True connection between horse and rider involves a high level of communication and connection. This fact was brought home to me today while riding a super sensitive and headstrong horse. The gist of it was this particular horse has a periodic pattern of bucking when asked to canter. He is not a mean horse nor a horse in pain but he is a horse who likes things a certain way. So today with my mentor and friend Margie Mcdonald I had the opportunity to experience the vagal nerves impact on my psychological and physiological state.
It goes like this: Margie encouraged me when comfortable to go into the canter. At first I rode over to her looked her in the eyes and said “hmm maybe not today”. She smiled supportively and encouraged me to give it a try .
Back out on the rail I was determined but froze internally for a few minutes, or maybe a few seconds . I suddenly had no ability to execute the simplest action. Conscious thought and action seemed impossible. Margie’s supportive voice broke through as she encouraged me to give it a try. Boom I shifted out of the shutdown (dorsal state) and suddenly my sympathetic nervous system took over. I applied to much pressure from my legs without thought . Truth be told I decided to be a bit dominate . I was going to fight a little to get this horse going. I mean for goodness sake I know how to ride. Oops wrong again down went his head and up popped his two back legs. Logically you might think the fear would set in and I might have been propelled off him but strange thing happened. I took a few slow breathes,. spoke calmly to him, walked around the arena connecting through touch and voice . Then it happened I remembered the language of respect and connection between a horse and rider. I asked him lightly with slight leg movement and shift of weight to go forward into the canter . What followed was a balanced ride for both of us. I had connected with him through my ventral vagal system which led to what appeared to be a stress free experience for both of us.
I left the barn that day reminded of the ways the Polyvagal theory can impact everything we do and how with patience in ourselves and others we can learn to identify and move through each of the physiological states,