Dealing with the Death of a Horse

Eddie and Julie's husband Rich, with his head bowed, black and white photo.

Eddie and Julie's husband Rich, with his head bowed, black and white photo.
It’s never easy to witness. There’s something about their power… their free spirit… the image of running like the wind, that makes it especially hard to watch a horse go down. Seeing a happy and carefree horse suddenly fall ill and struggle to survive or watching an old beloved friend suffer and grow weak… these are some of the hardest issues horse owners face. The death of a horse is not something we like to think about, but death is a part of life and when it comes to horses, it’s best to be prepared.

Recently, we lost our horse Eddie—suddenly and with no warning. He literally dropped in his tracks in the arena, the entire ordeal lasting only a few minutes from start to finish. To say it was unexpected is a gross understatement. A few weeks later, I shared our loss in my newsletter, and I was floored with the response—through emails, texts, posts, phone calls and in person— people were expressing condolences and often sharing stories about losing a beloved horse. It made me realize that death is part of life and that we cannot expect to enjoy the incredible gifts horses give us, without taking on this risk and responsibility.

Sudden death in horses, from causes like stroke or aneurysm, is not common, but not unheard of either. Colic is by far the number one killer of domesticated horses and although it typically comes on fast and hard, in some cases it can be a long slow death, unless the suffering is ended through euthanasia. Many horses live with chronically debilitating and degenerative diseases, until their owners recognize the time has come to end their suffering. On rare occasions horses just lay down and die peacefully of old age. If only it was always that easy!

No matter how, when or where it happens, the death of a horse is tragic and difficult. Having an action plan for end-of-life events, thoughtfully considered ahead of time, will help you navigate this difficult path when it is thrust upon you. Understanding the options in dealing with the aftermath of a dead horse can be quite challenging and unpleasant – don’t wait until you are charged with emotion and tears to know what they are. Finally, moving on to a new horse is a big step for some people, but it is possible to find another connection. I have some advice that may help.

Action Plan
When the time comes and the unthinkable happens—your horse is dying or needs you to consider its quality of life —what will you do? What resources can you bring to the table? Who will you call for help? Is a trip to a veterinary hospital an option? How will you get him there? What if euthanasia is the kindest decision? Will you be able to make responsible decisions, on the spot? Probably not, unless you have thought some things through in advance.

Your available access to mobile veterinary care, as well as access to equine hospitals and surgical centers, will play a large role in the critical-care decisions you make for your horse. For instance, it would be a three-hour haul through the mountains for me to get a horse to a hospital that could perform colic surgery. Horses sick enough to need colic surgery may die in-route or be too exhausted to survive the difficult and expensive surgery.

Emergency veterinary care for horses can run north of $10,000 in just a few days, so it is an unfortunate fact of life that financial resources will also have a bearing on the decisions you make. Consider setting up an emergency fund and write down what your wishes are for your horse in the event of illness, or injury. These kinds of decisions are best thought about in advance and not in the heat of the moment. Be realistic about your budget and what makes sense. Make sure friends who may end up in charge of your horse’s life, if you are suddenly out of the picture, know what you would want done for your horses. Of course, medical and mortality insurance are readily available for horses, which is a good idea if you have a large financial investment in your horse.

Euthanasia decisions are required to be made by most horse owners eventually – we tend to outlive our horses, for the most part. In the case of old age, crippling lameness, chronical illness or degenerative disease, we sometimes have months or years to make the decision to “pull the trigger.” One of the biggest fears for horse owners is, “How will I know when it’s time?” You’ll know when the horse’s suffering is too great, when he’s depressed and has lost the will to live. When he can no longer lay down or get up. When movement stops because it’s too painful. The worst mistake you can make here is to get greedy—to be unwilling to let the horse go—protecting your own self-interest and shying away or ignoring the needs of your horse.

When you see your horses all the time, it’s easy to miss the slow degeneration…your horse has lost weight, conditioning, his attitude has changed…but you don’t see it like someone else would who hadn’t seen your horse in six months. Track your horse’s weight, it doesn’t matter how accurate the weight tape is, just that it can register a change. Get a resting heart rate, so you can monitor his pain level. Become familiar with the subtle signs of lameness and understand that horses are programmed to hide weaknesses to survive…when they finally reveal a weakness/illness/lameness it is often a shock.

