Laura Tomlinson discusses positive January goal-setting amid the gloom
Happy new year first and foremost, although with the Covid-19 pandemic dragging on and, with us now back in lockdown, the first week of the year has lost a little of its usual magic. Certainly, the prospect of “dry January”, “Veganuary” or “sugar free” January are all looking rather bleak and uninspiring amid another lockdown.
I spent Christmas and new year without any of my Bechtolsheimer family for the first time ever. It was very strange, although I did have the chance to enjoy being at home with my husband and our children, with everything being just about us. I have never really been at home but not ridden any horses, so that felt strange, too, but it was also quite nice just to reboot.
I must thank LeMieux, Hartpury and British Dressage for putting on very successful national championships for grand prix riders just before Christmas, and Horse & Country TV for live-streaming it. Although it was rather difficult timing-wise for me as a mother of three to focus on riding at a championship just a couple of days before Christmas, it was hugely appreciated.
The feeling among many of us there – chatting from a two-metre distance behind face masks – was, wouldn’t it be fantastic if this was to become an annual event? It would be wonderful to have a chance for all the elite British riders to compete for this title each year, rather than just those who didn’t go to that year’s international championship.
I also bid farewell to my top hat with my last ride at Hartpury. It feels strange that I will now only ever compete in a hard hat. The traditional side of me does feel a little sad that I will not have the choice to wear a top hat at grand prix level on horses I believe are safe to ride in one. But in the spirit of moving with the times, it is a picture we are all going to have to get used to.
Plans A, B and C
As I write this column, I have started riding again, but just giving each horse a leg-stretch rather than training properly. I always find that after a short period of not training, I get back to the point where I think a lot about what I want to do and not do when I start again.
Which habits can I break with a fresh start and which habits do I want to consolidate? How am I going to approach another season of uncertainty, not only due to Covid but also Brexit? It’s finally here and travelling horses abroad for the first time in 2021 will be a little nerve-racking, as we see whether things really will continue smoothly or not.
I won’t be travelling abroad for any competitions until February at the earliest, but with all the current uncertainty it is important to make contingency plans and create a plan A, B and C for this year.
Regardless of the level at which we ride, we like to know what we are aiming for and then what we need to do to get there. This knowledge is not a luxury afforded to us in the current climate, so we need to find different types of goals and choose a few variable paths with different outcomes that can be considered an achievement, even if our initial “goal A” is not an option this year.
It is easy to feel frustrated that we are heading into a second year of this, but I would say that it is more productive to accept the things we cannot change and try to manage those that we can control.
Battling the elements
I have once again felt blessed over the past week to have my indoor school during this frosty weather. For those who are battling with the elements on top of everything else, be safe and remember to adapt feeds according to the amount of exercise your horse is getting – and be careful getting back on board when exercise has been limited. Even here where the horses have still been doing a bit over the holiday period, they are all feeling very fresh and keen to show some airs above the ground.
My advice for January 2021 is to be kind to yourself and don’t expect too much from yourself too quickly. Set sensible goals that don’t end up making you feel more disappointed.
It’s OK to tread water for a bit – that in itself, in these times, should actually be considered an achievement.
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