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Five Tips to Keep Riders Motivated with Judge and Coach Sandy Jirkovsky


When normal is thrown out the window, it is even more important to find ways to stay motivated. When the weather gets unbearable, it may be hard to find inspiration to go ride. When shows continue to cancel or reschedule, it may be hard to stay energized and excited due to these uncertain times.

Some days are easier than others to find motivation. Other days you may have to dig deep down to find any ounce of leftover incentive to be proactive. So, what can a person do to stay driven?

GoHorseShow talked to Sandy Jirkovsky: AQHA, NRHA, NRCHA, NSBA, APHA, ApHC judge, and owner of J/S Training to discuss motivation techniques.

Set Goals

Write down goals and make yourself accountable. Make sure your goals are achievable. Tell your trainer, coach, family, or friends your goals to stay accountable. Set small and large goals with a timeline. Not all goals happen overnight. Take each day as an opportunity to move closer to each goal.

Sandy (pictured right) advises everyone to take each day as an opportunity. Make a daily plan to move towards your goal. It is one thing to have a goal, but it is totally different to work towards a goal. “Every day is a day to get 1 percent better, so 100 days, 100 percent better.”

Visualize yourself at the end. Every day before you walk into the barn, visualize your end goal. Visualize what you are going to do once you reach that goal. Change is not made overnight, but having a plan can create little change each day.

Change Your Mindset

One’s mindset is often the reason for not moving forward. To change the outcome, one must change the steps. Sandy feels honored she has the opportunity to swing a leg over a horse every day. “How many people wake up and wish they could go ride a horse? I use the word “get to” instead of “have to” in a lot of situations.”

One small change can make a monumental difference. Words also have a huge impact on people’s reactions. Thinking positively will create more opportunities. Just because yesterday wasn’t great does not mean today won’t be amazing. Come into the barn with a new and refreshed attitude.

“My competition usually takes one day off a week,” Jirkovsky states. “If I don’t take a day off, that’s 52 more days of training over my competition.” Repetition creates change.

Have Fun

“Every day is a brand new start to a new challenge,” Sandy says. Invite friends and family to join you. Switch it up and try something new. If riding drills are getting tiring, take a trail ride down the pasture. If a certain drill is getting boring, try it backward. You often learn more when you are engaged. Just going through the motions will not get you anywhere. Make it fun and engaging.

Use Resources

Take time to find videos, articles, photos, and other resources on whatever you wish to improve upon. To make a change, you must understand what needs to change. Find trainers, judges, fellow competitors you admire and reach out to them. Find a network of people who will cheer for you and people who help you learn, grow, and achieve.

Challenge Yourself

Move outside of your comfort zone. Jirkovsky says her go-to advice for people is to “do your job and then some.” Challenge yourself to do more than before. “I feel God gave me an understanding of horses and judging for a reason. It is my job to be the best I can be, and only by staying motivated, is that possible.”

Challenge yourself to find your reason why. Why do you ride? Why do you compete? Find that reason and use that reason to your own advantage. Challenge yourself to dig deep and find yourself. People often forget their reason for why there will be a willingness to chase your dreams if you know your reason.

Motivation can often fade away, but desire is a key factor in the outcome. To follow and achieve your dreams, you must maintain your goals through the easy and hard times. Being a go-getter changes the process in a good way. With more motivation comes growth and change. On those hard days when finding inspiration seems impossible, use these five tips to find your strong inner self.


About the Author – Annika Hanson is a world and reserve world champion ApHC exhibitor. Annika shows her three appaloosas; Imma Hot Chip, Leapin In The Weeds, and Just Dee Zip. She is a sophomore at South Dakota State University, where she is majoring in Communication Studies.

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