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Tag Archives: horse trainer

The Project:

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

Photo Sep 28, 10 54 06 PMThe Goal:

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


We all have less control than we think, and a lot more choices than we realize.

With horses we find ourselves in this magical situation where we can fly through time and space with a power and speed we could never have on our own. And we also find there is a state of calmness we tap into, simply being around them, that is broader and deeper and more easily reached than without them.

Millions of people are drawn into close relationships with horses every year wanting these feelings and experiences and then finding themselves up against the interesting reality that horses have choices in this too.

There will be those magical moments when the horse seems to want just what you want. Then there will be all the other moments, the sort of moments where you want calm and your horse is edgy or your horse wants to nap and you want to canter. This is where people start fighting for control.

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Somehow we think, if we take enough riding lessons or learn enough training theory or buy the perfect piece of equipment, we will find the means to control this thousand-pound animal into being the extension of ourselves we always dreamed of.

The sad part is sometimes we feel successful in gaining the control we thought we wanted. Our horse goes fast when we want to go fast and settles down when we want that too. Then we find ourselves longing a little for more of the magic that drew us into this relationship in the first place. We may have gained the control we thought we wanted, but we find ourselves wishing the horses seemed to want that relationship and these experiences as much as we do.

No matter how hard we try, gaining more control does not lead to the kind of magical connection experiences that drew us here in the first place. With intention and practice we may gain a great deal of control, but it will never be enough to get us what we really want.

Control is where we look into the past and wish we had done something differently so this moment would have turned out differently. Control is where we are concerned about what is going to happen in the future and think about ways we can make it turn out right. This might make us feel safer, but we lose the magic of being alive with all this control.

While we may have less control than we think, we tend to have way more choices than we realize. This is where we have the power to get what we want in life.

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Choice is about responding to current events.

Most of us make choices habitually without much thought, doing the things we have always done with only small variations on the theme.

So here is my challenge to all of you: Choose to consider your actions and your choices. For everything you do today, take a moment and think outside the box. Is there a choice you might make in this moment that you have never considered before? What would happen if you did? There are more options than you can imagine in every moment.

The choices you make today build what happens tomorrow, and, while you may have a lot less control over tomorrow than you think, you do have a lot more options today than you realize. When we start realizing that with our horses, that’s when they can be the partners we have been wanting all along.

Elsa Sinclair

Photo Sep 28, 10 54 48 PM

The Project:

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

_E0A2182The Goal:

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

Front_Of_Card_ELSABefore this week’s blog begins, I want to THANK EVERYONE who backed the kickstarter for the Documentary project over the last two months. If you have not joined us yet, click the link below, we have one last day of fundraising to go! Take a look at the trailer here! I am so excited we have such an amazing and strong group of people behind this film. The funds we have raised beyond the original budget are allowing us to complete the film in ways I had only dreamed possible. Thank you for helping this dream come into reality in the best ways!


The heart and soul of this project with Myrnah is really all about collaboration. What does it take to work together? What happens when she wants to do different things from me? What is force or coercion, and, if I stray into that territory, is it still collaboration or something else altogether? If I want to stay within the bounds of persuasion, what is persuasion, and how do I do it? How do I present myself as a leader she can trust? What actions would prove my worth as a good leader?

And then, importantly, once I address all these questions in my own mind, how do I communicate them to her using body language? I might believe telepathy is possible, and I might believe horses do learn to understand at least some of the words we speak, but this is a nuts-and-bolts physical process for me. How do I step into this relationship speaking Myrnah’s language?

Movement is the equivalent of words in this Horse/ Human relationship. A good conversation contains a back and forth flow of ideas with our movements being our words. Movements might be subtle: looking towards each other, looking away from each other. Or they might be more obvious: walking toward or away, forwards or backwards, reaching out to each other, pulling back from each other, body carriage high and tight or low and soft. Everything means something, everything says something, and then is understood as something by our partner.


How do we make this conversation a collaborative one? I believe it is all about where we take our rests, our pauses, our quiet moments. The message we convey, or understand, in the moment before a pause is the one that sticks with us and becomes the predominant feeling of the conversation. In the beginning we may need to stop everything completely and just breathe when we feel connection and collaboration. Later, as we get better at this, we may be able to simply match movements, stride for stride, breath for breath, existing together in movement as that quiet emphasis of collaboration.

