Episode 112: Can you have relationship AND results with your horse?


If you were forced to choose between having a great relationship with your horse OR getting big results…which would you choose?
Relationship OR results?
Do you think you have to choose…or do you think you can have both?
Today I’m explaining how I get BIG RESULTS…while still keeping the relationship the main thing.
I’ll teach you how to prioritize your thinking so you can have a better relationship & bigger results.

Full Transcript

Episode 112_ Can you have relationship AND results with your horse_.mp3

Announcer: [00:00:03] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill, this is the Stacy Westfall podcast. Stacy’s goal is simple: to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.

Stacy Westfall: [00:00:23] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy, and successfully train your own horses. Today, I’m going to share with you how I balance the idea of having a good relationship with my horse and getting results. I think this is an area that you would benefit from thinking about, too, because if you ask yourself this question: Do I believe I can have a good relationship with my horse and ask for big results? It could be really revealing. Let me ask it one more time and just feel the answer in your body, like do you tighten up as I’m asking? Like, what’s your first response? Do I believe I can have a good relationship with my horse and ask for big results? If you kind of feel excited about that and curious about that, then maybe you’re a little bit more open to it. But even I know I recognize that my gut reaction to that, if I catch myself off guard with that question is, maybe not. Is, maybe I have to pick. And here’s why I think it’s so important for you to explore. This is because I know one thing. I know that my clients…I know that they value relationship and that could be whatever word you want to put around it–communication, understanding. I know my clients value relationship above results. And what that means is if you’re forced to choose, do you want a relationship or do you want results? I know the majority of my clients pick a relationship. The really cool thing about that is I’m in that same category. If I’m forced to choose between relationship or results, I’m going to pick a relationship, and I don’t have a problem saying that. But here’s the super cool thing. Once I realized that’s what my brain is doing, I then can just question, do I believe it’s an either or? Or do I think I can have both? I believe I can have both, but on a bad day when I’m not being really intentional, my mind might try to sell me on the idea that I have to pick one or the other. So what I’m going to do in this podcast is I’m going to share with you my goals with my horses, some of the results that I want, and my thinking around that to show you with real life examples how I overcome this, because I hope it can help you.

Stacy Westfall: [00:03:26] So let’s first start out with what my ultimate big goal is, and then we’re going to go to my secondary goals and then we’re going to talk about how I might pivot if things are getting off track, let’s say, due to a horse being lame or something like that. And I’ll talk a little bit about goal stacking. So. This is the first big concept: I want to make the big things the little things and I want to make the little things, the big thing. Let me explain so you might be able to follow that. Ok, when I think about the most important thing to me with my horses. I think time spent with them, enjoying them, and communicating with them. That is my biggest thing. Now, I also have goals. And a lot of these goals or these results are things that other people would call big things. So let’s say earning my silver medal in traditional dressage with Willow. That sounds like a pretty big thing, big goal. Earning reining money, NRHA reining money, with Gabby, that sounds like a pretty big goal. Showing Presto at a live, actual, in person show. That sounds like a big goal. But what I’m saying is my main thing is my big goal. So my main thing is my big thing. And that big thing happens to be time spent with my horses, enjoying them, and communicating with them. These other goals that people traditionally want to call big goals, these show type goals, those are the little things. To make it a little bit more clear, the show goals, I’m going to call them the icing on the cake. So for me, the cake or the big thing would be the actual time spent with the horses. The little thing, the icing on the–it would be nice to have, but it’s it’s not the end thing. So the little thing are actually these show goals that a lot of times people think are the big thing. Now, I think the next thought that comes up to me that I could hear somebody asking would be, well, if your big thing is spending time with your horses and enjoying them and communicating with them, why don’t you just do that and don’t set the goal of the silver medal or the reining money? Why would you set those, “big goals”? Why would you set those show goals, especially if they look like they’re kind of hard to get to? Why would you do that if your main thing is time spent enjoying them and communicating with them? Well, do you remember back in one of the podcasts–it’s come up in all kinds of podcasts–do you remember when I’ve talked about the idea of life having a cycle? Well, I’ve done podcasts where I talked about training cycles when you’re training the horses and then even when I’ve talked about goals or different things, I’ve talked about seasons of life. So this very cycle oriented kind of thinking, because I think that’s a life thing. I think that’s a I think that’s something you can observe in the world, this idea of cycles. And when I think of cycles like that, I love to visualize like a heartbeat monitor. So it’s got these up and down, up and down. So when I think about spending time with my horses and enjoying them and communicating with them, that’s my big goal. But the challenge is, if I just go out there and do the same thing every day, we all get bored. What relationship do you have where that’s not true? Like relationships grow, people grow, horses grow. And when you have a relationship it’s very beneficial, in my experience, that you have these goals and these things that you’re working towards, because that’s actually what fuels the little things, which for me is going to the barn every day and being with the horses. So it’s easier for me to fuel the–the little thing of going to the barn every day, which is really the big thing. It’s easier to fuel the little action of taking action every day with my horses by having the show goal and the cycle that’s going to be created by that than it is if I just simply go out there. Because if I just simply go out there, I can just simply go out there and enjoy their being. And I really, truly can. I can go sit in the barn and listen to them chew hay and I can clean the stall and I can really enjoy that. But I’ve experimented with it and I can really, truly enjoy that deeply, but only for a time period. And then I start getting kind of bored and my mind kind of wanders. And so I want something else to be doing with them, aside from just sitting with them. Because don’t get me wrong, that is a beautiful thing to do. But it’s not all I want my relationship to be with them for the next 20 years because that gets kind of boring if there’s nothing else going on with it. So these show show goals that are the icing on the cake, those actually helped fuel my bigger ultimate goal, which is the time spent with them building relationship.

