Episode 7: Setting SMART Goals With Your Horse In 2019

“I believe in setting specific goals and then leaving room for some magic to happen.” Stacy Westfall Share on X

It’s the start of 2019 and time to talk about goal setting. I’m going to talk about SMART goals or goals that you have control of and accidental goals. These are goals that you can’t control the outcome of but you can set yourself up for success with them.

I explain what a SMART goal is and how it applies to horse training. I also share how a goal setting mindset shift resulted in how I look at competing in horse competitions. Breaking things down into measurable things that you can control can lead to surprising success.

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“If you set specific measurable SMART goals that point in a direction, it can lead you to bigger places than what you might even have imagined at the beginning of the year.” Stacy Westfall Share on X

Show Notes

[01:12] SMART goals are specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound.

[01:35] Set specific goals and then leave room for magic to happen.

[01:45] Non-specific goals are things like improve my riding and build a solid relationship with my horse. These pieces of goals aren’t broke down far enough to be SMART goals.

[02:20] They aren’t specific, measurable, actionable, etc.

[03:22] You can’t control the outcome, but you can set yourself up for success.

[03:47] My 2018 smart goal was running or weight training 3 times a week plus yoga 2-3 times a week. This goal was specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound for me.

[05:05] This also left room for an accidental goal, and I ran a 5K.

[06:21] I set daily and weekly goals that point in a specific direction for showing my horses. I can’t control where my horse will end up, but I can set goals of where I will train him five days a week.

[07:01] There are a lot of things I can’t control, so I really need to focus on the things that I can control when showing my horses.

[08:08] I share how I almost quit being a professional horseman because of setting goals with outcomes that I could not control.

[08:57] Being devastated by leaving out a maneuver was actually a turning point for me and dramatically changed my view on goal setting.

[09:26] By releasing the outcome of the judging, I was able to make it a specific SMART goal.

[10:58] I had freedom after releasing the things that I could not control.

[12:04] By breaking down goals into SMART goals, you have a good chance of reaching those goals.

[13:54] Break things down into measurable and obtainable things that you can control and then leave the things you can’t control.

[14:49] I would challenge those that are interested in the training industry to set specific goals. Such as doubling ads as opposed to getting a certain amount of clients.

[16:01] If you want to ask me a question or leave a comment, you can hit the voicemail button on my website.

“There are a lot of things I can't control, so I really need to focus on the things that I can control.” Stacy Westfall Share on X

Links and Resources:

Stacy Westfall 2003 NRHA Futurity Freestyle Bridleless Reining


  1. Heather Wimer on December 16, 2020 at 11:04 am

    I love how you think through things. In other areas of my life I feel like I’m pretty good at setting goals and achieving them. I set goals with my horse as well but goals that didn’t allow for variables outside of my control. Then I felt like a failure when I didn’t meet those goals. I hadn’t really realized that was what I was doing till I listened to this podcast.

  2. Rebekah Rehm on January 4, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    I also wanted to say thank you for making your podcasts so interactive! It keeps the listener engaged and feeling connected to the content! I really love the format you are developing with your podcast! I’m working on being more faithful in keeping up my personal blog this year and your courage in stepping out with your podcast and the great content you’re producing has really inspired me!

  3. Rebekah Rehm on January 4, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Hey Stacy, I was going to leave you a little voicemail but the PC I’m working on doesn’t have a microphone. 🙁 Just wanted to say how inspired and empowered I’ve been by your podcast! I now have a running note on my phone called Stacy’s podcast where I take notes from your podcast. This one was especially spot on! Your examples of smart goals and allowing room for the magic in goal setting was so powerful! I loved how you touched on the physical fitness in this episode and how the goals you set for 2018 led to bigger things that you hadn’t even imagined or planned. I remembered being inspired last year by things you were putting on your Instagram story about physical fitness. I love how you emphasize the truth that it makes us better horsewomen! Because let’s be real, riding horses and excelling at it motivates me more than anything else! 🙂 Thanks for the great listen and great practical ideas! I look forward to your next episode!

