5 Ways to Set Riding Goals for Equestrians

5 Ways to Set Riding Goals for Equestrians

A friend of mine challenged me to set 23 goals to accomplish in 2023. It is no surprise that 10 of those 23 goals are related to riding! When I was first trying to figure out what would even make good riding goals I started to research books, articles and ask other equestrians how they set their goals. Here is a round up of a few great ways to approach setting riding goals this year!

Dream experience goals

This way was probably my most favorite approach to start setting goals since I have a lot of things to cross off my equestrian bucket list. The next time you are scrolling on Instagram or Facebook and you come across a picture of someone doing something on a horse that really lights you up - screenshot the photo and grab a notebook to start brainstorming how you can make that a reality.

Example - One of my goals for this year is to ride my horse on the beach. I have a photo printed on my inspiration board in my office of a girl galloping down the beach with her hair blowing in the wind on her horse....Now my dream will look slightly different since I don't know how to gallop yet and I will definitely be wearing a helmet...but you get the point.
girl riding horse on beach
Next I wrote down all of the steps I would need to do to make this a reality. This include things like:
  • Find out where near me in Southern California can you ride horses on the beach
  • Who has a trailer that would be willing to go with me?
  • What equipment would I need to bring with or borrow?
  • Who do I know that has already accomplished this goal that could help give me tips?
  • What time of day and season of the year would be best to complete this goal?

The next simple step goal

One of the great benefits of taking lessons is that your trainer is able to quickly point out things that you still need to work on in order to improve your riding. Any feedback that your trainer is giving you during your ride, document it either on a video or in a riding journal to start recording the common themes of areas of improvement for you to work on.

Trainers are extremely helpful in identify small areas for improvement in your riding.
Struggling with canter transitions? Ask your trainer what you can do to improve them. Ask for specific techniques and practice drills that you can do to focus on making small improvements.

Example - Lately I have been struggling to keep my hands quiet and not constantly raise them up during transitions. How I continue to work on this:
  • First identify when you are doing it incorrectly
  • I have documented on video times when I did it well and other times when I struggled
  • What exercises or aids can I use to help keep my hands quiet? Pinky exercise...carrying a crop...using a driving rein 

SMART goals

This is a very common way to set goals and it works well for detail oriented equestrians!
Smart is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound
Let's break it down:
  • Specific: "I want to improve" is not specific, so think what about what you actually want to achieve.
    • My specific example: To canter, without breaking stride or going off course, a 10 fence jumping course
  • Measurable: Am I able to easily count and track this goal? Where am I at currently?
  • Attainable: Can my horse jump 10 fences without breaking stride?
  • Realistic: Now it would be unrealistic for me to say that I will be jumping these fences at a 1.40 meters in this next year. I am focusing on jumping the same height that I currently am comfortable with and only stretching myself to focus on the order, pace and rhythm of the course.
  • Time bound: Every goal needs a deadline to keep you focused and working towards it. I am giving myself the whole year. Of course I hope I accomplish it well before then!

Confidence Mindset Method

A book that I have greatly enjoyed is: Inside Your Ride: Mental Skills for Being Happy and Successful with Your Horse by Tonya Johnston
She dedicates an entire chapter to goal setting!
"Setting goals for improving your riding skills and giving yourself credit for both effort and progress builds confidence in a way nothing else can."
Here is a snapshot of her method for goal setting:
  1. Emphasize performance goals (balance outcome goals as needed)
    1. Performance goal: stay straight into each corner to get clean lead changes on course
    2. Outcome goal: Finish in the top ten of my division this year
  2. Let information from your trainer help you create and prioritize your performance goals
  3. Set challenging, realistic goals
  4. Phrase your goals positively
  5. Write down your goals
  6. Use powerful language to activate your imagination
  7. Build a clear relationship between short and long term goals
  8. Focus on just two or three short term goals at a time
  9. Track your goals monthly and adjust as necessary

Community based goals

Last but not least is celebrating and sharing your goals! A few ways to do this:
  • Set up a reward system

What new piece of tack or self care appointment will you book once you complete your goal?

  • Share your goals

Definitely make sure your trainer is aware of your goals! Share them on social media, with your barn friends and don't forget to tag #ElevatedEquestrian

  • Find a community of accountability partners

This is one of the things I am most excited about this year is to hear about other equestrian's goals, help them celebrate when they reach them, and share encouragement along the way!

[ Photo - cantering bareback was a goal of mine last year and I was beyond excited that a barn friend captured it on video for me! ]

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