How many times around horses and everywhere else in life, have you heard the expression “Face your fear and do it anyway”? I shake my head every time I hear it. Unbeknownst to the wonderful people spouting that advice, that’s not fear that they’re talking about, it’s excitement.
What? Do they really want you to feel fear (or even the lesser warning feeling) about walking into that dark alley and do it anyway? Do they really want you to feel fear of that smiling stranger and keep walking towards them? Do they REALLY want you to feel fear of something someone wants us to do, when we know in our bones that something is wrong here – and do it anyway? Do they want you to feel fear of getting on that particular horse at that moment in time and to get on anyway?
I don’t think so! Or when it comes to the horse part, maybe they DO want you to get on that horse, because they don’t understand what riding a horse can really be like when both our horse and ourselves are free of the tension caused by fear.
We’ve got to figure out if the fear is a well timed warning about what’s happening NOW – in which case we sure as heck wouldn’t do any of those things. Or if it’s old fear that needs understanding and cleaning up for our own happiness. Even though this is an article about fear and excitement, I can’t resist pointing out how often the fear we ignore or suppress is our horse’s fear and when we suppress THAT too because we don’t understand it, it’s a sadly missed opportunity to help them to experience their relationship with humans differently. That’s such a big subject it’s for another time.
Back to the confusion of fear and excitement
See… both fear and excitement run out of the adrenal glands. Fear is a survival mechanism designed to keep us safe. We DESERVE to be and feel safe. We’re meant to listen to fear, to understand what it’s telling us and to act on it when necessary for our (and our horse’s) mental, emotional and physical safety. When we don’t listen to and act on fear, then eventually fear and excitement kind of collapse together and you can’t tell them apart. And then we THINK it’s fear that we are experiencing and when we don’t understand how to use fear effectively, then most people avoid it, suppress it, push it away, ignore it, run away from it, do the opposite to that thing we THINK we’re afraid of.
When all the time that was EXCITEMENT and if we’d known that and FELT it as the excitement it really was, we would have been running towards that experience and enjoying the heck out of it.
This is the major cause of what psychologists call self sabotage. From the outside it looks like people are scared of things that should be wonderful. But all along, the cause of that sabotage was the collapse of fear and excitement and our inability to tell them apart.
One of my greatest pleasures in life is helping people to separate them, know the difference again and be able to BE and feel safe AND follow their excitement to their dreams.
Bless them, horses make the whole process a lot easier. There’s only the tiniest fraction of horses that are confident in their environment and in their relationship with humans (oh yeah, that is so sadly true). Most of the time that fear and anxiety was established before we got them and because of the gear that we use on them to stop them running away, they’ve had to push that fear down inside too. Learning how to help our horse deal with and release their fear and anxiety, helps us to understand and act on our own fear and anxiety in a way that brings inner peace to both us and our horses at the same time. AND it creates a bond together that continually awes me.
Let’s look for a moment on the effect of that ‘excitement self sabotage’ on our horses. See… when we don’t understand how to use our fear, we tense up with it. We resist it. We can feel that tension and resistance in our bodies. That stops us from being able to flow with our horse with beautiful riding. It makes us less than the riders that we really are. And oh mannn what I continually see here, is that we are so much better than we think we are.
But our horses react to that unacted on fear and tension. They tense up their bodies too, drop their backs, defend themselves by dropping over the sternum, clenching their jaw to protect their heads, necks and mouths, lose their ability to carry us with strength and ease (which leads to muscle and joint and eventually even health problems) and they become more difficult to ride. (Sitting trot is MUCH easier on a happy horse – and we thought it was OUR problem!)
So when we act on our fear and make ourselves BE and feel safe, we can separate fear and excitement and learn how to flooowwww with the excitement with our horse. Then we enter a whole new ball game of skill and our horse… far out… our horse enters a whole new life filled with confidence – they actually recover their beautiful movement and they shine from the inside.
p.s. I LOVE it when you share my articles.
Things that we do here if you’re interested in separating fear and excitement:
I wish you Happiness, the EMAILBOOK (not an e-book) – in 30 second emails a day, the book steadily creates a gentle pathway to happiness by developing our understanding of how we can use our feelings to create something new or better or change the things we care about. $25
Zen Connection with Horses, the book and audio lesson combination. From $25 to $42 depending on whether it’s the e-book or printed version.
Fast Track to Brilliant Riding – 81 lessons steadily increasing your own Feel for your horse and step by step reducing your horse’s old stresses and trauma and increasing your own confidence and relaxation – $1500 – I’m told it replaces thousands of dollars worth of riding lessons and I’ve seen with my own eyes how ordinary people step into world class horsemanship.
Ease and Grace – fully mentored, private, personally tailored to you and your horse’s needs. $10,000 for a glorious six months.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: There’s a small group Ease and Grace opportunity coming up. We just finished our first small group Ease and Grace program, where three people shared the Ease and Grace journey. It was a particularly lovely way to do it, with a mixture of private and group lessons, where they learned from each others’ experiences as well as getting what they each individually needed. Email me if you’re interested in being part of a group that I put together, or making up a small group of friends.