Episode 101- Reflect, reset, move forward with understanding.


How often do you take time to reflect on your journey with your horse?
Here is a quote to guide this podcast, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
I have three distinct times of the year when I reflect and reset in regards to my horses. I’ve developed this rhythm due to seasonal changes, holidays, the horse show calendar, and what I’ve noticed when training horses.

Full transcript

Episode 101- Reflect, reset, move forward with understanding.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. This podcast is going to be about reflecting, reviewing, and resetting goals. I’m going to start the podcast with a little bit of feedback from last week and then I’m going to dive into a quote and kind of the–the way that I look at this reflecting and reviewing process. So first, I would like to thank everyone for the feedback after Episode 100. I definitely got a lot of comments that people had tissues out and that you had lots of pieces of it that resonated with you, like losing horses that you love and the struggles that I shared and the idea of feeling discouraged around, you know, horses that you just haven’t been able to show the world how amazing they are or soundness issues and big dreams that you have for your horses. And so I think that will be something that I will reflect on even more in podcasts going forward, because that to me is something that’s constantly coming up. As I’m out working with horses, there’s always this tension for me between what I can feel for potential with the horses and what I can actually fully realize. And there’s always a limiting factor there. And I think sometimes it’s hard for people if they feel like they are the limiting factor, because I get a lot of people that come ride with me and they feel like they’re the limiting factor because of maybe their lack of education in training a horse. But it’s equally as frustrating, I think, when you hit any kind of a setback like that. So like with Gabby and like a physical setback, like a limitation like that, I just want to let you know, without going too deeply into this subject today, that there’s always one. There’s always an area where that’s happening. And that’s why I like that that 4 square model that I talk so much about in the earlier podcasts, where there’s there’s the riders mind, the riders body, the horses mind, the horses body. And I think if you look at it, you’ll find that those are the 4 areas where we end up hitting a wall when we feel like we want to go somewhere bigger. And it feels like there’s–it’s not happening. And let’s just use the soundness like Gabby’s soundness problem right now with that, where we can clearly see that that fits into the horse’s body. And so when you’re looking at these and you’re asking the question about how do you accept these limitations and how do you process that feeling, where if like somebody wrote in and said, it breaks my heart that my horse has this potential, but he might not be able to show the world how amazing it is. And to me, that’s always happening on a minor scale somewhere. Some horses, it feels bigger with, like with a horse that you really, really want to show. Like, again, I’ll use Gabby’s example. I really want to show the world what I think she’s capable of. But there’s generally–all the horses you hit these limiting things and it’s going to be in one of those quadrants. So the harder ones for me to accept sometimes are the physical ones, because, you know, you can spend a lot of time educating yourself or educating your horse more, but when you hit some of the soundness issues, those ones tend to be a little bit more black and white feeling to me. Although I definitely have a lot of people that come and ride with me that feel like their lack of knowledge is the wall that’s holding things back. But I’m telling you, that’s an easier one to move sometimes than if you’ve got the horse that’s unsound. Doesn’t feel like it. Trust me, I put myself out there to become a learner in all kinds of situations and learning is painful. And so I’m with you on the frustration of, of that. But there are– just know for now, all 4 quadrants are alive and well. Each one is a possibility for where you could be hitting that wall when you’re trying to show the potential, and know that in general you will always hit one of those 4 walls.