Stacy Westfall: [00:09:31] Now, there is another way that I have seen people build relationship with their horses and you might run into it, but it is not one you would typically choose, but it also illustrates this kind of well. So, when I’ve seen people with horses that get sick or injured that is another time that I have found I spend a lot of time with my horses. And what’s really fascinating, if you think about it, if you’ve got a horse and that horse, let’s say it gets injured. Sick, injured, doesn’t matter. Let’s just say the horse gets injured. Now you’re out in the barn, you’re clearly not going after show or trail riding goals, you’re, you’re just nursing this horse back to health. And let’s just say the horse has to have stall rest and hand walking. You know what happens? A lot of time spent with a very specific goal of getting them better and lots of little steps that you’re vet or farrier or a combination of both gave you. And you know what’s really interesting? Oftentimes the relationship with your horse grows during that moment because, like it or not, you got a very specific set of conditions, a goal, lots of steps, and time on a regular basis with your horse. Now, personally, I’d rather set more fun goals than nursing the injured horse back. And so when I’m setting my goals, I’m setting them with that same intentionality that that idea that I’m going to set a bigger goal. So in the injury case, that’s like nursing the horse back to health is the big goal. And then I’ve got all these little steps that have been assigned to me by the veterinarian. Hey, I’m going to be a little more proactive and I’m going to set some kind of a big goal, that I can look forward to, not the injury thing. I’m going to set a big goal that I can look forward to and that’s going to be what drives the little actions of going to the barn every day. It’s going to be what fuels that conversation. Because here’s another little nugget for you: If you go to the barn without a plan, one of you will be making a plan for that day. Either you are making a plan for that day or your creative horse that had 23 hours to think about nothing but chewing hay and what you were going to do next. Your horse will come up with a plan for you. One of you gets to come up with the plan. So if you don’t do it, your horse will take control and be like, hey, I’ve got some ideas. How about if we try this? So I like to make the plan. I like to be the one that’s kind of leading them on, showing them the next best thing we’re going to do. So with that in mind, with the idea that my ultimate big goal is time spent with the horses and my icing on the cake is the show goals or could be trail riding goals. I think you guys heard that illustrated well in the trail season. Those are going to be the icing on the cake. Those are the little things. So it’s completely flip flopped backwards. Let’s look at my actual horses and some of the things that come up when I’m when I’m talking myself through this.

