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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.


Confidence and Learned Helplessness

Yesterday I found myself sitting on an airplane on the way to a screening in New York City simply brimming with joy. My pondering, wondering mind couldn’t help but wonder why? Are emotions rational? Are emotions explainable?


I know I have a similar joy when I am able to help a horse, or a student, or a horse and student together work through the solution to a knotty problem. My pondering, wondering mind has to ask again, why is that? What even constitutes a problem in a relationship?


I truly believe it all comes down to confidence and learned helplessness. We all have things we do that are in our comfort zone, horses and people alike. These are the things we have confidence in. Somewhere in our history we learned we had a good chance at feeling OK in this situation. On the flip side, when we feel there is no hope of feeling better in a situation, this is learned helplessness. When things are too far out of our comfort zone, then our only hope becomes survival.


This confidence in a situation, the idea that a particular situation is well within our comfort zone, is simply a neural passageway in our brain that has been used often enough in such a way as to cause comfort, maybe even joy.

I believe this feeling is effective passive leadership.


Passive leadership is the ability to take personal action towards your goals in confidence, without falling into the patterns of fight, flight or freeze.


The art of applying passive leadership with a thousand-pound prey animal is more intriguing to me every day, particularly when I realize that what I learn with the horses, has a ripple effect of understanding in every situation I can imagine.


How do you simultaneously encourage horses to find their own comfort and also work with you?


How do you foster collaboration and confidence in partnership?


I named the movie Taming Wild, not because it was about taming a wild mustang. The title leads us to think more deeply about our own nature: that wild part in each of us that is willing to fight to the death for what we think we need, or run away from the things we cannot control, or even freeze and admit defeat when we have no other options. This is not just a horse problem; this is a problem with being alive that we all face together.

Is it possible to maintain our individuality in any relationship and also foster collaboration? Or does someone always have to lose out and give up some part of themselves in order to fit the relationship at hand?


That is what Taming Wild is about. Are any of us willing to tame the wild impulses of fight, flight or freeze, or do we think we need them for survival?


The answer is both. We do need them for survival, and also, we don’t collaborate well with others when we are in survival mode. The taming of those instincts is what has to happen first in order to collaborate well.


When a horse is expressing fight, flight or freeze, they are in survival mode and doing the reactionary thing they think they need to do in order to survive. This survival mode is, I believe, simply a lack of confidence in their own passive leadership.


How do we teach passive leadership in horses? How do we teach this concept of taking personal action toward a goal without fight, flight or freeze?


We lead by example.


Do you know how to work in relationship toward a goal without fighting, running away, or freezing and giving up some of yourself in order to capitulate?

Some situations are easier than others for sure. The challenge I am laying out for the world is this. Be conscious, be aware, and notice when anyone in a partnership is falling into reactionary behavior and lack of confidence.


When your horse fights with you, can you take personal action toward your goal of being in partnership – without fighting back, or running away, or giving up?


When your horse tries to run from you, can you take personal action toward a goal, without reacting to him in a survival sort of way?


And most importantly, when your horse has learned helplessness –freeze as a day to day survival skill – and no longer takes any action towards feeling better, can you still take personal action toward your goal of being in partnership without taking advantage of the helplessness in front of you?


We teach by example and our partners in any endeavor become products of their environment.


We can only truly work together when someone steps up to make the environment one of collaboration and confidence.

Be that person, and watch your horse in turn become that horse.


We are all in this together,

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.


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.


It Takes Time


I stood at Kypo’s shoulder, watching him pull dense strand after dense strand of vine out of the cacti to eat it with relish. Under his right front hoof was a sharp rock, and I watched him picking up and putting down his foot repeatedly. It was clearly uncomfortable, but he was so absorbed in his acquisition of tasty vines, the rock was just a small irritant, not painful enough to consider in the face of all that blissful vine eating.


On this Saturday in November I had set out to do a full day of passive leadership with one horse to see what happened. Ten hours together was my goal. Ten hours with no agenda other than to see what I could learn from him about passive leadership. Usually I have some sort of a goal with horses and while passive leadership is the basis from which I start, I quickly move forward to assertive leadership simply because it works and development of relationship is clear and beautiful.


