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Identifying “The Zone”

by Daniel Stewart


Rene asks “My trainer keeps telling me to get into the zone.  I’ve heard of this in other sports, but can it happen in riding and, if so, how do I do it?” 


All athletes, including riders (yes we are athletes) can get into the zone. It’s the sensation of being able to ride your best in an effortless and automatic way. You don’t have to work, think or try hard because everything just seems to fall into place. This sensation is called your Individual Zone of Optimal Functioning – IZOF for short – and is what allows you to ride and/or compete at your peak. There are numerous feelings that characterize the zone:


1) Total Concentration – You’re completely immersed in your ride, focused on the task at hand, and feel total freedom from distractions.


2) Feel up to the Challenge – You feel that you’re being challenged, but at the same time feel as if you have the skills needed to meet that challenge.


3) Effortless Action – You feel like you’re one with your horse and your actions. You don’t have to work hard at riding.


4) Heightened Senses – In addition to the 5 senses, your sense of rhythm, body awareness, timing and of doing what’s right become more clear and intense.


5) Goal Focused – You know how well you’re doing and know exactly what you must do to continue riding in this way.


6) Lack of Self-Consciousness – You find yourself in a wonderful place free of worries, doubt, expectations, obligations, pressure and/or fear.


7) Time Distortion – You feel as if you have an endless amount of time to perform any action, even though it may really happen in the blink of an eye.


8) The Auto-telic Experience – Your ride becomes so enjoyable that you no longer worry about winning or losing – the ride itself is the reward.


Next month we’ll discuss how to get in the zone. For now, rememberDon’t try and get into the zone, let it get into you!


Published April 2013 Issue

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