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Tracy Courtney

Listening

The phrase listening to our horse is common now & we hear it everywhere but what does it really mean? Since horses communicate through a non-verbal form of speech, would listening to our horses involve using our ears or something else? If something else, what could that be? Others may have different opinions on this, but I will share my personal concept here.


When we meet a friend or significant other for lunch, what is the first thing we typically do after making eye contact? We smile with feelings of joy and happiness. Many of us will walk faster toward this person because we can’t wait to get up close & be with them. Then we will greet in various ways verbally & physically, through handshakes, hugs or what have you. When we touch the other person, we place our full heartfelt emotions through that touch & its meaning is unmistakable. We will genuinely ask how the other is doing, what’s new in their lives & begin chatting on our way to be seated. We are so engrossed in the other person’s presence that we shut out the surrounding environment & focus our full attention on the other person, to indicate they are the most important thing in our lives.


After being seated, feelings of excitement & elation will persist as we continue chatting about life. During our conversations we are typically so engrossed & interested in the other person, that we choose not to look around at other things. We want to hear what they have to say & take it all in, hanging on every word. When we converse, we don’t generally interrupt the other person while they’re speaking & naturally fall into a flowing rhythm of listening & responding. Although we may not realize it, we also often fall into a rhythm of copying physical gestures as well. If one person scratches their nose, usually the other will scratch their nose immediately after. We are more open & receptive to suggestions of alternate points of view, meal & other choices. If one person makes a mistake like dropping a menu or utensil, it’s no big deal & both will laugh it off because the immense joy being felt negates feelings of annoyance, embarrassment & other normally self-imposed negative associations.


If this is the model for a truly happy & healthy relationship, how do our normal interactions in our relationship with our horse compare? All of the above are mutually exchanged. How many of these mutual exchanges happen with our horse? Do we smile & are we excited to see our horse every time we’re with them or is it just another day at the office? Do we mutually greet our horse with a genuine sense of love & caring in our touch? Do we do our grooming time with our horse in mind & making them feel like they're the most important thing in our lives, or is it just something we have to get out of the way so we can do what we want to do? Do we offer our greeting & wait for a response from our horse or do we just grab them & drag them along? Do we focus all our attention on the constant communication being presented by our horse & offer reciprocal communication or are we too busy looking at & thinking about other things? Do we listen to our horse out of sincere interest or are we always interrupting & talking over them by telling them what to do? Do we find humour in their mistakes or do we punish them for it? Is there room for variation & choices in what we’re doing, or do we automatically become annoyed, angry & forceful because there has to be a leader & a follower?


I'm sure many would agree that we are definitely not listening to our horses. So how do we listen & with what do we listen? Listening begins with slowing way down & taking the time to observe what our horses are trying to tell us. Letting go of our agendas & goals, until we can begin to understand how to listen. Quieting our mental, emotional & physical motions to allow for more clear expression & deeper understanding, by focusing on our horse & ignoring everything else around us until we can learn to expand our awareness like horses do.


And how exactly do we listen? With our eyes. Yes, you read that correctly. We use the word "listening" as one of the countless human concepts we project onto horses that apply to us, not horses & we wonder why we have so many problems with our horses? It's time we start to deeply analyze these personal projections & begin to understand them for what they really are. During the Fearless process, we begin by listening with our eyes & then we expand to including all of our other senses during listening. We are accustomed to seeing people, places & things in our non-horse related lives & have learned to quickly assess situations & instantaneously understand them. We can often tell the current emotional state of a stranger just by a quick glance, without any effort or intellectual involvement. It happens so automatically that we don’t even realize it for what it is. Many use this skill in negative ways to make personal judgements & comparisons, but if we can let go of our personal biased perceptions, this is a tremendous natural gift that can be honed to provide much deeper insight into our relationship with our horses.

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