Finding The Choice Zone

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A common situation for you.

Your horse spooks and you find yourself completely discombobulated. In fact, you are so out of sorts, that the only option you feel is available to you is to abort mission. Before you’ve really even had a chance to think about it, you’ve dismounted and started hot-footing your way out of there. The whole thing plays out on automatic pilot until you get to a point where your logical self comes back online, and you can think a little more clearly.

Not that this helps. Now all that happens is the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee (the negative voices inside your head) kicks in and you are left feeling worse than you did before.

Consciously, you want to be able to “just get on with things”. But you just can’t seem to make your body go there.

What’s up with that?

Typically, there are two things that we need to address.

  1. Our physiology
  2. Our conditioning (More commonly we might think of this as mindset, but really what it is a whole bunch of conditioned thought processes that we need to let go of in order to be able to create a new reality for ourselves.)

Let’s consider the first.

When I say “our physiology” I’m referring primarily to our nervous system response. In the case of spooking, how we respond to the spook is very much dependent on where our nervous system is resting. If I am in a place where I am adaptable and responsive, chances are a spook will only result in a momentary glitch. I react to the “jolt” and then find my reset button quickly after realizing there is nothing to be concerned about.

If, however, I am in the place where I am living for the most part from my fight-flight (or sympathetic) nervous system, my reaction will be very different. Now I am in a situation where the ability of my body overall to shapeshift and adapt is compromised, and the sudden spook can drive me deeper into the sympathetic response. In this case, finding my reset button often involves cycling back further than I might consider to be “appropriate”… which brings us to Part 2 of the equation.

In order to get myself in situation where I feel like I have choice- where I can use my conscious superpowers to repattern habitual and programmed responses. The place where you can choose is the first place you come to where you are both aware of a habitual response playing out, and you have the ability to choose.

Your choices are:

You continue to let your mind and body run away with you (re-enforcing the existing pattern)


You can use skills and understandings to create a new pattern and start to slowly shift your experience

{Side note: I’m not trying to be cryptic when I say “skills and understandings”; this forms part of a bigger understanding and process and is a big part of what I teach in JoyRide that’s outside the scope of what we’re discussing here}

This place is what I have come to call “The Choice Zone”.

The Choice Zone sounds like an obvious and easy place to get to, with the only catch being that often it’s not. Let’s think about it in reference to the above example.

Your horse has spooked. You’ve mentally left the building. You need to find your Choice Zone.

Your Choice Zone might mean that you get have to get off. Getting off might be the only option you have to start to exercise some of your re-patterning superpowers.

Your Choice Zone might mean you need to stop for a few minutes. But maybe you’re having a lesson. Or there are people watching.

In order to truly get ourselves in a position where we are able to change habitual or reflexive responses we have to be willing to let go of our ideas of what things should look like. Many times, what is freeze framing us in time are our fixed rules and expectations about what we should be able to do or what we think we need to be doing or not doing with our horses in different environments to conform to the unwritten social contracts we believe to be in place.

I can’t get off, we tell ourselves. That’s not what good riders do.

I can’t tell my instructor I need a moment, we affirm. What will they think of me?

Creating new responses means examining looking at where we are getting in our own way.

It means noticing what we allow and what we don’t allow ourselves to do, and how that might be contributing to those moments where we feel like we are chasing our tail.

So much of our learning is not about a taking on or new things but of a letting go of all the things that came before.

Of conditioned ideas of appropriateness.

Of suppressing needs based on concerns about what other people will think.

We need to give ourselves the grace of letting ourselves learn.

Let yourself cycle back to the place where it feels like choice exists and move forward from there.


❤️ Jane


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