Every New Year, we equestrians make a list of resolutions aimed at improving our riding. More riding without stirrups, more dressage lessons, signing up for that first horse trial. All are great, but Refinery29.com recently came up with 12 resolutions designed to help you meet your challenges by working on your life from the inside out. All of them can be modified to help equestrians have their best 2018. Here are some to consider:
1. Seek balance
As equestrians, we can sometime get super-focused on our finding results. While blue ribbon are great, we sometimes forget that riding should be a fun time to share with our horse and our barn buddies. Take a relaxing group trail ride and enjoy nature. Or attend an upcoming event (horse-related or not) with friends. Work hard to meet your goals, but take time for other things, too.
2. Roll with the punches
Change can happen. A new trainer moves in, there are new rules for turnout or a new boarder wants everything done “her” way. Some people have a more difficult time accepting changes, but in the end it can turn out for the best. Maybe the new trainer allows you to try a discipline you never considered. Or the new boarder turns out to be the perfect person to watch your horse when you go out of town. You can’t un-change things, but you can decide how you’ll react to change.
3. Embrace your inner optimist
Some people are born optimists. They always wee the glass half-full or can easily make lemonade from lemons. If you are one of these people, this year try to teach others to do the same. And if you aren’t, don’t fall into the “gloom and doom” trap that seems to be everywhere these days. Look for the good in people and situations.
4. Listen to your heart
“To thine own self be true,” said Shakespeare. But if that means you constantly display emotional extremes, your “true self” can be seen as slightly neurotic. Emotions can manifest themselves to a much small degree. Are you mildly disappointed you got a second instead of first? Don’t wail how you never win anything and you should just give up riding. After a while, people will stop listening. Say what you feel by all means, but keep it all in perspective.
5. Chase variety
Nothing will sour an equestrian or promising horse faster than endless circles in the indoor arena. Spice things up a little bit by changing your routine. Don’t feel you have to give away all your dressage tack and instantly start barrel racing. Start small and start slow to give you and your horse time to develop new muscles and a new mindset for any changes. Practice dressage on the trail. Improve your jumping using a gymnastics grid. After a short break from routine, both you and your horse will go back to the arena brighter and happier.
6. Test your limits
Make this the year that you and your horse “go for it.” Time to get out of that comfort zone and move the next level. Really stretch yourself this year and see what you are capable of. Feel something is holding you back? Take the time to figure it out and then make the decision to confront it. Most of our perceived challenges are not based on our abilities, but on our fear looking silly. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Mentally prepare and you’ll feel much more capable.
7. Say "no" more often
This is one you can probably use in every aspect of your life. Caring for a horse can bring out the nurturing instincts in you that can spill over into caring for everyone else’s horse or owner, too. This leads to you becoming overextended and ultimately resenting the time helping others. This year, slow down, reevaluate your personal priorities and draw clearer boundaries. This may be tough at first as others may just expect you to agree. Don’t be afraid to ask for time to consider what’s best for YOU before you agree to take on a commitment for someone else.
8. Find a new stage — and a new act
You’ve done Training Level Test 4 so many times that you can do it in your sleep. Yes, you always get a high score and the blue ribbon. But when Show Managers see your entry in the mail, they automatically sign you up for T-4 without even looking. Judges who have seen you ride before are considering just copying your old tests because everything is always the same. This year, channel you inner “Meryl Streep” and start preparing for a new role, e.g. a new level. Soon you'll be ready to take center stage and wow them with your new “act.”
9. Silence the self-doubt
As an equestrian, it’s a given that you want everything to be perfect. And, according to everyone else, you are usually pretty darn close. But there’s that pesky voice in your own head that keeps telling saying you’re just not good enough. This is the year you tell that voice to “shut up!” It’s tough, but it’s up to you to let that voice know it’s time to hit the road. You know your abilities – now trust that they can get you through anything. Because they can!
10. Go with your gut
It’s great to think things through. Some may even make a list of pros and cons before making a decision. But getting lost in all these details and “what if’s” can end up with you doing nothing. “Analysis Paralysis” it’s been called. The solution is to give priority to what’s important to you. That doesn’t mean simply ignoring how your decision will affect others. But constantly going a little to the left, then back to the right will not make anyone happy.
11. Pay it forward
Riding shouldn’t be all about the ribbons. Take time to try to make a better world – or at least a better horse world. Create a better partnership with your horse. Volunteer at a horse show. Consider fostering a rescued horse. Donate hay or grain to horses in need. Work with a therapeutic riding program. Contact politicians in support of horse-friendly legislation. Sponsor a “meet the horse” program for inner city kids. There are as many ways to pay it forward as there are horse lovers. Ribbons can fade after a few years, but the good you do for the horse community will last forever.
12. Break free
Even if you stick with only some of the previous resolutions, this could be the year that you break free from what’s been holding you back from being your best self. This could be in your riding, your work or even relationships. Make the commitment to see what the New Year brings and take every opportunity to learn and grow.
Thanks to Sara Coughlin at Refinery29 for her article with these resolution ideas.