My First Covid-Era Horsemanship Clinic

After almost two decades of being a road warrior, traveling 20-30 times a year to clinics and public speaking at horse fairs and conferences, I suddenly found myself grounded when travel came to a screeching halt in March. The writing was on the wall a week or two before the shutdown, when events on my calendar started cancelling one by one. By the time the shutdown was official here in Colorado (March 16th), I was already starting to panic about how I would make a living if there were no live events for me to attend.

At first, my normal weekly rhythm—pack, travel, work the weekend, fly home, unpack/laundry, then start packing again for the next trip—was completely disrupted. For a week or two, I felt like I was going in circles—not knowing what to do next or even what day of the week it was. At first, like a lot of people, I thought it would be great to have a break from travel, to be at home more, have more time to ride my horse, garden and complete scores of back-burner projects.  I eased slowly into this newfound freedom, but it never seemed to fit me quite right.

Can Someone Please Explain What Just Happened?

It was scary—not knowing when I would travel again or how my business would suffer—could we pivot to find a new revenue model to replace the losses? I enjoy being on the road, meeting new horses and their people, seeing new places, eating at great restaurants. I missed networking with my peers, doing training demonstrations for the public, seeing old friends, making new connections, and helping horses. We were suddenly pitched overboard into unchartered waters. I couldn’t help but fear that these things that I so loved would no longer be part of my life.

But then, something changed in me. A new normal took hold. I got used to the slower pace. I found more time to ride my bike, hike, boat, and fish. I no longer missed traveling and forgot about eating at restaurants. I got stuff done around the house, and yes, I was able to pivot my business model and keep my team gainfully employed by doing daily posts of horsemanship homework 7-days a week, throughout the shutdown.

At first, it seemed like all the events I was booked for through the summer, and even beyond, were going to cancel. It was a strange relief, finally accepting that staying at home was the right thing to do. But at the same time, it was disconcerting—surrendering instead of fighting for my business. And it was with this uneasy feeling of ambivalence that I greeted the news that my first post-covid public event—a riding retreat at the C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, Colorado—would be one of the first such events to happen as we approached the reawakening of our economy.

Life Resumes But It’s Not Exactly Normal

Julie and Barbra teaching a clinic attendee.The Women’s Riding & Wholeness Retreat—an innovative 4-day program that includes horsemanship, personal empowerment, and confidence building—is a program I co-teach alongside Barbra Schulte. The C Lazy U Ranch is a “5 Spur” guest ranch, nestled in the Colorado Rockies, with a herd of over 200 saddle horses. They offer all-inclusive luxurious vacations, steeped in horses, the Western lifestyle and outdoor adventure. 

I’ve been conducting horsemanship programs at the C Lazy U several times a year, for more than a decade.  I was totally confident in their ability to navigate this new germ-conscious world, knowing that during the shutdown they were working hard to figure out how to reopen safely. I knew, in typical C Lazy U fashion, that they would exceed governmental requirements and offer a shining example for hospitality businesses planning to reopen. Intellectually I knew this to be true. But in my current state of sheltering in place, withdrawing and retreating, I had very mixed emotions.

Is getting back to work important? Yes. Is it too soon? I don’t know. Can we do this right? Yes. What exactly does that mean? I don’t know. Who will come? Will they fly across the country to get here? Will it be life as normal? I doubt it. Can I speak over a microphone with a face mask on? (I would soon discover that you can’t).

At the start of 2020, this program was full, with 36 guests. When the shutdown occurred, each guest was given the option of getting a refund, moving their registration to one of my fall programs, or staying enrolled for the postponed dates. Surprisingly, there was about a 30/30/30 split, and we ended up with 22 participants still registered for the clinic.

About a third of the guests were from Colorado (like me, driving a few hours to get there) and the rest were from out of state. Several women drove all the way from Tennessee. Some flew in from California, Georgia and Florida. There was certainly an atmosphere amongst those of us that made the trip that we were going to make this happen—and have a great experience—come hell or high water.

Let’s Get This Party Started!

The C Lazy U made extensive plans and procedures for protecting their staff and their guests. Following county, state, and CDC guidelines—in fact exceeding them in most instances—I felt confident in the Ranch’s attention to detail. Prior to the event, Barbra and I had several video conferences with Ranch management to discuss the procedures so that we presented a united front to our guests.

