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Here are seven attainable goals you can set this season:

1. Focus on your ride, not the ribbons.

Unless you are competing in a sport against the clock such as show jumping, you will find that most horse sports are judged subjectively, which means that your placing depends on the judge’s well-informed opinion. Goals such as ‘I want to win a red ribbon’ or ‘I want to score 70% on my dressage test’ are pretty much out of your control, because in the end the judge decides whether you will achieve it. However, choosing goals such as making clean lead changes or keeping your hands steady can actually help you focus, because it is something that you do have the power to accomplish. Even if you are competing in timed events, worrying about the other competitor’s rides creates unneeded stress. Focus instead on yourself and your horse and put all your effort into your own goals.

2. There is no such thing as failure, only results.

Maybe your horse picked up the wrong lead while the judge was looking right at you or spooked at some horse-eating monster hiding in the stands. It happens to everyone at times; even the best riders on the most seasoned horses don’t have a perfect ride every time. It’s important to think of these mishaps more as opportunities; you get to see what you or your horse need to work on at home, which will help make you a better rider. We must take advantage of the ‘bad’ moments in our ride and see what good lies in them.

3. Present your horse to the best of your ability.

No matter if you think your horse will take home any ribbons or not, it is important to have him groomed within an inch of his life, and present yourself just as well. This type of effort speaks volumes to a judge about your commitment to your horse’s well-being and shows respect for the judge and the show management.

4. Prepare, prepare, prepare

‘Proper preparation prevents poor performance’ – that saying is certainly true in the horse world. Train above the level you wish to show at. You will know how to do everything the judge asks for in the show ring and will have practiced it many times, which will help keep you relaxed. Clean, organize and pack up your tack and equipment a day or two before the show, make sure your horse will load into the trailer willingly, and be able to band or braid your horse even in your sleep. Preparation will help show day run smoothly and let you focus on your ride.

5. Put horsemanship first.

Winning a class usually means you have mastered the technical aspects of your ride, but being a great horseperson goes well beyond trophies and ribbons. Always put your horse’s well-being first; if it’s a hot day, try to keep him in the shade until your class time, ride him long enough to be warmed up, but not until he is exhausted. It also means that your horse should be fed, watered, groomed and mucked out before you decide to go hang out with your show friends after your rides.

6. Practice good sportsmanship.

It is easy to be a good winner, but many people find it extremely difficult to be a gracious loser. You often hear competitors complaining about why they didn’t win: the footing was bad, someone cut them off, or the judge didn’t like their horse. Take responsibility for your ride; whether it was good or bad, congratulate the winner and vow to work harder next time. You will set a good example for other riders and help improve yourself.

7. Enjoy yourself!

You have put lots of effort (as well as money) into showing, so take the time to enjoy it. No matter what the results, the weather,
or the circumstances, enjoy spending time with your horse and your friends and just have a blast on show day!