Everyone has heard of athletes getting in the ‘zone’ during a big event, but what is this phenomena? It is a place you reach in your mind and body where everything feels enhanced and balanced. Where every move has purpose and your awareness is very high.

    Equestrians also have the ‘zone’ phenomena. For us the term is much broader as we have our personal zone and our horses also have zone. Something extra special happens when both rider and horse are in the zone together. If you have ever seen a horse and rider in perfect motion together then you have seen the zone in action.

Why should you strive for achieving the zone with your horse?

    When you and your horse both reach the enhanced focus the zone brings then working as a team comes much easier. Both you and your horse will be in the perfect learning frame of mind. Your signals can become light as your thoughts and your horse feels directed, safe and confident. You feel confident, trusting of your horse and aware. It feels almost as if you are reading each other’s mind. You share your direction and thoughts, the horse shares their enhanced feeling and power with us and both horse and rider share a sense of humor, focus and fun. Team work truly flourishes when the zone is achieved.

How can you achieve the zone with your horse?

    This always starts with you, it is the embodiment of awareness, focus, balance and lightness. Without those things there is no zone.

    Work daily at becoming more aware, aware of your breathing, your movement, your environment, and your thoughts. Five minutes of relaxing breathing exercises in the morning can help become more aware. Try to make every step and every movement you make count to the fullest. Try to notice one new thing about your environment every day. Be aware of your thoughts; do not just let your mind run away with you. Take notice of where your mind is running.

    Focus is a verb. It is a hard action for many of us to put into practice. Start building your focus in small ways. Look where you are going when walking (and especially when riding). Do not allow yourself to be distracted by the phone, pets, butterflies etc. when you are working on something.

    Balance, balance is physical, mental and emotional. Practice balance daily by adding awareness to focus and sitting and walking (and riding of course) with good posture. Also be sure to balance your emotional and mental state between work and stress with relaxation and fun.

    Lightness is the cousin of balance. Putting lightness into practice involves not only being aware of your focus, balance and posture but then adding effort to lighten your motions, moods and thoughts. Take every step softly, see the positives in life, deny stressful thoughts from entering your mind.
Your horse’s zone.

    If you get yourself in the zone, get yourself where you feel aware, focused, balanced and light then nine times out of ten your horse will follow suit. Horses are big on copying their leaders and horses pick the most aware, focused, balanced, light individual to lead their herd. Now of course there are times where you will be in the zone and your horse may not be for one reason or another and this is okay. Be sympathetic and do simple things you are both good at until your horse becomes more focused and relaxed. Try to avoid stressing your horse more by being generally agreeable (within reason). Some days your horse may not ever reach the zone and that is okay too. Don’t push boundaries on days like this, just take it easy and do small things. Think about the days you don’t feel like doing anything, have no focus etc. How do you want to be treated? Keep that thought in mind for your horse.

What if you have no zone today?

    This is also okay. Be easy on yourself. If your horse is in a good frame of mind, in spite of your lack of focus then do easy light encouraging to you exercises with them. Don’t push any boundaries today either.
What happens if neither my horse nor I are in the zone?

    Its days like this where things can and do get ugly and fast. Your best bet on days like this is to wait till another time or another day when you are both feeling better. Trying to force yourself and horse to do things on days like this will not be beneficial to either of you and may in fact do a great deal of damage. I have seen more accidents and tears on days like this then I care to count. It is NOT worth it.  Use days like this to read or watch something equine educational. Stay away from your horse.

Learning in the zone.
    Here is where learning can become magical for both you and your horse. Ask your horse to follow you through learning something new and agree to approach the challenge with humor and confidence. If at any time you or your seems to be less than 100% relax and pause for a few moments until both of you are regrouped and ready to continue. Work together, learning in the zone and watch the beauty flourish! 

Preforming in the zone. (For competitors and pleasure riders alike) 
    We all wish that we and our horses could be in the zone every time we go somewhere, preform or show. In reality that does not always happen. But when it does, when you feel it, truly feel it, enjoy that feeling. Anyone who has ever felt the shivers run down their spine during or after an event when both you and your equine partner agree in perfect unity knows that, that is the reason we keep riding and pushing forward to find new heights.