Prior to the start of the program, we were all asked to read about and agree to the procedures the Ranch outlined and be prepared for appropriate social distancing and wearing face coverings. Five days before the start of the program, we completed affidavits online about our current health and recent exposures. We completed the same forms again upon arrival at the ranch. 

And so it was, that on Thursday, May 28th, we started our first post-covid horsemanship clinic, with 26 of us coming together, but staying apart. Barbra and I could not have hand-picked a better group of participants. We were all brave but cautious; excited to be there, but uncertain how to act; not letting covid define us, but being incredibly careful to respect and protect others—especially the staff at the ranch.  

Horseback Riding is Perfect for Social Distancing

Photo Credit: Louise Hollaway

Turns out, once you are up on a horse, social distancing is easy! No one wants to get closer than six feet anyway, for fear of getting bit or kicked. We knew that once we were up on a horse and riding outdoors, we would have fewer concerns. But the fact remained that mounting and dismounting those horses could be problematic for maintaining proper distancing. Eating meals together and having workshops indoors were issues we had to mitigate.

Barbra and I were both confident in the extensive precautions the Ranch had taken. We felt strongly that we had a duty to set the right example for our guests and to get business functioning again. The precautions taken by C Lazy U (exceeding government guidelines) are far too extensive to list here, but I’ll give you an idea of what we, as guests, experienced…

  • Face coverings: Everyone complied with the requirement to cover mouth and nose with a face mask, bandanna or buff (tubular neck gaiter) at all times when social distancing is not possible—indoors or out. 
  • C Lazy U staff ALWAYS wore face coverings and gloves, indoors and out. We learned to recognize them by their eyes and body shape. Their temperatures were taken daily and everyone was very conscientious to look for signs of infection. 
  • Instead of everyone meeting at the barn to mount, we were spread around the ranch at three separate mounting locations to reduce the number of people congregating in one area. Everyone (guests and staff) wore masks during mounting and dismounting, but once underway and away from others, we could pull the mask down.
  • Initially, we thought we would require riders to keep their masks on during riding in the indoor arena, but quickly discovered that would not work. Riding can be an aerobic activity, and with the high altitude at the ranch, breathing is hard enough without a mask. Keeping the end doors of the arena open and with half the number of riders as normal, it felt safe.
  • In addition to masks, riders were expected to wear their own riding gloves and each horse’s tack was fully disinfected each day after use. You knew that your tack (and all other items around the ranch that may have been touched) had been disinfected because it was flagged with orange surveyor’s tape each morning.
  • All our meals were eaten outside, around the pool (it was cold and rainy one night, so we retreated indoors for dinner). Seated at tables of four or six (which normally held 10 or 12 people), we were served gourmet food, family style. We developed our own policies at the table, like once one of us had touched a serving utensil, that person would serve everyone else, so as not to share utensils. 
  • When you checked in (outside), you were asked how you prefer housekeeping to be handled. Guests had three choices: regular daily service, just replace towels and coffee, or no housekeeping. Whatever your comfort level, the Ranch would accommodate.
  • Small bottles of disinfectant were everywhere around the ranch, at your dining table and in the workshop room. Spray bottles of disinfectant were in the public bathrooms, along with instructions about how to spray, wash your hands and exit without contamination.
  • For our indoor workshops, we were relocated from the normal conference room to a larger building that would better accommodate social distancing. The big converted haybarn allowed the ranch to place comfy, upholstered chairs, spread around with plenty of space in-between. Hand sanitizer was always within reach.

We Did It!

Although I initially had some ambivalence about having the clinic, that uncertainty melted away once we arrived at the Ranch. As always, it felt like coming home. I had complete confidence in the C Lazy U staff and management, and they didn’t let me down. We felt safe and taken care of, the whole time. The flexibility of the staff to meet the needs of each guest was amazing, but they never compromised on safety.

I will say that as guests, we were all very conscientious about face coverings at first, but as we ate our meals together, rode together and participated in workshops together, there was some erosion to the policy. By the middle of the clinic, many guests were forgetting their masks or getting lax, particularly when amongst ourselves.

Still, we worked hard to respect the health and comfort level of the people around us—staff or guests. We so appreciated the C Lazy U staff and their willingness to put themselves at risk for our personal benefit, and we always made a point of pulling our face coverings up when around them.  

Everyone in our group had a different level of comfort in terms of wearing masks and being close to others and we all respected one another. Afterall, covering your mouth and nose around others is a sign of respect and a selfless act. 

What Happens Next?

Sadly, this was not only my first post-covid horsemanship clinic, it was my last one for a while. All my other events have been cancelled or rescheduled for 2021 until the next time I go to C Lazy U in September. I normally take time off in the summer anyway, so for now I am content to stay at home and train horses in front of a camera instead of an audience.

I am still ambivalent about getting “back to normal,” as it relates to getting on a plane and traveling from coast to coast. But I love my job—going to where the horses are and helping people get along with them better— and I look forward to resuming my travels. I’m doing my best to stay informed of the facts, listen to the experts, to resist falsehoods/rumors/conspiracy theories, and to keep an objective view.

In the meantime, my team and I are working hard to stay connected with our followers around the world and to grow our business in new directions. Our online streaming services and online training programs are enjoying a surge of activity. And one day soon, we’ll all be participating in horsemanship clinics, horse fairs, horse shows, and group trail rides again—albeit with modifications. I am confident and I am patient.

This too shall pass, and when we get to the other side, we’ll be stronger—both as individuals and as a society. I look forward to seeing you at a horse event soon!

April 2018 Horse Report

Because of a heavy travel schedule, I went three weeks in March without riding my own horses. I hate that! Fortunately, I have Melissa, to manage my horses for me during my frequent absences. Consequently, my horses are slick, fit and tuned up, so when I am home, I can ride to my heart’s desire. (I know, I’m spoiled—but I’ve earned it.)

Rich has been riding Eddie regularly, as they work on their mounted shooting skills. I think Ed is perfect for shooting. I’ll admit my heart swells with pride when I watch Rich and Eddie—he’s easy to ride one-handed (or no hands), he always tries hard and he is 100% obedient to the aids. He’s matured into a balanced and handsome gelding that looks a lot like his sire, Sixes Pick (a world champion ranch horse stallion from the 6666 Ranch), and he is truly a “steady eddie.” I wish I could say the same for Annie.

My little red headed mare is actually doing well in her training. Mostly we’re working on training her to be a gelding. I may never reach that training goal, but I won’t quit trying either—I’d say we are 60% there.

I’ll know more when I take her to the C Lazy U ranch next week, for the clinic I am teaching with Barbra Schulte. I’m bringing Eddie for Barbra to ride—he’s easy as a couch to teach from.

Annie is actually a fun little ride as well—she’s sporty, low to the ground, compact and athletic. When her mind is in the game, she’s a blast to ride! When she’s fretting over the horses coming and going around her and being a supreme busybody, not so much. Keeping her focus and interest on me is a constant challenge, but I feel like I am winning the war. I’ll know for sure this time next month, after we’ve been to a 4-day clinic away from home!

Note from Julie: October 2015

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Dear friends,

We’ve just returned from an incredible 4-day ranch-riding clinic at the C Lazy U Ranch and soon I am headed to Spanaway, Washington, for my last 2-day horsemanship clinic of the year, then I get to go back to C Lazy U for the riding and yoga retreat (treat is the operative word!). Soon we will be releasing my 2016 clinic schedule, but you can always check my website for details on my full clinic and expo schedule.

I am also excited to be going to Amarillo, Texas, in October for the CHA International Conference and to visit the AQHA Hall of Fame; to Springfield MA, in November for Equine Affaire; then on to Las Vegas with the good folks from Cosequin for the equine vet tech conference, held in conjunction with the AAEP conference and the National Finals Rodeo (this is the time of year that Sin City becomes Cowboy Central).

We’ll be doing our fall TV shoot at the Grove River Ranch in Georgia the first week of November. I’m excited to head south to my old neck of the woods! This is a gorgeous facility and a place where you can trailer in to stay at their cabin, fish and ride!

