I recommend 16 to most of my riders. However, maybe your’s is 12. Or 20… The number is not really that important. What is important is that you choose one and then stick to it. And what does this number represent?
Your number is the number of interactions you are committing to this month with your horse. Riding, lunging, groundwork or anything else in between!
Your number must work with your current schedule and lifestyle in order for you to really use this method. So if you can only manage 3 rides a week, perfect. 12 is your number. If you can fit 5 in, go you! 20 is your number. Having your number is important. What you then do with that number has the power to change everything…
Knowing your number in step 1. Creating a clear focus and intention for each of those numbers is step 2.
Each Ride is a Stepping Stone
You know those puzzles where you join the dots and the outline of a picture appears? When you have the dots clearly marked, 1 to 10 or A to Z, they are pretty easy to follow and you get to see a clear picture pretty easily.
This is what planning your rides out can do for you and your horse. It allows you to see each interaction as a numbered step in order to reach a clearly defined goal or picture.
Now, put this side by side with the exact same puzzle, however, this time, the dots are not numbered our outlined. You have to pick which one you are going to use next in order to create your picture. Can you see how it might take forever to get to the clear picture – if you ever get there at all…
Just showing up for each ride and doing whatever it is you ‘feel’ like doing is the equavelnt of this in your riding.
Setting an Intention for Each Interaction
How many times have you got into the saddle and began working on what you ‘felt like’ working on? There is no shame here; most riders are doing this on a daily basis in their riding. And, every now and then, this can feel refreshing and inspiring.
The problem with riding by feel is that your feelings change!
You start off feeling like doing one thing, however, taking action on that thing causes your feelings to change. Suddenly you feel inspired to do the next thing, and then the next. What results is that you are jumping around from topic to topic without ever really focusing on one and seeing it through.
Having a set plan before you ride will help you to remain focused. And that will help you to move forward with your riding goals. So even if your number is 12 or 8, you know that you have 12 or 8 intentional interactions with your horse this month that is all moving you in the same direction.
Building in Wiggle Room into Your Riding
The final part of your ‘plan’ is to give yourself and your horse a little grace. Building in a little wiggle room. There are going to be days and even weeks when things don’t go to plan. When you’re really not feeling like sticking to your plan. And that is okay. It’s your plan. You get to change it and tweak it.
I suggest sticking to your number, but begin flexible with yourself regarding how you achieve the number
So, if your number is 16 and on week 2 you only ride twice due to unforeseen circumstances, that is okay. Simply commit to making up those two rides later in the month somewhere. Or if you need to swap one day for another, that is fine. Go right ahead and do that if you need to.
When you have a clear plan you can move things around and still reach the same result.
Choosing the Stepping Stones for Your Riding
The final piece to this puzzle is choosing the stepping stones. Choose what you are going to do each interaction with your horse. I have a method I use that I encourage my riders to also try in their riding. I think all work and no play makes for a sour rider and a sour horse.
I encourage you to add different elements to your riding plan. And remember build in both fun and training.
We ride because of how it makes us feel. You can continue to have riding feel good for you and your horse by having the riding influence your feelings, rather than your feelings dictate your ride.