My resolutions for a new year of RDA

Time to finish the end-of-year reflecting...

Welcome to 2020: the future is here! The future, in its most immediate form, seems to involve a lot of lists of New Year's Resolutions, and now I have finished looking back at 2019 I can't promise to be doing anything but surfing the zeitgeist in my first blog of the new decade. I have, however, made "RDA resolutions" every January since I started coaching; they are almost always more meaningful and unique than the ones I make to cover the rest of my life. Goals give us purpose, and thinking carefully about the purpose I want to have for the next year of RDA is a good way of welcoming a new one. These are my RDA resolutions for 2020.

Coach more creatively
Whenever I have thought about my hopes, dreams, and expectations for this year, "creative" is a word which keeps popping up in my head. Being a more creative coach doesn't just mean having more colourful lessons with more interesting equipment, although it certainly could do, and I want to have fun with some themed obstacle courses and games and different points during the year.  Coaching creatively is, I think, about being prepared to think differently and embrace new things and ideas. I can bring a bit of wacky, but will also admit to enjoying the calm consistency of following rules (whether set by me or by others). Working out a new balance between these two "sides" should keep things fresh and hopefully offer up some out-of-the-box approaches to solving problems. Maybe this time next year I'll have some new favourite games to share, and a boatload of ideas and activities I have scavenged, magpie-style, from other people and places.

Nurture partnerships
I've always tried to get my riders comfortable with riding as many different horses as possible. For one class, a particular pony has been on a four-week rota at points (thankfully some of the riders on the rota have now outgrown him!) due to his popularity: the riders involved were very accepting of the fact that they would get their turn to ride him, and ride various other horses in the mean time. There is a lot to be gained from teaching riders, RDA or not, to ride as many different horses as their individual needs will allow: for some, that might be two different horses, and for others, the entire yard. I certainly won't be losing sight of this approach in 2020, but do want to focus on specific horse and rider partnerships. Just before Christmas, I put Lucy on Jimbob (pictured above). It wasn't necessarily the most obvious combination in the world, not least because she is a bit small on him, but his workload on Saturdays made it more than possible. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the combination, and how much fun and hard work Lucy generated during that first lesson. I would love to find some new partnerships or rekindle old ones in 2020. Done right, I'm sure I can find time to help nurture these and do a healthy amount of swapping around.

Encourage riders to take charge of their own progress
Goals are important, so I don't want my riders' goals to come from me alone: ultimately, I want them to be able to take the lead on where they are aiming. This will only be appropriate for those who are a bit older and more independent in their riding, but I want to make my coaching as empowering as possible to enable those who are able to set, discuss, rationalise and strategise their own goals. It will only come "naturally" for riders who are coached in a suitably positive and progressive environment. Want to ride a different horse this year? Compete in a freestyle class? Learn to canter? No matter how far off that goal might be, it does our coachees no good to keep them locked away in their own heads. No matter how well I know my riders, they are the ones doing the riding.

Reflect more
I think I am already a fairly reflective coach, but I want to find a way of focusing and perhaps formalising these tendencies this year. My group write up brief records of what is done in lessons and on the yard in a whole-group diary, kept on our tack room desk. It's useful in all sorts of ways, but not as a personal or in depth exercise. I am in the process of working out how I want to keep my own records, in a way that isn't so time consuming I stop doing it, but is also useful for present and future reference and reflection. I've tried a few ways of making my own coaching notes in the past, but none have quite stuck. A new year strikes me as the best time to try and put something consistent in place

Respect time not spent on RDA business
Last year, I stepped away from coaching an additional sport for the sake of spending more time and energy on RDA. I also started blogging, which of course increased the amount of head space used for RDA. I regret neither of these things, but do acknowledge that there were times during the past year which could've benefited from being less dominated by RDA. No matter how important it is to me, it isn't the only thing I have going on, nor does it need to fill up the few times a year when I have an empty diary. I want to make sure that I respect the time I spend away from doing or thinking about RDA in 2020: it's a definite win-win.

Wishing you, your riders and RDA groups a very Happy New Year. Now to get started...