The fall is always busy for me but I still manage to get some good riding time on my horses. Dually, my number one horse (and the most high-maintenance horse we own) is fully recovered from his near fatal bout with Colitis in the spring. In fact, he’s gotten a little cocky and full of himself—a good sign that he is feeling better but also a sign that we need to get back to more structured training. It’s back to school time for Dually!

Eddie’s Pick is my junior horse and he would love to step  into the number one spot. He comes off the renowned 6666 Ranch, by their World Champion stallion, Sixes Pick. Eddie, a handsome reflection of his daddy, is one of the most eager-to-please and hardworking horses I have ever ridden. Now, as a 6 year old, he has matured physically and mentally (especially the latter) and is becoming a good working partner for me. I don’t know that he could ever fully replace Dually—those are some BIG shoes to fill—but he is sure giving Dually a run for his money!

Although I was sad to say goodbye to summer, I love the fall and getting back on the road and working with horses, and their humans, is very rewarding for me. I enjoy getting to know all the horses I meet, even the naughty ones. Maybe especially the naughty ones—helping horses and their humans get along better is a fun challenge to embrace. I hope to see you on the road this fall and together we will talk horses!

 

Enjoy the ride,

Julie

 

C Lazy U, Part 3

Good day!

I am enjoying another perfect summer day here at home. Even managed to get caught up on some gardening projects and household chores. I have one more major reorganization project to tackle here in the office, then it’ll be time for a ride.

I’d better finish the Memorial Day weekend story or I’ll soon be more than a week behind my life. My last post took us to the middle of the second day of VRH clinics and our turn at the Working Cow clinic. We were thrilled to have one of the top clinicians in the country, Sandy Collier of Buelltin CA, www.sandycollier.com .

Sandy has a talent for getting a lot of information across in a short amount of time. She explained the procedures for “boxing” the cow on the end of the arena and showing how your horse can control the cow (it’s similar to cutting except that there is only one cow and you are holding him on the fence). In VRH, after you have boxed your cow, you take him down the long wall of the arena, past the middle marker, turn him back on the wall, run him past the middle marker again and turn him again. This usually is high-speed and thrilling (or sheer terror for some).

Before starting the live-cow work, we did an exercise with two horses—one rider pretending to be the cow, one being the horse/rider herding the cow. I discovered that this exercise only works when your partner knows how to act like a cow 😉 but it helps you gel the theory in your mind before trying it on a cow.

We practiced moving the cow by putting your horse’s nose at his flank and circling the cow by putting your horse’s nose at the cow’s ear. I learned a key exercise for my chargey, over-zealous cow horse that relates back to what I learned about him in the cutting clinic—the reward is the cow. If Dually makes a frantic charge at the cow, instead of stealthily sneaking up behind him to turn him, I immediately take him off the cow, put him directly behind the cow and just let him push the cow around the rail into the corners. We’ll continue at that pace, just following the cow, until he is relaxed and then try sneaking up on the cow again. Every time he gets chargey, we start following the cow, pushing him down the rail instead of turning. Once he makes two good turns on the cow, we quit.

Still trying to preserve my horse’s back for the schooling competition the next day, I only worked him once on a real cow. I was proud of my determination not to over work him, but as I took him back to the trailer I had a nagging concern that I perhaps had not worked him enough and he would be too fresh tomorrow. But since Dually was on a heavy dose of Alleve, I felt it prudent to err on the side of caution since twice before I have been unable to compete on him after a two-day clinic.

I tried this rail work exercise yesterday, training here at home, and it worked great! We also roped a little and I had two good catches and stops J I guess I am going to have to finish his story in a fourth part, because now I have to get some work done and so I have time to ride my horse. Next I’ll share what competition day is like in VRH and let you know how we all did at the competition.

Until then, ride safely!

Julie

Please visit Goodnight’s sites for more information and training tips:
http://www.juliegoodnight.com
http://www.horsemaster.tv

My Top 3 Lessons From The Julie Goodnight Women’s Riding Clinic

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I’m going to be brutally honest here: I was a fan of clinician Julie Goodnight before attending her ”Women’s Riding and Yoga Retreats and Ranch Riding Weekend at C Lazy U Ranch” in Granby, Colorado.

But after four days of riding with Julie, that’s changed.

