I would like to write on dressage related resolutions. I set about reading a few different articles on the above mentioned subject to get myself in the correct state of mind.
There were many good tips in the goal related articles that I read such as splitting up your goal into achievable bite sized chunks, vocalizing your goals to others, S.M.A.R.T., and so on. All of these are excellent tools and should be employed, but I think especially for the world of dressage, they have the potential to suck the joy right out of the pursuit.
It is easy to focus wholly on “the next step” and then when failing to achieve that goal, feel unworthy of the practice.
Now I am not saying that anyone should abandon goals altogether. They have their purpose. They keep us focused. They keep us moving forward and hungry for more.
Conversely there are people who ride for strictly pleasure, with no ambitions whatsoever. They must look at us dressage riders cantering in circles over and over, dripping sweat with a grimace of concentration on our faces and just wonder at what is happening in our brains. Though this type of rider does not have the inclination to show, they do have the pleasure of riding.
For me, the healthiest attitude is a combination of both of these types of rider – the pleasure rider and the goal oriented rider.
The love of learning is paramount to my career and one of the main reasons I became a dressage trainer. That being said, horses will humble you. Horses will always humble you and without pleasure between your goals you will have points of extreme happiness punctuating misery.
So I suppose what I am trying to say is be careful with your resolutions. Beware of goals that are performance specific such as, “This year I will master second level.” That is a huge undertaking and you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Be kind to yourself and think about the joy of the journey as you create your goals. Instead of gunning for a score, or speeding up the levels, consider goals that center more around your everyday rides. “I would like to understand more about the half halt.” or “I want to concentrate on correctly keeping a horse in front of the leg.” These resolutions have plenty of brain food for you without being necessarily time specific or competition based. And the good news is they will improve your scores! And if you want a competition-based goal then consider something not score based, such as “I want to maintain my horse’s energy levels through the entire test.” Or “I will half halt between each movement”.
If you have any ideas as to good dressage related goals let me know. I am always searching for new ways to pester my students!