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To Get The Most From a Horsemanship Clinic
- The number of horsemanship clinics being offered is on the increase
and this raises the questions:
1. - "How do I know which clinic to attend?"
2. - "Is the clinician or instructor any good?"
3. - "Shall I register as a rider or will I be a fence sitter?"
4. - "How can I get the most out of the clinic?"
Before we can answer the above questions we must try and define HORSEMANSHIP.
-Horsemanship is a philosophy. It can't be defined or applied by the
"do-this-and-get-that" cookbook approach.
-Horsemanship is about two-way communication.
-Horsemanship is about forming a partnership with the horse, with
you as the senior partner.
-Horsemanship is about getting the horses cooperation without using
fear, force or bribery.
-Horsemanship is a state of mind.
These days we often hear the term 'natural horsemanship' used
to describe this philosophy. I don't believe you can qualify horsemanship.
It's like 'excellent'. It is or it isn't. There is no good
or bad, natural or unnatural in horsemanship. There is only HORSEMANSHIP.
It is journey with a destination but no end - an endless journey of
1. Which clinic? Is this person any good? Ask around,
but remember; we are all individuals and what one person sees as good
may not suit another. Be prepared to make up your own mind. Visit
their website, if they have one. If possible, talk to them on the
phone or in person. If you like what you see and hear, then you will
probably get some worth from the clinic. Beware of someone who uses
the buzz words but doesn't actually practice what he preaches. Try
and read between the lines. Don't let what you hear deafen you to
what's actually being said. There is no 'one true way'. Beware of
someone who tells you that his is the only way. In fact, a horseman
has the ability to be flexible and adapt himself to suit the horse
and the situation and not get bogged down in a cookbook scenario.
However, you can always learn something from any clinic, even if it's
what not to do!
2. Do I ride or do I watch? It has been my experience that
if you ride in a clinic, you tend to stay focussed on your own particular
horse and issues and you may get less benefit from the issues of everyone
else in the clinic. However, if you are relatively inexperienced or
need to deal with particular issues with a particular horse then riding
in the clinic may be the way to go. On the other hand, if you go along
as an observer, you can have a broader view of the proceedings and
can more greatly benefit from every riders situation and issues. And
then, of course, there is the financial angle. It costs less to observe
and, in any case, is better than not attending at all.
3. How to get the most out of a clinic?
-If you are a rider: Get there early. Walk your horse around. Go into
the arena area if possible. Let your horse check things out so you'll
both be more relaxed when the clinic starts. Have a clear idea of
why you are there and of particular issues that you may want addressed
during the clinic. Bring an observer friend with a notebook and camera.
It is always useful to have another 'take' on the day. Your friend
will notice and hear things that you don't. He can also pass you a
drink on a hot day! Pay attention. Often I see riders in a clinic
so engrossed in their horse that they are ignoring the clinician.
Why are they there? Watch and listen to the other riders as much as
possible. It can give another perspective to your situation. Ask questions.
Don't be shy. At least 90% of the others are waiting for someone to
ask that very question. During breaks, talk with the other participants
and the clinician. Make some contacts. Again, this can give you another
slant on issues. When you get home, go through it all as soon as possible
with your horse and your note taker/photographer friend. This will
tend to reinforce things for all of you. If you feel you may have
missed out on something, contact the clinician if possible and or
contact another participant.
-If you are an observer: Get there early. Pick a good spot so you
are in the shade during the hottest part of the day. Bring a deck
chair, hat, sun cream and cool drinks. Watch how others are managing
their horses. You can learn plenty, both about what to do and what
NOT to do. Bring a notebook and a camera but don't be so obsessed
with notes and photos that you miss the action in real time. Watch
and listen. Ask questions. Don't be shy. At least 90% of the others
are waiting for someone to ask that very question. It is up to you
to ensure you get what you want from the clinic. Remember who is paying
whom. Don't just take everything for granted. If something doesn't
sound quite right or you don't understand, keep asking questions until
you do understand. A good clinician will welcome a good question every
Above all, RELAX. Like the horse, if you are uptight you're
not thinking and if you're not thinking you can't learn.