(Realistic) Equine Goal Planning
There's no time like more than a month into the new year to plan said year, is there? I'm a bad blogger, sue me.
New Year, still me. Late. I'm still late.
But really, I've been busy riding, and spoiler alert: it's been moving in a mostly-positive direction. I mean, sometimes he bucks and I act stupid, but still. It's progress. So I got to thinking - and reading other goal-setting posts from other bloggers - and decided it was about time.
Last year, I had some goals that didn't pan out, so in 2017, I'm taking a different approach. A more realistic one, arguably. I didn't really grasp how much Java would need to learn to be able to do the things I wanted to do, and now, several large bills and no goals met later, I've grasped it. Dial back the expectations, break goals into pieces, and remove the elements that rush us (i.e. a specific ride goal). So, in no particular order, here's what I'm thinking that my coming-7, still-young-in-the-brain gelding (and I) can manage.
Learn to stand at the mounting block consistently and wait before walking off. This is hard for us. Java is still young, and I have to force myself to be patient, otherwise we get wound up together and nothing good happens.
Do a lot of walk hacks, especially early in the year. The idea is to walk all over the place until he's seen almost all there is to see and nothing worries him. On top of that, six weeks of walking is a great way to get endurance horses started, because they learn to walk out, swing through the back, and strengthen their muscles, tendons, bone, etc. for future distance work. This is the foundation that long-lasting equine athletes are built on.
Build his trotting base slowly. Same reason behind this as all the walking; jumping right into a shitload of trot work is a recipe for a breakdown. I want to avoid the pressure to trot long (ha) early on, and I'm going to build duration/intensity using this program.
Do a CDR (Conditioning Distance Ride) in the first half of the year. These rides are short, usually 10-15 miles, and they're done in collaboration with longer Competitive Trail Rides. You get to utilize the vets, the marked trail, and all the atmosphere of a ride without having to push your horse too fast/far early on. Shit, we could walk the whole damn thing and call it a training ride, but Java gets to soak up the distance riding scene.
Go to a dressage schooling show. Java is an awesome mover, and I'd like to show inside the ring as well as run around on the trail. Our new barn has a show series, and I'm hoping to capitalize on the fact that it's at home to get him used to what a show feels like.
Take some lessons with a reasonable degree of regularity. I can't necessarily commit to weekly lessons, but we need an eye on the group to help me get Java going forward and using his back and hind end appropriately. And, you know, to tell me when to look up and add leg. Because I'm shit at that.
Take advantage of clinics, and auditing counts! We're already signed up for one with Roddy at our barn, but I want to go to some more with Java if I can. If not, I'll go alone and listen. Anything I can do to learn about getting him started.
Go swimming. This is just fun. There's a pond on the farm, but there's also a lake my friends trail ride to and swim in. Either one will be a cool way to mix up our summer rides and teach Java that water does not, in fact, eat horses.
Do a CTR (Competitive Trail Ride) or LD (Limited Distance) in the second half of the year. My hope is that by the time the fall rides roll around, we'll have had all summer to walk and trot around and lay down the base in a relaxed way instead of rushing for a spring or summer goal. That makes 25 and 30 mile rides within reach, and a great way to close out a year.
Make ring work more effective. This means that I need to plan ahead. I've largely been calling it a success if I can get through three gaits and get a semblance of civility in the arena. Now I want to start adding exercises to work on smoothing our transitions and balancing Java. Pole work will play a big part in this.
Learn/practice how to braid.
Start some eventing lessons.
Do more stirrupless/sitting trot work. Ugh.
There's a lot to be done for both of us, but smaller goals are the way that I think is best.In the words of an old coworker at a company retreat: "How do you eat an airplane? One bite at a time."