Sunday, March 1, 2015

What Are You Looking For In a Clinic?

I organize all the shows and clinics for my local USDF GMO. We do pretty well, but there is always room for improvement. So, I'm asking you, dear Internet friends, for your advice on what makes for a successful clinic.

I'm only asking about clinics this time, because shows are whole different animal and I'll get to that in a subsequent post. Right now, as the Clinic Chair or Manager or whatever my title is, I'm looking to expand the reach of our educational program. Here are my questions:

1) Do you prefer full individual lessons with the clinician, or shorter "fix-a-test" type formats? Or would you like to see some other format?

2) Multi-day or one day?

3) Weekends, or middle of the week? Can you/will you take off work to participate in a mid-week clinic, or do you prefer them on weekends? Does it matter if it's a Really Big Name International Trainer vs a Local Trainer?

4) Do you look for clinics within your discipline, or fun cross-training clinics like polo, police training/de-spooking, etc? Would you like to participate in clinics where rider fitness was a goal, clinics where there is an unmounted session in which the clinician guides you through exercises designed to help you ride better?

5) Do you like to ride with Really Big Name International Trainers, or would you rather see more accessible local FEI trainers that you might not ride with every week, but aren't as renowned (or intimidating)? 

6) Does the level of the clinician even matter? Are you interested in riding with accomplished lower level trainers, or do you only clinic with The Big Names?

7) Would you rather audit Really Big Name International Trainers than ride with them? If so, do you think it's important for the clinic organizer to showcase a variety of skill levels, riders and breeds for the auditors?

8) How important is good food to your overall clinic experience? (It's important to me, which is why I included that question.) Is there any other hospitality that will make your clinic experience better and make you want to come back?

9) How do you find out about local clinics? Do you prefer to be notified by snail mail, email, social media (FB, Twitter, Blogs, etc), flyers in your local tack shop or some other method I haven't thought of yet?

That's all I can think of for now. I look forward to your answers, and I'll post follow ups as I think of more questions! For making it through all that, you deserve a sparkly rainbow unicorn kitten with butterfly wings:


  1. okay, that is a lot of questions but here goes:
    1. full individual lessons (for the most part). I like to have 1-2 things to take away as homework
    2. either is good. the nice thing about multi-day is that you can see some changes. the down side is that they are more expensive.
    3. weekends
    4.depends. mostly my discipline but things like police/ trail would be interesting
    5. local more accessible trainers. IMHO I'm just not good enough that only the BNT can help me. I think there's tons of local trainers/coaches who are perfectly good
    6. I want someone who has credentials- not necessarily showing FEI or whatever but has a history.
    7. I love to audit the BNT and I enjoy seeing the different levels. although, in my experience, it always ends up about the basics anyway
    8. food is important. often there are not food options nearby where a clinic is- coffee, tea, water, snacks, lunch are worth paying extra for.
    9. email, FB usually work for me. :)

  2. I can't really share any opinions bc I've only just signed up for my first ever clinic- therefore no experiences to share. But I'm curious to see what everyone else thinks, and your thoughts too!!

  3. Wow, that is the most brilliantly awesome fantasy creature I think I have ever seen!! Love it.

    My favourite clinicians are those who are personable & who make the effort to connect with, help, & encourage EVERY level of rider in attendance.
    The 'fame' of the clinician is irrelevant to me, maybe sometimes even a bit of a turn-off.
    I have attended & enjoyed clinics on multiple topics/events as either participant & auditor - whatever peaks my interest at the time. Cost is a factor, I'm sad to say.
    Distance & facilities are a factor in one day vs multi-day clinics.
    Decent, affordable food is appreciated. I would rather pay for what I want than have costs for something I don't want factored into the cost of the clinic.

    I have just started a new blog & would be very pleased if you (and all your readers) would find time stop by & visit. To anyone who likes my blog, I would happily exchange Blogroll links if you would leave your request in a comment!

  4. When I was riding in clinics: Weekends were always best. More than one day was good, if I could afford it. I did need advanced trainers as I'd had super Olympic level trainers to start off with. They did not have to be famous, just good with upper level credits/experience. I preferred private lessons. I usually focused on one discipline--jumping/dressage--but a good solid clinic on almost anything is good. Horse handling, problem horses, police training all sound good.

    Food? Not a necessity, but some of the nicest clinic experience I've had is when participants were able to share a meal with the clinician and just kind of socialize.

    Email notifications are kind of best for me unless there is a dedicated social page, such as Facebook where clinic notices are posted.

    As an aside, at the moment I am not riding, so clinics are not on the agenda. Not sure if I'd audit, but it would matter both what the clinic topic is and where the clinic is held...and, oh yes, the darn weather.

  5. 1) I like lessons. I think fix-a-test can be a little short sighted, because I have big enough issues that doing a test would limit the amount of time needed to fix them.

    2) I like two day clinics--that way I can ride with the clinician twice and really burn the info into my brain. It gives me time to think things over between lessons and make changes. I don't like more than two days because I feel like it's unfair to the horse to work that hard that many days in a row.

    3) WEEKENDS. WEEKENDS. WEEKENDS. Even if I can take time off for my ride, I just don't have the schedule flexibility to audit other rides and maximize my clinic experience.

    4) I jump and (try poorly to) do dressage. I will rider with hunter/jumpers, dressage trainers, and eventers. I'm confident in my ground work skills, my horse isn't spooky and I have zero interest in being a mounted policeman, so I'm not going to spend money on those things. I know lots of other people do.

    5) Do you like to ride with Really Big Name International Trainers, or would you rather see more accessible local FEI trainers that you might not ride with every week, but aren't as renowned (or intimidating)?

    I am too poor for REALLY BIG NAME FEI TRAINER, so I prefer someone with solid skills and teaching ability who I can see a couple times a year. More like a trainer from a distance? I dunno. I've had some really bad experiences with trainers, so I like to be able to watch someone teach and then when I'm comfortable with them, ride in their clinic. I'm unlikely to sign up for "fancy pizzazz big name rider" who's in town one time just because there's no accountability or relationship there and it's not worth risking my horse on that.

    6) I want the clinician to have done/be doing something like grand prix or developing young horses or judging or something that tells me they know a lot. I'm not interested in "sally local who's never ridden past 2nd". Nothing against Sally, but I can ride with her any day of the week.

    7) Right now, I'd definitely audit big names and I LOVE to see them work with something other than the 85k imports though I also love watching 85k imports prance around, so either way.

    8) I'm all about food, but if I have to pay $20 for some dumb all-organic feel-good tasteless POS sandwich, that's bad. I'd rather bring my own.

    9) I find out through emails, talking with BOs and checking the local GMO calendar. I wouldn't be opposed to finding out via facebook or a tack store.

    You're welcome for the world's longest comment.

  6. I love this post! I didn't know you organized shows and clinics so regularly. Good for you - dressage needs more people like you who do the difficult job of organizing. It can be painful :). I organize too, so am very interested in the answers. Here are my answers, from my own perspective and from my experience with our provincial dressage group and with organizing for my own equine facility.
    1) I think both are good. I'd go mostly with lessons, with perhaps a test riding clinic close to the beginning of show season.

    2) Multi-day or one day?
    - I honestly don't think you can learn anything in one lesson, but one day works for test riding. It takes the clinician time to see where you are and what you need.

    3) Weekends, or middle of the week?
    - I'm organizing regular Arthur Kottas clinics (former Chief Head Rider of Spanish Riding School and teaching all over the world). The clinics are four days and last year two of those days were on the weekend. This year I have 'regulars' and they are taking time off of work to ride in the clinic. Week days are necessary because we're sharing air fare among five north american destinations. For less well known clinicians I only do weekends. Although... I've participated in four day dressage summer camps and they were wonderful! It can be a hard sell to get attendance at camps, but with a good (doesn't have to be a big name) instructor, a variety of other activities - ie fitness, nutrition, great food and drinking wine :) - they are heaven.

    4) Personally I only go to dressage clinics. Competing costs. I'm considering an 'emotional fitness' clinic with a top instructor.

    5) I like both international and more accessible FEI level trainer. I bring in an excellent level three coach monthly. Her clinics have slowly but surely gained more attendance and regulars, such that just now I'm switching them to two day clinics from one day.
    I brought Arthur Kottas twice last year and will bring him three times this year. It really does make a difference having someone with that kind of amazing knowledge. The level three coach audits (her horse is injured) and we have people travel from quite a distance to attend these four day clinics.He can literally transform riders and their affect on their horses in four days (it's the time frame he prefers to work in), but we offer two days with him too.

    6) I answered above.

    7) I'd rather ride. I think a variety of breeds and levels is important for the auditors and a caring clinician is happy to accommodate. Arthur Kottas had a crazy OTTB at his first clinic with us that couldn't be ridden the first day.He did in hand work, lunged the rider, etc. By day four her horse was round and doing beautiful training level work. Can you tell I like him :)

    8) Good food is very important and eating together with riders and auditors is a wonderful experience. We do this at the monthly clinics and the big name clinics.
    9) Facebook and through our local dressage group.


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