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Are you serious about becoming a better rider? About preparing yourself and your horse to compete at a higher level? If so, then you’ve probably gone to the trouble of writing down your riding goals.

You do have written goals, don’t you?

No? Well, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone. A lot of riders find goal setting too daunting (How do you go about it, exactly?). Or too fussy (I’d rather just get out there and ride).

If you’re among the skeptics, I have an alternative for you. I’m going to describe a super-easy, straightforward way to make goal setting work for you. It’s a technique I’ve used in my own riding, to overcome the problem areas that were holding me back.

[RELATED: Not showing yet? Here’s how to get started.]

How does it work? First, by keeping everything extraordinarily simple. You don’t have to map out your entire riding future (up to and including your plans for competing at the World Equestrian Games, for example).

No, you’re going to take goals one at a time, in order to start making real progress on whatever needs the most work.

So, pick just one thing you’d like to accomplish. Then write it down (or record it in your phone or computer).

Keep it simple—just specify (1) what you want to be able to do, (2) by when, and (3) how you’ll know you’ve achieved it.

For example: I will develop a smooth and correct right-lead lope depart by 10-1-20, as shown to and verified by my trainer/instructor/riding buddy.

[RELATED: How to maximize your riding lessons.]

Pretty simple, yes? Perhaps too simple, you may be thinking. As in, what difference can this possibly make?

Western Practice Lessons: Ride Like a Champion, Improve Communication with Your Horse, Train in a Progressive Plan, Refine Your Performance

Trust me—try it and you’ll see. Once you have a specified goal with a deadline, no matter what else you wind up doing during your schooling sessions, you’ll always find time to work on that right-lead lope because, well, October approaches!

If need be, as you work on it you’ll break the maneuver down into its component parts (correct body position for you and for your horse, correct cueing, etc.) and practice them separately. You’ll seek additional guidance if necessary (from your trainer or from other sources) to keep you moving steadily toward your goal.

And, most likely, you’ll achieve it.

Once you do, you’ll pick another goal and begin a focus on it. Some riders like to work on two or even three goals at a time; I prefer just one. Simple works!

[RELATED: Want to ride better? Learn how to sit better.]

And don’t worry about the difference between goals and objectives and whatnot…all that makes the process more complicated than it needs to be and isn’t necessary anyway.

Just identify one skill or movement or maneuver you want to be able to master, and go for it.

I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at how the “magic” of goal setting—in this simplified form—can boost your progress toward better horsemanship and a better-trained horse.

[RELATED: How to make every training minute count.]

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