Now that we’ve reached that impass between Christmas and the New Year, we’re left with the perfect opportunity to plan our riding careers for 2018 down to a T. I love the chance for a fresh start and a new beginning, so whether it lasts or not, take the opportunity while you can to set out some goals and transform your habits. Always wanted to get to elementary dressage or do your first one day event for example? Make 2018 be the year that you do! I’ve designed some easy and fun steps to plan out the forthcoming year so that you give yourself the best chance to achieve and succeed.
Step 1: SET YOUR MAIN GOALS
Okay, so the first step is to actually realise your goals. I would recommend setting only 1 or 2 main goals so as not to overwhelm yourself. This way you can direct all your focus into achieving them without other distractions. These goals should be broad but achievable within a year. Using myself as an example: my main goal for 2018 is to compete in a BE90 Event. So now, all my planning will be based around working to achieve this goal.
Step 2: MAKE A RIDING DIARY
Okay, so this is the meatiest part of the process. Now you can get to the knitty-gritty – planning your month by month, and week by week schedule that will result in you achieving your goal(s). Okay, so let’s start with the bigger picture. Below, you will find my current Riding Diary for 2018. Not yet completed, but all the main competitions I hope to go to have been put in, plus the clinics I’ve already booked.
2018 Riding Diary
Right, so see how I’ve set it out? In just a basic table format that lists all the dates I’ll need to remember per month. You can do this in anyway you like, as long as it includes all the key information. Now, I think it’s important not to overcomplicate your riding diary so, to avoid this, only include the events or clinics that you INTEND to go to, not just events you COULD go to. If you only include the dates that are imperitive for achieving your 2018 goal, there is far more chance of you actually doing them.
So now let’s break down how to create a riding diary. The first thing you need to do is research. Make a list of all the places near you that hold the type of event or clinic you want to attend. It can also be helpful to make a list of some of the instructors you’d like to have lessons or clinics with, so you can search that way. For example, I made a list of all the places in Hampshire/Surrey/West Sussex that hold Horse Trials, and then made a note of all the dates of events I’d like to attend by putting them into my riding diary. I then did the same with a few clinics I’d like to do. Some clincs aren’t advertised until nearer the time, so don’t worry if there are still a few blanks. These can be filled in later. It’s useful to know when you do have blanks though, as you’re then subconsiously on the look-out for any events during that month. I, for example, am on the lookout for a clinic in February, and an unaffilliated event in May.
It’s also valuable to have all your dates in the same place. So I made another column for other appointments, such as the farrier or saddle fitter, so that you can then coincide all your dates so that they fit together as perfectly as a jigsaw puzzle.
Step 3: MAKE A WEEKLY SCHEDULE
Now that you have the bigger picture sussed, it’s time to scale down to a week by week riding schedule so that you can prepare for bigger events. Here is the simplistic format I like to use:
Simply work out a riding routine that fits the number of days you are able to ride, and that gives ample exercise to fitten your horse enough so that he can complete the main goal you wish to achieve. In my weekly schdule, I had penciled in three days a week for schoolwork as another ‘side-goal’ of mine, is to improve our dressage scores. I also know that in the next few months, I am busy on a thursday with university and then pilates in the evening, so Thursday will always be a suitable rest day. Having a schedule is useful becuase it takes the guesswork out of deciding what to do each day. Plus it means that you can book time in the school or arrange a hack with somebody, in advance. Even if you don’t stick religiously to your schedule each week, and have a jump lesson booked on your hack day for example, or you’re busy on one of your school days and dont ride, it’s not the end of the world. It just means that you have a firm structure in your head of what you need to do to achive your goals, and so makes you subconsiously more willing to stick to it for the most part. Plus, if I miss a schooling day for example, becuause I want to stick to three per week, I could school on a Saturday and substitute a hack for flatwork that week instead. It’s nice to have a routine, and it really makes you feel on top of things.
Step 4: HAVE SOME ‘SIDE-GOALS’
For my fourth and final step, I am issuing you the task of now setting a few side-goals that are separate from your main goal(s). These can be anything you like, but mostly should include changing your habits or creating new ones. For reference, I have set 4 myself:
- Wake up at 7:30am every morning.
- Clean my tack once a week.
- Score 70% or more in a dressage test.
- Attend a clinic once a month.
As you can see, the first two involve creating good habits. I want to get back into the routine of waking up every morning a half past seven so I can arrive at the yard for half past eight. Routines are not only good for your horse, but they also work well in getting into the swing of riding regularly. Cleaning tack is an important once, as this is part of maintaing my equipment and looking more together as a whole. Plus, my rubber reins began to split at a gridwork clinic the other day, which reminded me that tack care is important! The last two side-goals, are directly related to achieving my main goal of competing at BE90 as this will help with my level of success in completeing it. As a whole, these are habits I can maintain throughout the year, plus something I’d like to achieve.
So there are my four simple steps to thoroughly planning your riding career of 2018. This method doesn’t even need to only apply to horses – it could be used for anything in life! I for one will be planning goals for other sections of my life as well as I want to start the year with a clear idea of what I need to do to get to where I want to be by the this time next year. I hope you found my guide useful and apply it to whatever discipline you do, from hacking to hunting!