5 Tips for a Better Clinic Experience

Amy Nelson in a George Morris Clinic.  He is surely yelling at her to Amy Nelson in a George Morris Clinic. He is surely yelling at her to "RELEASE HIM" through the bullhorn. He said this a lot.

As eventing season in many regions winds down this fall, you may be looking to get a jump start on 2018 by riding in a clinic with an upper level rider. For those with year ’round eventing (I’m insanely jealous), you are likely riding with four-star riders to get ready for your next three-day event this fall.

Chances are you’ve spent a small fortune to ride in the clinic, so here are some tips to get the most out of your experience. While clinicians don’t expect you to have the fanciest clothes and the most expensive equipment, they do expect it to be neat and clean and in good working order. They do expect you to have manners, and for you to be humble. Spending an extra couple of minutes in the days before your ride will set the tone, and may even help you get ahead in the future.

  1.  Look the part. I have ridden with the likes of George Morris, Dom and Jimmie Schramm, and many other upper-level clinicians. They don’t expect you to have the most expen

    “I rode with George and didn’t cry.” — Amy Nelson

    sive anything but it shows them that you are putting forth an effort when you arrive in sensible tan breeches, a tucked-in collared shirt, a belt, and your hair tucked neatly away in your helmet. Don’t be the person showing up in a tank top with animal print breeches.

    They may not overtly say it, but a clinician will try harder if it looks like you care. And YES, George Morris WILL likely say something. I managed to not have any of his famous quotes directed at me, and I did have this tee shirt made for the occasion … which I still wear.

    2. Listen.

    They have seen a million horses and riders just like you. They don’t want to hear your excuses of he never does this at home. But this … but that. None of that matters. You are riding in the clinic because you believe that they have something valuable to say. If you know everything already then just stay home. 

    We learned in elementary school that we have two ears, but only one mouth, for a reason. Listen twice as much as you talk. IF you do talk, ask actual questions. It’s OK to ask a clinician to clarify something you don’t understand, or to ask for suggestions of exercises to practice at home. But don’t be the person who comes across as arrogant by talking more than the person who rode in Rolex.

    3. Be polite. Say things like thank you, and yes ma’am or yes sir. Sounds obvious?  You’d be surprised. These little details can set you apart and may convince the clinician to give you an extra couple of minutes of instruction, or extra tips that they might not otherwise divulge.

    Amy Nelson and Hummingbird’s River with Dom Schramm.

    4. Be punctual. Arrive early and be ready for your ride time. If you hang around for 45 minutes because you’re early, no one will be upset. But NEVER be late. The majority of clinicians expect you to be already warmed up by the time your group starts. Walk, trot, maybe a little bit of canter before your assigned ride time. They really don’t need to waste 15 minutes watching you warm up. You can do this in advance, and then you are ready to go for the actual instruction. Nothing irks a clinician more than you strolling up at 9:02 having just gotten on your horse.

5. Watch everyone. You paid for the clinic not just to ride in your group, but to watch and learn from ALL the groups. Maybe I look like the creepy stalker, but I don’t care. When I go to a clinic, I make it a point to watch every single group. Maybe my horse was in Prelim, but can I watch Beginner Novice or even Starter level and learn something? You bet. Maybe a new gymnastic, maybe a new way to approach to a cross country obstacle on the greenie I left at home. Maybe something to pass along to a student of mine, or a friend.

As the summer winds down you are probably looking to fill your calendar with fall and winter clinics. With a little preparation and effort, you will have a great time, learn heaps of new information, and make contacts along the way that can help you rise to the top of whatever level you have your eyes on. Because as George Morris once said (not to me, but someone in my group at a clinic): “You’re soooooo pretty, with your pretty little horse, and your pretty little clothes, but at some point you have to LEARN HOW TO RIDE!”

So get out there and learn.

3 … 2 … 1 … Have a good ride.