Advancing Your Riding on a Budget: Five Benefits to Clinic Auditing

Auditors take in a McLain Ward clinic held at Rutledge Farm in Middleburg, Virginia. Photo by Natasha Sprengers-Levine.

Horses are expensive. Competitive endeavors even more so. As much as we’d all like to think that we can teach ourselves, there’s a point at which we’re all likely to fall into the trap of repeating the same mistakes over and over again and failing to think outside the box to fix them. So, what’s a financially savvy equestrian to do? Get creative with maximizing opportunities!

Each season, there are bound to be tons of clinic opportunities with top dressage, show jumping, equitation, and/or eventing riders happening local to where you ride. The benefits to auditing a clinic with a renowned instructor are endless, but we’ve compiled our top five motivators here:

  1. Cut costs. Auditing a clinic is substantially less expensive than riding in one. By selecting to leave your four-legged partner at home, you can save on everything from truck fuel to stabling costs. Plus, there’s the major difference between packing for your noble steed and bringing along a notebook to jot down the pearls of wisdom that are bound to pour through the clinician’s microphone.
  2. Maximize your time-investment. Time is money, right? Taking the audit-only route is sure to cut down on your time commitment, especially if you’re lucky enough to have a Big Name Clinician teaching somewhere local to your home, barn, or office. Most organizers will send out a schedule to all registrants a few days in advance of the event, so you can even pre-select which sessions you think will be most interesting and beneficial to the pursuit of your own goals.
  3. Food for thought. Paying $40 or less for an all-day auditor ticket is a complete bargain if you can leave with even one tip or exercise that will help you improve your riding. So, remember to keep an open mind when participating as an auditor so that you can walk away with tons of good food for thought to help you set new goals for your riding or progress through something that has been challenging for you. Another great feature of auditing is the ability to ask questions of the clinician. Instructors will often open the floor to audience question in the time between lessons if she schedule allows. It’s a pretty exclusive opportunity to pick the brain of a top rider! Watching other riders work through problem areas or tackle something new can be pretty inspiring, too,
  4. Check it all out. Leaving your horse at home for an auditing experience can provide you with a great opportunity to scope out the situation for when you might decide to participate as a rider. If you’re lucky enough that this Big Name Clinician will be returning to your area in the future, you can consider whether his/her teaching and communication style will be beneficial to you when you’re in the tack. Learning about a different discipline from a clinician whose area of expertise falls outside of your area of riding focus can help you think outside-the-box for solutions to training problems or about ways to simplify things you’re working through. You never know the specific phrase that will help you magically grasp that pesky notion of a half-halt until you hear it! Auditing is also an opportunity to check out the facility, including trailer parking and stabling. Bringing your horse to a clinic is a huge investment of finances and time, so it’s a good idea to do some in-person research!
  5. Think local! Auditing a clinic shows support for your local horse community; sales from auditor tickets can help organizations and facility owners offset the costs of bringing you these types of opportunities. Help maintain the momentum by participating as an auditor! Remember to pre-register whenever possible so that facilitators know how much food to provide and chairs to set out!

Lisa Wilcox fields auditor questions during a clinic at Fairview Dressage Training Center in Millwood, Virginia. Photo by Natasha Sprengers-Levine.

So, where does one find all of these opportunities? I love platforms like where I don’t have to create a password to see all the cool stuff going on, and I can search by specific clinician. You can also check out major equestrian organization websites such as USEA, USDF, USHJA and USEF, and keep an eye on EN’s “What’s Happening This Summer?” series, our to guide to lessons, clinics, schooling shows and other riding and educational opportunities during the summer (see last update on July 14). I also ask around to see what my riding friends are up to. Some clinics aren’t advertised so word-of-mouth is still the best way to get a foot in the door!

Go Eventing.

Natasha Sprengers-Levine is a USDF Bronze and Silver Medalist based in Winchester, Virginia, who competes her KWPN-NA mare at Third Level and dabbles in lower-level eventing to stay humble.