It’s not easy to know when it’s the right time to end a horse’s suffering, but to me, the greatest mistake is in waiting too long and losing control of a dignified death. Don’t wait until it’s an emergency. This decision might be made easier by considering “The Five Freedoms of Horses,” which outline five aspects of animal welfare under our control:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst.
  • Freedom from discomfort.
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease.
  • Freedom from distress and fear.
  • Freedom to express natural behavior.

When a horse no longer has all five freedoms, it’s probably time to consider euthanasia. Unfortunately, the decision to euthanize a horse sometimes comes with no warning or time for preparation. Here’s where your action plan can be most helpful. This is often the case with serious colic, acute laminitis or trauma. Call on those resources you’ve already identified – that friend, the vet or others knowing they have knowledge, experience and advice you can trust. The support of a horse professional or more experienced horse friend will also help you think through these hard decisions—call someone – you don’t need to go it alone. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give is to end the horse’s suffering and you should never feel badly about that. In the end you should trust your gut and listen to your vet.

Euthanizing a horse is not the easy way out and it is not a pretty thing to witness.  Say your goodbyes, then consider letting the professionals handle the job. It’s best to preserve the most beautiful memories you have of your horse. It’s good to rely on others at times like this. If you feel the need to be there at your horse’s side for his last breaths, realize that it can be a dangerous and unpredictable process. Listen to your vet and let them coach you on staying out of harm’s way.

Guilt is a Useless Emotion
Often when horses die, especially from an acute colic or sudden death, we have a need to seek answers and assign blame. Too often, the answers will never be available to you, so time spent chasing them can be fruitless. Assigning blame and second-guessing, whether it’s to yourself or others, rarely if ever helps. It’s always important to assess what happened, what could have been different and how we might change things for the future. But no amount of guilt, blame or self-punishment will bring the horse back to life. So be kind to yourself. This sentiment was eloquently stated by a staff veterinarian at Nutramax Labs, in a letter to me, after Eddie died:

Dear Julie, 

I’m so very sorry for your loss in Eddie. I know he was a fabulous horse and I also know that he had a fabulous life with you! I’m sure he couldn’t have had a better home than at your ranch! Unfortunately, we never know when their time will come to cross the rainbow bridge and sometimes it is far too soon. Find peace in the fact that he went quickly and did not suffer. There is nothing you could have or should have done differently for him. You gave him an amazing home and a wonderful life full of love! You and everyone on your team are in my thoughts and prayers!

Love and Hugs!!
Stacey Buzzell, DVM

Instead of feeling sad and guilty or angry and defensive, wouldn’t it be great if we could remember the good things about our time with that horse—reflect on the memories and savor the relationship we had? Another note I received from retired trauma physician—no doubt well-versed in knowing just what to say in times like this– was very meaningful to me and set the right tone…

Julie,  

I am so sorry about Eddie’s sudden death and just want to tell you I’m thinking about you and your “barn family” as you each grieve the loss in your own way.  Anyone who met Eddie immediately saw him as the epitome of a “Good Boy” and the love and respect and comfort he felt for you as his leader was so obvious when he was with you.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every horse were able to live up to his potential in a similar environment?  Give yourself a hug for the life that you and Rich gave Eddie.

Barbara Williams

Final Resting Place
Having to watch a horse suffer and making difficult, life-ending decisions is hard enough, and it’s followed by the challenge of physically dealing with the horse after he’s dead. Honestly, if you’re squeamish, it may be best to just skip this whole section of the article and find someone else to deal with it. But there will be decisions that must be made.

There may be renderers in your area that will come pick up the carcass and dispose of it in their own way. This is likely the easiest and cheapest solution, if it’s available to you. Also, there are cremation services for horses and generally the service you pay for (and it’s expensive) will come pick up the carcass and handle the cremation and return a large container of ashes to you.

Depending on where you live and the local and state laws that apply, your options for carcass disposal will vary. In many places, it is illegal to bury horses in the ground, in part to prevent contamination of the water table. If burial is an option on your property, then hiring a backhoe and driver to dig a hole may be an option, but it comes with a few caveats. If the driver has not buried a horse before, they will almost certainly make the hole too small. The size of the hole is way bigger than one might think. Getting the horse to the hole and fitting it into the hole is also not easy nor pretty and may require some wrestling.