What I wanted to know was, if I had more time and less agenda, could I do more with less?


Passive leadership is about proving my worth as a leader and earning trust with my partner simply by the choices I make about my own body in space around them.


Assertive leadership is about proving my worth as a leader and earning trust with my partner by causing them to move.


Dominant leadership (which is not the goal here) is about causing my partner to move and developing unpleasant consequences if they do not. (I personally include food rewards in this category, because I feel it is unpleasant for a horse when they know there is something they really want and the only way they can get it is to perform a task – the unpleasant consequence of not moving is subtle but quite clear.)


Here we were, halfway through the day of our training experiment and for the most part I had followed through with my idea of predominantly working in the area of Passive Leadership. Now there was this sharp rock under Kypo’s right front hoof, and he was too distracted by vine eating to do anything about it other than pick his foot up and put it down repeatedly.


As a passive leader there is nothing I can do about that, as an assertive leader I can help. So I gave up my passive leadership goal for a moment, rested my hand on his shoulder and nudged him over to his left a step so he could stand with all his hooves on flat ground. The instant relief Kypo felt was perceptible as yawning and licking and chewing with big deep sighs. The vine eating happily continued, and I returned to my lookout post.


A leader is someone who is willing to step in where no one else wants to, or thinks to. Leaders create trust in the partnership and they create this trust by proving again and again that they can make everyone’s lives better by stepping up and leading the way.


On this particular day in the upcountry pastures of Kula, Maui, I was in the middle of deep and profound experiential learning – learning that was more for me than for the horses, but powerful for all of us involved I believe.


In the first hour I found Kypo to be entitled, pushy and impatient, and I felt stretched emotionally by his company. This was going to be a long day.


The second hour Kypo led me out on a merry walk, just the two of us with no other horses in sight. I was surprised and intrigued. Was he that comfortable with only my company? Or would he have done that all by himself if I had not been there?


The third hour, Kypo walked by a boulder I was standing on and invited me to go for a ride, which surprised and intrigued me even more. That had not been in the plan for the day. I swung a leg over his back, scratched him all over under his mane, which he loved, and then got off and back to my passive leadership roll. He then took me over the hill to join his mother and two other horses sleeping under a tree.


The fourth hour we spent in a field strewn with boulders, so my lookout points around Kypo often involved standing up high. I was blown away by how many times he sauntered over and lined his back up underneath me to let me sit on him.


The fifth hour found us under a shady copse of trees with Kypo and his mother, Spirit, flat out on their sides deep asleep, Ebe lying down softly asleep and Coco and me standing watch.


The sixth hour I had to leave them and walk up to the house to charge my phone battery and get some water, which was actually a good opportunity for me to clear my head and think about everything that had happened so far.


The seventh hour found Kypo and me trekking up and down a rocky hillside, during which he gave me our longest ride yet. It wasn’t long, maybe five minutes, however I was doing my best to be passive and set us up for success so I was thrilled and elated I had gotten to ride as much as I did!


The eighth hour I held myself in check and simply scratched him all over when he would come over to stand under my current boulder perch. This day wasn’t about riding or how much I could get Kypo to do for me. This day was about sharing the day together and seeing how many different things we could do together passively enjoying each others company.


The ninth hour everyone headed back in the direction of the water troughs, and I followed along. First we walked, then we jogged, then they picked up speed to a canter and I tried to keep up, but I couldn’t. I settled to a walk and figured I would see them back at the water. I have to say, it was the sweetest surprise when I discovered them waiting for me around the next corner as if to say, “Come on slowpoke, what kept you?” They started off at a walk, then a jog, then a trot. I tried to keep up, but by the time we could see the water troughs, they were off at a gallop and I walked the last bit in.


