Resolutions rewritten: reconsidering my 2020 New Year's Resolutions

"Welcome to 2020: the future is here!" So I wrote at the beginning of this year in my post about my RDA New Year's Resolutions, written with the optimism we all felt a new decade deserved. So far, so wrong, but I wanted to use this week's blog to reflect on the resolutions I made and how actually, although the reality turned out quite far from the expectations, 2020 didn't mean that they didn't end up happe ning...

1. Coach more creatively

I wanted 2020 to be a year of creativity: picking up new ideas from here, there, and everywhere, and working them into my regular lesson plans. I aimed to "keep things fresh and hopefully offer up some out-of-the-box approaches to solving problems". I kept this one: I think many of us did, even if it wasn't a resolution in the first place! So much of the way I have needed to coach since coming back to RDA in the summer has been "out of the box". I have had to work out new ways to keep riders engaged and learning using minimal equipment, certainly nothing involving touching, throwing, catching; new ways to demonstrate from a distance; new ways to carry out sessions safely. Training parents to side walk, (in some cases) lead, and adjust tack was definitely a curveball, but it's been one of the creative ways of solving a problem I am most glad of this year. I am currently planning my fun Christmas lessons in light of everything that needs to be different: creativity borne out of unprecedented necessity is still creativity.

2. Nurture partnerships

I value passing the skill of being able to ride as many different horses as possible to my riders, but I was also keen to find and nurture new and existing pony partnerships in 2020. Naturally, the time available for this sort of thing was considerably more limited than expected, not only by Covid closures but by the availability of some of our herd as they came back off equine furlough. This doesn't mean partnerships haven't still been important to me this year. One of my riders, six year old Lily, has in 2020 doubled the number of horses she has ridden since starting RDA in spring 2019, and has done a brilliant job of overcoming the hesitance she can feel towards new things and experiences; her riding skills have improved beautifully alongside her confidence. She still has her number 1 partnership, of course, with her favourite pony Bryn; we were able to reunite her with him for the first time in three months on the morning of her sixth birthday.

Another unexpected 2020 side effect is the way that my own partnerships with RDA people, especially riders and their families, have changed. Some of the families I work with were happy with occasional contact over lockdown (including letters and postcards via "pony post"!); others reached out a little further to help bridge the gap the lack of RDA had created. I understand these riders, and my relationships with them, all the more for this. There has had to be a new kind of trust developed between families, volunteers, and groups as part of the restart process, so in that sense, partnerships have also been nurtured. I think I can say I kept this resolution.

Lily and Bryn celebrating Lily's birthday!

3. Encourage riders to take charge of their own progress

For a lot of RDA riders who have had a lot of time out, or even are yet to return to the saddle, progress is going to be a bit of a sore point this year. Even more so, the idea that they have to be in charge of the progress which is out of their control to make. I do, however, still agree with my past self that "I want to make my coaching as empowering as possible". I came back to RDA in the summer working to the assumption that all of my returning riders would feel a little out of sorts (if not very much lacking in confidence after their break), and would benefit from extra encouragement and validation. Being able to work in individual and semi-private lessons for some time really meant I could pull both of these things off, and now I am enjoying working decisions, choices, and things to discuss into all of my lessons: even if it's as simple as "would you like to play a game, or practice your trotting?". I am already finding that the more options I give, the more my riders are happy to discuss their choices and to make other choices without prompting. This resolution is another which changed direction, but I think I still kept it (kind of).

Reflect more

This resolution received a hollow laugh when I read back the original post. In last week's post, I actually said I was totally over reflecting, having had so much more time than usual to do it this year. I am, however, still pleased that I was able to keep this resolution. I've kept up my coaching journal for a full year, and am already grateful for the level of detail it provides when I am considering my riders' progress. I am also glad to have had more time and space than regularly scheduled to consider some decisions about RDA (I have stopped coaching one of the groups I was coaching pre-Covid, for instance) and my relationship with my group which could have been made a lot trickier if things had been running at their regular pace. It sounds obvious, but this year has made me more careful in everything I do for my RDA group: on reflection, I don't think that's all bad.

Respect time not spent on RDA business

"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." There's another comment from my past self which didn't age especially well... but I suppose I did find myself respecting the unexpected, somewhat unwanted down time that came with the RDA shutdown (and everything else lockdown-related). Sadly, I have also gone out the other side at times and felt down about what I've been unable to do and what my group has missed out on as a whole, and the sheer level of circumstances beyond my control means I don't think I can say that I kept this one: I certainly didn't achieve the balance to which I was alluding in my original post. I have, however, learnt to respect the time I do have at the stables, and how lucky I am to have it, more than I ever have before. Not all bad for a mucked-around list of resolutions.

Thomas, expertly led by his dad, taking charge of his own riding - with my guidance!

Have you managed to keep any of your 2020 resolutions? Have they changed course a bit? Are you making any new ones for 2021? This is just the start of the conversation...