cocooned in a perpetually dim cloud-covered dome of existence, only to be swept occasionally into the brilliant clarity of a piercing sunshine, visiting for a day or two before the cocoon of cloud cover wraps you again in its comforting cloak.


I feel a sense of peace, safety, and deep personal challenge here. There is something about the almost endless, deep, grey skies and the piercing clear moments of sun that break through. Almost as though the weather brings safety, challenge and clarity in waves, the same way I aim to do in relationship with my horses.


More and more I am realizing this work with horses is about being aware. Increasingly aware of why, when and how we do what we do. Nothing is meaningless; actions are tuned in as communication or are tuned out to be merely static and noise in the environment.


The world gives high praise to trainers with “good feel and good timing”. What does that mean and how does one achieve that elusive “good feel and good timing”? Can it be learned or taught? Or is it something one is simply born with or touched by, like a whimsy from a supreme deity.


I believe feel and timing are skills that can be learned, and I believe my greatest work is honing those skills each and every day.


My work begins in a foundation of silence.


I am talking about the silence of harmony. If actions and movements are sound and everything means something, silence is how we find the spaces between words and hear the music play out of the static.


Sound has meaning in counterpoint to silence.


Movement has meaning in counterpoint to other movement.


Every movement we make has a meaning, a sound, a song, a harmony or a deafening screech of meaningless static, like a radio dial that can’t find a station while we grasp desperately at the volume adjustment.


With your horse, begin with the silence. Before you play with the noise.


Soak up the silence, become one with the silence, let it tear you open and bare your soul to the world. Simply be.


As human beings I find we tend to try and fill all the silences, using words and thoughts and explanations to buffer us from feeling what actually IS in any moment.


That elusive “feel and timing” that great horse trainers have, it begins with a willingness to be quiet and soak up the silence. Only then can we feel our way through speaking with our horses in ways that bring us the relationship we seek.


This quiet I speak of, what does it mean? How does it apply with horses? It is about harmony, it is about reading the body language of the horse and knowing how to be, when to be, where to be, to speak or to be quiet.


In order to be heard or to listen well, we need to first find the silences and learn to make the silences in such a way that allows sound to have meaning and clarity when it happens.


This is feel and timing.


Imagine a chess board in the space around your horse. You are an all powerful chess piece and can move in any direction at any speed from one spot to another. Your horse has likes and dislikes, preferences and comforts that you may or may not be aware of. Spatially, does your horse like you farther away or closer to? Does your horse like you touching them or not touching them? Each horse is an individual and has a different idea of harmony.


Can you be in harmony with what this particular horse enjoys? That is finding the silence.


Can your horse be in harmony with what you enjoy? That is finding the silence.


Once you have found the silence, can you simply be there? No noise, just be there in the silence.


This is not a magical “feel the energy” type of thing, this is real and tangible and very learnable on a physical plane!


If your horse likes you five feet from their neck on the left side, can you simply be there for a while and read their body language to know you have not overstayed your welcome or worn out your harmony. When they walk, you walk; when they stop, you stop; when they breathe, you breathe; when they watch the horizon, you watch the horizon. Can you be in harmony with them? Can you soak up the silence together?


Then, can you move to another place of harmony, find another source of silence BEFORE the first one feels uncomfortable? This is timing.


Every being on earth seeks comfort. In relationship one being’s idea of comfort is often another being’s description of discomfort. Feel and timing is finding where, when and how two beings are comfortable together, and then letting the nature of relationship stretch us and develop us so we learn and evolve into finding comfort in more and different ways.


Harmony is the silence. A voluntary being together of beings is the silence I encourage you to soak in.


Move from one spatial relationship to another with a feel for harmony. Don’t wait to be kicked out of the one you are in, don’t wait for your horse to pin their ears at you, or walk away with a determination to oust you out of the spatial relationship you chose. Find a new silence and another new one and another new one, each harmony of relationship a new place to bask in each other’s company.


Then, when you have found all the places of harmony and silence, make brief and temporary visits into the world of sound. Sound is the counterpoint to silence. If movement in harmony is silence, movement that is challenging is sound.


Move to a place your horse is challenged by, but don’t stay there. Move right on through to a place of harmony again. We visit the places of challenge and retreat to the places of harmony. Again and again until the places of challenge become more familiar and we can stay for a little longer, and then eventually familiarity begins to become comfort, perhaps even enjoyment.


As a practical explanation of this, in the movie Taming Wild I was aiming to ride Myrnah in voluntary harmony. How do you take a wild mustang and convince them they want to be ridden, in harmony, with the whole process voluntary?


You start with the silences. You bask in the harmony of being together in ways that are comfortable. Then you challenge the comfort zone briefly by visiting the spaces that are less comfortable. That visiting of places less comfortable, that is the music of training and the evolution and development of relationship.


My point is, the music is only as beautiful and valuable as the silences we find in counterpoint.


The language and interchange of ideas between horse and human is a beautiful thing. This beautiful interchange of ideas and movements is made more beautiful by a constant evolution of the harmony and effortlessness of being together.


This effortless togetherness, is the silence I speak of.


Bask in the harmony.


Soak up the silence.


Make music and develop new and exciting ways of being together from this quiet place.


This is how relationships are built.


Wishing you depths of silence you have only dreamt of and brilliant counterpoints of music in the New Year.


Hooves and Heartbeats,


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.

Step for Step, Breath for Breath


This is my favorite part of being with horses, that time when we move as one being. Time and space enveloping and embracing us like a single being instead of two. This is the time I feel least alone in my life, and I find I crave this like nothing else.


Honestly, the faster we can go in this unity, the happier I am. The more energy I can feel flowing through us the better. At one point I thought it would be so much fun to be an exercise jockey for race horses. When I spoke about this in a dreamy youthful way to my trainer at the time, she asked me if I liked the shape of my nose? Hmmmm, yes? Why? Because, she explained, jockeys have a tendency to have their noses broken by young horses throwing their heads up and smashing their riders in the face with the tops of their heads.


And then my dream came crashing down to reality. Those young racehorses were not doing something they were comfortable doing, those young horses were being pushed to the point that they hurt people in their anxiety. That was a world I wanted no part of.


I crave unity. I crave the feeling of moving in harmony, step for step, breath for breath, to whatever degree of intensity I can find that still allows everyone to feel safe and comfortable.


I think horses crave this too.


When intensity comes at the cost of someone’s comfort though, that’s when beings start hurting each other. A line gets crossed from fun into anxiety, and how do anyone of us set a boundary before someone gets hurt? What is OK and what is not OK?


Here is where the subject becomes touchy.


Leadership vs Friendship.


We all want to be our horse’s best friend. Those of us who want to work positively with our horses cringe a little at what we know gets done to horses in the name of “Leadership”.


This I believe was actually my biggest failure in my ongoing project with Myrnah. Yes the project was a huge success on the whole, but moving forward, this is the piece I would do better.


I don’t like asking for anything that might be answered “no”. The vulnerability of that position makes me feel the separateness of our beings in a painful way, when all I want is unity and harmony.


If you give me the right tool – bridle, whip, spur, carrot or grain pan – I can set the situation up so I am much more confident in getting a “yes” answer from my horse and unity stays intact.


If you take away all my tools (including food rewards), The probability of my horse saying “no” when I want to do something gets really high and actually frightening for me.


Here is the thing I do when I am frightened: I stop taking risks. Instead of asking for things, I just exist in whatever harmony I can find. If Myrnah wants to stand still, we stand still together for hours; if Myrnah wants to walk around, we walk around together; if she wants to drink water, we splash in the water trough together; if she wants to eat grass, I move with her from bite to bite in harmony and ease. If she wants to move faster than I am comfortable with, I get off and give her space. All of this is beautiful friendship, but it is not leadership.