What happens when my horse wants to do something different than I do? We talk about it, we move around the subject, and we keep conversing without fail until we find another point of agreement.

Points of agreement are the only moments that deserve a pause of quiet time. That is how we foster collaboration instead of dissidence in a relationship. That is how we prove the worth of our leadership.

A good leader has a goal and then adapts the goal to what his follower or followers are capable of doing, letting each success build on the strength of the previous successes. We hear it said, it’s all about the journey, not the destination; but what does that really mean? We may need a destination to lend us focus and purpose and clarity of conversation. Perhaps though, seeing the journey as a million small destinations along the path allows the journey to be as important than the destination.


When might a leader use force, or coercion? When might it be appropriate? Like I see most things, I see this on scale with persuasion on one end and force or coercion on the other end where we fall on the scale comes down to time limit. When we use persuasion we develop collaboration and that can take some time. When we use force or coercion we get varying degrees of cooperation or servitude, depending on the intensity. If there is an imminent physical danger threatening my horse (speeding cars, protective mother bears, cliffs or impending physical injury of any sort), it becomes important to me as a leader to step in with whatever means I have from violence to bribery – whatever it takes to avoid serious danger.

On the other hand, if my goal is simply to walk together from one side of the field to the other, what kind of hurry are we really in? There is clearly no need to invoke force, so what tools do we have to build collaboration.

We break the task down: Together, Walking, Field, Point A to Point B. Each of those elements is an opportunity to build collaboration, and to take pauses to appreciate the collaborative feeling. Collaboration is all about seeking out success. What CAN we do well together. Depending on the partnership, we may have to break that task down even smaller, either in time or in distance. We just have to remember, even if we break the time segments down, we can only rest on success, collaboration, and togetherness. If we can’t find those feelings, we have to simplify tasks further until we are able to find success.


So what happens if we don’t want to break this down any more, or take more time to develop it? What if we need to do this thing together today! Well, then it is going to come down to incentives, positive or negative; the clearer we are, the faster it goes.

Here is how I break it down: if the incentive for doing something is just the way WE FEEL GOOD TOGETHER agreeing on a course of action – that is persuasion.

If the incentive for doing something is based on avoiding a threat or seeking a reward to find a good feeling, that starts to stray into the territory of force or coercion in the relationship.

How much force or coercion we use has to do with how much time we have to get where we are going. How much are we willing to break it down and enjoy the journey with all its detours and meanderings? As leaders, how consistent and clear are we at only resting on success, never resting on disconnection?

These are skills to be honed and thoughts to be pondered. Horses give us an amazing workspace to develop our awareness, and then that awareness slowly spreads into everything we do and everywhere we go.


Force and coercion are part of our lives every day, and are not inherently bad. Collaboration is just better, when we can take the time to nurture it.

Most of us work for a pay check and that could be seen as a bribe. Most of us fear lacking food to eat if we don’t have money; that could be coercion to work. Seeking reward, avoiding threat, these are facts of life and functional ways to live a good life if they are reasonable. Some of us may even feel we still need them as motivational forces shaping our lives for the better.

Just imagine, though, those moments when you go to work just because it feels good and you would do it even if you didn’t get paid. That is collaboration.

Imagine if you knew you didn’t ever have to do anything you didn’t want to do: you would always be fed and housed and loved and appreciated and have anything you needed, yet you still wanted to work for and with others just because it felt good. That is collaboration.

So as you go through your days this week, notice when life can be a conversation and a journey with a million small successes along the way -where the motivation is just about how good it feels to live. Also notice where there is something important that needs to get done, and the motivation of avoiding threat or seeking reward is useful to get that job completed in a timely manner.

It’s your life, you choose how you want to live it!

Elsa Sinclair


Meditations on Equestrian Art

Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. ~Mary Oliver


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.


And it begins again….. Perhaps it never ended, only paused for a brief moment. Life is like that, with horses and everything else.

Our pause, on the blog here, has not been completely still; it has in fact been quietly moving. Myrnah and I have been working, in slow evolution along with Cleo and Saavedra and Zohari and so many others. One small tendril at a time reaching out to embrace another student, dusty arenas and grassy pastures holding us as we delve a little deeper- deeper into what it is to walk with a horse, shoulder-to-shoulder feeling that bond of choice and understanding with another being while delving into one’s self.


I often find myself asking why? Why do I do THIS work with horses? The practice we walk here seems sometimes too permissive, too allowing of behaviors that other training practices would cut short. Yet, being here with the horse, allowing her to be authentic and true to herself is the most healing work I have ever done. Yes, healing for me. The development of the horse though this training, while profound, has always been secondary to the peace is brings ME, time and again.

There are the physical aspects of this work: the breakdown of how to walk through the practice, the introduction of the ideas to new students, the organization of film footage, and the launching of the Kickstarter this week. The documentary is finally in it’s homestretch! Please take a look, help me spread the word, and help us fund the completion of the film with the fullness it deserves.

Then, there is the personal side of this story: the heart and soul of this project that reaches deep into who we are as people, who we are as horses, who we are together, and the longing that gave birth to this project.

The title of this blog is not used lightly. I usually play my cards close to my chest in this part of the story, sharing only the parts of myself that might be publicly digestible and acceptable. Today I am going to take some advice from Brene Brown; “When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending.” Myrnah, and this project, Meditation on Equestrian Art: this has been me writing a new ending for myself.

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”

lookWhen I was sixteen I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. There is a shame that comes with emotions one can’t control, and that shame leads quickly to a double life. The person we want to be, the one who is lovable and can engage with the world, all charm and beauty intact, then, there is the other person- battered by inexplicable grief. Emotion so deep with an undertow so strong, all rational thought is lost for a time.

As a society, we live for emotion, every movie and novel is a chance to live vicariously though someone else’s emotional experience. These are packaged nicely, with a beginning, middle and end, with a rise and fall of intensity, and with the comfort of being able to know it was just a story, and one can step neatly out of it, back into a rational experience at any time. For a person with a depressive disorder, there is no stepping out of the story. The emotion becomes the only thing that exists.

You might be surprised how many of us walk beside you, work beside you, are your best friends, lovers, children, and you have no idea the internal war that is waged, day in and day out.

Our shame is a powerful thing as we battle to stay in control of emotions we can’t be in control of. Often each battle we win, only makes us feel closer to losing the war. We never own up to how often we stand on the edge of a bridge, wondering, Is this the moment I jump? Or drive our cars wondering how fast we would need to go, and what solid thing we would need to hit to end the pain.

To admit those things would be to hurt the ones we love, and this isn’t about hurting our loved ones, this is about surviving ourselves.

I consider myself to be high functioning. I love my job, I love the understanding I bring to people and horses. It means the world to me that I bring this light to others. On the flip side, it is my family who has often paid the price as I sort through how to survive being me.

I am loved and I love deeply…. And yet still, when a spouse or a lover comes around the corner in the kitchen to find me curled in a corner, knees pressed to my chest, rocking back and forth as I quietly sob out a sadness that seems to have no origin, it takes a toll on them. And when it repeats too often…. and intrudes in too many ways, in too many places, I find myself trying even harder to separate into two people- one public and one buried.

We all long for a happily ever after, but this disease often doesn’t end well. Three out of five people diagnosed with bipolar disorder end in suicide. There is no known cure for this, only an array of drugs to dampen the intensity with the hope that that is enough to get us through each episode.

I have always chosen to live without drugs- to feel every moment of each high and each low, because I want to experience the fullness of every moment of life I get to live, or am able to survive. Perhaps I am just one of the lucky ones who can survive this course without drugs. I think, though, it’s the horses.Kiss

The horses have always been there for me. They have been strong for me when I was weak, and fast for me when I was slow, and my stabile when the world rocked under my feet.

When all I can feel is soul searing grief that rips me to shreds, the horses, they lean in, their shoulder against mine, their weight and warmth there for me to lean on until this passes, because it always does. In the wake of such grief, there is a clarity that comes to be and an awareness of how poignantly beautiful life really is.

Myrnah and I may have embarked on a revolutionary training process, clarity and purpose brought to life; and it may have been successful beyond what I had ever imagined. Yet, beyond that physical process, this story is also very personal. This journey is about healing and heartache, authenticity and rewriting the end of my story, one hoofbeat at a time.

It’s not over yet. The best is yet to come.

Elsa Sinclair