Clinic Musts!

This is why I push for people to audit with a clinician before they pay to ride, and to know your event organizers well too. Most clinicians make their preferences and teaching style obvious. Every now and then you might get a group where it’s a former student or old friend and sometimes it can be difficult for the clinician to pull away from them.

Some clinicians can handle big groups and some can’t. Some can expertly handle varied skill levels in the group, and some cant. This thread reminded me of my clinic with Peter Gray in 2020. I entered in the BN slot with a green TB, and I was shocked to see I was put in the same group as two Training level riders and one Novice rider. Later, I learned this decision was done more for rider skill level than horse, but Peter did an excellent job providing challenging exercises for all that did not “dumb” down the level for the Training riders, and did not overface my green hose. So some clinicians can definitely do it. I have been that person in other clinics (not Peter’s) where I’ve felt I did not walk away with any new knowledge, in part because of being put in a lower level group: so even though it worked for Peter, I totally push for groups to be homogeneous in rider/horse skill level to keep things smooth and timely.


100%. As many of us have observed, being a great rider and teacher don’t always go hand-in-hand, although they can. I feel jumping-focused clinics in particular can be challenging to manage with larger groups, because handling an experienced rider like yourself with a green horse, a green rider with a made horse, a green rider with a green horse, and an experienced horse-rider combo can all technically be at the same height or level but have completely different needs, physically and mentally.


I had an experience that still resonates with me 30 years later. (UGH math and time suck sometimes)

We had a really bad ice storm right before a clinic. I didn’t think it was wise to haul my horse 90 mins in the trailer to the farm. Along with that my trailer was frozen to the earth thanks to the ice sealing the wooden wheel chocks to the ground. But I talked to the organizer and they were lovely. They said if I was comfortable with the idea and the drive without the trailer they were happy to let me ride one of their sale horses. I had gone Prelim then and was happy to ride in the N/T joint group on an unknown.

The clinic was with Karen O’Connor and she knew me, I knew her but had never ridden together. So go and ride the horse and it’s a bit challenging. She was aware of the circumstances and worked a bit more with me on fixing things. One of the other girls got a bit huffy and basically Karen wheeled on her and in a very lovey way pointed out that she was having a good day, compared to me. And that sometimes it’s best to remember that not everyday on the back of a horse will be good. And that if it was her in my boots, she too would be getting more time with her to help. But that since she didn’t need extra attention, Karen was giving it to the people who actually needed more help.

Shut that girl up. And that night when I got back to my barn I took a sledgehammer to my wheel chocks and beat my trailer free of the frozen ground and ice. I took my mare the second day and shockingly the girl who had been miffed had a rough second day and got more of Karen’s help. LOL. My mare was perfect.



Same thing happened to me with Blyth Tait. LUCKILY, I had just bought a new horse who was at a higher level than the horse I planned to take.

I planned to take William who was green and jumping BN level, so I entered him in that level, but had just bought Penny and decided to take her instead. She had already done a couple of training levels.

When I arrived I was in the T/P group. Thankfully it turned out fine but I would have been terrified if I had of brought William. Blyth was amazing anyways and I’m sure he would have made it work.


I think the best part was this…

I’m not good with pain. And as you can imagine this fall hurt, a lot. It was not a new wood rail, thankfully, but it took a bit of work to break.

As I hit it across the middle of my back (think parallel to how a belt would sit) I was in a fair bit of ouchiness.

I ended up kind of gasping/screaming on the ground, in the middle of a gymnastic. I think the thing that made the moment memorable was that Bruce looked over and just as casually as you can think said “Can we please remove her so we can keep the lesson moving. Thank you.”

The adults were by my side soon after and to be fair I did ride the second day. In a lot of pain but I sat up better.

The next year was much easier as by then I got a Tb mare who never stopped at anything and could jump the moon. So the 4’ heights never bothered her.



omg, those are both such great stories!

But good lord, I know Bruce came from ahem another era regarding injury to both horses and riders, and that certainly shows! Your back must have been purple, blue, red, and yellow for months (and it’s lucky you didn’t crack a vertebrae)!

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Ok so you just made me gasp and laugh.

Back a couple years I started working with a chiropractor. And as part of the initial visit she took back rads.

We talked history, she is a horse person so that made things easier. I left and came back next time for my first adjustment. When I got there she was getting ready and picked up a post it note. She asks me, “Hey we’re all good but you forgot to tell me when you broke your back.” I stop. Furrow brow and look at her. I’ve never broken my back and said so. She looks at me, which begins the oddest and funniest staring contest. She grabs my xray films and put them on the light board. She and I look and sure enough, down low one of the spinous processes is HUGE compared the others and clearly has knitted over with new bone from some trauma.

