I love clinics! Riding clinics that is! I love teaching them, riding in them, and auditing them. I have never audited, or ridden in a clinic where I left feeling disappointed. As an instructor I love to listen to great trainers teach. There is no better money spent than an auditing fee that covers an entire day of lesson watching from a top trainer. I am always amazed at the small turnout of auditors when an international caliber trainer comes to town. In the Atlanta area alone there are always a number of great clinics available to audit or ride in. The GDCTA calendar is a good place to check for upcoming events.
It is a good idea to audit a few clinics to check out the protocol before signing up to ride, and if you have a trainer, it is best to confer with him or her before riding with a clinician. A good trainer won’t mind a client riding with a reputable clinician; however, it is helpful to determine if the philosophy of the clinician is a good match for your current program. There are several different schools of thought that all produce effective results, but the components of the programs are not always interchangeable. Mixing and matching the philosophies can be very confusing to the student and very irritating to the trainer!
Enough can’t be said for auditing a clinic. It gives you a chance to learn from outstanding trainers as they teach multiple horse and rider combinations. Many new concepts can be learned, and sometimes a concept that has been difficult to grasp, when explained in a different way, makes complete sense! Taking a notepad and pen is a great way to jot down the ideas that you want to mull over later. I once sat next to an international judge, at a clinic, that kept a three-ring binder with notes from every clinic she had attended, dating back to the seventies. I would like to have had a copy of that book!
When auditing I think I speak for the entire horse community when I say, please keep quiet if you’re within earshot of anyone that’s interested in actually hearing the clinician. I have sat at countless clinics and repressed shrieking when otherwise very nice people talk the entire time a clinician is teaching. I don’t know why it feels too rude to jump up and stalk off, but I usually just sit there instead, being very angry and wondering why anyone would pay money to come sit and talk when they could do it for free at home. Any other time, I’d love to hear the anecdotes, but in the dressage world, many of these clinicians are the PhD’s of the discipline, and deserve the respect that would be given any professor.
So, check your GMO calendar or local newsletter. Be willing to drive a little if needed. Bring your writing materials and a comfortable chair and be ready to sit awhile. Your time won’t be wasted.