Taming Wild Mustangs


For the last three days I’ve been fulfilling a longtime Wildly Improbable Goal, watching my friend Koelle and some of her Equus coaches taming wild mustangs here at the ranch. It’s just amazing. And it’s reminded me how we really change our lives, and the world, for the better: calmly, kindly, joyfully.

Before our two mustangs arrived, Koelle showed us some film of a typical “breaking” process: terrified horses thrashing and kicking for weeks on end as they’re roped, chained, and otherwise overpowered by humans. Koelle uses a method so gentle she often uses nothing more than eye contact—and it works far, far better than violence. 

In fact, the Equus coaches are using such subtle body language to connect with the horses that it often looks as though they’re simply standing near the mustangs, completely relaxed, barely moving. That’s the energy that allows the horses to calm down and learn that it’s safe to be herded and handled. When I walk around the barn to the mustang paddock, I’m hit by a wall of stillness so sweet it makes me gasp. And this stillness has done more in three days than traditional “breaking” can accomplish in weeks. Better yet, no one is suffering. 

More and more, I feel that this is the way we are meant to do everything. Exertion must be limited to fun; to create what we want in our lives and the world, we must find peace and stay there. 

Today, look upon your life, your bank account, your family, each person you meet, as a wild horse. If a problem looks difficult, relax. If it looks impossible, relax even more. Then begin encouraging small changes, putting just enough pressure on yourself to move one turtle step forward. Then rest, savor, celebrate.  Then step again.  You’ll find that slow is fast, gentle is powerful, and stillness moves mountains.

photo: phyllis lane | www.phyllislane.com

24 replies
  1. Pam Williams
    Pam Williams says:

    I love this! I know this to be true I KNOW it. Sometimes its so hard not to push myself when I don’t feel ready, or to get anxious that my daughter doesn’t understand her homework. It’s so good to be reminded to just relax, and trust, and breath. Thank you Martha.

  2. Diane
    Diane says:

    Hi – Thank you Martha – I actually use this method on my dog! My beautiful black lab. He does not like the leash, so I stand by the door, leash in hand, calm myself, sometimes sing 🙂 and within seconds he is standing in front of me as a willing participant. I also have an autistic son who reminds me to “calm down, relax, breath” when he sees me anxious. Today I am taking small steps to relax and enjoy.

  3. Cecelia
    Cecelia says:

    Thank you for sharing this! Horses have been a part of my life since I was a little girl. They are powerful, gentle teachers and mirror back to us who we are and our energy.

  4. Heather
    Heather says:

    I want this to be true. I believe it can be true. Love is radical. The peaceful path has been the road less traveled, but as Liz Lemon would say, “I want to go to there.”

  5. Marcia Walker
    Marcia Walker says:

    I am so glad I read this before going into a meeting with one of my sons teachers this morning. I wanted to rip this man a new one for the way he has treated my child. Reading this I took a step back. SHaming this teacher like he shamed my son is not at all benefical in the short or long run. I went in calm and gentle. The teacher and I talked about how we can work together to help my son be successful. I did not leave that meeting like a puffed-up rooster thinking, “Ha, take that! I got you!” I left envisioning some grace, understanding and assistance for my son.
    Thank you for the timely articale.
    I love horses.
    Thank you for the timely articale.

  6. Karla
    Karla says:

    thanks for this one, Martha! Your quote of the day came at the perfect time as I’ve been in a state of anxiety (resisting reality) for most of the day. just reading your quote had me relax, breathe easier, know that’s it’s going to be ok. thanks & love ya! p.s. I think my totem animal might be an ostrich – the one with its head in the sand.

  7. Jane
    Jane says:

    Couldn’t agree more!
    I have been mistaking that stillness for fear, but on it has proven effective, in my life.Start something, one step at a time, and everything falls into place way faster than with huge Don Qixote efforts …

  8. Jane CR
    Jane CR says:

    Hey Jessica & Martha 🙂

    A couple of weeks ago I read something about tests that Koelle developped and that we could do/buy online,I just do not remember what it was, can you help me? Thx’

  9. Renee
    Renee says:

    Two things, I am learning about slow. Went on a walk and thought about the six ducks I some times see. That day I knew I would see them,, there were thirteen this time plus two herons. I walked slowly thinking about them and did not expect to see the ducks. I just had good thoughts about them.
    Went on another walk two days ago and was admiring the trees. Saw a cute dog who watched me. When I looked at him with no thoughts, he grabbed a toy and shook it furiously. I realized he was home alone and wanted me to come play with him. I sadly declined. Thanks Martha!,,!

  10. Ludovica
    Ludovica says:

    This was what Monty Roberts has been teaching for years.
    Monty Roberts is also known as ‘the man who listens to horses’. He made a revolution with his gentle way to communicate with horses and other animals. He called the horses’ language EQUUS. By using this language he trains horses without any violence or suffering.

    • Jessica Steward
      Jessica Steward says:

      Hi Ludovica: Martha’s dear friend, Koelle Simpson, is also a “Horse Whisperer” and trained extensively with Monty Roberts. Martha has also worked with him and discusses her experience in “Finding Your Way in Wild New World.” Cheers!


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