BY LAUREN MAULDIN
Let me introduce you to my favorite stress-coping mechanism for the year—bullet journaling.
The past few years, I’ve been a big journaler. It’s taken a variety of forms. When my mental health was at its worst, I did a daily feelings check, gratitude list, list of anxieties and “wins” and many more. I also do more free association journaling, which is where you simply put pen to paper and write out what feelings you’re working through or even simply the events of your day. I still journal like that now when I need to, usually a few times a week.
What is a Bullet Journal?
In early January, swept into the new year new habits mentality many of us get suckered into, I decided to go full bore into bullet journaling. But what is a bullet journal? Oprah Daily describes it as:
“Think of it as a next-level diary for not only writing but also drawing. Instead of blank, lined pages, a bullet journal (or BuJo, for short) contains sections to log daily to-dos, keep a monthly or weekly calendar, jot down notes, track both physiological and mental health, and record both short- and long-term goals.”
Many bullet journalers have detailed, colorful spreads that they design and update every day with very detailed things—like how much water they drank, how many hours slept, etc. I knew if I felt like I had to update my journal every day, I would get tired of it soon. Plus, I know how much water I drink (not enough) without having to track it. So, I took my own spin on things.
I created spreads that targeted my goals for my overall wellness goals for the year, but in a less regimented way that would make me feel like I was failing if I had a bad month (like all of February which was either icing, raining, or spent icing my sprained ankle from slipping in said ice and rain). Channeling my inner child who adores arts and crafts, I made spreads for reading, hiking, walking my dog, organizing things around the house, and more.
Um, but you said this was an equestrian bullet journal?
Yes, let’s get to the ponies.
An Equestrian Bullet Journal
In the spirit of being kind to myself, celebrating riding being a fun activity, and one where I have specific showing goals, I made several equestrian spreads for my bullet journal.
The first is a “Captain’s log” (my horse’s name is Captain, and I do love me a pun) to track my rides this year. Here, I’m focused on how I feel after each ride vs if it was good or bad from a training perspective. It’s important for me to keep track of if I’m anxious or scared over a period of time, or feeling more positive. Plus, there are rainbows! I love rainbows.
A little more training focused, I wanted to track some things that help my overall riding fitness. In my case, it’s laps of double posting and no stirrups. If you too enjoy the thought of coloring little pixels after circling around doing no stirrups—congrats. You’re a type A personality too! Welcome. It’s a fun club. (Sidenote: I really need to start doing more no stirrups).
The next is focused on my horse’s care. I don’t put routine things here. In an attempt to make smart decisions about what best helps his overall welfare, this year I am keeping track of the “extras” in terms of maintenance. The idea is to try and identify if chiro or bodywork is more beneficial to his routine (or both). To find a blend of giving my precious ponykins everything he needs and not emptying all my savings on reiki horse massage.
My next spread is for showing. I have a row for each class. And while USEF does a better job documenting all of this than I ever will, what’s important here (besides really enjoying drawing the ribbon illustration I used on this page) is how I felt after each class. Was I being too hard on myself? Anxious about some training issue? Or did I feel proud of him and myself, regardless of a ribbon? Sometimes when I show I can get into a mental state that compares my journey to everyone else’s, and I’m super competitive. This is my way of saying, No. I shouldn’t be upset if I didn’t pin how I hoped because it was a personal best. And again, tracking my feelings over time to make sure riding and showing is fun.
Finally, I made a gratitude page. In the horse world, it can be easy to think “if only” about your horse, your riding, your show budget, your clothes—everything. This spread is for me to write things about Captain and riding that I’m super grateful for. It can be anything from a great course to his adorable treat face. The important part here is that I’m always reminding myself how lucky I am to have him and participate in this wonderful sport.
Creating Your Own Equestrian Bullet Journal
Now, these are the spreads I made. Yours might look entirely different! The beauty of a bullet journal is that you can make it your own. It can be as elaborate, or simple, as you want. You could make a blanketing spread about all the days you blanketed this winter and what temps. You could do supplements. You could do gymnastic exercises. The sky is the limit. This is what works for me.
To get started, you’ll need a few things. Mainly, the journal. The best ones to use are dot journals. There are a ton of different options, so pick what feels best for you. For other supplies, this is what I use:
- Glue sticks – To glue pages together so there is no color bleeding over
- Fine point gel pens – For outlining, writing, and fine details
- Alcohol Markers – For coloring. Don’t even mess with Crayola—trust me
- White gel pen – I use these to add highlights over colored areas
- Bullet journal stencils – These are great when you’re starting with layouts and need ideas
As far as tips go, the main thing is to find what works for you and enjoy the process. Don’t get caught up on perfection. There are so many mistakes in my bullet journal and nothing is “perfect” but the only person who would notice is me. The point is to create something that helps you and you enjoy!
About the Author: Lauren holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of California Riverside, and is a lifelong rider and writer. She writes as a way to explore life. She’s interested in the impact horses have on our lives as well discussing body positivity, mental health and addiction through personal narrative. She enjoys showing on the local hunter/jumper circuit in Austin, Texas.
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