Why setting goals will help you boost your riding success

Goals are important where horses are concerned because they facilitate progress. If you set yourself goals, rather than bumbling along without a specific aim, the route to your desired destination will suddenly become much clearer and you will be able to structure your riding much more effectively.

Goals can take myriad forms, from working towards gaining your mount’s confidence in traffic while hacking to planning a campaign to get your sport horse to Badminton or Hickstead — but there are a few key factors to consider before you put a list together.

Be realistic

The key to successful goals is to make them attainable, so, if you are a beginner, aim to perfect your walk and trot before moving up to a faster pace.

Remember, too, that goals have to fit into your busy lifestyle, so there is no point setting targets that require so many hours at the yard that it will prove impossible alongside a full-time job.

However, achieving an attainable goal will provide an incredible boost and will fire you up to want to reach your next milestone.

Look at both the short and the long term

Experts recommend setting two types of goals:short- and long-term.
Short-term goals involve focusing on the smaller elements that take you towards your ultimate aim.

Therefore, if your goal is to take your new horse to its first dressage competition in six months’ time, your short-term goals are likely to involve working on and improving each of the movements that you will be required to perform in the test.

Be aware that long-term goals should be just that, stretching several months or even a year into the future to give you plenty of time to achieve them.

Stretch yourself

The goals you set should motivate you and have a worthwhile outcome, but at the same time they should push you slightly out of your comfort zone. Be specific and give yourself a deadline by which to achieve your goal, but also be flexible and prepared to move the goalposts if things don’t go quite to plan in the lead up.

Forget the outcome

The goals you set yourself should not include developing designs on winning a red rosette or netting a top 10 placing — often referred to as outcome goals.

By doing so you will be comparing yourself to others, whose results you have no control over, and taking the focus off you — where it should emphatically be. Of course, it’s fantastic if you do win a rosette, but consider that as a great reward.

Write it all down

Keep your goals in a diary. This will allow you to remember all the short-term targets on the way to the long-term one; you will know when you have achieved a goal (it is all too easy to forget something devised six months ago); and it will make you more determined to follow what has been set.

Do it now

Anything that helps a rider to improve their performance has to be a good thing, so why put off making a small list today. You may think that you lack willpower or are frightened that you may fail, but by having targets to aim for you are likely to give yourself a pleasant surprise.


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