With 2017 underway, I am getting ready for graduating college and facing adulthood in its entirety. I’m going into that responsibility with excitement, but also knowing adulthood will bring its new challenges, particularly on the equine front. Until this point, I have been fortunate enough that my parents helped me financially so I could keep my horses while getting an education. But it’s time to take that burden off of them.
With this change fast approaching, I took a long look at my New Year’s resolutions from past years. They usually included competing at a certain level, mastering certain movements or eliminating a specific bad habit or two from either myself, my horses or both. Sometimes I met my objectives; sometimes I didn’t. Looking back, I realize the problem with these types of resolutions is that they aren’t resolutions at all. They are goals with a pass/fail grading scale.
This year, my aim is to focus on progressive, rather than hard-set milestones. If you’re interested in taking this approach as well, it’s not too late to adapt your own resolutions.
Here are five possible ways to improve life for yourself and your horse(s) in 2017.
1. Ensure Your Horses’ Health
The obvious part of this resolution is making sure I have the finances for my horses’ veterinary, farrier, and other health needs. The other aspect is making safe, educated decisions on a daily basis. If they’re lame, don’t push it. If the footing is bad, it doesn’t mean you’re weak for pulling out of cross country. It makes you smart, and it might even give others the courage to follow suit. These decisions are all individual and should be approached as such. But keeping the bigger picture and longevity of your partner in mind should be an important starting point for all riders.
2. Monitor Progress and Celebrate Milestones
In the past, I would try to write down the points of every ride. This is something that I have had several trainers suggest, and I have done it a few times. I think the longest stretch lasted about a month, but it became a burden, so I stopped.
Going forward, I’m going to take the approach of writing a quick summary of each horse’s progress once a week. I will also be setting three goals for each horse and myself at a time. As we accomplish them, I’ll check them off and keep working on a new set. It’s so easy to forget how far we’ve come; hopefully, this will help with that.
3. Seek Training that Brings Out the Best in You
If you are the type of rider who takes lessons from various trainers, attends clinics or seeks advice once in a while, it can be easy to get pulled in when someone says “I use this trainer, do you want to jump in on a lesson?” or “Want to go to this clinic?” Sometimes this can be great and lead to good advice. But if you have ridden with that trainer before and just didn’t see the benefits, or if that wasn’t in the budget for the season, it’s okay to politely decline. On the other hand, when you find a trainer that you can relate to and that understands your horse, hold onto them. Lastly, remember that not all advice has to come from the professionals. All of us amateurs are walking around with plenty of dollar invested in training over the years. Your horse friends might not have all the answers, but they might know something. Ask around and be willing to offer advice if you think some of your knowledge could help a fellow rider.
4. Prepare for the Future
This is probably the most goal-oriented of the resolutions on this list, but I think it’s a vital one. Things happen, and we have a year of unknowns ahead. To prepare for the future, consider maintaining an emergency fund, securing a home well in advance of needing one and making sure you have someone to help with care should you ever need it. I’m largely focused on building up my savings fund at this point, as I’m also saving for a truck and trailer.
However you decide to be prepared, feeling secure about what lies ahead will make it a lot easier to focus on this last resolution, which involves looking backward.
5. Remember Why You Started This Journey with Horses
My favorite horse-related poem, author unknown, says “Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become, is the little girl who fell in love with a horse and never looked back.” For me, the journey began with leasing a 17-year-old gelding that led to the development of the person I am today, some of my strongest relationships and that stereotypical girl-and-her-horse love story. After 11 years, I said goodbye to him on Memorial Day of 2016.
Everyone’s timeline and story is different, but looking back on my time with him reminded me how important the simple things are. Taking the time to brush him just because it feels good. Riding bareback in a field. Giving treats. Standing at the gate just watching and feeling how incredibly lucky you are that these incredible creatures are a part of your life. Try to work a little bit more of these moments in during 2017.