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Tag Archives: first ride

The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One trainer, No tools, Just body language

The Goal:

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

Myrnah’s gift

When I began this project with Myrnah I imagined it as an isolated project. Interesting, yet separate and completely different from the rest of the training and teaching I do. Never have I been so thrilled to be wrong. Instead of the project being separate and different, I find the things Myrnah teaches me permeate and improve everything else I do. Myrnah’s gift to me, showing me a relationship with horses from a completely different angle, seems to spread all through my work like ripples in a pond.

The developmental processes Myrnah has helped me learn, the processes that I didn’t have a year ago, profoundly benefit the horses and the people I come in contact with everyday. So any of you who get to work with me, next time we have a great session together, Thank Myrnah!

This week, with its beautiful sunny days, white puffy clouds, and a school vacation, brings me to tell you about Cameron and Antheia. Cameron is my daughter, ten years old, and loves horses just about as much as I do. Antheia is the grey mustang filly coming three years old this spring. Thanks to Myrnah’s inspiration, this week was truly special for Cameron and Antheia.

Antheia and Cleo are the only two horses still living in the paddocks at my house. The pastures down in the valley with the lush abundant grass are a wonderland for any horse getting enough exercise to work off the sugar. For the horses not yet under saddle, all that food can be too much of a good thing… so for now Cleo and Antheia stay in the upland paddocks close to home with Cameron and me.

Antheia is a love- innately social with a playful mind and a steady disposition, eager for anything new and fun the world can bring her. At close to three-years-old I wasn’t in a hurry to start her riding career; however, I knew she and Cameron would both enjoy the development process immensely. So with the combination of sunny days, time on our hands, and Myrnah’s gift of inspiration, I broached the idea to Cameron, and the game was on!

Day one: Cameron groomed Antheia loose in the paddock and then I talked her through the drive and draw process Myrnah and I use. Slowly and patiently Cameron used the pressure of moving in and out of Antheia’s space to create the magnetic draw bonding them together. I was surprised how hard Antheia made Cameron work for it, and I was impressed with Cameron’s perseverance as she developed her timing to attract and draw Antheia with her. Once they made it to the round pen together, Antheia following Cameron freely at liberty, Cleo and I came in too and helped speed the process along.

The game was for Cameron to use as much drive and draw and patient persistence as she felt good about. If it felt like Antheia was not holding up her side of the equation- drawing to Cameron- then we could switch games, sending Cleo and Antheia out to take a run around the round pen together, knowing Antheia would be much more interested in working with Cameron once she knew the alternative.

My work with Myrnah has encouraged me to minimize sending horses away, pushing them to move because they are trapped between a fence and me. Nonetheless, tools like a round pen were created with good reason- they speed up the process. Not everyone has the time and the patience to take the slowest road of development. Cameron and Antheia’s work this week was inspired by Myrnah, yet tailored for them.

By the end of day one, Cameron had taught Antheia to draw with her and find a resting spot next to the tires stacked as a mounting block.

















Day two found the draw a little easier between them, and a comfortable ease with Cameron climbing up on the makeshift mounting block to stand up high over Antheia’s back and belly over, letting Antheia feel weight for the first time ever.













Day three graduated naturally to Cameron swinging a leg over and sitting high, Antheia carrying a rider astride for the first time.

















Day four Cameron was on and off a dozen times, sitting longer each time, finally riding as a passenger as Antheia chose to walk over and step up on the pedestal-

TA DA!!! .















Day five the draw between Cameron and Antheia was almost effortless, so they added to the groundwork the practice of pressure on Antheia’s side to mean move forward, linking beautifully with the riding. By the end of day five Cameron could ask for a walk with the nudge of a heel, and Antheia was happy to oblige.











There is something special about starting your first horse under saddle; it is an experience you don’t forget. Thanks to Myrnah, Cameron and Antheia took that experience up a notch- no saddle and no bridle or halter, just an understanding between them. I got to watch from the sidelines, simply offering words of encouragement and shining a light on their path.

I sat on the ground, Cleo standing guard over me as I snapped photos and reveled in watching another horse and rider experience the inexplicable joy that comes with building a bond and doing something new together. There is really nothing quite like it.