Stacy Westfall: [00:12:52] So in 2021 when I look at Presto I quickly made a list of some things that I wanted to accomplish with him this year. These icing on the cake kind of goals that are going to drive my my big goal, which is my little goal of being there every day. So the first things I jotted down, I jotted down show him at a live dressage show. Trail ride him. Haul to places and ride so that he could have experience traveling and being ridden at new places. Teach him one trick using clicker training. Trail ride. Yep, I know, I wrote it down twice. There it is again. That must mean it means something and teach him to neck rein. So those are the things that I jotted down. I only gave myself a couple minutes and I wrote those down real quick and…that’s boom, there it is on paper. Now, even as I was trying to write it, but I’ve got some practice in this, I tried to write it without letting–I’m going to call it my toddler brain–I let it–I wrote it without letting my toddler brain talk during that little exercise. But here, when I looked at the list again, here’s what my immature part of my brain wants to say about those goals. When I write down that with Presto I want to show him at a live dressage show, my toddler brain, my immature brain wants to say he’s never even worn the saddle. You don’t even know if the saddle fits him. You don’t have an English bridle for him. And then I go to the next one and I read trail ride and my immature brain says, you’ve already done that. Why would you put that as a goal? And then I write haul to places to ride, travel experience, and my immature brain says, too easy. Why would you even set that as a goal? And I write down, teach one trick using clicker training and my brain just says, why? Got a real sarcastic tone, by the way, for that one. Why? And then I wrote down trail ride again and my brain’s like, uh duh, done that, again. Like, why are you doing this again? And then I wrote down teaching him to neck rein, and my brain really had a problem with that one. It was like, why can’t you see he looks like an English horse? Why would he even need to neck rein? I mean he’s probably going to only ever be ridden in that English saddle, which by the way, he’s never worn, and you don’t have a bridle for him. Can you see how the immature part of my brain wants to shoot holes in this before I even get started. I want to share that with you because I don’t have an answer to how to totally stop the toddler brain from happening. I can momentarily stop it. I can stop it for the five minutes of making a list, but I actually don’t want to resist it. I actually want to hear it out at some point because I can hear it out now and kind of almost laugh at it and be like, yes, that’s right. I haven’t tried this out a lot and I know how to conquer that problem when we get there so my adult brain can make these decisions and have these ideas. And then my toddler brain, the immature part of my brain, can still have its opinions. So the big takeaway from sharing with you some of my goals for Presto for 2021 is that, you know, remember my biggest thing with it? My biggest goal is my daily work with him. That’s the big thing. All the rest of these goals are the icing on the cake. So it’s backwards. Got that, toddler brain? It’s backwards.

Stacy Westfall: [00:16:46] Now, let’s look at Gabby, some of the things that I want to do with Gabby this year. I want to earn NRHA National Reining Horse Association, so I want to earn money with her in reining. That means I’m going to have to win money at a reining show with her. Which, by the way, means I need to take her to a show. And she hasn’t been to a reining show yet. I want to show her at USDF recognized show. And so that would be the United States Dressage Federation. So like, I want to show her in an actual recognized dressage show, I want to trail ride her, I want to make progress on my liberty work, and I want to show her in Western Dressage. So pretty big things, but remember, the actual big thing is the little thing of the daily work. These are our show goals. These are icing on the cake goals. These are goals that will inform me of what I will be working on during those daily rides. Now, what’s interesting is that if I sense a possible conflict as I list goals, the goals that are the icing on the cake things, if I sense a possible conflict, I don’t resist that. I–I notice it and I recognize it and I look at it and then I pick one that’s going to be the primary. So on Gabby’s list, the two that are pretty big and could potentially conflict would be earning the reining money and showing at the dressage shows. So those have a little bit higher likelihood of having a conflict where the trail riding or making progress on liberty work or showing in Western dressage, Those all can fit underneath either the training or the dressage. I’m just not quite as sure because Gabby gets to have some say in this how far I can go with the reining versus going with the dressage. Not because I think that in the long run they’re a conflict, but I do think sometimes when you’re doing things in a shorter amount of time, in a year, with a horse Gabby’s age–she’s five coming six–is to me, there’s a little bit more of a chance of I don’t want to feel rushed into both of those. So I know that any time I feel a possible conflict coming up, I’m going to have one of those that’s primary. So for Gabby, that’s going to be reining. So reining will trump, or be above, the dressage, but I want them both. Can you hear how this is very similar thinking to what I started with when I said relationship and results? If back pressed to the wall, I’m going to pick relationship, but I think I can have both relationship and results. So in this results or results category, I’m still going to openly admit that there’s one that’s a little bit more primary. Now, Gabby’s a perfect example of this because last year I picked reining as Gabby’s primary and I was on track with that. And then she got an abscess in the early summer, late spring, early summer. And the abscess happened and it healed. And I thought it was all over. But I kept sensing when I was riding or something wasn’t quite right. And so I had this vague lameness that would come and go and I’d rest then I’d not. And it was like back and forth. And then I went ahead and took her to the vet and found out that this abscess had actually gone up the quarter line of her hoof, which made what they call the blind quarter crack. Well, I lost about 2 months in the back and forth of, there’s an abscess. She’s right, she’s not quite right, she’s better, she’s not better. I take her to the vet and then the vet skillfully, I’m going to say, carved her hoof–the wall–all the way up. So it was no longer a blind quarter crack. It went very high up. And he even told me it was going to take months for that to grow back down. Well, when that happened, I was–I made the decision to pivot away from reining because I felt that the higher impact during the sliding stop because of the way that she’s learning, plus it’s a pretty big move if you run at speed and ask them to do a sliding stop, the hind end slides, but the front end goes into this really big trot that’s also slowing them down. So there’s just a degree of impact. That’s a reality with doing that. It’s like weightlifting has a reality of lifting weights. There’s a resistance there that’s going to be true at some level. And so to me, there was a higher physical impact during the sliding stop and I didn’t want to do that with her hoof wall compromised. So I wanted her hoof wall to be fully regrown. So even though reining was my primary focus, just as it will be this year, I pivoted away from reining and over to Western dressage because at this point, I’m really, really confident that the Western dressage is an amazing foundation for the training. And so I actually feel like the Western dressage was helping support the reining goal during a time when she was injured and I couldn’t actually do the impact of training. And then the super cool thing is that I showed her at the Western Dressage World Show online and Gabby won 2 of the classes and was a Reserve Champion in another. And we won the overall high point for the entire level, Level 2. That’s not bad for pivoting away from the main goal. But remember, these are all the icing on the cake goals. Here’s the crazy, crazy part when I was nursing her back to health. I was still achieving my main goal of building my relationship with her and spending time with her. Isn’t that crazy stuff? I was still achieving my main goal while she was injured. And I honestly think this is why when I pivot away, I wasn’t real hung up on that show goal because that’s the icing on the cake. That’s what’s pointing me in the direction I want to be working towards. But because I wasn’t hung up on it, I didn’t lose a lot of energy in this like mind drama of what am I going to do? It’s so out of my control. It’s so hard. I didn’t have any of that. It was just a super clean decision. Oh, I so want to give that to you guys. I hope that you could grab hold of that nugget and take it into your life. It is solid gold. I want to make sure I remember it too.

