Horse Junkies have blogged about clinics before. They spoke of what they learned and how amazing the clinicians were. I would like to take another approach. I would like to talk about what makes a good clinic. What do riders and hosts REALLY think about what they have experienced? WHAT MAKES A GREAT CLINICIAN?
Let’s begin with the first step: when a group first contacts you (the clinician) and expresses an interest in having you teach a clinic.
Do you respond fairly promptly to their calls or emails? Are you enthusiastic in your response? Or do you figure you can get back with them at some point…but no rush?
Tip #1: If you really want to teach clinics, it is important that you respond to inquiries timely.
I would offer that a 72 hour turnaround time is not unreasonable. When you do contact them, please show some enthusiasm. If you act like you teach 100 clinics a week and this is just one more (yawn) group that is asking – save us all the trouble and tell us you aren’t interested. This applies whether you are a rock star clinician or someone more local. Rock stars often have “people”…so get them to respond if you are too busy (or on tour)!!
Are you prepared to talk pricing? Group size? Curriculum? Ability levels you can help?
Tip #2: You need to be clear about your price and what it includes.
How long is the lesson? Do you prefer individual or group lessons? Both? Who is your target audience? Do you need a hotel? Meals? Mileage? M & M’s in the room? This greatly helps the organization so they know how to budget, how to promote your clinic and how to best serve you. Offer to provide them with a short bio for their flyers.
As clinic day approaches, touch base with the organizers and find out how they plan to structure the day. What time do you want to start? Do you want a break between riders? Do you want to observe warmups? Do you want a lunch break? For how long?
Tip #3: Set forth the agenda and then don’t look to change it at the last minute.
Be committed to the day and the ride times set by the organizers. If you are a part of the planning process, the day will usually run smoothly.
When the big day arrives, you should arrive at the facility with plenty of time to meet the sponsors and volunteers and get the lay of the land. If you will be your own timekeeper, let them know. If you need someone to help keep the schedule, let them know how you want to work that.
Tip #4: The clearer things are at the start, the better the day will flow.
As you work with each rider or group of riders, find out what they know and what their expectations might be. Control those expectations up front. That way, no one is disappointed. Be careful to keep your remarks about their horses neutral or positive. Don’t fawn all over the OTTB (because you LOVE OTTB’s) and then say nothing about the Appy or the Paint.
Tip #5: Everyone loves their horse, so try to find SOMETHING nice to say.
They will notice if you don’t. It goes without saying that calling a rider’s horse a bully, a lazy slug, or something similar isn’t appropriate. At once clinic I attended, the clinician threw a handful of footing at the horse as he passed her because he wasn’t moving forward enough for her! REALLY!?!?! Throw something at my horse and I might just get off and reintroduce your face to that same arena footing!! Totally inappropriate! There are ways to move a horse forward. When did waving your arms or clucking go out of style?
Also, if you have a certain “SCHTICK” that you do – jokes, comments, etc. – leave that at home. Riders and auditors are hearing the same monologue all day and believe me, it gets old fast. In one clinic I rode in this year, the clinician asked each rider the same question, trying to make a point about horse behavior, and after I heard it the 4th time, I wanted to scream! It wasn’t funny.
Also, never tell a rider that the horse they have may not be the right one for them. You have seen the horse for 1 hour. You can’t make a judgment like that armed with little more than an hour’s observation. I have seen this done and it was the rudest comment anyone could make.
Tip #6: Stay on schedule.
No matter what it takes, you want to make sure you are on time. This makes the sponsors AND riders happy. Those waiting to ride are doing warmups and getting ready, counting on riding at the assigned time. Nothing like having to warm your horse up at a clinic, only to stand around waiting.
Tip #7: At the end of the ride, take a minute or two to talk with the rider about what you saw and what you would recommend he/she work on going forward.
They have come to your clinic because they think you have something to offer. They have paid to gain your perspective. Give it to them (again, in the most positive way possible). You have valuable things to share and they all want to hear them.
When the clinic has ended, it goes without saying that it is appropriate to thank your host and the organization. Solicit feedback, whether it comes right away or someone e mails you later. It may help you to improve your presentation or it may confirm that everything you are doing is working well. Don’t just assume you were a hit. Teaching is very subjective and while you think you may have done well, you may learn something from the students. Just because you are a rock star, doesn’t mean you can teach.
Clinics present wonderful opportunities for riders to learn from someone else. We gain a new perspective and maybe, if we are lucky, we obtain some new tools for our toolboxes. I have had the pleasure of riding with some of the nicest people in the past couple of years. They were so helpful and encouraging, that I wanted to work with them again. Their love for the sport and their desire to give back was overwhelmingly obvious. These are the clinicians I want to work with and the ones that I am proud to see in our sport.
Clinicians are a valuable resource to the equestrian community and with any luck, we will all be exposed to the GOOD ONES! I encourage all of you – no matter what level you ride – to step out of your comfort zone and try a clinic. You will usually find it to be a very positive experience. Involve your trainer if you can. Their keen eyes will see things that could help in your lessons going forward.