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If you have ever been involved in riding competitively, chances are you set goals for you and your horse. Maybe you wanted to show in the 3 foot hunter division or win your Equitation on the Flat class. If you had a good coach, she may have you write down your goals or share them with your riding friends. After your identified your goal, you and your coach may have had a meeting to establish a specific plan to help you reach your goal.

To be effective, goals need to be SMART.  SMART is an acronym that refers to the following:


A specific goal is one that is so obvious and clearly defined that anyone could understand the purpose of the goal. The more detailed and specific the goal, the more attainable the goal will be. For example, “I want to win the Adult Amateur Division in Georgia for the year 2014 “is a far more specific goal that “I want to ride better.”


To be able to measure a goal, it must be quantifiable. If a goal is not quantifiable, it can not be managed.  For example, “I want to jump higher” is too vague to be quantified, but “I want to jump 6 inches higher than I did last season” is a measurable goal.


If you there is no chance you can achieve your goal, it is not attainable goal. If a goal is not attainable, it is not a productive goal. On the other hand, a goal should be challenging enough to stretch you just a bit. If you have never jumped a horse, having a goal to compete in the Olympics this year is not likely an attainable goal; however setting a goal to complete in the Beginner Jumping class with jumps 2 feet tall might be just enough.


Realistic goals are similar to attainable goals but have the added dimension of considering the individual’s desire to reach the goal. The most talented rider in the barn would not be setting a realistic goal to win the Maclay Finals if she never show up to ride or jump.


A goal should always have a specific date of completion. It is important that the end date is far enough in the future that the goal can be reached but close enough in the future that there is some sense of “get ‘er done.” You can have intermediate goals with end dates to keep you focused. For example, you can have the goal to ride for 10 minutes without stirrups today in order to reach your goal of jumping without stirrups in 90 days.

In the same way that riders need SMART riding goals, we also need SMART fitness goals to improve our riding. A rider won’t get very far just having a goal to “get fit to ride again.’ The goal has none of the elements to make it a SMART or effective goal.

Instead, that rider might set a goal to lose 20 pounds while decreasing body fat by 2% over the next 90 days by committing to one hour of fitness a day. In order to achieve this goal, she finds a coach and trainer to help her develop a well rounded fitness program that is customized to reach her goals. She also joins a fitness accountability group for support, motivation and to help keep her focused on her goal.

Creating SMART goals can be challenging! Most of us are not used to thinking about goals in such detail-especially when it comes to fitness goals. If you are struggling to create your own SMART goals in your riding or your fitness, schedule a time to sit down with your riding coach or fitness trainer. 90 days from now not only will you feel better mentally, emotionally and physically, but I guarantee your horse will thank you for your commitment.

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