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SMARTer Riding Goals for 2021

Posted on: January 07, 2021 by Viviane Pilicy

You may have heard that goals are supposed to be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Well in riding we may not have that much control when setting goals. But we can look at that a bit further.

Setting goals for yourself is very different than setting goals with or for an animal who has its own mind and most importantly health. Without a healthy horse, our goal changes quick to: “My goal is to get my horse healthy again”. So, there are goals that are controllable, like working on yourself versus goals that are sometimes somewhat and sometimes fully out of our control. One thing is for sure we must be flexible with our horse goals.

I’m very interested to hear your stories on successful goal setting with horses, please feel free to leave a comment below!

Here is a bit of my story:

After every season it is a great time to look back and reflect. I love looking at training and show videos from the past 4-6 months, it makes me realize how far we have come. Being more of a critical person with tendencies of being a perfectionist in my riding it is important to look back and see the bigger picture. With every new movement my horse learns I also learn something new about my and his weaknesses and strength. That’s a great starting point for me to set achievable goals.

What can I work on over the winter before the next show season to improve myself and my own riding so that my horse will be able to perform better? That is the most controllable goal I can set for myself. As an example, I always knew that I was weaker in my left body side, but it never influenced my riding and how my horse executes the movements as much as it has this past season.

Is it only me or is everything always about the horse? He gets the best nutrition, massage, chiropractor, I work on specific movements to strengthen him in the arena and hill work for example on trails, etc. the list is long. But what about me?

To work on my weaknesses, I have signed up for a dressage specific fitness evaluation that then gave me exercises to work on to strengthen these. I have built them into my daily workout routine and am loving the awareness it has brought to my riding.

I started running again with the goal of running a 5k twice a week minimum – no matter the weather. There is no excuse and my dog loves to run too. We also sometimes go on jogs all together.

After a long year of not seeing the chiropractor due to COVID-19, it was time to get my back adjusted again. My entire posture changed in the saddle. A wonderful feeling.

Have you tried the massage roller? It is amazing, keeping the muscles supple and soft. Again, something I am so aware of for my horse by not for myself.

You may see where this is going but with all the work I started doing on myself I did not even have to set goals for my horse. He got better too!

But of course, as a strategic thinker, I do use the winter to specifically work on the things that kept being a weakness for us during the show season. The winter is a great time to approach things a bit differently than during the show season and as we all know it always all goes back to the basics. If there are any holes in the basics, they will come back up in the higher levels.

Taking back the SMART goals from above I think I can fill out the list, but I like to take smaller steps rather than trying to make leaps is how I like to approach my goal setting.

My SMART goals:

  • Specific
    • Improve canter pirouette
  • Measurable
    • Judge’s score or trainer’s feedback
  • Achievable
    • Is my horse sound and fit enough to reach that goal, and are all pre-requisites met (no holes in his basics)?
  • Relevant
    • Oh yes, it is very relevant in a PSG or Intermediate I test. It’s a double coefficient.
  • Time-bound
    • This is where I back off with horses, they all learn differently, and some things come easier to them than others. You cannot put a timeline on it. This is where I like to live and ride in the moment and tell myself that if I ride to the best of my ability every day and am better than yesterday I am going in the right direction.

Thank you for reading my blog about goal setting, I am looking forward to reading your comments about your experiences and approaches, especially of all different disciplines!

-SmartPaker Viviane