    • Stacy Westfall on January 4, 2019 at 4:37 pm

      I forgot that some don’t have microphones! Very true!
      Thanks for the feedback. Those IG stories scared me to do! Talk about out of my comfort zone! Good to know they were inspiring:)
      I’ve got an outline for topics that fill up this year-so keep on listening and commenting! (and if your on something with a microphone, like a phone, you can still leave a question or comment)

      • Rebekah Rehm on January 7, 2019 at 5:34 pm

        Awesome!! I’m so looking forward to what you continue to share throughout the year! That’s fantastic that you have an outline of topics for the year already! You have so much great wisdom to share. Good to know, I’ll keep that in mind for when I access your website from my cell phone. I’m leaving the link to my personal blog below. On Thursday the 10th I’ll put a post up about how I accidentally got my mustang stuck in a creek on Saturday and how we got him out. I then draw parallels to how God brings rescue in our lives. Just thought you might enjoy if you have a minute to read. 🙂 http://www.hiscowgirlforever.blogspot.com

  4. Kathi Shapka on January 4, 2019 at 11:10 am

    Setting goals … not an entirely new concept. But definitely one that most people just don’t do correctly – me included!!! This episode was awesome! It reminded me to be more realistic in my goals. This past year has been a particular challenge for me – for many reasons – and I totally lost sight of the goals I had set in prior years, and why those worked, where this past year sadly, did not. But ONWARD! A new year, a whole year to get back to getting it right. In prior years, I rode 4 days a week and every week I felt and saw improvement in my horse, in myself, and in our connection and commitment to each other. Last year saw me struggling with my horse and seeing our connection fractured … and me regressing back to fear and being intimidated by my horse … and therefore, not going riding as often because I had to have someone to ride with because I was back to being pushed around and fearful of my horse.
    But to be fair – and it really is a long story – it was not all my horse’s fault. I know that as well as I know my own name. It was MY fault for letting her get away with things that should not be gotten away with. She truly is my Heart Horse. She is a willing partner, generally easy-going, and with me – trustworthy IF & WHEN I give her a reason to trust and rely on me. But late last year I finally pulled my head out of the sand and got back to basics of just who is in charge of things … and magically … my kind, sweet, easy-going horse emerged again. But I’m still fearful of riding alone. Let me be clear – my horse has NEVER given me a reason to be fearful of riding alone. She has been ‘surprised’ by things – which makes her STOP and or spin around to see and then approach VERY slowly to make sure it won’t eat/kill her … and what we (all who know her) call “Chickie-freakout” … the very biggest panic attack/freak-out/spook-fest happens rarely … the VERY HUGEST SPOOK … she will tuck her butt and bolt (sideways hops) – a whole entire 4 or 5 steps … then stops. That’s it. That is the most energy she puts into a total panic. She will NOT take off and run. Ever. Never. She is 15 yrs old – and that is the absolute most she has ever done. So I KNOW she is not going to take off on me and send me flying. I know for a fact she will not attempt to buck me off (would require more energy than she is willing to exert). So why am I fearful of riding alone?? I have no idea. BUT – my big goal for 2019 is … TO RIDE ALONE!!!!!! In the arena, the outdoor arena … maybe even go into the field part way and then back. But I WILL do it. Baby Steps. I CAN DO THIS!
    Don’t stop now – I really enjoy these podcasts. I usually listen first thing in the morning over my morning coffee. Everything is quiet then, and it gives me a chance to re-listen and think about what you are talking about. Gives me a chance to see how what you are talking about applies to me / my horse, and how we can improve things today.

    • Stacy Westfall on January 4, 2019 at 4:33 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement! I have a friend who thinks they should be called coffee breaks for the very same reason you mentioned.

      I have one idea for you to consider during your ride alone goal: shorten the amount of time you call a ride.

      For example, ride for two minutes and get off. Go for a walk. Call it a day or do it again. Another 2 minutes.

      The big deal is to get off before you start to worry about staying on.

      Basically I’m suggesting you treat yourself like a horse that is scared. Expose the horse to the scary bag but remove the scary thing before they get worked up…repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

      Consider riding in chunks of no more than 5 minutes each until you find yourself REALLY REALLY wanting to stay on longer. Then stay on for ten. Do this over a long period of time. Very short rides (alone) for a month or two and see if you can feel what it does to your thinking.

      Something to consider!

  5. Martina Brown on January 3, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    As part of the curriculum for Personal Finance, I do teach students about SMART goals, therefore I know exactly what you are talking about. Each student has to write a SMART goal and then at the end of the semester we revisit their goal to see if they have accomplished it or if they are on the right track. Last year when I went to your clinic my goal was to be able to ride one handed and to slow my horse down.–I achieved that goal with your expertise of course. Still need to work on the lope but it is getting better. Then I really wanted to show in a local Extreme Cowboy race. I practiced everyday with different obstacles, dragging things, and carrying objects and I made patterns that I had to complete. Since it was my first show I went with the expectation of completing the obstacles, and having Hildy in a right state of mind, and for myself to just have fun and be relaxed. Sure would I have liked to have won–yes, but I was really proud of myself and my horse. I always get this thought in my head that myself or my horse is not good enough. I think about how will people judge me or think that I am too inexperienced. I have to stop that. I just need to go out and do my thing:) I did send you the video and I don’t know if you noticed but I was loping to the left which when I was at your place I told you I hated loping to the left. In addition, I don’t know if you listened to the video but the lady said as I was riding “Look at Hildy, caring that head nice and pretty, she is very relaxed, she doesn’t care about anything” When I watched the video and heard her say that, I had the BIGGEST smile on my face. I know my hard work paid off.

