Joy 2 Ride: Top Ten Qualities of My Ideal Riding Horse

#Joy2Ride | Top 10 Qualities of My Ideal Riding Horse

I expect a lot from my horses, and they rarely let me down. My horse is my partner, first mate and a reflection of my soul. I know the amazing feats horses are capable of, and after riding and training literally thousands of horses, I’ve witnessed countless times their willingness to do our bidding and their tolerance of our mistakes and idiocy. How well the horse performs, and the things he learns, is a product of his rider—although our tendency is to put the blame for a failure to perform squarely on the horse.

Last month, I wrote about the top 10 ground manners that a horse should have to be safe and pleasurable to handle and the response was big—thank you! It got me thinking about what ideal qualities I want in a riding horse. Not specific riding skills (like flying lead changes, or discipline-specific performance like reining or jumping), but general qualities that I expect of any well-trained horse—no matter the breed or type of riding I am doing.

If you are starting with raw ingredients—either a youngster or a mature horse that missed out on a proper education, it will take time (weeks and months) to develop these skills and engrain these qualities in your horse. Don’t be overwhelmed! Instead, start forming your expectations and teaching them to your horse today. Set some ground rules.

If your horse is not just uneducated, but has been trained improperly—meaning he has learned wrong things, like he can do or not do whatever he wants—achieving these ideal qualities will take even longer. You can start working toward these ideals today, but be aware that you may need to change your approach. It may be that you need to change your ways—not the horse. Consistency and clarity will help make your job easier.

If you are in the market for a horse, these would be important qualities to consider in your pre-purchase or pre-adoption evaluation. Maybe you’ve got a horse that you trained yourself and you’d like to see how his skills stack up to a professionally trained mount. Or perhaps you’ve got a new equine partner and you’re establishing a relationship with that horse that will carry you into the future. The ideals listed below will help you clarify your goals and develop a plan of action.

There’s no such thing as a bad horse or bad behavior. Behavior should not have a value judgment on it—it’s neither bad nor good, it’s just behavior. Horses act like horses, unless they’ve been taught to act differently. Horses reflect their handlers and act solely in ways that are either instinctive or learned. When a horse displays behavior that is undesirable to us, it is either because it’s his natural behavior or he has actually been taught to act that way through poor handling and training (the latter happens a lot more often than one might think).

Every time you handle or ride a horse, you are either training it or un-training it. As horse owners, we are responsible for training the horse so that he is safe and pleasant to be around and has a bright and secure future, even if you are no longer in the picture. Just like you raise your children to be successful and independent adults, you must train your horse in such a way that he has value to society and a safe future ahead of him.

Only a few of these top 10 qualities are related to the horse’s temperament, and even then, training will have a heavy influence on the horse’s natural behavior. A horse is born with his temperament, but they are such capable learners that even the flightiest horse, for instance, can be taught to approach scary objects with curiosity.

Here are my top ten ideal qualities in a riding horse that make it a #Joy2Ride:

  1. Stands still like a statue for mount/dismount and does not walk off unless given a cue. Once we are underway, he will stand calmly and patiently any time I ask him to stop.
  2. Goes exactly in the direction that I ask with straightness; tracks exactly in a path dictated by me, never veering or avoiding or pulling me in the direction he wants to go. Stays “between my aids” (seat, legs, hands) at all times.
  3. Goes at a speed dictated entirely by me and never requires me to push, pedal or pull. Self-regulates his speed at whatever rate I ask and maintains that speed even on a loose rein.
  4. Is relaxed and compliant and focused on me or the task at hand or tuned out to his surroundings (focused on nothing). Is not looking all around, looking for an escape route or distracted by other horses.
  5. Performs equally well when ridden on a loose rein or on direct contact. Collects his frame easily when asked and carries himself in collection with a soft rein and light aids.
  6. Is light and responsive to my aids; stops off my seat and moves off my legs with complete nose-to-tail body control.
  7. Performs reliably in any situation and any location. Can perform equally well away from home or in a strange location as he does at home. 
  8. Ignores other horses, known and unknown; does not show interest or interact with other horses while being ridden. Rides well alone or in company. Not intimidated by large groups of horses. Will lead or follow without complaint.
  9. Tries hard when I ask, even when it’s scary, physically difficult and/or something he doesn’t want to do. Has a stellar work ethic and gets down to business—not looking for shortcuts or trying to get out of work.
  10. Has courage and curiosity; low on flight and high on investigative behavior. Does not spin and bolt when spooked but is willing to face and approach.

Score your horse on a scale of 1 to 10 for each category, with 10 being perfect. Add all ten categories and you’ll have your horse’s score, based on 100 being the perfect saddle horse. If you scored in the 80s or 90s, good job! Think about what more you need to do to make your horse perfect.

If your score was below 80, you’ve got some remedial work to do! First, you must recognize how much of the low score is caused by you—either through poor handling or unclear and inconsistent expectations. Sometimes changing your leadership is all the horse needs to become a perfect horse. Then you must determine where the holes in your horse’s training are and how you can patch them. The training resources in my online Academy will help, and my Interactive Curriculum will give you specific training exercises and educational resources to get you on the right path, with me as your coach. 

I could write volumes on how to go about training all these qualities in a horse (and I have), but it’s not rocket science. People have been doing it for thousands of years, with a great deal of success. In my podcast later this month, I’ll talk about some of the specific training techniques to instill these qualities in a saddle horse and I’ll answer your most pressing questions. So be sure to tune in, anywhere you get your podcasts, or at JulieGoodnight.com/podcast.

July 2019 Letter from Julie

Dear friends,

After a busy spring travel schedule, I am thrilled to have some extended time at home to ride my horses and enjoy the glorious Colorado summer. Rich and I are hosting a July 4th Dog Swim Party for our neighborhood, which is fun for everyone and makes the holiday a little more tolerable for dogs!

Two of my favorite summer things are happening right now in Colorado—wildflowers are blooming and the first cutting of hay is coming out of the fields. We had an exceptional winter, with a record snowpack (coming to us in the form of irrigation water) and early monsoon rains, producing an excellent yield in the hay fields. Now all we need is a few dry days here and there to help the farmers get it baled. I’m hopeful that an abundant hay crop will help drive prices down.

With more time at home now, I’ll get busy making tutorial videos, podcasts and all  kinds of other helpful, educational content for you, in keeping with our mission of “helping horses, one human at a time.”  So if you have burning horsemanship questions, now’s a great time to ask! Message me on my Facebook page or email me at JulieGoodnight.com/contact, so we can get you the information you want and need.

I just added a new horsemanship clinic to my schedule in northern California this fall, in addition to the clinics in Minnesota and Colorado. The Minnesota and Colorado clinics filled up quickly, but there’s plenty of room for spectators (and you can ask to be added to a waitlist just in case someone drops out). Registration for the California clinic just opened up this week, so there are still spots for riders to snap up on a first come, first serve basis.

My 2020 Expo and Clinic Tour schedule is coming together nicely, and we have some exciting new programs to announce! I’ll be offering a new 4-day, all-inclusive program at the C Lazy U Ranch in Colorado called Horsemanship Immersion, specifically designed for people that cannot get enough learning. Also new at C Lazy U for 2020, will be the Couples Riding Retreat. Barbra Schulte and I (and our hubbies) will co-teach. These will be in addition to programs already offered at C Lazy U next year: the Women’s Wholeness Retreat and the Ranch Riding Adventure! So for all those peeps who have been trying to get into quickly filled CLU programs, this is your chance! Finally, back by popular demand in 2020, it looks like there will be more riding clinics in Ireland.

Keep an eye on my events calendar and newsletter to be the first to know when you can sign up for my 2020 programs!


Ready to Get Started on Your Riding Goals? 

Spring is almost upon us, and my team and I are getting ready to tackle our goals for this year in earnest! It’s easy to set the goal and promise yourself that you’re going to work with your horse X days a week, or practice really hard to get ready for a big ride or competition. But it can be really hard to actually START—whether it’s Day 1 or Day 25. Life happens—we get busy, things come up, and we excuse away making ourselves and our horses a priority.

If you need a little extra encouragement and support to meet your goals, join my new #HorseGoals Or Bust Facebook Group! This is a community where you can come to share your goals and updates, find support through frustrations and set-backs, be a cheerleaders for others, and celebrate accomplishments. See you there!

 
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June 2019 Horse Report

Dear Friends,

With my summer break (from travel) ahead of me, I’m eager to get more time in the saddle! My youngster, Pepperoni, is doing well given the sporadic ride time I’ve had in the past few months. Turns out, twice a week of riding is not adequate for him (it rarely is for a 3-year-old), but when I am on the road, sometimes it’s all I can manage. When that happens, usually the first day is spent taming the wild beast, then the second day we can actually get some work done.

