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Going to a Clinic?

The young rider program that the NCEC has initiated means that we can expect increase in the number of clinics to be held by the club. These clinics will be available to all ages and we are hoping to get some well credentialed instructors along.

A riding clinic is an investment of time and money and you want to make the most of it. The better you prepare yourself and your horse the more likely it is that your clinic experience will be successful.
There are also some unwritten “rules” about clinic that everyone should be aware of. No one else is probably going to tell you what they are but here is our take on it.

  1. Properly prepare your horse
  2. Properly prepare your equipment
  3. Properly prepare yourself
  4. Accept responsibility
1. Properly prepare your horse

A horse is not a machine. You cannot just start it up after a month off and expect it to go as well or for as long as it did last time you rode it. It does not have to be 3DE fit, but a certain level of fitness will make the experience so much more beneficial.  I have known horses that have experienced colic following strenuous activity after a layoff. You risk short and long term risk injury to your horse if it does not have an appropriate level of fitness for the task.

Tune the horse up prior to the clinic. If possible practice some dressage transitions, work on the horse’s straightness or lateral work if you are about to do a dressage clinic. Practice some pole work if it is a jumping clinic. These will prepare the horse but also remind you of their strengths and weakness in case you are asked what you would like to work on. Hint: ask to work on the weaknesses. If you suggest that you work on the strengths to show how good you both are, it is almost guaranteed that the horse will be completely rubbish at it that day and you will feel like an idiot, or, at best, you will be wasting your time and money.

Groom your horse. Not all horses are oil paintings but if you make the effort to wash or groom your horse before a clinic it will show that you care about the horse and that you are serious about your riding. It is also a mark of respect for the clinician. 

How not to present:

Neat and tidy and acceptable


2. Properly prepare your equipment

Know what you will be doing. Be certain that you know what you will be doing and the equipment that you will need. It is probably best to ride in gear you usually use and that you know fits. It is not the time to bring out the newly purchased blingy gear that then turns out not to fit. Ensure that the saddlery is clean, well-maintained and comfortable for the horse.

Know what to expect at the venue. Find out beforehand what facilities are available at the venue so that you know if you need to bring water or is there if somewhere to stable or yard the horse. Carry buckets for feed and water even if you don’t expect to use them.

Put boots on your horse. You are going to be asking your horse to move in unfamiliar ways doing dressage or jumping gymnastics or perhaps jumping higher than normal. It is unfair to allow them to hurt themselves by knocking their legs without protection on them. I have been to one instructor who insisted that riders beg, borrow or steal tendon or brushing boots to boot their horses up before his session.

3. Properly prepare yourself

Dress appropriately. As a mark of respect to the clinician it is appropriate to wear well fitting, clean clothes appropriate to the discipline ( ie western, dressage.)  While it is not expected that you are dressed in all the latest fashionable and expensive gear it is expected that you wear a well fitting polo shirt or a similar shirt with a collar. This helps the clinician to see what your torso is doing. For English riding, clean boots with either gaiters or jodhpur clips are the norm. Think T-shirt dressage competition without the plaits! Hair should be tied back. The way you present yourself can reflect how serious you are about your riding and training.

Have an open mind. There is no point going along and refusing to even attempt what the clinician is asking you to do. Make the most of the learning opportunity by trying to do what they are teaching. Expect and accept that both the horse and you are likely to be asked to work outside your comfort zone.

Be physically prepared. Often a clinician is going to challenge you and the horse. While we would all prefer that the horse never offer any resistance, sometimes the horse needs time to work out the right answer to a question or an aid. If during the time where the horse is trying various responses in search of a release of pressure you need to stop for a rest, the horse, like a kid wanting lollies at the checkout, knows that he just has to persevere a bit longer doing what he is doing and the pressure will come off.  This is counterproductive to good training. YOU need to be fit enough to persevere when required.

Be mentally prepared. A clinic can be taxing emotionally. It may not be sensible to ride in a clinic if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious. The added stresses of learning new things or other than positive feedback are not what you need at this time. Do something that you know is relaxing and enjoyable with your horse instead.  However, if you are feeling nervous at a clinic, let your instructor know, and they will help you work through your fears. They are human, and no matter how knowledgeable and famous they are, they will want to help you improve your riding experience.

Be Honest. Make sure you are honest in describing your experience and level of expertise on the entry form. It is frustrating for everyone if the group has a marked disparity between the ability of the riders.

If the clinician asks you “Did you feel that?” when something you did made the horse go better, don’t answer yes, if you didn’t. You are there to learn so be honest and ask questions if you don’t understand what is being requested.

Arrive early and watch other lessons. It will really help you in your lesson because most clinicians will have a theme for the day. If you have seen the previous lesson you will be aware of what is being requested and why, and the pitfalls in attempting the exercise. You will double or treble your learning if you watch others. Even better, be prepared get in the ring with clinician to assist them if the session involves poles or jumps.

Be quiet. It is important however, that if you do arrive early or hang around to watch others, that you pay attention and do not do things that will distract the riders, horses or the clinician. Take any chatter well away from the arena. It can be difficult enough to hear the clinician from 60m away without a group of rail-birds blabbing away. This goes for everyone spectating at a clinic! It is disrespectful to the clinician as well as the riders.  Furthermore, other spectators cannot hear what is going on if you and your mates are rabbiting on. It is OK to comment on what you are seeing with your neighbor but keep it quiet. It is also disconcerting for riders to hear laughter from the sidelines while they are riding as they wonder if the mirth is due to something they are doing! 

Be respectful. Respect the wishes of riders who prefer not to be observed in a lesson. When spectating, only make positive comments about horses, riders and the clinician. You can guarantee that if you say something negative, that rider’s friend or the owner of the horse will be sitting next to you! What is more, they probably captured your comments on video!

4. Accept responsibility

Horse welfare. No matter how famous the clinician, your horse is relying on you. He came with you and he will go home with you. While an open mind is necessary, don’t completely turn your horse’s welfare over to someone else.  If you think the horse is too stressed, either physically or mentally, speak up. If you are unsure, ask a trusted confidant their opinion. Do not accept horse abuse.

What if I can’t go? It is expected that when you enter a clinic that you pay for it, whether or not you are able to attend. You should advise the organiser as soon as you know that you cannot attend. That way, if there is a waiting list, you won’t have to pay and someone else gets to benefit from your misfortune. Irrespective of the reason for your inability to attend, the organiser has worked out the fees to cover the clinician’s costs including airfares and accommodation. The organiser or the host club cannot be expected to cover the shortfall. Alternatively, you might be able to find someone to take your spot and they reimburse you the entire or part of the fee.  Contact the organiser to try and get the alternate rider in an appropriate group for their level of competence. If you don’t show for the clinic and have not paid, expect to be chased for the fee and blacklisted from all future clinics!

Our NCEC Clinics are designed to improve the riding, skills and knowledge of all of us in an encouraging and positive environment, so by following these simple guidelines, it will be a positive and FUN learning experience for rider, instructor and spectator and you can ride away KNOWING your money and time has been well spent.

Upcoming Events

Sunday 26 August
Gymkhana

Monday 27 August
General Meeting Greenhouse Tavern 6.30pm

Sat & Sun 22-23 September
Sharmayne Spencer Eventing Clinic

Monday 24 August
General Meeting Location TBC

Sat & Sun 29-30 September
Dressage Championships

Sat & Sun 6-7 October
Unofficial ODE

Sunday 14 October
Western Show

Information regarding each event can be found under Whats On as it becomes available.

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