Tuesday, January 14, 2020

looking back to look forward

This past year I took a fresh approach to goal setting, inspired by an article upper level event rider Matt Brown wrote for the Chronicle of the Horse. The gist was that we're more likely to find happiness and fulfillment by focusing on process goals rather than outcome goals.

Essentially, the "outcome" is often what most of us zero in on as the big important holy grail - the perfect sound byte encapsulating our hopes and dreams. The front page news, the banner in the sky. Moving up! Qualifying! Winning!! Doing this specific thing!!!

All too often, tho, horses and horse sports can be agonizingly riddled with obstacles well beyond our control. Even the smallest missteps can instantly derail all our carefully laid plans. And if we've put all our eggs in that specific "Outcomes" basket.... Well, it's really hard to not end up demoralized or discouraged.

Thus, Matt suggested instead that riders should focus on process. Meaning that, Yes, we need to understand where we want to go, what that ideal outcome might be. But our goals and our metrics for relative success should be based on the component processes that fall exclusively under our own personal jurisdictions, insulated (hopefully) from external forces.

This way, even if you don't end up arriving at that shiny coveted outcome, maybe you've still put together a happy year of horsing all the same.

behold! our stuff!!
i missed the year end awards banquet, but a barn mate grabbed our swag for us!!
And so, for 2019 I first identified what I hoped that outcome would be. Namely, I wanted to move up and earn some competition qualifications toward a longer term goal. To do so, I parsed out the following component processes that would be my Official 2019 Goals:

1) Continue preparing for a move up to T
2) Organize necessary paperwork + memberships
3) Plan a thoughtful calendar considering favorable venues
4) Budget appropriately and realistically (and early)
5) Maintain a comprehensive wellness plan for Charlie
6) Invest in developing my skill set and toolbox as a rider
7) Focus on positive experiences and additive mileage
8) Be flexible and accept setbacks with poise, bc #horses
9) Enjoy the ride!


Maybe I was prescient in adhering to this thought exercise haha, bc yea. We totally did not reach the overall "Outcome." Charlie and I did not successfully move up to T in 2019. We took one little baby step in that direction in July that resulted in a very literal crash 'n burn.... And I basically retreated into a quiet low-key tailspin for the next few months, womp.

HOWEVER!

By couching my official goals in terms of the processes above, I can actually look back on the year and feel really good about how it all went down.

we won 6th and 8th place in the novice divisions (one for rider, one for horse), and 3rd place in the Thoroughbred Incentive Program novice division!! which means: ermagherd NECK RIBBON!!
It turned out to be a building year for us. And maybe, arguably, we needed it. Maybe our future prospects will be the better for it.

I learned so much this past year. So so so much. Maybe it's easy to forget, but I've never really done this before. Charlie is my first horse, right? And he's certainly the first horse I've really ridden at this level. Isabel and I made it to Novice, sure, but only got through two events before I was sidelined with a broken leg. And we never got back. So I never really felt "established" at the level.

Meanwhile, Isabel was the sturdiest of Arabs and will undoubtedly outlive us all. Charlie is.... Made of different stuff haha.

So much of what I've learned with Charlie is more than just the training and skills required to ride the level. It's everything else - all the in-betweens and behind-the-scenes stuff. 2019 for me was a relentless crash course in learning what it means to maintain and condition the horse for this new-to-me level of riding. And unfortunately I've had to learn a lot of it the hard way.

excuse our janky outfits but we had just been out hacking haha. obviously tho we had to drop everything and take pictures with all that schweet schweet satin!! plus bonus TIP hat lol (kinda wish it was any color other than red but oh well....)
In looking back on 2019 through the view of those component processes, tho, I'm happiest about three specific things:

1. All the budget and financial health work that I undertook paid major dividends. My costs of living and spending habits have stabilized and no longer require obsessive oversight. I know exactly what my horse habit costs (might even post on that later lol), and can project with a high degree of accuracy what sort of savings plan is necessary to do all the things I want to do.

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2. Which is useful, bc possibly the biggest win of this past year was the investment I made in my and Charlie's education. Again, might post in more thorough detail later on the overall breakdown of lessons / clinics / shows / etc.

Suffice it to say, tho, that 2019 was a major year of learnings for us. And it was AWESOME. Sure, we didn't ultimately successfully move up, but we're in a totally different and better position today, and have a TON of amazing memories and experiences to look back on.