Now that I will be able to get on him 5-6 days a week, the tone of our rides will change a lot, and the wild beast will hibernate. I always start my training sessions with ten minutes of long trot, to warm the horses up and get them in a working frame of mind. Pepper is at the stage where our main training focus is on canter work—departures, rating speed, circles, simple lead changes—and we’re just starting to think about collection at the canter.

We are riding out of the arena a lot more—either down the road or around our “virtual trail course.” Pepper is still occasionally prone to “exuberance,” shall we say, and every now and then his red-headed temper flares, but most of the time his head is in the game. It’s a challenge with a young green horse to ask enough of them to advance their training, but not so much that they become frustrated and hate being ridden.

Before the summer gets away from me, I need to set some new goals for Pepper and me. Otherwise, how will I know when I get there?


Ready to Get Started on Your Riding Goals? 

Spring is almost upon us, and my team and I are getting ready to tackle our goals for this year in earnest! It’s easy to set the goal and promise yourself that you’re going to work with your horse X days a week, or practice really hard to get ready for a big ride or competition. But it can be really hard to actually START—whether it’s Day 1 or Day 25. Life happens—we get busy, things come up, and we excuse away making ourselves and our horses a priority.

If you need a little extra encouragement and support to meet your goals, join my new #HorseGoals Or Bust Facebook Group! This is a community where you can come to share your goals and updates, find support through frustrations and set-backs, be a cheerleaders for others, and celebrate accomplishments. See you there!

 
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June 2019 Letter from Julie

Dear friends,

With the spring expo season in my rearview mirror, my attention turns to horsemanship clinics. As always, we had a fabulous time at the C Lazy U Ranch last month, which is celebrating 100 years as a guest ranch this year. Barbra Schulte and I co-taught the Women’s Riding & Empowerment Retreat. The synergy of the group was incredible, and we had beautiful weather.

I’m excited to announce that we are planning two new programs at C Lazy U in 2020. In addition to the Women’s Riding & Empowerment Retreat in May, and the Ranch Riding Adventure in September, we will also offer a Couples Riding Retreat (led by Barbra Schulte and her husband Tom, and me and my husband Rich), PLUS a Horsemanship Intensive Retreat—both in October. Stay tuned for more details.

I’ve just returned from a fun and productive clinic at Dream Weaver Farms in Crockett, Virgina, working with another great group of horses and riders. This week I head to the Champions Center Expo near Columbus, Ohio, for my last clinic before my summer break. It’s so satisfying for me to be able to meet the horses and the people that come to my clinics and help them boost their horsemanship. Working with new and different horses every week is a perk of my job that I’ll never grow tired of.

After the clinic in Ohio, my attention will turn back to making educational videos and TV shows. (We’ve got some exciting projects in the works that will take up a lot of my summer!)

With more time at home soon, I am hoping for a concentrated stretch of training on my 3 year old colt, Pepperoni. He’s come a long way in the last year, but my busy travel schedule and time away from home has taken its toll on our forward progress. A very wet and cold spring means we’re still retreating indoors to ride and the snowpack in the mountains is still growing (it’s up to 239% above normal for this time of year).

When summer finally gets here, I’ll be ready!


Ready to Get Started on Your Riding Goals? 

Spring is almost upon us, and my team and I are getting ready to tackle our goals for this year in earnest! It’s easy to set the goal and promise yourself that you’re going to work with your horse X days a week, or practice really hard to get ready for a big ride or competition. But it can be really hard to actually START—whether it’s Day 1 or Day 25. Life happens—we get busy, things come up, and we excuse away making ourselves and our horses a priority.

If you need a little extra encouragement and support to meet your goals, join my new #HorseGoals Or Bust Facebook Group! This is a community where you can come to share your goals and updates, find support through frustrations and set-backs, be a cheerleaders for others, and celebrate accomplishments. See you there!

 
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Equine Good Citizen Award: Is your horse eligible?

Eddie
Eddie

Well-mannered, easy to handle horses are a joy to be around—it’s like pushing the easy button. A calm, patient, focused horse that respects your boundaries, is eager to please and willing to do you bidding is not only fun, but safer too.

If a horse could be an Eagle Scout, my horse Eddie would earn the rank. He always tries hard to please, he follows the rules, works hard to earn approval and will try hard to conquer any challenge I present to him. By my standards, he would easily win a good citizen award. Although he hit the ground with a stellar temperament, which certainly helps, good citizens are made not born.

Horses are very precocious animals—they are fast learning and their education begins in the first moments of life. Unfortunately, they learn inappropriate things just as quickly as the good stuff, so it is easy to make mistakes and turn a young horse into a pushy, impatient, tantrum-throwing brat. Sometimes, through no fault of their own, horses have simply missed a proper education and must be patiently taught manners later in life and/or after being mishandled.

Good manners aren’t always natural to the horse, at least not in the way us humans define them. Horses must learn what is expected of them while being handled by humans. Many of the skills we require of well-mannered horses, like ignoring their surroundings and instead focusing on the task at hand, like facing and approaching a fearful stimulus instead of running from it, come from clear and consistent training and competent handling over time.

We have an obligation to teach good manners to the horse, not only for our own benefit, but also to ensure that the horse is well-treated by others and has the best opportunities in life. Your horse knows nothing more and nothing less about how to behave around humans than what he’s been taught. Inappropriate or undesirable behaviors in a horse reflect on his handlers, in the same way that spoiled children are a product of their parents. We cannot blame the horse or the child.

I spent some time thinking about what expectations I have of a well-mannered horse and what skills are important to instill so that he is safe, pleasant and fun to be around. These are lofty goals, yes, but for centuries and millennia, people have been successful in training horses to do incredible things and be amazingly cooperative partners.

Below, I have compiled a list of ten ground-manners and skills that I think a horse should have in order to win a good citizen award. As you read through the checklist, score your horse on a scale of 1 to 10 for each category, with 10 being perfect. Tally your score for all ten categories and you’ll know if your horse passes the test!

  1. Respects my boundaries: does not crowd my space, put his mouth or lips on me, shoulder into me, or sling his head at me.
  2. Easy to catch, halter and leads politely alongside me in the position I have designated, from either side, rating his speed on mine, never getting ahead of me and never lagging behind me.
  3. Stands quietly whenever and wherever tied; ground ties; stands still for vet and farrier; stands perfectly still and does not move his feet unless I ask him to.
  4. Desensitized for easy handling of mouth, nose, face, ears, legs, tail, under belly and between the hind legs; lowers his head when asked.
  5. Picks up his feet when asked, holds them up without leaning or fussing and allows me to place the foot back down in a particular place.
  6. Accepts confinement in a stall and trailer. I love for horses to be turned out and not confined, but there will be times when confinement is necessary, and I need my horse to accept it.
  7. Loads and unloads from a horse trailer willingly; rides quietly. Even if you don’t plan to travel with your horse, this is an important skill for his safety and well-being.
  8. Keeps his focus on me and is always present with me, not distracted by others, looking for an exit or searching for his friends.
  9. Does not interact with other horses or display herd behaviors of any kind when being handled from the ground or ridden in a group of horses.
  10. Willing to leave the safety and comfort of the herd to go with me anywhere and without question. Acts the same way away from home as he does at home.

So how does your horse score? A score above 90 or above means you have an equine good citizen. Good job! This did not happen accidentally—it takes, time, patience, consistency and skill. If this test has revealed holes in your horse’s training, it’s never too late to teach him. My videos, Lead Line Leadership and Raised with Manners, are great resources for you (available in DVD and streaming online at juliegoodnight.com).

A horse with good manners is truly a pleasure and the prospects for his future are good. Every horse is worth this investment in your time and energy; every horse deserves a chance to be a good citizen—it’s all up to you. Horses crave leadership, structure and rules. When we have high expectations of the horse and teach him good manners, the added bonus is that your horse will look up to you, be eager to please you and want to be with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!

May 2019 Horse Report

Julie teaching at her C Lazy U Ranch clinic on Pepper.
Julie teaching at her C Lazy U Ranch clinic on Pepper.

It’s my busiest time of year, and most weeks I’m only home a couple nights—which makes owning a colt challenging. Pepperoni is the kind of young horse that needs to be ridden daily and kept busy. He’s the equine version of a Border Collie (busy-minded, afraid of nothing, smarter than his own good and on the lookout for trouble) . Often this time of year, due to my travel schedule, I might go a couple weeks without riding him. He gets daily handling, exercise and ground work in my absence, but typically we have a few wild rides upon my return.

