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.”