I've been teaching horsemanship and have been a clinician for several years. Coaching riders to excel in their desired arenas as well as build successful partnerships with their horses is a real passion of mine. I'm blessed to get to participate in peoples journeys and it really is a privilege. We see many new faces each year at our clinics, several familiar ones who we now call friends and those who go on to new adventures that we wish well. While I find new drills and things to keep my clinics interesting, the core principle of horsemanship prevails year after year. I don't profess to be anything but an old cowgirl--who has accumulated tools that I'm happy to share with those who want to listen. Since it's prime clinic season, I thought I'd take a moment to share a few of those tools with folks who are looking to get the biggest bang for their buck when they come to learn from me or any other clinician...
Come with space in your cup... If you have paid your money to learn from a clinician, make sure that you have space to do so. Certainly we should approach any task with common sense and safety. That said, a person should be careful not to view our learning or our riding in absolutes. Often we become so set in our ways that anything new receives a knee jerk reaction to say, "That's not how I've been taught" or "So and So said _______." Take the time to listen to what your clinician is saying and try it! If you already know everything you're interested in knowing, save your money and go for a trail ride instead. If you're interested in getting better and becoming a more knowledgeable horse person, then be prepared to glean the information you receive. Besides, they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If what you're doing isn't working, perhaps it's time to try something new!
Be a cheerleader... Often people get excited about their growth and want to help others too. This is great! However, there is a time and a place. Realize that your fellow participants also paid good money to learn from the clinicians. They didn't sign up to receive your input. So, as hard as it is for all of us at times, hold your tongue and just encourage your fellow riders don't boss them. Bring your pom-poms not your qualms. If you see something that is concerning, let the clinician or event management know and they can handle. Besides, you aren't paying to have to solve other peoples problems, so let the people who are earn their money. Now this isn't to say that if you see a major safety issue to stay mum, just that you avoid becoming the dreaded know it all who spends more time telling everyone else what to do instead of working on getting better themselves. If you really want to help lead by example in attitude and aptitude. Trust me on this...everyone will appreciate your cheers and good attitude much more than criticism. This may just save your friendships too! A good way to know when to give advice is to wait until you are asked for it.
When you're not sure... There may come a day when you sign-up and attend a clinic that, after the first little bit, you're wondering what you got yourself into. Maybe the clinician is a little out there or maybe you're just unsure if you're ready to buy in. So long as you don't feel the direction of the clinic is unsafe for you and your horse, this is the time for you to settle in and see what you can learn. If you immediately decide this isn't for you and you're not going to learn, you're probably right. But you paid your money, so why not get the most out of it. I think you can generally learn something from everyone...good or bad. Both are valuable lessons. Be discerning but not so closed off that you don't give yourself room to grow. If you can just learn one or two things from a clinic, then you've accomplished something. You've added tools to your collection that you can call upon for years to come. And you just never know when or what may come in handy some day...so enjoy your time, enjoy the people and enjoy the process!
If you need clarification, just ask... Don't be afraid to ask questions! Please do so with tact and thoughtfulness of timing, but do ask. As clinicians we are doing our very best to give our participants all the information we can. We work diligently to provide all the detail and tools we can in a short span of time. But we might miss something or not explain something in a way you understand. So be sure to ask for clarification when you need it. Any clinician worth their salt will want to help you, but they aren't mind readers. My Facebook clinic page once received a negative review from a participant who complained that they weren't given instruction on a particular topic. We would have been more than happy to answer their questions or cover the topic if they had only asked. Unfortunately, they left disgruntled and didn't express this until they got home to their computer. Don't let this happen to you. If you have specific goals going into a clinic, ask them in advance or let the clinician know during the event. Chances are (as long as it is within the realm of what they are covering) they will be happy to include it or at the very least answer any questions you may have directly.
Picking the right clinic... I'm an advocate for learning and becoming a better horseman. I've learned from many people over the years and look forward to continuing to learn for many years to come. I read different books, articles and horse magazines all the time searching for new nuggets to bring to my students or maybe new ways of teaching them fundamentals. In the same way I encourage people to continue their education. I have students who come to several of my clinics every year who also attend events with other instructors and I encourage them to enjoy the process. There are so many different options and only so many weekends and so much money to pay for it all! Do your homework and pick venues and clinicians that will fit what you are trying to accomplish with your horse. If you aren't sure where to begin, find someone who can help you. A good place to start is to ask riders who you respect and would like to replicate. What clinics do they attend? Ask around and seek out opportunities where will you get lots of riding time and personalized instruction.
Hopefully these clinic tools will help you this clinic season! Enjoy your ride and never stop learning.