Goal Setting—Creating Alliances, Part 2

Before we continue our discussion of how a strong support network will create bridges to achieving goals, here`s a simple analogy. Let`s say there are five people taking archery lessons. They are all fairly new to the game, they`ve had roughly the same amount of basic instruction, and they are all at basically the same level of expertise. Let`s call them A, B, C, D, and E. Over the next six months, Archer A shoots about 25 arrows a day at a target. Archer B shoots 50 arrows a day, Archer C, 100 arrows, Archer D, 200 arrows, and Archer E averages 750 arrows each day.

Archers A, B, and C are  like riders who ride casually a couple of times a week. They might get slightly “better”, but they aren`t on a solid road to improvement. Archer D is like someone who rides five days a week. Improvement, sure, but not dramatic. Now Archer E has gotten a big jump on the other four. She`s like the rider who gets to ride two or three horses every day, rain or shine, motivated and hungry. Of the five, it`s a pretty good guess that Archer E, if she continues this level of diligence, is most likely to make it.

For riders, getting better is tied  to saddle time. Saddle time is tied to access to horses, and here`s where alliances can tip the scales. If you have one horse, or no horse, how do you get to be like Archer E ? One answer is to get the chance to ride other people`s horses. “What”, you may ask, “is the way to persuade other people to let me ride?”

Start by rereading my previous blog post, “Creating Alliances, Part 1” People are more likely to help those who are positive, cheerful, hard working and helpful. Years ago I was teaching a clinic in Clayton, California, and the stable owner told me a story which I`ve heard repeated many times since. She said that on weekends, the paid help had days off, and she told the kids who rode there. “If you guys will come do chores, you can ride a bunch of the school horses.”

Now the kids that the barn owner  was talking about had all told me how badly they “wanted it”, during the clinic. I`d heard all the usual USET/Rolex/Olympic dream talk, who hasn`t? ” So I asked her how many came out on weekends to trade barn work for saddle time, and she held up her hand with her pointer finger and thumb making the classic “zero” sign. None. Zilch. Nein. Nyet.

Clearly those young riders had a potential ally in their quest to become better riders, but they burned the bridge. Allies usually want something in return for the alliance to be strong. Stable owners are potential allies, and so are friends with horses that they often can`t or don`t ride. Event organizers where you`ve been a volunteer know lots of horse owners. “Joan, I heard you`re looking for a rider? I met this really nice girl who helped scribe last weekend at our dressage show. I`ll get her phone number for you.”

You can sit in your room and wish and hope, or you can get out there and make yourself known and popular by being useful. Horses are lots of work, and those who are willing to work can very often leverage that work into chances to ride. So many people who have horses tell me that “if only” some hungry kid would help out, they, in turn, would help that young, aspiring rider.

Archer E had it easier than we do, because all she needed was a bow, and the time. We need horses. If you already have a good string, go for it! But if you need the rides, chances are that there are allies out there just waiting to meet you. So try to figure out how to arrange to meet the people who own the horses that you want and need to ride.

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