I look at her, she looks at me, we both laugh. I can see it and understand what it means, but I have NO clue when I did it. I thought it was from my biggest fall to date which was the broken collarbone in '96. But realistically I don’t have a clue.

Now you have made me wonder some more…



I would think landing on your back across a wooden pole would do it… Good grief. I’m glad the “Get back on immediately” style of rider welfare has largely passed.


I have a KOC clinic story too.

There was a girl in a lower level group on a green horse that was having a bad day. The horse and rider had lost confidence in each other and the horse was stopping at everything, even logs.

There was a LOT of railbird comments from other folks from the barn about the rider, her riding, the choice of horse, etc.

KOC got on the horse and schooled it, brilliantly, got it moving forward and happy, put the kid back on it and they finished the day successfully.

KOC went over to the parents afterwards, with all the barn buddies/rail birds clustered around and said, to paraphrase, that there was nothing wrong with the kid or the horse, that she absolutely could ride and be successful with the horse, she just needed to be set up for success, and that the absolutely worst thing for her and her confidence was all the railbird gossip/commentary. And that they should either support her efforts on this horse or find something else.

Total mic drop.

I wanted to cheer.


XCgirl - that made me laugh/snort/screech - totally think of BD’s clinics as “Extreme Sports” outings! True for lessons 35 years ago and still thrilled to be able to access his genius today.
Not for the faint of heart but if you listen and give it a go you might find your superpowers (or weak links) in a short time.


absolutely agree with making sure clinic participants fill out their experience on the clinic application. IMO clinics aren’t always the best place to move up a level, i.e. if you’re pretty solid at 2’6" signing up for 3’+ might not be the best idea. I’ve also been to some clinics where the height is supposed to be like 3’ but the clinician starts off with X-rails and slowly raises them up and I don’t think the riders ever actually got to 3’.


I actually like Bruce and for sure the second year of his winter clinic (in 8th grade) was so much easier with my runaway mare who could jump the moon. That was 1985 and I ended up buying an amazing mare from him in 1992.

He had the reputation of having huge jumps in clinics but of course I didn’t know that until AFTER my first clinic. Lol. Figures.



I did a clinic with John Williams last month with this exact scenario and he did such an incredible job with it. It was me (h/j rider with experience to 1.2m but limited eventing experience and a green 5 y/o), a young ammy with a tough mare she had done BN with, a 2* event rider on a horse who had never schooled cross country, and a woman on her quiet solid BN citizen. Everyone did the same exercises, but he approached each one differently depending on the horse and rider. I don’t think anyone felt like they weren’t challenged, and everyone finished all the exercises very successfully. I was really impressed by how well he taught to what was a very diverse group of horses and riders. Definitely a skill!


Sounds llike that was a good clinic and a good clinician.

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Absolutely - he was great and we came away with a lot of success. I try to do some research on clinicians before signing up (auditing usually is not possible) and found some COTH posts that also had great experiences with him. They were right!

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PARKING. I either have someone directing traffic, or I move my trailer out to the field and start off the line of trailers. Otherwise someone will drive through a ditch you have marked off with cones, and someone else will park in the middle of the turn around.

PAY IN ADVANCE. I have gone from 14 entries to 4 entries when it looked like rain. Thankfully the clinician was local and we just cancelled the day and I didn’t have to pay for plane tickets. I have had the exact same people enter and then scratch at the very last minute multiple times because they didn’t have to pay in advance. Even if you have a cancellation fee it can be hard to get it from people sometimes.


This clinic must be long over by now, but the thread came up in my feed for some reason, so just for the record as this thread is worth re-visiting in the future. :slight_smile:

A mounting block at every ring/area to be used. Maybe even put a folding stool for mounting in the golf cart when going out on the cross-country portion. Clinics often do include dismounting and mounting. A clinician may want to get on a horse, or even have a rider dismount and adjust tack, or add a martingale or something.

Have a spectator area that has some length so that watchers/auditors can spread out. That allows people to escape the ones who won’t shut up. Helps avoid the aggravation of having been unable to hear the clinician. And for the talkers, the aggravation of people asking them to be quiet.

Have a great parking guru meet every trailer on arrival and show them exactly where the trailers can be parked (even if participants can choose which available spot they prefer). Parking guru may be a tiresome,task, but it avoids someone being blocked in when they want to leave, and the person needing to move a trailer is on a horse in the clinic session. And other avoidable problems.

In your summary communication to participants giving times and so forth, include a little polite uplifting-tone reminder about coming with a positive attitude, accepting things that aren’t perfect and cooperating with other riders and the clinician. Even though people already know these things, sometimes those little reminders do help modify a me-first attitude set a positive tone. :slight_smile:

And make sure you have a great day! :slight_smile: