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In The Horse Business

One of the questions I dread the most is when a polite stranger on a plane asks me, “What do you do for a living?” Usually, the question was preceded by an inquiry about whether I am traveling on business or pleasure (rarely the latter). Sometimes this question comes up when I am at a social function with my husband’s business.

For starters, I am never really sure how to answer that question. How do I sum up what I do in a simple phrase or what title could I use to describe my job? Horse trainer doesn’t quite cut it (although I use that a lot, hoping there won’t be follow-up questions). “Clinician” certainly makes no sense to civilians and invokes images of white lab coats and stethoscopes. So usually I reply with the innocuous answer, “I am in the horse business.”

At that point, one of two things usually happens. Either their eyes glaze over with a lack of interest and they move on to another subject or their eyes light up and stories ensue about their own personal connection to horses (or their wife-cousin-neighbor-childhood friend’s story). In the latter case, it can lead to a long and one-sided conversation, most of which I spend nodding and smiling.

If the conversation continues past the initial statement, at some point I will find myself trying to explain what I do. Usually I start with saying I am a public speaker; most people can understand, at least in theory, what that entails. Also, I fall back a lot on saying I am an “educator”. If their curiosity persists at this point, I’ll find myself explaining what goes on at a horse expo and the difference between an expo and a horsemanship clinic. That is usually enough to kill the conversation. I rarely bring up the TV show because, well, it sounds sort of vain.

Another dreaded question from the non-horse person, is, “Are you a horse whisperer?” Man do I hate that question! Actually, it’s great that people have a basic understanding that there are humane and seemingly magical training techniques that promote a cooperative relationship with the horse, I just don’t want to be labeled a “Horse Whisperer” because it sounds very Hollywood and silly.

Given that statement, you may ask yourself why then is my TV show called Horse Master? Well, for starters, I didn’t think of or pick the name and yes, I would feel really silly referring to myself that way. But, I recognized the tone and meaning that the title conveys and the promising marketing appeal. I also like the fact that we encourage and help people master certain skills in horse handling and riding.

I am lucky to have such an interesting job. Well, I guess it is not so much luck as appreciation, because I worked hard over the past few decades to get where I am; it wasn’t entirely by luck. But I love helping people with their horses (and, better yet, helping horses with their people) and working with so many different horses in different places. I know that I have benefitted in knowledge and skill by working with such a variety of horses—much more than I would have experienced if I had been cubby-holed in one discipline or even one region of the country.

Although I miss being able to ride my own horse, I am fortunate to get to ride a lot of really cool horses at expos, since I don’t travel with my own horses. Last weekend I rode a beautiful QH stallion called “Papas A Little Sexy.” He was an easy-going gorgeous hunk of horse flesh and all else being equal, I like to ride a pretty horse!

Today I am in route to Murfreesboro TN for QuarterFest, a weekend celebration of the American Quarter Horse. I’ll be teaching clinics and riding a cute little dun QH gelding that a friend is bringing for me to ride. With any luck at all, I may be able to sneak into one of Mike Major’s cowhorse clinics with my weekend partner. Mike is a world champion versatility ranch horse trainer/breeder and Rich and I have ridden with him several times. It should be a great weekend “in the horse business.”

Enjoy the ride,





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  1. Julie, you truely are “The Horse master” clear as can be, direct and to the point and you can make a horse do anything you ask of it with so little “pressure”.

    I so enjoyed watching and learning from you this past weekend. Now if someone asks me what Julie Goodnight does, I will tell them straight that she is THE horse master!

    I hope you had a safe journey home. Jamie

  2. And every person on the plane has ridden “THE WILDEST HORSE EVER TO WALK ON THE PLANET” usually named: Widowmaker, Thunder, Lightning, Hurricane, Sidewinder, or my personal favorite… Princess. 🙂

    Have some fun with the responses: “I’m a interspecies mediator.” 🙂

  3. better to hear people’s horse stories than the sad stories I heard when I worked on research in alcohol and drug abuse. Long ago I decided to tell people I worked with Port’o Potties! That shuts them up right away!

  4. Not being able to watch your show is one of the very FEW reasons I miss TV (haven’t had it for 16 yrs now). However, I do love the magazine articles you and Heidi put out there. I especially like the one about riding without stirrups. After riding bareback for several months while waiting for my saddle to be built, I have a really hard time using my stirrups now. The difference in learning your balance points is incredible!

  5. The answer could be “a personal trainer”

  6. Great one! I love that you talk about how we named the show– it was about you having your “Master Clinician” status with CHA, but also important to help people master their goals. That was a big part of the name that I’m sure some people overlook or just think you’re being catty about! –Heidi

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