Goal setting – Why every ambitious rider should have a plan in mind

I’m a big believer of goal setting, and I often write about it in my emails and blogs. However, out of all the responses I get, there’s always a response like: “I once set a goal to achieve level X, but then my horse got injured, so I couldn’t achieve my goal anymore. I now don’t set goals anymore and enjoy it much more.” In other words, goal setting isn’t a good idea, since you’re dealing with factors you can’t entirely control. For example, you don’t have total control over the health of your horse, nor his capabilities. And you don’t have total control over the judge’s score.

But despite there being external factors that can mess things up, it shouldn’t stop you from setting goals. When you don’t have a goal and you don’t know what you’re aiming for, you most likely won’t get there. It’s like driving your car without having a clear picture of the final destination. You can end up anywhere, and it’s often not the destination you would have liked.

 Focus

Goal setting

Conny Loonstra is the founder of DressagePro (dressagepro.com), an online platform to help dressage riders all over the world get to the next level in riding by giving them access to the best training methods. She works with top trainers like Dutch Chef d’Equipe Rien van der Schaft. DressagePro is about learning from the best trainers, achieving your goals and enjoying it along the way.
Conny is also co-founder of the TRT method, the online learning platform of Tristan Tucker.

A goal provides focus. It tells you where you want to be, and knowing that helps you with making decisions. Like for example how often you should train your horse, what kind of training is required, when to take lessons, from whom, and which competitions to enter.

There’s another interesting aspect to setting goals. When you focus on the outcome and you decide that’s what you really want to achieve, something happens in your brain. Your brain now indicates that your goal is of importance and will bring anything related to your goal to your attention.

This has to do with the reticular activating system (RAS), which is the ‘attention centre’ in the brain. When you’ve identified your goal as being important, the RAS will start to pay attention to things that are related to your goal.

You’ve probably experienced this before. Let’s say you’re interested in buying a new Range Rover. All of a sudden, you start to notice other Range Rovers on the road. Did the amount of Range Rovers on the road increase suddenly? Probably not, but you now notice them because they are of importance to you.

When it comes to your goal, it can mean you meet a trainer who can help you with achieving your goal or that a blog post about the level you want to achieve comes to your attention.

 Be flexible

An important aspect to setting your goals as a rider is to be flexible in relation to your time frame. In the end, your horse determines how fast you can go through the different phases of training. You can’t push your horse, and you will have to take the time to go through each training phase in the right way.

Don’t take shortcuts just because you decided you want to achieve a certain level within six months. Don’t enter a competition if you’re not ready. It won’t help you or your horse in the long run.

Related to this is that you should also set goals that match the capabilities of your horse. Is your horse able to achieve that level without affecting his welfare in a negative way? Obviously, a goal that has a negative impact on your horse’s health is something you want to avoid.

By: Conny Loonstra

The full article appears in the August INTERNATIONAL ISSUE of HQ  > Shop now