December 18, 2018

As the year comes to a close and our schedules ease up, many of us start to think about where we have been and where we want to go—both in riding and in our lives generally. As we reflect on our accomplishments and challenges of the past 12 months, it’s a great time to give thanks for everything the year has offered and contemplate the growth we desire for the new year.

Suppose you’re hoping to move up to the AA hunters and ride without anxiety. Or do your first 2’6” derby and enjoy every minute. Or become competitive in the 1.20s. Or maybe jump for the first time. Or up your game and really go after that big medal final. Whatever your goals, here are a few thoughts about how to manifest the changes you want.

Are you ready?

The first step is to realize that you want something new. This may sound silly, but it’s not. Sometimes people don’t take ownership of their desire to change. They may complain about feeling stuck (“my trainer never lets me jump any bigger”), but fail to take the crucial first step to decide that they want something different. You may not know exactly what you want or how to get there, but the recognition that you want to end up somewhere new is the first step.

Step two requires you take the time to clearly articulate what you want. Setting an intention is a powerful tool for creating a path to change. Some people know exactly where they are headed; they just need help with the execution. For others, they know they want something different but—they feel internal obstacles even in the wanting. If you can’t let yourself visualize what you want, it’s going to be hard to get there.

Step three: bring in others to help you. This is often a huge obstacle because in order to ask for help you have to make yourself vulnerable. What do I mean? You have to let someone know that you want to change or that you have a new goal. The experience of talking about what you want, putting it into words—with another person—makes it real in a way that thinking it in your head doesn’t.

My experience—both professionally and personally—is that real growth happens more quickly and effectively when you are supported by a community. Be sure to include your trainer in your plans. Ask for support from your family and friends. Have a barn mate be a witness to your desires and help hold you accountable. We all need sounding boards and support systems. In my book, asking for help is a sign of great strength, not weakness.

Step four: Start somewhere. Take small steps. Action is key. Small steps are easier to take and often create enormous change in and of themselves. Maybe you take a small step and it doesn’t go as well as predicted. That’s ok—learn what you can from it and take another step. Remember: in riding, what’s the solution to so many problems? Go forward! Put your leg on! (Trust me—pulling back never seems to work. I know from personal experience!)

Last, I have to mention that usually when people articulate their intention to change, they are met with support, encouragement and generosity. Most people will respect your desire to expand what is meaningful to you and get rid of the things that don’t work. But real change can be threatening, so if you meet with resistance or unkindness, let it slide off your back and move on. Real friends will stand with you and be inspired by the strength in your vulnerability and determination to change and grow.

Here’s to exciting new chapters in 2019!



“A Leg Up to Optimize Your Equestrian Experience”


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Darby Furth Bonomi, PhD

Darby Bonomi, PhD is an equestrian performance consultant based in San Francisco, CA. She helps riders of all levels and their families reclaim the joy in their riding, leading the way to improved performance and greater health both in and out of the show ring. A clinical psychologist and consultant for over 25 years, Dr. Bonomi has worked with many adults, teens and families to create change in their lives. She writes a regular column for the website www.streettostable and is a contributor to California Riding Magazine, along with publishing her own blog

A life long participant in the equestrian world as a rider, parent and owner, Dr. Bonomi currently shows in the A/O hunters and medals with her horses Little Wing and DaVinci, alongside her teenage daughters. She is married and has one college age son who steers clear of the barn.

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