Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

Hello Weekend! Goal planning and progress tracking:



A riding journal with both future planning and present event tracking is extremely important for gauging progress, as well as safety. For example, you might think that your horse’s canter is not getting any better, but when you look back at your riding diary, you find out last month he was only cantering one circle around, and now he is doing two or three, which might give you the inspiration you needed to continue on your course.  Conversely, you might discover that the canter was actually much better last month that it has been this month, which might lead you to get a vet appointment for your horse.   My own horse was discovered to have OCD in his stifle after I noted his canter was deteriorating in his training.

Writing your training goals can help you solidify your ambitions into tangible ideas. Training goals should be simple, measurable, and attainable.    Long term goals can be where you ultimately want your riding to go.  For example, “jump six feet” or “ride single tempi changes”. The time frame for a long term goal can be from a year to five years, to twenty – it is up to you when you want to see yourself achieving this long term goal.  Then, assess where you are now, and then assess what you need in order to get there.  This assessment on the short term can help put that long term goal into perspective.  Is it measureable? If your long term goal was “be the best rider I can be”, although noble, perhaps a revision is in order.   Is it attainable?  If your long term goal was “ride my 22 year old appalossa in the Olympics” again, perhaps a revision would be in order.  On the short term, you should limit your goals to one or two between you and your horse.  With only one goal to worry about, you are helping yourself focus, which as previously noted on the blog, can help in the show ring, as well as give your horse confidence.

By “simple”, your goal should be summed up in a short sentence: “we will be working on increasing the time the canter can be maintained.” This goal is simple, and to the point, however, is it measurable? No. What does it mean to “increase the time the canter can be maintained”? Revise the goal to make it measurable: “we will be working on increasing the amount the canter can be maintained from one time around the rail of the indoor arena to four times around.” Finally, the goal should be assessed to see if it is attainable.  At this point, a time frame is important to add to the goal.  Acheiving four times around the arena from one at the canter would be quite a feat on your next ride, however, in three weeks, it seems like a reasonable goal.  Therefore, either adjust the goal, or adjust the time frame in which you want to see the goal realized.  The final goal would be “We will be working on increasing the amount the canter that can be maintained, from one time around the arena to two by next week.”

Now that you have your goal worked out, it is time to record the progress.  Was the goal realized?  With a simple, measurable, attainable goal set, the answer should be an easy “yes” or “no”.  The key is to record the factors of why or why not the goal was realized.  For example, your horse might feel comfortable cantering in the outdoor arena, but claustrophobic in the indoor arena, therefore, does not canter more than one circle.  The horse might canter three circles to the right, but only one to the left.  Noticing these things over a period of time may yield an illuminating pattern, which may validate or cause reassessment of training technique, or health of the horse.  Factors like weather, surrounding environment, your equipment and training tools, and the exercises practiced, all can give very important insight on the progress of your goals over a period of time.  If you have a mare,  your riding journal might illuminate that she is difficult asking for collection at certain times, which might coincide with her heat cycle.  Because of your progress tracking, you developed a new training schedule that includes simple hacking out in the field during your mare’s time in heat.

How one records these goals is up to the individual.  You may decide to jot it down in your blackberry calendar, blog about it when you get home, or write about it on a notebook you keep at the barn.

I would recommend the structure of your riding journal to be something as following:



Long term goal:

Time frame for this goal:

Short term goal:

Time frame:

Assess:  Are my goals simple, measurable, and attainable?



Today my ride consisted of:

Was my short term goal realized?

Factors involved in my ride today:


My mood:

Training environment:


Other factors:

Well, good luck in achieving all your training goals! Happy Riding!

~ Larissa



  Jenny wrote @

I am definitely going to grab this formating for my barn. Especially our Oldenburg with Cushings. it will be a great place to keep track of everything. So you can see any ups and downs with how he is feeling!

  fiona allan wrote @

OK this is very very useful. i’ve bought a blank book to use as a riding journal but haven’t been writing in it. your format has inspired me. one thing i’m not sure about (as i might not be up to this yet) what do you mean by ‘equipment’. eg saddle/bridle/bits/spurs sort of thing? or something else.
i ride my horse in same saddle/bridle/bit everytime so maybe this isn’t yet relevant for me until i get better/have more options/know what i’m doing

  tackandtalk wrote @

Hi Fiona,

I do mean saddle/bridle/bit etc. This can help track if you have made any changes to the type of equipment you used that ride. Let’s say you borrowed your friends spurs, which have rollers on them, and let’s say yours don’t. You wrote down that your horse was very forward on that ride. Every time you use those spurs, your impulsion improves. Soon, you are out buying your own spurs with rowels/rollers. Because you wrote down all the pieces of equipment you use, you have a record if it had any effect on your horse. “Today, I forgot to put the flash on the bridle.” You leave it off for a week before you get around to putting it back on. Lo and behold, during that week, your horse was less tense. You then start riding without a flash more often, because you realized the implication on your horse from writing it down. Conversely, your horse might quite negatively respond to new equipment, would also be discovered more effectively though a written record. Really, with keeping a riding journal, its about recording all the details, so that if you replicate them, you will hopefully get the same response. If you find that adding or subtracting a factor creates a better response, keep riding and training like that. Without a written record, much is based on hazy memory and assumption. When you have a written record, you can be more assured as to what factor produced the given response (whether it was desirable or not). If you use the same equipment each time, just write down when you change a specific factor, regardless of how small it might be (even stirrup length, girth tightness, etc). You could be surprised by the impact it has on your horse. 🙂

  fwdnrnd wrote @

Thank you, Larissa, for making something that seems so vague (goal setting) be made easy and concrete. I find riding without goals in mind lets me “flounder” in a haze of going nowhere in particular. I will be sure to use your format for both my long- and short-term goals. I

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