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Horse Goals or Bust! Ready, Set, Go!

Horse looking down a long trail

It’s that time of year to hit the reset button, look forward, and set new, impactful goals for yourself. We started this journey last month in my blog and podcast, Ride On with Julie Goodnight. I asked you to review and reflect on the year behind us, to celebrate your triumphs, analyze your setbacks, and visualize where you want to be this time next year.

This month, I want you to get serious about your goals, get them in writing, start developing your action plan, and commit to execution.

STEP ONE: Dream and Scheme

I’ve shared my goal-setting worksheet with you, and last month in my podcast, we did a deep dive into the concepts behind it. (HINT: Print it out now and use it as a guide to do the prep-work for setting your new goals.)

Download Your 2023 Horse Goals or Bust Goal-Setting Guide

Review, reflect and analyze the past year. Quantify the number of days you devoted time to your horse life in the past year (mark up a calendar and count them). How will this inform your new goals? What do you want to do more of (or less of) this year? What kind of time can you realistically dedicate to your horsemanship goals?

Print off a one-page calendar for this year and mark it up with your aspirations. Start with your inflexible commitments (work and family obligations), then identify the time you will devote to your horse life this year. Sure, life happens, and your calendar may be altered later, but you have to start somewhere to develop your plan.

Remember, an ambition written down with a date becomes a goal, a goal broken down becomes a plan, and a plan backed by action will turn your dreams into reality! This is the essence of our 9-month plan, “Horse Goals or Bust!”

Be the Leader of Your HerdAs your horsemanship improves, so does your horse!

STEP TWO: Picture Yourself “HERE”

“Horse Goals or Bust!” is not about having prestigious, ambitious, or life-changing goals (although we welcome them). It’s about impacting your life in a meaningful way—big or small. Imagine your best self and your best horse life. Dream big, but keep it dialed into reality—honestly picture yourself “here.”

While winning a world championship might be one way to do that, it is not the only way. Sometimes big gifts come in small packages. So no matter what your goals are, it is my personal hope that you will join us on this venture.

Along the way, I’ll be sharing stories of other people’s journeys, as well as some trials and tribulations of my own. This month, I want to share the stories of two of my students-turned-friends, Alisa and Carmalee.

Both women are experienced riders and horse owners, and although their equestrian activities are different, they’ve both been very ambitious in their horsemanship goals over the last 5+ years. They each have accomplished a great deal and are humble, honest, and objective about themselves.

Neither of these ladies have shied away from doing the hard work of introspection, and they’re game to try almost anything if it involves learning or bettering themselves. That’s why I was not surprised when they responded immediately to my “Horse Goals or Bust!” invitation.

Alisa is from Arizona and works as the medical director in a veterinary trauma hospital—a high-pressure career that often leaves her drained of energy, which spills into her personal life. Looking back, she doesn’t think she accomplished as much with her horses last year as she had in years past. However, she values the intangible accomplishments of developing a better “feel” with horses, improving her balance through riding bareback, and increasing her confidence enough to enjoy riding unfamiliar horses.

What Alisa loves most about horses is the connection and teamwork you can have with a horse when you recognize their try. But lately, with work stress, challenges in her personal life, and struggles with her horses due to death and lameness, for Alisa, horses have become a “HAVE-to,” rather than a “WANT-to.” This year, her goal setting is all about reigniting her passion for horses.

I first met Carmalee at the American Heart Association Beach Ride, when we featured her in an episode of Horse Master. A tragic accident left her unable to walk, and she was sent to a therapeutic riding facility. This is where horses helped her relearn to walk⁠—and then they taught her to fly.

Fast-forward many years, Carmalee has a second career teaching riding and helping others through horse-facilitated activities. Like me, Carmalee is a numbers geek, and she took my suggestions⁠ and ran with them—marking up two calendars, analyzing what she did last year, and projecting what is possible next year. She recognizes that what energizes her is helping others and actively accomplishing things. Like Alisa, she also gets fulfillment from the connection and teamwork that can be forged with horses.

Not surprisingly, Carmalee’s goals for this year revolve around doing more—teaching and riding her own horses more, camping more, competing in Working Equitation, exploring different dressage styles, and preparing her younger horse for TREC (orienteering and trail obstacles). I can see already, this girl needs reining-in!

Get It In Writing

The next steps for Alisa, Carmalee, you, and me, are to take all the reflections, dreaming, and scheming, and craft meaningful goals that will guide our plans throughout the year. Writing proper goals is not easy, but well worth the effort when it’s done right. The worksheet will help guide you through the prep-work and remind you how to properly state your goals and get the most out of them:

  • Clearly stated: Anyone could read it, understand it, and picture it.
  • Measurable: It is quantifiable (not a “feeling”).
  • Attainable and realistic, but pushing your envelope a little.
  • What is important to YOU? Your goal does not need to be huge to have a huge impact.

It’s also useful to think in terms of outcome goals and performance goals. They are different, but both are integral to your success.

Outcome goals are high-altitude, big-picture plans that are not always within your control. Sometimes life happens to intervene, like, for example, a horse going lame.

Performance goals are the smaller steps you’ll take to accomplish your outcome goal, and they are entirely within your control (things like improving your fitness, eating better, or having a positive attitude). As you work to refine your outcome goals, you will also start a list of performance goals that will help you formulate a plan of action.

Later this month on my podcast, I’ll help Alisa and Carmalee refine their goals and get them in writing. Plus, I’ll share an exciting decision I’ve made for myself, and what I plan to accomplish this year in my horse life.

Make a Commitment & Join Us On This Journey!

Nothing worthwhile with horses happens fast. Reaching your outcome goals will not only take time and commitment on your part, it will also entail identifying/acquiring necessary resources, planning and logistics, conditioning for you and your horse, and skill development for both you and your horse.

Next month, on the “Horse Goals or Bust!” journey, our focus will turn to the action plan. Armed with the outcome goals that we’ll develop this month, we’ll start the fun process of making a plan. This plan is the roadmap that will get you where you want to be with your horse by the end of this year. I hope you’ll join me! If you want to share your comments, plans and progress with me, email me at or message me on Facebook⁠—I’d be thrilled!

Got Horse Goals? Start Your Journey:

Click below to download Julie’s Goal-Setting Guide & join the Horse Goals or Bust Facebook Group to start your journey!

Download Your 2023 Horse Goals or Bust Goal-Setting Guide
Join the Horse Goals or Bust Facebook Group
Be the Leader of Your HerdAs your horsemanship improves, so does your horse!
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