Saturday, December 29, 2007

Setting Realistic Goals

Setting Realistic Goals
The New Year is just around the corner, and it may be time to set some goals for our horses and ourselves. Realistic goals are sometimes difficult to set because goals may intertwine with dreams of grandeur. Dreams are a nice distraction but they are impractical, goals are practical but at times unrealistic. How can we make our objectives a reality? It is as uncomplicated as setting reasonable goals for horses and us. The first step would be to define what your true ambition is concerning your riding and your horse. Ask yourself, why do you ride, what do you want from your riding? What do you hope to achieve in the coming year? What are your physical abilities and your horses? Do you want to compete, trail ride, hunter pace, and work on fitness or better communication skills with your horses? How much money do you have to contribute to your sport, how much time is allotted for your commitment to riding? Evaluating your reasons for riding may help to define what goals you should set and more important the realistic potential regarding you and your horse’s abilities. In order to succeed and attain your goals you must formulate a plan and follow through.
Future Goals
Future goals are what you desire to achieve farther down the road. These objectives should be realistic and reachable with your commitment and dedication. Obviously, an ambition of winning the gold at the Olympics would be unrealistic and a waste of time. However, don’t make the mistake of limiting yourself to less challenging goals, as long as you and your horse are physically able; set goals within your reach, aiming neither to high nor to low. List in a notebook all your long-term goals. Be honest with yourself about your actual wants and even more straightforward about your abilities. By being honest with yourself, successfully reaching your goals is possible. On the other hand, being over-confident about your abilities will almost certainly court failure and frustration. Remember, the best part about setting your own goals is that you can always revise them if your viewpoint changes or you become involved in a different aspect of the sport. Nothing is written in stone, just a paper notebook.
Midway Goals
The middle part of the goal structure would be transitional goals, which are the milestones, you achieve on the way to your future goals. As an example, if your future goal is to ride in a hunter pace or go trail riding, and you have never ridden outside the arena, walk your horse around the outside of the ring after your lessons. As you become more comfortable without the security of the arena, widen your circle each time. Eventually, you will be walking the entire property, and soon will be confident enough to go on a quiet trail ride with friends. If your ambition is to show at Training Level, practice at home until you are proficient enough to compete. The same holds true for any aspect dealing with horses and riding, the more time you devote to your purpose, the more rewards you will reap. The majority of benefits connected to riding are reachable through commitment, focus, and perseverance, along with your mental and physical abilities. Set yourself up to succeed by taking one-step at a time. This is the safe and sane way to make things happen for you. Be sure to give yourself and your horse all the time you need to accomplish what you want to achieve as your future goals. Working at a slow speed naturally takes longer but the dividends will pay off in the end. Enjoy the time spent with your horse and try not to push either one of you too hard. You are a team and it is important to earn your horses trust and respect. Nothing worth having ever comes easily, without commitment on your part; you will by no means be able to make your goals a reality. As with any sport, riding takes devotion, if you give it all you have you will get back all it has to give.
Beginning Goals
Beginning goals are the foundation or building blocks that we need to work on daily or as often as possible. Every time you put your foot into a stirrup, you are laying the groundwork for achieving one more thing that will move you forward to your middle and future goals. Focus is a crucial element in attaining the confidence and experience needed to accomplish your ambitions for the future. You must leave your stress outside the ring and focus on the job at hand. If you are not able to do this, it will take longer to get where you want to be. When riding, concentration on the job at hand is the only thing that matters, thinking about what happened at work, the grocery list or anything else is unproductive and dangerous. You are riding a huge animal with a mind of its own and the horse deserves your full attention if you expect his/hers in return. If you cannot respect the horse or the instructor while riding then you are wasting everyone’s time including your own.
The winter weather may be uncooperative making riding, at times, impossible. Winter might also be the time you want to hibernate indoors; nevertheless, you can make this work too. Take this time to get fit and flexible. Read books and watch videos you find interesting and instructional. Discuss with your instructor the goals you have set and devise a plan for achieving your future objectives together. Visit the barn as often as possible, groom and interact with the horses, clean tack, organize your tack trunk, etc. Anytime spent in the company of horses is good quality time. Numerous things can be learned on the ground, not everything needs to be done in a saddle.
Remember working towards your goals and recording your progress is a good way to measure the achievements you have made. Make a chart to record your progress or write it all down in your notebook and check on your notes each month to see where you were and where you are now. You may be surprised to learn how far you have come!
Until next time
Quote for Today
In training there is always the tendency to proceed too rapidly, go slowly with careful, cautious steps. Make frequent demands; be content with little; be lavish in rewards.
- General Faverot de Kerbrech

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