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  • Writer's pictureRachel Kerr

Happy Goal Setting 2020...

Happy New Year! Yes a few days late but I found myself back into the daily grind and it took a few days to do some ‘goal setting’ for the year. I’m often guilty of the usual New Years resolutions, which go along the lines of ‘I won’t drink for a month’ or ‘I will eat less pizza’ and after about a week I’m cracking open the wine and ordering extra cheese on the already cheese laden pizza. This year is different, for several reasons I think...

Firstly. I’m just about to reach my first anniversary of living in Los Angeles so I have more to reflect on than usual after some pretty significant life changes over the last 12 months. New job, new home, majority of friends and family an 8 or 9 hour time difference away. Plus my gorgeous and talented pony now with an injury which, though slight, is enough of an issue not to risk travelling him here (he is now retired and in the UK for the foreseeable future) etc, etc, etc.

Secondly, I started a sports psychology course with Centre 10 so I am doing my homework and have a framework to work to which feels more constructive and purposeful than my normal resolution setting after several drinks on New Year itself.

Thirdly, I like a bit of a challenge and am generally more successful once I have an aim to life, and think it can only be positive to set some achievable goals right? :)

To provide some context I have fallen on my feet in several ways since being in LA. The major stroke of luck being that I found Patricia Lincourt, and have been welcomed with open arms by Patricia and the team at Lincourt Stables, the Paddock Riding Club and the wider LA equestrian community. Without meeting these incredible people I think I may have packed my bags and headed back home a while ago!

Back to goal setting. I’ve found myself with a main outcome goal that reads; ‘Be the most relaxed, confident and happy rider I can be, whatever the situation’. Bear with me, this is the first time I have done this! From the outcome goal you set performance goals of which I have identified three main areas. These go along the lines of; 1. Riding a clear round at a show in the USA. 2. Consistently scoring +65% in dressage tests and 3. Confidently trail riding, which sounds simple until you know what you are faced with here (especially at some point on my own). Then I have a multitude pf process goals that as I wrote them seemed to relate and map to each other, and range from ‘ride crisp transitions’, ‘ride accurate movements’ and ‘be balanced in every movement’, there are many but you get the idea.

Now, these may not seem like stretching goals and in some ways I agree, but for me they feel both realistic and achievable while stretching myself for the situation I am currently in. You see for the last 14 years I have been lucky enough to have my own horses to ride (most of the time), and have a solid network of support around me at the livery yard I kept them at in the UK. All that changed in the blink of an eye when I moved to Los Angeles and I left my comfort zone so far behind me I have felt like I have had to start completely from scratch. As a result I went through a minor crisis of confidence, sounds daft right? I’d gone from someone happy to hack (trail ride) for hours on end on my own to someone nervous to leave the barn on horseback. All of a sudden I had to ride new horses, big horses (my last two have both been ponies), horses without any turn out or opportunities to hack in the countryside or do many of the 'normal' things that we take for granted in the UK due to an extreme lack of land and grass here. And I had to just get on with it. Which I did, and thankfully, confidence is returning little by little. Much of this I credit to the calm patience and huge experience of Patricia Lincourt who has helped me in more ways than I can count to start believing in myself again.

Back to the goal setting! The idea is that these goals form the basis of a plan, a kind of interlocking map I guess. Now every time I go to ride I should have a clear plan in place of what I want to achieve and how I can get there. So in theory, I stop thinking about the outside distractions and have the tools to (of which there are many, try trail riding in central Los Angeles with a 12 lane highway, basketball/baseball pitches and a noisy film set building business right next to the arena. Plus the usual dogs, bikes, walkers etc all of which makes coming across the occasional flappy plastic bag in a hedge back home seem like paradise), block all these out so I focus solely on me, the horse and our training.

Now, thanks to Patricia, Centre 10 and my new focus I am thinking more about how to get a consistently soft and correct arm position, why my left leg sits slightly further forward than my right leg and my balance to enable a soft and relaxed 'two point' rather than worrying if the horse might react to the tractor in the next arena or to the garbage truck trundling down the road 5 meters away. These might not seem like much but believe me when you are sitting on a 17h horse you have never ridden before after a 14h pony that you have ridden every day it seems like a big deal.

The other amazing thing is that I have started to learn a totally new way of training horses, because Patricia is teaching me how to use positive reinforcement (R+) methods, also known as clicker training and the results are fantastic. Plus, I am teaching myself, mostly kids but this is something I have not done for over 20 years and it has made me realise I know more than I give myself credit for!

So this blog will be a combination of a diary, what I have learned in training, general info about equestrian lives in Los Angeles and all the wonderful horses and people I am now lucky enough to call friends.

If you are interested in lessons or training at Lincourt, especially in positive reinforcement methods please contact us. We will be running a workshop event in the summer showing the benefits of clicker training for horses and welcome all interested to come along and meet us! Now pass the pizza, and the wine. Cheers!





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