Are you running out of ideas what to do with your horse? Especially in winter? I am never out of ideas when I am with Kyra. I always have many suggestions what to work on.
How do I do that? Well, I make goals. Long-term goals and I divide those into short-time goals. Then I divide those into even smaller building blocks, which are my every day ideas to choose from. I write them down in my training journal and then I print out a list to hang in my tack locker.
When Kyra was a still a feral filly I had many little goals to work on every day. Coming towards me instead of jumping into a corner of her stall when I opened a door, touching my hand/target stick/halter, standing still while being touched and so on. These where obvious goals.
What about my daily goals after 5 years of training? Kyra is 6 years old now and she is almost fully bomb-proof, very athletic and sensible and knows a lot of tricks. Are there any goals left for us to work on? Yes, plenty. If I get stuck I take a look at my long-term goals (10 year plan, 5 year plan, 1 year plan, 12 monthly goals) and I know what to do.
Every ‘dream goal’ has many ‘pillars’, take for instance a dressage level 4 test as one of my ‘ultimate’ goals. One pillar is a collection of all the exercises in that test (half pass, half pirouettes, collected walk, trot, canter, etc).
Another pillar contains all the building blocks to prepare a horse mentally for a competition. At a competition terrain there are many unfamiliar things happening, like music, flags, strange horses, white fences, flower pots and so on.
A third pillar could consist of all the building blocks required to make your horse a happy traveller. A fourth pillar could contain all husbandry skills, like standing still while saddling, braiding, or saddling in a strange environment.
There are hundreds of building blocks one can distill from just one long term goal, like riding a level 4 dressage test. If you make a sketch, it would look like this:
If you do the same thing with one behaviour and divide it into very small baby steps, you’ve created a shaping plan.
A shaping plan for ‘targeting‘ can look like this:
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