Myrnah’s gift I think is really about realizing how powerfully rewarding it is to do things with more trust and less force. It may take longer, it may feel harder, it may seem pointless at times, but there is nothing comparable to the feeling you get doing something new, knowing your partner wants to be there with you. Nothing is holding you, but the desire to be there together.

Elsa Sinclair

The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One trainer, No tools, Just body language

The Goal:

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




Progress with Myrnah is a meandering path of smelling the roses. We have plenty of goals we would like to reach; however, the journey is entirely more important than any destination. As you all know, I sat on Myrnah a couple of times back in October while she was eating hay, and she was completely at ease about it. Then abruptly she decided she didn’t like weight on her back, and we embarked on what seemed like an endless discussion developing her tolerance of my getting on and off. Our training in that area largely seemed to plateau, and every time I broke the process down, it seemed I needed to break it down some more, take it slower, wait with more quiet understanding, and enjoy the moments with her regardless. I am pleased to say yesterday we had a breakthrough!


Every day Myrnah and I practice moving together: walking trotting, turning, and generally traveling through space side by side with as much grace as we can muster. The fun part is, she continually asks me if we can stop at the mounting block and play that game instead. Even though she can’t tolerate my sitting on her back for more than a moment, she seems to trust me to respect her apprehensions and is drawn to the process of learning about weight on her back as much as I am. For months now all she could tolerate was a moment of my sitting on her. I would slide on, feel every muscle tense up for a reactive explosion, and I would slide off. If I wasn’t quick enough, I would be sliding off as she scooted forward or backward. Myrnah’s tension was instantly high enough in response to weight on her back there wasn’t any chance of asking her to bend her neck around to look at me, or really to ask anything at all of her. All we could do was quietly and patiently play advance and retreat, allowing her to realize the weight was only temporary.

This week on Tuesday and Wednesday came the breakthrough in riding. Myrnah and I had begun pushing the envelope a little in terms of trotting together side by side: another exercise which she was brilliantly relaxed about back in October, yet became averse to shortly thereafter. So each day we patiently played advance and retreat with the movements, enjoying the time together regardless of the apparent progress.


On Tuesday when we began to advance to trot more frequently (yet briefly) Myrnah became more and more insistent that the game at the mounting block was the one she would rather play. Once there I would take my time to settle with her and then slide on where, to my surprise, on this day, her tension would come up only slowly giving me a few more seconds to sit there each time before I slid back to the ground. It may not seem like much to the outside observer, but after months of approach and retreat the change felt dramatic and exciting to me.


Wednesday we played more of the same and were even able to start asking for a bend around, Myrnah’s nose coming over to investigate my hand or my foot any time I asked. And then we began to move together. The first few times it was a pure offer from Myrnah: a few hesitant steps forward followed by her reaching around to touch me as if to ask if we were still all right. Pretty soon I was able to ask for those few steps, my leg just behind her elbow asking her to move, just like we have been practicing using hand pressure when we walk side by side. We traveled no more than perhaps six steps each time I sat on her, and sometimes we just stood and didn’t travel at all. The breakthrough in interest between Myrnah and me about riding together felt amazing.

It really has been interesting to train Myrnah without any recourse of action when she says no. When I have tools I have all sorts of games of distraction I can play to get around a no. With Myrnah, all we can do is sit with it, play with it, let it be, and let her say no as many times as she needs to before she decides she is ready to say yes.


I honestly don’t know if this is the best way to train a horse. I don’t know if Myrnah is any happier or better off than any of the other horses I train using more tools of force. I do know, however, this process is teaching me more about horses every day than I ever imagined it would. Myrnah I feel is teaching me every bit as much I am teaching her, and the high of the breakthrough this week, simple as it was, means more to me than most of what I have accomplished with my other horses over the years.


I don’t know how it is that one simple little change can feel so monumental. This breakthrough is worth every moment I have spent patiently approaching and retreating for months. It feels like there are no words to convey the brilliance of this moment for Myrnah and I, but trust me, it’s all worth it.


Elsa Sinclair

The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range

One trainer

No tools

Just body language

The Goal:

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


First Ride On Myrnah

As life with Myrnah seems to be, this week was both unassuming and life changing all at the same time. Long story short: I took my first ride on Myrnah and I am flying high about this next step in the journey.