    • Stacy Westfall on January 4, 2019 at 9:03 am

      I did watch the video and it did look great! You both look relaxed and you looked like you had a plan.
      It helped when you came to the clinic that you had a goal and that you had done the ‘foundation’ work to get there. Often people have the more advanced goal, like ride one-handed, but they don’t put in the hours with the foundation exercises, like bend and counter bend. Very often this is because they don’t know what foundation exercises lead to the more advanced exercises.
      I guess what I’m saying is that also when people feel ‘stuck’ they should talk to a pro and see if they might be taking too big a leap with the goal (like wanting to ride one-handed before being able to bend and counter bend really well).
      Now I’m going to go look in my email to see why my reply to you didn’t go to you…

      • Martina Brown on January 4, 2019 at 9:16 am

        Hi Stacy, I did get an email from you when I sent you the video, I just didn’t know if you remembered it because I am sure you get so many videos and questions that you can’t keep track of all of them. Lol

        • Stacy Westfall on January 4, 2019 at 4:27 pm

          Lol! Then you will get a kick out of the email I sent explaining my gmail-folder-stuff!
          Good to know I’m not going crazy…yet…ha, ha, ha…

  6. Elizabeth Stuart on January 3, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Bruce Lee says something similar about fighting. I think the quote goes something like “don’t think about the outcome of the fight.” It applies to other areas?

  7. Elisa Wilson on January 3, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    Thank you for another great podcast. It is very nice to get reminders on setting goals and how to set them the right way. I have many goals and I do set smart goals but my problem is that I set too many. I want to do everything and it is hard to prioritize the goals from what I want to do – to improve myself and horsemanship and what I need to do – business goals and making a living.
    A good topic to cover might be how to help the over achiever be successful rather than try to do too much and then not succeed.

    • Stacy Westfall on January 3, 2019 at 4:05 pm

      Elisa, I struggle with this also. I started assigning time amounts to each goal and that really helps. Then I ‘stack’ them in order of importance. That way I ‘spend’ my time on the most important things on my goal list first. Horses are a HUGE time commitment on my time spent. I’m ok with that because I’m aware. I’m also aware that if I track all my time I still work more hours than a full-time job when the horses are factored in as well as the business.

  8. Elisa Wilson on January 3, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    Thank you for another great podcast. It is very nice to get reminders on setting goals and how to set them the right way. I have many goals and I do set smart goals but my problem is that I set too many. I want to do everything and it is hard to prioritize the goals from what I want to do – to improve myself and horsemanship and what I need to do – business goals and making a living.

  9. Shannon Cottrell on January 3, 2019 at 10:35 am

    Good Morning Stacy, I just listened to this podcast as I was driving to work (as I usually do). This one hit home for me. See in Nov (Black Friday) 2017 I picked up my new 3 yr old. She had only about 90 days of riding since she was first “Caught” in January of 2017, so with that said she didn’t have a lot of knowledge, I am a rookie rider but there was just something I liked about her. We brought her home to my wonderful trainer (Tim Wentz) he began working with her, then I had shoulder surgery and was out of commission from December to end of April 2018 (although I still got on and did some light riding wo the dr knowing) So I guess what I’m getting at is my first Foundation show was in May, I had very little time with my new horse but I set a goal to ride, and get to know her. We had quite a few boggles and mishaps, a few bucks in the show pen, but through everything she never once dismounted me, and we reached our goal of bonding, and putting ourself out there no matter the outcome. We actually finished the year better than we began that’s for sure. I learned a TON about my girl last year. Now I have set new goals and began riding 3 days a week as far as showing I think I just want to see where that goes and not worry about the outcome again. Yes, its nice getting the ribbons and she was very consistant in the 5th and 6th places last year, but that was just a bonus. I jumped several hurdles with her and we became a stronger unit for it. So Thank you for saying “You can’t control the outcome, but you can set yourself up for success.” I needed to hear this this morning.

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