Now I’m a groupie

http://myhorse.com/blogs/horse-trainers/julie-goodnight/my-top-3-lessons-from-the-julie-goodnight-womens-riding-clinic/?utm_source=pinterest&utm_medium=pin&utm_campaign=Web-Traffic

Riding & Yoga Retreat

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We had an awesome Yoga & Riding Retreat at the C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, Colorado last fall. There were about thirty women altogether, for four days of riding lessons, trail riding, yoga sessions, decadent spa treatments, gourmet meals and luxurious five-star accommodations and service. The weather was absolutely perfect—crisp mornings and warm sunny days, which is not always a guarantee in October in the high mountains of Colorado. But for this trip, we had no use for the heated indoor arena. We all particularly enjoyed the young and cute wait staff, always ready to lend a hand, and who we fondly nick-named our “cabana boys.” If only I had a buff young man to carry my bags on every trip that I do!

Five riders brought their own horses; the rest of the guests were riding ranch horses and they did surprisingly well for good ol’ trail horses.  Much to my amusement and delight, the ranch horses started out wanting to plod head-to-tail around the arena but by the end of it we had them leg yielding one by one down the quarter line! Although it’s always nice to ride your own horse at a clinic, there’s something very satisfying about walking up to the barn and having someone hand you a tacked horse, ready to go. And the ranch hands are quick to remind you that they have 180 horses, and if this one doesn’t work, you can try another!

It’s a very fun weekend for me too; because for one thing, I get to bring my own horse, Dually, and have a few days of riding time on him. I love teaching off my own horse—what a luxury! I can demonstrate whatever I want and teach with my ever-ready partner at my side. But  since I fly to most events that I do, sadly I have to leave my horse at home most of the time. Granted, I do get the pleasure of riding some very nice horses when I am on the road, but sometimes the mounts I get are not exactly what I ordered.

Another reason I really enjoy the riding & yoga retreats at C Lazy U is the camaraderie and networking that goes on among the women that attend. From all points of the country (Martha’s Vineyard to San Diego) and from all walks of live, a group of women come together to study horsemanship, do yoga and indulge themselves for a few days—free from the everyday chores and challenges of life, work and family. Some women arrived alone but were quickly surrounded by new friends. Some women came with friends in tow and we had a couple of mother-daughter pairs, but by the end of the first meal, we were one group and any lines between people were blurred.

There were many highlights during the weekend for me, but my favorite memory is of seeing Betty canter around the arena on old Bucky, like she was running barrels. This from a timid woman who started out in the first session saying she probably could never canter. But once Bucky got the idea that it was okay to canter, and Betty got the “Yehaw!” cue down, they were tearing it up. I even found myself saying, “Okay Betty, I think that’s enough catering for you and Bucky!”

Everyone made tremendous progress, learned a lot and had fun. Most made a pact to return again next fall and we all exchanged email addresses and have been sharing photos online. If you did attend this year, I hope you will post some comments below about your favorite memory from the weekend. We have another Women’s riding & Yoga Retreats planned for this year—In October. I know a lot of your were disappointed not to make it into last fall’s retreat—it was filled to capacity months ahead of time. So if you have an interest in attending this coming year, you may want to sign up early; many of the folks from this year are already signed  up for October. All registrations are made through C Lazy U. www.clazyu.com

Enjoy the ride!

Julie

 

C Lazy U, Part 2

Greetings!

I have caught up on some badly needed restsleeping 12 solid hours last night. And today is like paradise here in the Heart of the Rocky Mountains HYPERLINK “http://www.salidachamber.org/ http://www.salidachamber.org/ . Its warm and sunny and no windand Ive even found some time to relax a little, reading my book on the deck in-between loads of laundry. Its good to be home!

To take up from last time, I only managed to write about the first day of the 3-day VRH clinic/competition HYPERLINK “http://nvrha.org/docs/CLazyUFlyer.pdf http://nvrha.org/docs/CLazyUFlyer.pdf . The first day, Saturday, we had roping and cutting clinics. As I said, I put together some very important components of swinging the rope; and in the cutting I learned a really important key to training my horse.

