Until this past year, I was the type of equestrian without any true goals. I had general “Going to do a recognized horse trial this year” goal, but nothing that really challenged me or my horse.
I went through my riding career like a leaf in the wind. I went any direction that best suited the current situation I was in with the least amount of turbulence. I was like this until I had a sit down with one of the most accomplished Australian event and dressage riders known, Heath Ryan.
My wife and I were extremely lucky to play host to Heath on his only trip to the United States this past summer. After riding with Heath on three different days on my training mare Beans (which would have been more if money were no issue), Heath asked to have a sit down with me and figure out my future in eventing. When an Olympian and an Olympic coach asks to sit down with you, how do you contain your excitement?
On his last day in the States before we took him to the airport, Heath joined me at the dining room table with a pad of paper and a pen. In those next three hours, which flew by, we looked at what my goals should be for the next four years of my eventing career, from how I should continue the rest of 2014 to what horse trials I should stay away from if the stars aligned and Beans and I went all the way.
It was those three hours that gave me the kick in the butt I needed. They changed the way I ride, compete, and my general outlook on life. I have found that having goals keeps me getting back on after horrible rides.
They have pushed me to ride with trainers and clinicians I never would have thought I was good enough to ride with. My goals have led me down the road to get Dancing Ruth from a incredible organization, New Vocations. And most importantly my goals make me want to help others figure out and achieve their own goals
Now I’m not talking about just those amazing goals that most riders dream of. You know: Olympics! Rolex! WEG! Pan Am Games! I break it down to a more basic level then that.
Yes, my ultimate goal would be to ride in the 2018 WEGs in Montreal, but that isn’t happening tomorrow. I’m referring to those more simplistic goals you should have for this year, this month, this week, or today’s ride.
As an example, here are my goals for Dancing Ruth:
This year, I want to get to a recognized horse trials at Beginner Novice. Additionally, there are those unstated goals that have to happen prior to achieving the ones you set. For instance what has to happen before I take Ruth recognized.
This month, I will set the goal that we will have three nice gaits going both directions. This week I will work on her ability go to the right with out falling in. And today I will want her to be able to bend both left and right at the walk.
So far, Ruth’s progress has surpassed the goals I set for us when I first had the thought of bringing her home from New Vocations. I was fully prepared to spend weeks just having a relaxed few walk steps or having her stand at the mounting block, or hacking down the driveway to the indoor or even just stepping foot in the indoor. When you set goals and you meet them, the feeling you get is amazing.
Every time I work with Ruth, I have at least one goal I want to achieve. And it can be as simple as walking one lap around the arena. Setting these smaller goals start to make the ultimate goals for the week, month or year so much easier to attain. But do not be discouraged if you fall short; pick your head up and try again tomorrow.
Henry Thoreau wrote in his book, Walden, “I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Goals, dreams, milestones, objectives or whatever you want to label them are a vital part of being successful with our equine partners. Set them, reach them, repeat.