If you are burying a horse that was euthanized with a needle, the carcass is highly toxic both to scavenger animals and to the water table. Chemically euthanized horses must be handled carefully to avoid spreading the toxins that are now in the carcass. Make sure the carcass is well-covered if some time will elapse before burial and use discretion in selecting a burial spot.

The local landfill may take horse carcasses but call them first so they can be prepared. I have on occasion, had a horse euthanized in a stock trailer so that the carcasses can be off-loaded easily and then immediately buried at the landfill. Again, this is not a pleasant thought, but sometimes, especially with euthanized horses, it is the most practical solution.
In many areas of the west, ranchers have “bone yards” at a remote location on their ranch where they take carcasses and let predators and Mother Nature do the job of decomposing. If you know a rancher that will allow it, this is not a bad way to go. It’s not an option for horses euthanized with drugs, but may be a viable solution for horses that die naturally or are euthanized with captive bolt or a bullet. Also, there may be uses for non-toxic carcasses in feeding zoo animals in your area.

Composting a carcass can be a viable solution, depending on how much land you have and the climate you live in. There are instructions available online and it’s an elaborate process. It takes six months to a year for the carcass to fully decompose, depending on the climate. Your veterinarian may know of other options in your area and your county extension agent should have some advice on carcass disposal.

There’s one more piece of advice that is not fun to talk about, but important to know. Removing a dead horse from a barn or stall can be ugly. If possible, you want to avoid having a horse die inside a building or area of confinement. It will require a large piece of equipment to move a thousand-pound carcass, which will need room to negotiate and lifting the carcass off the ground will require a tall reach. Once rigor mortis has set in, moving the carcass through door openings or out of stalls is nearly impossible and sometimes it can only be moved in parts if walls and fences cannot be disassembled.

These are certainly not pleasant issues to think about and investigate, but it’s far easier to get the information and choose an option well before you need it than in the heat of the moment.

Moving On
Just like with horses, humans can become so tightly bonded to one individual horse, especially when you’ve been partners for years, that starting over in a brand-new relationship with another horse can be a challenge. I’ve heard a lot of anguish over the years from people in this situation who’ve had trouble accepting a new horse—succumbing to the temptation to make comparisons between the horses and ultimately being disappointed in the new horse because they can’t let go of what they once had.

For many people, riding an unfamiliar horse is scary and leaving that comfort zone and heading into the unknown with a new horse feels like stepping off the edge of the earth. There’s no point in rushing into anything. Allow yourself to grieve. Give it time before moving onto another horse. For others, jumping back in the saddle with a new horse is just the right medicine, but could carry the risk of making an impetuous decision about a long-term relationship.

Whether you need to give it time or are ready to jump right back in, this is an opportunity for you to reassess your wants and needs, when it comes to your next horse. Before looking at any horses for sale or for adoption, think long and hard about your personal needs. What disciplines do you ride or want to ride, how much time can you devote to the new horse, your personal energy/activity level, and your skill level. What do you miss most about the horse you lost? What qualities do you wish to avoid? Create a list of must-haves and hope-to-haves and deal-breakers.

Rather than thinking of it as starting over, think of it as reinventing your horse life and a chance to create a new beginning and relationship. Make your lists and imagine your dream horse. Finding that horse will present a whole new set of challenges but knowing what you want is the right place to start.

Once you’ve found your new partner, be patient and allow your relationship to develop over time. Each horse and owner relationship is unique. Give your new horse time to adjust to its new life with you. Open your heart to this next step with your equine partner and avoid making comparisons with the horse you loved and lost. Know that it will take time to get to know each other, to build trust, to build a comfort level. Eventually, you’ll once again be able to focus on the power, the strength and the beauty that a horse brings to your life and simply enjoy the ride…

September 2019 Letter from Julie

Dear friends,

We spent Labor Day Weekend boating at the lake (one of my other passions). It was our 19th wedding anniversary, in addition to one of the last weekends of summer, so Rich and I were intent on celebrating. I learned to wake surf and absolutely loved it! I can see why people become addicted.