The tenth hour with the whole herd reunited at the water, Kypo was determined that a new horse, Gems, was not to be tolerated in the group, and he was going to chase her off aggressively over and over. I decided it was time to put my passive leadership goals aside for a little while and step up to assertive to help smooth the group dynamic. I was quite blown away by how light and easy Kypo was to move. I chose a position near his shoulder and each time I would see his eyes wander over to the intruder, Gems, I would softly touch his chest and back him up a step, or touch his neck and move him over enough to redirect his attention to something less upsetting. I was amazed how easy he was with my redirection and how peaceful everyone in the herd became with my simple persistent help to one member.


As the sun set and the light started to fade, Kypo and I found ourselves next to an old fallen tree where I swung a leg over his back and let him carry me around for the last half hour.


All those troubling impressions from our morning were gone. This horse wasn’t entitled at all; if anyone was entitled, perhaps it was me. Kypo was in fact one of the most kind, generous and authentic horses I have had the pleasure of spending time with.


This is a day I will not forget and the things Kypo taught me were valuable beyond words.


I believe my biggest takeaway was that there is a time and a place for different kinds of leadership, and there are times to simply follow. If you give yourself time, you don’t need force; and if you don’t need to force things to happen, life gets increasingly more pleasant for everyone involved.


Here is to a good life!

Sending you all a gift of time from Maui,


Elsa Sinclair


  1. Here are the hourly update videos from the day of experimental training in passive leadership. If you are reading this blog by email, click on the title at the top and it will take you to the webpage where the videos are viewable.


Intro Video:


Hour One:


Hour Two:


Hour Three:


Hour Four:


Hour Five:


Hour Six:


Hour Seven:


Hour Eight:


Hour Nine:


Hour Ten:

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.

Love it, or Change it


What I do with horses is Freedom Based Training.


We all, horses and people alike, instinctively reach for freedom. Freedom is our ability to be unique and individual and reach out to live a life that suits us.


Training is also part of every day life because training is simply the development of habits. I believe habits form regardless of intention, and, if we can be conscious, then we can form the habits that may serve us. That consciousness and deliberation in training can at times feel restrictive and binding, yet, in a roundabout way, isn’t that more free than the alternative of creating habits randomly that perhaps do not serve us?


We are free to create the lives we want over time within the framework that life offers us developing one small habit at a time.


Watch your thoughts for they become words,
watch your words for they become actions,
watch your actions for they become habits,
watch your habits for they become your character,
watch your character for it becomes your destiny.


Horses do not have words, they have movements – their movements become actions and actions become habits and habits become character and character becomes destiny.


I don’t know about you, but I want my horses to have the best destinies possible. I want them to feel their freedom and uniqueness of being and at the same time develop habits that serve them.


That is Freedom Based Training.


So we start with their thoughts… how do we know what a horse is thinking? We notice where they are looking.


I talked about this in a recent blog, Attention and Confidence


We know what it looks like when a horse is totally self-absorbed, ears relaxed and attention turned inward. As a skill, this is self-confidence.


We know what it looks like when a horse is interested in their leader, ears and eyes following every movement the leader makes. This skill is confidence in the leader.


We know what it looks like when a horse is watching the group, scanning from one individual to the next. This is confidence in the herd.


We know what it looks like when a horse is watching and wanting to focus on and investigate all the objects and environmental variations around him. This is confidence in the environment.


We all know what it looks like when a horse is trying different things to get comfortable, the head coming up and down a little, the body adjusting left and right, the figuring out where in time and space one needs to be to get this right. That is confidence in learning.


Thoughts become actions (looking at something is an action) and this is where training starts.


If we can aim to build good habits in the action of attention, all the other actions follow that.


Here is the key: while all of us are individuals and long to be uniquely and freely ourselves, we also crave connection. We all seek someone who wants to do the things we want to do, we all want partners, we all want harmony and easy association with others around us.


That feeling of ease between characters is dependent on the development of complementary habits.


I truly believe it is our nature to perpetually seek balance between our love of freedom and our love of connection.


Our intrinsic motivation to develop new habits or strengthen old ones (on the horse or human side of the equation) is based on one of those loves- freedom or connection… or can we have both?


