Get the Most From a Horse Training Clinic

Understanding Clinics

A horse training clinic is typically an event where an out-of-area instructor or trainer comes to a local barn or riding facility and offers the opportunity for local riders to take lessons from them. Clinics can be as short as a day or as long as two weeks. Most last between two and three days and take place on weekends. Horse and rider pairs are expected to stay at the facility for the duration of the clinic, watch one another's rides and listen to lessons the clinician offers while working with individual riders and groups.

Clinics are offered in different riding disciplines. There are dressage clinics, jumping clinics, reining clinics and even horsemanship clinics that teach ground work and basic horse skills. There are also specially designed programs, such as Pat Parelli's Natural Horsemanship program, that offer riders the opportunity to participate in multiple clinics as they work their way through the levels of the program towards graduation.

Some clinics are strictly informational, lots of learning and lessons with minimal riding done only by the clinician. Other clinics are completely riding-based with no lectures or reading materials included in the program.

What to Expect from a Clinic

A clinic is designed to provide guidance and some additional experience from a skilled professional. Many riding instructors will periodically bring higher level clinicians into their barns to work with their students. This may seem counter-intuitive, but bringing in a more experienced instructor or competitor can help the higher level riders, offer additional insight on any problems or quirks a rider has been struggling and sometimes a different person may be able to explain a concept a student has been struggling with in such a way that the student can finally understand it.

Clinics are essentially a crash course in riding improvement. They provide a learning experience and are intended to provide new information that can be added to the rider's existing base of knowledge in hopes of fostering improvement and new skills. With that in mind, riders need to have realistic expectations when they attend a clinic.

Clinicians are not miracle workers. They typically work with riders and horses for less than a week. If the clinician has a working arrangement with a facility or barn, they may offer clinics two or three times a year. This is not enough time to fix serious problems. Regardless of who the individual clinician is, he does not have a magic wand on hand to turn rank beginners into Olympians and barn sour, green-broke bucking bronco wanna-bes into national champions during the course of three day clinic.

Clinics are designed to supplement the work that a rider is doing with their instructor or trainer, not replace it. Horse training clinics should be part of a training system or program.

Choosing the Right Clinic

Clinics are typically offered for riders and horses of specific experience levels and many clinicians expect participants to have mastered certain skills prior to attending the clinic. A clinician who specializes in providing instruction to high level show jumping and eventing teams is going to expect riders who sign up for the program to have a solid basic skill set and be competent over fences before ever signing up for the program. Some programs have riders working in groups with the clinician, so having even one rider or horse who is far less experienced or skilled than the rest can pose a problem for the clinician and the other riders.

Riders need to be realistic about their skill set before signing up for a clinic. If they have any doubts about their abilities, most clinicians will gladly view a quick video of the rider and horse ahead of time and inform the rider whether or not they are ready to participate in the clinic.

Along the same lines, an experienced rider and horse team may find themselves bored at clinics designed for beginning to intermediate riders. Most riders will want to avoid attending clinics where they have already mastered the majority of the skills that the clinician plans to work on during the clinic.

Horse riding clinics are not cheap. It typically costs several hundred dollars to attend a three day clinic event. It is important to thoroughly research the clinician and their program to make sure it is a good fit for both rider and horse before signing up to attend.

Finding the Right Clinic

Clinics travel to both large and small facilities and arenas. The best way to find out about an upcoming clinic is by keeping up to date with what is going on in your local horse community. Local riding associations, tack stores, feed stores and instructors will probably all have some idea of what events are occurring locally.

Clinicians also post dates and locations on their websites, so if there is a specific clinician that a rider wants to work with, they should keep up to date with the clinicians schedule and attend the event that is most convenient for them. Some clinics are set up as vacation events, where riders travel to a facility and participate in the clinic on either their own horse or a horse the facility provides for them.

If a person has a barn and facility and wants to host clinics, they can contact the clinician directly and book a clinic at their facility. However, they can expect to have to pay for the clinic up front and then sell the time slots to potential participants to make their money back.