Monday, January 16, 2012

In Focus: How To Achieve Your Riding Goals

Today I'd like to address how to reach the goals you set with your horses. Let me start by saying, I begin every ride, every work session, every day with a game plan. For each horse, I've decided what we're going to work on before the saddle ever goes on.

Being focused on what you want to accomplish with your horse is so important, I can't stress enough how having goals (make sure they are attainable goals) is vitally important to your success with your horse. Even if you never intend to set foot into a show ring, setting and reaching goals will accelerate your progress. Depending on your horse, what you request of him during a work session can be as simple as getting a calm walk on a loose rein or as difficult as a flying lead change. Remain focused on the path to your end goal, not the goal itself.

If I have a nervous horse that wants to bolt, my plan is likely to first address calming the horse and getting him to focus on his job, then work on the underlying issue. Such a horse needs to have situations set up for him to address the bolting behavior, but be able to control his trajectory when he takes off. What I mean by that is simple ~ create circumstances which may likely cause the horse to bolt off, because only then you can actually fix the problem. Of course, it helps to know what sets a bolting horse off, and most of them do have certain triggers. With such a horse, each ride needs to start out with the same routine, so the horse gains confidence. The end goal will be a horse that no longer bolts, however the daily goals need to be far more simple, such as getting a nice, relaxed walk and an unhurried, unrushed halt. Then a horse who moves off at a nice trot in a relaxed manner. It's all about using those "building blocks of training" I'm so fond of talking about.

Having step-by-step instructions for how to manage your rides can help many people, but you've got to be consistent. I like structure, and I believe most horses do, too. Horses are herd animals, and they are always looking for the herd this instance, we (the rider) are that leader. In training, we can use that to our advantage. Each work session begins the same way, with the horse being worked on the longeline or in the round pen (depending on available facilities). Allowing the horse to loosen up before getting down to the real work of the day is essential to having a horse that's ready to learn. That said, eventually I like to be sure I can just hop on without the longeing, and find different ways to warm up.

You can easily write out a little schedule by the week, I prefer to use a dry erase board. Remember, keep your daily goals simple and easy to accomplish, working up to bigger weekly and monthly goals. Before you know it, you'll have conquered that major goal and have something to celebrate!



  1. The key to success, imho, is in your last paragraph: Keep your daily goals SIMPLE. Too many times I decide to accomplish lebenty-seben things by Thursday and usually end up wearing myself out and confusing the horse. And of course, accomplishing nothing ;o)

    The KISS rule works for me.

    Good entry!

  2. Thanks! :) I do believe one of the tenets of good horsemanship is being realistic enough to know what kind of goals you should be setting for yourself and your horse(s). But I tend to set pretty lofty goals for myself, LOL!!


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