Little Update: We’ve moved!

On Sunday, I loaded the boys up and we set off for our new digs!


The boys are happily getting to know their new barn.


They have their own stables at night, but get turned out during the day. Best of both worlds!!!!

1975081_783827081639734_4138671909031463784_nI also have been having a bit of fun with my GoPro camera. Here is a cute little clip of Picasso and I in the irrigation canal a couple of weeks ago. Picasso has his water wings on and we do a beautiful synchronized swimming routine.

Click here to view

More coming soon from the boys as we really get into some good training and progress.

I also wanted to introduce a new character into our little story:

This is Cochise!


While I was away in Australia, my mother bought her very first horse! It’s been a few years in the making with some good candidates, but no suitable horse! But we were fortunate to find Mr Cochise here through my friend Miranda Payne.

Cochise is a 7 year old appendix quarter horse. He technically qualifies as a paint by his markings, but really he’s a quarter horse with lots of “chrome.”


Cochise is as sweet as honey. Very quiet and even tempered. He is a nice “mother safe” horse.


So look forward to watching his journey as well!

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Episode 91

First month of work for the boys!

It’s been a little over a month since I got home. Seems so much longer. I still long for Australia and the many people I made into friends and family there.

I’ve been lightly restarting with the boys. During this month home, I worked them about 4 days a week. Sometimes more, sometimes less. They are very out of shape (I know round is a shape, but we won’t go into that right now…) and need to be brought back gently. The facility they vacationed at, practically Club Med for Horses complete with water features and a buffet, does not have a riding arena. I semi-transformed one of the paddocks into a workable area, but due to the drought and the type of soil in the area, the ground is rather hard. Not wanting to put unnecessary stress on the boys and their joints, I did not work them very hard. I limited the workouts to 15-20 mins with plenty of walking.

So as I will discuss in the episode, both Picasso and Aries improved between the first and second filming. In different ways….

Aries got steadier and more confident with Manolo’s in hand work and the cavesson. He seems to enjoy the work because it makes his body feel good. And for Aries, happy body is happy mind! Even after some stellar body work by Tom Mayes, Aries still has some stiff areas we will need to work through like his shoulders. But time and progression will take care of that.

Photo Sep 09, 1 53 44 PM

Tom working on Aries

Little man to man talk...

Little man to man talk…

Picasso is a bit of a different story. Picasso has a condition called OCD which effects his bones and cartilage. In his case, he has 2 decent size “cysts,” one at the end of each femur bone. A less than ideal location…. He has had 2 surgeries throughout his life to try and improve the situation. He was one of the first horses to be treated for OCD with stem cells, which is now a common practice. But, 7 years ago, not many vets thought to use stem cells for that purpose. It was considered a success since Picasso went from being deemed unrideable by the vets at UC Davis to a riding horse!!!!

Anyway, when Picasso is fit and working, he’s great! But I have to carefully manage him and keep him even. But when he is out of shape or overweight, he can get very sore. And bringing him back is a very long, slow process. Spanish horses in general are slow to build muscle, but they keep their condition for much longer. Lipizzans are known to last well into their 20’s with a reasonable amount of correct work.

Picasso also had Tom Mayes visit him and was able to get lots of releases. But it’s a long process to rebuild and sculpt muscle. So although Picasso is improved overall by the second filming, he is still not his best. He also never skipped a single blade of grass while I was away…. and when you even mention the word diet, I hear an audible gasp escape his mustached lips…

So please enjoy the episode. I hope to be able to publish an episode once a month, but don’t hold me to that schedule! It’s a pretty busy time right now, but I will do my best to share as much as possible.

I also have a limited availability for offering lessons and I have 1 space for a horse in training, short term. So if you’d be interested in having me work with you and your horse, email me! I’m in the process of getting a new website done, so for now just email me here:

I’m currently in the Sacramento area and make regular trips to Sonoma County.


By the way, BIG shout out to Jill Wagner of Jill Wagner Photography for helping me film and take pics of the boys!

Click here for EPISODE 91

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A month at home

Ok, so I have to apologize. I easily forget that some of you, many of you, are not on Facebook! I have a page there for To the Heart of a Mustang, and I post to it a few times a week. Anyway, I’ve been merrily posting away, neglecting my fantastic group on the blog!

So I am sorry…. And here’s an update!

Picasso and Aries are great!!!! I have been lunging them several days a week. We are in the process of finding a new facility to move to because the place they have been living does not have an arena. I have semi-converted a paddock into a work space, but it’s only temporary.