The details are more modest and quiet than the headline would lead you to believe. I love that dichotomy of quiet unassuming details gathering together for results that seem bigger than the sum of their parts.

Tuesday morning Margaret was here to do some filming for me. Myrnah and I went through our routine of grooming, basic yielding, and walking together. We went out the gate of the paddock into the woods to explore, and, when she found the bucket with a little bit of hay in it, I noticed there was a rock right next to us. It wasn’t planned, it just made sense to step up on it and belly over her back while she nibbled bits of hay. This moment in itself is monumental because, as recently as a week ago, Myrnah would have been irritated with me for distracting her from eating. Tuesday Myrnah didn’t mind at all.

I got off and on several times- just bellied over, my full weight on her for far longer than ever before. Myrnah stayed unconcerned, so I threw a leg over her back and used the rock to push me up astride. One leg on either side, I laid on her neck, relaxed, peaceful, feeling her breath, listening to her chew, watching carefully for any signs she might like me to get off. After awhile I decided I had pushed far enough into new experiences and got off to resume my more customary position next to her.

When she finished eating, Myrnah took me on far more exploration of the woods than ever before. Showing confidence and exuberance, she sometimes picked up the trot and let me run alongside her, seemingly just for the joy of doing so.

We were out for hour more or less, before she took me back to the gate, then to the trailer letting me know she had had enough exploration and would like to go have breakfast. I like this routine we have created. At some point we will take this pattern and apply it to traveling to other places to explore. Myrnah loves the trailer as it is where she gets to eat the rich, Eastern-Washington hay. One of these mornings, when we feel ready, I will let her in the trailer, close the door, and take her somewhere new to explore together- somewhere fenced where she can’t get in trouble with traffic or danger, yet somewhere that isn’t home. We will travel around side by side or riding and explore the world, returning to the trailer for the remainder of breakfast whenever she is ready, and make the return trip home.

Until then we will continue exploring more parts of the woods close to home, continue developing her confidence carrying me, and continue honing her trust to let me direct her speed and direction with increasing accuracy.

Beyond the simple dictates of essential training I have begun to widen Myrnah and Cleo’s social context, expanding their trust in humans beyond myself, and giving a few wonderful friends the chance to walk through the steps of earning trust and feeling connection with recently wild horses.

I also put a new horse in with them for the first time this week. Lir, a two-year-old Gypsy horse was a perfect first domestic companion for them to know, even-tempered, respectful, and easygoing even in the presence of horses less so. I was there with them for the first few hours, sending Cleo or Myrnah away from Lir and me when they showed any aggression, allowing them to be close with us when they remained polite. I understand horses will work things out as they need to in a herd; I also need them to understand that aggression has no place anywhere around people. When people are present all communication needs to remain polite.

Cleo seemed to understand me completely right away. I only saw her coil for one kick at Lir. I sent her away and after that she was the model of civility when I was around. Even when I was on the other side of the paddock she might be standing next to Lir, reach out to touch him, and then look over to me quickly to make sure I was OK with that, then reach out again commencing a game of touching each other with their noses- a game that looked surprisingly similar to the games I play accustoming Cleo to being touched by me.

Myrnah was not so convinced Lir was a good addition. Time and again she would approach and then pin her ears, bare her teeth, and charge. When I was there, I would send her away. She would move a few feet off, look at me and then walk to a different spot in the paddock, as though she hadn’t a care in the world. I know she ran Lir around the paddocks some when I wasn’t there to enforce civility, but after a few days they had formed some sort of truce and would pass each other like two ships in the night, carefully avoiding aggravating each other.

Lir left on Monday to go to his other home on Orcas. The Mustangs are again on their own for a little while. Soon another companion will come up for them to get to know as winter is fast approaching and dry spaces to live are in high demand here. Hopefully, by the time spring is on the horizon, before the foal is imminent, Myrnah and Cleo will be out in a pasture bonding with the larger family of horses who will be family to the new little one.

I don’t know what it is about mile stones that makes me want to look ahead in anticipation of future mile stones. First ride on Myrnah this week, just ten weeks from being wild on the range. When the other miles stones will fall into place only time will tell.

I will keep you posted,

Elsa Sinclair