Dreams Versus Goals

Many riding teachers, as part of a general assessment of a new student, will ask the rider to talk about her goals. I think it`s revealing to do this, because the answer will often indicate whether the rider is a “real” thinker, or a “fantasy” thinker. For example, how many of us have been told, “My goal is to ride at Rolex”? Or, “My goal is to ride in the Olympics”? Or, “My goal is to win a gold medal for the USA at the Olympics”?

Unless your new student is Michael Pollard or Sinead Halpin, you can be pretty sure that those “goals” are actually “dreams”, because there are far too many intermediate steps between the thought and the accomplishment. I`ve always thought that this little “inspirational saying”, for all that it is corny, is actually true: “It`s OK to build castles in the sky. Now, go out and build foundations under those castles.”

There`s a ring of truth to that saying, because almost any great enterprise starts with a dream. The reality, as we know as we grow older, is that many dreams don`t come true. But some do, and it`s likely to be the realist who can understand the need to build the strong foundation who someday might grab the gold ring.

Without crushing the dream (Hahahahaha!-YOU want to ride at Rolex???) it probably is important to explain that A. Most Rolex riders can sit the trot, and you can`t. B. Most Rolex riders are comfortable going advanced, and you are at beginner novice, and C. Rolex horses have to be even better than Rolex riders, because they do 67.835 % of the actual work, and Spot is an 11 year old Norwegian Fjord, and at 14.2, weighs 1,147 pounds.

In other words, start by helping the rider understand the Biblical injunction, “Do not build your house on a foundation made of sand.” Goals are reality based difficulties. Sitting the trot without bouncing is a goal. (Well, it`s actually a dream for most riders, but that`s another discussion). Learning to look up instead of down is a goal. Getting fit enough to stay off your horse`s back all the way around a cross country course is a goal. Learning the warning signs of colic is a goal. There are thousands of goals that the real Rolex riders will have achieved.

Then help the rider work toward incremental goals with a little gold ring hanging out there, like winning a ribbon at beginner novice, white, pink or green will do for now. Then, get more blood thirsty, go for yellow, red or blue. Then move up to novice, repeat the process.

Obviously, as the realities of the difficulties become clear to the naked eye, riders will start falling off the wagon. Some will discover boys, some will discover another sport, some will just give up. But some will hang on, and on, and on. Little goals, for the truly hungry ones, will become larger goals, Fjords will become thoroughbreds, thoroughbreds who can jump 3`6 will be replaced by thoroughbreds who can jump 4`9, some riders will struggle up the ladder.

And a few will actually make it to Rolex. And thousands of little kids will watch them, and thousands of little kids will build castles in the sky, and some of those little kids will structure goals beneath those dreams, and so, as the saying goes, “the race progresses.”

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Dreams Versus Goals

  1. Laura Spittle

    I was just thinking about this very subject last night. I have a birthday coming up and I tend to assess my position each year at this time. Dreams dreamed. Goals met. Dreams abandoned. Goals… well… some things just are not going to happen. So each year I reassess what is truly going to bring me joy, peace and happiness.

    I never wanted to ride at Rolex. I took one look at the old course on Reeves Hill at GMHA as a kid and knew that was not for me. I did want to foxhunt. Check! But I’d like to do it again. Uncheck. I did want to drive a Morgan at Nationals. Check! But I didn’t place as high as I would have liked, only top 10. Uncheck. I wanted to breed quality Morgans who looked and acted like Morgans but could actually do the jobs most people want of a horse they are paying money for. Check! But I am not out there riding one of them… not really an uncheck but something to think about.

    I think that it is important to know the difference between goals and dreams but I think it is also important to adjust our goals and dreams to our circumstances. My big goal for 2012 is to get my young horse going and myself going so that I can just go trail riding. Nothing competitive. I just want to ramble around the hills like I used to as a kid. It’s possible. But I still have a dream to go along with that. Me and my horse, alone, under a full moon, warm breezes blowing my hair across my face and a long gallop across the fields at the farm. There are so many things wrong with this picture. No helmet. No one around in case of an accident. Galloping in the dark with no sure sense of where the chuck holes might be. It is simply a stupid, childish dream. But I think I’ll hold on to it for a while longer. Because someting in my heart tells me it just might be that silly dream that gets me to my goal.

  2. Anonymous_Girl

    This article is so true. Just a few years ago, I was the one saying that I would be riding in the Olympics by age 16. Well I’m 16 now, my horse is sold, I’m going to college for a completely different profession, and that “goal” is now just a thought of the past. But I didn’t give up. I always kept going and going. A lot of different obstacles always stood in my way. Parent’s divorce, school, getting grounded, school, having to realize that friends come and go but horses will always be there for you, boys (yes, guilty as charged, but oh well. I’m a teenage girl. What do you expect?), and so much more. I always came back to horses, and I always will. Right now, i have a realistic goal. It is to ride, at least some, during college. My dream is to have a ranch when i retire and have horses again. That is a big dream, and a long time for now. But I am going to hold onto it.
    Horses are too big a part of my life to give up. I only gave up my horse now because I cannot afford to keep her through college. It’s just too expensive. And it’s really hard to give my baby girl up, but it’s part of life. And when all the little girls and boys watch Rolex or the Olympics, they are gonna say “mommy I wanna do that”. And the parents are probably going to say oh gosh, here goes nothing. And they will probably support their child’s dream as far as they can. I know my parents did. And when the time comes, that little girl or boy will buy their first horse. And a lot of them will end up not riding in the future, but some of them will end up living their dream from when they were just a little boy or girl watching the Olympics or Rolex. Don’t stop the kids from living their dream. Because a minority of them will end up being the best riders the world has ever seen. And no one wants to miss out on that.

  3. Lena Lopatina

    I just finished watching George Morris’es clinic on usefnetwork.com Honestly it made me very dreamy, I wanted to be like those kids, spending my days riding, taking lessons from people like Denny Emerson, McLain Ward, George Morris.

    Honestly, I was looking back and wondering how would have my life been if I was one of those kids. Since I was a child I wanted to ride horses. But I was born in a crises time in a city family. It wasn’t that my parents didn’t understand my paыыion, it was that the were no opportunities, no money and not many horses in downtown.

    So I became scientist. I got my bachelor and masters degrees and physics. Moved to USA. And USA changed my life and fulfilled y dreams. While working to my PhD in the middle of OH, and partially in NM I found opportunities and finances to ride. I met my husband at a barn, and ride a lot now. I have dreams and goals about breeding my own show jumper.

    Part of me glad that I read this post, and part of me is a bit crashed. Over last hours I was wondering what if I rode since I was a child? Would I have been on a way to my medal now? I don’t know, but I know I can’t change past.

    For now I will have a dream of riding in Olympics one day, they said you have to dream big. My goal is to take my talented TB to small Grand Prix show, to show my other very much love TB in couple of beginner eventing classes this summer, and see how far he could go, and how much dressage he (or may be I ) can do, or we will just jump. And most importantly uses next years to gain experience through all of that while my hopefully born in a year baby is growing to conquer big jumps :).

    Oh, and almost forgot, to STOP BOUNCING is still first and most important goal 🙂

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