Stacy Westfall: [00:24:09] OK, so Gabby, that is what I’m going to do with her and then with Willow–Willow, a little older, and she’s been around here and so she gets a lot stacked on her plate. So when I made my list with Willow, I’ve got, earn silver medal in traditional dressage. So we have to do Fourth Level and Prix St Georges to do that. And we have to get scores above a certain percentage under a certain number of judges. So earn silver medal in traditional dressage. Earn reining money at NRHA shows–show or shows. Ride in a working equitation clinic. Trail ride, take lessons, enter an online show for feedback and show in Fourth Level Western Dressage and make Level 4-3 and 4-4 feel easy. Last year when I was doing them, 4-3 and 4-4 did not feel easy. I just want them to feel doable, easy, and easy is one of those words in this context is going to definitely be like I know what it feels like in my body when I say easy because it’s not going to feel easy like sitting down and having a cup of coffee or going on a trail ride. But it’s going to feel easy as in, doable, achievable with a certain level of flow, and without a certain level of tension. That’s what I’m going for there. So, now interesting. Remember, my main goal is still relationship. My secondary goal are these results. And what’s interesting about Willow is Willow is a good example of this goal stacking idea. So my goals from one year to the next have built on each other. If you happen to see my more recent blog post, it’s on my website, it’s on Facebook, it’s on some of these things, YouTube. But you can always find all of my stuff on my blog. If I post it on Facebook, I post it on my blog. And so recently on my blog, I put a video that I had made when I was showing Willow in 2019 towards a lot of my dressage goals when we earned my bronze medal. And Willow is a perfect example of the goal stacking, because when I bought her back when she was a 4-year-old, my first goal was just to start her under saddle and get her riding. And she was so little and scrawny at the time. I thought she was just going to be like a kid’s pony somewhere. I would just get her trained enough that I could find a small child that wanted a horse. And then as she physically grew and matured, I decided that she got big enough and strong enough that she could easily carry me. And so then I started adding in trail riding goals, and I spent an entire year trail riding her here at the state park behind my house. My goal was, if it hasn’t rained too much to ride on the trail, I ride that day on the trail and that’s what I did all summer with her. And so that really helped build her up physically and mentally. We went from spooking at every chipmunk, which there are hundreds of them on a ride, to the fact that she was super confident. So that goal, I feel like, is still the base of these show goals that I have with her. And so they have walked–I’ve walked my way up through with stacking these goals. So when I stack even more, the silver medal, the reining money, the working equitation, when I stack all those different things on there, again, it’s not scary to me because I understand that all of these are leading me into a deeper relationship with her. Now, if I were forced to pick with her, somehow–if I somehow ended up restricted, somehow I would choose to put my primary focus on the silver medal and being able to say that clearly gives me clarity when I go out to ride. So it means that all the other goals–so when I look at my list, I see a silver medal, reining money, equitation clinic, trail ride, lessons, online show, Fourth Level Western dressage. All of those easily point towards the silver medal with the possible exception of the reining money. Because the only question there is how high level can Willow and I both go at the same time while we’re both learning in dressage and reining? How high can we go? I don’t know the answer to that. I do detect a possible slight conflict because some of the things like asking for the sliding stop versus asking for the dressage halt, I’ve already had moments where that’s kind of popped up in the show pen, the show arena, like I’ve been trotting down through centerline and done a halt in dressage and gotten a little bit of a slide. And they call it abrupt with a slight loss of balance. Well, in these upper levels, I’m going to be cantering down through and halting. So how much can I really tune up the sliding stop for a reining show and not ask for the sliding stop during the dressage halt? I totally know it’s possible. I’m just not sure if it’s possible for us to both memorize it to a high enough level that I won’t make the mistake of cueing her incorrectly or that she won’t make the mistake of jumping the gun, guessing the wrong one. So I see a possible wobbly conflict there. That’s where