In light of some of my life’s recent changes, I chose to write this blog post on a topic I am currently pondering for myself as I transition into my new role as riding instructor in my absolute dream situation. It hasn’t come without its challenges and adjustments. As I acclimate to a more physically rigorous farm lifestyle and developing a new time-management routine, I find myself digging deep into my personal development tool box to extract everything I’ve ever learned about creating a vision, instituting a bulletproof routine, and producing lasting success for myself and my students. I truly believe that while I have the equestrian in mind while I write this, that these tips can be applied to anything.
1. Work hard. There is no way around this one. You can do everything else on this list but if you aren’t willing to work hard, you will be greatly limited on what you can accomplish. Anyone I have ever met in the horse industry and otherwise that has accomplished anything noteworthy, has spent an incredible amount of time putting in the elbow grease necessary to accomplish their goals. This goes for both in the saddle and out. I have had to work an incredible amount of hours at my “day job” in order to support my lifelong horse dream. I have worked weeks that look like 16 hour overnight shifts, 9 ten-hour shifts in a row, weekends, and holidays in order to be sure I had the money for my horse’s care and also for my continuing education, equipment, etc.
2. Have vision. Be as wildly creative with this one as you want to. It is surprising what we can accomplish if we just dare to think it is possible. If your goal is an Olympic medal, a solo trail ride, or simply to not fall off at the next local schoolingshow, dream big and never feel anything is out of your reach. Setting the bar high helps us strive for continuous improvement. Day dream all you want!
3. Set goals. Having a giant vision is wonderful but if all you think about is what year you’re going to try out for the Olympic team and you haven’t been practicing the posting trot without stirrups that your coach keeps suggesting every time you take a lesson, you’re not focused on the present moment.Setting small, realistic goals moves us to our destination quicker because every time we achieve something, it boosts our confidence, which in turnboosts our gratitude, which then boosts our daydream muscle. It helps us to realize that things are possible, that we are capable.
4. Be teachable. Find a good mentor and remain open-minded while learning. Every riding instructor has something to teach you. (Ok, some of them may have showed me what not to do.) Someone who has walked the path a bit longer than us will be able to shed some light on how to master that aforementioned pesky no-stirrup posting trot, for example. Show up in the arena ready and willing to learn something new.
5. Keep a journal. Write down your lessons and what you learned. Keep track of everything you are grateful for daily. You will be glad you can look back on old journals to remind yourself how far you’ve come.
6. Study. There is no excuse in today’s world to not educate yourself on a regular basis. We have access to unlimited amounts of education via books, Kindle, audiobooks, podcasts, YouTube, blogs and social media. I personally listen to something every time I am in the shower, driving or bored at work (obviously the day job).
7. Get out of your comfort zone. Every day. Drop your stirrups. Ride a different horse. Ride in a clinic with an Olympian. Volunteer at a big horse show or better yet, send in your entries. Ask the local dressage trainer to give you a lunge lesson – after you’ve stocked up on Epsom salts and ibuprofen of course!
8. Pay no mind to the naysayers. I hate that I even have to put this in here but it is necessary to learn how to handle naysayers or anyone coming at you with unsolicited negative feedback. It is important to remember that this is your dream, your goals and your vision. Others may have their own opinions on what you should or shouldn’t do with your life but it has no effect on your skills, character, achievements or your future. A list of positive affirmations by your bed at night or in your journal will help you. “I am confident in my riding abilities. I accomplished the posting trot without stirrups. I didn’t fall off today. I survived my lunge lesson with the local dressage trainer.” Things like that.
9. Let go of outcomes. At the end of the day, when we have given something our absolute best, we don’t always have control of the outcome. Has COVID-19 hit this home for us yet? So many factors are beyond our control. On any given day, our horse could show up lame, the weather changes at the drop of a hat or the judge has a bad day.
10. Enjoy the process. It is the process that we must learn to enjoy, not the outcome. What fun would it be to have everything work out perfectly all the time? Ok, I admit it might be fun for awhile, but all the work we put in during the process is what makes it all worth it.