This is why we do what we do. We not only want to get people relaxed and safe, but we also want to engage their power!
This is as applicable to people as it is to horses (and dogs). I wrote it as an answer to a question but would love feedback. Reading all the fireworks posts today, it seems relevant.
Let it Go – Frozen
I think lots of horses and people are very frozen. I think it’s a coping mechanism for the life they have, with all the chaotic charge and weird stuff that bombards them all the time.
I say they go ‘to the beach’ in their minds. It’s a safe, happy place and we must create such a place to motivate our horses and humans in our lives to become truly present.
Think of it another way, there must be someplace in your life that you must stay a little frozen to function/survive. Maybe it’s Walmart or a theme park (like Disney) on a very busy holiday weekend?
Enormous volumes of random people everywhere, long lines, shoulder to shoulder with sketchy people. You totally put that out of your mind and stand calmly waiting for your turn.
Could there be someone there planting a bomb, or a terrorist sending a missile through the sky, or an unhappy teen with a gun ready to blow us all up?? Sure, but we freeze that idea so we can get our shopping done or have fun with our families.
Every time we load into a plane, 50 or 100 people, then allow ourselves to be lifted into the sky, we must freeze a bit to ignore the Petrie dish we are in, breathing all the air filled with germs, plus giving up our control to someone we don’t know at all, in a cattle car with others that could be terrorists. We risk immediate death, and long-term death, yet still get on, putting the short-term need to be somewhere above long-term survival.
I realize these are extreme examples, but maybe not so extreme. I expect these are questions horses (and humans) ask all the time. Do I trust my leader, do I trust my ability to escape, to survive? Or do I just freeze and tolerate it all? How far away must I go in my mind to allow the things I must endure to survive?
This is one of the big things I want to bring awareness to in our minds with our horses and ourselves.
Do we/they freeze, or do we/they connect to our leaders and trust?
Do we/they tighten up and brace when pressure is applied to us, or do we relax and move into that stress reaching higher levels of performance?
Let’s take professional sports as an example. There are athletes that are incredibly talented that play at a very high level. But sometimes these athletes get hurt, they hold that little brace that gets stretched, ripped or broken.
Then there are the freaky athletes like Micheal Jordan, that lean into the pressure. That feels the pressure and stretches further, achieving higher levels of performance than ever imagined.
These athletes aren’t structurally more sound or correct. MJ wasn’t taller or athletically superior in a physical sense. He was superior in a mental and emotional sense, his coping mechanism was to get hyper-present, completely in that endorphin space, the Zone or Flow. That’s where the magic is.
So back to horses, maybe they are such naturally gifted individuals that they can perform well at 50% freeze? Who knows how much freeze all our horses are in every day? Is it possible that we have no idea the athletic potential they possess?
I think so! I think the athletic potential in our horses, animals, and in ourselves is completely untapped. People like Michael Jordan are a sneak peek, a window to what is possible if we can rewire our response to stress.
I’m amazed at the performance we are seeing out of formerly anxiety-filled horses. I almost think, the higher the freeze or anxiety, the higher for potential performance if we can rewire that response.
This is my mission, how do we create a safe and comfortable enough space, that we, and our animals, can become truly present, then add back small amounts of stress until we/they solve each stress puzzle with relaxation and connection. As we/they learn how to use this response, it feels great, it becomes the new coping mechanism.
The sky is the limit if we can find the steps (thresholds) to get from where we are to where we want to be. This is the simple growth model at its best! Having an awareness of what we are doing, and how to effectively build this pattern in ourselves and our horses, is the key to accessing all our untapped potential!