Stacy Westfall: [00:05:00] And so that’s a piece of the answer of how I accept that limitation, because it’s something that if you listen to all the early podcasts, that if you listen to those with that thread of like, there’s an end to…there’s kind of a peak of each of those four squares, the rider’s mind, the rider’s body, the horse’s mind, the horse’s body. And that’s the game of life, is finding that balance. And so the reason I wanted to record this podcast right now about reflecting, reviewing and resetting is because I know that October is always a time when I naturally do this. And I naturally do this in October, maybe because of the place that I live on the planet, meaning that this is a change of season in October is when we transition into a rainy, colder season. And it’s also because of that, in my area, when the trail riding comes to an end or at least tapers down drastically because of the mud and the cold. And then it’s also the end of the traditional horse show season around me because of all of the same things. And then it’s also the beginning of the holiday season. So Thanksgiving and Christmas and all of that is coming up. And so for me, I always experience October as the end of a bunch of my goals for the year, which naturally kicks me into reflecting and reviewing and resetting. So for this podcast, I would like to reference a quote that says, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.” I love it. I love it. I’m going to read it again. “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” So in this podcast, I’m going to explain to you how I have three different touch points throughout the year, plus the time in January when I set goals. And I’m going to see if that’ll help you as you move through your year. I’m also very curious to know if you live in a different part of the world. I know I have people that live in, you know, the U.S. that live in warmer climates. So you’ve got a different experience going on there. I know I have people that are all over the world. So I just read an email from somebody from Australia this morning. So I’m curious to know if you guys notice a seasonal change or if you notice it more based on things like holidays or things like that. But I am curious to know the other experiences that happen around the world, to see which parts we share in common like that and which parts we don’t. Because I do know that I’ve got a friend in Florida and it’s getting warmer and warmer down there for her. And I’m up here getting colder and colder.

Stacy Westfall: [00:08:09] So, my 2020 horse goals. I want to review those as I tell you about this reset moment that I have that happens in October. First, let me tell you my 3 reset time periods that I notice and have given a little bit of thought to why they happen, but they’re definitely not calendar driven. They’re definitely more seasonally driven or horse show driven. So October right now is one of those reflect and reset moments. For me, January tends to be when I set a lot of my goals for the year. Then, in about March or April, is another reflecting moment. Then, in the end of June or beginning of July, is another reset moment. And I think the reason that I developed this kind of flow to my year was largely around both weather and horse shows. So for me, October is the end of the big riding time outside. I just said, you know, like trail riding ends because of the weather, horse shows tend to peak. I live in Ohio. The Quarter Horse Congress happens in October. So there’s this big year-end thing that has happened for decades in my life now. So I think that has naturally established it. I’ll briefly talk about the other moments just because I think it’s interesting. January tends to be when I set a lot of goals, because I like giving myself the time from now until January to let that kind of brew in the back of my mind while I’m doing all the holiday stuff. Also, January tends to be when a lot of the other things like, like the horse shows start to set their dates. And so then it’s easier for me to plan my year when I have all those dates in writing. Of course, I’m talking like, you know, a non-COVID year, but we’re just going to pretend the majority of my life has been lived in a non-COVID year. So we’re going to pretend that’s going to be where it will get back to. So January, I can usually see some of the moving pieces that I don’t have control over, like when a horse show is going to happen, or some of those different things. So that is where I like to begin. I actually manage to get a lot of horse training done in that January, February, March time period. And if I consistently ride the horses in those 3 months, the reason why that March/April reset is kind of another reflect moment is because sometimes I have noticed in the past that I’ve been able to get more of a jump start on the year, because it tends to be a slower time of year for other things. And I have an indoor riding arena where I live. So a lot of times by the time I get to March or April, I might be pleasantly surprised with where I’m at. So I do like to review it again there just to make sure that I kind of maybe can tweak some of those goals that I had set in January. Maybe I’m a little bit ahead of schedule, or maybe I’ve run into a soundness thing, but I like to reset right around there. And then I kind of just put my head down and go to work again and I kind of pop up again at the end of June or beginning of July, because, again, that is giving me another big chunk of time to work the horses. If I started showing really early in the year, then that means I’ve got a fair amount of showing done and a lot of times I need a break by the time I get there so that, you know, end of June, beginning of July time period tends to be when I might schedule that time to reflect and take a break. And then I kind of put my head down and go back to work and don’t look up again until about this time of the year. And so I think it’s developed over the years due to some of the seasonal aspect of where I live in and riding, but also the showing aspect of of living around here. And then the trail riding again is very seasonal. So it goes along with it. So that’s kind of how I tend to break up my year. So you guys are listening to me right right in one of those moments when I’m reflecting over kind of the whole year.

