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Tracy Courtney

Bridging the Communication Gap

We are typically not in connection with or aware of just how much mental, emotional & physical noise we make when it comes to working with our horses. We have deeply ingrained habits that repeat incessantly & have become as normal as walking & breathing. We don't need to make any conscious effort to walk or breathe, so these automatic responses never cross our mind & seem completely normal & natural. Because we have lost touch with these automatic functions in everyday life, it's no wonder why we carry them into everything we do.


We are accustomed to functioning in a human world & have come to expect & rely on this predictability & consistency in our lives. This is why so many have trouble understanding the animal world, because this language is foreign to us, so it naturally creates a communication gap. The structures & rules that govern the human language, coupled with the higher functioning capabilities of our brains, lead us to formulate & construct understanding based on our level of existence because that's all we know. This is why so many commonly accepted methods of working with horses are so appealing. They revolve around a repetitive curriculum, like our education system & also why so many of our other concepts & beliefs are projected onto our horses. We can't know what we don't know, so therefore we naturally lean toward basing our decisions on the only things we do know.


As has been reiterated repeatedly, if we want to reach new levels of understanding with our horses & other animals, we must be prepared to be willing to let go of what we currently know in order to make space for something new. Trying to compare & relate something we already know to something new, creates a filter that can only serve to obscure, distort & negate new information. It will prevent a full comprehension of what's being presented. As mentioned in other articles, it is also responsible for all the conflict as this grasping & accumulation of knowledge feeds the ego instead of trying to move beyond it. If humans communicate through a verbal language & horses communicate through a physical language, then there is going to be a communication gap that deepens if we try to communicate through our own biases. There is a definitive communication gap that hasn't been solved or so many wouldn't still be searching for the solutions that current methods haven't been able to solve thus far.


As demonstrated through "The Thought Curtain" video, bridging the communication gap begins with becoming mentally, emotionally & physically quiet. We don't realize how much noise we are constantly making through these sources & how adversely this noise affects our ability to communicate & listen to our horses. This involves beginning to understand & redirect our own habits at a conscious level, but it doesn't end here. There are still more deeply ingrained habits bubbling away in the background at a subconscious level, waiting to flood in & take over at every opportunity. In between these conscious & subconscious level habits there is a gap & we have a choice of whether to fall off the cliff into the gap, which will cause these automatic, subconscious habits to rush forward & take over, or to build a bridge across this gap.


The gap being referred to here is the void between what we know & what we don't know. This gap creates control, fear & avoidance behaviour in us because it causes us to feel lost & out of control within the current situation. This is one of the scariest places for a human to find themselves in. The automatic response of needing to control what's happening wells up in us first & when we can't find that comfort in control, we will automatically shift into fear,  then avoidance response, followed by feelings of inadequacy in what we're trying to achieve. 


It's easy to help horses through this void by providing support & not needing to build a bridge because horses are not naturally focused & lost in their thoughts like humans. This support, provided at the appropriate time, can help horses reach the other side without falling off the cliff, which would result in the subconscious habits of fight or flight to rush forward & take over. It's not as simple to provide this support in the same way with humans because they are too quick to want to stop or quit when they're feeling pressure, impatient or confused. The normal stages of the subconscious, habitual human mind typically play out as follows; Control, force, Fear, Avoidance, Self-pity, Sympathy, Blame, Mistrust, Conflict. The latter often arises after the event is over, when we take time to analyze in a quieter setting. 


There is a way to build a solid bridge across the void for humans, which involves connecting to our own body & being willing to redirect & invest our focus more constructively into the excessive noise we make, instead of what our horse is or isn't doing. We have no idea that our current body language translates to horses as a colicky, teething, drooling infant. This is how we begin to build the elusive bridge between horses & humans, in a way that's much simpler for the human & will eliminate the subconscious baggage that will flood forward & create more stress, confusion & frustration in the process. This is a shortcut for humans that allows for a much smoother transition.

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