This year, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to set goals that are more realistic, objectives that are determined by influences within my control. This doesn’t mean that I’m not going to continue to dream big, that I don’t want to one day go Advanced or that I don’t continue to aspire to have more horses to compete. It simply acknowledges the reality that things happen: horses go lame, weather doesn’t cooperate, and unexpected expenses are incurred.

However, if we allow our happiness to be determined only by the checked boxes of the tasks we have completed, the final result will ultimately be disappointment. I know, for I have been there. For me, 2017 was a year of rebuilding. I began the year with a horse that needed to be retired from campaigning towards the upper levels, a family that needed me back in Virginia, and multitude of questions regarding what I was doing with my life. But things worked out.

While on paper 2017 may have looked like nothing special, it was a valuable year of learning. I took a step back and remembered why I love to ride, I rekindled old friendships and made new connections, I was able to work with a great group of horses, and I had the pleasure of teaching an awesome team of students. While I may have left some boxes unchecked, I am grateful for every new experience.  My resolution for 2018 is to set realistic “goals” that help to prepare me for future success.

In 2018, I will:

1) Set goals that I have control over. Our lives are filled with so many things that we don’t have charge over. Why add one more? For example, I refuse to set goals such as “finish top five at X show,” because at the end of the day, our results are not only determined by our performance, but also by the rides of others. Likewise, I am working to decrease my focus on attaining a specific score in dressage. Every judge is slightly different and a test that might score in the upper-twenties for one judge could be a low thirty test for another.

2) Avoid goals that have concrete timelines. It’s not even February, and I already have had to practice applying the difficult skill of patience. Despite our best intentions, sometimes the weather refuses to cooperate or your horse gets an injury the week before an event. Things happen. Yes it would be nice to do Young Riders, but not everyone has a horse by the time they are 18 that is capable of running a CCI*. Design your goals to focus on steady progress rather than a one time-specific goal.

3) Refrain from comparing my goals to the goals of others. I’m quite guilty of this. You look around and see what all of your friends are doing, what others your age are accomplishing; and you want to be do the same. However, everyone’s circumstances are different. What is obtainable for one rider isn’t always feasible for another. Regardless of your life circumstances, financial resources, etc., just work hard. That’s all you should ask from yourself.

4) Set goals that help others, in addition to myself. While its is easy to get sucked into the chaos of “show season,” we all need to work harder to make it a priority to get involved; to volunteer with our local equine rescue, side-walk at a therapeutic riding center, or donate our time to teach a clinic at a center for low-income youth. There are plenty of options out there. Just take the time to remember that there is more to goal setting than just the, “I want to win” mentality.

Best of luck in the new year!

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