No matter how technically skilled you are in the saddle or how talented your horse, it means nothing if you haven’t got your head in the game. We all go through periods when we feel our riding has stagnated or we’re unsure about where to go next, whether it’s only for one schooling session or a whole competitive season. Studies have shown that setting goals can have a massive impact on your motivation and there’s also a strong correlation with improvements in performance. But how can you apply them to your riding.
How do goals work?
Goals increase your motivation because they give you a target to work towards. How often have you found yourself trotting aimlessly around the arena without a clear idea of what you want to achieve with your horse that evening? Before you get on, spend a few minutes thinking about what your aims are – maybe to perfect the movement that let you down in your last dressage test or improve your horse’s way of going. You then need to break this down into a series of small steps that you can work through. Having a goal gives you a specific direction in which to focus your efforts and energy, and knowing exactly what you want to achieve greatly increases your chances of success.
When setting yourself a goal, it’s important that you have the skills required to follow it through. If not, it can leave you feeling demoralised and divert your focus. Instead, tailor your objectives towards learning the necessary skills one at a time, then go back to your original goal. Breaking down your desired outcome into a series of small, achievable steps not only makes the task feel more manageable, but you’ll also get the thrill of success each time you achieve one, too. For instance, if you’re looking to move up a level in dressage, start by challenging yourself to perfect each new movement first. Once you’ve managed that, you can start to think about practising a higher-level test or filling in an entry form.
For examples of goals to set yourself, how you can achieve them and our SMART system, get your copy of December Horse&Rider, out now.