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Equestrian Blog

The Importance of Helmets When Riding A Mule

mule ranch

Guest Post by Steve Edwards

It’s Not a Matter of If…

Falling off a mule or getting bucked off is only a matter of time. So, when you fall, you need to be protected. Mending a broken arm or leg is tough but it’s done all the time. Mending a head injury, not so easy.

Statistics show that riding is the leading sport with cases of traumatic brain injuries in adults. That means more cases of brain injuries among adult riders are reported than among adult hockey and football players! If true for adults who have more experience riding, what do you think it means for children? For goodness’ sake, put a helmet on your kids. And with these statistics, put one on yourself too.

Don’t Rely on a Stable Animal

Plenty of mules have been trained well. They follow your command and seem like the gentlest creatures on earth. But they are still animals with a strong sense of fright and flight. When they get spooked, they will buck, rear, or kick. Notice I said when they get spooked. It’s not a question of ‘if’.

Let me tell you about a heck of a wreck I had recently! My normal mule over at the Andrada Ranch refused to be caught. But this older gray mule came over to me. So, I got him tacked up, and he was listening to me well, doing a great job. My dog, Jess, runs by the mule on the left. The mule jumps up in the air and kicks hard with his left rear foot. Thank God he didn’t get Jess.

Although I stayed on the mule, I felt like I was broken in two, like someone had hit me with a 2x4. The pain was incredible, and I hadn’t even fallen off the mule!

I continued working that day, and we moved 150 head of cows down the mountain to the arena. That same day, two guys were riding colts, and both of those colts blew up, too.

The next day I caught Rocky, and we caught another 50 head of cows. When we got back, I was still not feeling good. Afterward, I realized I was black and blue. When I called my doctor, he told me I was done. I couldn’t ride anymore for a while.

A Wreck Can Happen to Anybody

So, let’s think about what happened. That was a 20 plus-year-old mule, a seasoned mule. He’s been all over the mountains. Yet a dog startled him and he blew. Then you have two seasoned riders, good riders who had been riding those colts for six months, yet those colts blew.

There was another wreck that day. One of the mules, Dan, is unflappable. Yet a young man dropped a rein. When he bent over to get the reign, the movement startled Dan, and he ran. The young man was able to get him stopped, but not before skinning his face against a tree.

Look folks, Fluffy can hurt you real easy and real bad. I am a seasoned rider and I have had 32 broken bones and two replaced hips. Accidents can and will happen. People get hurt. 

Don’t let your children get a head injury because they don’t want to wear a helmet. Make them put the helmet on or don’t let them ride.

Final Thoughts on Riding with Helmets

I encourage you to get your children riding mules and donkeys. They are great animals and can teach your children great life lessons. But remember, your mule or donkey is not a pet like your dog. The mule will blow up - it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when the animal will get spooked.

I encourage you, parents, to wear a helmet, too. Set a good example for your children by wearing a helmet and following good habits around these animals. Pay attention to the mule’s body language and respond appropriately. When you show the proper way to work with these animals, your children will do the same.

I’m Here to Help

It is my pleasure to help new and experienced mule owners find comfort and safety when riding. If you have any problems with your mule or donkey, send me an email, including photos and videos, and I will help you find a solution. Also visit my website, muleranch.com, for lots of free information to help make your time in the saddle more productive and less stressful. Happy Trails!

mule ranch ridermule ranch female ridermule ranch

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How To Regain Your Confidence After A Horseback Riding Fall

how to regain confidence after a fall

Most equestrians will experience a fall at some point. Maybe your horse got spooked or you lost your footing. Either way, it's scary, unnerving and can really rattle your confidence. So, how do you recover and get back in the saddle?

We asked our riding community for their best tips on how to regain confidence after taking a spill. Take a look through some of their suggestions below and reach out to us on Instagram or Facebook if you have more to add to the conversation. 

And most importantly, always wear a certified equestrian helmet whenever you ride. Accidents happen and wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of death or disability from a riding-related blow to the head by 80%.

Start on the ground. Brushing, walking, lunging, snuggles, cookies. Then move on to a very steady eddy confidence builder type horse. Eventually, you’ll start to find yourself again. It sucks when this happens. —Amelia O.

I put my all-time fun favorite music on and blast it while I'm riding. Seems to help relax me and then my horse. —Catherine M.

Groundwork.....built my confidence working with my horse with leading, yielding etc....gave me the confidence I needed to get back in the saddle. Then I started in an arena....feel a lot better now, even though I still get anxious, I overcome it quicker! —Marge Ashton T.

I took lessons on a different horse that I trusted. I had the trainer work with the horse I came off of. Took my time and didn't rush anything. —Ann H.
Take your time. Don’t feel pressured to get ride back into it. A good way to start is with some stuff on the ground. Just take your horse for a walk and brush them. Work with their grounds manners. Start building that bond back between you and your horse. Then go to lunging, I personally prefer free lunging. It continues to rebuild that bond. Then do baby steps to getting back in the saddle just saddle the horse and sit in the saddle don’t rush it if you don’t feel like it. Then the next day saddle up and walk around then trot then lope. But the key is to go at your pace and don’t rush it falling off can be really scary and I don’t know how bad it was but the best thing to do is get back in the saddle. Don’t let this wreck rule you. You can do this! —Meghan G.

I was petrified. I got back on and just SAT in the round pen. Did this two or three times. It comes back but it takes TIME. Don't rush the recovery. —Ian T.

Just ride start slow and don’t worry who is watching do your own thing and you will get there. My daughter was thrown and broke her leg. When she started riding again we had to hide so she didn’t know we were watching and she slowly has built back up. —Majorie T.

Just remember that you weren’t scared before the accident. —Darby P.

A riding lesson with a trusted instructor always helps me! —Meghan P.

When you fall it is a great learning curve. If you need to, start off just by brushing the horse everyday then put the saddle on and walk around in the arena. If need be, have some friends help or watch out, then move on to a trot/canter. When you are in the walking stage, try walking over poles. Also, watch some videos of doing Liberty work with your horse.... —Rylan A.

Start slow and on a very quiet horse with an experienced person helping you. I lost my confidence after my horse dumped me and couldn't go faster than a walk for almost two years. It took getting into a riding class to get my confidence back, because I knew the instructor wouldn't put me on a horse I couldn't handle and I knew all the horses were calm and safe. —Louise K.

It depends how bad your fall! Start slow and go at your own pace. Just walk and trot at first until you gain more confidence. I was bucked off while cantering once and had a concussion and torn shoulder. If you are injured don’t get back on lol! Thank goodness for my helmet because it was crushed! —Gracelynn H.

The biggest thing that helps me get my confidence back is by being consistent and if you need taking baby steps. I can't count how many times I've come off my gelding but I always get back on and take my time to get back to where I was. Patience is something that a rider must have, and it takes time to build up confidence again, so with patience and taking things slow anyone can get back on and ride. —Emma C.

Ride a horse that is bombproof! I started riding the old mare that is the trusty kid/ noon stead after I fell off and was drug by a horse. —Jessica C.

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CHA Podcast: Solving Common Under Saddle Training Issues & The Chemistry Of A Helmet

podcast fitting helmets

Troxel Brand Manager, Jenny Beverage teamed up with Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) and Horses In The Morning to talk about our favorite subject: helmets!

In the episode, Jenny talks about the chemistry of a helmet, how a helmet works and who is most at risk when riding. Jenny's segment starts around 15:35 minutes.

CHA Instructors Terry Williams and Teddy Franke also provide pointers for riders to overcome common training issues like incorrect leads, missing leads or kicking out at the canter, and spooking Listen to the complete podcast below.

Listen Now

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Checking Your Gear: 5 Tips To Ride Safe

5 Tips For Checking Your Gear

Checking your gear is an important part of preparing for a safe ride. As you think about all of the trails you want to explore, the competitions you plan to compete in and the skills you want to practice and improve on, we should not only evaluate our horse and tack but our riding apparel as well, specifically our helmets to make sure they are in good working order.

Here is a Quick Helmet Check-Up list to run through as you get ready to buckle up:

  1. How Old Is Your Helmet?

    It's a good rule of thumb to replace your helmet at least every five years from the date of purchase. All active gear will suffer from differing degrees of normal wear and tear, depending upon the user. Equestrian helmets used by a rider for 150 days a year will, by comparison, wear faster than gear used by a weekend rider. Due to evolving standards, technologies and the potential for unseen material deterioration, it is recommended to replace your helmet at least everyone five years.

  2. Have Your Experienced A Fall With Your Helmet?

    ASTM/SEI certified equestrian helmets are designed for one impact event. When you take a fall, your helmet absorbs energy by crushing and extending your head's stopping time to reduce the peak impact on the brain significantly. Once your helmet has taken an impact, those energy absorbing capabilities are spent and cannot offer you the same protection again.

  3. Have You Cleaned Your Helmet?

    Helmets should be wiped down with a soft towel and soapy water then air-dried. Compressed air works great for cleaning the air vents and channels. All Troxel helmets come with a removable and washable headliner which you can hand or machine wash and air dry. Do not use solvents or chemicals to clean any part of your helmet, as they can destroy protective coatings and compromise the structural integrity of the helmet. You want your helmet to look it's best and a quick clean will do the trick!

  4. Have Your Checked Your Helmet's Fit?

    You want your helmet to fit snug around your head and sit level on your head just above your eyebrows. Troxel helmets have FlipFold tabs that are integrated into the headliner that can be turned under to offer more padding if needed. Your helmet also comes with either a DialFit or SureFit comfort system to further personalize fit and comfort.

    Next, adjust the slide glides on the retention system webbing to form a "V" under each ear and adjust the chin strap to be snug under your jaw. The retention system is what keeps your helmet in place during a fall. It's very important to have your helmet fit snuggly in place to perform as it is intended to do.

    Watch our Quick Fit Tip video to learn more or see our Helmet Fitting Guide

  5. Where Are You Storing Your Helmet?

    Helmet Tote Bag is a great option for easy transport and storage.

    It is important to choose an ASTM/SEI certified equestrian helmet to ride in. For equestrian helmets, SEI has selected the ASTM standard F1163-15 to evaluate helmet performance which are tested at independent labs. Certified bike or ski helmets are certified to a different standard and do not offer the same impact speed, height or type of impact surface.
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CHA Podcast: Fitting Helmets, Creative Ways to Get More Boarders, Students, Campers and Horses in Training

podcast fitting helmets

Troxel Brand Manager, Jenny Beverage teamed up with Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) and Horses In The Morning to talk about our favorite subject: helmets!

In the episode, Jenny shares the top four things you need to know about fitting equestrian helmets. Jennifer Eaton from the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) also joins to give listeners great ideas on marketing summer programs to new and existing customers and, Molly O’Brien from the American Horse Council shares how you can take advantage of the Time to Ride program to grow your business. Listen to the complete podcast below.

Listen Now

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CHA Podcast: Choosing a Helmet, Clipping 101 and Horse’s Coat, Mane and Tail

choosing a helmet podcast

Troxel Brand Manager, Jenny Beverage teamed up with Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) and Horse Radio Network to talk, what else, helmets!

In the episode, Jenny shares her top tips on what to look for when purchasing a helmet. Tip #1: Above all else, make sure your helmet is ASTM/SEI certified.

Then CHA Certified Instructor Keli Wakeley guides listeners on clipping your horse and finally CHA Master Instructor Anne Brzezick addresses everything for the care of the horse’s coat, mane and tail. Listen to the complete podcast below.

Listen Now

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Introducing Troxel's New Logo

Introducing Troxel's New Logo

new troxel logo

Troxel Helmets brought the first ASTM approved equestrian helmet to market in 1992. Now after 27 years of being an industry leader in innovation, we’re transforming ourselves.

Today we’re announcing our new Troxel logo. Our website, social media accounts and emails have already adopted this new aesthetic and soon all Troxel helmets will feature our new branding.

Our design goal was to better match how we look at our values and the riders we serve. Our mission at Troxel has always been to empower and protect equestrian athletes. And our product line has shifted in recent years to incorporate more options for english riders, western riders and performance athletes. So, our team worked to create a logo design that felt strong, powerful and inspiring.

We adopted a new, athletic Troxel wordmark logo design that is prominently featured on the front of most helmet styles. We also chose a font that exudes a clean, modern feel and stuck with black and white packaging and brand elements to evoke the strength and determination of our riders.

But, we didn’t arrive here easily. We went through hours of creative brainstorming to find the right fit. Check out some of our initial sketches and logo iterations below.

“Troxel has undergone a rebirth in the past few years. We’ve expanded our product line and really honed in on the wants and needs of western riders and performance athletes. We wanted a logo that symbolized this change in brand culture,” said Jenny Beverage, Troxel Brand Manager. “We’re so pleased with the end result and have received lots of positive feedback from riders already! Everyone loves that our name is back on our helmets and our retail partners have commented that the new logo is athletic, bold and looks great on helmets to accessories like our new helmet bags.”