It starts with Flow…. A harmony of being that sets the base line for this relationship. Most likely one of the partners in the relationship is going to have to voluntarily give up their freedom for a moment to match the other.


When I start with a horse I match them, I give up my wants and desires and just watch what they are watching and move how they are moving.


Then, in order for my personal freedom to come into play, I have to ask the horse to do something I want to do. I have a choice, I can move towards a draw or a drive.


A draw is a suggestion, an option offered. I walk away and invite the horse to come with me, they can choose to or not.


If they give up their freedom for a moment and follow me, we have flow again. We are building habits that support deeper connection between the two of us.


If they ignore me completely they are exercising their freedom, but they are not developing reciprocal habits of connection. The horse in this case is in essence offering connection just on the horse’s terms; stand here with me and we are a team, do anything else and you are on your own.


Here is the challenge. Freedom and Connection are usually equally important, and I cannot get MORE connection by offering you MORE freedom. I can only get MORE connection by offering MORE connection. (I can often get better connection by offering you better freedom, but that is a nuance to explore in another blog). Simply- we get good at what we practice. Our actions become our habits.


Here is where drive comes up as an option. I am going to do something that is a direct request. My horse is going to feel pressure that increases until they do something that connects us more, and then they feel the release back into flow and partnership.


A halter and a lead line are a form of drive. I may be drawing away, but if they don’t follow me they will feel pressure until they make an effort to connect and do the thing I want to do.


Positive reinforcement training, best known recently as clicker training is a lovely sort of drive. The pressure the horse feels knowing you have a cookie to eat and he has none is eased, if he gives up his freedom for a moment and follows you, so that the cookie may be shared. That is drive.


In a more subtle drive, if I stare directly at my horse with all my focus and intensity and don’t give up, eventually the horse will do something. If that something is something I like, connecting us together, I reward it with Flow. A matching action of me looking in the same direction my horse is looking will be a preferable feeling for the horse. Repeat that enough times and you have a habit.



We are changing our habits all the time, and we are reinforcing our habits all the time. We are, all of us, comfort-seeking missiles. Living in a world where we find comfort in two apparent opposites, connection and freedom, is a rich environment for learning and growth.


The greater variety of things my horse and I can do together the richer our life experience will be. The only way to grow our skills is through this dance of Flow, Drive and Draw.


We do what you love, then we do what I love, then we do what you love, then we do what I love… and then as habits become established, we find we love the same things… or we change again.


Love it or Change it, one small piece at a time.


Here is to Freedom and Connection. We really can have both, that is what Freedom Based Training is all about.


Elsa Sinclair


Ps. If you want to learn more about Freedom Based Training, there is an internet based course in the development process right now that will be offered starting in September 2016. If you want to work with Elsa and Myrnah directly in this online format, email for more information or to get on the list of participants. We will be keeping the participating groups small and the format adaptable to the uniqueness of each horse/human pair.

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 and Wait


This evening I sat in the gravel against the side of the barn, tucked into the twilight shadow of Cleo. Her herd had left for pasture and the lush spring grass, and shortly after everyone left Cleo had come back, seemingly just to be with me.


I sifted gravel through my fingers and felt her nuzzle my cheek and blow in my hair. The weight of the world resting on us together for a moment, in this moment it was our world together.


My big bay Mustang mare, quiet of temperament, slow to find comfort, slow to reach out, slow to adjust to new situations – The deepest rivers flow with the least sound.


She is deep, so very deep, with a complex clarity of being I wish I more fully understood, as I wish I more fully understood my own complexity.


Myrnah seemed to choose me in her bold forthright manner, and taught me more than any horse I have every known as we did the project and made the movie “Taming Wild”.


Cleo and I ended up together almost by accident; in a torrent of events and amidst a sea of other stories, we found each other and fit together like matching puzzle pieces. We feel at home in each other’s complexity.


We both need time. Perhaps more time than anyone else can understand. We feel too much and drown in the currents of our emotions. We are capable and strong. We are intelligent and savvy.

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Our strength lies in our ability to wait.


