Ok, so you’ve got all these possible clinics, lessons, shows and other outings you could do with your horse this year, but where do you start? So many possibilities, and only so much in the budget? How do you figure out what is really best for you and your horse? And how can you plan so you arrive at the big show ready to tackle the day feeling confident, organized and ready, and avoid feeling unprepared, scrambled and cranky?
It’s all about a) realistic and S.M.A.R.T. goal setting and then b) working back in time to lay out plans that lead you to your goal, step by step.
In this article we’ll start with realistic goal setting. Then next article, we’ll tackle creating a progressive training calendar that leads you and your horse to your goals.
Part 1 - Realistic and SMART goals
Step 1: Reflection and Projection – allow about 20-30 minutes for this step
Setting realistic and SMART goals starts with reflecting on your past year, what’s gone well, what’s pushed your comfort zone and what needs attention to get to the next “level” in your riding. It also requires some reflection on what really brings you joy and a sense of accomplishment with your horse. Just because your barn mates are encouraging you to plan for a particular outing, ask yourself what is right for you. Example: If you prefer a few dressage schooling shows, and some long trail rides with overnight camping, but your horsie friends are trying to convince you how fun it’d be to go to a 5 day hunter/jumper show, you need to be careful to stand your ground, at least until you think through your goals – not your trainer’s goals, or your parent's or significant other’s goals, YOURS!
Take 20 minutes and WRITE down the answers to the questions in this PDF. They seem simple but they are designed to lead you to more clarity.
STOP - Don’t proceed to this next step until you’ve done step 1. Are you done? Ok, then proceed.
Step 2: Create SMART Goals – allow 20 minutes for this step, then set aside and revisit your results after a couple days
From your answers to the questions above, you’re going to create goals that meet the following standards:
S – Specific = well defined, and clearly stated so that anyone could understand them.
M – Measurable = stated so that you can say, yes or no, whether you achieved the goal. Consider turning a outcome based goal (connect better with my horse) into a task goal (practice T-Touch circles and massage on my horse 2x per week).
A – Achievable = having a goal that is too far a stretch can be de-motivating, check with your coach, instructor or knowledgeable horse friend to help guide you.
R – Relevant & Realistic = make the goal relevant to what motivates you to ride, and to what your horse is capable, make it realistic to fit in with your other life roles in the coming year and with your budget.
T – Time-bound = Add a specific date or time frame for completion of the goal.
Look over your answers to all your questions from Step 1, and then re-read your answers to questions 4, 5 and 6. Rephrase your answers into goals, so that they meet the SMART criteria above. List them in order of importance, and limit yourself to 3-5 goals. Let them rest for a day or two, then re-visit and revise them one more time.
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to create your training calendar, and fill in the step by step daily practices that turn goals into reality! In my next article we'll cover just how to do that. Until then, get steps 1 and 2 done above so you're ready to go with creating your training calendar.
And if you can, share which of the S.M.A.R.T. standards were most difficult for you to apply to your goals with a comment below.