We hope you like the update! Look for more product and brand developments in the future as we continue to evolve and expand as a company to better serve the needs of our riders. And don’t forget to let us know your feedback on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

logo brainstorming

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#WhatTheHelmet Your Next Goal

“After having my head shaved and four screws inserted into my skull, I quickly realized that I would look cooler in a helmet than I did leaving the hospital! The outpouring of support has been amazing!  I constantly hear from fans that they were afraid to wear a helmet for fear of being judged by their peers and that I inspired them to change.”-Fallon Taylor

Being an influencer and encouraging others to go against the grain is one of the most uncomfortable things we can make a decision to do.  When you look back and see the legacy you have created and positive influence in people’s lives, it will have made the struggle worth it.  Sometimes the end goal is too far away to make the journey feel worthwhile.  When you really believe in something though, you stick to it. 

It takes a lot of fortitude to resist fear and discomfort so that you can live according to your values and to support something you whole heatedly believe in.  To firmly believe in something, and walk the talk, takes strength beyond measure but it can be the positive impact you leave in this world.  Just as you make the small decision to saddle up and practice rather than go to the movies with friends, you make the decision to work towards something you believe in.

What are your goals?  Are they to improve your run time or score?  Make it to the State Finals or National Finals?  Is it to try a new event or season a young horse?  Having clear goals helps you to navigate decisions throughout the year to be able to accomplish them.  You can dream big or small but put your dream on paper so it can become a goal! 

Fallon Taylor has goals both big and small.  Every successful athlete does.  Besides her competition goals, personal goals and business goals she also has a goal of leaving a legacy in the sport of rodeo beyond winning her World Championship buckle. 

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My Horse Won't Stay on the Rail- Guest Post by Julie Goodnight

My Horse Won’t Stay on the Rail

By Julie Goodnight


Horses are smarter than we give them credit for and any horse that’s been around an arena more than once, has figured out that it’s a much shorter distance around when they cut corners and leak in off the rail. No horse stays glued to the arena fence unless he is well-trained and obedient. All horses feel the pull of “gate gravity” or “barn gravity,” but only the horses that think they can get away with it will act on that feeling.


If you feel like you are constantly steering your horse back to the rail or pulling his nose to the outside as you go around, you’ve got a disobedience problem. Chances are good that your horse is a step or two ahead of you, and while you might not be fully aware of the dynamics of this situation, your horse almost certainly knows exactly what he is doing. Horses are pros at manipulating the behavior of others—and that includes you.


I could write 10,000 words on the mechanics of how to train your horse out of this problem, but it would do little good if you don’t have an understanding of the dynamics happening between you and your horse.


If your horse is cheating you by not staying on the rail, cutting corners, speeding up on the way back or refusing to go over an obstacle, you need to take a deeper look at your role. First, you must understand what the underlying motivations of the horse are and how you got to this point. Then you must figure out a plan for what’s next, how you will change your horse’s behavior and change the way you ride.


Define the Problem

Assuming you are riding a trained horse, you need to realize this is not a steering problem. An obedient horse goes on the exact path dictated by the rider, at a speed chosen by the rider, without argument or micromanagement. A horse that is leaking into the middle from the rail, cutting the corners, pulling toward the gate or stopping at the gate is disobedient to the aids of the rider. The first step in fixing this issue is to recognize it as disobedience—to become aware of your horse’s behavior.


How ever your horse is acting now, there’s a reason why he is acting that way—he has a motivation. To effectively train a horse, it helps to be aware of your horse’s motivations. Why is he coming off the rail? Why is he stopping at the gate? Is he trying to get back to the barn/herd, is he trying to get out of work, or does he simply think he can go wherever he wants, whenever he wants? These types of behaviors are generally motivated by a desire to get back to the herd and/or to get out of work.


Being aware of your horse’s disobedience, and treating it as such, is often enough to stop this kind of behavior. Acknowledge his behavior as disobedience and let him know, you know. Once a horse realizes you are onto his antics, he’ll often stop doing it. Once you are aware, his tricks don’t work so well. Understanding his motivation is important because it dictates how you will respond. If he’s trying to pull toward the barn, you want to make sure that he ends up farther away from his objective as you correct him. Correct him in such a way that he loses territory, doesn’t gain it.


How did we get here?

Horses are masters at subtle disobediences that often go unnoticed by the rider; but the horse knows exactly what he is doing. If you have put him on the rail and he starts pulling toward the middle, on the very first step toward the middle, he became disobedient, whether the rider noticed or not. Often the rider, blissfully ignorant of the horse’s disobedience, simply steers the horse back to the rail, without addressing the disobedience; then the pattern starts again.


