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Tracy Courtney

Horses Become our Thoughts

We are always searching for new methods, tools & steps to help us become better with horses. Why? Because this is what we’ve been taught is the only & normal way. This is what we choose to believe is the proper way of doing things because that’s the way it’s always been done & that’s what others have told us to do. If we take the time to deeply consider the facts of these personal concepts, we can easily establish that they simply don’t work. If we look at our own personal experiences in the horse world, how many people have we known who have bomb-proof and babysitter type horses that remain consistent & have not been taught using learned helplessness? How many people have we personally known that have behavioural issues with their horses? Have we noticed any consistent patterns in the types of behaviours being seen, like an individual who always seems to “get horses” with the same behaviour problems? How many horses do we know of personally that have had their behaviour issues solved permanently & how many behaviours have returned or morphed into new or additional behaviour? How many people believe that behaviours such as weaving & cribbing can’t be resolved but only managed through gadgets & drugs?


Have we ever stopped to truly analyse how those in the horse training elite category got to be there, or has our focus been only on finding new ways to make our horse do things or not do things? We have been brainwashed into believing that we have to spend a lot of money on videos, books & trainers. That there must be a progression of steps to learn & put our horses through, that will solve our problems. We’ve also been taught to believe that we must take bits & pieces of many methods to put together, develop our own style, & this will solve all our problems. Has this worked for every horse that you or anyone else that you know of personally? Why? Because we are still operating under the belief that we must look to external sources for causes & solutions & that there must be a series of physical steps to learn & practice. There is a wide-spread, deeply held belief that horses are the problem. Horses are not the problem. The secret with horses is us.


“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, 

build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

― Buckminster Fuller


I’ve been asked many times to sum up Fearless/Emotional Balancing in one word & the simplest word I can use to describe it is “mind”. Everything begins in the mind, so this is where true & lasting change begins. The way horses think, feel & perceive their environment leads to the decisions of how they will react to those perceptions physically. Equally, the way we think, feel & perceive ourselves & our beliefs also dictates how we will choose to proceed into further thoughts & actions.


In whatever language we are raised, we think with the prejudices that were given to us. When we think in our native language, we can feel emotions that are characteristic of that language but if we begin to think in a different language, we can’t have the same feelings. For example, a Chinese person naturally feels the emotions associated to their native conceptions, but they will say that they don’t feel the same emotions when trying to speak in English. We don’t realize that we are in a sphere of public influence when we start to think. If we begin to observe our thoughts & the tone of the voice in our head, we will hear our parents, teachers, friends or some previous influence, who are telling us who we are & how we should do things.


We think these are our own thoughts, but they aren’t. Our minds are always working, with countless influences, even when we think we’re physically alone. We also exercise these influences on our horses, telling them who they are, what we think of them & how they should behave. We’re the expressions of a social network – the sum total of who others have told us we are, how we should perceive our horses & how to dominate, control & mold them to our will.


There was an interesting experiment performed by B F Skinner, where 2 students sat in a chair at the front of the class during a group discussion. Participant A had a shy & socially awkward personality, while participant B was a very strong headed & articulate person, full of confidence. Skinner had secretly instructed the rest of the class to disagree with everything participant B said & agree with everything that participant A said. Through the discussion, participant A became more expressive, articulate & confident. Participant B became confused, less articulate, uncomfortable & began to question & falter in previously strong held ideas & beliefs. A variation of this technique has also been used by Guru’s for thousands of years to help people realize that strongly held ideas & beliefs are only a stepping-stone on the path of learning & will limit growth if we’re unwilling to let go & explore past the intellect.


Making decisions leads to actions which can hinder progress & stops flow in its tracks. Making decisions creates a veil of thoughts which obscure true seeing/listening. Making decisions requires a contraction of energy to focus on the thoughts being considered & created. It limits the energy to our inner head, in a concentrated state, rather than being expanded & in full sensory awareness of our complete environment. Contracting the energy in this way allows for unexpected situations to happen without realizing them until it’s too late. Our focus completely centers around the thoughts being generated so that we can’t see, hear or sense what’s around us. Horses live naturally in an expanded state of being, so they are fully aware of our energy & where it’s focused. Horses will often use these opportunities to snap us back into expanded awareness as a reminder.


When we feel an emotional charge over some unhappy feeling, we can’t be reasoned with because our emotions block out all common sense until our mind begins to quiet & unlock. Only then can we begin to think & speak rationally & to have unbiased discussions. The same thing happens with our horses when they are emotionally unbalanced. Our priority should not to be to jump to conclusions, judgements & anger about what’s happening, but to provide an unbiased, understanding & safe place for our horse to have the freedom to express their concerns so that we help them settle the emotions & open a space for discussion & balancing, as we do with our friends & family.


When we examine the observable characteristics of thoughts; as when recalling a memory, the eyes will contract focus from the immediate environment & often move upward & to the side. When entering a deeper, more abstract thought, the eyes will often drop down while contracting focus inward to concentrate energy on the thoughts in the mind. We contract all energy during thoughts & lose awareness of sight, sound, distance & physical sensation to varying degrees, depending on how deeply we’ve entered the thought process. Thoughts connect to emotions which will create more thought about how we feel about the original thoughts. This will lead to more thoughts that will connect to the decision making process & this will lead to more thoughts on how we will choose to react or control the situation, which is always based on a conflict scenario. To expand on this, if we choose not to redirect unwanted behaviour at its onset, we have made the decision to allow & reward the behaviour which will naturally escalate.


If we have a preconceived decision in our mind, even though we can expand our energy after making the decision, it will limit expansion, obscure what we’re actually seeing & misinterpret the information through a bias of expectations. If we become confused, we will automatically fall back into old habits & follow through with our prior decision without additional thought & often react in a negative way unintentionally. In order to truly listen, our mind has to be completely free of all decisions, expectations & suppositions. These biases will prevent the ability to be in the moment with our horses. Being in the moment means having an empty mind so we can correctly analyze & interpret what is being expressed without the veil of control, judgements, anger & force. When we can begin to be in the moment with horses with a quiet mind, it opens up a new door which will allow the third language to be experienced. This creates an ability to connect to & understand horses at that elite level of experience. This silence creates a shortcut through the experiential learning process that isn't available otherwise.


The secret with horses lies within us individually & cannot be found through external sources. We already have everything we need to understand & solve problems, but we choose to look to external sources because we haven’t learned to listen to our horses & trust ourselves. Deeply contemplating on the facts that we believe for ourselves to be true, not what somebody else told us, is the first real step in understanding the secret with horses. Understanding & balance are the result of retraining our own minds to process life as it is - in the moment, not how we think it should be – in the past. Seeing/listening is only possible when the brain is not actively participating but observing & abstaining from classification, judgement & evaluation. There must be conflict when there is an urge to fulfill, with its inevitable frustrations. There is conflict when there is ambition, competition & envy; to become, to achieve, to succeed.


“We must always be willing to make and accept mistakes without judgement, truly consider evidence 

that contrasts our beliefs and be humble enough to accept that we may have been wrong. 

Intelligence isn’t knowing everything. It’s the ability to challenge everything we know .”

― Tracy Courtney