A Conversation With Julie Goodnight

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Julie Goodnight is the real deal.

When I first met Julie Goodnight for an interview, I was reminded of how much I love “real” horse people. People who care more about the horse than a ribbon. People who take horsemanship to the next level. People who smile from their eyes as they talk about horses, and no matter how much more they know about horses than you ever will, they make you feel at ease, and the conversation flows naturally.

Julie Goodnight and her husband, Rich Moorhead, on horses with a mountain backdrop
Julie and her husband, Rich Moorhead. Photo courtesy Julie Goodnight

Julie has turned her love of horses into a hugely successful career. She started her training business in 1985, and in 2008 was named the Exceptional Equestrian Educator by Equine Affaire — the same year her award-winning TV show Horse Master with Julie Goodnight first aired. She travels the world educating horse owners everywhere through her online training programs at JulieGoodnight.com/Academy.

And she’s passionate about living a well-balanced life—spending time with her husband, Rich Moorhead, relaxing on her boat “LEGASEA,” skiing, biking, and savoring life’s happy moments in the company of old friends and easily making new ones.

Julie and her family mountain biking
Rich, Julie, and her brother hit the trails on mountain bikes. Photo courtesy Julie Goodnight

JM: What is the meaning behind your brand message “Helping horses… One human at a time”?
JG: We can only help horses by helping the people who own them. When I first went into business as a trainer, I thought I just wanted to ride horses and didn’t want to deal with people. Well, that’s a real immature, unrealistic attitude. All horses have people attached to them… Training a horse does no good if I don’t train the person.

Julie working with a chestnut horse
One of the thousands of troubled horses that Julie has worked with. Photo courtesy Julie Goodnight

JM: With over 260 episodes of Horse Master with Julie Goodnight, is there one that stands out?
JG: One of the most meaningful ones—and kind of funny—was an episode filmed at my place where the rider stated her horse wouldn’t cross water. Well, we have a nice big pond in a grassy field. The cameras were set up all around the pond to capture the problem. She saddled up her horse and we filmed. She starts walking this Arabian toward the pond. That horse looked at one camera, turned and looked at the other camera, and then walked straight in the water without hesitation! It’s uncanny how often that happened to us.

I never interacted with the people or the horses before we filmed, but I watched the footage that captured the “problem.” So, I told her we couldn’t do the water episode. I asked her if she had another problem. And she said, “Yeah, actually my horse bucks when I ask him to canter.” So I said let’s work on that. We rebooted and moved the cameras over to the arena. And when I got over there and saw her riding on the flat in the arena, I could instantly see she had a horrific saddle fit. As I’m watching, the horse bucked. And it was a buck you might expect from a horse being pinched in the withers. It was clearly uncomfortable.

She rides over and I tell her that I think we can help her horse—that it is a saddle fit problem. After we switched the saddle out, she got on and he went right into a beautiful lope. Then she came over and was in tears—not because she was happy, but because she felt horrible that she had unknowingly been riding this horse in that saddle for two years. She was just devastated. And it broke my heart. But she owned it and apologized, and we were able to profoundly impact her and her horse by just changing one thing.

JM: As a spokesperson for the Certified Horsemanship Association, what’s your primary message?
JG:
We are an organization primarily focused on safety and horsemanship. Horsemanship should be safe, fun and effective. We provide education, information, and mostly support to riding instructors, trainers, and barn managers who are the actual frontline influencers. I don’t believe, nor does CHA, that getting hurt has to be a part of horsemanship.

Julie Goodnight leads two horses on a snowy day
Julie leads the way. Photo courtesy Julie Goodnight

JM: What’s the secret to balancing your busy professional life—work and travel—with your personal life and husband, Rich?
JG: So Rich is the secret sauce. Our relationship has always been based on total equality, a high level of respect for each other both personally and professionally. We met at the ski resort—which he is now one of the owners of—and it was a workplace romance. I really respected and admired his professional success and he recognized my work ethic. But now I’m on the road a lot, and he is good at being alone. He misses me, but he also just totally understands.

Julie at Monarch Mountain ski resort
Julie skiing at Monarch, the ski resort where she first met her husband, Rich. Photo courtesy Julie Goodnight

And during the pandemic, I was spending a lot of time on my boat. I would always come up with an excuse of why I had to go to the boat. And one day, he says, “You know, you don’t have to have an excuse to go to the boat. You love the boat. I want you to do what you love doing. And by the way, you’re in a lot better mood when you’re doing stuff you love to do.”

Julie steering her boat
Julie finds ultimate peace at the helm of her boat, LEGASEA. Photo courtesy Julie Goodnight

JM: What’s next on the horizon for Julie Goodnight?
JG: I have a couple of exciting things going on… The one horse I have right now is pregnant. And I hope to buy a yearling colt this fall.

Also, an assistant trainer—honestly, the only person that I’ve ever thought of as a protégé—has made a commitment to work with me. Not to replace me, but someone I feel like I can hand the reins to when I want to. She and I are working on some new projects. We’re putting together some private international riding tours with me and T. Cody as your guides. We’re in the early stages of figuring it all out—riding and immersing yourself in a new horse culture. It will be fun!

Julie Goodnight, Rich and friends trail riding at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Julie, Rich and friends trail riding at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Colorado. Photo courtesy Julie Goodnight

To see Julie’s entire lineup of upcoming events, riding adventures, and appearances, check out juliegoodnight.com.

This Q&A with Julie Goodnight is a web exclusive for Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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