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A Look Back: My 2023 Horse Goals

My crew is always coming up with big ideas for helping riders and horse owners live their dreams. Like me, they are all on their own personal horsemanship journey and seeking new information and better ways of doing things. When they came to me with the idea for Horse Goals or Bust—a 9-month roadmap to encourage riders to set goals and support them along the way—I thought it was brilliant!

I knew it would be a fantastic way to help horses and their humans, but I didn’t expect to benefit from it myself. Early on, I created a goal-setting worksheet to help people refine and define their horsemanship goals. I decided to fill out the form myself. It was so productive, I filled out a second one for my personal life and another one for my professional goals! I ended up making goals and decisions that I never saw coming.

It’s been almost a year now, and many of you dove into Horse Goals or Bust to attain your goals. Throughout the year, I’ve heard from many of you about how you’ve progressed⁠—in person, from podcast listeners, on social media, or through my online coaching program.

After hearing so many of your stories, I thought it would be fun to share my results with you. It’s been a topsy-turvy, somewhat dramatic journey for me this year⁠—both in my horse goals and boating adventures⁠—but I have come far and learned a lot. When I filled out my goals worksheet, the clarity it brought led me to the unlikely decision to breed my lovely little mare Annie.

I say unlikely because I always advise people, and it’s very true, that you can buy a trained horse cheaper than you can raise and train one. And the one you buy is going to be exactly what you want, not a roll of the dice, like it is with breeding and training. Not to mention, it’s a good five years before you’ll have a reliable riding horse. Nonetheless, for reasons too numerous to mention here, it became one of my personal goals to breed Annie to the renowned stallion, Bet Hesa Cat.

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We started relatively early in the breeding season, but it took multiple inseminations and numerous medical treatments to get her pregnant. She was away at the breeding facility for nine weeks, but we were elated to bring her home in-foal. Disturbingly, Annie failed her30-day preg-test—the time when the heartbeat is first visible by ultrasound. Due to a scheduling error, the test was performed almost a week early, so no heartbeat was detected.

Since this was the second embryo that she had slipped, I accepted the result, but I felt completely defeated. It hit me at a terrible time, while I was out of town dealing with an unrelated catastrophe on my boat. I felt disappointed and deflated.

I put off any immediate decisions, but after a couple months of thinking about it, I decided I would walk away from the financial loss and give up on breeding Annie. I didn’t want to breed another mare or buy another mare. I booked a trip to Fort Worth to attend the bloodstock sales, determined to find a colt that is both my idea of a dream horse and within my budget (the former being easier than the latter). I was at peace with this decision and ready to move forward.

As the weeks went on, I had my doubts about Annie’s status. Her sense of contentment, her weight gain despite being off the pregnancy diet and getting daily work, her legs stocking up for the first time ever, and her disinterest in the other horses was noticeable. Ultimately, when our vet stopped by to see another horse, I shared my observations with her and she asked to have a look.

Sure enough, the ultrasound revealed a healthy bun in the oven! We had come full-circle, but since I already had the trip to Fort Worth booked, and since Rich and I love going to horse sales, I may just go and buy a colt anyway. You only live once!

Annie’s due date is April 28, 2024. We’ve already installed the “Annie Cam” in the barn, which will eventually become the “Nanny Cam.” Rich resumed the work on her foaling stall, and we are giving Annie the royal treatment (to which she says, “Finally!”).

As I mentioned, I filled out a second HGOB goal-setting worksheet, this time for a different passion⁠—boating! And a lot of you have asked me about my boating adventures.

Let’s call them “Boat Goals or Bust!” I had an ambitious plan, with multiple goals and many phases. This plan actually began brewing in December 2021 with my pandemic-inspired purchase of a 45-foot cruiser. Aged, but well-preserved, we spent a year on upgrades, maintenance, and shake-down cruises. Then in the fall of 2022, as I headed to Ireland, we had the boat disassembled and transported over land to the Upper Mississippi River, just northwest of St. Louis (the closest open water).

My boating goals for 2023 included getting my Captain’s License (actually called a Merchant Mariner Credential, 50T Master), and embarking on a 750-mile cruise down the inland river system. I’m happy to report that I met all my boating goals this year⁠—although not without challenges.

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It was an epic journey and an exciting adventure. I was on the boat for 10 weeks total, although we were only underway for about 10 days. I did three legs of about 250 miles each, with three different crews (two crews were all-female). We negotiated more than a dozen locks, through busy commercial waterways, navigating in unknown waters, mostly without incident. Everyday underway was challenging and adventure-laden. I learned a lot and gained tremendous confidence as the captain of my own vessel.

