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Starting your own colt
Colt Starting Quiz
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Bad Actors, part 3
The Cold Backed Horse
Want to Compete?
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Common Sense, Horse Sense
Horsemen's Christmas
Rainy Day Training
Try Something Different!
Green Broke
Resolution Time
Going in Circles
Hot Enough for Ya?
Pleasure or Equitation?
Return to Work Carefully
Saving your "Good Stuff"
Holding Western Reins
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Cold Weather Warm Up
Expect the Unexpected, 1
Expect the Unexpected, 2
Bad Attitude
Horse of a Better Color?
Power of Exercise
Importance of the Herd
Bath Time
Even Up
Choosing a Martingale
A Good Night's Sleep
Alternative Therapies, Part One
Alternative Therapies, Part Two

Get The Most Out of a Clinic
Doris Eraldi

Clinics have become a popular way to gain knowledge and sharpen our horsemanship skills. In every discipline, and ability level, today’s clinicians are experts at delivering education to a group of riders, often people they have never met or worked with before. Unlike a continuing relationship with a trainer or instructor – who has in-depth knowledge of, and a long term lesson plan for, the student and horse – a clinician often offers a more broad insight or introduction to new ideas or processes. Attending a clinic is usually a great way to learn from a trainer who might not otherwise be available to us as individuals, due to distance or budget. But you can get a lot more out of the hours or days that you participate in the clinic if you are prepared for what will be presented, and have on your “learner’s cap.”

There are a plenty of clinics available – choose one that has a particular interest to you for specific reasons. I often go to clinics taught by trainers who I feel are especially good teachers, no matter what discipline. This is because I am always interested in becoming a better teacher myself. You might be interested in starting your own colt – seek out clinicians who are renown for colt basics. If you are a novice rider, there are many clinics designed to build your skills and confidence, and you will gain more from the experience than if you attend a clinic for high-level show riders, where you might feel intimidated by the other riders. I also like to attend clinics, sometimes just to audit, in disciplines other than the one I specialize in, as a way to test the waters of a new event, and I often take students to clinics because sometimes another trainer has a different way of approaching a problem that solves something we have been working on during lessons. There are clinics for everything from first time riders to International level competition – pick one that is appropriate for you and your horse.

Once you have found a clinic to attend, keep in mind that while you are there to learn, not be judged, there can still be stress and competition. There will be other riders and students watching as you take your turns, spectators asking questions, and very likely other horses in the arena with you. Good clinicians are adept at controlling most of these situations – it’s how they make their living after all. But occasionally someone will have an unruly horse, or be out of control enough that it infringes on the other riders enjoyment and time. Don’t be that student! Make your horse as prepared as you can for the situation. Of course if it is a colt starting clinic, you will bring your colt (and so will every one else!) but it is unfair to both the clinician and the other attendees to bring your barely-started colt to an upper level clinic. It forces the instructor to either spend extra time dealing with you, or to banish you, neither one fun for anybody!

Go to the clinic with an open mind. Be ready to hear new ideas and to see different ways of handling training situations. Some riders approach a group clinic as a way to show off – they are not there to learn, but to “star.” They are cutting themselves off from the opportunity to grow as a rider and horseman. Even if you get to a clinic and find yourself disappointed in the instructor, there will be something to learn from how the rest of the riders respond to his methods. And sometimes you might leave at the end thinking, “well that was interesting, but not for me.”

Participating in a clinic can be an excellent way to jump-start your training if you have reached a plateau. A friend of mine who is an excellent trainer himself, was frustrated that even though his cutting horses were extremely well trained, he seemed to place third or fourth at every contest. He correctly diagnosed his problem as inexperience as a showman, and so he sought out a weekend clinic with a famous cutting horse showman (traveling half-way across the country to do it). Though he had confidence in his training abilities, he went to the clinic ready to be critiqued rather than planning on “wowing” the clinician. He had his “learner’s cap” on. The first clinic helped a lot, but he was then invited back to a trainers only clinic. That intensive weekend kicked his showmanship abilities into gear, and he went on to have the best year he’d ever shown – winning instead of placing.

Get the most out of your clinic experience by being prepared, choosing a clinician who teaches what you want to learn, and go wearing that learner’s cap – be ready to see something in a new way, and to accept constructive criticism. Clinics offer the chance to work and learn from trainers that we would otherwise never get to meet, and can be a wonderful inspiration as we approach our horses and their training.


Doris Eraldi and Blue, 2005Doris Eraldi of Eraldi Training in Potter Valley, trains horses and riders of all ages. She specializes in Pleasure, Showmanship and Equitation events. She can be contacted at 707-743-1337, or by e-mail

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