You’ve probably heard that if we improve our riding by 1% each day, we’ll be 100% better in 100 days. OK, great! But how consistently do we ride our horses with the self-discipline to actually be 1% better every ride?
Boost your success with a plan for progress. Instead of “seeing how the summer goes,” take the summer challenge! Follow this simple plan to make steady progress toward your summer goal. It’s a great way to cultivate effective habits and a more positive mindset whether you’re an avid competitor or budding equestrian.
Step 1: Identify Your Summer Goal
What would you like to accomplish by the end of August? What would you feel proud to learn or improve?
Whatever your goal is, be specific. For example, “to ride with forward rhythm and accurate distances over a 2’ stadium course” is better than, “I’m going to work on my jumping”. Make it challenging, yet achievable in three months. After all, growth means stretching your comfort zone, so you should feel challenged!
Now, write it down. Use a notebook, start a riding journal, or post it on a Summer Goal Challenge board in your barn that gets other riders involved. By writing your goal statement, you:
- Strengthen your commitment – You send a message to your sub-conscious mind that this is important to you.
- Build support – Coaches, family and friends can support you more effectively when they know what you’re working on.
Need help determining your goal? Ask yourself these five questions, then discuss your thoughts with your trainer.
Step 2: Take Action! For 3 Months, Complete 3 Actions a Week and Find 3 Good Things in Every Day
Commit to the challenge for June, July and August.
3 Actions – What we DO
Complete at least 3 actions each week that move you closer to your goal. Actions can be mounted or unmounted. They don’t even need to involve your horse! For example, activities such as watching a training video, or visualizing yourself riding at your best, can easily be done at home.
Completed actions become stepping stones on your path to progress. Strive for a variety of activities from the four foundation categories below to strengthen both horse and rider. Don’t forget to add steps that develop your mental fitness! Mental fitness skills help you tackle show-jitters, sharpen focus, and boost confidence when you need it most.
- Technical Skills – what you’re working on with your trainer, (i.e. your position in the saddle and your ability to perform the skills needed for your chosen discipline).
- Rider Fitness & Wellness – physical fitness, nutrition, and health – even your brain health. Function at your fullest! Recharge with stress busters such as getting a restful sleep, meditation, breathing exercises, and enjoying a good laugh.
- Horse’s Fitness & Health – conditioning exercises, appropriate warm-up and cool down, veterinary care, hoof and dental care, saddle fit, feed and nutrition, turnout…
- Mental Fitness – sport psychology tools, (i.e. visualization, music motivation, positive self-talk, creating a pre-ride routine or a motivating motto…). Follow the links to learn how to cultivate these educational tools.
Remember, it’s at least 3 actions a week. The higher you set your goalpost, the more actions you’ll need to complete. Sample actions may include:
- Rider A:
- Take a lesson.
- Recap the details of the lesson in my riding journal. Review my notes before I school my horse on my own.
- Watch a YouTube video showing a top rider performing these skills.
- Rider B:
- Do 25 sit-ups each day for a stronger core.
- Read a book or article about something I’m learning.
- Cut out a magazine photo of a rider in excellent jumping position. Study the photo before I ride. Visualize myself in that ideal position when schooling over fences.
- Rider C:
- Memorize my dressage test.
- Have my saddle checked by a reputable fitter.
- Add hill work to my riding routine to strengthen my horse’s hind-end.
3 Good Things – What we THINK
Start or end each day by naming 3 good things about your day. Train your brain to look for the good stuff, even if some days you have to look a little harder. Find the good in a challenging situation, recall a moment that made you laugh, or name someone or something you’re grateful for. Good things can happen at the barn, during a lesson or while at home.
- Sample Day 1:
- Smiled when my horse nickered as I approach his paddock.
- Finished my jumping session with a clean round after having several rails down.
- Enjoyed my favorite healthy meal for dinner with family.
- Sample Day 2:
- Strong wind kept the bugs off the horses during today’s trail ride.
- Proud of my horse for bravely crossing a stream without hesitation.
- Spent time with my barn friends while cleaning tack after our ride.
Focusing on the good things helps you develop a positive mindset. You’ll broaden your ability to look on the bright side, appreciate the good, and feel happier. This comes in handy, because when we’re happy, our brain releases endorphins – the feel-good hormones related to boosting optimism, positivity and self-belief. So, the next time you experience a difficult class or ride, you’ll have a better chance of remembering your strengths and finding a solution.
Let the Summer Goal Challenge Begin!
Have fun practicing daily positivity and embracing a variety of learning opportunities – at the barn and at home. Explore books, videos, clinics and classes. Build your technical skills and sport psychology tool box, while taking care of yourself and your horse. When you reach your goal – Celebrate! Chances are, even if you face a setback, you’ll discover helpful and healthful habits to practice long after the Summer ends.
Enjoy the Journey!
Liz Piacentini enjoys the journey of learning with her Canadian Horse, Lyrical. She is a certified seminar presenter of Coach Daniel Stewart’s Pressure Proof Your Ride equestrian sport psychology program. This summer, her goal is to earn continuing education credits and volunteer hours needed to become a PATH International ESMHL, (Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning).