Julie presented her pre-recorded video clinic with live narration of the clinic and riders at the 2020 Annual Certified Horsemanship Association International Virtual Conference. Watch to see Julie’s tips and valuable knowledge on how to learn simple and flying lead changes.
Summer came to a screeching halt around our ranch, just two days after record heat on Labor Day, when we were hammered with well over a foot of snow and temps in the low 20s and highs in the 30s (yes, Fahrenheit). We went from fly sheets to mid-weight winter blankets in one day (we save the heavy artillery for true winter). We will certainly still have some warm, summer-like days ahead of us (I hope), but most likely our nights will get colder as the days shorten.
My young horse Pepperoni and I, alongside Rich and his horse Casper, took a trip to my friend Lucy’s ranch where we did some high-mountain riding in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. I was super pleased with Pepper’s performance on the rough, steep and (at times) treacherous trail. He was strong, sure-footed and willing; we rode in every position in the line-up—he even led bravely the descent. The trip inspired me to write a blog series on the making of a great trail horse.
Normally I haul two horses (Pepper and Annie) to clinics at C Lazy U, where I am in the saddle all day. But I’ve decided to take only Pepper to the next clinic—a sure sign of his maturity and reliability. It’s a good thing Fall is such a glorious time of year here in the Rockies, because I’ll be in the mountains, conducting horsemanship clinics for the next month.
I have three programs at the C Lazy U Ranch in northern Colorado and one in Jackson Hole Wyoming, for the winner of the Equus & W.F. Young Win A Day contest. I’m excited about the two new programs we are offering in October—The Fall Getaway (a fun mountain vacation hosted by Barbra Schulte and her husband Tom, and my husband Rich and me) and Horsemanship Immersion (an education-intensive program for insatiable learners, covering equitation, groundwork, training, health, saddle fit, etc.). If you are looking for an adventure—there are still a few openings in both programs. Find out more.
My little mare Annie (14.0 hands in high heels) still carries the load when it comes to media production. She’s a finished cow horse, in her prime, and still my go to horse (although Pepper is creeping up on her). Last week we recorded video for some virtual events this fall. The Certified Horsemanship Association’s annual conference has gone virtual and is happening on October 30th. The conference is open to anyone, and will offer educational horsemanship clinics—both English and Western—from a variety of nationally known presenters, including yours truly.
My clinic is called Lead Changes: Simple and Flying, and we recorded the riding portion last week. I rode Annie in the clinic, plus I had two English riders and one Western rider. The horses (and one pony, not counting Annie) and riders were all at different training levels, from a youth rider to a pro rider. In spite of having about 15” of heavy wet snow on the ground the day before and high winds during the shoot, we pulled off a great clinic! Certified Horsemanship Association’s Virtual Conference is open to anyone. It’s chock full of horsemanship education, and you can participate right from the comfort and safety of your own home! You can register here at the discounted member rate by entering the priority code JG ($60 off!).
Here in the high mountains of Colorado, there’s not much left of summer. But I’m looking forward to a fabulous fall riding season and getting back on the road with my horses. It’s certainly been a strange year, and one we all look forward to seeing in our rearview mirrors. I think many of us horse lovers are grateful to have the stability, connectivity and grounding that horses and the accompanying (never ending) chores give us. I know I am.
Enjoy the ride,
This fall brings a transition like no other. Normally, I take a break from business travel in the summer and ease back into full swing, traveling to horse expos, clinics and conferences in September. Of course, this year, I’ve had a five-month stretch with very little business travel. Like a lot of people, back in March I went from shock, to wandering in circles, to settling into a new normal. I love traveling, meeting new horses and helping them with their people. At first, I wasn’t sure what I’d do if I couldn’t travel—all I could think about was when things would get back to normal. Then came a period of adjustment; then came a new normal. I’m sure many of you can relate.
Now it’s time to dust off my suitcases, pack my bags and hit the road again! Although a part of me has become content staying at home, I’m super excited to get back to what I do best—teach horsemanship! Although my fall schedule does not look like it used to, I’ve still got some trips on the books, and I’m excited to get back in the arena with three clinics at the C Lazy U Ranch, plus my Equus Win-A-Day clinic in Jackson Hole, WY. Apparently, many of you are eager to travel, too, since our clinics at C Lazy U are filling fast!
The Ranch Riding Adventure in September is full but the Fall Getaway (co-taught with Barbra Schulte), October 8-12, still has a few openings. This is a new, vacation-oriented program, where guests can pick their own agenda each day, choosing from all the ranch amenities (riding and non-riding), plus lessons with Barbra and me each day and plenty of social activities (outside and social distancing). Bring your spouse or a non-riding friend for this fun, action-packed outdoor program. October 22-26 is Horsemanship Immersion—a program you’ve asked for, specifically designed for insatiable learners. This will be a hands-on, 4-day program that covers riding skills, groundwork, health, first aid, conformation, saddle fit and bits, behavior and training, plus trail riding in the Rocky Mountains. These clinics are filling fast, so if you’re ready to venture out, check out these fabulous programs.
This month I’ll be conducting a recorded clinic for the CHA V-Conference on October 30th. The conference is open to anyone and will offer educational horsemanship clinics, both English and Western, from a variety of nationally known presenters. I’ll be offering a clinic on lead changes, which will be pre-recorded and viewed on October 30th, with live commentary from me. The Certified Horsemanship Association is a nonprofit organization that promotes safety and effectiveness in horsemanship instruction. I’ve been a proud member, spokesperson, and certified Master Instructor with the organization for decades. This virtual conference will certainly be chock full of high-quality horsemanship instruction. Please join us!
This year has been like no other. We’ve learned a lot about human nature and how quickly our society can change and how well we can all adapt. I’ve found some unexpected treasures, with more time to do the things I love. I’ve found new strength in my ability to pivot. I’ve had a lot of fun with the Daily Doses of Horsemanship Homework and found a lot of satisfaction in foster-training Doc Gunner (please visit MyRightHorse.org to find out how you can help horses in need). If you asked me back in early March if I would be willing to give up traveling, I would have said no. But now that I see that even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, we can find joy in the smallest things ,and opportunity where we didn’t know it existed. I have a new perspective. I know many people are hurting, and I am heartened by the kindness and generosity of others. As we ease back into “normal” life, there will be more bumps and recalculations, but I do have faith in the positive outcome and I hope you do too!
Enjoy the ride,
I’m not sure whether I’m sad to see summer wane or glad to see this year halfway behind us. The not-knowing-what’s-next is hard for everyone, myself included. I miss helping horses with their people. I miss the hundreds of horses I encounter in-person each year. In fact, I consider it a perk of my job and I want it back. How else does a trainer master their craft, other than working with thousands of individual horses?
When will we get back to the horse-business-as-usual? Who knows, really, but I think for large events like horse expos, it’s looking like 2021 will be a remake of what we’d planned for 2020. It’ll be like we skipped a year; sort of like suspended animation. For 2021, I’m booked at all the events I planned to attend this year, and I am looking forward to that day! See my full schedule here.
In the meantime, and maybe permanently, I’ll be doing a lot more private/small group clinics. There’s nothing quite like working with horses and their people, up-close and personal, and seeing the dynamic between them. After all, if the person could articulate to me what they were doing wrong, we could handle it on the phone. Without seeing the interaction between horse and human, I miss a lot of information that I need to help solve problems. If you think you and your horse are ready for a house call, get more info on private clinics here.
This fall, I’ll be teaching three “vacation clinics” at the renowned C Lazy U Ranch, near Granby, Colorado. This “5-Spur” guest ranch is operating at reduced capacity this summer; with almost all of the activities outside and with well-established covid precautions, they are staying safe while offering outstanding family vacations. I was there in June for a clinic I co-taught with Barbra Schulte and everyone was smart and we had a great time. While my September program at C Lazy U is full, the two October programs still have openings. So if you’re ready to venture out, this may be your ticket…
- Ranch Riding Adventure, September 17-21. Includes trail riding, daily lessons with Julie, trail obstacles and cattle work. This clinic is full for 2020; if this program fits your needs, call and ask to be on the waitlist for 2021.
- Fall Mountain Getaway, October 8-12. Join Julie Goodnight, Barbra Schulte and their husbands for a vacation for fun-loving adults. Plan your own schedule each day, choosing from a menu of activities, including lessons with Julie and Barb, incredible trail rides, plus many fun activities for riders and nonriders alike.
