Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Performance

My high school English teacher, Mr. Cantello, used to preface each long-term assignment by saying, “Remember the 5P’s: Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Performance”.

Roger Cantello’s, “5P’s”

Now, 11 years later, I have come to know that Mr. Cantello’s, “5P’s” apply to more than writing English papers. As this year came to a close, I scheduled my regular December meeting with my trainer, Johanna, to discuss goals for next year. We had a lot to consider with Cassandra’s training program, what we wanted her to accomplish in 2022, and what I wanted to accomplish myself. During our discussion, I realized that all of these wants and goals would require a lot more than a single conversation to organize and plan.

As you would imagine an MBA student doing, I went home and began to draft a 2022 Training Goals Spreadsheet. The first tab included our goals for 2022. There were a lot of things we wanted to accomplish but not everything was a ‘goal’. Some of the things Johanna and I discussed were building blocks that will be used to achieve certain goals. To make better sense of this, I decided to commit to three goals that were specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely – otherwise known as “SMART” goals.

From here, I asked myself what would need to happen for us to achieve these goals, and the answers became ‘activities’ that I categorized as either horse or rider-focused. I also began to see a trend in that some activities had to do with improving our physical fitness while others were more focused on our mental ability, so I broke them down accordingly. Finally, I included a section for ‘homework’ to help us connect our training to what course designers were asking in the show ring.

To help my fellow visual learners, I’ve included a template that currently shows one of my 2022 goals.

Your Goal: Be Specific and Timely

It’s important to name your goal something very specific you that can actually measure to determine improvement. Then, think ahead to determine a realistic deadline for when you plan to achieve it. I recommend working with your trainer on this since you must consider both yourself and your horse.

Johanna and I also established two check-in dates that will remind us when we should revisit the conversation and measure our overall progress.

In this example, setting September as our “accomplishment date” made sense since all of the larger jumper shows (that we are attending) will have concluded by then. The first, April check-in aligns with Johanna’s return from Ocala, Florida (which Cassie and I will not be attending), and July made a lot of sense for our second check-in because it falls in the middle of our active show season.

The ‘How To’ for Achieving Your Goal

As mentioned earlier, the training ‘activities’ required to achieve the goal are separate for horse and rider. This is another place where your trainer’s input will be important, as they will be able to pinpoint specific areas you can work on that will help you achieve your goal.

Riding demands a lot from us, both physically and mentally, and to be competitive we need to work on ourselves both in and out of the saddle. By identifying specific training activities for your horse, you can plan your schooling rides to be productive training sessions even if your trainer isn’t in the ring.

Measure Your Progress

You’ve likely noticed the green, yellow, and red circles on the right-hand side of the goal sheet. These can be used to help you measure your progress during check-in times. Green signifies ‘near-achievement’ (i.e., things are going really well!), yellow means that you are making progress, and red means you still need to get started. I want to emphasize that none of these are bad, they are just tools to help you achieve your goals!


Teaching a horse to jump: From cross-rails to stone walls & more


One of my students recently decided that it was time for her to invest in a horse of her own. She did her research and brought home a twelve-year-old OTTB that she hoped could be a pleasure horse for herself, and an equitation horse for her daughter. Standing between 16’2 and 17 hands, Baker is a handsome boy with the potential to become exactly what they’re looking for. Continue reading “Teaching a horse to jump: From cross-rails to stone walls & more”

Kicking Off Fall with a Clinic

I celebrated the first day of fall by entering into a last minute clinic with Sue Peltier and Colleen Kelly from Millpoint Farm in Virginia. This post is both going to describe my experience in the clinic but also give you the exercises we did and why we did them, so you can use them in your own riding. Continue reading “Kicking Off Fall with a Clinic”

“You Can’t Make Everyone Happy” – No Longer Applies


After a few weeks of teaching riding lessons, I’ve come to truly realize and understand what my trainers went through every day. It’s a constant balancing act between loving your students, wanting them to truly excel, and keeping in mind how far they actually want to progress compared to how much fun they want to have. Continue reading ““You Can’t Make Everyone Happy” – No Longer Applies”

There’s A Monster Under That Jump!

We’ve all been here, right?

Abbi versus Tarp
Abbi VS. Tarp

If you notice where the top rail is as opposed to where her knees are, you’ll understand a common equine fear of: The Monster Hiding Beneath the Jump.

This horse is older but has only been jumping for about 4 months so it’s nothing out of the ordinary but so many times I’ve notices that people mark these horses as “naughty” or “dirty stoppers” without ever even giving them a fighting chance. Sure, Abbi and I don’t always see eye to eye and she does run out and stop at fences but not because she’s a bad horse. . .it’s because she doesn’t have the confidence in herself and she needs to gain that confidence from me.

So naturally you’d think. . .strong rider will fix the problem. Wrong. This horse needs a strong and confident rider when jumping but she also needs to trust her rider and that trust is earned.

Since we didn’t die our first jump over the horrible awful tarp…we began to build trust & with a strong, direct ride to the tarp jump again, we painted a prettier picture:

Abbi VS Tarp: Round 2
Abbi VS Tarp: Round 2

Now, we are still afraid of the tarp. . .but she’s also listening to me more and jumping across as well as up & over the fence.

Unfortunately, our camera-woman only took these two photos but as Abbi continued to jump, her trust in me grew and with my confidence in our abilities as a team, we were able to create some really lovely fences.

Abbi Jump

So keep in mind it’s both confidence and trust on both the rider and the horse’s part in order to make a winning team. Especially for young horses or older horses learning new tricks. . .consistency in this is key. She is jumping bravely and beautifully here but if her rider (me or someone else) were to misguide her, lose our confidence, lose our commitment to the jump, and/or work as separate parts instead of a team then Abbi’s trust will be lost and we will have to start at the beginning again.

Riding a new or young horse is like a new relationship. If you’re young then it’s building trust and learning how to work as a team. If you’re re-training a horse who’s been through it already then you not only have to build trust but you have to convince that horse to trust you even after they’ve been let down by someone else.

So the key takeaways for working with horses like Abbi:

  1. Confidence & Commitment
  2. Trust (it goes both ways)
  3. Consistency

Hope this is useful for you! If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to ask!