Horses Become our Thoughts

lWe are always searching for new methods, tools and steps to help us become better with horses. Why? Because this is what we’ve been taught is the only and 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 and 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 and 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 and how many behaviours have returned or morphed into new or additional behaviour? How many people believe that behaviours such as weaving and cribbing can’t be resolved but only managed through gadgets and drugs?

Have you ever stopped to truly analyse how those in the horse training elite category got to be there, or has your focus been only on finding new ways to make your 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 and trainers. That there must be a progression of steps to learn and put our horses through, that will solve our problems. We’ve also been taught to believe that we must take bits and pieces of many methods to put together, develop our own style, and 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 and solutions and that there must be a series of physical steps to learn and 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 and the simplest word I can use to describe it is “mind”. Everything begins in the mind, so this is where true and lasting change begins. The way horses think, feel and perceive their environment leads to the decisions of how they will react to those perceptions physically. Equally, the way we think, feel and perceive ourselves and beliefs also dictates how we will choose to proceed into further thoughts and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 and how to dominate, control and 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 and socially awkward personality, while participant B was a very strong headed and articulate person, full of confidence. Skinner had secretly instructed the rest of the class to disagree with everything participant B said and agree with everything that participant A said. Through the discussion, participant A became more expressive, articulate and confident. Participant B became confused, less articulate, uncomfortable and began to question and falter in previously strong held ideas and 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 and beliefs are only a stepping-stone on the path of learning and will limit growth if we’re unwilling to let go and explore past the intellect.

Making decisions leads to actions which can hinder progress and 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 and created. It limits the energy to our inner head, in a concentrated state, rather than being expanded and 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 your energy and where it’s directed. Horses will often use these opportunities to snap you 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 and unlock. Only then can we begin to think and speak rationally and 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 and anger about what’s happening, but to provide an unbiased, understanding and safe place for our horse to have the freedom to express their concerns so that we help them settle the emotions and open a space for discussion and balancing, as we do with our friends, family and peers.

When we examine the observable characteristics of thoughts; as when recalling a memory, the eyes will contract focus from the immediate environment and often move upward and 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 and lose awareness of sight, sound, distance and 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 and 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 and reward the behaviour which will naturally escalate.

If we have a pre-conceived 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 and misinterpret the information through a bias of expectations. If we become confused, we will automatically fall back into old habits and follow through with our prior decision without additional thought and react in a negative way unintentionally. In order to truly listen, our mind has to be completely free of all decisions, expectations and 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 and interpret what is being expressed without the veil of control, judgements, anger and 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 and understand horses at that elite level of experience. This silence creates a shortcut through the experiential learning process that isn't available otherwise.

Fearless is the opposite of everything you've learned about horses and will show you how to move away from repetitive sequential step methods and into using non-verbal sensory awareness. Parameters, the first level of the Fearless process, will focus on creating a brand new type of relationship with your horse. Exploring the mind more deeply for our horses and ourselves, and how this is the real root cause of the problems we have with horses. This is not a self-therapy program, about placing a lot of focus and energy into your own thoughts and beliefs by what we share verbally, but just opening the door a crack and learning how to quiet your mind in order to be able to fully listen to what your horse is telling you. If you choose to listen to your horse, they are the ones who will not only fully open but can remove the door completely for you.

Parameters begins by listing and rating all current unwanted behaviour and deeply analyzing your horses disconnected body language, so you can recognize it in the future. As we move through the process, all unwanted behaviour will disappear without having to address it individually or directly, which is not the standard view of dealing with unwanted behaviour. Parameters is the first step in allowing your horse to express and release a lifetime of unbalanced thoughts, feelings and frustrations that were not previously possible, and show you how to interpret, understand and allow this release in a safe and constructive manner. As time permits, we will lead into other discussions to give some food for thought.

We will then change your energy of focus from external stimuli and move through the 5 steps with your rope laying quietly across your open hand. You will be shown to focus only on your personal space and redirecting your horse’s thoughts without judgement, force or asking them to do anything. You are learning how to replace dictation and micromanagement with mutual discussion and allowing your horse to lead the discussion. In level two, Ground Rules, we focus on creating discussions and how allowing your horse to lead the discussion will lead to you always being able to ask the right questions to receive the right answers. At the end of Parameters, you will see undeniable proof of how all of the unwanted behaviour disappeared on it’s own. Your horse is calm, relaxed and you have created a magnetic connection – a horse fully focused on you, unconcerned with anything other than you, and any aggressive or explosive behaviours will also be gone. You will be shown how to incorporate this new process into everything you do.

The goal of Fearless is to shift the current ideas of perceiving and working with horses 90 degrees, where the horse becomes the only teacher you will ever need if you are willing to listen and reverse roles by becoming the inquisitive student. Delving deep into the inner workings of the equine mind will lead to new emotional understandings and solve the physical attributes naturally, when we can recognize and redirect thoughts before they are expressed as actions. Understanding the foundation and application of creating Emotional Balance will solve all current unwanted behaviour, prevent unwanted behaviour from beginning as well as many unnecessary health issues and injuries. Understanding what a horse is thinking and feeling in every moment and how to balance the mind and emotions, will provide all the answers, so many have been searching for, and naturally morph into physical balance without direct intervention.

The secret with horses lies within us individually and cannot be found through external sources. We already have everything we need to understand and solve problems, but we choose to look to external sources because we haven’t learned to listen to our horses and 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 and 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 and abstaining from classification, judgement and evaluation. There must be conflict when there is an urge to fulfill, with its inevitable frustrations. There is conflict when there is ambition, competition and 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