Stacy Westfall: [00:12:50] I’m not ready to set my January goals yet, but I am ready to reflect on what I did or did not accomplish in 2020. This is important to me because it helps me do a better job of setting the goals in January. Another thing I’ve learned about myself is I do much better if I reflect on it right now, while it’s still fresh in my mind, rather than as I start to transition into not showing and riding in the indoor and Thanksgiving and Christmas and all of those different things that are going to take my mind in a slightly different direction, I always feel like at the end of the summer and that end of like fall in that peak weather for trail riding and showing there’s just this peak of a wave. And that’s when I like to hit pause and realize where I’m at and what I could do better, then sit on it and brew those ideas until January, set the goals and then go again. So I will actually, if all things go well, this time period is also really productive this November/December time period. It’s not quite as productive for me as the spring time period because of all the holiday stuff. But a lot of times I can get more done that I know in this little time period because of this reflective moment. And it gives me more information going into January. So let me briefly do a look back at what I had told myself about 2020 and and tell you some of the things I’ve learned that I’m going to be reflecting on when I reset my January goals.

Stacy Westfall: [00:14:31] So when I look back at my goals, the horse that I did the best goal setting with was Presto. And I was very specific that I wanted to be able to trail ride him this summer, and I wanted to be able to ideally trail ride him alone at some point. And so that made my goal very specific and measurable. So early on in the podcast, I did a podcast on SMART goals: specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound. And that’s what I did with Presto by saying I wanted to be able to trail ride him this summer, ideally alone, but I would have taken even just with another horse. So that meant that when I lost the trail riding season, like, let’s just say that trail riding season is kind of wrapping up for me right now. I would have had an end of, OK, it’s not possible anymore to trail ride. Therefore, I did or I did not achieve this goal. So it could have been even more time bound. But I think it’s fine to be within a season like that. And I know I did it because I took him out and I rode him with people and I took him out and I wrote him alone. So I reached it on multiple levels. And what’s interesting about it is, it had a distinct feeling, because I’d been so specific, there was almost that celebration feeling when I reached it, and I really enjoyed that. Now, with my other two horses, I was much more vague, I think that happened to me because I came off from last year, 2019, where I was very specific and I showed the horses a lot and rode the horses a lot and hauled them a lot. And so I had told myself that this year, even in January, I told myself, no show goals, which kind of worked out well since COVID hit. But, what happened with me was I wasn’t very specific. I kind of said stuff like this, I want to improve Willow’s lead changes and I want to take lessons with her. I want to improve Gabby in training and dressage. So if I look back at those goals, they are weak because they weren’t specific and measurable, they weren’t time bound, they really–even though I took action on them–it did not have any kind of a celebration feeling, having reached them because they weren’t specific enough. So if I look back at, improve Willow’s lead changes, technically 2 rides in after setting that goal, if I’d seen any improvement, which I did, I could have just called it done. And that’s not a very motivating goal for me because it was too vague.