There is a right time for everything, and waiting for that rightness is a skill.


I say in training all the time, it is not so much what you do…. It is when you do it. Timing is everything.


Take a step toward where you aim, and then wait.


Take a side step so you can see your aim from a different angle, and then wait.


Take a step back and see your goals from a different perspective, and then wait.


Step and wait, step and wait, step and wait.


I talked about this in the movie with Myrnah. Those still moments are where we feel safe. Those still moments are the moments that bond us together.


When you find one of those still moments. Wait, and soak it in.


All together too soon life will flood your experience with a torrent of activity, energy, and chaos because that is life. It can be counted on to change perpetually and constantly.


Waiting is where we build our strength for our next step. Don’t worry, we can’t wait forever. We just need a little more time, a little more time to feel bonded and safe and together.


Here is the key.


Waiting is not about distraction. Waiting is about being in the moment. Waiting is about feeling every grain of sand slip through the hourglass – feeling time pass and being aware of when it is time to take the next step.


There is no hurry, but we do need to show up.


I ride ten miles with Cleo every morning. We put aside three hours for this, even if I have to get her out of the pasture at four in the morning to take that kind of time. We don’t need three hours, but we need to think we have it if we want it. Cleo and I need time to build our strength, to feel our partnership, to be together.


I promise the book is being written, the online course that follows the movie is in development, there are clinics being planned, and a whole amazing community of people drawing together around the seed of the ideas that Myrnah planted for us in “Taming Wild”.


The steps keep getting taken, yet their power is in the waiting.


Cleo is helping me with that as she comes back to me and reminds me it’s OK to just be here, right now.


I encourage you, try it out in your own life, with your horses, and with your partners.


Find your strength in your still moments.


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.


How Much is Too Much?


I think all the time about how training horses is less about what we do than it is about when we do it. It is less about the actions we take than it is about the emotion we feel while we take them. It is the intangible pieces that make horse training challenging to teach.


I like the tangible, I like the understandable, I like the logical, I like the teachable. I refuse to give in to the classic natural horsemanship jargon that gets thrown around of “your energy needs to be right” whatever that means. Or, “it’s all in the intention; when you have the right intention, the horse will be with you”. How am I supposed to know what the right intention is?


Those two statements, and many like them, are absolutely true; and also I believe, very challenging to learn from.


I want to create physical step by step processes that we can walk through that let us experience what it feels like, on a personal level, to have the “right energy” or know what the “right intention” might be.


I think Myrnah has had the greatest impact on my learning, helping me through processes that allowed me to feel those “right feelings”.


Horses don’t have words, horses have movements; so we need to move with them to have a conversation. They will tell us when it is right and when it is less right; what they won’t tell us is what to do until we find those perfect moments.


The project with Myrnah was about finding out some of the things I could do on the way to better partnership.


There is a book in the works that will spell it out in a more linear fashion, and an online course I will teach starting this fall where we can walk together through bonding with our horses, and another movie plan on the horizon.


For now, enjoy the blog and the pieces of inspiration these ideas might light up in you. The movie “Taming Wild” will also be for sale shortly on the website


Today I want to talk about how much is too much. We think so much about what to do, we often forget how important it is to not do anything. We are determined communicators as humans, either with others, or lost in our own thoughts with ourselves. There is an art to being with someone else in quiet. There is an art to being mindful of when to talk and when to listen, and when to simply exist.


Here is how we know what to do when, and when to be quiet.


Check in with the emotional intensity and ask yourself, is this level of feeling, useful in this situation?


Is the thing you are doing right now causing the intensity of feeling?


If it is too much, break it down so you take a little action, and then take some time to just be. Then take a little action and then take some time to just be… and so on.


Once the feeling is of an appropriate intensity for the situation then we can do the action for longer and longer periods of time. As we come into this phase of training we look for the moments when it feels better and take some time to just BE on that mark.


In partnership with a horse, BEING together is being matched in movement or energy.


Here is where I see the common mistake: We like communicating and often are challenged by the neutral BEING time with our horses, so it is tempting to ask for things all the time.


