"You never stay the same. You either get better or you get worse." Jon Gruden
This quote by Mr. Gruden is just as true for people as it is for horses.
Every time you interact with your horse you are affecting something in the relationship. Have you noticed that when you don't work with your horse often he seems to forget his manners and training? This can be quite noticeable after winter if you've left your horse to his own devices, aside from feeding and watering.
Horses are a living, breathing, thinking animal. It is impossible for them to stay the same day in and day out. Simply put, every time you do something with your horse you are either making him better or making him worse.
So this leaves you with a choice. Either you approach each day with the goal to improve your equine or you approach each day without a plan, allowing your horse to slowly fall into bad habits.
We all hear about the importance of goal-setting, whether it's at work, school or in our personal lives. For some reason you don't see many equestrians talking about their horse-related goals often. I believe this is a mistake. To clarify, you don't need to be a serious rider who competes to benefit from goals. You could be a backyard horse owner who rides on the weekends. In fact, you don't even need to own a horse as you can apply the benefits of goal-setting to lessons!
The vast majority of people who set goals fail at achieving them. The most common reason for this being that they didn't set goals that they truly had their hearts in or had no way to measure or achieve their goals. Let me introduce you to one of the most effective methods of goal-setting: S.M.A.R.T.
S.M.A.R.T is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely/Tangible. It is an outline for how you should plan your goals for the highest chance of success possible.
S- Specific: The first mistake in goal-setting is not getting specific with your goals. It is pretty much impossible to get too specific.Some questions to ask yourself in this first step is who will you need to accomplish this goal, can you complete this goal at your home or will you need to travel, how quickly do you want or need to achieve this goal, are there any potential constraints that may prevent you from achieving this goal, and lastly, is this goal important to you?
M- Measurable: A good goal is one that can be measured. It is more beneficial to have a number of small, easily measurable goals than one large goal. Once you have established a specific goal, break the goal down into small steps that will be easy for you to attain AND see the progress. A universal and effective means of measuring include using deadlines in the form of dates. You want to set up your goal in a way that it will be obvious when you've accomplished it.
A- Attainable: Once you have a goal in mind you want to be sure that it is an attainable one. While most anything is possible when you set your mind to it, you do want to be certain of a few things before setting a goal. Some examples of things that could prevent a goal from being attainable include finances, time constraints, a lack of knowledge of your part or inability to travel. If you truly want to achieve a certain goal it is hardly unattainable. It might not be possible in the present but you could create smaller goals which will lead up to this once unattainable one.
R- Realistic: It is really easy to set goals for yourself that are unrealistic in some manner. A goal might be unrealistic because it is too high or simply you don't have your heart into it. Since you are working with an animal you also have to make sure your goal is possible for them to accomplish. Don't make the mistake here of setting a goal that is too easy. A high goal actually is more likely to be accomplished since you are more motivated. Just be sure to break down these goals into small steps.
T- Timely: You probably know by now that goals need to be specific to reach. This final step in goal-setting is ensuring that you will be able to know when you've reached your goal. A surprising number of goals leave this step out. Be sure you set up a time frame in which you want to achieve your goal. As an example, let's say you want to get your horse in shape for an upcoming show. Break down each step required to do this and put each mini-goal on your calender. As you reach your deadline you will be able to see how well you are doing or if you need to pick up the pace.
Goal-setting can be a really powerful for any equestrian. What horse-related goals do you have? Please share them in the comments below!
Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons- waldopepper
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