Soon, the rider is going all the way around the arena, with the horse’s nose pulled toward the rail, while his body is leaking in to the middle of the arena; he’s counter-bent and still not on the rail. When the rider tries to hold the horse on the rail with the outside rein (or hold the horse in a certain speed), she becomes complicit in the horse’s disobedience—it is a co-dependent relationship. Your horse is constantly threatening disobedience, and instead of addressing the disobedience, you are treating it as if the horse just doesn’t know where he is going. The problem is, the horse knows exactly what he is doing.


The horse that is cutting corners, leaking off the rail or slowing/stopping at the gate, is essentially saying to the rider, “I don’t want to do that; I want to go over here.” Often, the rider is so busy on her own agenda (working on something herself), that she does not hear what the horse is saying and so she simply steers back to the rail. The problem is, that this sets up a compromise with your horse. He cuts the corner, you steer him halfway back (without scolding his disobedience), then you say, “Well, at least I got him halfway back to the corner,” and go on with your ride. In this moment, you have just compromised with your horse, letting him know that he does indeed get a say in the direction you go. This is a bad precedent to set and it will surface every time you ask your horse to go somewhere he doesn’t want to go. Compromising with a horse on direction or speed is a bad idea.


Where do we go from here?

First you must become aware of your horse’s behavior and motivations. Just becoming aware of it will make your horse less successful. Once you are aware of your horse’s manipulations, you will be able to correct him in a timely manner—at the instant he makes his first move. Also, with an understanding of his motivations (Where is he trying to go? Why?), you’ll be able to correct him more effectively, making sure your correction does not inadvertently give him what he wants.


Secondly, don’t treat this as a steering problem and don’t ever hold your horse in a speed or direction. Treat it for what it is, a disobedience problem. Instead of just cueing or steering the horse back to where you asked him to go, scold him for being willingly disobedient. Allow your horse to make the mistake (instead of holding him or preventing it), then correct him when he does. Let him know that you disapprove—often this can be accomplished simply with your voice.


Horses will work hard for your approval, but only if he is occasionally admonished. You should have clear expectations of your horse (go on the path I dictate, at the speed I chose), and never be afraid to let him know when he falls short of your expectations. How much pressure your scolding will require depends on the horse and how egregious his discrepancy—it may be as benign as a harsh word or as sharp as a tap with a crop or spank of the reins.


Finally, scientific research has shown that it is far more effective to use “replacement training” to change a horse’s behavior. Replacing one behavior (an undesirable one) with another more desirable behavior, is far more effective than trying to distinguish the undesirable behavior through punishment. Once you understand your horse’s disobedience and his motivation, it will be easier to know how to replace that behavior with a better one.


For instance, if my horse is coming off the rail, trying to get into the middle of the arena, I will place him on the rail on a clear straight line, then lay my hands on his neck to neutralize the reins (and make sure I am not inadvertently holding him on the path). At the first moment my horse makes a move toward the middle (on the first step), I will sharply pick up the outside rein and turn the horse right into the fence (away from his objective) and proceed on the rail in the opposite direction. After a few times of this—the horse steps off the path and I turn him abruptly into the fence (opposite direction of where he wants to go), every time my horse starts to take a step into the middle, he will immediately think about turning into the fence and he will get prepared for that by taking a step toward the rail. Now every time he thinks about coming into the middle, he takes a step toward the rail. Replacement training is highly effective with horses and it works fast.


Once you understand your horse’s subtle disobediences and the motivations behind his behavior, it’s far easier for you to call him out on it. In many instances, just having that awareness (and letting your horse know you know) is enough to resolve it. Knowing your horse’s motivations in the undesirable behavior will help you devise an effective replacement—if your horse wants to turn right, you’ll turn left; if he wants to get away from something, you’ll turn toward it; if he is trying to get toward something you’ll turn away from it.


Don’t be complicit in your horse’s disobedience by holding him on a path or holding him in a speed. Never be afraid to let your horse make a mistake—it is through correction of the mistake that he learns. When you try to prevent the mistake, he doesn’t learn anything, and you end up in a codependent relationship with your horse. Instead, be aware of your horse’s intentions and recognize the moment he becomes disobedient to your aids. Soon, you will have a well-behaved horse who is responsible for and accountable for, his own behavior.


Enjoy the ride,

Julie Goodnight

Trainer and Clinician

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Ride Yourself Out of Rough Spots- Guest Post by Julie Goodnight

Think Forward: Ride Yourself Out of Rough Spots

When was the last time you felt a lack of control while riding your horse, even if only for a moment? Was he spooked? Did your horse freak out because the other horses took off? During a tantrum your horse threw about leaving his herd mate?

