California Riding Magazine • September, 2009

Avatar Hypnosis
Gayle Finch offers hypnosis
for horseback riders.

“It’s like a riding lesson without the horse,” says Avatar Hypnosis proprietor Gayle Finch of her sessions with equestrians. In a typical session, Finch uses knowledge drawn from a written questionnaire, taken in advance, to help her clients address various challenges in their riding. Most often, equestrians come to her with a desire simply to improve their game.

With a degree in biochemistry and cell biology from UCSD and a masters in educational technology, Finch doesn’t fit the outdated stereotype many have of a hypnotist: that of an entertainer putting hapless audience members under his spell and making them do stupid things. “Nobody will do under hypnosis what they won’t do while fully conscious,” Finch explains.

In the state of extreme relaxed awareness that her hypnosis techniques elicit, clients let down their guard just enough for their subconscious to follow and respond to guided imagery. Every session with an equestrian starts with the rider visualizing the process of getting in tune with their horse. Finch begins at the barn, leading them through the details of preparing to ride.

A lifelong horse lover and hunt seat and dressage enthusiast herself, Finch offers a leg yield visualization to represent a pivotal point in a session. “After the warm-up, I ask the rider to visualize riding a leg yield on their horse. I ask them to notice what the horse is doing and what they are doing. If their problem is a poor leg position, I encourage them to fix that position during this part of the visualization.”

Finch has been interested in hypnosis for 10 years. As a science teacher, she first studied it as a way to help students improve their attitude toward academics. She now uses hypnosis to help clients find pain relief, alter negative/self-defeating behaviors, manage weight, reduce stress, activate creativity, promote problem solving, elevate emotional well-being, improve sports skills, enhance relationships, address addictions, develop academic talents and reduce or eliminate fears and phobias.

Lightbulb Moment

The San Diego resident works with clients in her Solana Beach office and is happy to travel to barns for on-site visits. She had a lightbulb moment two years ago about applying her hypnosis expertise to riders. Finch is unflustered by the considerable number of skeptics she’s seen since then. “The people who are skeptical are very skeptical,” she observes. “I should know because I was one of those people.” Even though her scientific education and background told her there was logic behind how hypnosis works in the brain, Finch admits it still took her a while to embrace it before she became a certified practitioner.

“The subconscious will allow us to look at things the conscious will not,” Finch explains. “If a rider is willing or able to say, ‘I’m afraid of jumping a water obstacle,’ that makes it easier to address the problem. More often, fear and other issues are something I have to keep a keen eye out for during a session. If I see body language or a facial expression that indicates a certain type of response, that leads me to explore those areas more.”

A student struggling with school and a rider struggling in competition have something in common, Finch points out. “Both are being affected by a brain in conflict with itself. Hypnosis gives you the tools to focus your mind, get past your mental barriers and achieve what you want in life.”

For more information on Avatar Hypnosis, call Gayle Finch at 760-728-9391 or visit