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Tracy Courtney

Stale Experience & Fresh Experiences

There are many methods & ideologies being introduced as new ways to understand & work with horses. Many are less invasive & great for the introduction of new concepts & understanding, however, many of these are still unintentionally rooted in force & control. I can attest to this personally because I have to revert to these more subtle, forceful tactics regularly, in order to create some level of understanding that can be expanded upon.

For a long time, I questioned why what I was trying to teach wasn’t being understood. I thought I was responsible for the miscommunications & I had to change my perceptions in order to make the information more digestible. In retrospect, I have come to realize that it is the result of our clinging to accumulated knowledge & experience. These are of the past, they must be recalled by the mind from memory & these are responsible for creating a wall, a barrier to new understanding & experiences. They create a delay in perception & actually alter the course of events. As an example, one will perceive a nip negatively as aggression & having made this decision based on recall of past events & emotional attachment, will react in a negative manner. Where another without recall of this habitual conditioning, will pause to observe the entire set of circumstances surrounding this event & may decide that the horse is attempting to invite the person to play & engage in some positive interaction.

Even when headway is made toward the new understandings & applications of information but the person chooses to schedule lengthy periods between sessions, old habitual patterns of thoughts, ideas & actions will begin to creep in & slowly replace the new information once again. It has to be a choice & effort is needed to change these habitual patterns of thought & responses in ourselves. The stale experience of the past will create doubt in what we think we’re perceiving, doubt in our own abilities & lead us to repeat old habits that we already know don’t work. It will also lead to doubt about the things we're being taught by another & their competency, when we choose to resort to our old habits. When we choose to proceed through experience, we are left with a sense of being stuck on a dead end road with no other avenues available to us, so we will revert to whatever we knew out of a sense of just needing “to do something” to change our current situation.

Can we set aside our knowledge, our experience, our agendas, our goals & just listen through non-habitual observation? When we’re speaking with other humans, what do we expect? We expect them to ignore distractions, to fully engage & be a willing participant within our conversation. How many of us have been annoyed by someone looking around at other people or things while we’re trying to speak with them or they’re more interested in a different topic altogether? Does an argument end well through elevated thoughts, emotions & words or through a reduction of these things?

Listening cannot be achieved deeply or meaningfully unless we are prepared to let go of our experience & focus on our experiences instead. Experience is of the past & experiences are of this present moment. Experience only allows for trodding over the same old habitual ground repeatedly, where attention only on new experiences allows for new insights, understanding, spontaneity, inquisitiveness & fun.