It’s a new year! A new year usually comes with the rigmarole of resolutions and riding goals. When it comes to horses, most riders actively shy away from making goals or solid plans. Horses can be unpredictable. Illness, training setbacks, injuries, schedules, and finances can all be challenges in reaching your goal. Writing down goals and resolutions keeps you feeling accountable. While brainstorming your goals you should consider breaking them down using the S.M.A.R.T. goal methodology.
What are S.M.A.R.T. goals? S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic and resourced
T = Time bound.
Let’s look at this example: Say you have a 12-year-old off track thoroughbred and want to spend a lot of the year exploring and enjoying the trail system in San Diego County, but you also would like an award to show for all those miles logged. Online you can research various programs like the California State Horseman’s Association (CSHA) Trail Program or the Thoroughbred Incentive Program’s (T.I.P.) trail badge. After comparing the two programs you decide on T.I.P. because it’s free and promotes the Off-Track Thoroughbred in a variety of uses and that is heartwarming.
So, breaking it down, is this goal S.M.A.R.T.?
Specific = “My horse and I will earn a T.I.P. patch for Trail riding which is 25 hours logged in the saddle on the trail. “
Measurable = “I will aim to do 2 - 1-hour trail rides a month. I will be sure to include additional days in the nicer months of the year. I will keep these on my big calendar at home.”
Attainable = “I will register my horse with TIP to be eligible. I have access to a simple trail system, so I can easily use those trails in the event I can’t leave the property where I keep my horse. “
Realistic /Resourced = “Trail rides provide both horse and I with mental resiliency and bonding time as well as providing physical activity outdoors, plus it can be done with friends! I have all the required tack (link to a trail saddle), supplies (link to saddle bags), and friends who love Trail riding as well and are on board with supporting my goal by going with me. This will keep me accountable and focused on having fun.”
Time bound = “I will have all hours logged and paperwork submitted by the T.I.P. due date. “
By breaking the goal down, you have set up a realistic plan and excited yourself and your friends on going trail riding this year. Most of all ,don’t forget to write down your S.M.A.R.T. Goals! Research shows that setting and writing down your S.M.A.R.T. goals means you are 62% more likely to achieve it. (Gollwitzer & Brandstatter, 1997; Kaskutas, 2009; Lawlor,2012; Locke & Latham, 1990; Morisano et al., 2010; Harkin et al., 2016)
Goals don’t need to be so insurmountably solid that they are daunting to even try for. Moving the needle in the direction you want to go is sometimes the best result you could hope for. By having S.M.A.R.T. goals, we can set ourselves and our horses up for success. So, what things do you hope to achieve this year in and out of the saddle?