Looking ahead to longer days, spring shows and fun outings with your horse? A little planning can go a long way to make sure both of you are ready.
[top image: Wikipedia]
Even though there are plenty of things you can do to improve your horsemanship when the weather's not cooperating, the winter months are prime time for staying indoors and planning. One of the more popular strategies I've noticed making its way around the blogosphere is the SWOT analysis. Technically it's a business analysis strategy to set goals, but it can very easily be adapted for the equine side of your life–whether your goal is to make it to a Prelim event or to improve your horse's ground manners, the first thing to do is to make an honest assessment of what you have in front of you, and build your goals from there.
Here's how it works.
There are four categories: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The first two are considered “internal,” meaning that they specifically have to do with you or your horse (or your business, whatever), and the second two are “external,” meaning that they come from outside you and your horse–things like money, facilities or personal connections.
The great thing about a SWOT analysis is that a) they're easy and kind of fun, b) you can refer back to them yearly, quarterly, monthly, etc. and c) they're adaptable to anything–from show goals to narrowing down your choices while horse shopping (and, of course, “real life” goals, but who cares about those?).
Examples: strong work ethic, a willing horse, show experience
Examples: Lack of conditioning (for horse or rider), bad ground manners
[Flickr: Experience Kissimmee, Florida]
Examples: a great trainer, shows and clinics coming up, lots of boarders to ride with, places to trail ride nearby
Examples: Busy work schedule, limited funds
Of course, your SWOT can be as detailed or general as you want. Once you've gotten a full picture of all the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in front of you for 2014, then you can go ahead and figure out what's feasible for you and your horse. For the example above, perhaps trail riding with other boarders on the weekends would be a great way to improve fitness. Or, maybe setting up some sessions with the trainer could improve the horse's ground manners. And if funds are limited, volunteering at upcoming shows and clinics would be a good way to learn.
How do you like to plan for your riding goals?