This is a tricky subject to write about because I am feeling pretty uninspired by this topic in my life. Maybe that means I’m a good person to give advice on this? Or maybe it means I’m the worst… let’s find out.
It seems that every time something good comes along in my life, or even every time I go out of my way to MAKE something happen, there’s a roadblock. For instance; I was entered for our first international of the season — horse hurts himself in the field. Horse is fixed and we can get going again — I need to have surgery ASAP. I could literally list these examples for decades. I find this INCREDIBLY mentally tough. The repetitive journey of working hard to get things going well again, and then having to stop and start again AGAIN, is really, really draining.
When it happens to you enough times, you will most likely be left with the feeling of ‘why do I even bother? It’ll go wrong anyway.’
This way of thinking is natural. It is also toxic.
As emotional beings, we NEED goals. We need to achieve goals to feel good about ourselves, and to restart the fire within ourselves that pushes us to strive to be better. Achieving a goal makes us feel good about ourselves, and boosts our self-worth.
If we go through a lengthy period of roadblocks, no matter how big or small you will be left feeling defeated (side note: I realise I am incredibly fortunate to live the life I do. I realise there are an infinite number of people worse off than me, please don’t attack me in the comments for writing this article! There is always someone better off than you, but also someone worse off than you.).
Before you do anything, what you need to do is identify the ‘big goal’. Is it an FEI competition, a local show, the Olympics? Once you have done this, imagine a ladder. At the very top is your big goal. Each step on the ladder is a step you must take to get closer to that big goal. Make these steps small and very achievable goals.
For the sake of this article, let’s say your big goal is to do an FEI eventing competition. You’re starting right from the beginning with a young horse. Your bottom step of the ladder could be anything from ride the horse without having to lunge them first (my personal first goal with one of my horses!) to going out cross-country schooling. It all depends on where you are in your journey.
Everybody’s journey is different and everybody has different steps on the ladder. Some people have more, some have less. Some whizz up the ladder to half way and then get stuck. Some take a long time to get to the half-way point, and then whizz up to the top.
So, what happens when you can’t achieve one of the small goals? Maybe your horse is lame, maybe you have fallen off and hurt yourself meaning you or your horse needs time off.
Goal: get on without lungeing
You can adapt this to; achieve lateral work in hand to build a better connection. This could also be the pre-ride, brain focussing exercise you need to do before getting on. Or you could spend the time desensitising your horse with tarpaulins etc.
Goal: go cross-country schooling
Adapt this to you going to watch lecture demos about cross-country or by bettering your knowledge by reading up on the topic. Desensitisation could also come in here, as walking your horse over tarpaulins will help make them more bold for example.
You can break your goals down into their own ladders as many times as you need to. Adjust the focus, change the plan, but never stop dreaming and never forget the big goal! You MUST remind yourself of the ‘bigger picture’. You want to do an FEI competition — missing a local show does not matter in the grand scheme of things.
After a comment directed at her relationship with a horse she once had in her care, Claire has decided to
Claire explains why she thinks riders need to treat themselves more like their horses when they are injured
Another thing to seriously remember, is that there is no time limit. We often feel we ‘should’ achieve certain things within certain time frames. Well , I’m here to tell you that this is totally irrelevant. This, I feel, is the most important thing to remember. There is no reason to rush up the ladder or you may miss a step and fall back down to that spot later on, meaning you have to climb back up again. I am relating, of course, to ‘the basics’. Skip the basics, and you’re doomed.
Take your time, and I mean really take your time. Better yourself and your horse mindset and knowledge as much as you possibly can during this time and you will fly up the ladder, because so many people skip this part.
And the basics, without a shadow of a doubt, are the most important of all.
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