I find, after long days of working to be a good leader for my students and their horses, all I want from Myrnah is friendship. Step for step, breath for breath. I don’t want to be vulnerable anymore; I don’t want to practice being a leader; I don’t want to risk asking for things that she might say “no” to.


A great deal of time spent building friendship means Myrnah and I love being around each other; I think that time might be some of the best moments of our day. We crave each other’s company, and that is good!


I also find, when I don’t practice leadership with her, she becomes much less steady.


A leader is someone you trust. A friend is someone you like being with. The two, being a good friend and being a good leader, are separate skills.


When you have a leader and you have trust, you can do more things; you can step out of your comfort zone more. You find random events in life don’t frighten you as much because you have someone you can trust at your side.


I believe I have spent much more time with Myrnah building friendship than I have leadership, particularly in the years since filming the movie. The downfall of too much friendship and not enough leadership is over emotionality and sharp boundaries.


During the times I have been practicing being a better leader, I find Myrnah is more willing to try things and be positive about new experiences. I find she is less afraid of strange noises and shapes moving in the distance.


When I am a better leader I find she is more relaxed and adaptable.


So what does practicing leadership look like? It looks like setting goals that require you to take actions that might get “no” answers.


Good leaders find the space between failure and success, the space between yes and no answers, and take the risk to ask.


Good friends spend time enjoying each other’s company without asking much at all.


Bad leaders ask a lot of questions with “no” answers. Bad leaders ask for too much too soon.


Good leaders don’t ask for too much, but they do dare to ask. Asking for things is what creates a leader. Asking for things builds trust. Asking for things builds stronger bonds and makes everyone feel safer.


I may crave step for step and breath for breath, I may crave harmony and unity and I may get all those things in friendship with Myrnah.


When intensity finds Myrnah and me, like the night a coyote appeared all of a sudden on the dark path in front of us and we found our hearts pounding in unison, flooding us with adrenaline, and putting us on edge, that was a moment I was glad for every bit of leadership I had ever practiced. We could face it calmly and wait for it to go on its way, even though we were out of our comfort zone.


Our boundary with the coyote was adaptable; there was no need to turn and bolt into the darkness away from it, but I could feel Myrnah wanting to. I could trust her to hold her ground and wait out the discomfort, but only barely. Those are the moments I vow to spend a little more of my time asking for things and being a good leader, and maybe a little less time just being with her as a good friend.


Here is to finding the balance – friendship and leadership.


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.


Progress Isn’t Linear


It was nighttime, I was out riding the trails, maybe ten o’ clock, very dark, the evening was still and deep and my horse and I felt wrapped up in a cocoon of quiet and peace. All that was were the rhythms of existence, breath for breath, swinging movement matching the clip clop of bare hooves and frogs and the breeze singing softly to Cleo and me.


In a sudden moment I realized the air smelled sweet and fragrant and in all honesty my first thought was perhaps I was losing touch with reality – this must be a moment of madness; what smells sweet in the end of February? Scanning the darkness for some reasonable explanation, there it was: a cherry tree in full blossom on the bank of the river. If this was a momentary flood of madness, the physical world was in full accord and here we were with springtime bursting upon us in all its glory, unexpected and so very welcome.


Life is like that; we don’t really ever know what is right around the corner and, however well we plan and prepare, we ultimately must trust that whatever happens is an important part of the process whether it is good, bad, planned or unexpected.


As we started into 2016 I was so very full of ambition. I had a book to finish, a movie to promote, days scheduled full of clients to teach and horses to train, and a discovery that on top of a full day of work, nighttime in the dark was actually an amazingly beautiful time to ride my own horses out on the trails. A sacred quiet time where I could return to my roots and the core reason I do all this work in the first place. A girl and a horse moving together through time and space in consideration of how can we do this better?


