Happy New Year! Winter is filled with planning, planning, planning, freezing, and more planning. Most people plan with a goal or several in mind and I wanted to step through how I plan and set my goals for this year.
Knowing your time frame will let you know what is feasibly possible. If you want to go after your USDF Bronze medal, but only have enough time for 4 shows and ride one horse, you may be in a bit of a bind. Possible and probable are two things to keep in mind when looking at what you can fit into your time frame. If you are on a deadline- either because of age, school, or personal – you may want to see if you can shift your time frame by taking advantage of indoor shows in your area.
This fall I am starting my college career which means my show season is going to done by the end of July. That being said, I am very fortunate to be heading down to Florida for six weeks over the summer. This in addition to local indoor shows helps my time frame grow by 3 months I normally wouldn’t have.
Can you get to the shows needed to reach your goals? Let’s go back to the previous example. You need 6 scores for your Bronze Medal (2 at First, Second, and Third Level). Let’s say you can compete at all three levels in one season if you go to 3 different shows. Do you have access to 3 Sanctioned dressage shows? If not, maybe make your goal to get the first 2 or 4 scores needed.
This also counts for access to funds. Equestrians have a talent for spending their money rather quickly. Remeber your budget and build in some wiggle room. Horses are even better at spending money in the form of vet, farrier, and other emergency bills!
At one point, I had 4 shows in a five-week time frame. While the showing was fun and my horse could do it, it was draining because it didn’t allow a lot of downtime. Knowing what your body can physically and mentally handle is super important!! If you have the time and ability slow things down. Better you take a little longer to reach your goal than for your or your horse get injured or burnt out.
Don’t Think of Placements
Try not to say I want to get so many first places. You can’t control your competition. Instead, try to set the goal of getting a score over X. Also, setting the goal to qualify for an awards program (which we are hosting one this year!) is a good goal. This helps you know how many shows you need at a level and plan your season around that. When deciding number of shows, add an extra one or two in after the middle of your season just in case you miss one. If you don’t need the show by the time you get to it, don’t enter. Again, better safe than sorry!
Progress is Progress
Keep in mind when setting goals is that progress is progress no matter how small. You don’t want to set the bar too high and burn yourself out. I have heard several riders say that they stopped riding for a while because they put too much pressure on themselves. Are your goals supposed to challenging? Yes. But find a good kind of challenging.
This year, one of my goals is to become a more precise with my aids and improve my position. I am not moving up the levels but adding new things to help improve my riding. Riders stay riders for a long time. Michael Jung, Phillip Dutton, Lainey Ashker have practiced hundreds and thousands of hours to be where they are today! Every little victory is still a victory!