Setting Horsemanship Goals And Themes: Racing Towards The End Of One Year and Preparing For The Next

Whoosh! Does my horse, Shiloh, know the end of the year is quickly approaching? He looks about as startled as I feel about how fast this year went. Did it seem to come around quickly for you too?

Seems strange that I am back here again, already reviewing this past year and thinking about the next.

During this yearly season, I reflect on what I’ve done in my horse life during the previous eleven months. I also start to think about what I would like to accomplish the next year.

I generally couch those thoughts in terms of goals.

I may not reach those goals. In fact, I often unfortunately don’t.

So why bother to set them, you might ask? Well, bottom line, I feel like I get further in my horse life when I set goals than when I do not.

With a destination in mind, my goals help orient me in my day to day work with horses, even if I rarely get as far as I want to.

I feel like if I don’t know what my overarching reason is for working with a particular horse that I just kind of flounder. Especially considering I mostly ride at home by myself.

It can be easy to get rather lost while riding and not be sure of what I am doing if I don’t make my motivations clear to myself.

The absence of the why of an activity, even an activity you enjoy, can lead to a lack of activity. A stagnation. I suspect this can lead to a loss of enjoyment and even a turning away from horses/riding.

So for me, I am a big fan of formulating specific goals. Whether riding my own horses in my backyard or while riding lesson horses at a nearby barn, I like to have an idea of what I am shooting for.

All my recent personal reflection will likely make it into some of my upcoming blog posts as the year wraps up and next year begins.

Today, though, I wanted to let readers know about a concept I recently learned about. I am sharing it in case it might be helpful as you do your own reflection and planning.

While recently looking through my email inbox, a subject title jumped out at me: “Yearly theme instead of goal?”.

It was the title to an email from trainer and clinician Stacy Westfall. You may remember the viral video of her riding bareback and bridleless during a freestyle reining class at the AQHA Congress in 2011.

The email included a link to Westfall’s recent podcast episode where she talks about setting themes for the year instead of goals.

I had never thought about that option so I was immediately intrigued.

Westfall goes on to talk about the reasons one might want to select a theme(s) and how to do so. She also gives several examples of themes and how to implement them. Themes like “the year of focus.” “The year of relationship.” “The year of less.” How interesting!

If you’d like to listen to the nineteen minute podcast, go to

While I expect to stick to formulating some measureable goals each year, I really like the idea of adding in a theme(s). I will definitley be giving it some thought.

How about you? Do you set horsemanship goals each year? Or if you like the idea of themes, what theme do you think would set a positive tone for your horsemanship next year?

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