I’m going to preface this piece by mentioning that I completely understand that for some riders, just being around their horse and pottering about together is the point of their horsemanship experience. The journey is the destination.
But, as a professional Standardbred trainer, coach and someone who just loves any excuse to chat about a good ole champ with a stamp, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to talk to a huge herd of standy riders over the years.
From these conversations, it’s clear that many riders bring their standardbred home with hopes that one day they will be able to go out and perform a certain task (i.e. attend riding club, enter a show, ride a neat dressage test, complete an endurance ride etc). This post is directed towards these people; the big dreamers. Perhaps you are one of them.
After all of the aforementioned standy chats, the ones which stick out in my mind as those which resonated the most with me on a personal/emotional level, are those shared with riders who had owned their standardbred for quite a long period of time and had failed to see notable progress , or to move past big retraining issues.
In nearly all of these cases, the riders I spoke with were feeling completely disheartened and ready to throw in the towel in and give up. Having worked hands-on with countless standies myself, and certainly battled self-doubt in my own rider journey, I could deeply relate to the stories I was hearing and where the riders were at mentally: disappointed, defeated and desperate for help from someone who has been there too.
My response when faced with this scenario has always been the same: remember why you started, remember where you started and remember where you want to go.
Celebrate all the things you’ve learned and achieved (no matter how small) since your standardbred journey first began – and allow yourself to be proud – but also set your sights upon future of success that lie in the road ahead.
I believe the very best way to ensure consistent improvement, and also to maintain an ability to work through any sticky issues, is to have goals. Without a clear idea of where you would like to go and the things you dream of one day achieving, it’s very easy to lose direction and motivation.
Having a defined sense of purpose in your overall retraining journey, enables you to plan your workouts out to maximise your riding time. This is particularly important for busy riders, whose time is precious and limited around life’s flurry of responsibilities.
Without a clear sense of intention behind your actions, it’s easy to find yourself wasting riding time pottering around aimlessly, performing the same, uninspiring exercises… every. single. workout. This is much like driving around without a map; if you don’t know which streets to take, how will you ever get to your destination?
Also, the seemingly endless repetition and ‘going through the motions’ and not having any structure to your workouts can make it incredibly boring and demotivating, for both horse and rider. Variety and new challenges keep us sharp, inspired and interested.
You can break goals down into long-term and short. For example, you have your big aspirations that you’re slowly working towards and the smaller, everyday achievements which drive you forward, step by step, towards reaching those ‘mega milestones’.
It’s important that the everyday things you do, and each little ‘step up’ challenge you tackle, is approached with intention. Example: I do ‘A ‘so I can work towards one day being able to do ‘Z’. Working backwards from your big goals will help you to plan the learning process out into manageable steps.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a free goal worksheet. You can download this by leaving us your details below (we’ll send it direct to your mailbox).
As mentioned in a recent video, finding that sweet spot between striding towards your goals, enjoying the ‘little wins’ along the way and never forgetting how far you’ve come, is the dream all riders should be chasing.
Past. Present. Future. Reflect on every singe chapter of your retraining journey to date and you’ll discover all of the reasons to keep turning that next page.