2020 may not have turned out as any of us suspected, to put it mildly. The events of 2020 changed many aspects of everyone’s daily lives, and as horse people, the activities we took for granted—our schedule of horse gatherings in any form—completely twisted in many directions. We may  ahave done less competing and more training and trail riding. Whatever your year looked like, your plans, goals and intentions were upturned as well. Although, as horse people, we are trained in flexibility, our own plans often changed by the needs of our horses or our own bodies. No matter what the unknowns of the future are, setting challenges, intentions and goals are always important. Not all people are driven by “setting goals.” Another way to look at it is determining challenges or intentions. Whatever you want to call it, you and your horse will benefit by being more intentional with your horse time. First, determine your starting point.

This is a great time of year to set a starting point. Everyone is somewhat limited right now in their riding, lesson/clinic and or competition activity due to the season, making this a common time to give your horse a break. Ask yourself, where am I right now and where do I want to go? What were my plans and goals last year? What did I want to accomplish last year that I did not have the opportunity to? Assess why you spend time with your horse at all. Maybe this past year gave you a great opportunity to hone in on what you really enjoy about being with your horse. Once you determine that overarching WHY, put that at the top of your pyramid to come back to often.

Goals can be more like intentions too. Being more intentional with the time you spend with your horse can look different to different people. Some examples are avoiding distractions like your phone, what other people are doing with their horse, what level your friend might be working on, or how far of trail rides others are going on. You can make the intention of being more present with your horse when you are with them and when you are riding—being in the moment with them and focusing on them. Stop multi-tasking. It is proven that you cannot do more than one thing at a time and do it well.

Challenges can be another way to motivate you to spend more productive and quality time with your horse. Challenges can be personal or with a group. Maybe you want to challenge yourself to try a new discipline with your horse, maybe a competition—virtual or not. Challenge yourself and your horse to get in shape to do a long trail ride or for a horse camping trip with a group. I noticed a Facebook group that is doing the 2021 100-ride challenge to keep each other accountable to ride 100 times this year, no matter the discipline.


Once you have determined your goals, intentions and/or challenges, write them down. There is something to writing them down, reviewing them often and then, down the road, finding what you wrote and reflecting on it. If there is a certain timeline involved, reverse engineer the plan to make sure you are ready when the time comes. Start with the big goal with the longer timeline, break it down into mid-range goals and then into small goals. Making those small steps and daily actions will create habits to help you keep your momentum. What is the smallest thing you can do to keep going in that direction? Short-term goals start the energy moving forward to motivate and inspire you to reach those mid-range goals that keep you going. Have fun with your goals, challenges, intentions and celebrate your milestones. Let your brain enjoy that dopamine so it will want to do it again.

Take yourself out of the picture and make sure your plans are realistic and enjoyable for your horse. If you are not sure, ask a trusted friend, coach or trainer you work with who will give it to you straight, and make sure you talk to your veterinarian. Once you have the green light, dive in and evaluate your progress frequently. Acknowledge when things go well and not so well. Get help to learn how to improve. Don’t make excuses. Determine what is going well and why. What could be improved upon? How is your fitness and your horses fitness? How is your horse physically and mentally? Is their feeding program supporting them?

It is hard to say how 2021 will pan out. Hopefully, not just a new version of 2020. Although, along with the rest of us, horse competition organizers have learned how to evolve and how to put in safeguards in order to allow competitions to occur and to ensure the safety of participants, judges, volunteers and everyone involved. Continue to be flexible—horse people are great at that! Your plan may change over time, but keep going; keep the momentum! It is not how you start, but how you continue.

Heather McWilliams © 2021