One Size Does Not Fit All: How Horses’ Temperaments Affect Training Techniques

Each horse’s disposition is as distinctive as the whorls on its forehead, and in Julie Goodnight’s latest episode of Ride On with Julie Goodnight, she delves into how the different temperaments of horses impact what is effective in their handling and training—and what isn’t. (

“As soon as I lay eyes on a horse, I am taking in all the clues that help me connect, communicate and build a dialogue with him,” says Goodnight. “Body type, head shape, expressions, posture, sensitivity, and the way it reacts and interacts with me reveals so much about the horse. It helps me know when to push and when to back off, how little pressure it takes to get a response, and how to nurture the try.”

Goodnight has well over a half-century of riding and training horses under her belt. She has worked with thousands of horses, and knows that horses—like humans—all have their own tendencies, quirks and idiosyncrasies.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all training technique that works for every horse, in every situation,” says Goodnight. “Deciphering a horse’s temperament, learning what techniques the horse responds best to, and discovering how to unlock the horse’s potential—this  is what I love most about training horses.”

Horses are born with a given temperament which cannot be changed, but it can be influenced—for better or worse—by the kind of training, handling and life experiences it has.

“In the case of an extremely willing and eager to please horse, his feelings can get hurt quite easily, damaging the try,” says Goodnight. “For instance, if you miscue the horse to trot, and he eagerly steps into a beautiful canter—but you scold him harshly—this horse may become afraid of trying and feel rejected.”

While training mistakes are inevitable, Goodnight explains how to move forward from a mistake, create a positive experience and nurture the try in a horse with this kind of temperament.

“Often, slowing down and softening my cues, breaking it into smaller pieces, giving the horse time to think, and rewarding small tries gets the best result,” says Goodnight.

While horses share a lot of commonalities, it is important to always be open to the horse’s individuality—and work within that framework to bring out the best in their training.

Listen and subscribe to Ride On with Julie Goodnight at or any podcast app.

About Julie Goodnight
Goodnight is well known as the popular host and producer of Horse Master, a successful how-to TV series on handling, riding, and training horses. Goodnight travels extensively sharing her no-nonsense horsemanship with riders of all disciplines, as well as offering online training and coaching, a popular podcast, and a syndicated column on horsemanship. Goodnight is experienced with many kinds of riding—she grew up on the hunter-jumper circuits in Florida, rode racehorses through college, and is now at home in the West. She and her husband, Rich Moorhead, live in the mountains near Salida, Colorado, and enjoy riding the trails and training cow-horses.

Explore Goodnight’s training library of articles, videos, and more at


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