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Tag Archives: advance

The Project:

Mustangs directly off the range, One Trainer, Many Students, Communication through body language, Tools used only for safety, never to train.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

Elsa

EquineClarity.com

TamingWild.com

The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One Trainer, Many Students, Communication through body language, Tools used only for safety, never to train

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Here is to finding the balance – friendship and leadership.

 

Elsa Sinclair

EquineClarity.com

TamingWild.com

The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One Trainer, Many Students, Communication through body language, Tools used only for safety, never to train

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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

EquineClarity.com

TamingWild.com

The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One Trainer, Many Students, Communication through body language, Tools used only for safety, never to train

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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.

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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?

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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.

Tolerance

Acceptance

Enjoyment

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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.

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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.

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Enjoy building your stairs wherever they may lead you.

 

Hooves and Heartbeats,

Elsa Sinclair

EquineClarity.com

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The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One Trainer, Many Students, Communication through body language, Tools used only for safety, never to train

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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.”

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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?”

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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.

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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!

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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

EquineClarity.com

TamingWild.com

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The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One Trainer, Many Students, Communication through body language, Tools used only for safety, never to train

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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

EquineClarity.com

TamingWild.com

The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One Trainer, Many Students, Communication through body language, Tools used only for safety, never to train

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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.

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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.

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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

Equine Clarity.com

TamingWild.com

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The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One Trainer, Many Students, Communication through body language, Tools used only for safety, never to train

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The Goal:

To discover how far Equestrian Art can be developed solely using body language.

 

Showing up

 

What is this thing I do with Myrnah? Is it a method of training? Is it a form of meditation? Is it for my benefit? Is it for her benefit? Why take away all the tools and all the bribes? What is the point behind doing everything differently?

 

I will tell you, for me the magic is in the mundane. When I show up to spend time with Myrnah I know she gets to be who she is, and the things I do have very little power to change her. The things we do together develop US together, and very slowly over time entrain us to be better partners for each other.

 

Tom Dorrance said it perfectly:

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

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It is the same things I do with Myrnah that everyone does with their horse. We move forward, backward, left and right, sometimes more together, and sometimes less together. It is the attention and persistence toward partnership, that is what this is about.

 

If we think of this as a training method, we have to accept that without tools or bribes there is a great deal more of

“First you go with the horse.”

than most people are truly comfortable with. That is perhaps what makes this more of a form of meditation than a training method.

 

Is this thing Myrnah and I do together for my benefit or for hers? How does one even quantify a benefit? Are we happier for this way of existing together?

 

I find those questions really difficult to answer. I believe we are happier, but at the same time we are often more frustrated, and at the same time we are more peaceful together, and we are also more at odds with each other at times. The answers are as complicated as the questions.

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We get to show up and feel more of everything together. We get to show up for each other regardless of how it feels, good or bad.

 

Showing up and feeling what we feel from moment to moment together, that is the work.

 

On one particular day at the beach Myrnah was tired from traveling; I wanted to ride and she did not. If I had some tools or bribes, I could have quickly won her over to my way of thinking, getting us efficiently to Tom Dorrance’s final idea: “Then you go together.” –

 

I find, though, there is a whole world of getting to know each other in deep and profound ways that we pass right over when we rush to the end.

 

“First you go with the horse.”

allows you to ask what the horse wants.

 

And then there is a dance where you ask the horse to go with your idea for a moment, which is the second part: “Then the horse goes with you”.

 

In our linear, human way of thinking we tend to want the third part to happen directly: “Then you go together”. –

 

 

I will tell you, training methods have been developed with tools and bribes to get us there fairly efficiently. What I do is different, and it requires that I show up willing to dance the first part of the dance for as long as it takes to get us to: “Then you go together.” –

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It is not easier, it is not faster, I am really not even sure it is better. But what I can tell you is, it is a richer experience with a horse than any I have had before.

 

The depth of connection Myrnah and I have together is more fulfilling than anything I have ever known and that makes it worth it.

 

You get out what you put in though, so, on that day that Myrnah was tired from traveling and I really wanted to ride when she didn’t, four hours later she was ready to give me a short ride.

 

Those four hours consisted of walking and stopping and turning and, for a while, lying down together to take a nap. My job was to show up and follow her, and then ask her to follow me, and then follow her some more.

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This experience is about showing up and being who we are together, even if our wants do not always line up right away. It is humbling and beautiful to show up with a will to align and work together, and a total acceptance that it will take the time it takes.

 

One day at the beach we were walking through the dunes and crossed a section of the path where there was some bear scat. Shortly after that we saw two people walking through the grass off in the distance. Those shapes moving against the backdrop of the yellow dunes combined with the smells to put Myrnah on alert- meant we were no longer walking to the beach on my time frame. She felt she needed to watch those shapes moving though the distant grass with total devotion, which meant, if I was “following the horse”, I needed to watch them too.