I do want to say a HUGE thank you to Rancho Arroyo, owned by Oscar and Anne. They have taken very good care of the boys while I was away. They happily enjoyed large pastures and plenty of grass.

Photo Sep 11, 4 32 32 PM Photo Sep 11, 9 50 46 PMAnd guess what?!?! I RODE ARIES!!!!

Photo Sep 16, 12 49 10 PM

Just bareback, but he was relaxed and happy!

I had body worker Tom Mayes of Integrated Equine Therapies come and work on both Aries and Picasso.

Photo Sep 09, 1 49 55 PM Photo Sep 09, 1 53 44 PM Photo Sep 09, 2 22 20 PMBoth horses did very well and Tom was able to give both boys a once over and cleared out all of their little ouchies and sore spots.

Photo Sep 16, 11 40 51 AMAnd for the first time in a long time, I can ride Picasso without any pain for him!!! He has OCD in his stifles and I have struggled over the years to keep him pain free and comfy. Well, aside from being a little fluffy around the middle, he’s back to his old playful self.


New video episode coming your way early next week!!!!!! Comparing the boys from their first week of work to now!





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Learnings from La Mancha

I have tried repeatedly since getting home to put into words what I learned during my time at Equestrian La Mancha studying under Manolo Mendez and his assistant trainer Chantelle Matthews. And I think that the full extent of what I learned will come out with time, practice, and more learning. Plus, as I encounter new horses and learn more, I will find new ways to apply knowledge and have flashes of insight.


One thing about learning Manolo’s way: you can’t force it. The understanding comes to you when it does, not sooner, not later. You can’t read about it and get it. It actually comes in flashes of insight. Manolo and Chantelle showed me what they did, explained why, and gave me some tools to use, but the how, when, where, and why for each horse and each circumstance must come in its own time.
I remember I was lunging a young horse in the indoor arena one day. He passed in front of the windows so his back was silhouetted against the light.
I said, “OH MY GOD, I see it!!!!!
Chantelle was standing outside the arena, she said “You see what?”
“The back!!! The vertebrae!!!! I can see each of them! How they move together! I can see where one is stiff and stuck! I can see the rest moving evenly! Wow, how did I not see that before?”
She laughed at me.
So as I work with more and more horses, I will have more and more of those moments. Flashes of insight and understanding. I’ll be doing this for 6 lifetimes before I catch up to Manolo’s prowess, but it’s a worthy goal to pursue.
So even though I haven’t fully grasped all that I have learned yet, I feel I can speak about some overarching concepts.
I have always tried to understand the horse. I studied horses and tried to do things in a way that worked best for them and for me. But I still was someone who looked at the relationship with the horse as a hierarchy: I am the leader, you do as I say. And even though I was “nice” about it, that view of horses got me only so far.
I watched Manolo and Chantelle for hours and hours. I saw them artfully lead their horses through movements and patterns with the horses happily accepting their direction. Was it always perfect? No. Nothing ever is. But even in disagreement, these trainers did not slam the door on the horse and say, “I’m the leader, you do as I say.” They engaged in a conversation.
Now this is not to imply that horses don’t need boundaries. Every social creature needs to know what is expected of it during any interaction, but Manolo’s way incorporates discipline and boundaries into a dance rather than a dictatorship.
Speaking of dance, one concept that was crystallized for me was that what we do with horses is truly a dance in every sense of the word. I am a dancer outside of riding. I know a few dance styles and value each of them for their unique steps, rhythms, and music. But each style has one commonality….the lead and the follow are partners in the dance. My favorite dances are those where I, as the follow, am nearly as instrumental to constructing the dance as the lead. Does the lead still initiate the moves? Yep, but I have the most fun when the lead feels my feet and leads moves that go with the music and with me. And a lead that allows, even encourages, me to interject my own style, my own personality into the dance; those are the best. I come alive during those dances.
With horses…it should be the same!!!!!
Manolo always says, “With the horse, it’s the same. Always the same.” No difference except that the horse is a much larger follow, and because his body is shaped differently, the lead must accommodate the horse’s ability to move in the directions and postures we ask for. So now when I ask for something, I not only prep the horse as a lead would for a follow, but I also ask in a way that I, as a dancer, would like to be asked. I tell ya, if I had someone dance me around the floor by forcing me or jerking on my arm or not paying attention to where I am and where my feet are, I would never accept another dance with that person again. Most horses don’t have that choice. But I will strive to be the best dance partner for them.


