It’s not uncommon to be scrolling through Instagram and see comments of ‘omg goals’ left by fellow equestrians on each other’s posts – one of the reasons why I enjoy Instagram is because of how supportive this online community has been. In addition to my ‘muggle insta’ (where prom pictures and squad hangs are recorded), I’ve had a separate account for almost two years now to chronicle my journey of developing my OTTB, as we move up the levels in eventing and Pony Club, and not once have I ever had a negative comment. Another thing that I really enjoy is following other rider’s journeys with their horses – especially those of disciplines that I don’t know much about, like hunter or vaulting or liberty.  Another thing that I at first found strange but have begun to accept, is other people’s goals.

I usually sort my own goals into training based ones, with progressively short term ones which build to long term ones,  (not unlike the classical dressage training scale), and into competition based ones (i.e. A certain score in dressage tests, aim for an upgrade, finish on a dressage score, qualify for something, etc). While I do enjoy showing, a lot of the enjoyment I get from it is being able to see how well I have prepared my horse and myself (this might be because I’ve been developing him myself).

I really enjoy Charlotte Dujardin’s philosophy that you should work towards riding (and training every horse) like you are preparing to be able to do Grand Prix. I love this concept of always working to be better, and putting in a proper foundation to back your riding. I am also quite a competitive person, but at shows I tend to focus more on beating my last score, I look forward to showing and working towards moving up the levels with my guy. I also really like the level system in Pony Club (where you work from E up to A), and aim to get up to the highest level I can before I age out (Pony Club goes from ages 6 – 25).

But just because those are my goals, it is unfair to expect that everyone will have the same goals. Would everyone you know want to get an OTTB and try to produce them up the levels? I’ve grown to love that but can also acknowledge that not everyone is looking for that kind of adventure – and that’s okay.

Everybody’s riding journey is different, and it’s so important that they are, or anybody’s individual story would be much less interesting.

I recently saw a post on an equestrian blog I follow that said ‘winning on a ‘made’ horse will never be as rewarding as winning on a horse you’ve trained yourself’, and while that probably will be the case for me, it cannot be allowed to take away anything from riders who have not produced their own horses. It is perfectly fine to want a horse who knows his job so you can work on your own riding, and I have nothing but respect for those who have chosen that path. My goal of getting a horse I’ve done most the work on to a certain level does not take anything away from someone else working on their riding so they can take their schoolmaster around the same level. I think it is imperative to compare your own successes (or failureslessons) to yourself, not anything else.

I think ‘gold’ goals are any type of goals that are for you, that let you & your horse to be at your best together. Whether that’s getting your first relaxed dressage test, running around a one star xc course, or trotting for the first time out on the trail.I think the only types of bad goals are ones that are for others. Don’t work really hard on your position so that some kid on Instagram thinks you’re a good rider, work on your position to make yourself more secure and your aids clearer. Don’t upgrade too early with the intentions of bragging that you’re at this level, work to make sure your training/riding is above the level of your upgrade so you will be successful and safe, and have a good experience.

I also think that it’s okay to set hopefully high goals, even if they seem daunting and unreachable. And it’s okay if you don’t reach these ones – similar to that quote from the Hunger Games, ‘Aim high in case you fall short’.  This used to terrify me, when teachers in school would ask what your biggest goal was, because I was horrified that I’d write it down and then wouldn’t reach it, and everyone would know.

I’ve accepted that for some of us it’s a sport, and for some of us it’s a hobby. For some of us it’s an obsession, all that we think about, the end game, and for some of us it’s a stress reliever, a ride for leisure. But, at the end of the day, we all just love horses, so we aren’t that different after all.

Written by HJU Blogger Contestant Isabelle D’Costa