Wouldn't it be great to achieve your wildest horse riding dreams?
The thing is, it's great to have dreams but it's completely another thing to make them come true.
This article is about the action-taking part after you've set your riding (or ground work, or anything to do with horses) goals.
I've been considering the big picture of goal setting these days, looking at the ride after the ride after the ride. Because as with anything worthwhile, it might take many more rides than you think to achieve that seemingly simple goal - whether it's a skill like maintaining a tall upper body, getting a real bend around your inside leg, or riding that fluid first level dressage test. Or any horse-related activity, really.
And I've been thinking about the journey. Something happens when you get into a steady groove in your horse riding schedule.
You'd think that once you're on a roll (as in, riding regularly), you'd build on your previous skill levels, step by step, beginning at one point and ending at a new, better point.
But I had a realization the other day.
Getting from point A to point B in horse riding is not a linear path. While you're busy taking the steps you need to achieve your goals, you will likely go through so many different types of rides from day to day, week to week, month to month.
When combined over the course of a year (or more), they make up the "whole" of your riding experience.
The Fun Ride
This is the one where you just have a great time and not work on too much. Maybe you ride with your friends and simply enjoy the moment of fellowship that is riding. Maybe you try a new pattern (or test) and relish in the fact that you were able to complete it without any practice. Maybe it's something that your horse enjoys - like throwing in a flying change or going long on the rail for a strong (lengthened) trot, or releasing into the swinging back of a stretchy trot.
The key is that whatever you did, you and your horse had FUN! You end your ride with this feeling of exuberance, enthusiasm and joy.
The Difficult Ride
This happens when you just can't seem to do what you're supposed to do. You try and try again. You give it your best shot. And for whatever reason - maybe it's the day, the weather, fatigue, or nothing at all, really - things just don't seem to jive. Your communication with your horse is limited. You end your ride with this feeling of disappointment, like you didn't accomplish what you set out to do.
The Work Hard Ride
This ride is the one where you have to work for everything you get but in the end, you can see the results and you and your horse are suddenly much better. It might be the result of changing something significant in your body - maybe you had to fight hard to maintain your balance. Perhaps you worked at improving the coordination of your aids. It was a struggle but you were able to make real change, which made a positive impact on your horse.
You end the ride reeling a bit from the effort and dramatic learning, but wow! It was worth every minute.
The Easy Peasy Ride
Usually, you come out of the ring in jubilation after this type of ride. This is the one where everything falls together! You and your horse move as one. You whisper back and forth to each other. Your balance is impeccable, movements are floating.
This is the ride you want to get all the time but only happens rarely. But it is the one that keeps you motivated through the less rewarding rides.
The Confusing Ride
This happens when you had goals and inspiration and it simply doesn't work out the way you expect it to. It probably happens when you have set a level of achievement for yourself but you fail to reach that expectation. Usually, you can't pinpoint what is causing the difficulty and so you are left feeling confused.
The Just-Put-The-Time-In Ride
There might come a day when you ride even though you don't really want to. You are tired, or it's really cold (or hot), or you just would rather be doing something else. Yet you know you have to just go out there and go through your paces (pun!).
While it might feel like this type of ride is pointless, just getting out there and moving and doing is a huge part of sticking with the overall plan.
The Completely Different Ride
When you do something totally out of left field, you bring a sense of newness to your rides. For example, you start your ride in the ring and realize that it's gorgeous outside! And so you head out for a ride along the trails, leaving your "lesson ride" for another day.
Or you abort the ride altogether and do some ground driving.
Or you decide to finally pull out that blue tarp and see if you can get your horse to walk over it. Or play horsey soccer with a huge ball. Or pick up something unfamiliar (like a bag or jacket or umbrella) and carry it on horseback from one place to another.
The Cross-Training Ride
We often get so wrapped up in our riding styles that we rarely step out of our long practiced and repeated movements. This ride is when you reach out to another completely different riding discipline and infuse some of what they do into your normal routine.
Let's say you ride dressage. Then you cross-train by setting up a few jumps. Or set up a few poles for a western trail pattern! Or how about you go on a cross-country ride where you can trot and canter to your heart's (and horse's) content! It can be a very powerful thing to open your mind to other sources of inspiration and learning.
And so your rides go from one to the next until a year (or more) has passed. And you take stock of you and your horse over this time - and notice the many small steps you have achieved, the many leaps in learning you have taken, and how far you truly have come!
Each and every type of ride is necessary - or even critical - to achieving the success you desire. Each type fits in to the overall journey that is riding, and makes it such a complete, robust experience.
I'm sure there are many more types of rides. If you can think of something to add, please comment below.
Finally! The Ultimate Rider-Centered Program!
Ready for something completely different? If you liked what you read here, you might be interested in the new Horse Listening Practice Sessions.
This is NOT a program where you watch other people's riding lessons. Start working with your horse from Day 1.
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If you’d like a structured but personal tool to set goals, take a look at Goal Setting for the Equestrian: A Personal Workbook. The pages are designed for you to set and keep track of your progress over the course of a year.
- design your overarching goals
- long- and short-term planning,
- debrief your special events such as clinics or shows
- reflect on, plan and evaluate your goals
- sample goals and pages
The Workbook is available for instant digital download so you can print the pages right off your computer. There is also the option of a paperback version if you’d rather have a professionally bound book to hold in your hands.
Read more here: