Get a Shovel: How to Find—and Fill—the Holes in a Horse’s Training

Nearly every horse has some inevitable gaps in their training—steps skipped along the way—and many training issues that pop up later on are rooted in these holes. Julie Goodnight shares her insight on how to find the holes in a horse’s training, and where to go from there in the latest episode of Ride On with Julie Goodnight. (

“Maybe you have a new horse that you’re getting to know, or you’re going ‘back to basics’ and don’t know where to start,” says Goodnight. “It’s pretty common for people to acquire horses through a rescue, by auction or online, and they may not know much about the horse’s training history. That’s when evaluation is critical.”

An all-too-common tale, Goodnight shares how a good friend purchased a well-trained, 6-year-old gelding—represented as gentle and reliable—from a reputable dealer for a premium price. Everything went well at first, Goodnight says, but their relationship deteriorated within a few months.

How does this happen?

“Horses being prepped for sale are often being handled by very strict, expert hands, and ridden hard every day prior to the sale,” says Goodnight. “After the horse is sold, the new owner is often less skilled, more lenient, and exercising the horse far less. That’s when the horse’s training can unravel fast.”

Goodnight shares the checklist she developed for her Goodnight Academy students to find the holes in their horses’ training, how to determine what problems need solving, what new skills must be taught, what experiences are needed, and how long it might take to achieve new training goals.

“Because I meet each horse and rider that enrolls in the program wherever they are on their journey on the day they join, I need tools to help me see the whole picture to know how I can best help them,” says Goodnight. “I’ve used these evaluation tools in my online coaching program for almost a decade now, and they’ve served me and my students really well!”

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

Megan Fischer

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