As an adult beginner, I have attended many clinics, both as a rider and an auditor. Many were fantastic and some were not too great. We have learned from those experiences, and that knowledge is worth passing along.
If any of you are thinking about hosting a clinic or event at your barn, or for your organization, these are some things you might want to keep in mind. Our goal, of course, is to make every event, something that benefits the participants.
1. Start With a Good Clinician
This goes without saying. Ideally, you want someone who truly has solid skills to pass along. There is nothing worse than advertising a GREAT clinician, only to find he or she really hasn’t done much…or lacks teaching skills. Great riders don’t always make good clinicians.
They have to be able to explain aids and movements, in a way that anyone can understand. If they are merely telling riders to “half halt”, do a “shoulder in” or do a “crest release”, etc. they are not really teaching those participants who might not know what the terms mean.
Certainly if you are offering a Grand Prix dressage clinic or a 3′ jumper clinic, your audience should come with those basic skills, but if not, your clinician should be able to relate to all levels of riding experience. People skills are just as important as riding skills.
2. Prepare Well
A. Know your intended audience and advertise where you have the most exposure to that group.
B. Have a flyer available online, giving the clinician’s bio and the curriculum for the day. Make it clear what skill levels are needed and what classes are being offered.
C. Have the entry form, waiver and release available on
line so participants can execute and return them prior to the clinic. Explain in the flyer what the clinic rules are..i.e. coggins needed, helmets required, what the proper dress is, etc. Make sure all costs are fully explained.
D. Provide an email and/or phone number for anyone who might have questions about the clinic.
E. Once entries are in, schedule ride times and get them out to the participants as early as possible, so they can plan accordingly.
F. Before the clinic, give your clinician information on how many riders you have, what skill levels they have and some background on each rider/horse combination so the clinician can prepare accordingly.
3. Clinic Day
A. Arrive early to set up. Have a designated area for registration and collection of any outstanding forms, fees, etc.
B. Have someone designating where to park trailers and unload as guests arrive.
C. Make sure your rings are drug and free of any manure or debris.
D. Have a designated seating area for auditors and guests–one that is not obstructing riders in any way.
E. Start on time and keep the schedule. Have someone monitoring the classes and assisting the clinician in staying on time. Give the next rider a “10 minute warning” so they will be ready.
F. Have a wash stall or washing area available to the riders so they can cool their horses down as needed. If available, offer stalls to them. Have fresh water readily available for the horses to drink.
G. On particularly hot days, have water or other drinks available to the riders and guests. It costs very little and your guests will appreciate it.
H. Make sure your clinician has a bit of free time throughout the day to hydrate, eat lunch and get ready for the next rider. They need to stay physically and mentally fresh. We have always provided lunch to our clinicians and they truly appreciate it.
4. After the Clinic
A. It goes without saying to thank the clinician and have their “pay” readily available to take with them.
B. Solicit their input as to how things went. Listen carefully to any suggestions they may have for future events.
C. Talk to the participants and ask for their honest feedback on how the day went. Specifically ask them about the clinician and if they felt the clinic was worthwhile. Did they think the cost was fair for what they did? Do the same with anyone who audited.
Many of these things are common sense items, but often are not addressed. At the clinic this past weekend, we did individual dressage “lessons” in the morning, then took a break for lunch before the jumping began.
During the jumping, Lainey was able to focus on each rider as they went through the grid. We were the “ground crew”, setting jumps and doing what was necessary to ensure everything went smoothly. We even had a person there taking some candid pictures throughout the day and she was kind enough to share them with everyone who attended. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to have pictures of them with their horse!
The best part of the day for us is always the feedback. Each and every rider that participated told us they had a great time!
They all took something valuable home and told us how Lainey was not only an astute teacher, but was warm, friendly and genuinely interested in teaching them something. They also complimented us on what a friendly and helpful atmosphere we offered. All wanted to know when the next clinic was going to be.
Many of our participants are repeat customers. They spread the word to their friends and barn buddies. Word of mouth is a powerful force in the riding community, so it pays to do your homework and get it right the first time.
Good clinics always make me want to get out and work harder with my horse. I put my new skills to the test, and I am always energized by a day of hard, but satisfying work. My horse enjoys the outing and every skill that I master is one that hopefully benefits him as well.
Even though Lainey is my trainer and I rode in the clinic, I STILL left feeling very happy with our work on Saturday. It is no wonder that my horse adores his trainer! She has a lot to offer and truly loves her sport. That’s what you hope to find in a clinician and with some solid planning, your clinics and events can be truly successful.