He’s still prone to exuberance (bucking) on occasion and sometimes his red-headed temper rears its ugly head. He’s not a horse you want to pick a fight with, but if I ride it out and quietly but firmly lay down the law, he usually complies. So as I headed up to the C Lazy U Ranch earlier this month (in our brand new LQ trailer!), with both Pepper and Eddie in-tow, I was a little unsure of what kind if horse I’d have to ride at the clinic. This was Pepperoni’s first trip to the ranch, and since I also had to teach off him, I was counting on a drama-free weekend. I was thrilled with Pepper’s performance at the clinic—there were plenty of distractions to keep his mind occupied (keeping track of the comings and goings of 200 horses and 100 people) and back-to-back 4-hour days of riding meant he wasn’t looking for extra work.

I took Eddie up to the ranch for the first time at the same age—he was a rock star then and now. He’s now 11 years old and this was his 24th trip to the ranch, so he was a great role model for the red tornado and a great mount for Barbra Schulte to teach her clinics from. It was a wonderful weekend—Barbra and I love working together and the ranch is the perfect spot for everyone to come together to enjoy horses, people and good times!


Ready to Get Started on Your Riding Goals? 

Spring is here, and my team and I are tackling our goals for this year in earnest! It’s easy to set the goal and promise yourself that you’re going to work with your horse X days a week, or practice really hard to get ready for a big ride or competition. But it can be really hard to actually START—whether it’s Day 1 or Day 25. Life happens—we get busy, things come up, and we excuse away making ourselves and our horses a priority.

If you need a little extra encouragement and support to meet your goals, join my new #HorseGoals Or Bust Facebook Group! This is a community where you can come to share your goals and updates, find support through frustrations and set-backs, be a cheerleaders for others, and celebrate accomplishments. See you there!

 
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Unspoken Agreements

Apple, the horse starring in this episode.
Apple, the horse starring in this episode.

Is your horse easy to get along with, until you ask him to do something new and different? Or, heaven forbid, something he doesn’t want to do? Perhaps he’s happy to go down the trail in the company of others, but not alone. Or maybe he’ll go anywhere you point him, alone or with company, as long as you don’t ask him to cross water. How about the horse that half-heartedly trots when you ask, but threatens to buck if you ask to canter?
Horses are living, breathing animals with a mind of their own. They form opinions and make decisions.

Unfortunately, sometimes they come to conclusions we don’t agree with and form opinions that don’t jive with our wants and needs. For instance, if you’ve ridden a horse for two years and never once asked him to canter, your horse might understandably think you will never ask him to canter, or cantering is wrong or that it is not part of his contract. You can’t blame a guy for thinking, right?

The process of training horses involves both helping your horse form the correct opinions about being ridden and handled and not letting him get the wrong ideas. It takes months and years to train horses to a high level of performance and many mistakes can be made along the way that would lead your horse to misconceptions about what’s right and wrong. All it takes is releasing the pressure at the wrong moment, to convince a horse that was the right thing to do.

Although horses are not good at problem solving, they are always thinking and learning—whether we want them to or not—learning wrong things just as quickly as the right stuff. It’s funny that humans have literally three times the brain of a horse and much more capability in problem solving, yet we get outsmarted by horses all the time.

Huge pitfalls in a horse’s training can be avoided when the rider becomes more aware of the motivation behind the horse’s behavior, by making sure your horse forms the correct opinions about being ridden, by being mindful of the unspoken agreements between you and your horse and knowing who the decision maker is, in your “herd of two.”

Motivations Matter
Behind every behavior of your horse, there is a motivation for that action. If your horse throws a temper tantrum as you approach the horse trailer, his motivation is to get away from the trailer. If he refuses to move forward when you ask him to leave the barnyard, his motivation is likely to get back to his herd. If he argues and resists when you ask him to canter, his motivation may be to get out of hard work.

We don’t always get to know what motivates the horse’s behavior but in many instances, the motivation is very clear. If you can understand what is motivating the horse’s behavior, it will be far easier to fix. For instance, when the horse throws a fit about approaching the horse trailer, I know the very worst thing I can do is circle him back away from the trailer at the moment he throws the fit. Turning him back away from the trailer rewards the tantrum in that moment and getting away from the trailer was all he wanted.

Rather than simply react to your horse’s behavior, take a moment to assess his motivation. Once you understand why your horse is acting that way and what he is trying to achieve, you can address the behavior more effectively and make sure you don’t inadvertently reward the wrong behavior.

Opinions Count
You have opinions and so does your horse. It would be nice to think our opinions always align, but they don’t. For instance, you may think that you have not asked the horse to canter in over a year because you don’t want to canter and are not ready to canter. Your horse may come to believe that if he hasn’t been asked to canter in that long, he will never be asked. Furthermore, he may come to believe that it is not part of his contract—that you don’t have the right to ask him to canter.

Recently, I became aware that my young horse, Pepperoni, had formed an opinion that differed from mine. After riding indoors all winter, in the company of his herd mates, he mistakenly formed the opinion that he would never have to work alone. This became quite obvious when I took him to the outdoor arena alone and he threw a wall-eyed red-headed fit. My bad. I should’ve been working him in isolation more.

He had inadvertently formed the wrong opinion about how things work and he thought he was entitled to always ride in the company of other horses. We worked through this problem and I changed his way of thinking over a few weeks, and now I make sure I ride him alone regularly. Sometimes you and your horse will have differing opinions. It’s up to you, the leader, to clarify and rectify and make sure your horse comes out of every training session with the correct opinions.

Breach of Contract
In the training of a horse, we constantly make unspoken agreements with him. When you do as I ask, I will acknowledge and praise your obedience. When you try hard, I will let you rest. When you give the correct response, I will always release the pressure. When you resist or disobey my requests, I will always follow through with reinforcement.

Sometimes we make mistakes and fall down on our end of the agreement. Maybe at the moment you asked your horse to canter, you froze up on the reins and caused him to hit the bit and hurt his mouth. As far as he is concerned, this is an egregious breach of contract—you failed him. His head shaking and crow-hopping is his way of telling you that he thinks what you did is wrong. A smart rider will admit her mistakes and not blame the horse.

On the other hand, if you’ve been avoiding doing something with your horse because you are afraid to try or because you don’t think you can get your horse to do it, he may have come to believe that it is not part of his contract—that he will never have to do that. We can easily end up with a horse that does most of what we ask, but draws a line in the sand and says, “But I won’t give you any more than that—if you don’t push me, I won’t push back on you.”

I often see riders and horses that have this kind of arrangement—the “don’t push me too far” scenario. If there are things that you avoid asking your horse to do because you are afraid of his reaction when you do ask, your horse probably knows it and has come to believe that you’ve crossed a line when you ask that of him. In many instances, this kind of agreement seems to work, as long as the rider knows her place. But gradually, the horse will start making more and more deals under the table and is willing to do less and less.

You have a contract with your horse—to release the pressure when you should, to reward his good behavior, to not make mistakes and penalize him for doing his job, to be a good leader and make good decisions. Just make sure you have not inadvertently led your horse to believe that there are clauses in the contract which you have not agreed to. If there are things you avoid doing or if your horse has refused your request and you did not follow through, you may have taught him that he will never have to do that.

Decisions, Decisions
The person in charge is the one responsible for making the decisions. In your team of two—you and your horse—you should be the one in charge; you should be making all the decisions. You are the leader; your horse is the follower. You don’t want a thousand-pound flight animal making the decisions.

If your horse cannot trust your judgment (because you’ve made too many mistakes or betrayed his trust or been passive when you should’ve acted), he will constantly question your decisions. He may refuse to do what you ask or have a better suggestion for what you should do. If you make a poor decision that results in him getting hurt or scared, he has good reason not to trust your judgment anymore.

To be a good leader to your horse, you must not only make all the decisions but also make good decisions. It’s not just about you. Your responsibility is to take care of your horse—to be fair, consistent, and have good follow-through. It’s easy to blame things on the horse, but a good leader looks within for answers to problems.

At the end of the day, there’s only one conversation I want to have with my horse, and it starts like this… “Horse, this is your Captain speaking.” I like to think of myself as the Captain and my horse is my best first mate. I make the decisions and he makes it happen. He doesn’t argue with me or suggest I do things differently. He trusts me to make good decisions and he knows I won’t ask for more than he’s capable of giving me. He knows he will always be praised and rewarded for a job well done, and he also knows that if he falls down on his end of the agreement, he will hear about it from me.

Horses are quite clever, and they have a knack for reading people, sometimes better than people are reading themselves. Don’t be lured into thinking your horse doesn’t notice your actions, your lack-of-action or your avoidance behavior. Be honest with yourself and accept responsibility for your own mistakes. Think through your horse’s behavior, motivations and opinions and address them openly. Horses crave strong leadership and they know it when they see it, so look within and be the best leader you can be for your horse.

May 2019 Letter From Julie

Julie teaching at her C Lazy U Ranch clinic on Pepper.

