“1% More” is a blog series in which we ask World Equestrian Brands endorsed and trainer team riders to give us one booster tip that will help us to improve our competitive edge by 1%. As any true athlete knows, all of those 1%s add up to significant results.
It’s January! Time to set goals and make big plans for thenew year. If you are lucky, you have already or are getting ready to head down to Florida for the winter season. But what about the rest of us? How do we work towards our big goal horse show of the year when our ponies are fat, hairy, and covered in snow?
We sat down with 5* event rider Woodge Fulton to learn how we can approach 2023, even if it’s not yet time to hit the ground running.
WEB: Thanks for sitting down with us, Woodge! We’d love to chat a little about what happens when we start setting goals in January that might be months away, especially if we happen to not be headed somewhere warm to get a leg up on the competition.
WF: Yes. So I think this tends to attract a type-A go-getter, goal-setting mentality, which I think in a lot of ways can work to our advantage. I think we want to be careful that our horse has no idea it’s January 1. And so you just want to be careful that we weren’t having a nice holiday and we had Christmas, and we’re getting on maybe two days a week and hacking around. And then all of a sudden, January 1 comes and there’s a big wave of publicity about the New Year. And everyone on social media down south is jumping big and galloping fast and your pony is a little fat and hairy. I think it’s really easy to sort of lose sight of your own goals and what your milestones are, and sort of A) get discouraged and then B), the tendency would be to push too hard because it’s January 2 now and we’ve got big plans and we don’t want to break anyone in January, that’s for sure!
WEB: We don’t! So what can someone do if they’re sitting in a cold place, thinking about what to do for all of their big goals and they’re not going to Florida?
WF: Walk! I think walking is underrated and it’s boring and it’s especially not much fun to do when it is freezing. But get some heated gloves and some heated socks. And if you have a safe place to walk on the road and it’s not super icy. Just like getting out of the ring and going and walking until you freeze to death is a good place to start!
And then also create a plan week by week by week for your horse’s fitness so that way it doesn’t come March and you haven’t even seen your dressage saddle in three months. There’s no reason you can’t walk in your dressage saddle and there’s no reason the horse can’t walk on the bit. There’s no reason you can’t do little lateral stuff as you’re walking. But I think those bite-sized pieces every single day adds up over time.
And I think on the flip side of that, just being mindful too of the day you’re having and if it’s negative 40 and everything’s covered in ice, maybe just take the blanket off and groom your horse.
I think social media is great in a lot of ways, and it opens everyone’s eyes to different ways of learning, and you’re able to see everything. But on the other hand, everyone is only putting their best work out there. So while it may look like Susie Q in Ocala is training from sun up to sun down every single day, that does not mean that’s your program or that’s going to work best for you and your horse.
WEB: What other thoughts do you have as far as actual goal-setting for horses, especially the ones that are stuck up north during the winter? Talk a little bit about how you might plan for big events when you can’t do them right now.
WF: When I can’t do big things today, I get a big calendar. I’m a very visual person, so I like one of the giant ones that I can write big, messy handwriting and not feel confined. But go to the date the big show is for you. That’s the big goal. And think about, okay, what’s the canter set that my horse has to be doing the week before this show? Or what’s the trot set? And then take a month back from that and write what you need a month out. Just keep going backward and whittling it down so that, it’s a little bit more manageable.
There are plenty of things that you can do now, like take a look at the dressage test. If the goal is to move up a level and there’s leg yield in this test or there’s sitting trot that you have to do in this test, (I don’t know about you, but I hate sitting the trot). You can start just sitting the trot down one long side every ride. Okay, this week we do one long side. Next week we do two long sides. The week after that, we do the whole way around. Just little tiny bite-sized pieces so that when it comes to the actual big show, you’re not like, I really should have practiced that.
I think a lot of people wait until the month before the big show to do all of the hardest pieces, and then they drill them, then they’re sick and tired of sitting the trot, and their horse is sick and tired of them sitting the trot by the time they get to the horseshow.
WEB: What is a small, daily practice that you follow that yields big results in the long term?
WF: I like looking backward from your big horse show from last year and going, “What was it that I said to myself that I wish I had done more?” That thing would be nice to incorporate into your daily work going into this sort of middle-ground place where you can’t do a lot, but you should be doing something for sure. Ask yourself, “Why did we have that one rail at ACS? Was it because my horse needs to learn better footwork or because he was tired on the last day? Ask yourself those questions so you can make a plan so that this year you have new mistakes to make.
WEB: It’s January. Do you have any resolutions for this year?
WF: I’m going to try and limit my soda intake. I love Sprite. That and being more mindful of how the horses and myself are feeling on the day. I love goals. I love planning, and I often get the feeling that if I don’t do it today then it’s going to throw the whole plan off. If I don’t jump today, it’s not going to throw the next nine months into a complete downward spiral!
WEB: Amen to that! Thanks for talking with us today, Woodge!