Life was heady and full of possibility.


In my plans, life was a perpetual motion machine of experience leading to understanding, leading to teaching and sharing what I was learning, leading to writing of blog and book. I had envisioned this in a very linear fashion: mornings to train and ride, daytimes to teach and travel, nighttimes to meditate out on the trails to the rhythmic pulse of heartbeat and hooves, and early morning hours to write about it all.


And then life happened: for a month, every time my alarm would go off in the wee hours of the morning, I would hit it blindly and fall deeply back asleep. My plans called for writing, and no writing was happening!


I tried writing the first few lines of ideas down before I went to sleep, hoping that would prime me to fall into action on waking. All that left me with was a whole list to things I want to write about…. And still have not yet…


I tried taking time for writing in the middle of the day, and found myself answering emails and shipping boxes of movies off around the world instead.


I tried sitting on the mounting block, computer on my lap in the paddock amidst the horses to write, and found Myrnah’s invitations to play with her irresistible.


I tried carrying my computer with me everywhere in the car, thinking perhaps I could write a few minutes at a time between lessons in a stray quiet moment here and there. I don’t think the computer ever made it out of the case in any one of those moments.


I have to admit, I was frustrated with my seeming inability to pull myself out of my writer’s block.


I think there is an art to navigating our personal roadblocks and stuck places. Because progress is never as linear as we think it will be, perhaps it would be good for us to have some game plan for these times too?


As is my habit, I took this problem to my horses and laid it out to look at it closely. What do we do with frustration and a seeming inability to move forward? I remembered all those months with Myrnah when I wanted to get on and ride and she wasn’t ready. What did I do?


First, we kept developing our other skills and partnership that seemingly had nothing to do with riding. Secondly, we showed up to that thing we couldn’t seem to get past and waited every day for a while. To look at frustration, breath into it, and simply exist with it, waiting to feel a little more comfortable where we are.


There! That was it! There was the piece I seemed to be missing in all of February. Getting more comfortable with where I was, and then when I felt better, BE STILL!


The mistake I was making was that, the moment I started to feel a little more comfortable, I would push myself hard to start writing, and then find myself in active rebellion doing anything other than writing!


What I needed was to spend time every day just existing, me and a blank page, or me and the few words of ideas waiting to be developed. Then when I felt almost ready, stay a little longer, get a little more comfortable, dream and plan and wait. Take a deep breath and wait.


Show up and wait; there will be a moment when action becomes irresistible. Wait longer than that, because after irresistible comes more frustration and more breathing, and then after that you have the moment it feels right.


We have to show up; that part is important. I needed to try all those things to get myself to write. I just think, if I had taken the time to get comfortable in any one of those situations, without pushing myself harder, it might not have taken a whole month for me to get back into the action I was aiming for.


Then again, if I didn’t get myself stuck every once in a while, how would I learn to get myself unstuck?

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These imperfections and backslides of progress – that is what makes this interesting.


I may be riding down the trail in the dark waiting for that feeling of my horse’s back stretching out a little more, muscles letting go, stride lengthening, thinking how do I get better at this? How do we get more feeling of flow, more release, more energy? I may be pondering how we get more intrinsically at ease so we both don’t jump out of our skin every time a duck lands in the dark river unexpectedly with an almighty splash!


Through all this, no matter how many obstacles and challenges I find to pit myself against, there is always going to be the unexpected cherry tree in full bloom to remind us, that life gets better right around the corner. Just keep showing up and breathing.


Hooves and Heartbeats,

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.


Stairs to a goal


The other night, at a small informal gathering for a screening of the movie, I realized a great deal of my success with Myrnah and this project of “Taming Wild” is thanks to my mother. I was remembering growing up riding horses with all my friends and the community of us horses and humans, fostered and cared for by my mother.


The conglomerate of rescued and adopted horses we had led to a large variety in experiences. No matter the challenge at hand my mother always seemed to have the utmost confidence that we would find a solution.