Dear friends,

Prime riding season is fast approaching and most of us are gearing up and making plans to spend some quality time with our horses this summer—I know I am! My husband surprised me by coming home with a brand new 3-horse trailer with living quarters! I’ve always wanted one and recently hinted to Rich that it was on my bucket list to camp with the horses. What a thoughtful (and HUGE) Mother’s Day gift! Check out the deals we have to celebrate Mother’s Day (or any day you chose) and help make your horse life better. Maybe you can forward this email to husband and kids, by way of a hint.

We had fantastic expos in Ohio and Minnesota last month—it was great to see old friends, meet new ones and talk horses all day long. I’ll be at the Western States Horse Expo in Rancho Murieta, California, May 9-12. I also have horsemanship clinics coming up in Virginia, Ohio and Minnesota. My clinics are filling fast but OH and MN still have a few openings for riders. Be sure to check out my full schedule here.


Ready to Get Started on Your Riding Goals? 

Spring is almost upon us, and my team and I are getting ready to tackle our goals for this year in earnest! It’s easy to set the goal and promise yourself that you’re going to work with your horse X days a week, or practice really hard to get ready for a big ride or competition. But it can be really hard to actually START—whether it’s Day 1 or Day 25. Life happens—we get busy, things come up, and we excuse away making ourselves and our horses a priority.

If you need a little extra encouragement and support to meet your goals, join my new #HorseGoals Or Bust Facebook Group! This is a community where you can come to share your goals and updates, find support through frustrations and set-backs, be a cheerleaders for others, and celebrate accomplishments. See you there!

 
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Horse Report April 2019

Julie petting Pepper's neck, riding in the indoor arena.
Julie petting Pepper's neck, riding in the indoor arena.

I’ve spent more time on the road than at home this month, getting less ride time on my horses than I would’ve liked. Fortunately, I have Melissa, my barn manager, to keep the horses going in my absence.

I had to make the hard decision not to enter Pepperoni in the Legends Futurity, which takes place this month. Between my schedule and his time off due to a sprained stifle, we’re just not ready. I probably could have pushed to get him ready for the dry work, but I am in it for the long run with this colt. I want to bring him along slowly, and not stress him mentally or physically. I plan to start Pepper on cattle this summer, and have him ready to compete next year as a 4-year-old in the Legends Maturity show in both the dry and wet work.

With less pressure on us now, I am working on the basics with my red-headed colt—introducing collection at the trot, refining his stops, developing his pivot into a spin, and introducing roll backs. As this harsh winter comes to a close, we’re able to ride in the outdoor arena now and I’m getting him out of the arena too, for a refreshing change of scene.

Meanwhile,  Melissa has started shooting off my little mare, Annie. They had their first competition last weekend and they both did very well. Maybe we have found Annie’s forte! My boys, Eddie and Dually, are both happy and healthy. Dually is basically retired now, but we still get him out with the other horses, so he thinks his spot as my #1 horse is still secure. He’ll always be #1 in my heart, even if I can no longer ride him.


Ready to Get Started on Your Riding Goals? 

Spring is almost upon us, and my team and I are getting ready to tackle our goals for this year in earnest! It’s easy to set the goal and promise yourself that you’re going to work with your horse X days a week, or practice really hard to get ready for a big ride or competition. But it can be really hard to actually START—whether it’s Day 1 or Day 25. Life happens—we get busy, things come up, and we excuse away making ourselves and our horses a priority.

If you need a little extra encouragement and support to meet your goals, join my new #HorseGoals Or Bust Facebook Group! This is a community where you can come to share your goals and updates, find support through frustrations and set-backs, be a cheerleaders for others, and celebrate accomplishments. See you there!

 
#HorseGoals or Bust Community
Public group · 43 members

Join Group

 

Top 5 Trailering Tips

Top 5 Tips for Stress-Free Trailering

Loading a thousand-pound flight animal into a small container on wheels and driving that live-weight down a busy highway to a horse show or up a 4WD forest road to a trail head, is no easy task and should never be taken lightly.

I remember driving my mom’s Buick (circa 1972), pulling a 3-horse-abreast trailer when I was only 16. My horse show buddies and I were headed to a local horse show, saddles in the trunk and our Thoroughbred show jumpers loaded happily in the back. My father taught us to drive and ride motorcycles as youngsters and I’d hauled horses with my dad a lot, so I was comfortable with the routine and confident in my driving skills. Perhaps a bit overconfident, as it turned out.

The roads were more-or-less flat and straight in Florida, so it wasn’t until I got off the interstate and headed down the short steep off-ramp that I realized that the extra 3,000 pounds of live-weight in the back, currently surging us forward, was going to be difficult to stop. I can still remember it like it was yesterday—it’s the subject of a recurring nightmare for me.

With some serious foot stomping and butt clenching, I managed to slow the rig down enough to slide through the stop sign, without losing traction. The horses were packed-in like sardines, so they made the turn just fine and thankfully there was no on-coming traffic. After that, I took driving horse trailers a lot more seriously.

For the last thirty-five years, I’ve lived in the mountains of Colorado, near the Continental Divide, in the “inner-mountain” region of the state. For me, hauling horses always requires negotiating mountain passes—some easy, some hair-raising; and usually entails driving hundreds of miles to get to a clinic or event. Our closest trail head on the forest is only seven miles away, but it takes nearly two hours to get there, with a loaded horse trailer on a 4WD road.

With nearly a half-century and thousands of miles hauling horses under my belt, I’ve learned a few things that might help you avoid a few bumps in the road. Let me share the most significant lessons I’ve learned regarding the maintenance of a horse trailer, hitching, driving, loading and unloading horses, and the must-haves to carry onboard with you, as you head down the road with your horse.

Don’t Skip on Trailer Maintenance

A horse trailer is a great investment because it maintains its value, when taken care of. My gooseneck stock trailer is worth today, just about what I paid for it brand new, twenty-five years ago. So, it pays to put a little money into its maintenance. Not to mention, the peace-of-mind that a safe, road-worthy trailer gives you.

Once a year, I take my trailers to a mechanic to have a safety check performed and the wheel bearings re-packed (some trailers will have sealed bearing that don’t need packing). They’ll check all the wiring, the trailer brakes, the emergency brake and battery, the tires, the wiring and the lights. The most common problems with horse trailers are wheel bearings, flat tires or wiring/lights. Sometimes trailer tires must be replaced from old-age and dry-rot before they run out of tread. Better to spend money on new tires than get a blowout with your precious cargo onboard.

Make sure you periodically pull out the rubber mats and check the floor of your trailer, especially if it is made of wood. Time, moisture and contaminants can promote rotting or rusting and the trailer floor must be really strong to take a horse’s weight as it bounces down the road.

I always muck out the inside of my trailer as soon as I arrive at my destination and unload the horses. I also take my trailers to the carwash after a road trip. Road grime is corrosive over time, so the undercarriage and outside need regular attention. At least once a year, I clean the inside of the trailer with soap and disinfectant and a high-pressure wash.

Be Hitch Savvy

Horse trailers have all different kind of hitches. Beyond bumper pulls and goosenecks, they can have various latches, pins and toggles and require different size balls. The person driving the trailer is responsible for the hitch and the safety of the rig; you cannot delegate this responsibility. You must know exactly how the hitch works and be able to hitch and unhitch it by yourself.

Make sure the hitch on your tow vehicle is professionally installed, your vehicle is well rated for the hauling that you plan to do, and that you have safety chains and an e-brake on the trailer. I’ve seen horse trailers come unhitched and I’ve seen the safety chains and emergency brake serve its purpose, stopping the trailer safely without harm to the horses.

Check and double check your hitch and do a full walk-around safety check of your entire rig every time before you get underway. Check the lights and tire pressure and make sure all safety equipment is onboard. Each time you stop, feel the wheel bearings and check to make sure they’re not hot or leaking. Do another walk-around safety check before you pull out again.

Practice Driving Until You Get It Right!

If you are not confidant driving a horse trailer, practice will help. Hitch up and head out, sans horses. Practice cornering and braking without causing a shift in balance from side-to-side or front-to-back (remember that it will be even trickier with horses onboard). Drive slowly enough that you don’t have to use the brakes—every time you tap the brakes or take a turn too fast, you’ll throw your horse off balance.

Backing is the nemesis of most rooky trailer drivers. It’s not that hard if you will only practice. Find a big open area (free of obstacles) or a little-traveled country road to practice. First, just practice backing up straight. If you can back your rig straight, you’ve got a head start on most people. Line the wheels of the trailer up with the wheels of your truck and try to keep them that way with only minor adjustments.

Once you can back up straight, you can practice turning and parking. Here are a couple of great tips for backing a horse trailer… If you get confused over which way to turn the wheel while backing up, place one hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and move that hand in the direction you want the back of the trailer to go. Also, steer the back wheels of the trailer—watch them in your mirror and visualize where you want the rear wheels to go.

