Goal Setting for Riders

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    When we’re growing up, we’re taught that setting goals for ourselves is a good thing. By setting goals for ourselves, we’re incentivized to strive for the next level and become better at things. But realistically, have you ever been taught any kind of goal setting for riders?

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    Often when I was younger, other people would set goals for me. The English teacher would set me a goal that Romeo and Juliet has to be read and summarized in 7 days, for example. My parents told me that by 7pm, I needed to have cleaned my room. I felt oddly detached from these goals.

    I would imagine that you experienced the same thing, right? And like me, you probably didn’t put too much stock into these goals. They weren’t your goals. Whether you reached them or not, not all that much was going to change. 

    Also, because these goals were set by others, they were always set in small, bite-sized chunks. No teacher ever says “learn everything for Grade 10” and then lets you run the show for the whole year on your own. 

    Goal Setting for Riders

    But once we’re older and we’re trying to do things for ourselves, now we’re in charge.

    We get to decide our goals. What they are. How long we have to reach them. What size they are. The amount of pressure we put on ourselves. How accountable we hold ourselves to work towards these goals. 

    What I’ve learned riding horses for almost 20 years, and starting a business is that:

    #1. Goals are only as useful as you make them for yourself, and

    #2. If you misuse goals, you will make yourself miserable. 

    You may have heard of SMART goals? Personally I hate acronyms like this because I find they overcomplicate things and make a simple concept sound so “academic”. But the bottom line is that every goal you set for yourself has to be in your control. If you set goals outside of your control, you set yourself up to fail and to feel miserable about it. 

    Examples of bad goals: 

    1. In the next 30 days, I’ll do my lead changes perfectly.
    2. In the next 6 months, I’ll win that dressage competition.
    3. I’m going to be able to jump 1/2 foot higher each month.

    What do all of these have in common? They are out of your control. 

    Goal Setting for Riders: Control

    Examples of good goals: 

    1. In the next 30 days, I will ride 4 times a week and practice my lead changes for at least 10 minutes each ride. 
    2. Over the next 6 months, I will:
      • Follow a strict 4-day a week riding schedule practicing my routine.
      • I will do some research on what previous winners have done.
      • I will make sure I follow my workout routine 3 days a week to work on my fitness and balance. 
    3. I’ll take weekly jumping lessons from a pro or experienced jumper and then I’ll practice my jumping 3 days a week to work on what I’ve learned. 

    Good luck with your goal setting for riders, you can do it!

    I really hope you can see the difference and how this approach will still get you in the direction of what you’re hoping to achieve but in a way that’s 100% in your control. 

    You can always feel good about “good goals” even if you don’t ultimately achieve what you hoped.

    In contrast, “Bad goals” will always make you feel bad if you don’t achieve them regardless of how hard you worked or if you gave it your best effort. I hope that this advice on goal setting for riders has helped you, and that you’ll start setting and achieving good goals!

    – Martina

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