- Horsemanship Immersion, October 22-26. With a laboratory of over 200 horses to play with, this program is for insatiable learners of all ability levels. It involves concentrated study and hands-on practice, including riding, groundwork, conformation, behavior & training, saddle fit & bits, health & first aid.
As spokesperson for the Certified Horsemanship Association, I’m excited to be participating in their virtual conference, on Friday, October 30th. The CHA Conference is geared toward horse professionals, but is open to anyone and is often attended by non-professionals that wish to expand their knowledge. For the v-conference, I will pre-record a clinic with both English and Western riders called, “Simple and Flying Lead Changes,” (a tall order). I’ll present the video of the clinic on the 30th and answer your questions.
If you’re an English rider interested in bringing your horse and riding with me at my ranch in Salida, Colorado, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy the ride,
For some, attending a horsemanship clinic with a particular clinician, is a bucket-list item that they work toward for years. For others, attending horsemanship clinics with teachers who are leaders in the field is a way to further their careers and boost their horsemanship. And then there are the “clinic junkies,” who spend a good portion of every riding season trying to bag as many clinics as they can. (One summer, my husband attended eight different clinics! He also won a year-end award for most-improved in the ranch horse association, so it paid off!)
In theory, attending a horsemanship clinic—either as a rider or spectator—should be an inspiring, motivating and fulfilling event.
It’s a time to observe, explore innovative ideas, and immerse yourself in your passion; an opportunity to learn from a renowned professional, expand your horsemanship and grow as a rider. Sadly, not everyone has a blissful experience at a clinic. Choosing the right clinician, getting organized ahead of time and preparing yourself and your horse will set you up for success.
I’ve been teaching horsemanship clinics for a couple decades now, but I certainly didn’t start my career as a clinician.
I first started teaching riding lessons when I was 16, assisting at a small boarding and lesson farm in Florida. My introduction to group riding lessons came a couple years later when I taught for two summers at a youth camp—two of us taught five 1-hour lessons, 40-50 students a day, six days a week, all summer long. By the time I was 19, I was quite proficient at keeping order and managing traffic flow in an arena full of horses and riders. Little did I know then, I would draw on this experience 20 years later.
Although my passion for horses had more to do with studying behavior and science-based training techniques, I realized something important early on in my career. I could be the best horse trainer in the world, but it wouldn’t matter if I couldn’t teach the rider or handler to have the same success with the horse. So, as I honed my knowledge and training skills, I also had to hone my teaching and communication skills. After all, horses don’t pay the bills—people do.
Like most “horsemanship clinicians,” I spent years—decades, really—teaching individuals and small groups and developing my skills as a horse trainer before I started teaching clinics. I stopped teaching lessons to individuals more than a decade ago, and for the past 15 years I’ve been teaching horsemanship clinics from coast to coast and abroad.
Through my work with the Certified Horsemanship Association, I am still actively involved with educating and certifying riding instructors, but conducting horsemanship clinics now is my main gig.
How is a Clinic Different from a Lesson?
Clinics are typically taught by someone who is an expert in a particular area of horsemanship, with the experience and depth of knowledge to manage any situation. They are usually taught by someone with a higher level of expertise and/or contains content you would not normally get in a riding lesson. Horsemanship clinics are limited in availability and may require you to travel with your horse. They tend to be costlier in time and money than lessons, but for a great clinic it’s money well spent!
Not only will a horsemanship clinic connect you to a higher level of training or expertise, it is an opportunity to get an objective evaluation– of your riding, of your horse’s training, your tack, your goals– from a professional who has a broad perspective from working with hundreds or thousands of horses and riders, and who has no preconceived notions about you and your horse. Sometimes these objective and experienced eyes will pick up on things that you haven’t, offer innovative ideas or remove roadblocks.
The format for horsemanship clinics can vary a lot, depending on the riding activities and the clinician.
They may be discipline-specific (dressage, jumping, cutting, barrel racing, trick training) or more general in nature (groundwork, riding, colt-starting). Most of my clinics are general horsemanship, which means we address everything from groundwork, to leadership skills, to riding skills, to improving the performance of the horse in any discipline.
