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Tracy Courtney

Two Paths

There are two paths with horses, the complex & the simple. We say we want the simple path, but we really don’t. We repeat the words like a flitting daydream, just as we announce other things like, I’m going to win the lottery. Deep down we believe that it would be a nice thing, but we think it’s just too difficult to attain. We reminisce on all of the different methods we’ve tried so far & how these didn’t lead us to this seemingly elusive goal, so we label this as a pipe dream & watch it float off into obscurity, like so many other fleeting desires in our lives.


Do we ever stop to consider why we have found it so difficult to attain? How many of us have deeply dissected the problems we have from a much broader perspective? Expanded our view to form the whole picture, instead of single, limited points of view, which are often external? Can we look at each point through a sense of neutrality for understanding, instead of looking through the eyes of guilt, personal belief & blame? This is where the answers are found. A close minded individual, who thinks they know all the answers will attack the person behind this article, because they are content with the complex path & believe it to be necessary. Whereas an open minded person, who genuinely wants to explore the simple path, will ask questions instead of making statements & delve deeper into the possibilities of their own influences on the outcomes.


Where does the simple path begin? With the dissection & comprehension of the previous two sentences. The simple path can be summed up into two simple words; letting go. As simple as this sounds, it proves to be more difficult than it may first appear. Why? Because we are not prepared to let go of the things we’ve learned & think we understand. We hold onto these ideas & beliefs with a white-knuckle grip, afraid to lose what we think we’ve gained. Afraid to lose who we think we are & the changing personas we’ve spent so much time building & displaying for the world. Afraid of what others might think or say about us. As a result, most will revert back to using control & force because then we don’t have to take responsibility for the problems we are creating through our current actions & belief systems, which are the true root cause of the problems experienced with horses. It’s much easier to blame the horses, external factors beyond our control or other people, than to look at our own contributions. Accepting ourselves as the source of the problems we experience with horses is the true roadblock to the simple path with horses.


As has been stated previously by the author, “horses are simple, it’s people who are complex”. We don’t realize all of the wedges & bridges we create between ourselves & our horses, but it’s time we begin to examine our relationships from new points of view. Can we begin to let go of the commonly held beliefs about horses & how we’re told we should interact with them, if only just for a little while, to experiment with new information that may evolve through this open-mindedness? And then make choices as to whether to continue to explore or revert back to our comfortable old habits?


The complex path revolves around accumulating & retaining information/knowledge. It involves intellectual pursuits & striving toward a goal that must be accomplished. It requires creating categories of boxes involving sequences, repetitions, designated locations, blocks of time, correcting behaviour & other endless subcategories. It involves intense focus on tasks to ensure they are being executed in an expectant way, which doesn’t allow for deviation from the designated formula. It requires intense concentration & focus on how we are dictating & the precise responses to those dictations. It requires us to memorize & categorize a tremendous amount of information & develop the ability to recall precisely what’s needed in an endless number of variable situations. This intensity hobbles our thoughts, emotions & physical abilities to view or be in the present moment as it is. It doesn’t allow for any fun or laughter, which we learn to reserve for the relaxed moments of down time we schedule into another box.


Why do we choose the complex path? Because it’s what we see everyone else doing. We alone choose to place the authority of others on a pedestal, above our heads & out of reach. We choose to vehemently defend their views & our own, leading to conflict. We choose to align with the ideas & actions of others who we feel reflect our own personal belief systems. Who is responsible for the authority given to others & these ideas that are responsible for so much conflict? Only ourselves. We choose who & what we feel is right or wrong. We choose to impose these beliefs on others through our thoughts, words & actions. We choose to react to simple words, that have no meaning in themselves, to project a dogmatic & close minded attitude toward life & those around us. Only we are responsible for our beliefs & the results we choose to enact through those personal beliefs. Have we ever considered how these deeply ingrained habits are carried into everything we do with our horses?


Why is the simple path so difficult? Because it requires us to let go of all the aforementioned baggage we’ve accumulated & are so reluctant to part with. As mentioned in previous articles & shown through “the thought curtain” video, this baggage is responsible for creating the problems we experience with horses. How many of us are willing to let go of all this baggage? How many of us have come to realize the emotional attachments we have created to simple words & how they have become triggers? How using or hearing a simple word can elicit immediate emotional elevation that will lead to frustration, anger & lashing out? Horses use body language instead of human vocabulary. How many of us have realized that certain actions elicited by our horses will create the same immediate emotional reactions & lash outs as another human speaking a trigger word? This is something that is much more common than we may realize. If we understand that emotional elevation will limit & even eliminate the ability to think, retain & react in a logical manner, can it be possible that we are unable to see what’s happening clearly through this wall of thoughts & emotions. Many will habitually blame the horse for their frustration & anger but who is responsible for choosing their words & perceptions of these situations? Why are these articles out of the box of what is considered normalcy? Because they have moved past analysis of information from an intellectual standpoint & have naturally evolved through contemplation of personal experience, not what someone else has said or done.


Are we willing to throw our systematic boxes away, our judgements, our labels, our beliefs & what we think we currently know & understand? Can we drop the curtain to begin to move beyond the wall of these habits? Can we meet our horse from a place of dynamic neutrality, like we’re meeting them for the very first time & start over? Can we go back to that child-like curiosity & genuine interest in everything they do without making decisions or opposing their choices? Can we offer them the choice to express opinions & emotions without feeling a need to direct & control these expressions or view them from a negative perspective ? Can we refrain from labeling these expressions as good or bad & just see them as they are? Can we refrain from the endless chatter in our heads & allow true seeing of what’s being expressed? Then, can we reflect on how differently our horse behaved when we chose to allow & observe quietly, compared to when we felt the need to direct, control & micromanage? Can we become so quiet & simple in ourselves, that we open a brand-new door that we had no idea was possible? To allow room for a connection & flow like a flock of flying birds? Is it really possible? You tell me.


Personal perspective is everything & how we choose to perceive our environment & ourselves, dictates the interactions & outcomes reflected back to us from the whole environment. The information shared through these articles is not dependant on anyone reading them or their application. There is no intent on swaying the views of others, these articles are merely a personal diary of introspection. There is no worry about how others feel in regard to these articles, personal opinions don't affect the author either way.  The sharing of these articles don’t dictate the quality of this life, livelihood or bank account.  How many of us can say we want to understand our horses better only because it brings us joy & for no other underlying reason? How many of us are willing to approach our interactions with horses through this more simple, balanced perspective?