We’ve had a beautiful summer—plenty of irrigation water and enough dry weather to bring in good hay crops (hallelujah!). Hay should be plentiful this year, at least here in Colorado. Abundant horse-quality hay is good for the horses and for those of us who pay huge hay bills. Here in the high mountains, when it rains or gets cloudy the temperature plummets, so it hasn’t been too hot this summer. I’ve been hearing horror stories about heat waves elsewhere, and I know how tough it is on horses and riding. I hope you’ve managed to keep your horses cool!

Looking ahead to Fall, I’ve got horsemanship clinics coming up in Minnesota, Colorado and California. Plus, I’ll be in Baltimore, to give a keynote speech at a customer appreciation dinner at the Mill of Bel Air. I’m also heading to upstate New York in October to give presentations at the CHA International Conference, and then to Massachusetts in November for Equine Affaire. As always, I hope to see you somewhere in my travels!

When I’m home, my crew and I keep busy producing content for our online training programs, offering the solutions you need and keeping the content fresh. We’re always looking for new topics for my podcast and for horse training video tips, so be sure to message me with your ideas.

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer and don’t forget… enjoy the ride!


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 August 2019

eddie and julie
Eddie and Julie

It’s been a sad month around the barn. We lost Eddie, my good ranch horse, my best teaching horse, and one of the most honest horses I’ve ever known. I wrote about him recently in my Equine Good Citizen blog. It happened fast—literally within minutes, he was dead in his tracks. Although I’ve seen many horses euthanized over the decades, I’ve never seen a horse go from seemingly “healthy-as-a-horse” to no signs of life in under three minutes. All my life, I’ve heard of horses dying suddenly—with no signs or symptoms, but this is the first time I’ve actually witnessed it. It’s not common, but it happens.

Sudden death in horses is sometimes caused by a rupture to the aorta. In the case of Eddie, my best guess is that he sustained a sudden disruption of oxygen to the brain, which may well have been caused by an aneurism, although we saw no outward signs. Why he died, we’ll never know. There are few answers because necropsy is not often performed on horses. Even when it is, we don’t always find the reason why a healthy horse would drop dead. The sad fact is that Eddie is gone, but at least he did not suffer much.

To say we are feeling the loss around the barn is a HUGE understatement. Since Eddie was the de-facto herd leader, the other horses are a little bit lost. Since Eddie was one of our best trained horses—a true Western bridle horse—we’ve also lost one of our most reliable team members for the media production that we do around here.

We felt the loss just two days later at a scheduled video shoot for Showsheen, but our second-string stepped up. Annie carried the big load as the only “broke” horse (photo and video shoots can be scary for a green horse), Pepper was there to fill the role of the horse that needs Miracle Stain Remover, and Mel’s 2-year-old, Gus, (with his Fabio looks) was our supermodel. Even Dually came out of retirement for a cameo role.

I’ll miss Eddie a lot. So will Rich, who’s been riding him for the last couple years. Even my friend and colleague, Barbra Schulte, who’s been teaching clinics off Eddie when we work together, feels the loss. He was the kind of horse you could put anyone on and he would try his best for them. Consequently, many of my family and friends have ridden Eddie when they visit us. I know they will miss him too. RIP Eddie’s Pick.

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 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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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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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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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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Public group · 43 members

Join Group

 

