Julie Goodnight clinic – Part 3 specific issues

The main reason I wanted to go to the clinic (aside from the fact that I’ve seen Julie Goodnight on TV and love her style of training) was to get help on a couple of issues for my otherwise ‘perfect’ horses!


  1. I wanted to know what to do when he freaked out on the trail (or anywhere for that matter). I wanted to learn what I could do to bring him back down to earth and focus on me, instead of what his mind was telling him was his worst nightmare coming to eat him.
  2. I also wanted to know if there was a way to get him to stop chewing on his bit like it’s hard candy.


  1. I wanted to know what to do to get her to step it up a little and keep up with Kobi on the trail.
  2. Toni wanted to learn why Sugar is almost always pinning her ears when asked to do anything.

Here’s what we learned.


1.  a. I learned first and foremost (and this didn’t even come from Julie) that I am Kobi’s worst issue. My fears and anxieties hold him back from being the best horse he can be.

b. Aside from that, when he starts to lose focus on me and focus on life around him, I need to keep his feet moving and keep changing directions to get his attention back on me.

c. If things get out of control, the one rein stop is amazing! First decide on a rein and pull it to your knee (the horse should immediately focus an ear on you). Next pull your hand straight up from your knee (now engaging the horses shoulder). Finally, take your rein and cross your body to the opposite shoulder (this makes the horse have to cross over on the hind legs – stopping)

2. According to Julie and the Myler Bit people, Kobi is trying to relieve the pressure on his tongue. Snaffle (jointed) bits have long been believed to be mild bits when in fact, they place a great deal of pressure on the horses tongue and they need to relieve the pressure to swallow. Hmmm. She let me use a Myler bit for day 2 of the clinic and Kobi responded quite well. Unfortunately, these bits are expensive and it took me awhile to be ready to spend $100 for a bit – but I finally did it!  In case you’re wondering he’s got a MB33 eggbutt with hooks.


1. I didn’t get much sympathy on this issue – a slow horse is preferred over a hot tempered horse any day. If fact, any time another horse would act up, Julie would stay “I bet you wish you were riding Sugar now, don’t you?” So, needless to say, we didn’t work on her speed.

2. As for pinning her ears:

  • When Sugar is demonstrating an emotion and isn’t acting on it, leave her be. You can’t punish emotions since Sugar can’t control the way she feels.
  • Pinning her ears when being groomed: she may have sensitive skin and instead of brushing her with a regular nylon type brush, use natural hair.

                           Worked beautifully – no more ear pinning for grooming!

  • Pinning her ears when tightening her girth: tighten the girth slowly and over two or three sessions

                           Sugar still pins her ears for that but nowhere near like she used to

  • Pinning her ears when she’s asked to trot

                          Not sure if grooming with a natural brush and tightening the girth slower worked for this, but she doesn’t pin her ears as much when asking for a trot


  • When Sugar pins her ears and then acts on the emotion is a different story since someone could get hurt.

When she swings her head or bats her tail – she gets popped; we never ask for anything hard or that would intentionally cause her pain. This behavior has virtually stopped.

All in all, I learned a lot and hope my riding and general horse ability has improved!

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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