Being thrown off on the trail and having to walk home yet again, or not being able to catch your horse to begin with, or having to ask all your friends to please only gallop on the steepest hills so stopping might actually be possible at the end, in hind sight these kind of challenges day after day, horse after horse, for all of us kids, seem a daunting prospect. I can’t even begin to understand how my mother did it, and I can only thank her for the gift I now see it to be and the fortitude it gave me going forward.


I can remember the pony who galloped under a low hanging branch in the orchard wiping me off painfully for what seemed like the millionth time. I can remember my frustration and anger and being sure I never wanted to ride, ever again! I can also remember my mother calmly persisting that I get on again and walk that pony around the trees until we found a peaceful place to end the day.


It can’t have been easy to be my mother in that moment amidst the tears, and yet, that moment is metaphorical for life in so many ways. We get knocked down, sometimes it stings, sometimes we have no idea how we could possibly succeed where we have failed so many times. Having someone calmly say they are absolutely sure you will figure it out without actually telling you how is a gift.


That is how we learn how to learn.


Life challenges us, and there is something we want just out of reach. We make an attempt and fail, and then take what we learned and try again.


I would like to think in this project with Myrnah I have gotten smarter about navigating the learning curve. That is probably naïve; there is so much more to learn and I am sure I have only begun. However, any small ease I can bring into the process is gratifying.


Here is how I build the stairs to my goals with Myrnah.


We start with knowing what we are good at, the thing that we want that we know how to get.


In the beginning with Myrnah that was just being in the paddock with her, far enough away that she was comfortable moving around and didn’t need to be against the fence to get away from me. Just being in any proximity to her, a recently wild horse, felt amazing!


Then we look at the ultimate goals branching out in front of us.


With Myrnah, my ultimate goal for the year was to ride her at all speeds in the fields, on the trails, and ultimately on the beach, maintaining her sense of freedom and only using our body language to develop our relationship.


Then we look for our first step on the stairs. What is the thing that is a little closer to our ultimate goal, a little challenging for us yet still reachable from where we are?


With Myrnah, being in the paddock together we could do, we were good at that. Getting closer to each other was a challenge. Getting closer with my body was too much of a challenge at first, but getting closer with my eyes was something we could do, so long as it wasn’t all the time.


Here is the formula:


The thing you are consistently good at:

(i.e. being in the paddock together)


The thing that is challenging:

(i.e. getting closer together)


Taking the challenge through its stages.





If the challenge can’t even be tolerated, find the next step closer to you on the stairs. What is the challenge that can be tolerated?


Toleration looks like this:

We do the challenge for a moment, and then go back to what is comfortable before anyone gets too upset. Then try the challenge again. Advance and retreat, over and over.

Slowly tolerance starts to look like acceptance as we realize we can do the challenge for longer and longer without any emotional upheaval.


Acceptance looks like being able to do the challenge for longer and longer without any upset and slowly we realize there is a flicker of interest or enjoyment that happens here and there while doing the challenge.


If we can retreat to what is totally comfortable in the moment of interest or enjoyment of the challenge, then we foster that skill.

(i.e. being in the paddock with Myrnah, looking at her- and then when she becomes interested in me, looking away)


This starting pattern worked on many levels with Myrnah. By moving what was easy into what was challenging, through tolerance, then acceptance, then enjoyment it stepped me toward my goal.


While at the same time it worked on the basic herd principles. Horses seek safety, and, in order to feel safe, someone needs to be watching the environment for danger. If you have a group the leaders watch for danger and the followers watch the leaders. Herd dynamics are often fluid, and leaders and followers switch roles often. Real leaders just have better timing than real followers.


Real leaders know when to get closer and when to move away, when to look to their herd and be a follower for a moment and when to look away and survey the environment. Real leaders know how to walk their herd through challenges and use the stages of tolerance, acceptance and enjoyment to build community.


