top of page

Stop Desensitizing and Build Trust: A Journey with Gypsy the Wild Mustang

"The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and freedom." - Sharon Ralls Lemon

In a world filled with instant gratification and quick fixes, it's easy to overlook the profound impact of building genuine connections and trust, especially in our animal interactions. For the past six months, my journey with Gypsy, a wild Mustang, has demonstrated the remarkable power of connection-based horsemanship techniques in fostering trust, confidence, and curiosity.

The Science Behind Trust-Based Approach

Traditional animal training often involves desensitizing animals to various stimuli to mitigate their reactions. However, recent research in animal behavior and cognitive science emphasizes the significance of trust and understanding in shaping positive relationships. Horses, like humans, possess complex social and emotional intelligence. They can discern human intentions, sense emotions, and form deep bonds.

Gypsy, a beautiful wild mustang, entered my life as an uncharted territory of possibilities. Instead of overwhelming her with desensitization exercises, I embarked on a journey of patient relationship-building. Scientific studies have shown that trust and cooperation trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding and social connection. Acknowledging this biochemical aspect, I aimed to create an environment where Gypsy felt secure, valued, and willing to explore.

The Evolution of Trust

During the initial weeks, our interactions were unassuming yet profound. I spent time near Gypsy, allowing her to observe me without any pressure. Through mirroring her movements and behaviors, I communicated my intentions as a supportive herd member. Gradually, she exhibited signs of curiosity and approached me cautiously. Each step forward affirmed the power of patience and empathy.

As our rapport deepened, I introduced activities that engaged Gypsy's cognitive faculties while honoring her innate instincts. Horses possess a heightened sense of awareness due to their survival instincts. Instead of suppressing this trait, I harnessed it by introducing novel stimuli like the hula hoop. And the magic began.

The Unexpected Bond with the Hula Hoop

Last week marked a turning point in our journey. I introduced Gypsy to a hula hoop, uncertain of her reaction. To my delight, her curiosity prevailed. Gypsy approached the hula hoop, examining it closely and even nudging it gently with her nose.

The most astonishing part was her comfort as I hula-hooped right beside her. Without prior desensitization, Gypsy embraced the hoop's presence and my actions.

The scientific literature on animal cognition highlights that genuine positive experiences lead to oxytocin release, enhancing trust and bonding. This newfound trust between Gypsy and me wasn't rooted in fear or suppression; it blossomed from authentic curiosity and mutual understanding. Our approach, centered on connection, allowed Gypsy to explore with confidence, even in the face of novelty.

Join the Conversation

Have you witnessed the transformative power of trust-based interactions with animals? What are your thoughts on connection-based techniques versus desensitization? Share your experiences, insights, and queries in the comments below. Let's collectively celebrate the beauty of building relationships founded on trust and understanding.

In a world often dominated by immediate outcomes, Gypsy's journey is a poignant reminder of the enduring impact of cultivating patient, trust-based relationships. As Sharon Ralls Lemon eloquently stated, being with horses introduces us to elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and freedom. Let's treasure these moments and work towards a world where trust triumphs over desensitization.

Have questions on this article or want more information on Reflection-Based Horsemanship™ or would simply like to share your experience with these exercises? Email us at

88 views0 comments


bottom of page