Lessons Learned From Julie Goodnight – part 1 Groundwork

 Attending the Julie Goodnight Clinic at Plumwood Arabian Farm this past April was such an educational experience. After I got over learning that 15 horses and their riders were entirely too many personalities for one small arena I was ready for my true education to begin!

We started with groundwork…never my favorite thing to do, so I never did it, and was it ever obvious! After Kobi dragged me around the arena for a while, Julie called us over.

“You two have a co-dependent relationship.”  Not the words you want to hear from a world-renowned trainer.

“He drags you around, and you let him. He and I don’t have a relationship, so let me have that lead rope.”

I gladly passed Kobi over to her. The change in him was not an immediate thing: he had to try her to see what she’d let him get away with and found out she wouldn’t let him pull any of his usual tricks. After a few minutes, Kobi was being led around like a normal horse! It was impressive to watch. Way too soon, she passed him back over to me to see if I could maintain his progress instead of falling back into our old patterns and way of thinking. I’m pleased to say that I exceeded my own expectations!

Ground-work lessons learned:

1. When leading a horse, the horse should mirror whatever speed you, the human, is walking (i.e., if you are walking slow, the horse should be walking slow and not dragging the human (Kobi!) Or if you are speed walking, the horse should be keeping up and not being dragged behind you (Sugar!))

2. When stopping, the horse should stop too (Kobi and Sugar). This was my favorite thing to learn. If the horse doesn’t stop, turn the end of your lead rope into a swinging propeller. You don’t hit the horse if they stop – but if they don’t, they hit themselves in the nose. Very effective! Kobi learned about the propeller quickly, Sugar…not so much. She’s still learning that lesson!

3. Backing up – still a struggle for all of us; but thanks to Toni, Sugar is farther along than I am with Kobi. The end result is the human wagging their finger while standing directly in front of the horse’s head. If they don’t move with the finger wag (which they haven’t yet), add the word “back”. Works more often than not with Sugar, Kobi still requires the next step: extreme wiggling of the lead rope before he’ll give up a step.

4. Coming to me – Kobi’s favorite! The human bends at the waist, looking at the ground and ‘barrel rolls’ the forearms towards them. Until the horse understands, keep the lead rope running over your forearms, putting a slight pull towards you on the lead rope. This has turned into my favorite too. Whenever Kobi chooses not to leave his still (like for bath time), if I bend over and ‘barrel roll’, he comes to me every single time – even without a halter and lead rope!

While it doesn’t seem that there are a lot of exercises or that they are particularly difficult, it has helped both Kobi and Sugar tremendously with respect and ground manners. Who would have thought??!!

Next blog: Julie Goodnight part 2 – equine communication

About Heather Hamel

Growing up with horses is a little girls dream come true. Heather’s dream in life was to be a horse trainer - how dreams change - sort of! She moved to the wonderfully historic town of St. Augustine, Florida and was a historic tour guide and a ghost story teller while putting herself through college to become a special education teacher. After graduating, she felt the pull of horses in her life again. That's when she met Kobi! She learned quickly that when you own horses you become a part time vet, part time nutritionist, and full time equestrian. She wouldn't change a thing! In addition to being completely obsessed with her herd, she still teaches and tutors students with learning disabilities, and more specifically, dyslexia.
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1 Response to Lessons Learned From Julie Goodnight – part 1 Groundwork

  1. mom says:

    Good blog, it was almost as if you took notes. But ground work is very important.Love Mom

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