In May 2018 me and my family went to Portugal for a riding holiday – to Sundance Ranch. I had already had e-mail communication with Sandra, who owns the place, for a few months. We had discussed our thoughts around keeping and training horses – both in general and in connection with riding holidays.
I felt that I really had found the place that was aligned with my ideas and values, and this trip was a step in the right direction for me and for what I want to accomplish with this blog.
A couple of days before arrival she sent me an e-mail saying that I should check out Elsa Sinclair and her Freedom Based Training. She told me that they have implemented her methods of communication with the horses at Sundance Ranch, and that this is something we will go through. I must admit that I had never heard of Elsa before, so I started to search for information. I became very fascinated by this woman!
The Taming Wild project
It all started with a question; What if the horses were given a choice? Would they let us ride them? Without force or tools to control and without bribes to lure them? These questions were burning inside of her for an answer, so she initiated a project called “Taming Wild”.
The idea was to start with a wild horse with no previous experiences with humans and try to develop a method of communication based on body language. Would the horse allow her to ride without using any physical tools? She gave the project one year and documented the process. The result was an inspiring documentary that I recommend for you to see. It can be found here.
The adoption of a wild Mustang
To find a suitable horse without previous experiences with humans, she chose to adopt a wild Mustang. The Bureau of Land Management manages the number of wild horses in the US, and due to overpopulation, they gather a large number of horses each year and put them up for adoption. Elsa picked out a mare that had just arrived, and that was fresh and inexperienced. She was given the name Myrnah. Along with Myrnah they also brought a second mare, so they had company in each other.
Patience and self discipline without physical tools
In the documentary we are following Elsa and Myrnah through ups and downs through the year, and it is fascinating to see the kind of self-discipline and patience she possesses, how persistence she is and what results can come of that. As she writes in her blog;
“This is the slowest possible way to train a horse, and this is the most important piece of Freedom Based Training for me. Taming that wild streak inside myself that wants what I want when I want it”
This is so true! I can recognize myself in this together with my horse quite often. I want a relationship with my horse based on mutual respect and trust, but when he wants something else than me, and when he is not motivated for the tasks I give him, it is easy to just demand him to do it. I want what I want when I want it!
Elsa worked slowly step by step, only by using bodylanguage, patience and presence with a horse that is free to leave at any time. No physical tools were used, no fences to push her against, and no treats. She reached her goal, and in the end, she got permission to get up and ride.
In my opinion this can be achieved by all of us, but we have to think outside of the box and accept that it takes time – a lot of time! We may not have this time available, or we might not want to give it the time it takes? Even though it is not realistic or necessary for everyone to follow this method, I’d wish that we at least could implement some of it in our daily routine with the horses. Spend more time together without making any demands and give the horse time to think and react when asking for anything.
Elsa Sinclair has clinics around the world, have on several occasions been to Sundance Ranch where her principles are practiced. If you don’t have the opportunity to take part in her clinics, you can learn it there. I just got a little taste of it when I visited Sundance Ranch as I only had a couple of days available, but I got a lot of inspiration and want to learn more!
I recommend that you take a look at her blog; https://equineclarity.org/