IRVING, CALIFORNIA—After decades following the established hunter/jumper theories of Bert de Némethy, Gordon Wright, and others, a new school of riding is turning one of the sport’s most established notions on its head. 

This winter, California entrepreneur, certified shaman, and longtime amateur rider Hanson Zeiss launched his new school of “Distance-Free” riding. This alternative and radical theory, he says, is not only effective, it offers a stress-free approach to the sport for riders of all ages who struggle to find a distance on course.

“It’s time to let go of the toxic energies, man,” says Zeiss, who is best known as the creator of Dhamma Tea, an all-natural, USDA-certified organic, free-trade, non-GMO, kombucha/CBD beverage.

“I’ve had horses for more than four decades, and I’ve trained with some of the best people in the business, and I still struggle to find a distance in my riding. I’d pick to the chip, or kick to the flier, or do nothing at all, then change my mind at the last minute, and it’s on my horse to play Superman and save the day. 

“You’re at the take-off spot like, Yo, am I gonna get pitted today? You just never know. That pressure, man, that pressure to pick the right one, it’s so brutal. I started sitting down with myself, and asking myself, Are you even having fun, bro? And that’s when the answer finally came to me, in the shape of a turquoise phoenix. That’s when I knew I needed to do something.” 

That ‘something’ was Distance-Free Living, also known as DXIXF, a riding, self-improvement, and meditation center based in Laguna Woods, California. DXIXF offers 10-day seminars for juniors and adult amateurs, as well as a coaching certification course geared toward professionals. The theory, Zeiss says, is straightforward. 

“Let the horse do its job—it knows where its feet have to go, right? We’re all just passengers on this wild ride of life, and yet, being ‘a passenger’ in horse sport gets such a bad rap. I think getting the most out of your riding is really all about letting go and letting it flow.”

Each DXIXF seminar includes a variety of mounted and unmounted exercises that help riders ‘unwire’ their brains to look for distances. Instead, participants are taught to simply accept what comes—good, bad, or ugly—with the help of deep breathing and visualization exercises, clean eating, sensory deprivation therapy, and Ooms.

But it doesn’t end there. 

Attendees are also required to meet with Zeiss daily during DXIXF’s intensive, ‘Jumping-Clear’ debriefing sessions, to “moderate their riding energy” and gauge their progress in the curriculum. Participants are expected to report not just on their own work, but on how their friends are progressing, and if they suspect fellow riders may still be looking for distances in their lessons.

Zeiss’s Distance-Free Living has seen a major jump in brethren since it launched early this year, from 300 attendees up to more than 3,000 in just a few months. The curriculum, he says, “speaks for itself.” But does it actually work? 

It may be too early to tell, though Zeiss’s own, formerly extensive USEF record has been suspiciously patchy since Distance-Free Living launched in February. Zeiss, for his part, shrugs this off.

“I’ve been busy launching DXIXF, of course,” he says. “We’re doing some really important things here. We’re helping people ride better. We’re revolutionizing the industry. We’re teaching equestrians to vibe and feel better about their time in the ring. And, in doing so, we’re making the world a more relaxed and inclusive place.

“Finding the right distance is a construct, man,” he says. “You’ve got to abandon the construct.”