I’m lucky enough to live in Area II, right by the border of Area III, which means lots of BNTs hold clinics within 3 hours of me year-round.
In late 2015 I did a clinic with a 3* rider whose farm is about 35 minutes from me and I frequently XC school there. It was just a one day XC clinic, but it was great for P and we did quite well for ourselves there. Unfortunately, taking a few regular lessons with her in early 2016 after that left me terrified and bumped me down a good 12+ notches or so on the confidence belt.
Shortly after that experience, I went to another clinic, this time with Tim Bourke. I had a pretty good time, learned a lot, and my crowning achievement was jumping this insane Training log pile that almost caused me to lose control of my bladder.
Then after the Aiken saga and subsequently whipping him back into shape with Trainer J and starting with Trainer B, I signed up for another clinic that was being held the day before a HT I was entered in.
And it was terrible. One of the worst rides I’ve ever experienced hands down. Not that that was the clinician’s fault. She had never met us and we gave her a very poor first impression. Usually P holds it together at off-the-property adventures, but this day he was letting it all unravel. But when the clinician continued to comment about his “shitty” work ethic, told me to scratch from the HT and do a cross-rail CT, and told someone else (I overheard- apparently she didn’t realize where my stall was…) that we should be doing no more than poles on the ground, I thought that went a bit beyond rude. Not to mention demoralizing. I mean…I paid her, I realized my horse was being a giant ass and tried not to take up much time with my issues by opting out of a few jumps…so why kick me when I’m down? I’ve seen a couple clinics with her advertised, including one at a venue I so badly want to ride at, but I just won’t ever ride with her again. While I appreciate bluntness (you won’t EVER hear Trainer J/B sugarcoating things for me), there’s a line.
There are 2 clinics this upcoming weekend that I thought long and hard about signing up for. One is with Clayton Fredericks at a farm half an hour away, and the other is Lainey Ashker about 3 hours away. Clayton F. comes to this farm often and riders have all had nothing but good things to say about him. Lainey A. sounds like quite the entertainer, not to mention her exercises are no joke (which is why I copied her grid/course). I was so so tempted to sign up, considering we’re lacking in regular jump instruction at the moment, but just couldn’t press the Register button, though I am going to go audit the CF clinic.
And I’m good with that. Despite the fact that we’re not in regular jump lessons at the moment, P’s continuing to flourish. I have enough footage of previous lessons (that I watch pretty much on a loop) that I can typically figure out what I’m not doing right and how to correct it the next time around. That definitely didn’t happen overnight, and it took a lot of persistence to get to this point. Poor Trainer B having to repeat instructions a zillion times before it stuck in my head, and me having to physically repeat those instructions a zillion + 1 times before becoming muscle memory. So for us at this point, we’ll stick with what we know works, rather than bring someone brand new into our lives, even if it’s only for a weekend. No sense in confusing the both of us with different techniques and responses.**
I like a lot of aspects of clinics- having a fresh set of eyes on you is sometimes needed, there’s the social aspect- I still keep in touch and occasionally see some of the participants from the Tim Bourke clinic- and it can be a fun getaway without all the pressure of a competition.
But I also think there are some disadvantages to clinics. There are some riders who want a magic fix and think that because XYZ is an Olympian, by the end of the weekend, you and your horse will be Rolex ready. I used to be one of them. But training with Trainer J and Trainer B has taught me that there are no shortcuts (especially if you ride a horse named Pilgrim) and slow and steady for sure wins the race.
This puts pressure on the clinician. If one of the riders brings in a problem horse with the expectation that the clinician will solve all its problems (I can say this because I’ve done it), the last thing that rider wants to hear is to get a small victory and quit. Then that rider will feel put out that they shelled out $$$$ to hop over a cross-rail a few times and call it a day (literally my first lesson with Trainer B), tell all their friends and potentially interrupt the clinician’s business.
So I’m curious to hear what everyone else thinks- do you go to clinics? Why or why not? Do you continue to practice what you learned there?
**That all being said, if MJ EVER comes to the US, you better believe I’ll be there. There’s an exception to every rule, after all.