I know a lot of us here at HJU love to bring the readers a complete report of our clinic experiences after the fact, but I thought I’d let you all in on my before-clinic panic preparations.

A friend let me know about a clinic space available, and I jumped at the chance to ride with a master horseman, Olympic gold medalist and top coach. I emailed the organizer, corresponded, and met her at a local horse competition, where I had a check ready and gave it to her to hold my spot. So all that was done a month ago. I was going to ride with Phillip Dutton in his fall clinic for lower level riders at his home farm in West Grove, PA., True Prospect Farm. Whoohooo!

So…that means I need to be riding a fit enough horse to go for at least an hour. It needs to be a horse that is not going to have trouble shipping or standing in the horse trailer for a little while, and can jump enough to be ready for good jumping school. He will need to be well shod, and I have to make sure that he is clean, his mane pulled, tail picked out, and looking good. All of that takes a bit of work ahead of time. The shoeing was taken care of at least two weeks ahead. Then I kept making sure I had bell boots on, and rode him carefully so that he didn’t pull a shoe off! No rough ground or mud!

The fitness part is an every-day task. Every day it’s good enough weather and work permits, he’ll be ridden. And I’ve practiced my jumping, too. The tack all seems to fit and I will make sure it is cleaned. Oh, groan, I’ve got to pull his mane a little before Friday! That’s something I can do with the lights on in the barn at night after work, so that’s not a problem.

Then, the countdown begins. As I write this, I’m only a few days away. I must make sure that I have my clothes in order, too. I don’t want to wear my heavy winter breeches, because a check of the weather says it’s going to be a pretty medium sort of winter day and they might be too hot.

I don’t want to wear beige, they make me look fat. I don’t want to wear my brown breeches because they clash with my royal blue safety vest. So I am going to have to check my breeches drawer and see what will work (my inner princess really has a battle of wills with my comfort). I will try and wear layers because I’ll get hot and then cold and clammy when I am sweaty. So pack at least four vests and jackets in different weights…and throw in a fifth one just in case. And a rain coat. I’ll wear my good boots and need to polish them the night before along with cleaning the spurs and making sure they match and the straps are not broken…which is sometimes the case. And a cap to cover helmet hair!

All that stuff needs to go in the truck before I leave in the morning. I’ll decide what to wear two nights before, and lay it out, and it will be ready for a quick change in the morning after chores. I have learned I am not reliable enough to feed in the dark in clean breeches. They get dirty instantly!

Another groan, the organizer has just emailed the schedule and it looks as though the first group will start at 8:00 a.m., while my group will go at 11:00 a.m. That’s an early morning for me, as I plan on watching the previous groups so I can see what they do and how they are learning to make it a better experience for me.

That means at least a 5:00 a.m. start, as I have chores in the morning before I leave – medicate a sick horse, feed the pigs and the wimps separately which no matter how fast I operate, still takes at least 20 minutes and longer in the dark. Pick up one stall quickly and then clean up Hamish and load him for the trip.

The night before, I’ll pack the trailer with stuff the horse needs, stuff him a haybag, fill the water jug in the horse trailer tack room, and pack in the tack, plus a cooler or sheet and a treat or two. I already have a small grooming bag in there that stays in there all the time plus buckets for washing and drinking that also stay in the trailer.

Watching other sessions is a big part of the educational experience. Photo by Holly Covey

Watching other sessions is a big part of the educational experience. Photo by Holly Covey

I will need to make sure of course that the trailer is hooked up properly and check the tires and hitch and lights, which is S.O.P., (standard operating procedure) and fill the truck with gas. That way I won’t need to stop in the morning. I will have not only rush hour traffic but probably construction to deal with in the morning so I will need to leave with plenty of time so I don’t have to hurry.

Before I go to bed I have to remember to set the alarm, then bring the phone in to the bedroom and make sure it is charged…doesn’t help to have it charging and set to go off in the kitchen ….which of course I have done….before… several times….I need to double check my phone, too, for anything from the organizer, so that in case something happens I will know.

I’ll make sure I know where to park (I’m always careful about that because my truck does not have four-wheel-drive) and the names of the other riders in my group so I am prepared and can say hello. I need to remember to print out the release form from my computer and not just keep checking it on my phone. Then I need to take a moment to fill it out, and stick it in my purse to give to the organizer when I arrive. Oh and charge up and bring a little camera to see if someone can take a video or two. And take some photos for you here at HJU for my clinic report. And bring extra hay for Hamish, he’ll eat his way through the hay bag by the second group…..and start to whinny and embarrass the crap out of me…and don’t forget my helmet and a crop and a pair of gloves! Especially my helmet! And safety vest! And bottled water! And kleenex! And my purse! and chapstick! And…..well, I have a long list so I’d better get checking it off. Yes. All that for a 1.5 hour ride. Well. But I need it.

So, that’s what panicking preparing for a clinic with a master horseman looks like. Come along for the ride! It will be fun!