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Tracy Courtney

The Window Of Opportunity

Our thoughts, communications & actions are dictated by the perceptions of our environment & the results of those interactions. A horse who is raised in an abusive environment, characterized by dominance, dictation & micromanagement, through no fault of their own, will be taught to become fresh, explosive, aggressive, shut down & any other number of unwanted behaviours.


Cohesive mental & emotional emotional behaviour patterns; tools, were never offered as a choice & the horse has no concept of any other way of being. Alternatively, we are who is responsible for creating the abusive environment are often re-enacting conditioned behaviour through the methods of others & are unaware we are doing anything wrong or that there is any other way of understanding horses.


Habits and patterns have power over us because of our belief that they create a sense of comfort & security. In order to affect lasting change, we must understand that we aren't only changing muscle memory, but the underlying belief systems as well.


Although horses in abusive environments may be unhappy, there is still as sense of comfort & security that comes from the repetition of consistent habits & knowing what to expect. Once there is a change or removal from the environment, an escalation of stress, anxiety & volcanic emotional eruptions are normal in an emotionally unbalanced horse because they no longer have a sense of where they belong or how to act in the grand scheme of things.


When in this emotionally vulnerable state, a tremendous window of opportunity has opened, where the conditioned unhealthy habits can be quickly & permanently rewritten. At this time, it's vitally important to spend extra time guiding the horse through patience, understanding & consistency to begin to think for themselves & look to us for help. They need direction in learning to make choices & decisions & beginning to balance the emotional roller coaster & confusion. However, if this opportunity is returned to an environment of power, dominance & control, the result is a more permanent & deeper habituation of the unwanted habits accompanied by enhanced unwanted behaviour.


There is a component of time commitment when the window of opportunity opens. If the mind & emotions have glimpsed an opportunity of balance, often for the first time in their lives, they will actively seek more of that balance. If it is not provided, confusion, despair & frequently physical stress behaviour will begin to surface, followed or accompanied by an increase in frustration, avoidance, being fresh &/or exaggerated fear responses. If a basic foundation of how to redirect these emotions & actions in a constructive manner are provided, an interesting & predictable pattern will occur. When left alone, the horse will begin to repeat the redirection behaviours (established) in an attempt to self-soothe & self-balance. This opens the mind fully to seeking additional methods of redirection & self-balancing from us.


If strategic options aren't applied in a predictable, semi-consistent basis (to allow for building self-confidence & problem-solving skills), to balance self-sufficiency along with direction assistance, the mind will begin to close again. This creates a whole new set of obstacles that didn't previously exist. It's more difficult to try to open a mind that has begun to close, once opened willingly, & the new process must be approached from a different angle. 


We habituate to what we consider comfort zones on a much deeper level of functioning than we realize. For example, if we need to discuss a difficult subject with our spouse that we know will not be met with enthusiasm, having this discussion at home would not be ideal. This deepest of comfort zones allows for the mind & emotions to easily remain closed & unyielding. If we were to take our spouse out for lunch to have the discussion, the change of environment can alter the rigid mindset enough to allow for a more open minded discussion. Moving to a new location provides just enough emotional discomfort to open a window of opportunity for a more engaged & balanced discussion.

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