it’s very important for me to say to myself, which one’s primary? And I’m declaring the primary one is the silver medal. Therefore, if I’m not sure the first thing I do is I move more slowly. So I’m sure about the silver medal. That I will move towards clearly. If I’m going to slow something down, I’m going to slow down the possible conflict that would be happening from the reining because that’s my secondary. So that one I might accept slower results in or, if I felt necessary, I could completely remove it from the table because there is a reality that there are possible places where there could be a conflict. And so it’s more clear to me, like back when I was riding Popcorn and I wanted to add in mounted shooting or Willow, I actually think Willow could be really good at mounted shooting and I haven’t had another mounted shooting horse since Popcorn. Now Popcorn was able to do a very good job of transitioning from reining, dressage, mounted shooting, he could go back and forth. So I could do mounted shooting and then do dressage and he didn’t have a problem going back and forth like that. I don’t know the answer for Willow. But like for Willow right now, where she’s at mentally, I wouldn’t want to open her up wide for mounted shooting and then expect her to come back for the reining. So that one for me, if I was going to put that–something like that–on the table with her where there was more wide open speed–that’s one of the big differences I see if there’s more wide open speed there and some of the ways that I cue, I want to move that, I would slide that further down. That would be–I might–for me with Willow I’ll slide that a couple of years out from now. So I’m doing that and I bring that up so that you can see where there’s sometimes I can have something on the possibility. Like I do think she could be a really zippy quick little mounted shooting horse and I think she would kind of enjoy it. But I’m going to slide that out a couple of years because these other ones, so the dressage and the reining, the silver medal and the reining money, there’s a possible conflict. But it’s a small or more minute difference than adding in something more high speed, like the mounted shooting. But either way, any time I see these possible conflicts, I just move more slowly. And so not a big deal. It doesn’t mean I have to take the reining fully off the table. I actually think they’re going to help each other, but I just don’t know the answer because I haven’t proven it. But the cool thing is I’m open to exploring it. Willow and I will explore without any fear. We will explore the boundaries of how high level can we go in traditional, classical dressage and training? Because I know that no matter how it turns out those are just the icing on the cake. I’m still reaching my main goal of building a relationship with her on a daily basis, which is actually a result. So I have both available to me, relationship and results. This is so cool and I want to tell you, these are both available to you too. I love to set big goals and little goals. You’ve just got to remember which is which. Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Announcer: [00:33:58] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit stacywestfall.com For articles, videos, and tips to help you and your horse succeed.

Links mentioned in podcast:

Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac-Episode 13-Training Cycles in horse training: Physical and Emotional


  1. Kerry O'Brien on January 9, 2021 at 12:09 pm

    Thanks for this. Been watching a couple of trainers talk about their goal setting and event scheduling. Yes, it’s January and time to think about and get excited! In total drought here, so I can actually ride and train outside. Unheard of for Jan. But, am getting hip replaced so they all will get a good break in Feb. Hope to be back in the saddle within six weeks… of course my personal fitness training going into surgery is a big goal now, as will be rehab. Love that you place your relationship with them first, but also understand being goal driven. I need the structure or training gets too sloppy AND boring. I too like to “test” what we’ve learned. This year hope to get my Sulphur mustang under saddle. But first working on her claustrophobia about the trailer. Sparkle and I will do the local schooling shows, hopefully a working EQ clinic, and next year!!! hope to have a trailer big enough to haul them both to some sanctioned shows. Wish I was forty years younger!!!

  2. Lori Bradley on January 7, 2021 at 12:55 am

    Explaining your methodology behind the goals for each horse helps me become more specific and “SMART” about my goals with my own horse. Thank You Stacy & Team!

Leave a Comment

Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get the latest content and updates by email.