Make sure your mirrors adjust so that you can see your trailer tires and how they are tracking. A long rig comes to the inside in the turn and you need to know exactly where those rear tires will track in the turn, so you know how wide to take the turn. Practice, practice, practice, until you feel confidant.

Trouble-free Loading & Unloading Requires Advance Preparation

There’s nothing worse than being ready to hit the road, but the horse won’t load up. It’s a given that your horse is more likely to refuse when you are in a hurry to get somewhere. If your horse is not an experienced traveler, you’ll want to address trailer loading weeks before you need to drive somewhere.

Horses should not be bribed into a trailer or forced in with ropes, whips or devices. Training a horse to load in your trailer should not be hard if your horse has good manners and is well-trained in-hand. I train horses that once they are asked to approach a trailer, the only option is to get onboard. I never allow a horse to walk away from the trailer, no matter how big a fit he throws. I take my time and wait it out, ruling out the horse turning right or left or backing up. Once he accepts that the only option is forward, he’ll walk right on. This may take some time at first, so don’t wait until the last minute. Start weeks or months in advance and have the patience to say to your horse, “I’ve got all day.”

No trailer-loading technique has passed the test of time and effectiveness more than feeding a horse in the trailer. You must teach the horse to load first. Then, make sure the trailer is hitched to a vehicle and load him up for his grain and hay, once or twice a day for a week. The trailer soon becomes his happy place and he’ll be eager to jump onboard.

If your trailer requires your horse to back out and down a step, it may be harder to get him out of the trailer than in. I prefer to start trailer training with an open trailer that my young or inexperienced horse can turn around and walk out forward at first. Stepping down a step backwards is not something a horse would ever do on his own, so this will require patience and a progression of training. Once he’ll walk out forward confidently, then I’ll ask him to back one step at a time toward the rear, then turn around and walk out forward, at the last minute. Eventually, Ill ask him to step down backwards.

My video on stress-free trailering explains these training techniques in detail, as well as hitching, driving and backing a horse trailer.

Don’t Leave Home Without It

If you have a trailer with a tack room or other storage space, it’s nice to keep it stocked with the important things you need, every time you hit the road. I like to keep my trailer stocked with tools and safety items, horse and human first aid, grooming tools and other horse gear that stay on the trailer all the time.

I have a basic tool kit in my trailer with screw drivers, pliers, wrenches, cutters, flashlight, electrical and duct tape. We like to have either a floor jack or a drive-on lifter, in case we have a flat tire when we cannot offload the trailer. If we are traveling cross-country, we might buy a spare set of wheel bearings, just in case we lose the bearings in an inconvenient place.

Human first aid kits should have the standard stuff and I add plenty of comfort items like Chapstick, sunscreen, hydro-cortisone cream, pain reliever, bug repellant, extra-large band aids (for saddle sores) and wet wipes. My horse first aid kit includes wound care items (cleaning and bandaging), ointment, Bute paste and Banamine injectable (the latter two things I get from my vet). I always carry a few disposable baby diapers (newborn size) because they can be useful for bandaging and for girth sores. Hoof boots, well sized to your horse, are good to have as a back up plan if your horse pulls a shoe or becomes sore-footed.

Basic grooming tools and a sturdy hoof pick stay onboard my trailer, as well as a farrier’s tool box in case we need to pull or repair a shoe. The comfort products I like to use on my horses, like fly spray (I prefer Ultra Shield Green because it is nontoxic to my horses, myself and the environment), Absorbine and A&D ointment (good for sunscreen and insect bites). We also keep water buckets with straps (one per horse), full hay bags, manure fork and bucket, spare halter and lead, extra bridle/cinch, a leather punch and a leather repair kit, in case they’re ever needed.

With my trailer fully stocked, all I need to add are my horse’s tack, feed and a cooler, and I’m ready to load my horse and hit the road. I’m far less likely to forget things and have a lot less stress. I keep a small white board inside the tack room door, so I can make note of anything I forgot or want to remember to bring next time.

Hauling your precious cargo doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking. When you’re confident in your driving skills and your rig is well-maintained and properly hitched, it relieves a lot of the risk and stress. Having your horse well trained for loading, unloading and tying at the trailer takes advance preparation, but makes your trip much smoother. Making sure you have all the tools, equipment and comfort items you need will insure a pleasant trip.

 

For more detailed information on reducing the stress in hitching and driving horse trailers, training your horse to load and outfitting your horse for the ride, check out my video, Stress-Free Trailering. It’s available in DVD, or streaming on-demand at JulieGoodnight.com.

April 2019: Letter from Julie

Dear friends,

I’m thrilled it’s spring! I was gone for two weeks in March and when I got home, my outdoor arena had totally thawed and Rich had freshly groomed it for me, in honor of my return from a long hard trip. It was long because I had contracted a nasty cold on the first leg of the trip, and it was hard because it included shooting video outside during the infamous “bomb cyclone.” The storm came fast (at 8 am) and it was a full-blown blizzard within the hour. I was at Harmony Equine Center, an impound facility for Colorado law enforcement, funded by the Denver Dumb Friends League. I was in the pen with Garret Leonard, the manager, and 12 pregnant mares that had been confiscated and surrendered to HEC, due to starvation. Even while the rain turned to snow and the winds began to howl, they kept their heads buried in the hay feeders. I’m pretty sure I will never forget that scene, plus the harrowing drive back to Denver right before the highways closed for two days.

But now there are clear signs of Spring—I’ve taken a few wild rides on my now three-year-old colt, Pepperoni. Let’s just say he was “exuberant” about riding outdoors, after making circles in the indoor all winter. The flower beds are starting to wake up and the days  are warm enough to spend some time on the lake—these are the things I do when I am not traveling.

This month I’m headed to Columbus, OH for Equine Affaire, April 11-14; and to St. Paul for the MN Horse Expo, April 19-21. For details on horse expos and clinics, please visit juliegoodnight.com/schedule.

Enjoy the Ride!

Julie


Ready to Get Started on Your Riding Goals? 

Spring is almost upon us, and my team and I are getting ready to tackle our goals for this year in earnest! It’s easy to set the goal and promise yourself that you’re going to work with your horse X days a week, or practice really hard to get ready for a big ride or competition. But it can be really hard to actually START—whether it’s Day 1 or Day 25. Life happens—we get busy, things come up, and we excuse away making ourselves and our horses a priority.

If you need a little extra encouragement and support to meet your goals, join my new #HorseGoals Or Bust Facebook Group! This is a community where you can come to share your goals and updates, find support through frustrations and set-backs, be a cheerleaders for others, and celebrate accomplishments. See you there!

 
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Horse Report March 2019

This is not a winter we will soon forget. More snow, ice, wind and cold weather than I can remember for some time. Thankfully, we have a nice toasty indoor arena, but after a few months of riding inside, the horses are eager for a different point of view.

It was awesome to spend a week up in Fort Collins at CSU Equine with my two horses, Annie and Pepperoni. We had some quality time together and managed to make it home, driving 200 miles through the mountains, in between the snow storms. Pepper is coming along nicely—working on collection at the trot and canter, beginning lateral movements like shoulder-in and leg yield, and refining his pivot on the hindquarters, which is a natural talent of his. Canter departures still leave something to be desired, but I know this will fall into place too. He’s such a joy to ride and train—he’s eager to learn and has a fun-loving attitude.

Dually has had a tough winter, too much cold and ice for him. He’s healthy and comfortable, but he’s very tentative on the frozen ground. No one’s more eager for spring than Dually. Eddie, on the other hand, is true to his breeding—he’s a tough, stoic ranch horse and not much affects him.


Ready to Get Started on Your Riding Goals? 

Spring is almost upon us, and my team and I are getting ready to tackle our goals for this year in earnest! It’s easy to set the goal and promise yourself that you’re going to work with your horse X days a week, or practice really hard to get ready for a big ride or competition. But it can be really hard to actually START—whether it’s Day 1 or Day 25. Life happens—we get busy, things come up, and we excuse away making ourselves and our horses a priority.

If you need a little extra encouragement and support to meet your goals, join my new #HorseGoals Or Bust Facebook Group! This is a community where you can come to share your goals and updates, find support through frustrations and set-backs, be a cheerleaders for others, and celebrate accomplishments. See you there!

 
#HorseGoals or Bust Community
Public group · 43 members

Join Group

 

Horse Master Memories

After 11 years of producing the TV show, Horse Master with Julie Goodnight, and 260 episodes featuring a different horse and rider, I made the decision to end the series. Eleven years is a long run for a TV show—by any standards—and it was important for me to go out while we were still on top and time to move onto other projects. Although I will miss the Horse Master crew, the shoots, the horses and the people we met along the way, I am quite proud of the body of work we amassed.

