Episode 60: 5 tips for finding motivation to ride

Welcome to Season Six!

In this episode, Stacy shares what is going on in her barn with her horses. She shares how she is using the techniques and ideas that she has been teaching in the podcast…in her own barn.

Stacy starts by answering a listener’s question about motivation:

“Hi, Stacy. My name is Andrea. And my question is, how do you just get motivated? To get out there with your horse when you feel like you’re all alone and you just really don’t have that encouragement. From others. I don’t really know a lot of horsey people. How do you just get motivated just to get out there and be with your horse? Do your ground training refresher course and just get on the back of your horse? How do you just get motivated just to do that?”

Stacy shares five actionable tips for staying motivated.

Click Here For The Full Show Notes


[00:00:22] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy and successfully train your own horses. Welcome to Season 6. In this season, I’m going to give you some behind the scenes insights into how I use the techniques and ideas that I’ve been sharing with you here on my own horses.

[00:00:43] I’ll tell you what’s going on in my barn and in my brain and you’ll hear more about Willow, Gabby and Presto, and they’re training. Today I’m also answering a listener question about motivation and giving you five ideas for more motivation. Let’s listen to the question.

[00:01:02] “Hi, Stacy. My name is Andrea. And my question is, how do you just get motivated? To get out there with your horse when you feel like you’re all alone and you just really don’t have that encouragement. From others. I don’t really know a lot of horsey people. How do you just get motivated just to get out there and be with your horse? Do your ground training refresher course and just get on the back of your horse? How do you just get motivated just to do that?”.

[00:01:38] Thank you, Andrea. I could have hugged you when I played this today because I was feeling less than motivated myself about recording this podcast. And I had something along this lines that I wanted to talk about, but I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around it. And then I listened to your voicemail and was like, thank you, Andrea, because sometimes I think that’s how it works. We’re looking for these little things that will help keep us moving forward. And it’s actually kind of interesting because I’m going to guess that you love the time that you do spend with your horse, but you still sometimes lack the motivation to go there and do the work. And I love this podcast, but sometimes when I think about I need to sit down and record this today and I need to do all the the work that I do ahead of time and afterwards, sometimes I lack the motivation to do it. So I think it’s important to realize that that lack of motivation to go out and do the work is not necessarily pointing to the fact that you don’t enjoy or whatever it is like me doing the podcast or you writing your horse. I think sometimes it’s just a little bit different than that. And there’s this great little book that I read called The War of Art by Stephen Press Field. And it’s really interesting because basically he gives this experience a name and the experience of like, you know, wanting to do something like riding your horse and put in the work, but then kind of not wanting to or feeling like you’re lacking the motivation.

[00:03:16] He gives that feeling a name and he calls it Resistance. And the whole book, he writes Resistance with a capital R.. So when you’re reading it, it looks like it’s a proper name. And he does a really great job of explaining how everyone feels that Resistance forever. And I think what’s really interesting is he talks about the pros and he quotes professional writers and professional actors. And basically at the end, my very, very short, condensed version, he says everybody faces this Resistance. The pros just know how to say hello to the resistance and then sit down and get to work. And yeah, that’s about what it feels like because for me, I don’t know if this happens to you. There’s times that I’ll be ridding and I’ll be thinking, oh, my gosh, this would make the greatest podcast. And I’ll even sometimes open up my phone and write it down a note and then I go to record it. You know, a few hours later or a few days later and I read my notes. And I think, why in the world was I excited about that? And then there’s other times that I’ll be inside reading a book and I’ll be so excited about going out and riding my horse.

[00:04:31] And then the next morning, I’ll get up and I’ll be thinking, it’s too hot, it’s too cold, or basically I just won’t feel like doing it when the time comes to do it. And that’s where that great little book and I’ll repeat it one more time. The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. It’s a it’s a quick little read and the way that it’s written is great. You can pick it up and just read sections because it’s just kind of I’m going to use the word choppy, which is not the most appealing description of a book, but it works. I’m telling you. But basically, he just really describes that Resistance that everyone feels. And that’s what I do, is I basically say hello to the Resistance. And then I go to work. But I want to give you some more actionable things that you can do and some things that I do. And one of the ways that I overcome this Resistance, because let’s face it, it’s January and I’m having a pull on multiple layers of clothing, which, by the way, a few years ago, I can’t remember exactly when I started thinking of myself like I’m in a cocoon. And in the spring, when I get to shed all of these layers of clothing, it’s gonna be kind of like that whole butterfly experience.

