Choose Personalized, Meaningful Goals For You and Your Horse

Frequently when I ask new students what their goals are for starting a riding program, I am met with blank stares. Their love of horses gets them into my barn but they aren’t quite sure where they want to go from there. For beginners, getting down the mechanics of riding by engaging in naive practice is a good place to start but once you have built up your skills and are “good enough” it is time to start thinking about what you want to achieve with your horse. Choosing personalized, meaningful goals is the best, most efficient way to get you where you want to go. 

Personalized goals are the cornerstone of any solid training program. Good goals will not only give you a roadmap to your destination but, if done properly, will help you stay focused and motivated along your journey. Ideally a good goal hits the sweet spot between too easy and too difficult. It should be be just enough outside of your comfort zone to make you stretch but not so far out that you lose confidence in your ability to get there.

Each person has to look inside themselves and take an honest inventory of where they are and where they want to be. No two people will have the same journey. The owner who just bought their first horse, after years or decades of dreaming about it, may find bonding with their new best friend a top priority. The person who has just started showing may want to learn to get consistent performances from their horse or the seasoned rider who wants to shine at the biggest shows may want to learn how to bring the best out of their horse.

It can be daunting to think about setting a goal that hits the sweet spot but here are some questions to ask yourself that will help clarify what should be your personal end point.

What specifically do you want?

A good goal is attached to a specific outcome but it also needs to be realistic. if you started riding less than a year ago and have a dream to compete at a national level by the year’s end you are setting yourself up for failure. A more reasonable goal would be to compete in your first local, entry level horse show on a specific date after you have taken lessons for one year. This goal is going to take a lot of work to achieve but is attainable. An important distinction is that the goal is not to win but to compete. If you win or not is out of your control and good goals can be completed within your frame of influence.

Is your goal self-initiated & self-maintained?

Did you decide this was something you want to achieve or are you trying to please someone else? If you are not intrinsically motivated there is no way you are going to push through the trough in the middle to get to the reward at the end. Going back to our horse show example, if your trainer, parent or another person decided that going to a horse show would be a great thing for you to do but what you really want is to feel confident going out on a trail ride then you will quickly lose interest in your practice sessions. It’s equally important to carefully consider your motivation as well as your means. If you really want to go to the show but cannot afford the twice weekly lessons that it will take to get you there you should reconsider the end goal or the timeline to make it realistic.

Are you in control of setting and reaching your goal?

As we mentioned earlier, making a goal to win at your first show is not a good goal because you have no control over who wins or not. You may be competing against more seasoned riders with faster horses or subject to a judges opinion. Those are things that are out of your control. A better goal is I want to enter and compete at my first horse show on xx date at xx place or I want to trailer my horse to xx location for a 4 hour trail ride on xx date.

Can you accept 100% responsibility for your goal?

You have to be willing to take full responsibility for putting in the hard work to reach your goal. If there is external pressure or internal conflict keeping you from reaching your goal then it is not a good goal. Oftentimes the support of family members or others in our lives is necessary, if that is the case you will want to be sure the people in your life are onboard. A parent of young children may not have the time to devote to two or more lessons per week to prepare for a show without help caring for their children. In that case it is essential to have your partner or other support system in place and if that can’t happen you may need to amend your goal to something more realistic for your situation. Creating good goals demands that you are in a position to be willing and able to take full responsibility for achieving your outcome.

Taking the time to ask yourself these questions will help you come up with personalized goals, that you are internally motivated to achieve. 

Are you inspired to take action? Sign up for our free online goal setting course, Making Strides. It will give you the tools to learn how to set your intention and stick with it. Every great ride starts with a good plan. Click here to enroll today!

If you are interested in how a growth mindset can help your riding, we would love to hear from you in our private Facebook community at https://www.facebook.com/groups/mindsetequitation

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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Published by TheMindfulEquestrian

Horse lover helping horse lovers.

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