Some horsemanship clinics will be taught like a series of private lessons that are given in front of an audience, over a PA system. Dressage clinics are usually that way—the clinician works with the riders one at a time, one after the other, and others pay to watch, observe and learn. The one-on-one attention is less pressure than riding in a large group of unknown horses, but the rider is under a microscope from the clinician and audience. The number of riders that can be addressed in one day is also very limited.
Other clinic formats will have all the riders in the arena at the same time, with the groups as large as 10-20 riders. Performing in a large group in front of an audience brings unique challenges for both the horse and rider. It also has the potential to greatly expand the training and confidence of both horse and rider. Inexperienced horses can be overwhelmed at first—excited by all the unknown horses, and nervous in a new setting.
It’s the role of the clinician to help the horses settle in and teach the riders how to cope. It’s an excellent experience for a young or green horse and should advance their training significantly.
Another unique quality of a horsemanship clinic versus a riding lesson is that there are usually auditors—spectators who have paid to observe the clinician as she/he works with the horses and riders. This can be nerve-wracking for the riders (and for the horses when the spectators laugh, applaud or open an umbrella), but is an excellent and cheap source of information for the spectator.
Auditing horsemanship clinics is an excellent source of continuing education for riding instructors and horse trainers, because it allows you to observe all the different horses and see how the clinician adjusts the techniques to the specific needs of the student.
Finding the Right Clinic
Before signing up for any clinic, you should already have an idea of your purpose, your goals and what you hope to achieve. Is it to gain experience for a young horse, to get continuing education as a professional, to upgrade your performance, to build a better relationship with your horse, or to have a fun time with friends and horses?
Narrowing down the clinician you hope to work with, the discipline you want to focus on and the budget and time frame you must work within will help you sort through the options as you research the opportunities available in your area.
It’s possible you’ll have to travel a significant way to reach an in-demand clinician, so you’ll have to consider cost and travel logistics. To a degree, supply and demand will dictate the cost of the clinic. Popular clinicians usually come with a higher price tag—and their clinics may be hard to get into because of the high demand. On the other hand, last-minute cancellations can result in a discounted spot. Or, up-and-coming trainers may offer great deals on clinics—just because they aren’t a household name doesn’t mean they aren’t a fabulous trainer and teacher.
If your goals are competitive or focused on a single discipline (like jumping or cutting), narrowing down your options by networking through breed and discipline associations will be easy. Competition-focused clinics are more available, and tend to be more widely promoted.
If you are hoping to attend a clinic for more general reasons—to advance your horse’s training, to improve your riding, to gain confidence—you may have to do more research to find the right clinic for you and your horse.
Beyond expertise and notoriety, the clinician should have other qualities that compel you. Ask around to discover the “word of mouth” reputation of the clinician, preferably from someone who has ridden in one of their clinics. Is the clinician hard-core and driven, supportive and friendly, slow-paced or fast-paced, humble or egotistical, easy to understand or cryptic, witty or dry?
Try to find a clinician whose personality and style of teaching meshes well with yours. If you are a hard-driven competitive rider, you may love the intensity of a high-pressure clinic. If you are timid, inexperienced (you or your horse) or lacking confidence, a demanding clinician may not be an appropriate choice.
Preparation of Horse and Rider
To get the most from a horsemanship clinic, you’ll need to be organized well in advance and have plenty of time to prepare your horse mentally and physically for the experience—it may require up to 6 months to a year of planning. Travelling with your horse—sometimes across state lines—on a multi-day excursion is no small task. For your horse it means sleeping in a strange stall, and being required to perform new skills in a cavernous arena surrounded by strange horses.
Larger horsemanship clinics can offer excellent “seasoning” opportunities for young horses, and a great bonding experience and sense of achievement for a horse and rider.
Often people arriving at a clinic for the first time with their horse are surprised that the horse is excited/nervous/exuberant/misbehaving/downright disobedient; often shocked because the horse “never acts that way at home.” A horse’s ability to function perfectly at home—with familiar horses and people—sometimes has little or nothing to do with their behavior in an unfamiliar setting.
It pays to make a few smaller trips with your horse ahead of time to give him a little taste of “life on the road.”
I am never concerned about horses having emotional meltdowns at the beginning of my clinics—to me it is a great “teachable moment.” I relish the opportunity to make a horse feel better about his situation—to educate that horse, bring him into a compliant and contented frame of mind and show the owner what the horse needs. This can happen really fast in a clinic under the right tutelage, and we see some dramatic changes in horses.