[00:05:48] This is me trying to talk myself into the fact that even though I have to wear three layers to go out and ride, it’s actually a good thing, even though I feel like this giant, huge, bulky clothing is in the way. But instead of saying that to myself, I say, won’t it be fun in the spring when I can shed all of this, come out of this cocoon and be able to ride without all of these layers? But one other thing I do is I have a calendar that hangs on my wall in my bedroom and. Every day that I ride the horses, I write their names on the calendar. And my goal, my nonstop continual running goal is to be able to ride the horses each 20 times per month, which is about five times a week. But everyday that I ride them, I write their name down on that calendar. I don’t make it real long and detailed. I don’t even typically write down what I did or anything. Sometimes in the summer when I go on a trail ride, if I go for a four mile ride or six mile ride or something, that I’ll write down that just because I think it’s kind of fun to track the number of miles out on the trail, but especially this time of year, I’m just writing one name down and sometimes I’ll go out and ride one horse before lunch and then I’ll ride the two others after lunch and I’ll even come in and I’ll write that one name down because I just really like to look at that calendar and see that done.

[00:07:19] So it’s a little bit like a checklist for me, but basically I’m just writing it down and inside of that I don’t set any time limits. So today I didn’t ride Willow for very long, maybe 15 minutes. I was happy with what I got done, but I also had a day that I needed to get a lot of other stuff done and I didn’t want to spend a ton of time. Well, let me say it like this. I wanted to spend hours riding Willow instead of doing some other things, like maybe recording a podcast. But I knew that she did really well in 15 minutes. And I know that it’s going to average out. There’ll be another day that I’ll ride for an hour and a half or something. But that wasn’t gonna be today. So that ability to write the name down on the calendar. There’s days that I just lunge them or do groundwork and I still write their name down on the calendar. And I like seeing the names. I know that that works for me. And then the idea that I set it for 20 rides a month per horse gives me a little bit of flexibility because my schedule has me traveling. So there’s a lot of times that I’ll be gone for maybe four or five days out of a month. And I really dislike it. If I have to say that I wasn’t able to reach the goal if it was, say, five days a week, but because I say 20 rides a month, I can just kind of shift that around a little bit more so I can generally hit that.

[00:08:46] And in case you’re worried about the horses being overridden, like, say, I ride them 15 days in a row. Again, just because I ride them multiple days in a row doesn’t mean I’m always working them at a high intensity. I for sure go up and down in the intensity, just like today, Willow, didn’t even break a sweat for 15 minutes. We touched on a few key points that we’d been working on. And I was like, good enough. Let’s go on. So another thing that I do is I set little goals with my horses. And so I’ll tell you some of those so that you can understand really what I’m talking about when I say little goals, that to me means it’s gonna be something I can see in the next week or two. Or maybe if you want to say in the next six rides, depending on how you structure your riding schedule. But my little goal with Presto, who is my rescue horse? I want to see my little rescue horse. But he’s now over 16 hands… he’s very large. But my goal with him, he is really kind of just started under saddle. He’s just turned four. I’d have to go back and look at the calendar, which is kind of handy because I could tell you roughly how many times I’ve ridden him now. And basically my goal with him on the days that I work him is to have him lunge around me.

[00:10:08] I have him walk two times around me on the lunge line, trot 10 times around me on the lunge line, lope 10 times around me on the lunge line. And then I reverse and do the same thing the other way. And then I put away the lunge line and lunge with and I go over to the mounting block and I climb up on the mounting block and I call him over to me. So he side passes over and I mount up and then we walk two laps, trot six laps, lope three laps and then reverse and do the same thing the other way. So it’s not a really intense thing. You know, sometimes if I want to mix things up a little bit inside of the trot laps, I might do. I’ll pick a number. If you haven’t caught on yet, I’m really into numbers. Inside of that trot, six laps, I might decide that I want to do 10 walk trot transitions (some days).

