It’s the time of year where everyone is setting goals and making plans.
When it comes to horses, goals can be tricky. There are so many things that are out of our control, despite our best efforts.
It’s important that your goals are motivating and positive, not worded to include things you have no control over and therefore set you up to get discouraged. And it’s equally important that our goals don’t become such a focus that we forget to listen to our horses and only ask for what they’re ready to handle.
So many people have goals like “break my horse to drive” or “win a championship” and both of those have so many variables that it’s hard to guarantee a positive outcome. But that doesn’t mean have to give up on those goals!
After doing lots of reading and research, I think the best option is a tiered approach to goal setting: Goal, Super Goal, and Daydream Goal. I tried this for the first time in 2021, and was really happy with how it worked – motivating, but not intimidating!
Goal: a goal that is measurable, achievable and motiving. Something that will pull you towards your Daydream Goal.
Super Goal: a goal that will be a potential outcome of your basic goal. A bigger deal where some other factors might have to fall into place in order to make it happen, but one that you still have quite a bit of control over.
Daydream Goal: a goal that will take a lot of hard work, but also a lot of good luck. This is the one we hope for, dream of, focus on, but don’t count on, because there are things we can’t control involved.
Here’s what I wrote for my goal in 2021:
Goal: Enter the online Horse Agility competition with Little Duke every month of 2021.
Super Goal: Finish the year in the top ten of the Horse Agility League.
Daydream Goal: Finish the year in the top two!
My Goal is very achievable – it will take consistency and dedication, but barring anything very dramatic happening, I should be able to make it happen. My Super Goal is also a possibility – he was 17th in the League in 2020, starting at a much lower level and only entering 9 months of the year instead of all 12. But it will mean we’ll have to score consistently well, AND achieve our basic goal. And my Daydream Goal is just that, a daydream. It’s not likely, but there is an outside chance, and continuing to focus on that possibility will keep me motivated, without getting disappointed because I have the other two, much more achievable goals, to worry about first.
And we did – with a lot of determination! – get an entry in every single month! Goal achieved! And we did get in the top ten, finishing the year in 9th place – Super Goal achieved! Unsurprisingly, we didn’t get the Daydream Goal, because it’s just that – a daydream. It’s still important to shoot for, but it’s not something to be disappointed about if it doesn’t happen.
As another example, instead of “break my horse to drive” your Goal could be: focus on driving training with my horse at least ___ times (whatever makes sense for your horse and schedule) per month. Then your Super Goal could be: get him hooked to the cart this year. And your Daydream Goal: Have him driving comfortably enough to go on an outing.
It’s the same goal, it just breaks it into more achievable, and motivating steps!
“Win a championship” becomes: Goal: attend 4 shows and do something to improve my performance or presentation every time. Super Goal: improve my placing at each show. Daydream Goal: win a championship.
Let me know if you try this goal setting framework, and have fun reaching your goals!