If you’ve been following this journey of ours for any amount of time, you likely already have noticed “goal setting” and “simple wins” are how I live my life. This particular post hearkens back to a post I wrote earlier on goal setting (https://horsebackwriting.weebly.com/blog/goal-setting-the-method-to-my-madness) but from a different angle. You see, Jean-Luc and me, we fail. We fail often. However, if we just focused on those failures, instead of our “wins” then our failure could easily eat us alive.
I, like many riders I’ve met, struggle with feeling like we may never accomplish our goals. The only way I’ve been able to keep those feelings of being overwhelmed at bay is to concentrate on a simple thought process, “What can we do today that we couldn’t do yesterday?” In other words, how can we get 1% better today? Personally, I try to keep this philosophy in mind every day when working with Jean-Luc.
To be clear, I did not make up this philosophy or pull it from the sky. It is based on the Japanese Business Philosophy known as kaizen (改善) – a philosophy pertaining to continuously small improvements over time; this idea was developed after the Second World War and borrows from American business and quality management teachers. Because of its practical and easily applicable nature, many outside of business realms have also adopted this way of thinking.
Jean-Luc and I have been together two months shy of a year. In many ways, I believe we’ve made great strides. However, In other areas, I feel like we haven’t made any improvement, got started. When writing this post I was excited to review our riding footage. After reviewing that riding footage, I can say that I felt 1%, maybe even 5% more comfortable, but I don't know that I looked any better. In fact, in some ways, Jean-Luc's body positions may have regressed. Regardless, after the last post, I knew it was time for the two of us to buckle down and focus.
This is so wrong it makes me laugh. Heads are all kinds of high, I'm leaning forward so tense I could likely clinch a penny betwixt my cheeks. Also, just an aside, I'm 30 lbs heavier here than in recent months. That said, Jean-Luc is so nice and clean. I am longing for summer months because I'm over the mud, rain, and snow!
This post is dedicated to trying to see if we’ve really made progress, or if I’ve willed progress for us. Specifically, I’ve pulled clips and images that focus on my time in the saddle with Jean-Luc (not so much groundwork or other areas).
Thanks to some much-needed coaching and encouragement from Liz, I believe I’ve found the courage I was looking for buried deep within. One area I know counts as a win would be the fact that yesterday, Jean-Luc and I managed to get across the creek and actually walk several laps around the field calmly (after quickly trotting all over the place first).
Jean-Luc has a habit, like many horses, of catching me and my mind up in “his game.” For example, I was never able to even get Jean-Luc to cross the small creek into the “big field” you’ve heard so much about because of his utter refusal to go there. Well, the big goal is to be able to conduct workouts over in the “big field” regularly. Before we can even do that and start working under saddle, we just needed to be able to get there regularly. Before we could start “getting there regularly,” we needed to just GET THERE. This video below is us meeting the first part of the aforementioned “getting there."
We did it! And not only did we do it. We made it to the “big field” after crossing a creek that basically had turned in to a small river. It took so much coaxing, but I told myself and said aloud to Jean-Luc, “I’m not playing your game today! Today, we play my game. And that game is CROSS THE RIVER!” So we did! The video is us coming back from the big field!
So when it comes to the things that I believe we have achieved in nearly a year, I believe this 9 things we accomplished in 99 days still hold true
1. Load Successfully on a Trailer
2. Trail Ride
3. Ride in a Parade
4. Make New Horseback Riding Friends
5. Learn to "Gait"
6. Take The Best Care Possible of My Horse
7. Volunteer for the Endurance Ride
8. Secret Goal
9. Find Me & Regain Some Confidence
But when I look back at the things we’ve “accomplished” since these goals were achieved, I’m not too sure what they are? These were huge deals! Now, the fine-tuning begins, I guess, and that is harder, for sure.
For example goal #2 Trail ride – We completed a massive trail ride together and this season I can think of 90, logged miles and at least three pretty large group or overnight rides Jean-Luc and I did together in since we’ve been together. That is a big deal, but the reality is also that endurance riders (which are not) can complete 100 miles in 48 hours or less. I don’t say that to be down on our accomplishments, but to keep us humble and put things into perspective for where we could go.
#3 Ride in a Parade – I would like to have ridden through another town this year, but we only rode through one parade. Truth be told Jean-Luc and I avoided the main chaos of the event, too. We could ride in the very front, rather than at the end. We also missed the Mountain State Forest Festival Parade (mainly because I didn’t have anyone to ride in it with and it wasn’t all that practical to get there and load in and out since I don’t have my own trailer). Also, Jean-Luc and I missed the Christmas ride, too. So, again, while I see several missed opportunities, I also see room for improvement.
#4 Make New Horseback Riding Friends – I’m officially a “bitty in training” so I feel like this is going well, but one can ALWAYS make new horsey friends.
#5 Learn to Gait – we still have a LONG way to go here. While Jean-Luc knows what gaiting is, we’ve had to regress some here to encourage overall movement. Like any horse, gaining control of a horse that doesn’t want to play YOUR game can often still involve making the horse move their feet.
#6 Take the Best Possible Care of My Horse – This is a never-ending lesson. Exhibit A we, together, survived one really bad choke this year. We will continue to experience things as they come, but my goal is to think, “What proactive measures can I take to ensure Jean Luc’s health?”