We need to realize when too much is too much.


Can we be happy being with our horses? Or are they never quite good enough?


Ask for something, and then take time to enjoy it with them.


Or, if you didn’t get what you asked for, retreat a little and ask again.


If it is clear you are not going to get what you asked for without emotional upheaval, then ask for something more reasonable so you can enjoy what you and your horse CAN do together.


Here is where I come back to my original points:


It isn’t so much what you ask for as when you ask. Did you take some time to enjoy being with your horse exactly as they are first?


There are only six directions a horse can move – forward, backward, left, right, up and down. What you ask for can be any one of the six, it doesn’t matter, however, it does matter a great deal when you ask and when you are quiet.


It is less about the actions we take than it is about the emotion at play while we take them. If emotions are running too hot in either you or your horse, it is too much too soon. Break it down. If it feels great to both of you, you can do anything.


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.


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.” –


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.


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.” –


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.


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.


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

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.




October finds us taking a week away to the beach. Sand, Salt, Surf and the freedom that comes from wide-open spaces. Myrnah and I needed this time to just be with each other.


Living in the city, navigating traffic for hours on end each day, too many hours spent in front of a computer attending to the many details the movie demands, and chasing a schedule to pay the bills….. Sometimes the beauty of simply living gets lost in such business.


Long Beach, WA and the sweet cabin Naytura Haus nestled in the dunes was the spot Myrnah and I finished up filming the project in our first year together. Now it seems fitting to be here again as the movie is reaching its final editing stages.


I find myself reflecting on freedom this week and the balance we all seek as we notice there is a certain amount of commitment and focus and determination required to develop something new. All that intensity of focus can feel like the opposite of freedom sometimes. What happens when you let go?


Out on the beach, away from home, I keep a rope on Myrnah when we are out walking together, a reminder for both of us to stay connected. We mostly don’t test the limits of that connection; it’s just there to make me feel safer. However, the other day I found myself tired of carrying the rope around all the time, so off it came.


All went well for a time, walking, exploring, watching the world go by, Myrnah and I soaking up our freedom together. Then we found ourselves playing in the waves, and I pushed a little too hard, asking Myrnah for one turn too many too soon, and Myrnah’s independence overrode her desire to stay with me. With a head toss and a spin she ran off.


Here we are on twenty-six miles of wide-open beach, dunes, and woods stretching behind and my horse is trotting full speed away, and then stretching out into a gallop along down the beach.


Is this how our story ends? I took her out of the wild, brought her into my world and my story with all its corresponding focus and intensity. I may have always pushed her away from fences and used big spaces, encouraging her to feel free, but its different when you know the fences are there.


Here we were, real freedom, and I was watching the tail of my horse disappearing at a gallop in a straight line away from me. What happens now?


And then miraculously, she turned.


Galloping back to me, Myrnah ran head thrown up, nostrils flared, hooves pounding, and then circling around me just as fast as she had run away, all her power and speed and freedom coming back into my world.


I found myself remembering, “If they never run away, how can they ever run back?” Having a horse gallop straight toward you and watching all of their power and grace is one of the most beautiful experiences. When you know its just because they want to be with you…. There really is nothing quite like that feeling in that moment.


In THIS experimental training process with Myrnah my goal was to use only my body and presence as pressure or reward. I found it is possible, and it does forge a bond and understanding that is incomparable. It also leaves one wondering in moments, is that bond and connection enough?


In normal training, if I have a little more pressure available to me with a whip or rope to push my horse, or a little more reward, paying them for learning and working with grain or cookies or carrots, then doing things like running away and running back or working together at distance, all feel more reliable. I hold power over what my horse wants, and with practice, my horse finds herself wanting to work with me more than being free and independent.


In training a horse, you get out what you put in. I think that sometimes the more you bring to the relationship in terms of food or intensity pays back and you feel more connected.


In training Myrnah, this is more about how much of myself I can bring. I get out of this relationship what I put into it. If all I have is myself to give, can that be enough?


I believe it can be.


Elsa Sinclair