In the moment of panic—let’s say right after your horse spooked at a rabbit—most riders grab the reins and clench hard when they first feel a lack of control. Often, they fail to shorten the reins first, so the reins are too long, causing the rider to lean back, hands flailing and out of balance too. With white knuckles the rider clenches on the reins (inadvertently clenching with her legs too), as the horse dives into the bit, stiffening his neck, leaning on the rider. This scenario rarely pans out well for the rider.

Let’s look at this same scenario from the horse’s point of view (hPOV). I was going down the trail just fine, as commanded by my rider; I was obedient, my head down, no pressure on my mouth, and I was eating up the ground like a good trail horse. Out of nowhere, that evil rabbit jumps right at me! OMG! It coulda been a mountain lion! Suddenly my rider screams and grabs the reins, jerks my mouth, ouch! Now she’s scared, I’m scared and my mouth hurts! Rider keeps pulling even after I stopped, wrapping that jointed bit right around my tongue and jaw. Double ouch! I stiffen the muscles on both sides of my neck and lean on the bit to protect my mouth. Panicked, I do what I do best—run for home, running toward safety as if that bit wasn’t there.

There’s no doubt that being out of control on a fractious horse is a terrible feeling and the tendency to stop is huge. But with horses being flight animals, it usually works better to keep them moving, ride proactively and re-establish control through purposeful movement. Horses are also comfort animals, so rest (after hard work) becomes a huge reward. One of the oldest wisdoms of horsemanship (thousands of years old) is, “Forward motion is the basis of all training.” Without willing, free and forward movement, the horse cannot be trained.

Horses respond well to confidant authority. Horses are animals that are habitual in their behavior and remember their training, even though at times they may need a little reminder. Being a proactive, confident rider is what your horse needs and wants. If you are rider that tends to panic when you feel a loss of control, there’s a dynamic between you and your horse that needs to change—and you are the only one capable of introducing that change.

Here are my best three tips for how to become the confidant, proactive rider your horse needs.

#1 Stay present in the moment. Don’t allow your mind to shut down in panic; be observant of your surroundings (it’s your job as the leader, you know). Don’t start shutting down, grabbing the reins and thinking about all the things that could go wrong or have gone wrong before. Be aware of your horse and what he needs from you—it’s not his job to make you feel safe; it’s your job to make him feel secure. Take a deep breath (and many more). Keep your eyes active and aware, taking in information in your environment. Relax the reins. Ride the horse beneath—you not the one in your head. Don’t read things into the situation that aren’t there. Allow your horse to calm down; don’t’ keep him in an anxious state just because you’re anxious. Remember, he can calm down and become obedient just as quickly as he spooked, so let him.

#2 Think and ride through the situation, like you know how to do. Immediately start asking your horse to go somewhere and do something—trot, turn right, turn left– preferably using up some oxygen as you do (think working trot). It’s what your horse knows how to do (stop, go and turn) and it will get his mind back in the game faster. As soon as you start asking him to go somewhere, doing what he knows how to do, he feels a since of normalcy and starts relaxing. That’s your cue to relax and soften the reins, sit back and take a deep breath. Controlling forward movement is much easier than trying to staunch it. Moving forward relaxes a frightened horse and then, letting him stop and rest when he relaxes, rewards his relaxation and compliance. It’s a win-win.

#3 Ride with a destination in mind. Be purposeful—look where you are going and ride with determination. One of the first things that happens when a rider panics is that she looks down and loses all focus as her mind shuts down and she stops riding. Horses are masters at determining your level of determination and intent—they can see it or feel it in your body language and posture. When the rider shuts down, the horse learns he can do whatever he wants. Always look far past where you plan to go and ride like you have a plan; Look about 10 seconds ahead of your horse, seeing your specific route and focus on a destination. Your horse will feel your intent and respond accordingly. Don’t compromise; accept nothing less than 100% compliance. Once you have asked a horse to do something, you must follow through on the request. If you start a turn and then abandon that request because your horse didn’t respond, you just trained him to ignore your request to turn.

When you become a more proactive and confidant rider, the hPOV will change drastically:

I’m going down the trail like a good horse, the reins are slack, my head is down, and my rider is happy and I feel good. That evil rabbit jumped at me and I freaked at first, but right away, my rider rubbed my neck told me I was okay and she went right back to riding like nothing ever happened; I took a deep breath and we rode off toward something more important than that silly little rabbit. I feel safe with my human, she’s clearly in control of the entire universe and I know she will take diligent care of me; I’m just along for the ride.

