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Tracy Courtney

Passive Interaction

In examining our own common conditioning in how we have come to accept current concepts of how we should do things with our horses, have we ever stopped to consider that our ideals may be contrived & mechanical or the true results of these ideals & actions? When we examine the things we do at a deeper level, who makes the decisions? Who asks the questions? Who creates or denies all movement? Who makes judgements & assumptions? Who creates the routines? Who decides where these routines will be carried out? Who decides how long they will last? Who dictates the quality & quantity of the routines? Who decides what is acceptable & what is not? Would the answers to these questions indicate a partnership or dictatorship?


In dissecting common programs, what is at the core foundation of these techniques? All of the questions asked above, & more division as opposed to connection. These programs don’t allow for self-expression, fun or spontaneity, which are important necessary qualities in life. We can label these programs as direct interactions, where we mechanically move & force our horses through repetitive physical motions. This creates a mechanical thought process for us as well & doesn’t allow for deviation, which would cause uncertainty, lead to frustration & often retaliation. Essentially, we are “making” our horses move & stop constantly in a yo-yo fashion, in circles & straight lines. When we consider how horses move naturally, without interference from us, we find this is the opposite of their natural way of being.


How do we begin to change these habitual patterns in ourselves? By contemplating how, why & what we do “to” our horses at deeper levels of understanding. How these accepted practices are human based concepts that we have forced onto our horses. By having the courage to let go of everything we want & think we know, just for a little while, to make room for new understandings & wisdom, that we can expand on later. By beginning to listen to what our horses are trying to tell us & not making preconceived assumptions & judgements about their behaviour & actions. Horses have a tremendous amount to teach us about ourselves if we choose to listen.


Instead of direct interaction let’s start over, to a new beginning in partnership & connection instead of dictation, implementing passive interaction. One of the common ways we shut our horse’s choices of expression down, is by forcing them to stop their feet. Horses don’t only move their feet out of fear, but it is also part of their personal expression. We must begin to allow our horses to move their feet when they choose but instead of allowing them to run around like maniacs, potentially injuring themselves or us, we can help them redirect the movements constructively. In doing this, we are moving out of the predominantly physical attributes of behaviour & into a deeper understanding of the mental & emotional attributes of behaviour.


When horses move in a forward motion in an unbalanced emotional state, it allows for the mind & emotions to become increasingly scattered, over-reactive & potentially explosive. If we visualize the example of the swirling white cloud, given in the “Unrecognized Motivations” article, this relaxed & slow-moving cloud would contract to the head space only. If we continue to allow the feet to move in a forward motion without redirection of the thoughts & emotions, this cloud would increase in speed & continue to contract, creating a tornado of scattered & unbalanced emotions. Horses need to move their feet to allow these unbalanced thoughts & emotions to come to the surface, be expressed & then receive assistance for their release.


We provide the needed assistance by redirecting the thoughts & emotions constructively, not by preventing movement. Preventing movement may stop the undesired behaviour in some cases, but what we are doing is forcing these unbalanced thoughts & emotions to bury deeper into the body. Even if we think we have solved the current problem, which is easy to believe when that particular behaviour stops, it will always resurface in a different form as a new undesired behaviour. And this is why we are often at a loss to identify where new undesirable behaviours originated.


We assist in the balancing of these thoughts & emotions by redirecting them through the feet. Asking our horse to move sideways, backwards & change direction, expands the white cloud gradually & helps your horse release the unbalanced thoughts & emotions at their own pace. In these instances, it’s imperative that we do not make judgements, assumptions, be impatient or create time limits. Our horse must be allowed to repeat the movements until they decide they are sufficiently balanced in this particular situation. How will we know? Continue asking for the same movements repeatedly until our horse can begin to respond to our request willingly & in a more relaxed state. This is our indication that the unhealthy emotions are being released & replaced with new emotions that are in the process of balancing. Our horse isn’t being defiant when they don’t respond correctly or at all. They simply can’t think & need the repetition & time to help themselves unlock their mind & return to being able to think & rationalize again; reconnect.


The previous information was to give some direction in how to help our horse when they are over-reactive, but it is still based on more subtle control & dictation. The purpose of this article is to begin to move away from archaic concepts & open new doors. What is passive interaction? It is a preliminary step in beginning to move in flow with horses as a flock of birds flying in the sky. Birds don’t fly in circles or straight lines & they don’t keep their feet still on the ground. Passive Interaction replaces dictation with discussion & allowing your horse to lead the discussion so you can ask the right questions. We will be required to set aside all of our agendas, gadgets, designated training areas, time limits & have nothing but a halter & long lead rope. It may be easier to think of it as a dance but this dance is not about taking or being in the lead, but sharing the lead. It requires movement, which will allow our horse to have choices, opinions, expression & release. It involves using passive guidance to help our horse shift their disconnected thoughts into our connected thoughts through allowance & listening.


Just like dancing, there is no target or designated finish line. Begin in any location, by allowing our horse to move their feet in any direction & speed without caring where or why they want to go. Allow the rope to slide through our hands to create more distance for safety, when our horse decides to increase speed. Stay connected & only allow 2 to 3 steps before we begin to move with our horse, to prevent being in the kick zone & a potentially dangerous position. Instead of taking over & deliberately redirecting the feet without moving our own, which is common, begin to walk along with them at their pace & in the direction of their choice. Be sure to remain in the shoulder area for safety. Do not try to dictate anything & just flow along with what our horse chooses to do. When we feel a flow happening & our horse is relaxing with this new “un”direction, begin to casually walk in a slow arc in a different direction until we begin to be in flow again & there is relaxation. In this way we are allowing expression by our horse without judgement or micromanagement in allowing them to lead the discussion & then asking politely to begin to shift their thoughts of what they want to do, to what we want to do.


This will help us begin to let go of the habits of dictation & micromanagement & negates confusion by only giving us 2 things to focus on instead of body language, position, etc. Continue to allow, then ask, allow, then ask. We will find that once we show our horse we’re willing to listen & allow, it won’t be long before they are patiently waiting to respond to whatever we want to do & no longer feel the need to go anywhere else. Once we are moving in flow at a walk, slowly begin to expand into a faster walk, slow trot, faster trot & anything else we want to do. Always be prepared to allow personal choices when our horse loses confidence & follow them wherever they decide they need to go before asking them to follow again. As we both become more confident in this exercise, we can begin to shift our attention to analyzing how we & your horse move & where our horse goes during these interactions. We will begin to notice patterns of behaviour & might be surprised where this exercise will lead in our relationship with our horse.