Ah, January. The first and most hope-filled month of a newborn year. The air is cold and fresh, hol- iday-gifted breeches are still crisp, and pledges to do more no-stirrup work are still mercifully unsullied by mid-year sloth. I’ve never been a resolution-
maker/resolution-keeper myself, but riding a young horse has had me thinking
about goals more than usual lately. And when I say “thinking about goals,”
what I mean is “starting a ride with a goal and then watching it sail casually
down the toilet.”
Though the resolutions for a green horse might be similar to those for a sea-
soned partner, the realistic expectations are considerably more modest. My goals
for the young mare I ride are a perfect example:
n No more permitting her to eat the reins during bridling. This is a terrible
habit, and she shouldn’t be doing it. I must not be so lazy that I allow this to
happen. Also, I just bought new reins. You know what? Maybe we leave the old
reins on for a while longer.
n Set a mini-goal for each ride. Ideally, set bar really low, then thrill self by meeting it. And if we fail to meet said bar, remind self that walking in a straight line is
hard. And maybe make that bar a bit flexible. Perhaps if my horse crashes out of her
stall like a fire-breathing dragon today, our goal is no longer “improve adjustability at
trot.” Perhaps a better goal is “don’t die today.”
n Set a cutoff time to achieve those goals. I occasionally dream of a fantasy-land where I no longer witness a rider both drive up pre-lesson and get in her car
post-lesson all from the rail of the outdoor ring, where we just cannot seem to
walk forward/turn a corner on four wheels/otherwise act like an educated horse.
It seems everything—and definitely everything new—takes longer than expected.
But there’s a difference between “working on something” and drilling. So new goal:
if we’re languishing on a task no one seems to be enjoying, step away.
n Start walking her around the scary perimeter of the property. You can tell
When you’re riding, even the tiniest
victories can be worth celebrating.
BY EMILY BOGENSCHUTZ
this is a good goal, because I have
heart palpitations just thinking about
it. (What if there’s a bunny? Or a
new section of fence? Or a weird
leaf?) But our goals shouldn’t be
limited to the ring, because we shan’t
always be in the ring.
Update: OH MY GOD there are
four-wheelers next door NEVER MIND
NEVER MIND GO BACK TO THE
RING ABORT ABORT.
n End on a positive note. No matter how sub-par I feel, at the end of
the ride, I will remember to ask for
a few steps of something the steed
is good at, or, uh, on some days,
something she can do, and give lots
of pats when she does it right. Good
job. You did it. You free-walked
down the centerline.
n Oil all four hooves without
incident. Seriously, this is an actual
goal of mine, and walking around
the perimeter of the property seems
more realistic at the moment.