It seems like everyone thinks about goals this time of year, whether to create a New Year’s Resolution (which of course is forgotten within a few weeks most of the time), or because the new year makes us reflect back over the previous year and consider the choices we made, the things we did, the changes in our lives, and our success and failures. After a time of reflection, it’s only natural to think about where we hope to go this coming year.
So I’ve been thinking, reflecting on the past year, and thinking about the coming one. And of course, when I think it’s not just about myself, but also about my horses and my “team”, the other riders and their horses that I work with in the barn. I am both blessed and cursed in that I experience both the joys and sorrows of those I work with.
So as I considered what I wanted this coming year, I considered not only what I wanted personally, but also what I hoped for the other riders and horses in my barn. I want to find goals that are realistic and achievable, but that are also challenging enough to be motivating and meaningful. I also want goals that will lead down the path of a joyful and fulfilling journey, so that whether or not the goals are met, at this time next year we will look back and think what a fun year it was. It made me realize (again) how small things can really be big things, and that if we celebrate the baby steps, the whole process is full of so much success. On the other hand, when we set lofty goals (which I am WAY too guilty of myself…) that we will almost surely fall short of, it begins to be a daily struggle to keep pressing on towards that far off promised land.
Suddenly, I realized why I am having SO much fun with Austin lately. When I start a new project, a greener horse that is just beginning the dressage journey, at the beginning it feels like NOTHING works. The horse just doesn’t understand the aids or have the strength to respond correctly. But relatively quickly, pieces start falling into place. Yesterday on Austin, for the first time not only did he canter off the lightest aids (both leads too, wooohoo!), he stayed on the bit and stepped through from behind, and continued to carry himself forward in a balanced, connected way. For about half a circle. But it didn’t matter that we didn’t keep it long, I was SO thrilled with the transition, and those steps I got that felt SO much better than the hollow, on the forehand canter I used to get. VICTORY!!!! But this time of almost daily new “firsts” goes pretty fast, then with each successive level there is less noticeable difference from “just a week ago”, and there is more time spent gaining strength, refreshing and improving basics, and the endless “two steps forward, one step back” that seems to be the surest sign that you’re actually on the right path.
So my goal this year is to keep the joy, the enthusiasm, and the excitement in the daily rides. Even when going through a “one step back” phase, I am going to try to remember that, ultimately, it still is a step moving me forward, even if I’ve gone back to improve the basics AGAIN.
I’m also going to mix it up more. I want to plan shows, but also group trail rides and social outings. I want to do more cross training in lessons. I want to encourage my riders to try different things with their horses, whether that means jumping, western riding, bareback riding, or bitless riding. It’s fun to do different things, and makes for better, well-rounded horses and riders. I want to create a program for people who love their horses more than they love winning, for riders who want to learn and improve for the sake of being a better partner to their horse. If they also win, fantastic. But I don’t want to be just another show barn. I want to create an environment where both competitive and non-competitive riders and horses can find both joy and success in continual learning and improvement, and I want to provide plenty of activities to keep both types motivated and entertained.
So this year it’s going to be about fun. Hopefully that will also include some blue ribbons, but as long as the hours in the saddle are happy hours, I don’t think we can go wrong. Anyone want to join me?