This is a good time of year to evaluate where you’re at versus where you want to be and take a look at building habits to help you be productive.

Of all the things I consider to be important—and I’ve talked about this for years at my clinics—keeping a positive attitude is a must. Now that we’re into a new year with new goals, thinking about the possibilities and preparing and working toward them, it’s important to have the right attitude. I always did my best as a competitor when I wasn’t involved in a lot of drama or negativity. Staying focused on my horse rather than getting distracted helped keep me on track.

This month, I thought it would be good to talk about a few steps I hope will help you stay focused during the year.

The Choice is Yours

In my career, when I was the happiest and clear-headed I did best, and my intuition was better. It’s a complete cycle, because when you feel happy, focused and driven, you typically do better. You focus more clearly on what’s really important.

Today, especially with social media, it’s difficult not to get distracted by other things that might not even concern you. However, it’s only difficult if you make it that way, because it is a choice. You can choose if you’re going to get into a negative dialogue on social media or if you’re going to focus your energy elsewhere.

Avoiding this type of distraction is like choosing not to eat sugar. It’s part of making healthy choices. It’s choosing what you allow into your mind. Taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally, is so important. I often talk about how people need to keep good energy to win. That comes from not letting yourself get dragged down by negativity.

Set Clear Goals

Have goals, narrow them down, write them down and keep them visible. Set priorities for what you want to accomplish. Plan for what you need to do to get there. Have a clear picture. The intention you approach your goals with is so important. With Scamper, I always had a very clear intention of what I was going to do. I truly believed Scamper and I could do what we did. It takes belief in yourself and your horse to chase your goals with confidence.

I do believe horses read us so well that when you have good energy, they feel it and react accordingly. I’ve seen it so many times over the years how horses change in different situations. Say if a horse is sold into an unhealthy environment and all of a sudden it’s not working like it was with its previous owner. It might not be as healthy or sound. The bottom line is you’ve got to love what you do and your horse has to love it, too.

Even with Cruiser, the same intention might not have been there immediately, but it developed as we went along. The progression to winning a world title with Cruiser taught me a lot of life lessons in the process. A big lesson I had to learn with Cruiser was that an unhealthy diet was part of what cost me a world title. I ate sugar, got sick and hit a barrel. I didn’t feel good physically, and it affected my riding. That experience convinced me to eliminate sugar from my diet.

Healthy Habits

I think developing better eating habits and living an overall healthier lifestyle has served me well over the years. I did pilates when I was on the road, and I do yoga now. A lot of people involved with horses are naturally living an outdoor, active lifestyle.

You might not choose cleaning stalls as your favorite activity, but think about cleaning stalls versus sitting on the couch doing nothing for half an hour. Which will make you feel better? Probably getting some fresh air and exercise instead of sitting around.

In my opinion, believing you can achieve your goals and being positive impacts every decision you make in life.

For kids, life with horses has so many lessons, such as learning about how to care for and condition an athletic performance horse. Gaining knowledge of the importance of diet and exercise for a horse tends to help kids have the same mindset toward themselves.

Adults and kids alike don’t need to waste time getting bogged down in the bad things out there that can cloud their goals. You want to make good decisions that help you step closer to achieving your dreams, not bad decisions that take you down the wrong path.

Kids have a free spirit and a natural inclination to have fun. I think even as adults we can find a way to gravitate to that and stay young in a sense. Take control of your emotions, thoughts and energy. When you do have stressful events come up, and everyone does, it allows you to appreciate the good times even more, like your health, family, horses and simply the opportunity to run barrels.

It’s okay to remap your goals and reorganize your objectives if your circumstance changes. You’re going to learn something every day that tweaks how you’re going to get there. We all have lessons to learn and situations to get through, which is what makes it rewarding in the end.

This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of Barrel Horse News.