Has this ever happened to you?
You know exactly what you want to do during your ride. Your horse is prepped, you have all the gear you need, and you head to the riding ring with high hopes and a set plan.
You get on, get going, and then discover that your horse has something entirely different in mind!
At this point, you have two choices: keep going with what you were planning to do, or scrap it and work on what your horse needs to work on.
Goal Setting: Step-by-Step Development
There is no replacement for goal setting in the quest for improvement in riding. When you have an idea of the path you want to take, and the skills you want to develop, it is always good to plan out what you want to do before you get on the horse's back. Each ride should be a development from the last, setting up a series of successes for (yourself and) your horse as he progresses in his training and education.
What are you going to work on today? What went well last ride, what would you like to develop, and what movements will your horse enjoy? How will you warm up? What is the "lesson" for today? How will you cool down? Make your time count, make it a quality ride and then get off.
You need to know what you want to do during a ride. There is nothing worse than wandering around and around in circles, aimlessly pounding legs into sand for little purpose other than perhaps a little conditioning for the horse.
Be clear on the basic skills your horse needs, develop them into the intermediate levels and then finally (over the course of a number of years), move up to the highest levels of training in your discipline.
When to Scrap the Plan
However, goal setting can only take you so far. Even though you are inspired to get that horse to do the next cool thing, your horse might simply not be ready.
Alternately, he might be able to do some parts of the new movement, but loses the basic, most fundamental aspects to riding - enough that the movement becomes labored, difficult and unappealing. Maybe the horse puts up a fuss and even quits.
This is when you should scrap your grand ideas, and get back down to the business of the basics.
Many of the basic movements, like maintaining rhythm, looseness, or the simple act of moving forward, are integral to all levels of riding and therefore should be worked on regularly even if you are also working on something else at the same time.
It is much more important to develop solid basics - and only after your horse is fluidly performing those, move on to more difficult exercises. Have the patience and awareness to reestablish the important aspects of movement.
Because the basics are where it's at. Without the fundamental skill set, there will never be soft, fluid, responsive, enthusiastic work from your horse.
Have you ever scrapped your plan and listened to your horse? Tell us about your ride in the comments below.
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If you enjoyed the above article, find more below:
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When “Good Enough” Just Isn’t Good Enough In Horseback Riding: We come up with all sorts of excuses to explain why we don’t want to or can’t get past the problem.
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