Outsourcing your power to trainers, clinicians, coaches, people at your barn. It’s a conversation that I am having with riders I work with all the time, and the biggest (and most crushing) lesson that I learned for myself last year- and all in the same breath, the most liberating.
I could make this conversation strictly about horses and the dynamic that we can and often do inadvertently fall into in training situations, but I believe this situation to be part of a wider cultural dynamic at play (and I’m going to stick my neck out and say especially for women) that relates to feeling like part of our job is to please someone else, or to somehow make someone else happy.
Let’s just think for a minute. If we removed ourselves from the idea that we had a duty to perform, please someone else or live up to an expectation we believe someone else has of us (and let’s be clear, this is our perception, not necessarily the reality), how much more teachable would you be, how much more available to question, how much less would you care about making mistakes, or changing situations that don’t work for you?
This is not about becoming arrogant, uncaring, or hardline. It’s about recognizing that you are 100% responsible for yourself and your choices and that it is not your job to shape, change, or restrict yourself to please someone else. That is not and never will be your job.
The reason that stepping out, back from or around a situation that is not working or no longer works for us is so hard is because it ignites a nervous system response. I know that in the situation that I was in (that was nothing really to do with the actions of anyone else, and everything to do with the hierarchy of power and the expectations I had set up within myself) I came out of it feeling like I was under attack. I wasn’t. Everything was perfectly fine. But my nervous system had responded to this very primal feeling of potentially not being accepted or being “ostracized from the pack” in a way that made me feel that my physical and emotional safety was threatened.
Gaining the strength to not only question but act in accordance with your own internal guidance system means that you need to have the skills to deal with this nervous system activation. Otherwise- simply put- it’s too hard, and consequently, too easy to roll with situations that don’t work for you and grow more and more out of sync with yourself.
My decision for this year was to throw myself into reconnecting with my own body and my own wisdom and letting that be the truth for what’s right for me and what’s not- and I can feel the difference. Reconnecting with my own north star, and not letting her be knocked out of the sky in deference to an opinion or style that doesn’t jive with her.
From that place, we are free to make choices that are ultimately in the best interest of ourselves and our horses.