For what the horse does under compulsion, as Simon also observes, is done without understanding; and there is no beauty in it either, any more than if one should whip and spur a dancer. ~Xenophon

Another concept I expanded on while at La Mancha: each horse is unique and different from day to day. This is kind of a “duh” statement, but I think few actually realize it’s meaning.
Above everything else, Manolo customizes. He customizes each lunge or ride to the horse he’s with. But I don’t just mean he customizes the patterns or movements. He changes what he will ask for based on how the horse feels that day and based on what he’s done in the previous days.
Is it hot today? Did the horse do a very hard workout yesterday? Has the horse been struggling with a new movement? Is it a breeding stallion who just bred the day before? Did the horse have the day off yesterday? All of these factors will have an impact on how the horse is to ride TODAY. And Manolo changes what he wanted to work on based on what he feels from the horse. Really, I don’t think he ever goes in with a plan of what he’ll do. He just lets the horse inform him.
One analogy I heard many, many times (and it’s a personal favorite) is there are 3 horses:
There’s the horse that doesn’t know what you are asking.
They are green. They don’t know. Could be a young horse, could be an older horse whom you are teaching something new to.
There’s the horse that has an idea of what you’re asking, but isn’t sure.
This may be a young or old horse who has been exposed to what you’re asking and can do it, but is not solid in his understanding yet
There’s the horse that knows what you’re asking and is evading.
This horse could be evading from laziness, distraction, cheekiness, or pain.
Each of these horses requires very different approaches! And the trick as a trainer is to figure out which horse you are dealing with and adjust yourself accordingly.
I also learned a great deal about the body. The horse’s body, in my experience, is one of the most neglected aspects in training. And really, it should be on the top of the list. I have already met several horses where the way to their mind and heart was through their body. Make them comfy, and they will give you the world. Not too long ago, while watching a horse, Manolo said to me, “If you make a horse comfy, he will work for you for hours. But if he’s uncomfortable, forget.” Classic Manolo-ism. He puts the body FIRST! And I frankly don’t know how I made it so far in riding with only a basic consideration for the body’s needs.
Here is another favorite Manolo analogy (that I have spruced up with my own dance reference). He would say, “The horse’s vertebrae are like a train. The first vertebra is the head. In order to get a straight train, you have to lead from the engine, no?”


The cavesson allows us to do that. It leads the horse from the front of the nose, allowing all the vertebrae to fall into line like cars on a train. If I were to lead you in a dance from your elbow, you’d have a pretty tough time following my directions. I’m directing you from one “car” back on the train. But if I lead you from the hand, I now have you by the “engine,” allowing the rest of your body to follow. (This analogy applies to in-hand work. Riding is different, and thus requires a different dance analogy!)
And riding! There is a whole other set of topics! One thing Manolo stresses is evenness in all aspects of riding. Evenness of hands, evenness of movement, evenness of left and right sides. Now I am not a perfectly even person. I have a dominant side and a weak side. This will be reflected in my horse if I am not very vigilant. Plus my horse has his own dominant and weak side. But even though those things are true, Manolo would still say work both sides evenly.
Chantelle would always tell me, “The strong side will help the weak side.” And I’ve seen this many times when riding or lunging. So drilling the weak side to make it as strong as the dominant side doesn’t work. Evenness in all things.
I could go on…. And on…. And on. But as I said above, I haven’t put it all together yet. As I get presented with new horse and new situations, I’m sure the teachings of Manolo and Chantelle will come spilling out of me.
I have a few horses I am working with right now and will be posting updates on their progress as I go. Each has a unique personality and a unique set of problems that I have to wind my way through. But it’s an adventure, and I am rearing to go!

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To the Heart of a Mustang and beyond….

Hello everyone!

I apologize for not posting in a long time. I’ve been pretty busy.

aries and me marcie

I started To the Heart of a Mustang because I was inspired to tell the story of one wild mustang’s journey from wild to tame. I had planned on taming and training Aries and then riding him on a long distance ride and making a documentary out of it. The world needs stories like his… showing that older mustangs are not lost causes that should be cast aside… showing that the American wild mustang is a treasure and should be protected and preserved. They truly are symbols of American ideals: freedom, tenacity, and endless horizons.

