There’s a nerve in your body that is linked to almost every part of you-the vagus nerve! It’s the longest Cranial Nerve starting from the base of your brain travelling through the throat, ears, face right through your all of your organs -think heart, lungs, stomach etc.
This means it has a huge impact on so many functions of your body.
One of the most important things I think for Equestrians is Gut Instinct. As mentioned above, the nervous system really is connected to your gut. It’s why you can feel sick with nerves.
With Horses as we can’t directly speak to them our Gut Instinct can tell us so much about what is the right answer for our horse. We just have to learn to listen. Check out Dr Susan Fay if you want to learn more about that.
In relation to your own performance as the Vagus nerve affects so much of your body it can have a huge impact.
As the Vagus Nerve is part of your Stress Response learning to manage it can be crucial in your life with horses. Horses aren’t stressful are they??
This time of year can be stressful too. You may have so many other things on you try and rush through your horse stuff too. Then they don’t go to plan because your horse picks up on this and it escalates.
This is when the Vagus Nerve is on high alert and we’re in flight mode. Our horse senses this and more than likely decides he should be in flight mode too. You’re stressed, he’s stressed…….
Sounds simple but being able to focus on your breath, to tune out the busyness of your brain and be fully present with your horse can change your interactions as well as your training sessions. So often we can be creating tension in ourselves and our horse just because we aren’t breathing. Make this your first step.
As the Vagus Nerve is connected to your ears, listening to soothing music or something like ASMR can lower your stress levels transferring that soothing effect through your ears to your whole body. This is why I like to listen to music when I’m with my horses, if I’m relaxed my ponies are more likely to be relaxed.
Movement can lower your stress levels. That’s why often we find a focused schooling session can make you feel on top of the world, but if your brain isn’t there other forms of movement can help you. A walk somewhere quiet, yoga or whatever helps you zone out can help you calm your Vagus Nerve and take you out of fight or flight mode.
The more we can be aware of how our bodies are responding to their environments and how this effects our performance and our horse the more we can focus on improving that and improving the partnership with our horse.
I have a feeling this is going to be something I’ll be focusing on in 2022.