Ive asked all my students to make riding goals for this new year. I think it is very useful to look ahead every year and have a few concrete ideas for the future that help motivate your daily riding. I personally, believe that goals should be as specific as possible. When my goals are vague, I tend to not know when Ive achieved them and I dont feel that I have attained a benchmark that Ive set for myself. Any goal that I set for myself should require some effort or skills to be learned in order to be the most useful for eventing or horsemanship. For instance, if I set a goal to “teach Boogie to be comfortable around a show atmosphere”, this will require me to teach him the basics at home and then take him to shows and help him cope with a confusing atmosphere with calmness and understanding. I must have a certain amount of homework done on him at home in order for him to go away to a new setting and still be rideable and productive. In contrast, a less useful goal would be to say, “I want to start competing Boogie”. This statement is not specific enough and leaves me with an endpoint but no path to get there. The other reason why I dont like this goal is because it puts a priority upon competing and ribbon chasing, while the first statement put an emphasis upon Boogie’s understanding and development without the pressure of a competition. Both statements require me to take Boogie to a few shows to reach my goal, but attitude in which I go to a show with a green horse can make the difference between having a stress case, or a relaxed green horse. In the end, I am going to choose a goal which promotes the long-term development of my horse not the short-term competition.
Since Ive asked all my students to write these goals (and only one has done that) maybe I should set a good example and show you mine. I have two general types of goals, very specific ones that apply to individual horses and skills, and general accomplishment goals that help me to determine if I am proceeding in the direction that I want.
*I want Dino to be able to go to shows and turn to me for advice and let me ride him. He is a borderline “hot” horse and his tendency is to react to situations and lose his focus. I will know if I have acomplished this goal when he gets distracted and then immediately listens to my half-halt and returns to focus. This is a long-term goal that is going to require lots of repetition and adjusting of set plans. By this I mean that if I go to a show and he is unable to perform well due to tension, then maybe I withdraw and work on his rideability in the warmup arenas instead of competing.
*I want to keep in perspective that I hope Dino will be at intermediate in 3 years. Dont lose sight of his long-term talent while at novice. Dont hurry the process.
*I want Dino to develop a little “stiffer” neck and not turn into a rubber ball when he is tense. I want him to learn how to keep a long neck and still be through his topline. My dressage instructor, Debbie DeWitt, will help me develop this with weekly lessons.
*Taco needs to heal his tendon and progress with rehab. I hope to have Taco back at intermediate or prelim by Inavale.
*Boogie is going to progress from very green horse to just a green horse. I hope to take him to California this spring and teach him about new places, no competing. I want to improve his right body bend, and have him be a straighter horse. Short term: he needs to accept my leg aids better (no breath holding and scooting!) in the next month. He will also learn how to leg yield and begin the basics of the half-halt. Long term: if all goes well, he could enter a BN event in August and September.
That is just a start. I have lots of goals that are specific for each student, and I wont air them here! And I also have very detailed goals for Jordan, Kat and now Shauna, the working students. And I also have goals for Lacey and Cochlear, but those are flexible goals that depend upon the owner’s needs. (yes, I own Cochlear, but Kat rides him).
Tilly’s goal is to grow webbed feet.