Horse Life

Discussion Board: Clinics

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.

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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.

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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.

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21 thoughts on “Discussion Board: Clinics”

  1. I love riding in clinics though I’ve only ridden with 4 clinicians at this point. I’ve audited at least triple that though (some clinicians multiple times). I usually audit a clinician before I ride with them so I can get a feel for the training style and exercises (auditing multiple times or levels is also good because sometimes riders dumb down a group – like when I watched the Intermediate Bernie Traurig clinic and they were doing cross rails because the kids couldn’t handle the exercises), or my Trainer at the time was intimately familiar with the Clinician’s Training and knew that it would compliment her own training.

    I don’t go in thinking there will be a lot of magic and fairy dust sprinkled on me but usually I hope that I will learn something new (even if its the same thing yelled at me in a different way, with GM the new thing was always introducing my horses to the Giant Bank but GM knew that the horses had never experienced a bank like that so he always was kinder and took his time). I’ve been on the spectrum of over prepared to ride and under prepared and being over prepared is nice because its less stressful.

    I’m still a fan and am itching to take Dante to something but its way too early for him to do even a basic clinic at this point.

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    1. I do like the concept of learning something new even if it’s the same thing I hear all the time explained differently. Totally agree that auditing a clinic first before registering is the way to go. And the way Dante is going, I’m sure he’ll be ready in no time!

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  2. Clinics scare me at the moment. I see so many posted in the Aiken FB groups and really want to join but Gem and I are…special. Like short bus special 🙂 Trainer gets us and knows when to push and when to back off as well as understanding where we started from. I really worry that a clinician would write us off immediately. I think if you have a horse ready for such an experience it can be great tho to just get another set of eyes. The biggest thing I’ve learned from talking to people who clinic is that you have to be ready to stick to your guns and be an advocate for your horse since they don’t them at all.

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    1. “Short bus special” omg, that had me laughing out loud! For sure I can see that you have to be an advocate for your horse because they have no idea who you are! It’s nice to have a trainer that knows you and your horse, though, and that’s also the way to go for me at this point as well.

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  3. I love clinics and will happily participate in more but I also think you have to look at where your horse is in their training and confidence. I wouldn’t take a less confident horse to a clinic with some of the big names bc I think they might make it worse instead of better. My little guy Finn had major confidence issues and I wouldn’t let his leaser ride with anyone except my trainer or other trainers that my trainer liked bc we were working really hard to solve his issues. Now he’s in a place where he is very confident and I think ready to branch out and ride with other people. But it took a lot of time to get him to where he is and no one wants to go backwards bc of a bad clinic! I’d be happy with him going to a clinic with a more unknown clinician now but last year would not of be comfortable with it. Does that make sense? And I do think that sometimes you have to go to a clinic first, test out the clinician, and decide if they worked for you or not. Bc not all clinicians work for every rider or horse but I want my horse in a place that a bad experience won’t set us back, it’ll just of been a waste of money for a weekend, ya know?

    So basically lots of factors to decide about clinics or not but for the most part I’m all about riding with other people, even if it’s just a way for them to tell me the exact same thing as my trainer but using different words 😂 But I do enjoy coming back from a lesson/clinic with someone else and having a discussion about it with my trainer. It makes the experience last longer and stick in my head a bit better!

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    1. That totally makes sense! And I agree about the confidence thing which is why they aren’t a good idea for P and I at this very moment. I don’t want anything to mess us up right now.

      And you definitely made the right choice regarding Finn and who his lesson could ride with- from the way he was flying all over Windridge this summer, I’d have never guessed he’d ever had any confidence issues!

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  4. I’ve had the same mixed experiences at clinics. I feel it was successful if I get one thing to take home from it that works for me, and that has happened each time. But there have been some that I would not care to ride with again. At this point in life extra money is tight so I would rather spend it on lessons with a good instructor than on a clinic. I think in a lesson situation we can cater to my specific problems and needs, whereas in a clinic situation they often come in with an agenda that may or may not be suited to me. The key is finding a good instructor – I’d much rather spend $75+ for a lesson every 2 or 3 weeks with someone who really picked me apart to fix and teach me something new than $30 weekly for someone to tell me how great I ride but not teach me new stuff.

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    1. Definitely agree that lessons at this point are more bang for your buck (at least mine!) and given mixed experiences, it’s hard to shell out gobs of money for it to all come crashing down. Of course the same could be said for shows!

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  5. I haven’t done a clinic since 3 years or so ago when i did the one with Richard Lamb. It was…okay. It was not cheap either. He does other ones but i haven’t signed up.

    Most of the time if anyone cool comes to town I either can’t afford it or Remus and I (being shortbus too) can’t jump the height. Most of them around here start at BN height. I do like auditing and should do more of that. I think you have to chose the best bang for your buck and like you, I prefer to put my money in known trainers I ride with regularly. 🙂

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  6. yea honestly i think the pressure is on the rider, not the clinician, to make sure they’re entering the ride in good faith and with realistic expectations. my bad clinic experiences have come from situations where either a) we weren’t prepared for that clinic setting; or b) the clinician’s teaching style and methods didn’t work for me. situation A was my bad. situation B could have been avoided if i had experience auditing or watching that clinician teach before — which is now my preferred method for testing out potential clinicians.

    that said, there are a few clinicians my friends have ridden with and raved about (i actually think Tim Bourke was one of them!) that i would sign up for with my friends should the opportunity arise. again tho, it’s on me to ensure that my horse and i are adequately prepared for the level we enter.

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    1. I agree that the pressure should be on the rider, but have unfortunately heard of some experiences where the rider has badmouthed the clinician because they still had issues with their horse after, and didn’t feel as if they got their money’s worth. But 100% it’s the rider’s responsibility to know their horse and experience level.

      If you get a chance to ride with Tim, totally take it! I still use some of the pointers I got from him on how to ride P on XC.

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  7. I’ve never ridden in a non-breed show type clinic, but just signed up for event camp this summer – four days with Sharon White, Leslie Law and Tim Bourke, which I feel like is long enough to not just be a one day ‘this is what horse decided to show up today’ thing, but still offers the chance to ride with some awesome people. I’m super excited.

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  8. I loved riding with Lainey and I am not an eventer! She helped my horse and I build confidence but did not overface us. And she is just entertaining haha

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  9. I feel like some of the clinicians are trying to put on a ‘show’, and make magical things happen, and that’s not always in my best interests. Not to mention I am shy – I am like “please don’t give me a starring role in your latest spectacle”, lol. I tend to stick with the clinicians who are more tuned into the rider than the auditor, and just teach a lesson like they would at home. I love the ones who can see the big picture things they’d like to see you doing, but just give you the tools to get there in the lesson, then assign it as a goal or homework rather than trying to make it all happen in a weekend.

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  10. I used to love clinics and jumped in with happy optimism that I would possibly learn something and have fun. Of course that doesn’t always happen, be it clinician personality or training beliefs that don’t mesh with me and I have been in tears a few times. Now I am much more cautious about who I will clinic with. When auditing is possible, I prefer to go that route as I can get the info and get out unscathed! (and save $$$!)

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  11. Because there’s a real lack of eventing trainers in my area, for a long time clinicians were the only non dressage training we got. I have had clinics where I didn’t feel like I learned much, but that’s rare and they are so much more often really helpful to me so I seek them out. Of course lack of trainers correlates with lack of clinicians so it’s not like I have a lot of opportunities.

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  12. I feel like clinics can be a good source of information and education – I try to go to as many as I can, within reason of course. This year, the name of the game is Education, so I’m reaching out more than I would before. We don’t have many opportunities up here for clinics/lessons, so we have to jump at what we can when it’s available. Typically, clinics fill up pretty damn fast too.

    I should say, these clinicians aren’t BNT, but they are successful competitive horse people, who have a lot of success in the show ring provincially and throughout the country and have brought clients up in the ranks as well.

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    1. I don’t think you need to be a BNT to be a great instructor- sometimes the NON BNTs are the best ones for mere mortals (in my opinion). I do like the idea of getting fresh eyes on my horse and I so it’s not just the same thing over and over!

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