[00:11:06] Now, I don’t do that every day. Like sometimes I’ll be like, I’m going to have a transition phase that I’m gonna go through. And usually remember I just said this was a little goal. So usually this is like the foundation thing. This this walk to trot 10, lope 10 on. Lunge line, walk to trot six, lope three. When I’m riding him, that’s gonna be like the base and then I’m going to have some kind of a goal that I’m doing inside of there. So the goal today was I’ve got one into my arena that he has decided is scary. He’s never been ridden down at that end. And it’s that everybody has their in their indoors, right. Like that one. And all the horses are like, oh, my gosh. And it helps a lot that the Amazon packages keep getting delivered into my arena. I told him to leave him in the door. So we have this like giant peek-a-boo game with the Amazon delivery guy. So the horses are like that door randomly opens. And what that means is that my goal today, instead of doing a lot of transitions, was just nice, smooth laps. And so I’ll probably keep that for about six rides. I’ll probably just have nice smooth laps. And but if I look back a couple weeks, I was doing a lot of transitions. So inside of my walk, too, I probably would have just walked too. But inside of my trot, six laps, I was doing like 10 walk trot transitions. So even though is primarily walking the six laps, I would come down to a walk walk for let’s just say 30 feet and then go back up to the trot. And so I was working on transitions inside of that, those trot laps.

[00:12:42] But basically, these are these little mind games that I’m kind of giving myself these little tiny goals, even though the overall working of him isn’t that complicated. But the thing is, I know the power of consistency as a professional horse trainer for decades. I’ve seen what it does when you’re really consistent. And I really learned this by riding horses professionally, because when you have a client paying you, you have that external I’m going to call it pressure. Or in that last podcast, Ginny called it that external locus of control. But this external power was kind of telling me that I needed to ride those horses consistently. And it taught me a lot because I’ll tell you, it’s a lot easier to skip your own horses. So I’m kind of thankful that I went through that phase of training outside horses for people. But back on to my current routines with my horses.

[00:13:41] One of the other things that I’m doing, like with Willow and Gabby, they happen to be usually close enough in training that I can have a similar theme for them. And that kind of helps me out because I just want to keep things simple and I don’t want to have totally different themes for each horse. But Willow’s more advanced than Gabby, but I can still have the same theme.

[00:14:03] And for me, the last couple of weeks has been the theme of impulsion or go forward. And what that means to me is that you’ve heard me say in some of the other podcasts that, you know, make mistakes, like learn to make mistakes, learn to forgive yourself, learn to embrace the idea that it’s not all gonna go perfect. But what I mean by this is that with the impulsion being my main focus, that means that I’m looking for that almost as my number one. Both of these are very safe horses, but basically I’m saying I’m willing to sacrifice some of the other things that traditionally people would want. All of it. So very frequently people are like, “I want it all.” So Willow and Gabby are both working on lead changes right now. And that requires a lot of impulsion. And they have to be kind of quick moving off my legs. They have to just say, “yes, ma’am”, and they have to go and they have to move. But they can’t be, you know, tense and they can’t lack rhythm. But at the end of the day, it gets kind of. There’s a lot of layers going on. And I finally was just like, you know, the layer for this, I’m just going to say two weeks is impulsion. So if anything, I want them to make the mistake of having a lot of impulsion. So maybe they get a little bit stiffer in their face, like in the way that they feel on the broader range.

[00:15:27] Maybe they get a little bit stiffer. I’m willing to accept that mistake because I want impulsion even more and I don’t expect them to be perfect. Can you imagine taking dance lessons from an instructor who says, “you can’t make any mistakes? I taught you that last week. Now you have to be perfect this week with that and I’ll introduce something new.”.

[00:15:47] But you can’t make any mistakes with any previously trained things that would not go well for me if it goes well for you. I want to see a video of your dancing. So, yes, I’ve watched a little bit too much of those dancing shows. Basically what I’m saying is I’ll pick a little mini goal. And so with Willow and Gabby, those mini goals or those little themes have been impulsion. And I’ll change that up like I actually just came before I change it to impulsion. It was actually softness. So they were really soft and reallybendy and soft in an almost too soft. Because I believe that’s a thing. But in getting that, I gave up some of the impulsion. So see how this goes. This is kind of like rocking that teeter totter. But now it’s getting a little more complicated. We’ve got a bunch of different layers going on here, but those are those little mind games that I play to keep myself motivated.

[00:16:44] Then it doesn’t feel like I’m just going out and doing the same thing every day, even though realistically I’m going out and doing very, very similar exercises every day, more 20 meter circles. Now, there’s a quote that I have loved for as long as I can remember, like the first time I heard it. I just thought it was amazing. And Zig Ziglar said it. And he said, “people often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing. That’s why we recommended daily.” OK, I enjoy it so much, I’m reading it one more time. “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.” And I agree so much with this. So figure out what motivates you. And I would suggest that you look around your life into areas that maybe there’s easier motivation. Maybe your one of the people that exercise kind of comes easy to. Or maybe you find, you know, the motivation to watch what you eat comes easier. Or maybe you find the motivation for, you know, reading books to come easier. And so look around and try to figure out what it is that’s motivating you and how that’s working in other areas of your life so you can carry that over to the horses. Now, another thing I’ve also heard people report very frequently in the summer is that when they come to my clinics, what they will tell me and I love it is that they signed up for the clinic.

