One of the most exciting parts of the year is setting the goals you want to strive towards in the coming year and then sitting down with the USEA Calendar and selecting which events you will compete at to reach your goal. But successful goal-setting and planning isn’t just about selecting which events work with your schedule – it is a multifaceted process with many aspects to consider.
Five-star eventer Will Faudree has a string of horses competing from Novice all the way up to the CCI5*-L level and knows a thing or two about how to set each horse up for success with their own unique plan that caters to their needs. Take a look at his top tips for planning and preparing for you and your horse for the upcoming season.
First, I look at what my goal is for the year, whether it be Kentucky in the spring and the Burghley, or a horse that is moving up to the upper levels and my goal is a CCI2*-L in the fall. I look at what my year-end goal is and then backtrack from there. I try to figure out what is the best possible plan to get that horse to the end goal.
Once you have your goal set, you have to decide what is the best way to get there. I like to have three different paths. If it’s an experienced horse, he might not need to run a lot, while if I have a horse that’s maybe not as experienced I will do a couple of runs early in the season and see how he comes out and make a decision from there. I try to think about a bunch of different plans and not be married to any of them.
Also, make sure you check the qualifications
you need to achieve your goal. What do I need to do to make sure that myself and the horse, as a combination, are qualified for that end goal?
You have to keep your own goals in mind while thinking about what is going to be the best fit for your horse. One piece of advice I like to give is, “Shelve your own dream and really look at it from 30,000 feet.” Is it in my horse’s best interest to aim for my goal? If it is, go for it!
Once you have your goal and your plan in mind, consult a coach or trainer whose opinion you respect. It’s important that you go to someone who’s not just going to tell you what you want to hear. Tell them what you want to do, and ask them if they think you have a good plan in place.
When my horses come back in from their holiday, I put them back into work and then have your vet and farrier do a full evaluation. It will give you a baseline and a good road map to plan. Anything you can do that’s proactive will help your horse down the line. What can I do now that will help my horse feel his best at my end goal?
Once I know physically how my horse is feeling and what plans I have mapped out, I will count backward from the end goal to create a fitness schedule. Fitness levels will vary based on what level you are going and it will vary from horse to horse. A Thoroughbred will need fewer gallops than a Warmblood. You also have to determine if your horse needs more muscle fitness or more wind fitness and tailor your fitness program to that.
One aspect of helping your horse feel physically his best is nutrition. I work with an equine nutritionist – nutrition is so important to your horse’s longevity and soundness. Develop a good feeding program that is right for your horse and is going to support his specific needs.
After every competition as you move through your plan, get with your trainer and coach and evaluate your horse’s performance. If he was tired, was he physically tired or not breathing well? Really listen to your horse and what he is telling you.
Finally, don’t make excuses for when things go wrong – acknowledge that they went wrong, figure out why they went wrong, and talk with people who you respect to help fix them so they don’t go wrong again.
Want more tips from top professionals? Check out other articles in our Top 10 Tips series!
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