Horse and Rider Goals For The Upcoming Year
By Tara Korde and Ben Franklin
The older one gets the more the years fly by. As time seems to be going so quickly, it is important to set goals and aspirations, and be reflective in the process. Life is not only about reaching Grand Prix or coming first in a Hunter Derby or a 1* Event.
Work hard and be dedicated
Nothing feels better than putting in your best effort. If you do your best, and forget the rest, there is really nothing to regret. When you think about improving your riding or your horses training, don’t just think about more lessons, training rides or just getting into the saddle more often. Think outside the box - are you crooked in the saddle? Maybe Pilates or yoga can help you. Do you get out of breath easily? Maybe do some extra cardio. Similarly, think about how you can cross-train your horse. Maybe a hack or trail ride more often would help them, or maybe some hill work. Or perhaps polework would help your horse's core. The more you and your horse do (of course, unless there is an injury or some other constraint to consider) the better you’ll feel, and the quicker your progress is bound to be.
Is your usual routine to ride around an arena on nice footing time after time again? Consider varying yours and your horses routine more. Spend more time hacking and trail riding. Consider doing something you’ve never done - perhaps a fox hunt if your horse is suitable, or a hunter pace. Ride out on a Christmas caroling ride. Jump the occasional jump with your dressage horse, or try a dressage lesson with your hunter horse. Ride your horse bareback. Take your horse to a friends barn for a lesson with their trainer, or try out a clinic with someone new and different. Learn how to do some basic massage with your horse, it’ll not only help them feel better but also help your relationship. Try out some natural horsemanship or liberty training. There are really so many possibilities!
Be ambitious but realistic
It’s always a great idea to have a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal). There is NOTHING wrong with dreaming BIG. Hopefully you will reach that BHAG one day. However, it’s not worth stressing over something that may seem far away. Think about smaller steps that will help you get to the next level. What are yours and your horses weaknesses? How might you improve that weakness? Last year you showed at a certain level. What will you have to do to step up to the next level successfully? Use the help of friends and trainers and get their honest opinions and help to give you that edge to help you keep on moving up and improving.
There is an endless amount of information in the form of books, blogs, medical journals, videos, etc. out there and available. Pick a topic you are interested in, and try to become an expert at it. There is so much out there than can enhance your knowledge. Learn about breeding. Learn about highly contagious horse illnesses. Learn about plants that are poisonous to horses. Pick a weakness your horse has, and try to read anything and everything that might have a suggestion on how to help them overcome that weakness. The only caveat here is to try and make sure that whatever material or medium you are using to learn is from a reputable source. If you are ever unsure, consult trusted sources, like your trainer or a vet.
Love your horse a little more
Consider what you can do to show your love for your horse more in this upcoming year. Bring your horse extra carrots to be added to their feed. Groom them extra well if they enjoy it. Get them a massage by a professional. Spend more time grazing them if they don’t get a lot of grass. Do an extra saddle fitting if they seem to be changing shape quickly and might need an adjustment. Be in tune with your horses needs, and go that extra step for them.
Above all, be EXTRA kind
The world is a crazy place. Being at the barn or stables with our horses is often our refuge and even our therapy from the outside. That being said, you never know what someone is facing, horse, human (trainer, groom, friend or even arch rival) or otherwise. Go out of your way to be kind. Never forget the Golden Rule. You will make others’ lives a little brighter, and you’ll be a better person for it.