[00:18:20] And people will do that typically, you know, several months out and they’ll sign up for the clinic and then they’ll show up at the clinic and they’ll say, I did more work in the last two months getting ready for the clinic than I have done in recent memory. And that’s what setting a big goal like going to a clinic can do. So that’s why some people set goals to go to horse shows or some people set goals to go on, you know, kind of big pack trips or go to a clinic or these different things. And the power that that has for me that I can see in my own life is that those bigger goals help set the little goals. And again, then that other little goal thing kind of stacks in there, because when you see a big picture thing further out, it’s easier to set those little goals. And then they start to kind of break into those little pieces of, like I was saying, impulsion or softness or, you know, the different laps with Presto, because having that end goal really helps. I personally track this stuff on the calendar, so I try, especially at this time of year, to look out into my summer and say, do I want to go to the Western Dressage World Show? And when would that happen? Do I want to go to the quarter horse Congress and when would that happen? And then I start to kind of back into those little goals.

[00:19:39] So let’s say I want to go like I did last year to the Western Dressage World Show. The next thing I do is I look up some of the Western dressage shows that will be around my area. And then I see let’s just say that there’s one in September and one in June and I’m sitting here in January. It can feel a little bit like I’ve got, you know, some time between now and June, but it starts to you can kind of keep backtracking. Well, maybe I should sign up for a couple of lessons in, you know, April and then you can kind of work your way backwards. And that can be very motivating. At least it is for me. Something that I do and I’m doing right now is I like to read books. And so I’m currently reading ‘Dressage in Harmony’ by Walter Zettl. And I work these things like I read the book and I highlighted I happen to have it on my Kindle and I highlight sections and I go out and I ride. This is the part I was talking about where I’ll be like reading at night.

[00:20:38] I’ll be so excited about something that I read and I want to go try. And then the next morning when it’s freezing cold, not quite so excited. That’s full confession. But then I go, I feel the Resistance and I go do the work. And I reread the highlighted passage and I go up and I try it. Then I come back in and I read that section again because I get more out of it. The second and the third time that I’ve read it and tried it and read it and tried it and read it and try to. And then most of the stuff that’s in there works pretty directly on Willow and Gabby because of their stage of training. But it’s also a really interesting assignment for me to read those things and then ride Presto and try to think about how these tiny little things like my walk/trot transitions on Presto how they’re going to play into the walk/canter, canter/walk transitions that then play into the lead changes. So these are the little things that get my mind kind of excited so that it’s easier to convince my body to go out and do the work. Another thing that a lot of people do and I do it too, is I’ll read something out of that dressage book and then I’ll go ahead. And if I’ve got some extra time at night, I will pull up a YouTube video like I’ll just search YouTube and see if I can find something explaining whatever I just read.

[00:22:03] And sometimes that helps because I can get that visual idea of it in my head and I can rewatch it if I really like it or if I’m not quite clear on it. You know, I’ll search around again if you have training videos like DVD that you’ve bought for training DVD. I have suggested from the very first time I started selling my training DVD, I’ve told people and I put up little signs when I’m at an expo and it says ‘watch on mute’, meaning that you should watch it and listen to it, but also go back and watch it and hit mute. And you can try this out with a YouTube video right after you get done listening to this podcast. And it’s really kind of interesting. If you hit mute and watch an instructional video of somebody riding, you will look with your eyes and see so much more then when you’re half watching and half listening. So even if you videotape yourself riding and it’s during a lesson and somebody is instructing you, it can be helpful to listen to that instruction while you’re watching the video. But then just hit mute and watch yourself riding because you’ll see a lot more of what’s going on and you can get a lot more value out of those DVD or those riding instruction lessons.

