Five Tips for Setting Riding Fear Free Goals

Riding Fear Free Goals

It’s a new year, and that means New Year’s Resolutions. Are you making any Riding Fear Free goals or resolutions this year?

It’s good to have a goal to aim at, but there can a problem with traditional New Year’s Resolutions. They’re almost always big, long-term goals: eat healthier, lose weight, exercise regularly, etc. Not only are they distant goals for the future, but they’re also pretty vague when it comes to actionable steps. What exactly does it mean to eat “healthier”? How much weight should be lost? How often do I have to exercise to make it “regular”?

It’s no wonder that most New Year’s Resolutions only last until January 12.

We often set major year-long goals and then have to wait a full year to attain them. That means you can’t celebrate until you have behaved in a flawless fashion for 365 days. That’s an impossibly long time! Incremental rewards, even small ones, as you work toward the big goal go a long way in keeping up your motivation. As it says in Riding Fear Free, celebrate every small success.

If you don’t celebrate the small steps on the way to your goal, you might become overwhelmed by the magnitude of what you are trying to accomplish. Or you might get depressed when you don’t instantaneously succeed. You might even give up.

And that can be a problem with horseback riding goals too. Fearful riders focus so intently on the end goal that they forget all about the small steps necessary to attain it. Those steps are important too! Celebrate them!

Riding Fear Free Resolutions

So how do you counter this mindset? Resolve to celebrate the very next small step you take on the way to the big goal. That means:

  • Decide on a long-term goal.
  • Immediately, shift your focus to the very next small step you will take.

If your goal is to canter fear free, and right now you can walk fear free, then your next step might be to trot one step fear free. Yes, one step. That’s all you have to think about right now.

Then, once you take that one step of trotting, celebrate! Take a moment to acknowledge your success because those small steps will eventually add up to the big goal.

Need help deciding on your first steps? The Riding Fear Free Journey Tracker can help you not only set goals but guide you to create a lesson plan that details the small steps you will take along the way. It will also help you assess your fear levels and think through your emotions as you work with your horse. Most importantly, it will remind you to celebrate and reward yourself as you go so that you don’t give up.

Here are five top tips for setting Riding Fear Free goals this year:

  1. Resolve that you will no longer ride despite fear. Make it a goal to ride fear free. That doesn’t mean that you never feel fear. Fear is an important part of life. It’s there to help protect us from real danger. Instead, make your goal to experience emotions in proportion to reality. Decide you want to get control of your thoughts and feelings so that you can truly fall in love with riding again! So resolve to pay attention to your feelings and use proper techniques to decide how to proceed instead of allowing your fear to take over. Ask good questions about what his happening. (See chapter 7 of Riding Fear Free.) Or use some fear-reducing techniques to get control of your emotions. (For more information, see “How to Deal with Emotions the Fear-free Way” in the Riding Fear Free Journey Tracker.) You do not have to settle for just having survived! You can love riding again.
  2. Make your goal attainable. Goals and dreams are different. A goal is something you can achieve through specific steps. Dreams sometimes depend on an outside force, like the actions of other people or pure luck. For me, writing a book in 2022 is a goal. I can take specific steps to achieve that. I can outline, write, and edit it. But having that book land on the New York Times bestseller’s list is a dream. Becoming a bestseller depends a lot on the actions of other people (who have to buy the book) and on pure luck. After I write the best book possible, the rest is out of my control. Your goals should not depend on luck.
  3. Don’t start with your goal. If your goal is to canter fear free, do not start by getting on and cantering. You can’t decide to change, and change instantly. It’s a process. As John Lyons says, “If you start with your goal, you end with a wreck.” Instead, start where you feel no fear, and that’s not cantering! Use your Journey Tracker to help you decide where you feel no fear and write a lesson plan that will get you from where you are now to where you want to be. Starting off by attempting the big goal is not only daunting, but impossible.
  4. Break the goal down into smaller chunks and reward yourself for each step. (Just in case your forgot from a few paragraphs ago.) A goal that cannot be attained for 365 days doesn’t offer much in the way of motivation. After you make your long-term goal, ask, “What is the next smallest step I can take toward my goal?” Focus on that and then reward yourself for taking that step!
  5. Treat every day like New Year’s. You will have many successes and setbacks as you work toward riding fear free. Setbacks don’t mean that you have failed. They’re just part of the learning curve. Remember that not only are you moving along the calendar year, but you are also starting something new each morning. You can decide every day to set and attain a small goal, regardless of what happened yesterday or a week ago.

Our Goals

Our Big Goal: This year, Laura and I want help as many fearful riders as possible to learn to ride fear free. So we want to make our website a place where riders can come for fear-free information and resources. We want to create an inspirational and informative blog and email newsletter. (You can sign up for the newsletter here!) We also want to offer more helpful resources for journaling, such as digital downloads and habit trackers. And even though Laura already offers Virtual Lessons, we want to create an even better way for fearful riders to get one-on-one help.

Phew! That’s a lot!

The Next Small Step: You’re reading it! This blog post is the next small step in creating a more useful resource for fearful riders!

I’m going to celebrate this post and then decide on my next small step. Come back to the website to find out what it is!

Your Riding Fear Free Resolutions

Tell us in the comments below:

What are your BIG Riding Fear Free goals for 2022?

What is the next small step you can take to reach that goal?

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Jennifer Becton

Along with being the coauthor of Riding Fear Free and the Riding Fear Free Journey Tracker, Jennifer writes fiction, including Southern Fraud Mysteries, Mercer Murders, and Jane Austen-inspired romance. As an editor, she's a big fan of the Oxford comma. Visit her at

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