Remember, all riders have moments of doubt, nerves or uncertainty. Riding a thousand-pound flight animal is no little thing. But it’s important to keep in mind that there is a living, breathing, thinking animal underneath you, who is going to respond to your actions, for better or for worse. Learning to keep your mind engaged and present in the moment—thinking through the situation and riding purposefully—will get you out of most sticky spots with your horse.


Enjoy the ride,

Julie Goodnight

Trainer and Clinician


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Horses give more then they get- Guest Post by Julie Goodnight

Julie Goodnight takes on topics you want to know more about in her online training library—part of her ever-expanding Horse Master Academy (JulieGoodnight.com/Academy) now with a free access membership to help you search for many training articles, videos and more!


For more thoughts from Julie, watch Horse Master with Julie Goodnight each week on RFD-TV or catch the show online anytime at JulieGoodnight.com/Academy. Find more videos at YouTube.com/juliegoodnight and follow her on Instagram at Instagram.com/juliegoodnight. Check out her full list of clinics and events at: JulieGoodnight.com/calendar.


When you own horses, and especially if you keep them at home, sometimes it seems like your whole life revolves around doing their bidding—food service, housekeeping, valet service, maintenance. Most people who dream of bringing their horses home (after boarding them forever) are stunned to discover they have even less time to ride. Why? Because of all the other chores that need doing! But as much as we like to complain, it’s been my observation that horses do far more for us and our essential well-being, tan we could ever do for them.

Recently, I sat down to make a list of some of the valuable life lessons that horses have taught me in my lifetime and the list is weighty. It’s a good list for me to check in with every now and then, to remind myself of the lessons and to use as evidence for why parents should not just allow, but encourage their children’s interest in horses. From horses, I have learned to live in the moment, to have a keen awareness of myself and others, to develop my leadership skills, to be very disciplined in my life and have high expectations.

Horse Time Vs. Human Time

Horses are always present in the moment; humans, not so much. People tend to dwell in the past and think about the future but are often not present in the moment. We spend so much time thinking about what happened to us before and what is going to happen next, that we often miss the importance of the moment and fail to respond. I see this on a regular basis in my horsemanship clinics, when riders are afraid or having trouble controlling a horse—the memory of what happened before pollutes the mind and the riders are so busy thinking about what may happen later, that they miss important signs from their horses or freeze up on the horse instead of just riding through the situation.

Horses don’t think in the past or the future, only in the now. From horses I have learned this important lesson. As a professional horse trainer, I had to learn this skill early on—to trust the horse, to be present in the moment, to hear his concerns and to ride through the rough spots. Life is much more enjoyable and productive when I am present in the moment.

Time has no meaning to horses. After decades of training horses, I know with certainty that slower is faster when training horses. Even in this day and age of horse training contests that focus on speed of training-- be it a few hours, a few weeks or a few months, most professional trainers agree that slower is always faster with horses. The more time I take, the more I break each step down into its smallest component, the slower I move around my horse-- so that I see the instant my horse first responds and give him the best release, the more patience I have to allow the horse to think and decide for himself, the faster he learns and the more solid his foundation of training. When a situation gets tough on a horse, I want to be able to rely on my horse’s solid foundation, the seamless communication we have developed through time and consistency, and the strong trust he has built in me.


Being a prey animal and a flight animal, a horse’s awareness of his environment is keen. Being animals that communicate primarily with gestures and postures, they can read other animals—including humans—with accuracy and speed. Horses are also biologically wired to be aware of and mimic the emotions of the animals around them. To be effective with horses and for horses to be comfortable around me, I learned at an early age to be aware of my body language and to use it to convey the right message to the horse—one of strength, calmness and confidence.

Because horses are quite emotional animals, having more or less the same emotions as humans (except perhaps more honest and less complicated), I’ve learned to be honest with myself about the emotions I feel, to be aware-of and in-control-of my emotions at all times around a horse. If I l let my emotions take control of my thoughts and my posture, things devolve quickly. When I remain positive in my thoughts (mind) and confident in my posture (body), my emotion is good (spirit).

Because horses mirror and mimic the emotions of the animals around them, when the rider (or handler) is frustrated, the horse is frustrated; anger is met with anger (and trust me, you don’t want to fight with a horse, if you can help it); fear causes fear; and trust leads to trust. If a human’s emotions are out of control, things generally don’t go well when they are dealing with a horse. But then again, the same can be said of life in general. From horses, I have learned to be true to others and honest with myself about my emotions, and not let negative emotions take control of my body and mind.


