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Clinic Woes

March 3rd, 2020 by admin

Have you ever seen an advertisement for a Horse clinic that peeked your interest to the point of thinking you might want to sign up? I have and I will be the first to admit that even though I’ve participated in MANY clinics, I honestly don’t think I’m a good participant.  

I get super pumped before every clinic and I tell myself that this time will be different then the last.  But honestly, I’m at the point in life where I still get excited when I see a nearby clinic but the difference is now I skip over the ad and don’t even consider signing up.  What has happened?  Where is my enthusiasm?  I mean, with horses we never stop learning so why the sudden change of heart?  I certainly don’t have all the answers but I am going to try and address a few clinic anxieties that might shed some light on the trouble with clinics and hopefully how to make them exciting again.

First off, we pride ourselves in the fact that we offer some pretty awesome women’s clinics here at Broken Spoke Stable.  After all, our slogan is:  Women training horses for Women.  We get excellent feed back each time we host one of these clinics but if I scheduled a clinic tomorrow I’d be hard pressed to get it filled.   I think the reason it would be hard has a lot to do with the fact that anywhere you turn there’s a new method or formula for training horses right at the finger tips of your computer.  

I’m not opposed to video training; I’ve watched my fair share of training videos myself.  But in my opinion, having that instructor/clinician right by your side to walk you through the process live is so much better for both you and your horse.  When learning something new it takes time to become fluent with your moves and we watch these videos and think we suddenly “have it.”  Problem is, our horses didn’t watch the same video so when you come to the barn with a brand new approach it’s like speaking Greek to old Buck, who by the way, was probably very happy with the way things were before.  

So what has made us opt out of the live experience of a clinic and replace it with online instruction?  Answer:  The fear of getting singled out.  Yep, I’ll admit it, every clinic I go into there is a certain amount of anxiety that I/my horse won’t “perform” as well as everyone else and I will get singled out while my fellow participants watch and learn from my mistakes.  I don’t think I’m alone in this department.  I mean, I’m a riding instructor for heavens sake, I should be the best in the clinic……at least that’s the pressure I put on myself.  I don’t want to be constantly told everything I’m doing wrong, especially when there are 30 people who paid to audit (probably because they didn’t have the nerve to participate in the first place themselves) all watching and taking pictures or videos from the sidelines.

This might sound a tad extreme but in all honesty this is exactly what I do to myself.  I’ve learned that the more pressure I put on me and my horse the more we screw up.  I remember one clinic that started with the clinician sitting on a mounting block and asking all 9 participants to circle around him on our horses.  He then instructed us to drop our reins and back our horses up three steps.  It was pretty effective since only one person could even half do what was asked of us, and it wasn’t me.  I also thought it was a cool way of putting us all on the same playing field since there were riders of all abilities taking the clinic.  I could learn from this guy because he proved right from the get go that he had something to teach all of us. It opened my mind up to learn instead of perform. I’ve never forgotten that clinic and it’s helped me to start every one of our clinics that we host putting everyone on the same page.  

If you go into a clinic with the mindset that you already know how to do everything then why even bother paying the steep cost to enter?  There are those participants who you try to teach that spend 10 minutes explaining why they do it there way and why they don’t feel the need to learn something new.  Who cares?  I can assure you that the clinician trying to teach you something new/different doesn’t care how your online instructor is telling you how to do it.  Heck, there are 20 different ways to back a horse up, why not just shut up and learn a new way.  You know, when in Rome do as the Romans do, if the new way doesn’t work or appeal to you just don’t use it when you go home.  No big deal.

I feel like some clinicians play a big role in the clinic anxiety as well.  Perhaps inexperience (you know now days everyone is a clinician) has made them think that playing class favorite is the way to go.  Well I don’t agree.  You will always have a few who outshine everyone, those who at warm up are doing flying lead changes on calm, cool, collected, mounts while you are just trying to get your horse to stop spooking in every corner.   These are the participants who the clinician always uses as the demo horse/rider combination.  “Everyone watch Charlie, his horse does this perfectly.”  In my opinion, that’s not fair to anyone, especially Charlie.  He’s there to learn just like everybody else, not to be put on display simply because he and his horse have worked hard at home and reap the benefits of that.  A good clinician needs to prove to me that they know something, not that they are just good at pointing out where others excel.

Clinics have become a three ring circus!   It’s more about entertaining you then teaching you.  They have become breeding grounds to bash other clinicians who have been successful.  I don’t compare myself or my way of training to any one clinician.  I’ve been lucky to meet and train with many great horse men and women and I’ve learned valuable things from each of them.  But teaching a person and their horse is as individual as what a snowflake is.  What works for one might not work for another.  Basic training is still basic training and if you’re not ready to move forward then you need to stay where you are and get good at that first.  But for some reason we want razzle dazzle from clinicians.  We want to watch them take a crazy horse into a round pen and 2 hours later see them shooting a gun off his back.  I have to seriously ask if you honestly think that is the best for that horse.  While it might look amazing, be thrilling, induce nail biting, and fill you with awe…..ask yourself, did that create a safe riding horse that you would feel comfortable throwing your leg over tomorrow and taking out on the trail.  Hum!!

I think when you pay to participate in a clinic you should expect to learn something.  How many things you learn isn’t what matters, maybe you just learn a way to improve something you are already good at.  Maybe you learn that you are leaning into your turns causing your horse to fall out at every corner.  Maybe the clinician just pointing that out changes everything.  Did you learn a big, new, fancy maneuver? No, you learned something about your balance that you can take home and work on and expect results.  If that is all you get for your clinic fee then you got a lot.  If we would stop looking for the super natural, stop thinking someone has come up with a brand new way of doing the same old thing, then we would begin to get it.

  A good clinician isn’t going to veer too far to the left or to the right; they are going to give you tools to keep you safely in the middle where you and your horse can start to become one in harmony.  A good clinician isn’t going to insult you, degrade your talent or lack of, embarrass you, or single you out to show everyone else how not to do something.  A good clinician is going to make you feel relaxed, know how to instruct a group of different levels of talent, and most importantly know when a touch of humor is needed to cut the tension.  A good clinician is going to know how to put everyone on the same playing field so no one feels inferior.  A good clinician is hard to find but they are out there.  Dare I even say that a good clinician isn’t the one offering clinic after clinic because a good clinician is in it to help every horse and rider combination succeed and grow in their confidence.  They are about quality rather then quantity.  

Hopefully this has shed some insight on the pros and cons of clinics.  My goal is to always take what I’ve learned, be it good, bad or ugly, and use that to improve what we do here at Broken Spoke Stable.  I hope this has been helpful.  Oh, and by the way…in case you are wondering if I can back my horse up without reins – come to one of our clinics and find out.  Happy Trails!