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Tracy Courtney


In everyday life, we easily become upset about the things that happen around us. We get angry with a person driving too slowly or erratically on the road. We become upset with other people because they looked at us in a way we didn't like or said something to trigger a negative mental &/or emotional response from us. We often argue with others, especially on social media now adays, because we feel their personal expression of opinion doesn't fit the particular mold of the belief systems we choose to confine ourselves to. The KEY word in this paragraph is "response", as we are always responding; past tense, to a stimulus & response is a choice.

How many of us have asked the deeper questions as to why we often feel impatient, frustrated & even angry with our horses & dogs & dissected the end results of those thoughts & emotions? In my experience, far too few. Perception is everything & it's much too easy for us to fall back into the false sense of comfort & security that our established boxes of habits & beliefs provide. Personal dissection is hard, judgement is easy.

Then we often repeat the questions or statements, "if it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have any" or "why do I always have the same problems with my pet? In 99% of the discussions had with new clients looking for answers to all of their "problems" with their pet, within the first 5 minutes of discussion, the following statement is always made like clockwork. I'm having "behavioural problems". We don't realize just how deep the conditioning goes in our own belief systems & these are the things we must begin to dissect & analyze.

Interestingly, this all too common phrase is rarely expressed in the form of a question, which indicates a willingness to explore the answers & consider new perceptions. It is normally expressed in the form of a factual statement, which indicates a non-willingness to explore new ideas. As a side note, those who make these statements are usually people who hold very strong & uncompromising beliefs about how vital traditional forms of groundwork, lunging & cookie-cutter routines are. They will always use the same words in their vocabulary like, dominance, control, being the leader, make, he/she, stubborn, defiant, lazy, etc & often have a large collection of gadgets, present & past tense. My answer to these statements is always the same, "perception is everything".

We fail to realize that everything that bothers us about our pet is a gift. It is a precious tool being presented to us to explore, in order to learn some amazing new insights not only about our pets, but also about ourselves. This is direct communication from our pets, who are taking the time to show us where the problems/miscommunications in our relationships are & inviting us to join in this mutual discussion. How many of us take the time to stop & listen to what our pets are trying to teach us? When we are stuck in our little boxes of belief systems & internal incessant mind chatter that we choose to create for ourselves, we are making the deliberate choice not to listen or try to understand this honest & open discussion being offered.

Why do we become impatient, frustrated & angry? Because we choose not to accept what's being offered all around us. Is it possible that the car that cut us off this morning & threw us into a road rage was a missed opportunity to discover something important about ourselves? The opportunity was missed because we chose to place judgement & blame on another instead of asking ourselves why we became so angry & why this was a trigger for us. We chose not to accept what was being offered as an opportunity for personal understanding & growth , which will always seep into all aspects of our lives & begin to change the narrative in unimaginable ways, including how we interact with our pets.

Why do we become impatient, frustrated & angry with our dogs? Is it something they did to make us feel this way, or were these unbalanced emotions already present within us & just needed an external trigger to bring them closer to the surface to be expressed? Are we really justified in being angry with our puppy & the "behavioural problems" because they are choosing to be defiant & vindictive for urinating in the house for the past 6 months? Or did our current comfortable belief systems cause us to make the choice not to seek help to redirect the behaviour as a spark, when it initially began & would have been simple to change? Was it our puppy's choice to allow this behaviour to escalate into such a deeply ingrained habit, that it will require extensive new conditioning on our part to change?

How many of us will make the choice to discard & replace this dog rather than accept responsibility for the need to place as much time & effort into solving the problem as we did in creating it? How many of us will decide that we will only accept quick fixes to solve the hundreds or thousands of repetitions we chose to teach the puppy, or we can't be bothered putting the time & effort necessary to resolve our creation? If we're going to be honest with ourselves, where do the "behaviour problems" really lie in these types of scenarios? With the puppy or with the decisions we choose to make?

Why do we become so impatient, frustrated & angry with our horses & justify the things we do as a result of these unbalanced emotions? Is it really something they did to make us feel this way or are they offering an opportunity to step out of the confined boxes we chose to create for ourselves & build unyielding belief systems around? Are we really justified in being angry with our horse for still being spooky & out of control in the arena after we've spent the past 6 months practicing the same cookie-cutter groundwork repetitions? Is our horse really stupid, unteachable, stubborn, defiant, lazy or dangerous? Or did we fail to recognize the conversation our horse has been trying to have with us all along? Have we failed to listen to what our horse has been telling us because we've been too busy making all the choices & decisions about what, when & how our horse would learn?

Did we choose to believe the opinions of other humans instead of listening to our horse? Did we choose to believe that we must break the process down into smaller steps, but that these steps begin only after entering the arena? Did we choose to believe that we are solely responsible for creating & dictating the curriculum & our horse has no choice other than to follow our dictations?

Has our horse been telling us all along that the problems don't begin after entering the arena, but in the stall? What if our horse has been offering the necessary curriculum, in the precise steps needed all along, so we don't even have to waste our headspace trying to figure it out? What if our horse has been showing us the steps THEY need & in the order that will most benefit our unique horse in their unique emotional state & situation?

If our horse is mentally/emotionally unbalanced in the stall, things continue to escalate through the crosstie, grooming & tacking process & then reach an explosive conclusion in the arena, is our horse responsible for reaching this emotionally explosive state or are we? What if our horse has been showing us the necessary steps & in the exact order required, in order to begin to feel comfortable & safe enough to move forward into the areas we've decided to teach them in? Who has the "behavioural problems" in these scenarios, our horses or ourselves, for the decisions we choose to make for ourselves & on behalf of our horse?

Why do we become impatient, frustrated & angry? Through non-acceptance of what's being offered all around us. We choose to try to control & dictate life instead of trying to listen & accept what it has to offer. If we choose to begin to understand our own behaviour & how it affects everything around us, this opens endless new doors of possibilities & new perceptions that can never be found in our self-imposed & limited boxes of personal belief systems.