So here I was with Myrnah in the beginning stages thinking my goal was all about riding… and then realizing my actual goal was to become a real leader for her. I wanted to be the best kind of leader whom she wanted to follow anywhere and share every life experience. I have to admit I am still working on that. We may have a myriad of physical goals and challenges; however, I find they are all just ways we discover more about what it is to work together, be together and be better partners.


Enjoy building your stairs wherever they may lead you.


Hooves and Heartbeats,

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.


Choosing Life


My sister once said to me, “The only thing you can count on in life is change.” I am sure I was in the midst of a depressive episode at the time, and positively sure the grief I was feeling would never pass. At the time she said it to me I couldn’t believe it, but it has stuck with me anyway, able to sink in later when my mind was clearer and become one of those anchors of belief that keep me on track when things feel like they will never be right again.


Having just flown into New York City for the premiere of the movie “Taming Wild”, I find myself in the most beautiful, peaceful, brilliant elation. The world is so full of wonder it is almost unbelievable and life feels gorgeous.


I am reminded of Robin Sharma’s quote:

“All change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”


Not only do I believe that the one thing you can count on in life is change, I also believe change is a fairly constant state that we all resist to some extent. We resist it because of the ebb and flow of feeling that goes with it. I experience the shifting emotional states perhaps more extremely than most, because of my personal experience with bipolar condition. However, I think everyone feels it to their own degree.


When things start to change, it can feel hard, then messy, and then, as we get comfortable, it feels gorgeous. This can be plugged into Csikszentmihalyi’s chart that I love to think about when addressing the state of flow. When we look at change, we look at potentially doing something challenging enough – we do not have enough skill for it and that feels hard, and then messy as we gain the necessary skills. Then at some point our skills and our challenge start to match, and that is that perfect place of being in the flow, in the zone – life feels gorgeous!


Last night, in a beautiful little French restaurant in Brooklyn with another one of my sisters and her husband, I felt so deeply in the flow of life and perfection. We were talking about making the movie “Taming Wild” and the five-year journey I have been on. My sister asked me, “What was the hardest part?”


Looking back, I had to say the hardest part was persevering – there were so many beginning again moments when I felt like I didn’t have the skills for this, and it was too hard, and was never going to work. During every one of those moments I needed to remember: change is the only constant, show up, do what you can do, and learn what you need to learn. Something will shift, and gradually it will go from feeling hard to just feeling messy… and then one day you realize it doesn’t feel messy anymore, it feels gorgeous. This is life at its best!


You have to revel in those moments, soak them up and luxuriate in them. I talk about this all the time with Myrnah’s process and working with the horses; rest on the moments that are about connection. That thing that you want, just keep moving until you feel a little closer to it; then pause there, breath it in, and enjoy THAT moment. Soon enough you are going to reach a little farther and realize you don’t have the skills for that reach yet; it’s going to feel hard and you just have to keep moving until you gain the skills needed to get the job done. Gaining skills feels messy, and then using those skills so hard won…. That is perfection.


When you feel life as extremely as I do, there is a way of being that becomes necessary for survival. Choosing life.


I know that sounds excessively dramatic, but here is how it works for the overly emotional. (This is important, because I think a great many horses fall into this category of overly emotional, and, if we can help them choose life when they feel like this, we have made the world a better place for everyone.) When emotions run hot, it is hard to believe that change is inevitable. Whatever we feel right now feels so rich and real, it feels like it is going to last forever!


It becomes absolutely essential to break process down to small manageable pieces. If we reach too far, look too far ahead, take on a challenge that is too big, that beginning stage is so hard sometimes death feels like a better option than moving forward. And then the messy stage of developing skills, that feels so messy it isn’t even worth it, why bother, why not give up… becoming despondent and frozen is tempting. When emotions run this hot, taking on something too big can feel akin to choosing death instead of life.