The only setback I had involved a refueling incident where our diesel tanks were contaminated with gasoline. Unaware the egregious error had occurred, we continued down the river until the first engine failed—that’s when it became clear that something had gone wrong. We limped another dozen miles on one engine, as I tried to diagnose and fix the problem.

The towboat arrived just moments after the second engine failed, rendering us dead in the water. After being towed to a safe harbor with great mechanics, it took two and a half weeks to get the boat operable again.

In every hardship there are important lessons to learn⁠. And I learned many, not the least of which was how to change fuel filters while underway, how to decipher mechanical problems, radio for help, deal with emergencies, and instruct the crew. I was devastated when my boat’s engines were incapacitated, but thrilled at her resiliency as we finished the remaining 500 miles without incident.

I feel like I packed a lot of life into this year. I accomplished each of my goals, I persevered through the setbacks and disappointments, and made the most of every opportunity that came my way. Without goal-setting and months of planning, I don’t think I would have accomplished all these things. By setting clear and measurable goals, being organized and prepared, developing necessary timelines and phases, it made my goals readily attainable.

I am already planning my goals for next year, using the goal-worksheet, for both boating and horsing, starting with this little peek in my rearview mirror. I may still buy a colt in December, to give me something to play with until Annie’s baby is ready for training. I’ve still got some decisions to make about my boating adventures for this coming year, but I am on a roll now, so I will keep going!

It’s been very rewarding to hear your Horse Goals or Bust stories. For some of you, I was involved firsthand, whether it was coming with me to Ireland or to a riding vacation at C Lazy U.

I realize that not everything goes according to plan, and I’ve also appreciated hearing from some of you as you were navigating through turbulent waters or reformulating your plan. Resilience and perseverance are important, just as being flexible and open to change are necessary.

In my podcast this month, I’ll be sharing some of your stories—the highs and the lows, goals that were met and reset. It’s not too late to share your own HGOB journey, or share your plans for next year with us. Remember⁠—your stories will help encourage and inspire someone else!

Want a Saddle Fast, at the BEST Price?Balanced Ride • Narrow Twist • Comfort for Horse & Rider
Ready to Ship Today! (719) 530-0531
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  1. I filled out my horse goal s or bust sheet and feel so proud of where we are in November 2023. I also fulfilled my dream vacation and attended Women’s retreat in April with Julie and Barbra Schulte It seriously far succeeded my hopes. I came back so inspired and confident and have stayed dialed into both Julie and Barbra’s podcasts and everything I can read and listen to. To date I have 117 rides on my no longer green 8 yr old mare who was just started at the age of 6.
    We have attended several clinics, we participated in a Cowboy Dressage/trail obstacle and ground in hand obstacle event. I was so proud of how well she handled everything. My goal/focus this year was to become a solid, solid “intermediate” rider.. my coach and I developed what that looked like. Thank you Julie for being so attainable to me in my horsemanship journey

  2. Oh Julie! I am so happy, so excited to hear that Annie is expecting after all! I felt disappointment right along with you when you thought she wasn’t pregnant again for the second time and now am so happy for you now. I have been following your podcasts and really enjoy them all, especially the Horse Goals or Bust. I haven’t filled out the worksheets but my horse and I are making great progress. I may still fill out the worksheet someday. I love hearing about your boat adventures too! You truly are an inspiration to me!

  3. Julie, I love keeping up with all that you do. I didn’t start riding until I retired, and Of course, I fell in love with a horse that was way too much for me. But you love what you love! You, actually, helped me the most on my journey. It was you, that showed me how to catch her in the field….no easy task but I did exactly what you said and was patient and it worked. You, also, taught me how to get her out of her stall without killing me. I was a little nervous, but you told me how to do it safely and that worked as well. I went through your lead line leadership, watched all your shows on Tv. I was like a sponge, and luckily my mare was not mean and was a willing partner. And now, 12 years later, everyone walks by her stall and thinks she is the sweetest horse in the barn. I will forever be grateful for what you have done for me.

  4. Love this! Very inspiring with all your goals. Can’t wait to see you all in December!

  5. What a great boating adventure you had! Love the female crew and how well you all faired! I too have undertaken boating adventures on the Intracoastal waterways and the Abacos on a 50’ sailboat! You learn a lot about yourself for sure! Horseback riding has also been a 30 year adventure that has taught me patience and humility and gives one a good look at themselves! I so enjoyed your story and your willingness to learn something outside the comfort zone😊

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