February 2019 Letter from Julie

horse life with Julie goodnight

Dear friends,

This year is off to a roaring start for me, with an early trip to Denver for the WESA market show (a trade show for buyers and sellers of horse-related products). It’s a great opportunity to network and strategize with corporate partners, and to see innovative new products that are coming on the market. Then toward the end of the January, I headed to Miami Beach, to an international market show for television content, where we met with content buyers from around the globe who are interested in airing Horse Master. This brings me to the exciting news I’m announcing here first. After 11 years and producing 260 episodes of Horse Master with Julie Goodnight, I’ve decided to bring the series to a close. Most people would agree that it’s a long run for a TV series and I am grateful to all the fans who supported the show. I’m sad to see it ending, but we’ve covered a lot of subjects, met hundreds of people and their horses, and visited some interesting places. It’s a significant body of work that lives on, playing on various platforms and networks, and streaming online at TV.juliegoodnight.com. For this month’s blog, I’ve written about my experiences with Horse Master, how we made the show, the most memorable episodes, and acknowledging all the people who helped me along the way. Later this month, you’ll get a link to my podcast, where I’ll share details of the horses that stand out most in my mind and the hilarious and poignant stories, as they unfolded behind the scenes. Thank you to all the loyal viewersand sponsors of Horse Master—you’ve kept me going all these years, through your encouraging comments and support. I promise not to disappoint you—I’ve got a new series in the works that I know you’re going to love, about the people, culture and lifestyle surrounding horses. Stay tuned to my Facebook page for the latest news on our new series, Horse Life with Julie Goodnight!

Enjoy the ride,

Julie

January 2019 Letter from Julie


Dear friends,

I’m not one to look in the rearview mirror for too long—I’m too pre-occupied with what’s in front of me. I’ve got so many exciting new projects coming to fruition this year, and I’m thrilled the time has finally arrived.

In many ways, 2019 will look the same for me—traveling to expos and clinics to teach people and train horses, writing/recording/videoing to produce more great content for horse lovers, going on-location to tape more TV shows. But I’m always looking for the next great adventure, so I am going off-trail a little this year too—working on productions that go beyond training horses and into the culture, history and lifestyle of the equestrian world; working with innovative programs like The Right Horse Initiative to address equine homelessness; and exploring more international opportunities.

I’m excited for what this new year has in store for me—and for you too! Soon, it will be time to make plans and set new horsemanship goals for the upcoming riding season. If you haven’t given this some thought yet, you’d better get started! Later this month, I’ll share with you my training goals for my horses for 2019, and I hope to inspire you to set some lofty goals for you and your horse, too.

Enjoy the ride,

Julie

September 2018 Letter from Julie

Dear Friends,
Just 2 weeks ago I flew over the Atlantic Ocean, on my way to Ireland to ride Connemara ponies on the beach! My husband, Rich, and a bunch of our friends joined me, excited about the adventure. (Check out some of the great photos and stories I shared on Instagram!)
I’m back stateside now—it seems like I blinked my eyes and summer was over. At my ranch in Colorado, there’s already a feeling of fall in the air, and that means it’ll be time for me to hit the road again. I returned from Ireland on Labor Day, and I’ll head to Baltimore on September 13th for the Mill of Bellaire Equine Dinner. Then I have the Ranch Riding Adventure at the C Lazy U Ranch, and the CHA International Conference in Fort Collins, Colorado. Check out my calendar to see if I’m coming to your area, and upcoming events you can come to.
As much as I love summer in Colorado, I’m always happy for the change of seasons– different clothes, different weather and a different pace. I know many of you, particularly those in the southern states, are looking forward to cooler weather so you can ride more (and after a trip to TX in August, I can relate). But it seems like in most places, Autumn is the best riding season.
So let’s all get out there and enjoy our horses!
Julie Goodnight

August 2018 Letter From Julie

Dear Friends,

It’s been a fabulous summer, here at the ranch. We‘ve avoided the wild fires so far, and the monsoon season is providing some relief from the drought. Hay prices are up because yields are low, but we’ve all got some hay in the barn. This summer we had our first student-intern from the Colorado State University Equine Sciences program, Morgan Offutt, who is pursuing a career with media and horses. Having Morgan as our first intern set a very high bar and is proof that when you truly give of yourself, you receive more than you give.

This month I turn my attention to Ireland! Rich and I, plus eight close friends, travel to Ireland for a riding tour. After a few days in Dublin, we head to Galway with Connemara Equestrian Tours. I’ll be conducting clinics for two groups of eight riders, plus we’ll go hacking in the country side, ride on the beach, enjoy cultural tours and socialize together at night. We’re excited about the trip and I’m doing some last minute shopping for the right stuff. Next month, I’ll have a full accounting of the fun we had, and hopefully some photos and video too.

I’ve got a busy fall ahead with vacation-clinics at the C Lazy U Ranch; the CHA International Conference in Fort Collins, Colorado (check out the impressive list of speakers); and the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Georgia. I’m excited to end my travel year in Myrtle Beach SC, at the American Heart Association Beach Ride in November.

