Setting Goals

Posted in: Featured, Horse Training, Ranch Life

I’ve struggled for quite some time with setting goals for myself. If I set one, I seem to fail at it, and I realized that it’s because I’ve tried to make my goals progress oriented. For a while I stopped setting goals altogether and have often felt like a fish out of water.  Or a wanderer with absolutely no direction. I didn’t know which way was up, down, or sideways. I just knew I felt like a failure.

For example: I’d say, “I want to have my horse run in the 2D at the next race.” And then, even if we have a good, smooth run, and placed in the 3D, I’ll find a way to doubt myself and my ability to ride/help my horse. If I didn’t make the 2D, I was riding like a scaredy cat, had done too much, was in my horses’s way, hadn’t done enough, hadn’t pushed or ridden hard enough — the list could go on.

So I’ve been really thinking about how to better myself and my horses, while not setting myself up for “failure”. How can I set goals for myself that I can accomplish and that will improve me as a horseman? Then it occurred to me — I could set ACTION goals — Monday — I’ll ride 5 horses. Tuesday I’ll ride three and handle two on the ground. So on and so forth. Action. Or for the week of March 1, I will set a goal to ride 5 days that week, a minimum of 3 horses per day. Action.  I think an obsession with progress is often why people give up their goals — this could be true for weight loss, for your job, or for your personal life.  You could interchange the word horseman (above) with person for example. If the scale doesn’t move, and you already hate to exercise, why keep doing it, if there is no measured/tangible progress? But if you keep up with the action, the eating less/eating healthier, exercising 5 days a week, or whatever your goal is, progress is bound to happen.

How to set goals for your horsemanship.

If I’m having trouble getting a colt to move out, I feel like a failure. Because I tend to only focus on what I think I can’t get him to do today instead of what I can get him to do.

  • I’m on him.
  • He’s quiet.
  • He’s not bucking around like a horse from the TV Pen at the NFR.
  • When I pick up on him he’s soft and willing.

SO, if I make it a goal to ride him daily, and focus on the good -that he’s quiet, soft, willing and trying, whatever I think isn’t going right or going exactly like I want it to, will eventually get there. With every ride we’ll gain confidence.

I can make it a goal to focus on riding with my seat instead of my feet. Action. I can make a point to over-exaggerate my seat position from resting to “go somewhere”, open up my legs, and focus on riding off at the speed I had in mind.  It may not mean anything to my horse the first time, or the fifth time, but I’m building a good habit in myself that will eventually become what I do first, and that will help on subsequent horses. Action.

Making a habit of mentally preparing for each ride; and visualizing all the good things I have going for me, instead of focusing on the bad things that “may” happen (my colt will buck me off, fall down, run off with me etc), will help develop good habits too. Action.  As a result of action, progress will ensue, and I won’t find myself “failing” because after 25 rides my horse still can’t do xxx – because I’ve changed my way of looking at things.

Maybe this glimpse into my new way of creating and buliding goals will help you in setting your own goals.

Happy Trails!


Posted in: Featured, Horse Training, Ranch Life

About Jenn Zeller

Jenn Zeller is the creative mind and boss lady behind The South Dakota Cowgirl. She is an aspiring horsewoman, photographer, brilliant social media strategist and lover of all things western. After a brief career in the investment world to support her horse habit (and satisfy her...

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