#7 Volunteer for the Endurance Ride – Well, that Jean-Luc and I did complete with flying colors. The evolution would be to volunteer more time to horse causes. I believe we will exceed this by more than 1% in the coming months because I have been voted secretary of the local riding club that I am a part of and that puts on the Endurance Ride. It feels like a real honor (or perhaps I lost a bet)? Regardless, I’ve very excited to contribute.
# 8 Secret Goal – is still a secret.
#9 Find and Regain My Confidence
In keeping with the theme of Kaizen, the natural progression of goals is often for them to devolve into several other smaller goals that work towards progression as a whole. The following are the paths I see for us to be able to get there:
LEARN TO GAIT - to do this right, I believe there are a few things that really need to come together prior to seeing actual progress here.
#5 A – Build a Balanced Body . . . Honestly, I don’t actually know how we’re going to do this. I believe more time in the saddle with help both of us? I have chosen to ride more and do a little less ground work. The groundwork we will be focusing on will likely involve cantering. Help is welcome here. Keeping it completely real, I am nervous to do too much here without someone that knows what they’re doing. I know some basics and acknowledge his body is all over the place. Building proper balance will lead to muscle, and I just don’t want to build the wrong muscles if that makes sense?
#5 B – Build Muscle in the Hind End – Riding more will help this no matter what. Am I crazy to think that if we just keep riding anywhere and everywhere as much as possible together that we’ll get better? Honestly, that is kind of my plan here. I hear many people preach, “Time and Miles.” It is hard to me to not have a specific plan, that’s just my personality, but perhaps too specific would result in the feeling of failure over and over again. There’s something to be said for flexibility.
#5 C – Become more comfortable riding the trot
#5 D – Become more comfortable riding the canter
#5 E – Work on transitioning from walk to trot
#5 F – Work on transitioning into and out of cantering
*After completing the CRITICAL GOAL found below, my plan is to create a very specific CRITICAL GOAL for those above.
TRAIL RIDE – What I really want to accomplish is being able to head out for a trail ride, alone, and calmly with Jean-Luc. I really would like to simply walk around and explore. This is when I am most at peace. It is why I purchased a horse in the first place. Me. Horse. Nature. Therefore, I have created a “Critical Focus” around this idea to hopefully get there, all the while keeping the principle of Kaizen in mind while working to do so.
#2 A – Learn to Be Comfortable Away from the Herd – Before we can even walk on trails alone comfortably, we have to be able to walk away from the barn comfortably. The more time we can get in the saddle away from the herd the better.
# 2 B – Get to the “Big Field” Without Fussing
#2 C – Work Comfortably in the “Big Field” – this goal really needs better defined for measurement purposes.
CRITICAL FOCUS GOAL:
By April 30, Jean-Luc and I will make it into the Big Field without the aid of another horse to lead us there 8 times and complete 6 laps (3 in each direction) with 10 or fewer attempts to bolt back to the barn.
This is a lot to say, I’m not sure how far we’ve come? I know we have miles to go. I hope to celebrate our successes, and look forward to that which is yet to come.
If you wish and have time, here are few videos of us from the summer and the last is the most recent one of us riding together. As I said above, watching them, I'm not sure we've really made that much progress, which is sad, but it does show there's plenty of work to do!
Ugh, did I mention I am tired of the mud! Forgive my dirty horse. Can you say, "BATH!" Next time it is warm, this critter is of course getting one.
I've said it before, Jean-Luc isn't a unicorn. Or, if he is, then he is only a unicorn to me. Yesterday, Jean-Luc apparently wanted to prove me wrong. He wanted the world to see him and his beautiful, self-made horn. So ladies and gentleman, here he is! I give you, Jean-Luc the unicorn!
Yup, after searching the field for nearly thirty minuets, I found my handsome devil with trotting around his head in the air. Something looked a bit, off.
"Your forelock looks lovely, who came out to braid...Oh my!" I thought to myself.
There he was. My man, plus 17 burrs allow smashed in his forelock. Honestly, who could anything but laugh? I brought him back to the barn, and didn't have too much trouble cleaning them out - but not before a few priceless photos!
Eventually, I was able to saddle up for a brief ride and work on Jean-Luc's gait. He still doesn't quite have one yet. He's very pacey - meaning he likes for his front and back legs, on the same side, to move at the same time. When I brought him home, I quickly realized Jean-Luc's never gaited a day in his life, and teaching it was going to take time. Furthermore, I've never owned a gaited horse, nor do I really know the intricacies that come along with it.
It's been a journey already, but after some help from a few amazing trainers (Ivy is my hero!) and locals, we're starting to actually muscle up the correct parts of our bodies and somewhat perform that smooth glide.
Here are a few very short sessions Liz helped me film last night. Watch for the 4-beat pattern. His back leg should hit before his front. Jean-Luc hits it only once or twice, then his legs start moving together.
Later this week I have a ride scheduled with a local gaited horse guru. He's fantastic and really knows his stuff. He's already worked with Jean-Luc and me once, so I'm excited to see if notices any improvements or what he thinks? Truth is, I won't be surprised if doesn't notice much. We've slacked a little on actually gaiting in the past few weeks.
So what about you? Do you have anything you're working on that some might call "too big for your britches?" How are you tackling them?
My name is Chelsey.
Generator's Cuevo Gold, or as he's known around this barn, "Jean-Luc Ponycard", was foaled in 2004 from Generator's Hurricane & Cheyenne's Little Bit.
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