Jack McComber of Rocky Ford CO was the cutting instructor. As I said in my last post, most of the people in our group were cutting for the very first time, so we took it slowly. And that is exactly what my horse needs- slow and stealthy, not the balls-to-the-walls screaming cow eating shark that he thinks he is. What I learned from Jack carries over to all the cow work I do with Dually- whether cutting, fencing, boxing, roping or circling. THE REWARD IS THE COW. He only gets the cow if he does things rightno charging, no wheeling around the cow trying to beat him around the corner. He only gets the cow when he stays quiet and focused, stops straight and turns correctly. Then he can eat the cow for lunch!

Like a retriever that lives to chase the stick, a very cowy horse wants it more than anything. Once he knows that the only way he can get what he wants is to stop straight, fly right and make no unauthorized attacks on the cow, he will do it right every time. But there will probably always have to be reminders along the way. With Jack in the cutting clinic, when my horse got chargey- trying to provoke the cow into some action, Id just stop, back off and put him behind the cow following the cowa place hed rather not be (cant have the cow yet). That gives him time to think about being slow and steady and when he is, I let him have a little action on the cow. This point would really sink in on the next day of the clinic.

Saturday night, we had dinner by the pool and hot tub (read the previous post about the hot tub at C Lazy U). With tables around the pool, a lovely covered portico with porch heaters, and a beautiful inside lounge, all 40 or so of us there for the VRH clinic had dinner together followed by a hilariously entertaining musician and ending with all 40 of us on our feet dancing and singing in a group. Between the good food & drink, the raucous laughing, singing and dancing, every single person had a fabulous time. We shouldve all gone to bed earlier, knowing that tomorrow we would ride again all day.

Sunday offered two more clinics for each of the four groups of 10 riders. For our group, we did reining in the morning and working cow in the after noon. The reining was taught by Dwayn Hoelsher of Berthoud CO, an outstanding trainer of reining horses and he also judged the schooling competition on Monday. On the second day, Dually was still feeling gooda little too froggy perhaps. Since reining is something he does really well, I try not o practice it too muchif he makes a good maneuver the first time I ask for it, thats all I ask. So the reining clinic was a good time to take it easy on Dually, knowing that I would still do some vigorous training in the afternoons working cow session.

Often when you take a clinic, you have the opportunity to learn a totally new perspective on something. Sometimes this new perspective will enlighten you to a whole new way of doing things and other times it will confirm that the way you were already doing things is good for you and your horse. Since reining is a relatively new sport as compared to Dressage, which is thousands of years oldless than a century compared to millenniums, there are many varying ways to train the basic maneuvers of the reining horse. Take the spin, for instance.

As long as I have known about spinning (which is simply a fast pivot on the hindquarters at the walk or trot cadence), there have been two main camps for how to train it. The first walks the horse forward into the spin and the second backs the horse into the spin or, more accurately, doesnt allow forward movement. I have always learned under and have had good success with the former method: from forward motion. But Jack had us consider the latter method: forward motion prohibited. And as it turns out, Dually spins much better that way! The truth of the matter is, that not one training technique is perfect for every horse. Yes, I can get pretty good spins using the forward method, but Dually is a horse for whom forward does not need to be encouraged and it turns out he spins better when forward is prohibited. But then there are horses like Tucker, for whom forward impulsion is not always easy to get and perhaps the forward method works better on him.

Jack likes his spins to be flat (the frame of the horse as seen from profile), with the head low and pretty straight in the body. You cant argue that it makes a pretty picture. What he trains his horse is that I either tell you to go forward or turnaround and there is no forward motion in the turnaround (although there is forward impulsion). So the horse is merely going where you direct him with the reins and unless you reach way up to the horses ears to signal that you do want him to step forward, he should not step forward. I discovered that both methods are good but Jacks is better for my horse. But for a horse that does not maintain forward impulsion well, you may need to train him into a spin with forward motion.

I can see by now that there will have to be at least one more part to the C Lazy U story, because I cannot write it all now. Next Ill write about the final clinic session with one of the top trainers in the country, Sandy Collier, and then the competition. But for now, Ive got to go ride my horse for the first time since the competition four days ago. Hes had a nice rest in the green pasture and is ready to go back to work (I am projecting my opinion on him now ;-).

Hope you are enjoying good times on a good horse this weekend,

Julie

Please visit Goodnight’s sites for more information and training tips:
http://www.juliegoodnight.com
http://www.horsemaster.tv