 

From time to time I could ask her to take a few more steps toward the beach with me, and then we would watch some more. It was a very long time before we made it all the way to the ocean together. Feeling her fear, feeling my frustration, all of that was part of showing up that day, and the payoff is how much deeper our relationship is for the chance to experience it together.

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I had other horses with me at the beach this past week. I had tools and rewards to help get us to the end goal of working together. We had wonderful rides, and I loved every moment I spent with them.

 

The work I do with Myrnah though…. It really is deeper and richer and ultimately more satisfying that any work I have ever done with a horse.

 

Myrnah and I may have started off together with a simple challenge, to find out if this way of working together is even a possible or viable training method, but along the way we found gold in the day-to-day process.

 

The personal value of a relationship this deep and rich from moment to moment is a worth above and beyond any end result we could ever achieve.

 

Elsa SinclairIMG_1077

EquineClarity.com

TamingWild.com

The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One Trainer, Many Students, Communication through body language, Tools used only for safety, never to train

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The Goal:

To discover how far Equestrian Art can be developed solely using body language.

 

Be Defined By What You Love

When I started this project with Myrnah it was an abstract idea, a simple question of, is this thing possible?

 

When we take away the round pens and ropes and halters and bridles, bribes and obvious incentives, what is left?

 

It wasn’t long before I realized this project was much bigger and broadly reaching than I had anticipated. I had thought it would be just a year of experimental training with a horse, an interesting period of time that would come and go as a chapter of my life. Instead I found it reached into me and changed who I was.

 

Myrnah taught me more about horses and life in one year than I think I have learned in all my previous years combined.

 

Now I do need to take a moment and thank all the trainers who poured themselves into me for all the years prior to Myrnah. Without you I would never have had the basis of understanding to even begin this experimental type of training. Thank-you from the depths of my soul for preparing me as well as you did. If you are reading this, you know who you are. Believe me, I remember each and every one of you with profound gratitude!

 

Throughout the process with Myrnah _E0A2131I have found I have needed to draw on both horse-training principles developed over centuries, and ALSO principles of human development.

 

With animal training throughout history the motivation factors have been extrinsic. Do this to get that, or do this to avoid that. There isn’t much developed in terms of training using intrinsic motivation factors. Do this just because it feels good. So when it came to searching for ways to develop intrinsic motivation, I had to dig into human-development theory and see if we could apply it to horses. Hang on though, I am getting ahead of myself; next week we will dig deeper into the ideas of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

 

This week is about building the basis for motivation! In order to build this basis, let’s touch back to the blog from two weeks ago, “Everyone Deserves to Feel Safe”. I brought up the idea that there is a FEELING of safety that horses and humans alike will instinctively defend as if it were an intrinsic right. That feeling is built with five stages of belief.

 

  1. Physical needs met.
  2. Security needs met.
  3. Connection needs met.
  4. Self-Esteem needs met.
  5. Self-Actualization needs met.

 

I am suggesting that, to the degree those five needs are believed to be satisfied, there is a FEELING of safety. It gets interesting when one considers we all are individuals and somewhat unique, so the physical reality of meeting each need varies somewhat from person to person and from horse to horse. The constant is: To the degree they BELIEVE the needs have been met, they will FEEL safe.

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How do we know how safe someone feels? I propose we can know by how they define themselves. And that defining of one’s self goes through three stages. As life ebbs and flows though various situations, we will all revisit the three stages again and again. When we can meet each stage with understanding, life evolves with a beautiful rhythm.

 

Stage 1. Tolerating

Or not tolerating as the case may be; this is where we don’t feel safe yet and we will defend our rights to feel safe. Emotions run rampant, or depression takes over. We become defined by everything we don’t want, or don’t like, or can’t handle.

 

Stage 2. Accepting

This is where we can see what makes us feel unsafe, but, instead of defending ourselves from it so strongly, we can acknowledge it and look for its opposite, using the contrast to define what we prefer and letting the lack of safety propel us. We become defined by both what we hate AND what we love.

 

Stage 3. Enjoying

This is where we feel safe enough to keep reaching for more of what feels good. We believe our basic needs have been met and there is no pull to be defensive. That leaves us free to define ourselves by what we love, what we want, what we enjoy, and the best of everything life has to offer in that moment.

 

We all will experience all of the above, we are designed for a broad and diverse experience in life. I am merely suggesting that with some understanding and appreciation, we might move through the first two stages with more grace, and be able to look ahead to how good life gets when we feel safe enough to define ourselves by what we love instead of what we don’t.

 

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So here are a few keys to help us move through the stages smoothly, horse or human, it works the same way.

