Why clinics should be part of your program

April 14, 2014 by Summer

Today I taught a really great lesson! I owe a great deal of today’s success to the work my student did with another coach at a clinic she attended. This clinic was focused on the biomechanics of the rider but the clinician made some very astute observations about the overall appearance of my student’s ride that really hit home for her. In light of my student’s experience, I wanted to discuss what makes a clinic situation so great and why it should be a part of every rider’s training program.

Each rider, coach and trainer has had a different set of experiences. They have drawn their knowledge not only from all of the different instructors they have worked with but also from the horses they have ridden. Every horse a rider is presented with will teach them something, will humble them somehow and will contribute to the journey they take as well as the one they send their students on. Dressage is one of those things that you could never master; no matter how many lifetimes you live. This is why we have to collectively work together to try and gain as much knowledge as we can in the time we have. The knowledge that I have obtained is not just mine. It comes from the hours of work, dedication and love of the sport that those who have taught me have put in. This sport is in its essence, a team sport and should be looked at as such. It is not the knowledge of one rider that breeds success but the knowledge of all of those that have come before them.

Summer and Anastacia riding with clinician Christian Garweg

Summer and Anastacia riding with clinician Christian Garweg

Often when a coach works with a student for a long period of time, they become blind to some of the habits that the horses and riders form. An outside perspective can help refocus the coach on an area that needs work but has perhaps been overlooked. This could be something simple like a hand that is held in a strange position but has a large affect on the overall success of the ride. For instance, that hand could be breaking the connection in every half-halt because the altered hand position makes it stronger than the other hand. These small inconsistencies can have dramatic results in improving the ride but may have overlooked by your regular coach. When coaching someone on a regular basis you become accustomed to the students idiosyncrasies and they begin to appear “normal”. A new set of eyes can really help keep you and your regular coach focused on the right things.

One of the things I find most interesting when I ride in clinics myself or when I watch my students work with other coaches, is that sometimes the right words make all the difference in the world to understanding a concept. This only makes sense. We all learn in different ways. We all have our own set of experiences that define our knowledge and impact how we interpret what we hear so it only makes sense that hearing the same thing said in a different way, will change how we hear it and understand it. Frequently I have been working with my own coach and think I’m doing exactly what she is telling me to do but she keeps on talking about it. Clearly I am missing something and not giving her exactly what she wants to see or she would stop telling me about it. I have often found that by working on the same thing with another coach, I can obtain that epiphany moment. This is not the fault of my regular coach, it is simply that the same thing being said in different words or perhaps in a slightly different circumstance, made the light bulb come on for me. The two coaches can have the exact same end result in mind but often the way it’s said or context it is said in can be the difference between almost getting it and the “Ah ha!” moment.

Finally but most importantly, working with other coaches keeps you inspired! This sport is addictive. It is full of beauty, harmony and compassion. Dressage riders as a whole love to learn and are encouraged by understanding and learning about new things. We are goal oriented and driven. Clinics feed our needs in many of those ways. We get to watch others and become inspired by their success. We set going to a clinic as a goal and prepare to put our best foot forward so that we can gain as much from the experience as possible. We inevitably acquire more knowledge through the clinician and the experience and become excited about the potential we have yet to achieve. Attending a clinic is never a loss. Learning is not based only on our successes, it is found almost more often in our failures. In taking an honest look at what did and did not work for us and understanding why. Learning that something did not work for you is never a step in the wrong direction, in fact it may help you learn more about the root of the problem. So whether you liked what the clinician had to say or not, you will always take something away from having attended!