I love the word courage. Just letting the word roll through my head makes me sit a little taller. When thinking about courage, and perhaps choosing the times in your riding life when you have been called to summon yours, it’s easy to mine your memories in search of defining moments, breakthroughs, and pivotal experiences. What I am noticing more and more is that courage is about the details; it’s less about the “I did it” and more about the “I’m here, and I’m ready to do the work”. And it begins to grow as soon as you make the decision to consistently show up.
Of all the superpowers talked about, consistency is one that’s often left off the list. Being consistent isn’t glamourous. It might not always feel good. And it requires holding yourself to a higher intention of where you want to take things (which means not letting yourself be ruled by the mood of the moment). But of everything it might not be, consistency is guaranteed to build your courage muscle in ways that may not be perceptible to you moment to moment.
Let’s look at three ways consistency breeds courage and why often the best promise you can make to you and your horse is the commitment to simply showing up.
Consistency creates perspective
When you commit to riding or working with your horse as often as you are able, the continuity of time together means that you can view your training progression from a broader perspective. Instead of viewing each session in isolation, you begin to appreciate the natural ups and downs that form a part of the training rhythm; consequently, the need to ruminate or blow things out of proportion is minimized as you spend less time thinking on the problems and more time acting on the solutions.
The more experiences you have; the more challenges you’ve faced (and negotiated) together, the more rides you (literally) have under your belt, the more resources you have to draw on in the future when it comes to navigating your way through similar territory or deciding on the best course of action. Committing to simply showing up means that you have a higher purpose that you are working in alignment with; that regardless of how you feel, or what it is that is going on, you will show up and do the best you can with the resources that you have and what’s available to you at the time.
Consistency decreases your anxiety
If anxiety or worry is a constant (or regular) feature of your riding life, then consistency of action is more important than you might realize. Have you heard of the saying “neurons that fire together, wire together?” What that means is that the more we think a specific thought, the stronger that thought pathway becomes. For instance, if you are concerned about something in your riding, and you continue to brood and worry over it, it’s much easier for you to default to that same thought in the future simply because you’ve given it a lot of airtime. Although on a conscious level we can recognize that our imagined experiences are exactly that- imagined- our unconscious mind doesn’t have the same level of discernment.
This can work both for and against us. It’s one of the reasons why intentional visualization is so powerful, and also the reason why worrying about something occurring increases our anxiety levels about it occurring over time; to our unconscious mind, that imagining is real. If you’ve fallen off 50 times in your mind’s eye, those same sensations have registered in your nervous system, regardless of whether it was a real experience or not.
Showing up consistency means there is less time for worry and rumination before you give yourself a new lived experience to draw from. It’s not the only solution to managing and understanding anxiety but it’s an important element to pay attention to when it comes to exercising your courage muscle and ensuring you are spending more time out there with your horse, and less time in your own head.
Consistency cultivates trust
Think of it this way. The more time you spend with someone, the more you understand them. You become aware of the quirks and nuances of their character. You understand what motivates them and what they dislike. You find ways of working together that plays to your strengths and allows you both to do your best work.
This kind of relationship only evolves by spending time in each other’s presence. You can’t know this about someone by texting them once or twice a week. You can’t know these things by simply meeting up for coffee when the mood takes you.
True friendship and partnership come from shared experience. It comes from adventuring together. From going through some rough times. From working things out. From enjoying each other’s company.
It’s the same with our horses.
Creating a partnership with your horse that is based on mutual trust and understanding involves establishing a common language between you. And that takes time, consistency and riding out the waves together.
Showing up is the only way for that relationship to have to space it needs to become everything you desire it to be.
Commitment, consistency and courage. They all work together.
A readiness to do what’s needed. Openness to the moment. Action in alignment with the bigger vision.