It was about 33 years ago that I took the big plunge and started my own business, Goodnight Training Stables. Back then, I simply imagined a fun and active life training and caring for horses. Little did I know, that a few decades later, I’d be a TV star and have a media production company. I didn’t really see that coming. Horses are still our central focus, but my how times have changed! Keep in mind that when I started GTS, the internet had not been invented yet, cell phones were just coming on the market and most people didn’t even use computers yet. Business operations were much different back then!
I graduated from college in New Mexico in 1984 and moved to Colorado to chase my other passion—snow skiing. As was always the case with me, I got offered horse jobs as soon as people learned I had experience (there’s no shortage of horses that need help with their humans). I worked as a trail guide and hunting camp wrangler, then as a trainer and barn manager at an Arabian breeding and show barn. All the while, I was trying to figure out what I should do for a living. If not horses, then what? Eventually, two important thoughts became clear to me: 1) since I am now two years out of college and still working horses, perhaps I should consider a career with horses, and 2) if I am going to last in the horse business, I have to be working for myself—doing things MY way. So that is the basis on which Goodnight Training Stables was founded, clear back in 1985.
I was fortunate to find a vacated stables owned by a property owners association and I got a great deal on the lease—all I had to do was provide trail riding to the public and fix up the run down facility. It was a win-win for all of us and in no time the facility was ship-shape and full of happy horses there as boarders, training horses or dude horses. A few years later, I started a girl’s riding camp—a popular program for horse-crazy little girls (a subject I could relate to), and I knew exactly what they wanted—to eat, sleep and breathe horses. Soon, the moms started asking me to do riding camps for adults, and a new aspect of my business emerged. Eventually I was doing up to 11 week-long clinics for adults each summer and managing about 20 school horses.
As the demand grew, I began traveling more and offering clinics on the road. Soon it became clear that it made more sense for me to travel to where the horses and people were than it did to make them travel to me in this remote little Colorado mountain town. About 15 years ago, I stopped doing clinics at home, re-purposed all of the school horses, and started teaching exclusively on the road. Today, I travel about 130 days a year, teaching people and training horses, both domestically and internationally.
Early on in this game of business, I learned that developing products that helped people ride and manage their horses better would be important to sustaining and growing a business. Just so you know how long ago that was, my very first product was an audio cassette tape. We thought we were really going high-tech when we switched to CDs. (And yes, my first videos, Goodnight’s Principles of Riding, were only available in VHS tapes!) Now, fast forward to today, even DVDs are dinosaurs as we all learn to consume our media online and through streaming videos on-demand. The information and education are just as pertinent today as they were then, it’s only the technology in how we consume the information that has changed.
Who knew that having a horse business would require you to stay on top of technological advances and the changes in human behavior that result?
In 2008, I had to opportunity to start the TV show, Horse Master with Julie Goodnight, which is where I took the biggest detour in my business and jumped into broadcast TV with both feet. There was a steep learning curve at first, but fast-forward eleven years and 260 episodes, and we had it down to a science. Horse Master became a super popular, unscripted, how-to horse training show, where we worked with a different horse and rider each week. The show opened a lot of doors for me and set the stage for bigger things to come. We’ve now begun production of a brand new TV series about the horse lifestyle and how horses have remained relevant in our society, more than a century after the combustion engine rendered them obsolete.
Today, I operate an online retail business and a media production company, all centered on horses. I train horses and teach people almost every single day, but the engine that drives my business is retail sales and media. We will never lose sight of how important horses are in our lives and in our business. Everyone that works with me is a horse lover and a rider.
We all love going to work every day, because we are involved in a business that we are passionate about. We will never lose sight of the fact that our customers are passionate about horses and that this is a labor of love. We try to focus on products that make your horse life easier and better. Our motto is, “Helping horses, one human at a time.”
Thank you to everyone who has supported my small business for the last 33 years and counting!