I’m super excited to announce that I’m going to start writing a monthly column about horses for our local newspaper, the Stillwater NewsPress! It will be featured on the Farm/Ranch page. I’m hoping to add a new dimension to the page since it is normally written with male voices and almost always about cattle. Us ladies need to speak up, y’all! I’m posting my first column installment today that will be published on Sunday January 25th. If you have any ideas for me to write about, please send me a message!
Happy Trails “Setting and reaching goals with your horse”
Because I’m a goal setter, January is one of my favorite times of the year. Without goals, I feel lost and wandering, especially when it comes to my horses. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to set new goals for your riding or horse-keeping and develop strategies to achieve them.
Start by naming the goal, and be specific. For instance, simply stating that you want to be a better rider is too vague. You can never reach a goal without knowing the specifications. Narrow it down to something for which you can create a starting point and can measure. Building your confidence in the lope is a better goal, and loping the length of the arena with rhythm and cadence is even better.
Create a timeline. Set short term goals in weekly, monthly, three-month, six-month, and yearly increments. If building your confidence in the canter is your long-term goal, then perhaps start with a two-week goal of having a friend help you longe your horse at the canter while you’re in the saddle, or even take a couple of lessons. Once you achieve that goal, move on to the next step in the process. Having a set of check points such as these along the way will break up a seemingly insurmountable project into realistic stages.
Don’t use shortcuts. As horse owners, we know that many things take time. We are dealing with 1,000 pound animals, after all! Resist the urge to use shortcuts in order to reach your goals faster. If your goal is riding related, remember that the use of some training aids can be highly effective in light experienced hands, but they can be equally damaging in heavy hands. If your goal is related to creating a better living space for your horse during 2015, choose quality materials instead of the cheap ones. I have one shed in particular blow over two separate times during storms because of that very reason, and every time I shake my head, wishing I had spent the money on something better. Try not to make shortcuts, because they will always cost you in the end.
Be flexible, and be patient with yourself. Two years ago I made a goal to always pick up the correct lead with my horse, Hot Rod. In particular, he had trouble with the right lead. I took lessons, and had my trainer work with him until we finally realized it was a medical issue. Boy, did that throw off my schedule for the year. I had to be flexible and patient with the situation, and after dealing with the root cause, I can now say Hot Rod knows his leads very well.
Lastly, don’t be hard on yourself! Remember that when it comes to horse-keeping, there is no such thing as a failure, only a result. Train yourself to see these results as opportunities to learn and grow.