Goal setting for the young rider

Starting your goal journey is important.

Only five percent of us take the time to sit down and write down our goals. If you think you are kind of an average person, here is your chance to do something that puts you up there with the greats—and it doesn’t cost you anything.

So why not teach your kids to set goals at a young age with something that there are passionate about, like their riding. Imagine how this is going to set them up for life.

By the way, you can use this goal-setting process yourself in areas of your life, like relationships, business and health.

So, let's get started.

Ask your kids these simple questions:

What do you want to get out of riding?
If failure is not an option, what would you like to achieve?
What is the one thing you’ve always dreamed of doing with your horse?

    Take a moment to ponder these questions with your kids, encourage them to leave their rational mind out of this discussion. If they start thinking, 'Oh we don’t have enough money to buy that top horse' or 'I know I’m not talented so there is no point in dreaming', it’s time to change their thinking.

    Setting goals

    What they need is a healthy dose of imagination and you can give them the courage and permission to start dreaming big!!

    Get a pen and paper and ask them to write down some answers. Go on. Be game

    and outrageous—that’s the whole idea of the exercise.

    If your child is a Grade 4 or beginner rider, it’s okay to put down that they want to win a gold medal and if they are comfortable to be a medal-winner already, it’s okay to want to be a millionaire as well. Whatever it is, encourage them to be courageous enough to write it down. If this is out of your comfort zone then use this exercise to step out of it!

    Everyone needs someone who encourages them to reach for the stars. Be that person for your kids.

    Goal-setting is not just for riders who want to compete. If your child’s goal is to ride well enough to take their pony to the beach and have fun, follow exactly the same steps.

    Here are the first steps to begin the goal journal. Follow the 7 steps below for each of their goals. If each goal meets all the criteria, you are on your way to making the goals become reality.

    This is a great family exercise, so sit down with your child and go through the process together and remember to have fun!!

    1. Make your goal/s specific

    If you’ve written that you want to be a ‘better rider’ or you ‘want to win whatever there is to win’, that is not specific enough.

    State exactly what it is you want, as simply as possible.

    For example:

    • Compete at a specific level—5, 4, 3, 2, 1, pre-novice, novice, elementary, advanced, jump 60cm, 70cm, 80cm—what ever it may be
    • Compete at the Olympics
    • Break in a young horse
    • Ride on my own, with confidence

    2. Measurable. Know what achieving your goal ‘looks like’

    How will you know when you have achieved your goal? Write an ‘evidence statement’ to clarify how you will know your goal has been achieved. (You may find this will help with clarifying Step 1—don’t be afraid to re-work your goals).

    For example:

      • When I get graded as ‘X’, I know I have achieved my goal
      • When I have completed my last test/round at the Olympics, I know I have achieved my goal
      • When I can walk, trot and canter five rounds in the arena, I know I have achieved my goal
      • When I have returned happily and safely from my first confident ride on my own, I know I have achieved my goal

      3. Make it achievable

      If you are working on a goal, you need to break it up into smaller, ‘bite size’ chunks. If your goal is to be an A Grade showjumping rider and you are just learning how to trot over poles on the ground, it’s not a good idea to put up a 1.50m parallel next time you have a ride and attempt to jump it!! You need to start over cross poles first, have lessons and gradually work your way up. These steps are all ‘chunks’ or steps on the way to your goal.

      Breaking goals into chunks:

      • Look through your goals and determine if they need to be chunked down
      • Turn your goal into steps or ‘chunks’ that you KNOW you can achieve
      • If this is difficult ask your coach and friends for help

      4. Consider others around you

      Achieving your goal has to be good for you and the people around you. For example, your family, you need to consider them—otherwise you are likely to sabotage your achievements. Realistically, if your goal is to compete ten horses and travel the Australian showjumping circuit for ten months of the year and you are school-aged and your parents are working full time, your goal is doomed to failure unless you have an exceptional extended family support network with unlimited funds or you are willing to run away from home…… (I am kidding, don’t do that!!!!)

      So, please consider your loved ones, or set yourself a time-frame that allows for your current responsibilities and commitments.

      5. Time-frames

      Create a realistic and achievable time-frame for your goals. It’s no good trying to achieve a twelve month goal in two weeks. This will not only be frustrating, it will cause you to quit. 

      Good time-frames to divide your goals into are:

      • 4 weeks
      • 6 months
      • 12 months
      • 2 years
      • 5 years
      • 10 years

       6. Be empowered by your goals

      Riding on the beach

      It is important to feel good about your goals. Set goals that make you feel good and create a boost in self-confidence. If your goal is to only get bucked off twice per week instead of three times per week, I suggest you change it. It may satisfy you short-term but it’s no good for a long-term goal.

       7. Review and change

      Review your goals regularly and be prepared to change them if you find something is not working for you. Sometimes we think we want to do something, only to realise later that it’s not so important after all. Don’t get stuck. Remember to stay flexible.

      Have fun achieving your goals.