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3. Especially bc one process in particular, "Focusing on positive experiences and additive mileage" really helped me keep perspective when things got rough. Arguably, this goal was the kick in the pants I needed to put together our little mini Fall season this past November.

It's entirely possible that getting back onto the competition scene for those two amazing back to back schooling shows at Novice (Loch Moy and Waredaca), and then again at the derby in December, is the main reason I'm finishing the year feeling so positive, rather than defeated.

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All this to say, these goals really helped me overall in getting closer to where I want to be. So I'm carrying them forward into 2020 too, with some minor reductions for the sake of simplicity:

1) Continue preparing for a move up to T
2) Budget appropriately and realistically (and early)
3) Maintain a comprehensive wellness plan for Charlie
4) Invest in developing my skill set and toolbox as a rider
5) Focus on positive experiences and additive mileage
6) Be flexible and accept setbacks with poise, bc #horses
7) Enjoy the ride!


god i love this goofy horse <3 <3 <3
Laying this out also helped me understand what was maybe missing from this past year. I invested heavily in our education, yes, and worked hard to check off the important boxes and gain the necessary experiences.

Sure, I rode with a LOT of world class riders and coaches, and solidified the team of professionals and practitioners who will help me keep Charlie happy, healthy and thriving. I got a lot of really really good advice this year from a lot of people who know their shit.

Something was missing tho: Cohesion.

This past year lacked any sort of unifying thread through all those experiences and learnings and clinics and wellness sessions. Instead it was at times a bit scattered and almost transactional.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned this year is that I don't really know what I don't know at this level. I can try to build out all the check lists, and collect all the knowns and unknowns etc. But maybe life would be easier if I stopped trying to reinvent the wheel, stopped having to learn some of this stuff the hard way.

Thus, my other big objective going forward is prioritizing Mentorship. I crave a gps, a guide, a beacon of wisdom, who will help me pull all these various component threads together into a more complete and comprehensive plan.

This isn't getting spelled out in any sort of explicit terms as a goal, bc I still don't know exactly what it will look like. But maybe let's consider "mentorship" as something of a theme for the year, a lens through which I hope to apply all those processes above haha. Or something. Idk.


All I know is: We had a great 2019 overall. And now it's 2020. A new year full of new opportunities. And I'm already pretty freakin pumped to see how it'll all turn out ;)


30 comments:

  1. "6) Be flexible and accept setbacks with poise, bc #horses" should probably add this goal to my 2020

    hey, maybe you didn't get quite where you wanted. but you got a fucking neck ribbon so you're still killing it!!

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    1. dude, being flexible will 1000% always be on my goals forever and ever bc i need to stop losing my shit every time something changes or doesn't go according to plan LOL.....

      and omg. neck ribbon. yesssssss!!!! i have no idea how on earth we pulled out that 3rd place in the TIP division bc, uh, yea. honestly no idea. not sure how they judge it or anything? but it makes me happy so who cares :D

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  2. You had such an educational year! And I think it's pretty sweet that you no longer have to obsessively track your finances to do what you want to do. For me at least, that is THE BEST FEELING to have. ...even if it's sometimes fleeting lol.

    I think there is something to be said about carrying the same/similar goals forward into a new year. It speaks of being on the right track and enjoying the process - which, like, hey, that was a goal, yeah?! So cheers to you and Charlie and I wish you all of the best for the upcoming year. <3

    And hopefully I'll SEE you again this year. (=

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    1. SUCH an educational year lol.... and yea agreed that in a way it's kinda nice to look at that same list of goals and feel like, "yep i kinda wanna just keep going down this road!" they're all sorta basic and vague, and i have more specific things i want to do within those parameters, but the hope is that if i just stick to that list, everything should hopefully go pretty well. we'll see haha ;) and YES hopefully that includes - SEEING you too!!! maybe kentucky????

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    2. I'll be at the KY3DE! And am hoping to return to MD with Grif and/or Q this year...

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    3. yessssss!!! let's coordinate, girl :D

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  3. Great job on the finances - getting that part of your life working smoothly is pretty important. I'm just getting mine in line after working at it for over 3 years!

    I have to say Charlie looks good in the satin, but it is the ball cap that he really rocks! lol He is so cute... :-)

    I hope you and Charlie have a great season of riding and training this year. I hear you on the mentorship angle. I hope you can find someone/something that helps in that regard. I am so lucky to have that for my halter horse stuff and I wouldn't want to navigate upper levels without someone like that in my corner.