So how did I do this? Why did I choose to take on such a huge challenge? Was it worth it?


Absolutely yes, worth every moment! I think I did it because we get out of life what we put into it, and big challenges have big pay offs. I got it done by taking only one small piece at a time. I learned how to keep my head down and stay focused on the task at hand through the hard and the messy until it started to feel good, then I could take a breather, come up for air, and look ahead at the larger goals and wider view. Then, when I felt rested and at peace with the world, I dove in again embracing the hard and the messy until I could find another moment that felt good. Ahhh, yes, there it is; that is why I do this, this is what if feels like to choose life!


Change is inevitable – Embrace it. Just remember, we each have our own emotional journey to take through it. Choose life, break it into pieces you can manage and just do one at a time.


If you are like me, before you know it you have made a movie, and you are looking back in wonder and awe: How in the world did that all happen?


One piece at a time – choosing life – that’s how.

What is it you want to do? How are you going to break it down into sections that let you choose life again and again and again?


There is a question worth pondering….


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.


Taking the Challenge


I want to give you something a little different for the blog this week.


When I started this project with Myrnah I believed it was something truly different than anything that had been done before. I still believe that is true because I have not found anyone willing to train horses without the added incentive of food rewarding behavior, or the added pressure of a whip or rope or fence to push them against. If any of you know it exists, please let me know. I would be so curious to know more.


What I HAVE found, though, is many people pushing limits and taking on challenges all over the world:


How can we exist with horses in a better way?


I find that so very beautiful, worth paying attention to. I encourage each and every one of us everyday to explore what is possible:


How can we live our own lives in better ways?


For now, I leave you with a little inspiration.


Here is Emma Massingale with “The Island Project”:


And here is Honza Bláha with “Open Borders”:


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.


Depth in Relationship


I see a pattern that predicts the depth of a relationship. Horses being my specialty, that is where it shows up with the most clarity, but I have a feeling this idea exists in all relationships.


How much time together is spent enjoying exactly who our partner is, in that moment, and how much time is spent attempting to change our partner into something we think we would like more, or complaining about their actions without any developmental course.


As gritty relational beings I believe all those things have time and place. The time we spend noticing what we don’t like or working to change it is grist for the mill. It polishes us and carves us into our future selves and helps us find the things we really love.


The depth and intensity of a relationship, though, is dependent on the positive counterbalance. HOW MUCH can we love and appreciate the creature that is in front of us exactly as they are? That HOW MUCH is what predicts how deeply we feel connected to them.


If we are always complaining, wishing someone were different, or trying to change them, how can we have a deep relationship with who they really are?


Echart Tolle says, “ When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.”


I believe there is a certain amount of “madness” that makes life interesting. Some amount of complaining is food for the mind and contrast to help us see where we want to go and what we want to do.


Some amount of action is what makes us feel alive. What we can change, what we can move, what we can motivate, that power is heady and rich.


Depth and intensity, though, is all about what we already love, right now.


Our relationships depend on how we treat our lives. The percentage of time I spend with my horses complaining, developing, or enjoying dictates how that relationship is going to feel.


For me, relationships feel best when I spend somewhere between 50% and 80% of my time enjoying what is and getting to know and understand my horses better exactly as they are. Then we add in some time devoted to developmental change, training and moving toward better skills, with just a handful of complaining and searching thrown in to help me know where I want to go.


That is what works for me.


What works for you? Notice this week how much time you spend in a relationship, complaining, taking action, or enjoying what is. Then notice how it affects your relationships to everything around you.


It is your life and your relationships, you are the one who gets to feel what you feel, so notice how you spend your time and how it feels when you shift the percentages. Does it work for you to spend a little more time training and changing? Or a little more time enjoying and soaking up the beauty of the moment. Or a little more time complaining and working though what it is you really want in life?


It is your life, live it intentionally and develop the relationships you want. No one else can do it for you.


Elsa Sinclair