4 Easy Ways to Start a Training Journal


People think I have a really ‘easy to train’ horse. They say: ‘Kyra is so sweet’ when they notice that she is always so willing to work with me. Indeed, that is how it looks today.

My secret is to set goals and a prepare a step-by-step training plan. To keep me on track, I keep a training journal. If I get the feeling I don’t make progress, I just read back and I realize that I do make progress. This is really motivating.

Keeping a journal is a simple tool to make sure that you and your horse are developing in the right direction. The direction of your dreams!

Here are 5 ways to keep track of your progress:

1. Use an agenda and simply write down in a few words what you’ve accomplished every training session. Formulate it in a positive way. You can keep the agenda in your tack locker or at home. Make sure that before you leave the barn or as soon as you arrive home, you take 1 or 2 minutes to make some notes. Or use a mason jar, see https://hippologic.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/530/ This method is quick and easy. I’ve done this for years.


2. Keep a journal in Word. This makes it very easy to duplicate your notes to internet, adjust text and use a spelling control. Another advantage is that it’s very easy to import pictures into your journal. Using a Word file can make it harder to keep the notes short, but it is a joy to read back. It does take a little discipline, because after you come back from the barn you have sit down behind your pc immediately. It is amazing how quickly you forget about what you practiced 2 days later, if you can recall your training at all. Writing things down also helps you to think things through.


Kyra, March 2012 (click to enlarge)

3. If you are not a writer, try one of my favourites: create a photo journal.  Every month I take pictures of my accomplished goals, like Kyra entering water (see above) or mastering the smile (picture on the right) . At the end of each year I select the best pictures of each month and I put the prints into photo album. I write the date and the goal next to each picture. This is the best way to show off share your progress with friends. An excellent choice for young and developing horses. You can see how they grow and change.

Training journal

4. Use Excel to write down every building block of your goal and simply tick off each baby step with the date. It takes a lot of preparation, but saves time on a daily basis. I started this when my friend showed me her really impressive Excel sheet. She wouldn’t share all her time consuming preparations with me, so this didn’t work out for me: I soon quit. Too much effort. You have to write down every training step in advance, in order to work properly. If you exactly know what you are doing, this is the way for you. Very scientific, not easy. Skip this one.


Kyra, May 2009 (click to enlarge)

5. Video your progress. This, my readers, takes courage! You have to film yourself when your work is still ‘work in progress’. To accomplish the first baby steps of a bigger goal doesn’t mean it already looks impressive. To me it does, because I know the basics are the most difficult. If the foundation is firm the rest will be peanuts. Soon. Take in consideration that you will notice that you are wearing the same coat for years, but if you have a grey it is really nice to see at least her coat changing every season!

Personally, I use a combination of all of the above, except number 4.

Please, let me know in the comments below which one works best for you!

Read here the article about How to use a training logbook in an effective way. It contains a free downloadable logbook.

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I help horse owners get the results in training they really, really want with joy and easy for both horse and human. I always aim for win-win!
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12 thoughts on “4 Easy Ways to Start a Training Journal

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  2. Thanks for the tips.
    I have been riding for a long time and training here and there during that time, but really only recently started keeping a record. I already feel more motivated and focused. My blog is basically my horse journal. I also keep a binder set up with page protectors and photo sleves. I will type up goals/lesson plan with checklists. It goes in the page protector. Behind that is the photo sleve, it holds three 4×6 photos. So I try to take 3 photos that best show our accomplishments for that lesson.
    I think I should follow your advice and do some videos, that would probably be a great learning tool.


      • To keep it simple I take one small goal at a time. Take it apart and list each step involved in reaching that goal. I’m not a competitor, I just trail ride for fun, so it’s pretty wide open on what we work on. That can be a bit overwhelming though… too much I would like to do, and lack of direction sometimes. Maybe that’s just me, I don’t know. Anyways… I keep notes when reading, browsing websites, or watching lessons on things I would like to do with my horse, including tips on how to do it, and an ongoing list of other topics to research. I wind up with one master list of larger goals and interests. When I am ready to make a checklist I choose a goal from that list. Then I work it backwards step by step until I reach a place that would be comfortable for me and my horse… this way I am not attempting something that neither of us are ready for and I enjoy having the visual and the ability to check off each step.


  3. Thank you Katie. I also keep notes (in my head) while reading, surfing on the internet but writing those down is a good idea. I have made a list with “ultimate goals”, 10 year plan, 5 year plan, 1 year plan and I divide the 1 year goal into 12 monthly plans. Along the way I add goals (from websites/books/friends etc).

    Every year I revise my 1 and 5 year goals and make changes if I need to. I must say: I am really heading towards my ultimate goals. Which I never did with my first pony.


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