Live Your Best Life
“I think I’m quite ready for another adventure” – J.R.R. Tolkien
As the old year ends and a new year stretches out before us, we must once again reevaluate and, “decide what to do with the time that is given us.”
I often wonder what it is about the passage of time that seems to make it speed up as I get older? Whether true or not, it is this sense of limited time passing by too fast that motivates me to make the best use of the time I do have. I believe that every year is a new adventure just waiting to unfold. However, without a clear sense of purpose and direction, it is too easy to drift through life until you suddenly find that you are out of time and have accomplished nothing of value.
In setting goals for the year, I find it helpful to first look back on what I have accomplished (or in some cases, not accomplished); before I begin to look forward. On the farm I have two areas in which I set goals:
· Developing and improving our facility
· Developing and improving the horses and students I am working with
One of the things I have learned in this journey, is the importance of breaking down your end goal into manageable chunks. Three years ago, we had neither the time, energy, nor resources to accomplish all that we needed to accomplish on the farm. However, spread out over three years achieving that end goal has come closer and closer to becoming a reality.
Just in this past year our goals were to:
· Resurface the dressage arena with river sand over the ¼ minus base.
· Lay concrete over the dirt barn aisle and in the grooming stall.
· Strip the painted laminate sheets off the stall walls and varnish the wood.
· Finish laying ¼ minus rock in the 2nd half of our run out paddocks.
· Spread compost and reseed the second of our three large summer pastures.
As the year wraps up, and I take a final walk around the property evaluating what we have done, there is something intensely satisfying about knowing that I can check off every item on that list.
Riding and training goals work in much the same way. While it is true that without goals you will not make any significant progress, it is also true that setting goals which are too large and ambitious quickly lead to disappointment and discouragement.
Lucky and Rachael are a great example of setting long term achievable goals. When we bought Lucky (first picture), he was a scruffy uneducated farm pony with an in your pocket personality. The saddle he was being ridden in had a broken tree which meant that he had a sore back which made him resistant to cantering. My only goal the first few months was to build up his top line and give his back muscles time to heal. I did this through lots of ground work and lunging. Once he was stronger I began to lay a groundwork of solid schooling before moving on to teaching him how to jump.
Lucky is not the easiest pony to ride as he can be extremely lazy at home and get very strong and spooky at shows (especially where bicycles are involved!). Initially Rachael struggled to handle this behavior, but as we worked on her riding skills, she became more and more confident in coping with his little idiosyncrasies. We were never able to completely overcome some of his quirks, but for Rachael (who was never very ambitious in terms of competing), the partnership worked, and the end result was a wonderful pony/rider combination who had had 5 years of pleasure riding and competing in small shows together.
This past year was challenging for our barn for a number of reasons. We had a couple of human and horse injuries that put training on hold for months at a time, as well as mental hang ups develop that set training back. This is perhaps one of the most frustrating parts of goal setting for horses and riders - at the end of the day you cannot account for the myriad of unforeseen setbacks which are guaranteed to affect their training.
In order to set realistic goals for the riders and horses in your barn, you have to be honest in evaluating their current level of competence as well as the limits to their natural ability. While goal setting might be a constantly moving target, the key is to at least have a target at which you are aiming, and a plan to get you there. Then when life throws you a curve ball (as it surely will), you can make the necessary adjustments, while still keeping the end goal in sight.