To a horse, his very survival depends on being accepted into a herd with a strong, fair and competent leader. It’s one of his strongest instinctive drives—to be with the herd. Horses always recognize a strong leader, apparently much better than us humans do. Horses crave strong leadership and are drawn to it like a magnet. Hierarchy is linear, with one horse at the top. There is never a void of leadership in a horse herd; when a leader falls down on the job, another horse will immediately assume the leadership role.

Even as a young, shy, introverted child, I was able to develop strong leadership skills from being with horses; these skills have served me well in my lifetime and not only with horses. This is not a lesson that comes easily or naturally to some people and the relationship with their horse will always reflect their leadership ability—for better or worse.

To get very far with horses, you must learn to accept accountability for your own actions. In every clinic I teach, I hear people say things like, “my horse has a problem with [fill in the blank—spooking, running away, standing still, lead changes, etc.],” when the problem very clearly lies in the rider’s own deficiency. The sooner the rider accepts that the horse’s performance problem is actually her own, the faster the performance of the horse improves. Like any good leader, when her followers struggle, she must step-up and take responsibility.

A leader has the responsibility to keep her charges safe and to make good judgments. Always. This is all your horse wants from you. If you make a decision, intentionally or not, that results in your horse getting hurt or feeling unsafe, you have fallen on your responsibilities as the leader and eroded the trust he placed in you.

I’ve had many truly alpha horses in my life—their beauty, intelligence and strength of character enthrall me—and from them, I have had the best examples of leadership from which to learn. From them, I have honed my own leadership skills and forged incredible partnerships with some very dominant horses. The power of horses to make us better people is unlimited.

Discipline and Authority

Discipline simply means training individuals to follow rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience. Most people I know are law abiding citizens, willing to obey the laws of our society because it’s the right thing to do and because it is a pact amongst us that insures we have a peaceful and safe existence. While the threat of punishment may be required for some people to obey the law, for most of us, the punishment is not something we’ll ever experience and we voluntarily and willingly comply. We have high expectations of ourselves and others and we strive to teach our children to be law abiding and productive citizens.

With horses, I think of discipline using punishment more in terms of teaching a horse what NOT to do, like bite. An undisciplined horse is not only unpleasant to be around but it is also unsafe. A horse that bites, slams you with its head, shoulders into you and runs over the top of you is untenable and entirely unnecessary. It’s incredibly easy to teach a horse to have good manners and follow a code of behavior. Unless a horse has been taught to be an outlaw or has been taught to disregard rules and authority, they are generally willing and happy to follow a code of behavior and punishment is rarely needed. When a horse owner has no rules, no expectations or code of behavior for their horses, the result is a  dangerous horse, that will require discipline and punishment to retro-actively teach him proper rules of behavior. But let me be clear, this is not the fault of the horse that he has become a criminal; it is the fault of the owner/handler for not imposing rules, order and discipline.

While "discipline" may have a negative meaning to some, being "disciplined" generally has a positive connotation. Being disciplined means having a controlled form behavior or way of working. In my personal life, I strive to be more disciplined in all things—I work out daily, watch what I eat, strive to improve my work habits and productivity, try to better myself and be a better person to others.

A disciplined horse is an amazing animal to be around and to have as a partner. Horses crave rules and structure; they are animals that seek out acceptance into a herd because of the safety, comfort and order the herd represents. For these reasons, it’s incredibly easy to teach a horse to follow a code of behavior, to work hard to be accepted and to respect authority. I have learned to have high expectations of my horses and even higher expectations of myself.

Just the other day, I met a woman whose young daughter was starting to take riding lessons—even though they were a decidedly non-horsey family. (The idea was being promoted by and facilitated by her grandmother.) Knowing I was a horse professional, she started the conversation by saying, “Even though we’ll never lease or buy a horse….” What followed from me was desperate attempt to make her see the incredible value that horses would bring to her daughter’s life. Far beyond the fun she will have riding a horse, her daughter will learn to focus on the present moment, to have a keen awareness of herself and those around her, to be disciplined, and to have high expectations of herself and others.

I have spent half a century with horses, and I’ve learned a lot. Yet the older I get, the more in awe of horses I become—and the more important the life lessons that I learn.

Enjoy the ride,

Julie Goodnight

Trainer and Clinician


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