Each year, from 2008 to 2018, we produced 24 half-hour episodes of Horse Master. We conducted three shoots each year, at various locations around the USA. We recruited horse owners from that region, with challenges they wished to resolve. Except for our very first shoot, we always had way more applicants than spots on the show. It was always a difficult task to pick cast members, not only because we wanted to help everyone, but also because we had to find a balance between English and Western riders, between groundwork and mounted work, and represent a variety of breeds and find topics that were both relevant and unique.

About a month before each shoot, we would review the applications and assign them a rating of 1, 2 or 3. A one rating was either a subject we’d been hoping for or a common horse challenge that would be easy to address within the time constraints of a half-hour episode. If a male or a youth rider applied, they were automatically rated a one. In more than one case, the man’s application had actually been submitted the wife, without his knowledge. A teenage boy once applied without his parent’s consent; fortunately, his mother was a good sport (she found out about it the day before) and agreed to haul his horse cross-country and allowed him to miss school to attend the shoot.

Twos were subjects we could use in a pinch (if we didn’t have enough ones), but they were often complicated topics that would be difficult to resolve in one episode; or redundant subjects (how many times could we make an episode on how to get the correct lead at the canter?). Threes were basically subjects we didn’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole; subjects that were too outlandish for the average horse owner to relate to, or behavior that was extreme and/or dangerous. We did not want to offer solutions that required a disclaimer, “Do not attempt these techniques at home.” It was always our intention to provide useful, relevant horse training techniques that were also safe to employ and would benefit the average horse owner and horse.

The Horse Master with Julie Goodnight video library of eleven seasons and 260 episodes, is available on-demand at TV.juliegoodnight.com. It offers practical horse training, handling and riding techniques and useful information for horse owners, searchable by keywords. Believe it or not, as I read through the extensive list of episodes, I can remember each one—the horse, the subject (which was often not the subject we planned for) and the person.

Certainly, some horses were more memorable than others—maybe because it bit or bucked or bolted. Maybe because it was painfully misunderstood and needed an intervention; or maybe it was a clever horse that was duping its owner. Of the 260 episodes, a couple dozen really stand out in my mind. I can remember the details like it was yesterday—where we were, the time of day, the horse’s reaction or the person’s epiphany.

In my last blog (February 2019), I wrote about the top three episodes that stood out most in my memory from over a decade of making TV shows about horse training. It was the horses I remember most—the Thoroughbred that bolted, the beautiful black mare that had a breakthrough, and the regal but defiant Morgan. I remember every horse that was in the show, especially the ones that challenged my skills as a trainer and the ones that taught me important lessons. If I made a Top Ten list of Horse Master episodes, I would definitely include these episodes.

Season 2, Episode 1 (201), “Wave Runner”
We shot this episode on the beach of Martha’s Vineyard, where the movie “Jaws” was filmed—that alone was enough to make it memorable. We arrived before the sun came up and shot while the beaches were still empty. The horse was a big pinto Warmblood, a 3-day event horse that struggled with water jumps. Our thinking was that if we could get him in the ocean, we could probably get him around a cross country jump course. Since the owner had a broken collar bone, all the riding was left to me (yippee!). It took me almost an hour to get the horse into the surf and it was a wild and wet ride, but a lot of fun! To this day, this episode (recorded in 2008) still gets more comments than any other.

Season 3, Episode 1 (301) “Can’t Make Me”
Recorded at my ranch in Colorado, this horse stands out in my memory because I really had no idea if I would be successful overcoming the challenge. The issue was the mare’s refusal to step on a tarp. The owner was training her for trail obstacle competition, but there were certain obstacles the mare refused to attempt. The owner had recently attended a five-day trail obstacle clinic with a highly respected clinician, who also happens to be a good friend of mine. I have a lot of respect for this guy’s skill, so it was intimidating to find out that in the entire five-day clinic, they never once got the mare on the tarp, ultimately giving up. These were not promising odds for me and every time they had attempted to cross a tarp and failed, the mare had become more set in her refusal. I got on the horse late in the afternoon and it was nearly dark when she finally gave in and walked quietly across the tarp. I used the classic technique, “make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard,” working her hard anytime she backed away from the tarp and only letting her rest when she was near or on the tarp. It was a case of being patient, staying the course and waiting for the mare to come to the right conclusion, which she did, right before dark.

Season 9, Episode 17 (917) “Betty Lou Knew”
Recorded in Tucson AZ, at the White Stallion Ranch (one of our favorite shoot locations), this was one of only two mules we ever featured in Horse Master, but keep in mind that every mule owner that applied, got on the show. Did you ever hear of a mule kick? You can see it in real-life action in this episode. It was supposed to be about bad ground manners, but this mule took one look at the cameras and the set, and suddenly she had perfect ground manners. Moving on to plan B for a topic, the owner said she was also tough to saddle, so we decided to tackle that subject. “Tough to saddle” may have been an understatement, since it was more like taking your life into your hands. Although she kicked like a mule, she never once made contact and her kicks were highly calculated to warn but not hit—you can see that very clearly in the video. Turns out Betty Lou was quite clever, as most mules are, but all it took was a little scolding to make her see the error of her ways.

Season 9, Episode 23 (923) “Back on Board”
During the course of producing Horse Master, we did many episodes with “spoiled” horses that had learned to act poorly due to improper handling. In many instances, these are perfectly well-trained horses whose behavior has deteriorated to the point that they are unpleasant, if not downright dangerous. This was a clever, but spoiled palomino who walked all over his young owner and basically did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. When it came time to load in a trailer, this horse knew every avoidance trick in the book, most of which can be seen on the video. As the owner tried to approach the trailer, the horse managed to drag her all the way around the truck and trailer twice—not once getting even close to the door. It didn’t take much to retrain this horse—he knew perfectly well how to load in a trailer. As usual, the bigger challenge was in retraining the owner.

Horse Master with Julie Goodnight is a body of work of which I am quite proud. We amassed a significant volume of content that offers practical horse training, handling and riding techniques. As searchable, streaming on-demand content available at TV.juliegoodnight.com, it will continue to help horses and horse people all over the world, for many years to come. Horse Master is currently airing on broadcast TV in many European countries, Australia and Canada (on Horse & Country TV), while work is underway to dub it into Spanish and Portuguese, to air in many Latin markets. This content will live on for some time, helping horses, one human at a time.

See the Horse Master trailer here:

Meanwhile, work has begun on our new TV series, Horse Life with Julie Goodnight, which is a one-hour unscripted lifestyle/adventure series, featuring multiple storylines about fascinating characters and intriguing issues, in places where horses are deeply entrenched in the culture. The pilot episode, Horse Life—Colorado, is scheduled for release this spring, and will be airing in many USA and international markets this summer.

March 2019 Letter from Julie

Julie with the colt-starting class she substitute taught at CSU.
Julie with the colt-starting class she substitute taught at CSU.

Dear friends,

Last month, my horses and I spent a week at Colorado State University, substitute teaching for the Legends of Ranching colt-starting class. (This class has 32 young, untrained horses paired with 32 student trainers starting them under-saddle and prepping them for the Legends of Ranching Sale on April 19th), and guest-lecturing in a few other equine classes. It’s always fun to work with college students who are planning a career in the horse industry, and to connect with the innovative work being done at CSU Equine.

I ended the month in Denver at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo Hall of Fame dinner, where I was honored to be one of the inaugural inductees, alongside Dr. Robert Miller, Richard Shrake and Pat Parelli. This month, I’m headed to Lansing, Michigan for the 36th Annual MI Horse Expo, where I’ll be doing presentations on improving rider skill, rein aids and leg aids, canter and riding later in life.

In April, I’ll be at Equine Affaire in Columbus, OH, and the MN Horse Expo in St. Paul. Check out my online public appearance schedule for up-to-date details.

Before we know it, summer will be here and the riding season will be in full swing! Now is the time to get ready—to set your training goals, to plan the clinics, competitions, and trail rides you want to attend, and to start getting your horse (and yourself) in shape to handle the adventures. I hope you will find some helpful tips, here in my newsletter and also on my website, to help you make productive plans and achieve your horsemanship goals. My team and I stand ready to help, if you need guidance along the way.

Enjoy the ride,

Julie


Ready to Get Started on Your Riding Goals? 

Spring is almost upon us, and my team and I are getting ready to tackle our goals for this year in earnest! It’s easy to set the goal and promise yourself that you’re going to work with your horse X days a week, or practice really hard to get ready for a big ride or competition. But it can be really hard to actually START—whether it’s Day 1 or Day 25. Life happens—we get busy, things come up, and we excuse away making ourselves and our horses a priority.

If you need a little extra encouragement and support to meet your goals, join my new #HorseGoals Or Bust Facebook Group! This is a community where you can come to share your goals and updates, find support through frustrations and set-backs, be a cheerleaders for others, and celebrate accomplishments. See you there!

