On the Blog: Louise Currans goals and aspirations for 2016. The hard work is paying off!
Louise and Gandalf AKA The big white horse. Photo credit Geoff McLean
Written By Louise Curran
At the beginning of the year I was asked to write a piece on my goals and aspirations for 2016. Sure, I said. That'll be easy, I said. Well, the fact that its now the beginning of March and Im only just disciplining myself to sit down and set fingers to keyboard is a testament to the fact that it isn't easy at all!
Of course, I have lots of goals and lots of aspirations. A whole lot of ideas about what Id like to achieve float around in my brain. When they're sort of fluffy, half formed ideas about what Id like to do they're quite comfortable and give me a nice anticipation of what the future might hold. When I have to put them down as real things to be achieved they take on a life of their own and all of a sudden Im accountable for achieving them. Not so comfortable!!
The silly thing is that I do this in the non-equestrian side of my life all the time. As a business person, goals drive success and that good old saying what gets measured gets done is very true when it comes to business.
However, when it comes to riding, I've been heard to make generalist, fairly useless statements like Id like to go as far as we can but I've never actually defined what far might be. Nor have I added any sort of time line or specific, measurable element to my intentions. But, of course, there's always been a very good reason for this (aka, an excellent excuse!).
A couple of years ago I took a long break from competing to concentrate on improving my riding. I started training with David Shoobridge and realised Id found the coach who really could help me transform my ability in the saddle and get the best out of my horses. So I knuckled down and worked hard and, sure enough, I'm a very different rider today than I was two years ago.
Goals? Not really. Just focused, hard work, diligent attention to the homework from each clinic and a great feeling of achievement as we progressed. The learning is fun a really positive challenge and as good things started to unfold we began to think about the next possibility.
Davids a great coach; his explanations are super, his patience is seemingly endless, he expects brilliance and discipline from his students and he believes they can achieve it. Those of us who train with him come to believe it too, and then start to achieve it. Were very, very lucky to have him and he's currently expanding his coaching around the country which is a very good thing for Australian dressage.
All through this time I was enjoying learning the sense of achievement came from continually improving and specific goals didn't really figure in it.
And then, of course, we were dealing with the riddle that is Gandalf. Two years ago he was barely able to leave the paddock, let alone even think about achieving milestones or competing. To set any goals for his progress would have introduced an unrealistic element of expectation and frankly, would have been setting us up for failure. With Gandalf its been a case of well do what he's ready for, when he's ready for it. So, no goals there lots of hope and plenty of dreams, but no specific goals.
However, we've got to a point where those excuses are no longer valid. The hard work is paying off and I'm riding better than I ever have before. Gandalf has a new sparkle and is surprising us all with his scope and talent and his positive attitude to everything were asking of him. He's a joy to ride and a delight to compete and were starting to dare to think about what we might be able to achieve in the not too distant future.
In short, those reasons for not setting goals have flown out the window and its time to get real!
So, with a big gulp, Im putting it out there that Im aiming for a Medium Tour start by the end of the year with Gandalf. Even just writing it is daunting but, in the spirit of setting goals that are a bit of a stretch, that's what I plan to achieve. And its only March now. And the end of the year is December 31st. Heaps of time, right?!
Of course, before that, were planning our first Intermediate 1 start in the next couple of months so in terms of competition well be consolidating at that level for the middle part of the year.
The idea is that well go to the Australian Dressage Championships in Sydney in October so well be working hard to get the qualifying scores on the board for that.
In terms of short term goals, Gandalf and I have qualified for the Prix St Georges Cup at Dressage and Jumping with the Stars this month and our aim there is to do well enough in the PSG (we need to make it into the top 12) to be able to ride the Inter 1 Freestyle. Its a hugely competitive field with many of the heavy weights of Australian dressage competing so to manage that would be quite an achievement in itself. Well be doing our best!
If sorry, when! we do manage that, I'm going to need to revisit all that I've learned over the past year about managing performance anxiety. I've never ridden a freestyle to music before and quite frankly, the prospect is mildly terrifying! And exciting. So, Im mildly terrified in an excited sort of way.
Well be fine. These days, no matter what daunting task were faced with, Gandalf and I can tackle it together. The bond we've built over the past couple of years is a very special thing. Now, when we get out there, were in our bubble, were tuned into each other and I feel like Im tackling it with a friend. I've got his back and he's got mine and its a truly amazing feeling.
So that's the plan for Gandalf.
To balance that we have a new player in the team who is just starting his competition career and at 5 years of age is still not entirely sure where his feet should go.
Fiodore (aka Fred) is very much a purpose bred dressage horse. He's by Ferrero Rocher and comes from a long line of dressage talent on both sides of his pedigree. Of course this means absolutely nothing to Fred; he's a 17hh, very dorky, rather cheeky, beautifully natured youngster who struggles to take anything seriously and will do anything for a smooch. He's also exceptionally trainable and the speed at which he learns things, both good and bad, well and truly keeps me on my toes!
We had our first competition together a couple of weeks ago at Preliminary level and he did really well. A bit bouncy and boingy and he was very keen to show me that he has a complete understanding of forward but, apart from some rather exuberant canter work, he behaved like a seasoned campaigner.
Even the atmosphere at Werribee National Equestrian Centre, with a Pony Club games day happening around us, didn't faze him. Rather than being perturbed by the action he took it all in his stride with his characteristic well, will you look at that attitude. If you say that in a Yogi Bear voice you start to get an idea of Fred.
Fiodore (Fred) by Ferrero Rocher. Photo credit Geoff Mclean
So, goals for Fred?
Nothing particularly ambitious. Well do some more Preliminary tests over the next couple of months and then consider moving up to Novice when he can successfully master the small amount of leg crossing required in the leg yield without getting his feet tangled. That's a little way off at the moment!
Ideally, Fred will be joining us on the road trip up to the Nationals in Sydney so some qualifying scores and continued improvement is what were aiming for.
In amongst all that, one of my personal goals is to continue to improve my strength and fitness. I made a start at the end of last year and the new focus on building core strength has made an amazing difference to my riding. Its something Ive intended to do for a while (i.e. years!) but I was never motivated enough.
When I discovered Rose-Hip Vital I found out that it is possible to ride and exercise without pain now I've made the commitment to take advantage of that and really get this body working properly. I'm afraid I've never been a fitness for fitness sake type of person the extent of my weight lifting has been to lift a full glass of champagne to my lips and I can do lots of repetitions of that but if were talking fitness to improve my riding then that's a totally different matter! That's something I can get motivated about.
Its already paying off so I'm a little bit hooked. No more saying I think you've done enough to the horse when what I really meant was Im stuffed so you can finish. Now I can do an intense session without being completely exhausted at the end and I can be just as effective at the finish as at the start. What a difference! And, not surprisingly, were progressing faster and I'm enjoying it even more. Should have done it years ago!!
There's another goal that really isn't achievable so Ill refer to it as an intention, or an ambition, or something, but the idea is that one day Ill be able to be one of the cool kids when I do well at a competition. You know, one of the ones who looks at the results, sees their name near the top and gives a quiet, dignified smile of approval. They don't look at all surprised, just quietly pleased in a contained sort of way. Id love to be able to do that.
Instead I'm the one that looks at the results and appears totally gob-smacked if Im anywhere above mid-field. I try to be very contained but I do squeak a bit and then start bouncing around and doing a very uncoordinated happy dance. Im working on it but probably best not to hold your breath for that one!