Equine Affaire is always an excellent opportunity for horsemen of all ages and experience levels to expand their knowledge of equestrian sports and the latest industry trends. Cosequin® Equine products and Julie Goodnight teamed up to bring riders some much needed tips to help improve their skills and have a more harmonious relationship with their horses.
Here are some of the key highlights from Julie:
“I have a dream job — I get to ride, train, and talk horses all day long. This is why the opening day of Equine Affaire is always exciting for me. The whole event is about connecting with fellow horsemen, learning about industry trends in horse care, riding theory, business management, and of course checking out the buzz around the trade fair!
Thursday set me off and running with my clinics. First on the schedule was a mounted clinic on the most complicated gait, the canter — departures, leads and lead changes. This is typically a popular presentation since so many people are working on improving their canter work. The canter does not come naturally to a horse, so we must train them to slow down and balance the gallop to achieve it. Eventually, we can ask for the canter from a trot, walk, or even a halt. That cue is precise because it tells the horse not just what gait to pick up, but what foot the rider wants the horse to lead with. If the rider is apprehensive or unsure about the cue, or even themselves, it can be confusing and stressful to the horse. We all know horses don’t have an ability to rationalize why their rider got stiff, checked out, or clutched at the reins, so breaking down the mechanics of the canter and how to ask for it is a key way to get both horse and rider on the same page. I’m happy to report that all the horses and riders in my clinic were able to improve their canter quality, and the spectators got a lot of tips to go home and try!
Friday brought bigger crowds and my mounted clinic about being the best rider you can be for your horse! The horse can only rise to the level of the rider, so it's incumbent on us to be the best we can possibly be. The key is to maintain your skeletal alignment and allow your joints to move with your horse's back. I went into greater detail about how we must lift our sternums and lengthen our spines to achieve the optimal alignment, and as I did, I watched all 1000 spectators become taller in their seats — with perfect posture! It was really a sight to be seen.
After the clinic, I got up close and personal with my fans at the Cosequin® booth. I love signing autographs and chatting specifically about their horses and feeling like I can help them personally with whatever it is they're trying to achieve. Scrolling through pictures, hearing funny stories about horses acting out, and learning about people's equestrian triumphs is what it's all about.
Many riders dream of having the kind of connection with their horse that would allow them to let go of the reins and ride like the wind. My mounted clinic on Saturday was about ditching the bridle and riding only with your seat, legs and body. It was important to me to show the audience that they were probably closer to that dream than they thought! I went over what qualities are important in a bridle–less horse, how to teach cues to stop/turn/back that don't involve a pull on the reins, how to use a neck rope on the horse and the progression I use to train a horse to ride without any bridle on his head. Much to my delight, and the delight of the audience, both the stallion I rode and another horse in the clinic were able to ditch the bridle for the first time and show the audience what they could do. Teaching a horse something this detailed that requires his full attention on the rider is quite a feat of intelligence and talent. This was empowering for the spectators to see, and I loved hearing that they couldn't wait to take this lesson to their own horses. This was my favorite presentation for the weekend by far.
Sunday's crowd was a bit smaller because the weather was not cooperating, but the die–hard folks that did come out were full of unbridled enthusiasm! My mounted clinic was about high–headed horses — how and why they get that way and how to teach them to give properly to bit pressure, lower the head and collect their frame. The elevation of a horse's head is directly related to his emotional state. As the horse tenses, the head comes up; as the horse relaxes, the head comes down. When a horse is carrying his head too high, it is often because of the bit or what the rider is doing with their hands. By the end of the clinic both the barrel racing horse and the English school horse were responding positively to the changes their riders made in how they connected to their horse's mouths. They started carrying their heads more consistently in a relaxed frame.
Equine Affaire is a gathering of like–minded souls — horse lovers coming together for education and entertainment — a place where they can seek answers to pressing questions. When I wasn't in the arena teaching, I was talking to people and answering their horsemanship questions. I talked to countless people about saddle fit, proper bitting, care techniques, and just about anything you can think of relating to horses! These critical factors have a tremendous effect on a horse's performance and behavior, so it is not surprising that people seek a better understanding to these critical points. I love horse expos because they offer a place for people to seek answers that will make their horse life better and their horse happier!”
For more great tips on horse care and training, and to get a full clinic schedule, be sure to visit www.JulieGoodnight.com.