 
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February 2019 Horse Report

Pepper and Mel's horse, Booger
Pepper and Mel's horse, Booger

I’ve had a little more time on my horses this month. Pepperoni, now a 3-year-old, is progressing nicely after a small setback from a stifle sprain. After treatment from Dr. Potter (who was kind enough to treat him on Christmas Eve so I didn’t lose another week of training), some rest and rehab, Pepper is back to 100%. We did lose about three weeks of training, which will make it tough for us to be ready for the Legends of Ranching Futurity in April. But I won’t push him—if he’s not ready, we won’t enter.

However, in the last week, Pepper has really surprised me. He’s such a fun horse to train—he’s very willing, but somewhat opinionated. He’s sensitive, athletic and wicked smart. If I could avoid making mistakes (nearly impossible on such a fast-learning horse), and just teach him one important thing every day, his training would go so fast.

At this moment, we are working on basics (forward and straight), collection at the trot (starting to think about it at the canter), shoulder-in, canter departures and pivots. I have not yet worked on stops and rollbacks, because of his stifle injury, but these maneuvers will be easy for him, due to his natural talent.

The Legends Futurity involves working cattle and this is where I run into a time crunch—I’ll have to get him working the flag before live cattle, and he’s not quite fit enough for that. But just in the last week, things seem to be coming together for us.

I am headed up to Colorado State University this week to substitute teach, and I will be taking Annie and Pepper with me. Annie will help me work with the colts (32 of them), and Pepper is going for the road experience and so I can continue his training.

It will be a fun week—I get to ride my horses every day, and I always enjoy working with college students!

 


Ready to Get Started on Your Riding Goals? 

Spring is almost upon us, and my team and I are getting ready to tackle our goals for this year in earnest! It’s easy to set the goal and promise yourself that you’re going to work with your horse X days a week, or practice really hard to get ready for a big ride or competition. But it can be really hard to actually START—whether it’s Day 1 or Day 25. Life happens—we get busy, things come up, and we excuse away making ourselves and our horses a priority.

If you need a little extra encouragement and support to meet your goals, join my new #HorseGoals Or Bust Facebook Group! This is a community where you can come to share your goals and updates, find support through frustrations and set-backs, be a cheerleaders for others, and celebrate accomplishments. See you there!

 
#HorseGoals or Bust Community
Public group · 43 members

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Horse Master with Julie Goodnight, The Final Chapter

My career as a horse trainer took a sudden detour back in 2008, when I went from riding horses for a living to producing a television series, called Horse Master with Julie Goodnight. Becoming an Executive Producer and Host of a TV series was not in the original business plan, when I started my horse training company back in 1987. But when a door opens, I tend to lunge for it. I had no idea where this door would take me, but I am sure glad I went through it, because that door took me on an incredible ride.

Now, 11 years and 260 episodes later, I can honestly say that the job we started out to do is complete and it’s time for me to move onto something bigger and better. Knowing that every project has a beginning and an ending, and that no TV series can run forever, it was important to me to bring the series to close while we were still on top with the fans and doing our best work. Even though we’ve produced the last episode of Horse Master, this significant body of work will live on for decades and will still be available to viewers around the world.

Humble Beginnings

Back in 2007, RFD-TV was a fledgling satellite network offering TV programming to rural areas, including horse programs. It was really the start of weekly horse training programs that could be seen on TV. I was offered a contract with the network, who would air the shows if we produced them. It was an incredible opportunity—the only catch was that we had just three months before the first shows would start airing. I had no crew, no cameras, no sponsors, no locations, no cast members and twenty half-hour episodes to produce.

Knowing I couldn’t do it alone (I may have been a good hand with horses, but I knew nothing about producing a TV show), I recruited Heidi Melocco (then Heidi Nyland) to jump off the cliff with me. Heidi came onboard as Producer and Director, helping create the production and sticking with the show for ten years and 236 episodes. Without Heidi’s help, I would never have been able to pull this off. Little did we know then, that the series would go on for so long and become an award-winning, substantial body of work.

So we jumped off the deep end, took the deal offered and scrambled to get a crew together, find a shoot location plus the horses and people we needed to be on the show. Within a few weeks we pulled a shoot together in Longmont, Colorado, calling on many of our friends to be on the show. Looking back on it now, with 260 episodes behind us, I am amazed at how well we did at that first shoot. I recall staying up all night, trying to compose what I would say and practicing a difficult line that I needed to say at the close of one of the shows, without breaking into tears (S1: E3).

One of my funniest memories of all the Horse Master shoots, was from that first location. I had no idea what clothing I should wear, so I basically threw my entire equestrian wardrobe in suitcases, which ended up dumped on a filthy tack room floor (in my unglamorous, not-so-private dressing room) so we could rummage through them to find the right outfits. I must have changed clothes 100 times at that shoot. Special credit goes to my friend and wardrobe wrangler, Cheryl Lee (S6: E6 and S9: E2), whose style help we enlisted from the beginning of the series and who stuck with me to the very end (and still counting). It’s not an easy job to style-up a horse trainer.

At the very first shoot for Horse Master, we taped 6 episodes in 5 days. As the years went by and we all got better at our jobs, we were shooting 8 episodes in 4 days. We learned a lot about TV production over the years, about working with horses in live-action (horses don’t do re-takes) and about finding the people and stories that would make the show interesting.

The Body of Work

From 2008 through 2018, we produced a massive amount of content about horse training and horse people. Our original concept for the show was that it would feature a new horse and rider every week, helping them overcome challenges and reach new goals. Knowing that in the TV world, they describe new shows by comparing them to current shows, back in 2007, when we were first pitching the show, we liked to say that Horse Master was a cross between Dog Whisperer and Super Nanny.

We produced 260 episodes over 11 years, at 37 different shoots, in ten states, and at 18 different locations. We shot in Colorado ten times, in Arizona nine times, five shoots in Florida, three in California, two times in South Carolina, Texas and Massachusetts, and once in Georgia and Tennessee. We shot at my ranch in Salida, Colorado, every summer and we ended up going to the White Stallion Ranch in Tucson for seven shoots, because it served our needs so well for winter shoots and because the scenery and accommodations were fantastic. To this day, many people think I live in Arizona.

Once we set a location and dates for the shoot, we would begin to recruit people and horses for the show. They would fill out an application online and about a month before the shoot, Heidi and I would comb through the applications, trying to find the right mix of horses, people, riding disciplines and problems to solve. It turns out, this was one of the hardest parts of producing the show, and we got pretty good at it, although we always dreaded it. We hated that we couldn’t take every horse on the show.

Looking back on all 260 episodes, there are some cast members (both two-legged and four) that I will never forget. I can remember every horse I worked with and each one of them had something to teach us. I compiled some statistics about Horse Master, which are not only interesting facts about the show, but also reflect the American horse world—the people and horses, and the challenges they face.

The Horses

115 episodes of Horse Master featured Quarter Horses (both purebreds and grade). That should come as no surprise, since they are by far the largest breed of horses. We also featured 24 Paint horses, 20 Thoroughbreds, 19 Warmbloods (of various persuasions) and 16 Arabians (purebreds and crosses). Again, very representative of the American horse population. Interestingly, eighteen of the horses we featured were Palomino in color. I’ve always thought Palominos liked to be the center of attention and this statistic bears that out. Ten gaited horses starred in Horse Master, eight pony breeds were represented, six Mustangs, six Morgans, five Appaloosas, three Paso Finos and one Peruvian Paso, and two mules were also featured in episodes.

The People

Through all eleven years of production, we tried to have a balance of people, riding disciplines and subjects. But to be honest, getting men on the show was always a challenge. Every man that applied, got on the show, but sometimes it turned out that his wife had filled out the application, unbeknownst to the husband. Same thing happened with kids—they would apply to be on the show without their parent’s knowledge, so we learned to follow-up on these things. All said and done, our cast members included 28 youth, 24 male and 208 female equestrians.

The Subject Matter

Horse Master episodes included 113 Western riders, 72 English riders, 63 unmounted groundwork episodes and 12 personal interest stories. By categorizing all the shows into a dozen broad subjects, I saw that the content is somewhat of a running commentary on the most common challenges horse owners face:

  • 32 were on advancing riding skills—improve the rider so the horse can do his job
  • 24 on were leadership (human) and ground manners (horse)
  • 21 featured spoiled, tantrum throwing horses (always the fault of humans)
  • 21 about riding the canter
  • 18 were about spooky horses or horses with a high fear response
  • 17 were about building confidence in the rider (reference above)
  • 14 about training green, uneducated horses
  • 14 on slowing down a fast horse
  • 3 on speeding up a lazy horse
  • 6 on trailering horses
  • 4 on saddle fit
  • 2 on hard-to-catch horses

Most Memorable Episodes

In preparation for this article, I went through our catalog of episodes several times. I can honestly say, I remember every horse we had on the show, but some stand out more than others in my mind. Looking at all 260 episodes, there were about 27 shows that really stood out to me—either because we made a big impact or because I learned something important. I’ve written about all 27 of these episodes in a separate article, but of those memorable episodes, a couple are indelibly imprinted on me.