Make sure your horse has the appropriate level of training for the program being offered—be that high or low. Just as it would be unfair to bring a barely-broke 2-year-old to a high-level dressage clinic, or an 18-year-old trail horse to a stadium jumping clinic, it would be inappropriate to bring a world champion reining horse to ride in a colt-starting clinic.
Many horsemanship clinics offer novice and advanced levels; keep in mind it is both the horse and rider’s ability that must be considered.
Both the horse and rider should also be prepared for the physical demands of the clinic. Depending on the type of clinic that you attend, you and your horse may be under-saddle for longer periods than you normally ride. It’s unfair to your horse to go from little or no riding to 5-6 hours in the arena for two or more days in a row.
If you sign up six months ahead of time, even just riding twice a week is enough to get you and your horse prepared. Showing up at a clinic having not ridden much in preparation might be a waste of money (if the horse gets sore or the rider cannot continue), and could be a recipe for failure.
A horsemanship clinic with your horse can be an incredible experience that will boost your horsemanship, your sense of achievement and your confidence. It should leave you with a renewed passion, eager to get home and try all the new techniques you learned. If you choose the right clinic for you and your horse, plan ahead, get organized, and prepare, you and your horse will both be set up for success!
Enjoy the Ride!
(Want to find out more about riding in or watching one of my clinics? Check my clinic schedule and see if I’m coming to an arena near you!)
“Try That One More Time.” When it comes to horses, these words are often looked back on with regret. They’re often the words muttered right before something goes terribly wrong. Words matter. Sometimes we need to listen to the words that come out of our mouth and to listen to the voice inside instead.
I strongly believe that most incidents with horses are entirely preventable and if we consider an incident to be an opportunity to learn, not a failure, then we get safer and more effective with horses as times goes on. If you think about incidents as “freak accidents,” you’ve lost the opportunity to learn, grow and improve. There’s always a cause and effect; there’s always an opportunity to learn and grow as a horse person. Recently, I had a message from a rider that was sadly an all-too-familiar refrain. Here’s what the message said:
I had been riding seven months and was posting while trotting and doing 20-meter circles and reverses. We had ridden over an hour. It all clicked that day. I ended with a canter. The trainer wanted me to canter one last time. My intuition said no. I told myself to just do what she said. As we are cantering she (the trainer) is yelling use the crop, use the crop. [The horse] got scared, did a 360 and went into a full run. I hung onto the mane with one hand as she instructed then finally I fell. I couldn’t move. [The trainer] tried to pull me up. I told her not to. She assured me I was ok and the breath was just knocked out of me. I finally was able to get up in searing pain. She had me get back on and post and trot. I did, like a fool. All bent over, I untacked, put him up, drove home two hours. My husband rushed me to the ER. I had broken T-12, crushed L-1, fractured my whole vertebrae and had a concussion. I was told I missed paralysis by 1/8 inch. For three months I couldn’t lift more than the weight of a coffee cup. Riding brought me so much peace and joy –before this incident.
There are quite a few lessons to be learned here. Falling off is part of the sport and can only be entirely avoided by not riding, but while it’s a rough and tumble sport, I do not believe serious injury has to be a part of it. If we learn to not push the limits of our horses and our own abilities, if we learn to pay attention to that inner voice that often warns us when things aren’t quite right and if we let go of archaic and egotistical approaches, the risk goes way down.
I’ve seen many horse wrecks that started with the words, “Let’s try that one more time…” In several decades of work with the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to safe horsemanship instruction, I’ve learned these words to be a red-flag warning. What those words really mean is, “Even though I think we’ve already done this enough, and even though I think there’s a chance we’ve already accomplished what we needed to, let’s get greedy and do it one more time.” When it comes to horses, this kind of approach often backfires.
I’ve learned this important lesson myself over the years and I can think of more than one instance where ‘trying it one more time’ was the worst possible choice and resulted in a wreck and/or an injury to a horse or a rider. When we say things like, “one more time,” or “I’ll try,” or “maybe we should,” there is an unstated concern that something might not go right. When you hear words like that, why not complete the thought and consider why you need to do it again, what good can come of it, why do you think you might not be able to do it and why are you not sure of what the right thing to do is? Maybe just stepping back for a moment and reconsidering isn’t such a bad idea.
