Last fall we did something new at our barn. I made a goal page for each rider. It included their name, a picture of them on their horse, their age, room for them to write their goal, and a place for me to sign off when they achieve their goal.

Fall 2019 Goal Sheet

I explained to the riders and to their parents that the goal should be something that they could attain by winter. It should be something that they are working on during their riding lesson. And, if applicable, I can give them “homework” in the form of exercises to help them achieve their goal.

I gave them examples, like keeping heels down, mounting the horse by themselves, looking where they are going to name a few. My thought was if they chose this as their goal, they will focus more in their lesson on doing it and they will make better progress.

The riders came back the following week with their goal or goals. Some of them got it and had one thing to focus on for the next few weeks. Others came back with goals that would take years to accomplish. No doubt one five-year old, who is making great progress came back saying her goal was to ride in rodeo. Great! But not by the end of the year. Another wanted to jump. Sure, you will be able to, but not in the next eight weeks.

So, for those riders we refined the goal to make it achievable. And hung everyone’s goal sheet around the viewing room window for everyone to see.

Goal Sheet for everyone to see

Spoiler alert: Not only was this a good reminder for the rider as to what to work on, but I could focus on their goal during their lesson to ensure that they would be making progress towards it.

Did the riders do it? A few did and I happily took down their sheet, signed it, and took their picture with it.

So proud of their achievement

The great thing was, everyone kept improving and with their goal in mind, they tried harder to learn the skill.

This is one activity we are going to keep doing at our barn. Why not? It’s a win-win all the way around.

Pretty Pony Pastures is an inclusive horseback riding facility located in Davisburg, MI. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities. The recently published book, Fifty Blades of Hay, highlights how horses help riders is available on Amazon.

Adjusting Stirrup Leathers

Athletes need to be mentally and physically prepared for their sport. Some people meditate; other exercise; and some even psyche themselves up for the event. What every athlete has in common is the need to prepare through training for their chosen sport.

Horseback riding is a sport that requires total focus and concentration from the rider in order to connect with the horse. Horseback riding is also one of the few sports where another being, a powerful animal, is a teammate. So, as we are on our way for our horseback riding lesson or ride, what can we do to prepare ourselves to make this ride the best ride ever?

Quiet time

Use the time getting to the barn as quiet time. A time to regroup and think about how the ride will end. This is a time to visualize goals. Focus on what would make this ride great. Will we learn a new skill, practice a pattern, or have a relaxing hack with our horse? Focus on words that can help you achieve this goal. Think – energy, effort, positive attitude.

Set the tone

Once we are at the barn, we clear our mind from distractions. While walking through the door imagine the day’s frustrations and obligations leaving. Oh, they can put on a bench or fence post to be picked them up on the way back to the car. But these thoughts do not belong in the barn.


Like other sports, riding is physical and most of us do not get enough exercise. The first few minutes in the part can be used to do some stretches, Pilates and yoga can both be helpful to get our mind and body ready for riding.


As we get our horse ready for the ride, we used our imagination to “see” our best ride ever. We see ourselves posting perfectly, clearing fences, or going on a hack with a calm horse. Our calmness and attitude is often transferred to the horse while we ae grooming and tacking. The calmer we are, the more receptive the horse is.

We are now ready to mount and really have the best ride ever!

Linda Watson-Call is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 970 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 16 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

It’s the first riding sessions of the new year. The riders were excited to be back in spite of the cold temperatures. This year I decided to start the year asking about goals.

“Goals?” asked one six-year old.

“Yes, what would you like to do this year.”

“Go to Cedar Point. We couldn’t last year because my brother broke his leg.”

Jenna trots ButtercupOops! I need to be more specific. So I rephrased it to focus on horseback riding. The answer came back very clear. “Keep riding all year!”

Got it.

Next class the riders were older, but just to be safe I rephrased the question to focus on horseback riding.

“Canter!” shouted the first rider.

“Good for you, but we need to make the goal something we can do by the show. How about post the trot around the arena.”

“Ride with a bit,” said the second.

Now we are getting it.

After the classes I started to think about how many times we set goals for ourselves that are too aggressive. We end up falling short and feeling like we failed.

In our riding classes our curriculum follows a pedagogy that builds on previous success as we challenge our riders to achieve. We like to think of it as No Rider Left Behind. Every rider should be able to say, “Yes! I can!” when presented with a new skill because they know it is achievable.

Now that the riders know where they are heading, I need to think of my goals as an instructor. Better examples, more exercises, and, of course, lots of fun in every riding session.

How about you? Do you have riding goals for 2013?

This isn’t about horses but it is about one of our riders – Samantha Carlson.

Samantha 2008 Tour de Cure for Diabetes

Samantha 2008 Tour de Cure for Diabetes

It wasn’t until Sam had been riding a horse for a few years did she learn how to ride a bike.  Last year she made the commitment to ride in the Tour de Cure for Diabetes.  It was a 15 mile bike ride – and she did it!  If you ride, you now how difficult 15 miles could be.

This year Sam has made the commitment again.  This time she’ll be going 25 miles!  If you want to support this young girl – did I tell you she’ll only 11 years old – click on this link – – and pledge whatever you can.

Oh, did I mention that Sam has Cerebral Palsy?  Here’s her story in her own words.

Getting up this morning to 12″ of snow was a thrill in itself.  That meant we had to walk to our neighbor’s place to take care of our horses.  Not that walking is bad, but, in the deep snow, carrying their breakfast, it was a rough way to start the day and the year.

Now that we are dug out, Tom and I are looking at our plans for the upcoming year.

We have one horse that needs to go through “boot-camp” before we can put her in our therapeutic riding program.  We got Poppy in November, and although she is very rideable, there are still a few things we need to make sure the horse knows before we put our kids on them.  Winter hit fast, so we still have some prep work to do.

Sherlock is learning how to drive.  We are so pleased with his progress, that we’ve decided to start all our horses in driving.  He needs to pull poles and a travois before we do some serious driving.  He can be ridden, too.  But his back has gone out on him a few times, so I’m careful how much weight he carries.

We have three more fillies that are really young mares.  They have pretty good ground manners, so that means it’s time for the harness and saddle.  I’m looking for a few good riders to help start them.  I don’t know if they will ever materialze though.  So far, I’ve started every one of our young horses myself.  I’m happy with the results, but as I grow older, I think I should also grow a little wiser and leave the colt starting for younger people.

We’re also hoping to increase the number of riders in our program.  We have 25 right now.  We think 40 would be a good number.  There is enough lesson times available to do it.  Some of our classes aren’t filled to capacity, so I think if I just fill all the existing lesson times, we’ll reach our goal.

I’m planning on carrying my camera more, so I can post pictures of our horses in training and at lesson times both here and on our farm web site.

Looks like I’ll be spending more time in the barn.  I’m sure our Haflingers won’t mind!