S4: E9, “Bucket List” This was an incredible episode because this beautiful black QH mare, who was the apple of her owner’s eye, had a huge breakthrough in her training—going from a high-headed, fast and choppy ride, to a rounded, soft frame and slow, rhythmic gaits. Truly becoming her dream horse. It wasn’t easy to get there- a significant bit change and a lot of training on my part. By the time the sun was setting that night, the mare was perfect. Of all the episodes, there was never a person on Horse Master more thrilled with the outcome, than Cynthia. We were all shocked and saddened to hear that her dream horse died of colic, just a few short weeks later, long before the episode was edited (making it more bitter sweet). A tragic reminder to us all, that horses are delicate creatures and we should treasure our time spent with them and the gifts they give us.

S11: E7-9, “The Lost Episode of Chief” I will never forget this horse; he starred in three episodes in season 11. Memorable in part, because he belonged to my good friend and neighbor, Amy, but also because of his crazy history (he was dumped at a horse rescue after being gored by a bull) and because of his strong sense of right and wrong and his regal bearing. He was extremely intolerant of any mistakes and would become aggressive if he thought you did something wrong, thoroughly intimidating his owner. He was a very big Morgan— dominant and powerful, especially when he was charging you head on, with ears back, teeth barred and ‘smoke coming out his nose’! Amy was determined to become a better leader to her horse, and that she did. He was a tough nut to crack, but she won him over in the end. It was an interesting and intricate relationship that evolved, requiring Amy to step up and Chief to step down. We only half-jokingly changed his name to Cobb, as Amy came to realize that she could not buy this horse’s admiration with love and pampering, but she could earn it by becoming a better leader.

Where You Can Find Horse Master Now

I’m very proud of the body of work we’ve amassed with Horse Master, on horse behavior, training and riding horses. This content is “evergreen,” meaning it will not become outdated or obsolete any time soon. All 260 episodes of Horse Master are available online (SVOD) and searchable by key words. So, if a horse owner in say, Dubai, were to search the content for “bucks at canter,” six different episodes would come up and hopefully one of them would answer his question. Horse Master Online is available by subscription at TV.juliegoodnight.com.

Horse Master is also enjoying its first run internationally, with season 11 currently playing on Horse & Country TV in UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Australia and Canada. We are working with other content providers to dub Horse Master into Spanish and Portuguese, for airing in Spain and South America. All over the world, there are places where horses are deeply entrenched in the culture, and the content providers want Horse Master. Who knows? Maybe we’ll resurrect the show in another country… Horse Master: South Africa… Horse Master: Brazil… Horse Master: Ireland….

New series, New Life

Most folks that know me, know that I am not one to sit still for long. Or at all. In fact, for the last two years, my partner and producer, Stephen Schott and I have been burning the candle at both ends– creating a brand-new TV series at the same time we were completing Horse Master. We launched a new company, 2Horse Productions™ (same players, new name and a few new partners), and began production on a new series called, Horse Life with Julie Goodnight.

Horse Life is an unscripted lifestyle series featuring people and places where horses are entrenched in the culture. Horse Life goes behind the scenes into the splendor and nature surrounding horse communities around the world. Host Julie Goodnight (that’s me) brings expert insight to illuminate the unique cultures, history, and the magical world of horses and the lives of equestrians.

You’ll be hearing a lot more about this new series soon! We’re very excited about the opportunities before us and we are hard at work, producing the new series.

Acknowledgements

Producing 260 episodes of a TV show is no small undertaking, by anyone’s standards, and I could never have pulled it off without lots of expert and enthusiastic help from others. I have an abundance of gratitude for all the horses, people and places that were part of Horse Master over the years. It would take pages and pages for me to thank them all, but there are some individuals that were indispensable to the production, whom I wish to acknowledge.

A big thank you to Heidi Melocco, Producer and Director, who was willing to take a chance with me and jump into the TV world with both feet running. To Stephen Schott, Producer, Director, Camera and Editor; often the only male on our shoots, Steve put up with a lot! His patience, work ethic and vision have been invaluable to me. To Rich Moorhead, 2nd camera and supportive husband, willing to jump in and take on any job and whose business acumen I rely on heavily.

To Cheryl Lee, my dear friend, wardrobe wrangler and style advisor for all 11 years and 260 episodes (trust me, I am not an easy person to style up!). To Lucy Achenbach, Tanya Cody and Twyla Walker-Collins, all of whom appeared int eh show throughout the eleven years, for their excellent help as assistant trainers, helping the horses and patiently working with cast members behind the scenes (the latter more challenging). To Susie Donaldson, key grip and editor’s assistant, who has a keen eye for details and who was always looking for ways to make the show better. And Jackie Marks, key grip on many shoots—thank you for keeping everyone calm and on-track. Thank you to my dear friend, Sharon Gilbert (S1: E3), key grip, on-set guidance counselor to everyone and someone’s who’s insight I always value.

Gratitude to my invaluable Salida staff who always keeps my wheels turning—Twyla Walker-Collins (S11: E7-9) Megan Fischer, Diana Hatfield and Melissa Arnold (S4: E6). They’ve contributed a lot to the series over the years, and they come to work every day with smiles on their faces, eager to help with whatever crazy project I concoct.

To Brenda Beach, Shawntel Gallegos-Wilson, Alisa Reniker, Mary Ann Page, Madison DeCook, Lucy Koehler, Dawn Hurlbert, Carolyn Nyland, Sddita Blackburn, Pi Poletta, Bill Bekkering, Gwen Van Dorp, Rosie Sweatt, Dawn Roberge, Tami and Eddie Leedy, Debbie and Mark Gould. Thank you all for being excellent grips and for giving us your time and energy on multiple shoots. There were many local volunteers, too numerous to mention here, whose help on shoots we were grateful for and who appear in the credits. You are not forgotten!

Without the 260 brave souls who appeared on the show as cast members and brought their horses to me, we would never have had such an interesting show. Thank you for your courage to apply and your willingness to give us two days of your life. I hope you and your horse remember your time on Horse Master fondly and that you continue to pursue your dreams. The names of our cast members, two- and four-legged, appear in the show and in the credits, so we will always remember you!

A special shout out goes to Myler Bits and Toklat Originals, our presenting sponsors and two companies I love partnering with because they understand importance of educating horse owners, to help horses. Dale Myler, world-renowned expert on bits, contributed to many shows and taught us a lot, starring in two episodes each year from 2011 to 2018 and helping us with many other episodes. Anyone who watches the entire series knows that through the years I changed the bits on many, many horses. We changed bits so often that sometimes we didn’t we forgot to mention it. All three of the Myler brothers have dedicated their lives to making bits better for horses, and you can witness the profound impact this has on horses in many of the Horse Master episodes. Thank you to Toklat for supporting our production and for supplying bits to the horses that needed them.

Troxel Helmets also supported the show and its mission to promote safe riding practices and make helmet-wearing cool, by donating beautiful and sporty equestrian helmets to all the cast members and me. That was a lot of helmets over past 11 years. 326 of them, to be exact! Riders everywhere (and their friends and families) thank you. I am also happy to report that other than a few nips and kicks here and there, we never had any serious injuries to horses or people during 37 shoots, over 11 years. Thank you to ALL the cast and crew for keeping your focus on safety.

We recorded Horse Master in some incredibly scenic locations, from Martha’s Vineyard (S2) to the Napa Valley (S3). All the locations were amazing and welcoming, but some places were so perfect that we went back, again and again. A special thanks to the White Stallion Ranch, Tucson AZ, and the True Family. It’s an incredible guest ranch in the Sonoran Desert, with huge Saguaro cacti looming in the background (and the only place we could reliably shoot in the middle of winter). They were so good to us that we shot there seven times (S5-11)! I’d also like to thank the Grand Oaks Equestrian Resort in Weirsdale FL, for their scenic location, exceptional facilities, fabulous accommodations and gracious hospitality (S1, 10, 11). We might have shot there one more time, if not for the hurricane!

And finally, I’d like to thank all the horses, Seasons one through eleven and Episodes 1-260—without them, there would have been no show. They never volunteered to be on the show, but we treated them like stars anyway. We learned a lot from every one of the horses and they did their best to make us better people. In turn, we did our best to help every horse that we could, by teaching their people something. Horse Master always was, and continues to be, all about helping horses, one human at a time.