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  • Writer's pictureSanoma Blakeley

Goal Setting: Turning Riding Dreams Into Reality

We know how much work it takes to care for, manage, and ride horses. Equestrians from all walks of life do it for different reasons, and some riders can start to feel defeated or stagnant if they don't have a goal they're working toward. It is important to set and achieve riding goals to have more purpose in your relationship with your horse, which only deepens your connection further! The most difficult part is committing to a goal in the first place, because we are naturally afraid to fail... What if we don't hit our goal? But remember, if you set a goal and don't hit it, you still made more progress than if you never tried in the first place. No rider is ever successful without some failures and setbacks along the way, but that is what makes the work so rewarding! We've partnered with RW-sponsored rider Sanoma Blakely to help you set and achieve your riding goals, so you can turn your equestrian dreams into a reality. Follow along to get Sanoma's expert insight!

Getting Started

Dreams: I am sure all of us have them! Whether learning to ride a horse, riding for pleasure, training your own horse from the ground up, or competing with your equine partner, most equestrians will agree that there is always room for improvement. In this article, I will lay out a few practical steps to become a better horseman or horsewoman through the use of goals. A goal is an amazing tool that can work as a dream catcher in a sense; and as with any tool, we need to use it properly to get the best results.

What exactly is a goal? Google defines a goal as "an aim that you work toward with effort and determination." Goals are a great way to hold ourselves accountable, even if we fail. Setting goals and working hard toward them helps us understand our priorities. I think setting goals is exciting because you get to imagine all that is possible for you to achieve! Goals can also increase your joy and motivation, and offer satisfaction when you look back to see how much you improved.

There are two different kinds of goals: short-term goals and long-term goals. For example, an endurance rider's long-term goal might be to compete in the Tevis Cup. Setting a series of attainable short-term goals will help them reach that long-term goal. They might set the goal of completing the Tevis for three years down the road, then in the short-term aim for finishing a few 50-mile races. Only setting long-term goals can be overwhelming and make them seem unachievable, while only setting short-term goals can be less satisfying. A nice mix makes riding more fun, as you feel your progress and see yourself achieve what you are striving for!

Setting goals isn't only for riders who are particularly ambitious; every equestrian can benefit from setting goals. Having goals can add purpose to your relationship with your horse and help you improve as a rider. It can be easier to set goals at the start of the year, but the best time to set a goal is right now! Putting off your goals for too long gives you a good excuse to procrastinate. Simply start where you are and go from there!

How to Set Riding Goals

Personalize Your Goals

Your goals should have real meaning and be important to you; you want to look forward to working toward them! You don't have to have the same goals as your friend, because everybody's needs and horses are different. Factor your horse's abilities into the equation. You know yourself and your horse better than anyone, so while it is good to get advice, make sure your goals are still personal to your specific desires.

Specify Your Goals

Striving toward generic goals is not as motivating, since you don't have the emotional attachment and drive. Therefore, set specific and measurable goals. If you make your goals measurable, it is easier to know when you have achieved them. For example, consider setting a certain height to be jumping or a specific time to be running barrels.

Have a Time Frame

Expecting to reach your goals too soon can make them seem unattainable, due to not giving yourself enough time to prepare and see improvement. On the other hand, setting goals too far down the road can cause you to lose motivation and make it easier to take days off. The best goals are typically those you set out to achieve in three to six months; this time frame works well as it gives you enough time to reach the goal while still requiring consistent work to succeed.

Make Challenging and Realistic Goals

Set goals that are achievable but will take work and planning to achieve. Goals that are too easy will not motivate you, and goals that are too far above your or your horse's level could lead you to feel discouraged. Remain realistic and value every accomplishment along the way!

Achieving Your Riding Goals

Photo by Lisa Chadwick of Gore/Baylor Photography

Now that we have an idea of how to set goals, let's consider some practical steps you can follow to achieve these goals:

Write it Down

Writing down your goal and putting it somewhere you can see it will help materialize it into reality, making it feel less like a dream floating in your head. It can be easy to push off goals or procrastinate on them if they only live in your mind, but making your goals visible by writing them down can help keep you motivated.

Measure Your Progress

It may sometimes feel like you're not making any progress, but comparing where you are now to a picture or video from several months back can really help keep you moving forward. Measure your success by improvement, not necessarily ribbons or winnings! What does your horsemanship and your horse's performance look like? If you've been following your plans, it's bound to be better than it was when you started.

Make a Plan

Reaching your goals doesn't fall into your lap and happen automatically. Just like when we are going on a road trip, we find the best route and plan for stops on the way to our destination; plans can help map out the route between our goals. You'll need to evaluate where you currently are and where you want to be, then establish checkpoints and milestones along the way.

Express Your Goals

Share your goal with someone you trust who is interested in seeing you succeed; they can be a good source of support if things get tough. If you share your goals with them at the beginning, they can also check in with you, offer encouragement, and congratulate your success. It's easier to brush off a goal and not reach it when no one knows what you're aiming for. It can also be helpful to find others who are striving for a similar goal. Training buddies or mentors offer help, give us motivation, and help keep us accountable!

Have Fun!

Don't forget why you're riding in the first place. You may have to make adjustments to your goals, since horses seem to have plans of their own sometimes. The most universal goal any rider can set is to have fun! Don't be discouraged by setbacks. It can take a lot of time and effort to reach a certain goal, so don't give up if you don't reach it on the first try. Achieving anything worthwhile takes time, and sometimes we need to rewrite our plans and try something new. It is important to read your horse and be realistic about what you expect from them.

Closing Thoughts

Setting goals is an important part of horseback riding. Any equestrian can start today by writing down one or two long-term goals they would like to work toward. Pin it to your fridge, then set a couple of smaller, short-term goals you can realistically attain along the way. Things don't have to be perfect, but you can always make progress! We hope you feel better equipped to achieve your riding dreams, courtesy of Sanoma's insight on goal setting. Should you have any questions, reach out to our friendly customer service team at or 1 (800) 620-9145. Happy goal setting!


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