A frequent conversation that I am having with riders I work with revolves around letting go of the idea that the goal is to reach “calm”. If you identify in any way with living and riding from your survival nervous system; if reactivity, anxiety, defensiveness, or fear form a regular part of your everyday experience (and there’s so much nuance that exists in between), then it makes sense that you just want to be anything but that. You just want to stop feeling those things and you want to feel… calm.
What’s more, many of us are looking for a mode of operating where we are essentially flat lining before we would consider it safe to proceed. And when we are looking for that in ourselves, we are looking for it in our horses also. If you’re stuck in your survival nervous system, everything feels threatening.
All and any sensation you feel in your body is interpreted negatively and adds to the pool of overwhelm.
Any expression or vitality your horse shows also needs to be erased. You don’t want them looking perky and vital when you are in that place. You want them to look like Dorothy could whizz by in the middle of a cyclone and they wouldn’t even notice.
So then we control the environment within an inch of its life, err on the side of riding shut down horses (and then lament that bursts of energy on their part was completely out of the blue), we don’t trust anything. All because we don’t trust ourselves.
If you work with me, I’m not interested in calm. That’s just one place you can land on the spectrum of possibilities. What I’m interested in is accurate responsiveness; where your brain and body are responding to the reality of the moment in front of you, rather than situations from the past, or possibilities in the future.
Calm is not the goal. Adaptability and responsiveness is. And what that looks like changes from moment to moment.