Enjoy the ride,

JG

July 2018 Letter From Julie

View of he mountains through Annie's ears.

View of he mountains through Annie's ears

Dear Friends,

I’m home for my summer break—seven wonderful weeks at home! No airports, no business travel, until my fall clinic season begins in late August.

I’m celebrating by working in my postage-stamp-sized flower garden, plus spending some personal time with my horses—reconnecting with them after a busy four months of travel. (More on my new colt, Pepper, later this month in my horse report!)

Of course, my extended time at home doesn’t mean I don’t work—I just shift gears and do different stuff. It enables me to work on exciting new projects and begin planning for clinics and expos for next year. And as I’ve done for the past dozen years, we’ll be shooting the TV show here at my ranch—which takes about a week out of my month.

Still, if I play my cards right, I hope to also find time to spend at the lake—fishing, swimming and chillaxin’ on the boat.

Julie Goodnight

April 2018 Letter from Julie

Julie with Scouter at the Western States Horse Expo in Pomona, CA.

Dear Friends,

I crisscrossed the country last month, from Arizona to Pennsylvania to California to Florida—meeting many incredible horses and their people.

We recorded the TV show in Tucson with some horses that were rescued from kill pens and are now re-homed at a fantastic program for veterans and law enforcement. The horses had unique stories and interesting issues to resolve—you’ll meet them later this year on Horse Master. In Pennsylvania I got to ride one of my favorite stallions, “Smoke,” and in California I rode a lovely gelding. “Scouter” and I go way back—and he always comes with his own manservant, my good friend Ron. Then I enjoyed a few days of R&R in my native state of Florida, relaxing on the coast and attending a polo match in Wellington. It was fun to see such a broad spectrum of the horse industry in just a few short weeks.

This month I travel to down to Pilot Point, TX for a saddle fitting demonstration at Dennards; then to Fort Collins for the Legends of Ranching horse sale (sitting on my hands). I’m ending the month doing a clinic at the renowned C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, CO, team-teaching with my good friend, Barbra Schulte.

My staff and I are all busy preparing for the upcoming clinic season and I look forward to the opportunities to work with horses and people one-on-one. Be sure to check out my clinic schedule here and feel free to call my office at (719) 530-0531 to speak to one of my friendly and knowledgeable staff if you have questions!

Julie Goodnight

February 2018 Letter from Julie

Dear friends,

I’m super excited about the new format for my TV show, Horse Master. Now in our 11th year of production for the series, after 236 episodes, we decided to shake it up and get more creative with the show. It has more of what our viewers have been asking for—more in-depth stories of horses and their people, unscripted and authentic. I’m thrilled with the first few episodes that aired in January and excited to see four more new episodes in February. If you don’t get RFD-TV, you can watch all the episodes online.

This month I am headed south to warmer climes! I’ll attend Gypsy Vanner Horse Society Annual Conference in Central Florida and conduct a clinic for attendees there. Later in the month, I head to Tucson AZ, and the White Stallion Ranch to film more episodes of Horse Master.

March is the beginning of my busy season, with expos in Pennsylvania and California, then clinics from coast to coast, through June. Check out my full schedule here and come see me!

January 2018 Letter From Julie

Julie and Eddie

Julie and EddieDear friends,

I embrace each new year, happy to be alive and well, and eager to make the most of the year to come, personally, professionally and in my horsemanship. I’m a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions, and I almost always keep them (almost).

The key is to set attainable goals. Instead of vowing to have a more organized household, my resolution this year is to:

  1. Clean out and re-organize my pantry, and
  2. Consume all the meat in my freezer before buying any more.

Although professional and personal growth goals are a little more challenging, my horsemanship goals are purely for the sake of joy! Stay tuned for my horse report later this month, to hear about my horsemanship resolutions.

I am back on the road this month, with business trips to Denver for the Western & English Sales Association and to Fort Collins, to do some demos on horse behavior at Colorado State University.

After a private clinic in Florida for the Gypsy Vanner Annual Conference in February, I head to the White Stallion Ranch in Tucson to film the TV show, then on to Pennsylvania for the Horse World Expo in Harrisburg.