The Window Of Opportunity
The Window Of Opportunity
Our thoughts, communications and actions are dictated by the perceptions of our environment and the results of those interactions. A horse who is raised in an abusive environment, characterized by dominance, dictation and micromanagement, through no fault of their own, will be taught to become fresh, explosive, aggressive, shut down and any other number of unwanted behaviours.
Cohesive mental and emotional emotional behaviour patterns; tools, were never offered as a choice and the horse has no concept of any other way of being. Alternatively, those responsible for creating the abusive environment are often re-enacting conditioned behaviour and are unaware they are doing anything wrong or that there is any other way of being.
Habits and patterns have power over us because of our belief that they create a sense of comfort and 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 and security that comes from the repetition of consistent habits and knowing what to expect. Once there is a change or removal from the environment, an escalation of stress, anxiety and 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 and permanently rewritten. At this time, it's vitally important to spend extra time guiding the horse through patience, understanding and consistency to begin to think for themselves and look to us for help. They need direction in learning to make choices and decisions and beginning to balance the emotional roller coaster and confusion. However, if this opportunity is returned to an environment of power, dominance and control, the result is a more permanent and 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 and 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 and frequently physical stress behaviour will begin to surface, followed or accompanied by an increase in frustration, avoidance, being fresh and/or exaggerated fear responses.
If a basic foundation of how to redirect these emotions and actions in a constructive manner are provided, an interesting and predictable pattern will occur. When left alone, the horse will begin to repeat the redirection behaviours (established) in an attempt to self-soothe and self-balance. This opens the mind fully to seeking additional methods of redirection and self-balancing from you.
If strategic options aren't applied in a predictable, semi-consistent basis (to allow for building self-confidence and problem-solving skills), to balance self-sufficiency along with direction assistance, the mind will begin to close again. This creates a whole new set o obstacles that didn't previously exist. It's more difficult to try to open a mind that has begun to close, once opened willingly, and 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 and emotions to easily remain closed and 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 and balanced discussion.