Spring is usually the time that we horse-people have great plans for our riding. Maybe you dream of the shows you will compete in and the ribbons you will win. Perhaps its the big trail ride you plan on completing. Or maybe you just want to ride for pleasure several times a week. But, then life happens and when you look back in the fall, you realize that you haven’t done what you set out to do. I am as guilty of this as anyone else. If you are like me, you feel discouraged and disappointed and vow to do better next year. Why does this happen? You lose your motivation or your confidence fails. Riding gets shoved way down on the list filled with other priorities.
Horse-people of all levels face challenges to their motivation and confidence at one time or another. Whether you’re a beginner, novice or advanced rider, there is a simple technique that anyone can use to improve your riding skills, confidence, and motivation. This technique enhances your learning experience and allows you to evaluate your progress. All it requires is taking the time to set some short term goals.
Have you noticed how good you feel when you complete something you have set out to do? You feel good about yourself. You feel proud of yourself. Even small achievements increase your self esteem and motivation. This is why setting small goals that can be accomplished within 30 days is so powerful.
The effect of goal setting is especially powerful when you achieve something that is important to you personally rather than something you are doing to please or impress someone else. This is the first important element in setting goals that will improve your confidence and motivation. You need to know the benefits that you will personally receive when you complete the goal.
Effective goals are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Saying “I will canter my horse” is too general a statement. An example of a SMART goal is “I will canter 20 strides on my horse on the left rein by May 20, 2012.”
Specific – Describe exactly what you will accomplish.
Measurable – Define how you will know when you have reached the goal.
Achievable – Keep the goal realistic when considering your level of effort and commitment. Do you have the resources to achieve this goal? If not, how you will get them?
Relevant – Why is the goal significant to you? Make sure the goal is about you and not for pleasing someone else – not your coach, your friend, your spouse or your parent.
Timely – Set a realistic time frame for completing your goal. Setting short term goals that you can achieve within 30-60 days will help keep you motivated.
Effective goals need an action plan. Write down the specific action steps you have to take to achieve your goal. Include an expected completion date for each of the steps and celebrate as you have complete one.
As you outline your action steps, consider the possible obstacles that could prevent you from achieving your goal. Roadblocks are experienced by everyone. They interfere with your progress causing you to lose motivation and become discouraged. When this happens, your self-esteem and confidence are also eroded. Being prepared for potential obstacles by making a list of possible solutions for each one will help keep you on track. Rather than giving up, you simply adjust and carry on.
It is much easier to achieve your goals and stay motivated when you share them with someone who will support and encourage you, and who will also hold you accountable. If you have a coach, let him or her know what your goals are so he or she can focus your lessons in that direction and offer encouragement through the process. If you don’t have a coach, maybe finding one is one of the action steps you need to take to be able to complete your goal.
Success also requires that you take 100% responsibility for your results. That means letting go of excuses, blaming and negative thinking. When obstacles come up (as they will) find ways around or through them rather than getting stopped in your tracks. Any step forward – even the tiniest of baby steps – is better than doing nothing, maintaining the status quo or moving backwards.
What steps are you willing to take to improve your riding and your confidence?
I encourage you to commit to trying something different for the next 30 days. Make a small plan – a step by step sustainable plan – that includes SMART goals. Download this SMART Goal Setting Work Sheet to get you started.If you would like to help spread the word about a better way to work with horses, please share this blog with 5 friends, send a Tweet or post on your Facebook page. The horses thank you. You are welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you include my credit information: Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com). I would also appreciate it if you’d send me a copy for my media files. Anne Gage Confident Horsemanship www.annegage.com www.facebook.com/ConfidentHorsemanship www.twitter.com/AnneGage