As time went on, and Aries and I got to know each other, that dream of riding him across the country seemed less and less like a good idea. Although Aries is quite tame and handleable, I’m not sure how much he would have enjoyed riding along the side of highways with tractor trailers wizzing by at 65 MPH…. As that dream faded, another took it’s place. I was given a chance to study horsemanship with one of the finest horseman today…. Manolo Mendez.

But this meant leaving my horses behind and traveling across the world to Australia. Opportunities like that do not come along more than once in a lifetime, so I took it.

I intended to continue posting videos of what I was learning. But two things became apparent to me as I attempted to generate episodes for publication:

Firstly, this is no ordinary education. Manolo’s methodology, philosophy, whatever you want to call it isn’t just a way to train horses. He understands horses in almost every way. He understands how they need to move. He understands how they think and react to the world. He understands how to teach them, what progression of knowledge they need, and how that knowledge will be taken in by them. And oh by the way, alllllll of those things are different for each horse. That isn’t something I can just “learn.” It takes time… and time… and time…. However long I am here for, I know that I still will only have scratched the surface of what is possible to learn from Manolo and from horses.

The learning comes in fits and spurts. It does not fit into a timetable and it cannot be forced. I’ll grind away trying to learn how to lunge a horse so that I get good cadence and rhythm, energetic and effortless strides, and a happy, well balanced horse. And then all of the sudden, I’ll look at a horse one day and see something I had never seen before… like how the back rolls like a wave as the horse moves. Seeing each vertebra roll behind the one before it. It’s plain as day when there is a stiff area. It just sticks out…. But until that day, I had never seen it before.

It’s hard to capture and share that when publishing videos twice a month….

And second, To the Heart of a Mustang is about the heart….. and it’s about the heart of one horse: Aries. Without his heart, my heart is not in it. The information I share about my learning and Manolo’s philosophy is valuable and needs to be shared. And I do intend to continue sharing what I learn, but it will be in leaps of understanding and will likely follow no predictable publishing pattern.


What I love so much about doing this project are the stories I hear of how watching Aries and my journey has helped or effected people. One woman told me she had never been able to get her horse to approach her in the paddock, but after watching Aries and learning about how I figured out how to reach him, she was able to finally develop a bond with her horse. Or the woman who told me she was going through hard times and that the Tuesday episodes of Aries were the highlight of her week. These stories and many, many others have touched my heart so deeply.  When I first started, I had no way of knowing how powerful his experiences would be for other people, nor how helpful.

So I have this group of great people who have gathered around this horse and his story… I don’t want to lose this momentum and this group. How can we use Aries, his story, and our shared love of mustangs to help further the cause of ensuring mustangs’ continued survival? I also would love to assist more people with troubles with their horses.

SO help me with some inspiration, folks! I have a few ideas of how I can re-energize both myself and everyone….

First, I’ve been told (several times) that it would be helpful to organize the episodes by topic. This way if someone is looking for inspiration about dealing with hard to catch horses, I can refer them to a series of episodes that deal with that topic.

Second, I will, I will, I will start to write a book about Aries. His story is mostly here for all to see, but there were lots of things, both small and large, that I chose not to include or chose not to go into detail about. Of course, if I put this statement into print….. that means I have to start writing it… lol

I am by no means done…. I still have a passionate need to get Aries’s story out there. It seems to help and inspire so many. So let’s hear some ideas!!!! I’ve got re-packaging and republishing the episodes by category… and starting Aries’s book!!!!

Other ideas??? Let’s have ’em!!!!!

And I do have future plans for the man himself…

When I return to California, I will take up weekly episodes again teaching Aries and Picasso ALLLLLL the wonderful things I learned in Australia! And I hope to also take Aries around to some venues and events where I can give talks about mustangs and people can meet him in the flesh!

And eventually I’ll get another mustang and do this whole circus all over again!

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Episode 90

Wow, 90 episodes!!!! Ten more and I’ll be at 100 episodes!!!!!!

This week’s episode shows two different horses, and how I need to be different for each of them.

Buddy is a warmblood gelding who is well educated and is in rehab. Janus is a young warmblood who is in training to have his canter finished. Both horses require different approaches based on their personalities and their individual needs.

Buddy is a more reserved horse, which presents challenges, where as Janus is more open and doesn’t know much, which presents different challenges.

I hope you enjoy seeing the two of them compared and the different ways I have to work with each horse.

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No episode this week

I am postponing this week’s scheduled episode until next week. I’ve been busy and haven’t had time to put together a great episode. So NEXT WEEK I will have another episode for you!

I will be posting some photos here and on Facebook in the next few days.

Take care all!


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