Adjusting On the Fly

Tracking Your Goals in a Competitive Setting
by Kathy Baar

Throughout my horsemanship journey – particularly now that I am putting principle to purpose as I move back into the competitive world – I have been constantly reminded of the importance of having a plan and staying flexible. As we set and strive to reach our goals, they undoubtedly help hold us accountable and act as a measure of our progress.

A valuable aspect of setting goals and timelines is the willingness to adjust those goals and “re-chart” your path when needed. Without the latter, we can find ourselves feeling like failures for not achieving our original definition of success. Last winter, I had the opportunity to put this principle to purpose as I prepared for and spent the weekend at a competition.

While I was anxiously anticipating the birth of our son on August 19th 2012, I set a goal to get myself and my horse, Quick, back in shape fast enough to enter at least one of the low-level Jumper classes in early December. I knew that having this goal would help motivate me to get out and play with my horse and keep me moving even on the days when I didn’t feel like it!

However, when I set the goal, I didn’t realize how much I would feel like abandoning my goal! After many sleepless nights (and a completely new schedule that can only come from introducing a new baby to the family), I realized that seeing this goal to completion was going to test my resolve! Thanks to a great support staff (mainly my wonderful husband, John) and the valuable lessons I have learned in my Parelli journey, I was able to stay close enough to our plan that we went ahead and went to the show. First goal achieved!

So, my first goal of getting to the show was met! I was now sitting in front of my stall thinking, “I’ve reached my goal… (deep breath).” Right after my deep breath, I was reminded of a motto that my husband often uses: “Pleased, but not satisfied.” What this meant to me was, now that I had reached my goal, it was time to set a new one, a specific goal for the weekend.

I’ve learned that in order to feel progression, it is best to set not just goals, but specific goals (i.e. ‘Get to the show with the horses and tack needed to compete’ instead of just ‘Get to the show’). My specific goals for Saturday with Quick became:

  1. Have Fun
  2. Stay Safe
  3. Remember My Jump Course

I wanted to set goals that were achievable and that were in my ‘circle of influence.’ I didn’t want to set goals out of my circle, such as winning the blue ribbon; with this goal I have no influence over how the other riders and horses go, how many sign up and who shows up! Achieving the goal would be left up to chance. I wanted goals that I could put effort into achieving where I would be responsible for the outcome.

After our first day in the ring, I can wholeheartedly say we achieved all three! With a little wind in my sails, I reflected on the day and set some updated goals for Sunday. I was feeling more confident about my original Goal #3 and thought I might set a new order for Sunday:

  1. Have Fun
  2. Stay Safe
  3. Go a Little Faster

The reason for the change in Goal #3 came about because I was competing in Jumpers; this means that if you have a clean first round (a course of 9-13 jumps you memorize and then go into the ring one at a time to complete the course – the goal being to finish in the time allowed and not knock down any rails), you are invited back to the jump-off (a shorter ‘course’ of usually 5-8 jumps) and judged on time as well as no rails down. The fastest and cleanest time wins!

After my first day of success and Quick’s relaxation and ease at the lower classes (2’6” – 3’) I chose to step it up a little and enter the next height (3’ – 3’3”), while challenging myself to ask Quick for a little more speed. He was amazing! Not only did we achieve our goals as partners, but we also came home with a few ribbons, one of which was a “Grand Champion” for the 3’ – 3’3” classes. For our next show my goals are:

  1. Have Fun
  2. Stay Safe
  3. Go a Little Faster and Higher!

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