It's easy to rely on your trainer to instructor when it comes to advancing your skills. After all, that's why you take lessons, right? We take for granted that they ask us when we're taking our next lesson, or remind us that we may want to squeeze in some more riding time to prepare for the upcoming show and book another lesson. We get used to someone telling us what to do, how to do it, and when to do it - "Keep your heels down, chin up! Look where you're going! More leg! Relax - breathe!"
1. Set goals. Think about what you'd like to learn or achieve and when you'd like to achieve it. Setting specific goals and a timeline are critical. Don’t tell yourself you’d like to just “jump higher” or “move to the next level.” Sit down and talk with your trainer and decide a realistic goal. Maybe it’s raising the height on one jump every 2 lessons. Your trainer can’t help you during lessons if you don’t share your riding goals with them. They will also be able to determine an achievable timeline for both you and your horse. You may be ready but your horse may require more training and vice versa. Don’t be afraid to set small, short-term goals. Start with no stirrups for 10 minutes and build up each lesson rather than going all in for no-stirrup November straight away. Short-term goals are perfect for building up to an overarching long-term goal.
2. Realize the only one responsible for your progress is you. Your trainer is there to support and challenge you but you are the one who is ultimately responsible for your skills and development. No one else is going to put your riding before theirs. It's not fair to blame others for not putting in the hard work to develop your skills. Just like it feels great to celebrate a win knowing you put in the time and effort to make it happen.
3. Reevaluate your goals. Maybe you thought that your goal was a good idea at the time but you’re realizing you found something else you’d much rather be working towards. Every 4-6 months take time to reevaluate where you’re at now and where you’d like to be both long and short term. That goal you’re working towards might take a little more time than you thought and you notice your horse suddenly wants to drop his shoulder and duck in. Prioritize and be flexible, don’t become consumed with one goal.
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