Stacy Westfall: [00:17:23] Same thing with Gabby, you know, improving training and–and dressage. And that kind of, again, I guess I did it, but there was not that day like there was with Presto where I could say, yes, I have achieved that. And I want to make sure that in 2021 I set some goals that are much more specific, measurable, and actionable. So with Willow in the lead changes, looking back at it, because we’ve got to remember the quote, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.” So looking back at the goal with Willow in the lead changes, I think one of the reasons I wasn’t–reasons I wasn’t more specific with the lead changes was because I wasn’t quite sure what was an appropriate goal. Like can I take her and go from the lead changes I have right now to doing one tempis? Probably not. So not knowing where to set the goal, I let myself be vague on–on it. Hindsight, I could have easily at one of my dressage lessons said, what would be a good goal for my lead changes this year? And then immediately I would have had an answer from a more educated source and I could have set that as the goal, or I could have at least used that to then modify and set my own goal. I didn’t do any of that. That’s something I want to change going into 2021. Now, this one would have been totally easy to do. I had the goal with Willow to take lessons. Again, that one would have been the easiest one. I could have just picked a number of lessons. I could have been specific in any number of ways. It could have been specific with the number. It could have been specific with who I wanted to take the lessons from, could have been specific with how I wanted to take the lessons. Is that virtual, is that, you know, in person? I didn’t do any of that. And so that is something I will distinctly be improving because that would have been so easy to be able to check off a list and move down through and feel the progress that I was making. Now, inside of thinking about these goals and what I did and didn’t achieve, it’s interesting that with Presto I had that goal and then I actually kind of exceeded the goals with him because the ability to do the Western Dressage World Show online popped up and I went ahead and went with it. So I ended up actually showing, “showing Presto” for the first time by doing a virtual video of him riding in my indoor arena and submitting that to the show. So I think that’s pretty cool. And I did take that same opportunity with Willow and Gabby. And I immediately felt the improvement in my riding by having the specific goal of entering that show. So looking back at the idea that I had of not entering the show, I think that was completely fine. I just wish I had picked stronger non-showing goals. Could have been a number of miles that I rode on the trails. It could be a number of times I rode on the trails. It could have been a number of riding lessons I went to. It could have been the specific improvement at the riding lessons, like being able to do a lead change every 4 strides or something. I just wish I had been stronger with the goal setting because the goal setting that I accidentally did at the end when I entered the Western Dressage World Show was very eye-opening to let me see how well the goals help me ride. And so that’s something that I didn’t expect to learn. Another thing, when I’m reflecting back about this year and getting ready to think about how I set my January goals is, I didn’t expect to miss showing because I have a lot of anxiety around horse showing and this is a really cool learning that I didn’t expect to learn. I didn’t expect to be virtually showing. I didn’t–I’ve never even heard of it before this year. So I didn’t expect to virtually show my horse. And so what I learned when I showed my horses here at home making videos was that #1 I missed the aspect of really showing. Because I actually love seeing other people show their horses and I love the excitement that’s around it and the improvement that you can see and I miss that. But what I really learned too, aside from missing the specific target, which I’ve kind of already talked about, I didn’t realize until I tried horse showing at home how much of my show, “show baggage” is just my brain. Because apparently I can stress myself out at home just as easily as I can going to a show. So it turned out that I used to think it was the travel or the hotel or the hours of the show or the packing or the unpacking or the money spent or the winning or the losing. And what I learned by virtually showing is that it’s just my brain freaking out. Apparently, the stress from showing is just my brain freaking out and it doesn’t matter whether it’s happening at a real live horse show or at home. So what I learned about this is that I’m now going to treat myself like a horse. So I’ve now just discovered a weak area. I just discovered that I am a horse that’s spooking at a scary tarp. But it’s a tarp, and I know that the tarp is not scary, but then I forget the next day and I’m a spooked horse that scared of the tarp. Now, however, that I’m aware of this circle, now in 2021, I have a new goal. And it’s going to be to learn to manage my mind around shows. And that means I’m not going to avoid them, which I haven’t really avoided them in the past, but I haven’t gotten curious enough to get to the point where I really figure out why I’m bringing so much anxiety along with me to them. So that’s going to be one of my goals to explore. And sometime between now and January, I’m going to have to figure out how to make that more specific, measurable, actionable and all those other things that go with SMART goals. Maybe it’ll be more showing online. Maybe it’ll combine with the lessons. Maybe we’ll have to hook me up to a heart rate monitor to figure out how to measure whether I’m stressing myself out or not. But any which way, that was a fascinating thing to learn, and I’m so glad. “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward,” so happy I learned that.

Stacy Westfall: [00:24:47] So, another thing I wanted to bring up to you guys was, you know, just a few more little ideas as I wrap up this this podcast on reflection, is that I’m also reflecting back to other things that I did that I might not have been specific about. So something I did this year, like I read more books on horse training, so I read Dressage Masters. It’s the techniques and philosophies of 4 legendary trainers. And I really, really liked it. So I want to read some more books going into January. I’ve kicked around the idea of doing a book club kind of a thing, and I really probably should do that because it would be motivational for not only me, but anybody else who wanted to read along. And then there’s accountability built in with it, which is a beautiful thing. The–another lesson that I learned from this year that I didn’t expect, too, is that I took a virtual lesson with my dressage coach. And that was a totally different experience from hauling in there and being there and riding my horse. And it was really interesting. I’m not going to say one’s better or worse, but here’s what I do know. I could feel my brain working in a different way. Then the next time that I was riding, I could really remember everything we discussed. So there is actually some kind of magic that happens when you make the video of yourself riding and then you send it in and then your coach watches it and then you discuss it. And I think it’s that ability to watch the video over and over again and process it from almost an outside perspective. And the fact that you’re seeing it, which I’ve always been a big proponent of, videotape yourself and watch it. And this took it to another level because then getting feedback from somebody else, it made it less in the moment, which was somehow better, or at least different. I know that I’ve ridden tests in front of my instructor before and it’s a different feeling than watching the video and a different learning level. So I know that that’s something I’m happy I experienced and I want to do that again. And so I just wanted to kind of pause and share with you guys what’s going on with me right now, because it’s such a strong reflect and reset moment for me this time of year that I really wanted to share it with you because I don’t know where you’re at in the world or what your flow is. But I’m guessing even if it’s not October, when this happens for you, I’m guessing you have those moments built into your life and it might be set by an external thing like the beginning or the end of school year, or it might be set by an external thing like the holidays. But I’m just curious to know if you’re really aware of some of those moments and maybe when those are. Because if you share those with me in the comments over on stacywestfall.com, underneath this show, episode 101, that would be fun to see those and hear about those, because I think it helps when we talk about this kind of stuff. So, again, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.” Here’s to living and having those touch points throughout your year where you reflect and reset and go forward with more understanding. Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Announcer: [00:28:33] 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:

Episode 7: Setting SMART Goals With Your Horse In 2019


  1. Anne Hunter on December 17, 2020 at 10:22 pm

    I have used SMART goals for years. I first learned of them when my youngest was in school. I like to use the goals with my horses as well as my children. My kids have no idea how much horses have helped me be more patient. I have done a few online shows and found myself as nervous for those as I am in person. But, I do several videos and pick the one with the least errors.
    My hindsight has told me, I am not as fond of showing as I am trail riding and trail obstacle challenges. Which doesn’t mean I don’t want to improve on my horsemanship. Using your trainings have helped me be a better person and horsewoman.

  2. Jenny Biche on October 26, 2020 at 11:20 am

    You mentioned possibly starting a “book club” and I wanted to say I know you are super busy, but I really hope you do! Or at least a “What Stacey’s Reading” this month type thing with insights. One other suggestion would be to break it down like you do with your training–suggested readings for elementary riders, high school riders and college level riders. I think that’s one of the things that sets you apart from other “horse trainers” is that you take a concept and make it possible for any rider, regardless of ability, to understand and apply to any horse, regardless of their training, to learn. Thank you for sharing your gifts and talents and passion. You make riding and horse training a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

  3. Lori B on October 22, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    If a book club is going to be started, I would be ever grateful for others to weigh-in with their opinions and possibly discussion on “Evidence Based Horsemanship” by Martin Black and Stephen Peters.

    On your request for feedback on external triggers which evoke reflection and goal setting:
    At our barn, I volunteer my time to a group of young riders set goals for themselves. Our local horse council has a good booklet to help people get started on the process by asking goals and prompting discussion on reflection like strengths and weaknesses. The process normally begins now which provides approximately 6 months before the first show of the next season. We set firm goals around November so to begin planning each month’s goals with the coach and and required training for their horse. Going to horse shows and having judge feedback/scoring is one measurement we use to gauge how far we are on progress. COVID has certainly put a spin on things. With no local shows on, we ventured to other locations and found great benefit from other competition. We also started new disciplines which pushed people outside their comfort zone. And we did an abnormal amount of beach riding.

    One big take-away from this podcast for me personally was your reflection about your vague goals with Gabby and Willow. I am now more self-aware about how important and motivating to me the celebration piece of the goal achievement is. It has helped me. I won’t likely change the goals for one horse in particular but I will become SMART-er about the goals.

    Many Thanks for all You Do.

  4. Joanne on October 21, 2020 at 8:00 am

    I also found that online showing (first time for Worlds) shone a light on my performance anxiety regardless of location. Serendipitously, I attended a Daniel Stewart clinic, for the first time, the weekend after submitting my videos. Coach Stewart focuses on putting you in high preassure situations (e.g. memorizing and riding a pattern which you are only told as you head down centerline) so you can see how you deal with preassure and make decisions in those moments. If you ever get a chance to attend a clinic, I highly recommend it. He is an awesome clinician. I learned so much and got so many great tools for dealing with performance anxiety (and did a lot of sit ups too lol!).


    His books are:
    Pressure Proof Your Riding: Mental Training Techniques
    Fit and Focused in 52

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