How To Prepare For Your First Clinic

George morris clinic

George Morris Clinic

It’s time to start thinking about show season again.  To get you and your horse in shape for the discipline you choose, consider going to ride in a clinic this year.  Clinics are great chances to learn under skilled trainers and riders, but riding in your first clinic can be a bit intimidating.  Planning ahead of time can ensure that you and your horse are ready to go on the day of the clinic.

Research the Clinician

Clinicians are all individuals, and because of this each clinician’s clinics are run a little bit differently. Find out about the clinician’s prior clinics. What were they like? How were riders and horses turned out? Does the clinician have a standard form in which clinics are run – for instance, focusing on groundwork in the morning and riding in the afternoon?

Learning about the clinician’s teaching methods can help you to prepare yourself, too. If the clinician has books or videos available, use them to give yourself a foundation on which you can build during the clinic. Understanding the clinician’s methods of teaching can also help prepare you for what you can expect on the day of the clinic.

Finally, have a clear idea of what you want to work on.  If flying changes are an issue, but only on the right, let the clinician know so she can focus on it.  Don’t  make the clinician “guess” what you need to improve.

Find Out About the Dress Code

The turnout expected of horses and riders varies widely from clinic to clinic. Find out about the desired dress code for your clinic, and then make sure that you and your horse are ready to fit that dress code. Regardless of the specifics of any clinic, you should always make sure that both you and your horse are polished. Put effort into your appearance, and be sure to clean your tack and use clean saddle pads and leg wraps.

Keep Yourselves Fit

Clinics can demand a lot of a horse – and a lot of you. It isn’t fair to expect your horse to participate in a multi-hour clinic if you only ride him a few hours a week. Spend time building up your horse’s condition, and yours as well, especially if you know that the clinic will be athletically intense.

As you work with your horse, touch on the basics that you will be working on in the clinic, but don’t drill him on the particular issues. Remember, a clinic is meant to help a horse and rider improve. You and your horse can be less than perfect on clinic day; the idea is that when you leave, you’ll leave with new knowledge and improvement.

Do your homework when choosing and preparing for a clinic, but once the day arrives, relax and have a great time learning with your horse.  And listen to what the clinician says – they have alot of experience and you paid them to teach you.


Photo credit:  Practical Horseman magazine

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