• Elaine Sanders

The Need For Constant Improvement

Over the last few weeks, Kali (my Rocky Mountain mare), and I have been making some real progress in gaits. Because she’s gaited and I’m 100% new to the world of gaited horses, this is a steep learning curve for both of us.

But on the base of a solid relationship, we are getting an even walk, beautiful trots, a canter (only on one lead so far and maybe a stride or two on her other lead), and some-kind-of-smooth-gait-that-I-don’t-know-the-name-of-but-it’s-a-ton-of-fun (that I call her shuffle-trot).

(For all you gaited horse experts out there, I apologize. There won’t be a single technical term in here, because that’s just not my area of expertise. I’m much more interested in the inner skills.)

Kali has gaited before with her previous owners, but she was forced into it with harsh bits and straps. But that’s not my thing. So we are doing it all bitless with just a rope halter.

The progress was so good, that I was developing a blind spot.

I was focusing on the progress. Not the partnership.

So each time I went out, I was thinking, planning, and plotting about what we would do that day. What we would work on. How we could make this smoother. How we could make that a nicer transition. How we could improve.

I realized one day, that I was getting quite hung up on this idea of improvement. Constant improvement. And what started as fun, was turning into rigidity.

On the day I realized it, I set an intention.

My intention that day had nothing to do with gaits. Nothing to do with transitions. Nothing to do with progress.

My intention was this: “Today I will not try to improve anything. I will accept what shows up and roll with it.”

With that intention, I did my usual liberty warm-up rituals with Kali (she responded with thought more than cue), I put the halter on her (she dipped her nose into it), I saddled her (she calmly stood ground tied), got on (she came up for me at the mounting block), and went for a ride.

It wasn’t necessarily easy for me. I had to constantly check my need for improvement. I had to put it down every time it came up. I had to grow beyond the need to correct her every move, or to micromanage her. I had to set aside the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”. I had accept what every moment gave.

But as I followed through with my intention - as I set aside my need for constant improvement, I noticed the strangest thing. I had FUN. We had FUN together!

It was amazing. She was full of controlled energy. She was responsive. She was calm, but eager. We were so connected; all cues were with thought. Neither of us wanted it to end. And a sweet bonus...she gave the most beautiful canters, trots, and shuffle-trots, that we've ever experienced.

When we take a break from fixing, improving, bettering, and perfecting, we let go of our critical nature, we enter the present moment, and respond to what’s happening. We are open to receive and to let go. We are fully in the moment.

And once we stop trying to improve it, we can enjoy it.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve. With trying to get better. But don’t let it become a need. Don’t let it get in the way of partnership. Don’t let it block you from enjoying it.

What things are you working on with your horse?

What would happen if you took a break from trying to improve it, and just accepted what showed up, and rolled with it?

Put yourself in your horse’s hooves. Would you enjoy a day filled with praise and encouragement instead of improvement?

Where else in your life are you trying to improve?

What would happen it you accepted it, and rolled with it for a bit?

Here’s to You and Your Horse!

With heart,


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