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    1. lol i love the ball cap on him too.... he's such a goof, just like, "ok they're puttin all this crap all over me, here we go again!" and yea the mentorship thing i'm feeling really hopeful about. like maybe we have all the right pieces but just need a little more help seeing how everything needs to come together for the big picture?? we'll see!

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  4. Love this post! My 2019 was quite different than how I'd pictured it, but ya gotta roll with it and keep moving on. You and C are destined for T this year- I can feel it in my boooonezzz

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    1. agreed so much on the rolling with it and moving on. while i love a good wallow as much as the next gal, it's more fun to keep looking forward haha. here's hoping 2020 brings all of us some EXCELLENT TIMES :D can't wait to see how Leo progresses too!!!

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  5. YASSS neck ribbon! Honestly being flexible and taking the horse punches as they come in is the biggest win of them all because horses man.... horses.

    I hope you find that awesome cohesion this year!

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    1. oh man, i so wish i really could "take the punches as they come" bc i still feel kinda fragile in that regard haha. but ya know, that's why it's a goal, right?? ;)

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  6. Yes, I'm pumped for your 2020, too! I can already tell it's gonna be a fun year for you two :)

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  7. Congrats on the satin!! I love the neck ribbon!

    Excited to see how your year unfolds :)

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  8. I love how you took Matt brown's "challenge" to heart and it was a huge success. We'll all always have lows in our life, but it's amazing what turning what could be a low, into a learning experience can do for the psyche! I'm really excited for you and Charlie

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    1. thanks! and yea his philosophy here really worked well for me lol, so i'm glad he took the time to write that article!! and yea, agreed completely that while it's sometimes hard work to turn something negative into a new opportunity... well, that's life, right?

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  9. That’s neck ribbon though.....
    Also #6 should be on a t-shirt.
    I am so grateful that you introduced me to process goals. I’m sure that without that I would have viewed this year as a failure too.

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    1. isn't it crazy how sometimes the difference something feeling like a win or loss can depend entirely on our attitude in how we perceive it??? and yes. #6, forever and ever, amen LOL

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  10. So with you on the mentoring front! I love my coach for that reason and it's made a massive difference.

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    1. oh man, i believe it!! i've been lucky to have had a few coaches like that during important phases of my riding life. tho i've also found a lot of value in striking out independently as a way to help my own self grow and become more resilient. different phases require different approaches tho haha and i'm ready for a little more invested guidance at present ;)

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  11. Neck ribbons!!! And totally agree on the any color except red when it comes to..well anything. From one red head to another I feelz ya! Love #6- Be flexible and accept setbacks with poise, bc #horses- that has been my mantra these past 2 years with Chimi.

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    1. oh man, yea... it's SO HARD to be flexible tho. so so so hard. i *hate* change and hate it when my plans all fall apart. but. ya know.... #horses lol...

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  12. This post fills me with excitement for you guys! Honestly, I think recognizing that "we don't know what we don't know" is a massive step that a lot of people NEVER get to. And once we accept that we are ignorant (I feel this way so often, even after so much learning), it makes it so much easier to position ourselves learn more. So much of what you wrote brought back so many feelings & memories of my going through this process with Solo -- starting out thinking I knew how things would go, but cascading into an endless stream of discovering everything the hard way. But that's what gives the knowledge so much value.

    I do wish I could go back & "do" Solo all over again, knowing what I know now, with the skills I have now. We could have won a lot of stuff if I'd just had more finesse, more nuance, more...experience. But he's the one who started me on the journey towards those things. Management, conditioning, personality, emotion -- those in-betweens you talked about, I think those are the truly rewarding parts of horse ownership, where they teach us about ourselves. That's not just about riding, that's about life.

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    1. oh man, i totally feel ya there. even now i look back on how charlie and i got started and can see how i'd do things differently with another horse. but ya know, like you say, i wouldn't trade the journey we've had for anything at this point. bc even tho some of the lessons have been hard to learn, that's really what we're here for at the end of the day <3

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  13. ohhh i never have won a neck ribbon :) Congrats on the placings!!'

    Intrigued by the time off from all electronics thing you did. I wondered where you were ;) HA

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    1. thanks!! and yea the unplugging was absolutely lovely haha -- i highly recommend it ;)

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  14. The whole point of horsing is to keep learning and to have fun right? So I'd say you're killing it! Congrats on the year end satin too!

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