 

Tolerance – Marked by high emotionality, defensiveness, and defining one’s self by everything one does not like. Key- break it down, take life in smaller bite-sized pieces, rest often, move forward and back away, advancing and retreating gently until you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Acceptance – Marked by a more steady nature, defensive and also searching for what is needed to let go of that defense. Defining one’s self by both what one likes and what one does not like. Key – stick with moving forward toward what you need, keep at it, keep thinking about it, keep working until there is more attention on what is wanted than on what is not wanted.

 

Enjoyment – There is no mistaking this stage. When you define yourself by what you love, there is nothing better.

 

Enjoyment is the encompassing FEELING of safety when all our needs are met.

 

Enjoyment is the magical feeling of being in the “zone” or the state of “flow”

 

Enjoyment is our birthright.

 

So here is the challenge: In our horses and in ourselves, can we see and support the stages of tolerance and acceptance? The more we pay attention, the better we get at it, and the better we get at it, the more time we get to spend enjoying life.

 

Be Defined By What You Love,

 

Elsa Sinclair

EquineClarity.com

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The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One Trainer,                                               Many Students, Communication through body language,

Tools used only for safety, never to train

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The Goal:

To discover how far Equestrian Art can be developed solely using body language.

Thank you all for your support on the Front_Of_Card_ELSADocumentary. Take a look at the trailer here, and please donate to the completion of the project.

https://www.kickstarter.com

 

Holding Space

Holding the job title I do of Trainer and Teacher, there is an expectation everywhere I go to create change and evoke growth. Last week’s blog – “Focus, Persistence and Confidence” – was all about how that comes to pass for me. This week, however, I find myself thinking more about the basis for that growth and change.

 

I believe we are only willing to grow and change to the degree we feel safe and stable where we are.

 

In this culture we are taught, “you have to get out of your comfort zone to grow” and “being uncomfortable is an important part of learning something new.” I do agree with these sentiments if our goal is to change fast; if we aim to get from where we are to where we are going quickly, it might indeed be uncomfortable.

 

That discomfort, though, tends to lead to students resisting and fighting the very growth and learning they are seeking. Adult humans can rationalize, talking through the uses of discomfort so they learn to tolerate or even seek it. Animals and children, though, tend to fight ever harder when their feelings of core safety are threatened by discomfort.

 

It is often Animals and Children who teach us to live fully right now!_E0A0233

What if this life is for living and enjoying with the full breadth and depth of who we are NOW… instead of who or what we seek to be.

 

Change is inevitable, growth happens, whether we seek it or not. We are all constantly evolving because it is simply the nature of being alive.

 

As a teacher and a trainer I find myself at this balance point: my job is to create growth and foster learning, and yet, I find the best way to do that is to start from the premise that my student, horse or human, is already perfect.

 

Right now, in this moment, they are exactly what they need to be – not lacking or “less than” in any way!

 

My first job is to let them feel safe, connected, and supported exactly how they are, because that is how a love for learning and growing is fostered.

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Give any of us enough safety and base of support, we learn to love and seek our own evolution.

 

How do we do that?

 

We hold space.

 

This piece written by Heather Plett says it best.

http://heatherplett.com/2015/03/hold-space/

I often feel as Heather does about holding space:

 

“It’s not always easy, because I have a very human tendency to want to fix people, give them advice, or judge them for not being further along the path than they are, but I keep trying because I know that it’s important.”

 

It is important we know we are really okay however we are right now, because right now is our jumping off place for everything we are about to become. When I teach or I train, I endeavor to build this base of support. It seems a little counter intuitive, my job being to change things for the better, and yet I walk in first saying everything is perfect just as it is. Why would you need me if that was the case?

 

You don’t need me; that’s the point. I just have the tools to make the inevitable growth and evolution of being alive way more fun. Because I can do that for you, together we discover. The more fun you think learning is, the more you will seek it and reach for it and change, in fact faster than if I had pushed you hard to grow in the first place._E0A0331

So here are the keys to holding space that let a person or an animal feel they have a strong enough base of support to leap into what they are becoming.

  1. Give others permission to trust their own intuition and wisdom.
  2. Give others only as much information as they can handle.
  3. Don’t take their power away.
  4. Keep your own ego out of it.
  5. Make them feel safe enough to fail.
  6. Give guidance and help with humility and thoughtfulness.
  7. Create a container for complex emotions.
  8. Allow them to make different decisions and to have different experiences than you would.

 

Heather goes into more details, I encourage you to read her piece.

 

Growth and learning make us feel alive; I simply question, how far out of our comfort zone must we step in this reaching for life?

 

How might we instead revel in whatever is felt now, as we support it and build firm ground under our feet so we grow into the delight of tomorrow with grace.

 

While holding space for people is a concept that is gaining traction in the world, I am now putting a bid in for people to also learn how to hold space for their horses.

 

Now is all we really have. I am voting in this “now” to foster safety and security and a stable learning base from which to push off into the future fearlessly.

 

Elsa Sinclair

EquineClarity.com

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