In the last post, I said that one of the most important things to figure out about goals is WHY. Why do you want to ride? Why do you want to finally master sitting trot? Why do you want to eat chocolate chip cookies for breakfast?? (Oh, is that just me??)

Another critical component of achievement is to be very clear about your goal, ie Begin with the End in Mind. As the inimitable Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” So unless your goal is “somewhere else”, get absolutely clear on exactly what you want.

In this post, I’m picking up with the next step – Know where you’re starting.

Once you’ve established your desired destination, you need to establish your starting point. An honest appraisal of your current skills, available time and money, and the suitability of your horse is critical. Just as when planning a trip, knowing the destination is essential, but going to Chicago from New York is very different from going to Chicago from Los Angeles. The starting point helps set the path to the goal.

I firmly believe that the best way to establish your starting point is to enlist a friend or professional to evaluate your (and your horse’s) current level. And if you choose a friend, for heaven’s sake pick one who isn’t afraid to tell you if she sees something that could use some improvement! That will help you determine the steps you need to take to get from starting point to the goal. For instance, if you have never cantered, qualifying for the next Olympics is probably not realistic. 

If you don’t have a horsey friend or a local professional that you know,  you can ask the local United States Pony Club chapter, the local 4-H horse group, equine vet or horse organization for some recommendations. You also have the option of following the rest of the world, and going virtual. There are instructors and coaches that will work with you via Zoom, YouTube videos, or phone calls. (If you’d like to see what I offer, click here to shoot me an email and we can set up a call to chat.) 

The next piece of the equation is staying on top of your progress (or lack thereof). Do you keep a journal,  a planner, or another way to check your progress toward your goal and make sure you’re heading for the next logical step?  If not – you may get far off track and only realize it on December 31st when you look in the rearview mirror at the closing year and think…. Well, you know what you think.

I’ve heard motivational speakers talk about how ships are always making minuscule adjustments to their course because the wind and waves push the ship off track. If you’re on a ship going from New York to Southampton, you wouldn’t be very thrilled if you ended up in Iceland. Nothing against Iceland, it’s a beautiful country and the horses are amazing, but it’s not where you thought you were going. That’s what can happen if you don’t establish both the starting and desired ending point.

There’s an excellent book called the 12 Week Year, which proposes using a 12-week time period, rather than 12 months because you become more focused on the tasks required to reach your goal – there’s not the trap of having “plenty of time”. 

We’ll cover this more in the next post – Tracking Your Progress and Breaking it Down.

Until then, love your horse, love your life, and love yourself.