[00:23:24] I was just doing yoga last night and my husband walked in and he was like, ‘what?’ Because I said to the TV when I turned it on, (it’s a Rodney Yee video and it’s called a-m Yoga. And it kicked onto the autoplay thing.) And he’s like, ‘Hi, my name is Rodney Yee’. And I said, ‘Rodney, we’ve known each other for ten years now. I already know you. You don’t need to introduce yourself anymore.’ And my husband was like, what? And I’m like, I’m just talking to the DVD because this is what I do. But right after I said that, I said, how long have we had this DVD? And we agreed that we’ve had it close to 10 years. And my goal is to do it five times a week. Three is kind of my bare minimum. And when I fall below that, I actually feel a lot more sore. So, yes, I have been using the same DVD and it’s got five different, little like about 20 minute, you know, exercises on our yoga sessions, whatever we call the it’s got five different things that focuses on five different sessions. So I’ll do one sometimes. It’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Sometimes I go every other day. It just kind of depends on what’s going on in my life.

[00:24:38] But you can really get a lot out of things like this if you are willing to look at them over and over again. And in that last podcast, when Ginny brought up the idea of internal or external locus of control, you can Google that to get a more full definition of it. But the short piece of that that I want to discuss with you right now is paying attention to the phrases that you say when you’re struggling with motivation. So if it feels like your not motivated to ride, pay attention to how you’re saying that to yourself. So, for example, do you find yourself frequently saying. You know, ‘the weather’s bad, so I’m not going to ride today’ or do you say ‘I choose not to ride today.’ And now the weather could be bad and you could choose not to ride because of the weather. But what I’m going to do is I’m going to say give yourself the credit for that choice. I have found that incredibly helpful in my own life because it’s super subtle. But when you say the weather’s bad, so I’m not going to ride. It’s almost like blaming the weather. So it’s putting this external this external thing is controlling you. The weather is controlling you. Now, you could ask yourself, like, are you doing this because you like, there’s a danger. But even at that, I would still encourage you.

[00:26:04] Let’s just say it’s sheer ice outside and it would be craziness to ride. And you’re like, but it really is the weather. No, it’s really you deciding like give yourself the power of saying that you choose not to ride in these conditions. Not that these conditions make you not able to ride. I don’t know. It works for me. If it works for you, pick it up and use it if it doesn’t work for you. Let me know because I’m curious what does work because I love learning. So you’ll notice that these phrases will pop into your mind about all kinds of things outside of horses. So the dishes. I don’t know about you, but for me, dirty dishes make things pop up on my mind and exercise. Exercise is almost exactly the same thing for me as far as like Resistance, the Resistance to go exercise or that. What do you say to yourself when you’ve decided you want to eat in a certain way? So for me, I’ve tried to really reduce or almost I’ve gone through periods of completely eliminating sugar. But then it’s been the holidays. So how do I tell myself? What’s going on with that box of chocolates? Do I say? Well, my husband gave me those chocolates, so I’m going to eat them or do I say I choose to eat the chocolates today?

[00:27:30] Pay attention to how you phrase it, because when you can change overall and see it in your whole life, I feel the impact. Much stronger in my riding. Thanks so much for your question. You helped motivate me. And thank you all for listening. And I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Bareback and Bridleless Freestyle ride on Roxy

1 Comment

  1. Chrissy E on January 31, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    Hi Stacy!
    I just finished listening to this podcast today between trips to and from the barn and had to take a minute to chime in and say thank you!!! Winter is the season where my horse gets all his work right now as I pasture him during the grazing season 95 miles away, but when I board in the winter he’s only 12 miles from home and 4.5 from work (my husband and I will start building this year and once moved the horses will be on our own property). I maximize our time together when he’s close and set a goal for riding (or sometimes groundwork) a minimum of three days a week. Since he’s going to be 18 this spring and he and I have worked together all of his years of life, we’ve done a lot together, and quite frankly, sometimes I feel a little unmotivated myself- especially when I have to spend time in the car just getting to him and getting back home. I was feeling like that again earlier this week, but a bit harder this morning.
    Since he’s only a few miles up the road from work, I also usually take my Friday lunch break to go out there and work him (bareback) and usually am raring to go. Today I wasn’t, because I didn’t know what I’d give him to do in the 30 minutes we’d have.
    Lots of valuable tips in this episode, but your honesty and transparency in sharing you, too, feel this way sometimes- that helped me more than anything! (I felt so bad about feeling like this, so it’s great to know I’m not alone!)
    In fact, now I’m more excited than ever to delve into researching the biomechanics of some gait related things I’ve noticed in him over the years… maybe I’ll discover even more things we can work on next to help him improve!

    Thank you so much for your always-awesome podcast!


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