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Tracy Courtney

Groundwork - Changing the Rules

How I teach is based on experiential wisdom & flow as opposed to intellectual knowledge. Part of our conditioning has been to create robotic boxes of routines to reach goals that are often dictated by others & not necessarily our own. Because we are experiencing unwanted behaviour to some degree, we hope that following the crowd will help us learn how to solve these issues. This is one of the first things I'm here to change. We have been taught that we need to look at external sources for explanations & solutions. We spend tremendous amounts of time & money on books, videos & gadgets. I'm here to show you how to allow your horse to become your teacher, how to replace these external sources & why tools & gadgets are unnecessary.

We have been taught that if we control the physical actions of our horses, this will lead to mental & emotional control eventually as well. How do these boxes of steps help us solve commonly experienced issues during feeding, grooming, mounting, farrier visits & other normal daily interactions with our horses outside of the designated training areas?

I've heard a popular saying many times that, "we control a horse's mind through their feet". In my view, this statement brings two deeply held beliefs to the surface. 1 that we must control horses & 2, that this control is achieved through physical means. If we were to examine this statement, wouldn't we naturally conclude that it's the mind that controls the body & not the other way around? When our own thoughts & emotions are unbalanced, we create tensions & aches in our bodies as a result. 

Is it possible that we have been taught to look at this & other common beliefs backwards? What if we don't have to control horses at all & can create a mutual connection, discussion & enthusiastic compliance through the mind that would automatically lead to physical compliance all by itself, without having to address (physical) behaviour individually or directly?

We are taught to step into box 1, which is getting our horse ready for "training" time. We step into box 2, leading our horse to a designated area where the training session will begin & end, which is often in the same place. We step into box 3 by thinking about the steps of the plan we're going to dictate today & become focused & serious about the tasks at hand. We step into box 4 by making our horse perform a series of repetitive tasks, like they're working on an assembly line, until they want to puke. We step into box 5 at the end of the training session by finally relaxing mentally & emotionally ourselves, as the "serious" work time is now over. We step into box 6 by deciding to take our horse to the next designated area for grooming, grazing, turnout or otherwise free time.

Ground Rules was created as the second & third part of the Fearless process to help us move away from plans, steps & the accompanying boxes that create these ridged & disconnected structures. In the first part of Ground Rules, we use lunging as a perfect resource to show in real time, the truth behind lunging & how it causes the opposite effect of what we're trying to achieve.

We focus on reading & understanding our horse's & your own body language, thoughts & emotions, to help us recognize when & how we become disconnected, as learned during Parameters. These fundamental understandings will lead into learning how to be in the moment with our horse & how to allow our horse to lead the discussion, so we are always asking the right questions. 

Through detailed analysis of body language, our horse will show us how to create a natural mental, emotional & physical balanced flow to help us also recognize when our body position or timing needs tweaking. By understanding what our horse is thinking & feeling in every moment, we will naturally begin to help each other work through all problems & find lasting solutions that don't require external sources & gadgets for assistance.

The second part of Ground Rules will show how to use our new understandings in practical ways to solve unwanted behaviour. Currently, we are taught that if our horse is feeling fresh or otherwise acting up, we take our horse to a designated area to lunge or put them through a series of steps to create relaxation & compliance. Ground Rules shows how to eliminate these boxes completely & take groundwork to a whole new level . We will learn how to solve all issues in the moment through communication & discussion with our horse & how to replace these unwanted habits through connection & natural flow with our horse instead of against them. We will learn to work with the mind & emotions to create relaxation & confidence that will automatically lead to physical relaxation & compliance without having to address behaviour directly. 

I recently came across the follow quote by Westminster Fuller, "you never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete". This quote really hit home & this is what I'm here to do...change the rules on how we work with horses. I'm not here to show you how to change horses, I'm here to show you how to change you & remove the door for horses to begin to teach you the rest. To help you move out of the one-dimensional boxes of current concepts & beliefs, into brand new & deeper understandings. We can't know what we don't know, so it's difficult to imagine something we haven't seen before. How strongly we choose to cling to outdated ideas will dictate how willing & able we are to move forward with strife or ease.