When you let words of doubt creep into your vocabulary, like “I’ll try,” it really means you don’t think you can do it. You are doubting yourself and giving yourself an escape. The problem is that horses respond to your level of confidence and determination, be it high or low. When you use words like “if” and “try,” you erode your own confidence and your horse may respond negatively as well—by challenging your authority or losing his own confidence. When you feel the need to use doubtful words like try, if, or maybe, just take a moment to consider why you feel that way. Is this a smart thing to be doing? Are you prepared and qualified to do it? And what good can come of this or what can go wrong? If the answers are affirmative, go for it and drop the ‘try.’ I AM going to do this! If any of the answers are less than affirmative, maybe rethinking or thinking it through, is not a bad idea.
Trust Your Inner Voice
When people are describing bad incidents with their horse, I often hear them say, “I knew I shouldn’t have done it, but my trainer/spouse/friend pushed me, so I did.” Our inner voice of wisdom is important and although it may not always be right, it’s worth at least considering. Far too often in hindsight, it seems clear that had you listened to that inner voice, the wreck may not have happened.
It’s important to hear, respect and consider your inner voice and to take responsibility for your own self—don’t abdicate that responsibility to anyone. Don’t let others pressure you into actions that you don’t feel good about. You know yourself and your horse better than anyone. You know your capabilities and you know where you are emotionally in that moment better than anyone. Yes, sometimes it’s helpful to have someone to gently push you into things you aren’t entirely comfortable with, but no one has the right to pressure and cajole you onto something you are not prepared for.
If you have realistic goals and an objective view of both your and your horse’s capabilities, then you should be confident in your own decisions and not let yourself cave into the pressure of others. Remember, your trainer works for you, not the other way around. Make your expectations and needs known and don’t be afraid to stop, look and listen when you hear that inner voice of warning.
Let Go of Archaic Notions
The idea of getting back on the horse that just bucked you off, is rarely a good idea, in my opinion. Whether you got bucked off or just fell off, chances are you are not in the best frame of mind to get back on that horse. Chances are also good that your horse is not in the best frame of mind either—he’s probably scared or anxious and something led to the problem to begin with. The adrenalin rush that comes from this kind of incident can often mask injuries that you may have sustained and getting back on may make the injuries worse.
When a rider comes off the horse, we’ll call it an “unscheduled dismount,” I prefer that she take a break, sit down and rest, get checked out medically if needed, get control of her emotions, debrief the incident, and only think about getting back on when ready. Maybe that’s today; maybe not. Often, I’ll get up on the horse after an incident, to settle it and let the rider see what’s going on. If the rider feels strongly about getting back on, that’s fine and I will support her as best I can. But no one else has the right to tell you to get back on. Not your husband, not your friend and not your trainer.
Again, take responsibility for yourself and don’t let yourself be pressured by others at times like this. Before getting back on a horse after an incident, think it through. What good will come of this? What would have prevented the incident from happening? Is my horse injured, physically or emotionally? What needs to change with my horse or with my own skills or equipment, to prevent this from happening again? Taking a little break—rather that is for an hour, a day, a week or longer, is not necessarily a bad idea. Think through what happened, how you may have prevented it, and what you would’ve done differently if you could. Armed with this kind of knowledge, you will come back to riding with more confidence and a plan to not let that happen again. Always give yourself time to heal—both physically and emotionally, after any kind of scary incident with a horse.
The sport of riding is a challenging and exhilarating sport that comes with a certain amount of risk that cannot be entirely eliminated. But we don’t need to add to that possibility by doing foolish things and taking unnecessary risks. This is a sport that takes years and decades to master and getting in a hurry and cutting corners rarely pays off. The same thing is true of training horses—generally the slower you go, the better the outcome.
Be patient in developing your skills and your horse’s training. Work with trainers that are supportive of your needs, listen to what you have to say and make good decisions. Learn to trust your inner voice and hear what it has to say. Let your rational mind be the judge of whether or not that inner voice has a point; don’t let someone else make that judgment for you. And finally, when a rider comes off a horse, take the safest and smartest approach—get medical clearance, take a break, debrief the incident and make a smart plan to get back in the saddle safely.
And don’t forget to enjoy the ride!