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6 Realizations That Occur During a Clinic

Clinics give us the opportunity to learn so much. They also provide the opportunity for a number of self-realizations…

About a week-and-a-half ago, I loaded up my not-so-little mare in my two-horse bumper pull and headed to a clinic with a leader in my discipline. It was a welcoming clinic: two days long at a barn with which I am familiar and comprised of competitors with whom I have ridden regularly and have a fairly strong rapport.

But here’s the thing: I was still nervous. As someone who didn’t start riding seriously until she was an adult, I always worry about my horsemanship… a lot. I’m always concerned that I’ll be outed as the hack I am and excused from the arena. Fortunately, the latter tends not to happen and I usually come away from clinics having learned a number of very valuable lessons.

My body position and seat improve (at least when I’m working on them) and I come away with drills I can use to continue to improve. Those are all wonderful and, truly, they’re the reasons we shell out our hard-earned cash for other people to point out the flaws in our riding and course management. But, there quite a few other things that we realize when we take clinics.

Here are six realizations that occur when you take a riding clinic:

1. Muscles that you didn’t even know you had can hurt. Do you think you have a fairly strong core? Wrong. Your core muscles are, in fact, made of mush and trying to engage them while riding and thinking at the same time is more than your body can take. But at least you knew you had core muscles. On day two (or the day after the clinic is over), you’ll discover that you hurt in places you didn’t know you could. Walking will be painful. Going to the bathroom will be painful. And forget washing your hair. That’s just plain torture.

2. You don’t know anything about adjusting tack. Your stirrups — you know, the ones you’ve spent months or possibly even years getting dialed into the perfect position? They’re too short. Or too long. Either way, they’re wrong. Your bit probably is, too. If you’re using spurs, you’ll need to take them off. Your saddle is too far back. Or too far forward. Honestly, these tips are invaluable, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t feel like you don’t know which way the saddle should face when you’re evaluating your tack at a clinic.

3. You can’t follow basic instructions. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought I was rather coachable. I listen to directions and I try my best to follow them. But all of that changes when I get into a clinic. Any ability to execute what I’ve been told goes out the window. Cross the timer line at an angle an head toward 11:00? Sounds simple enough. Just kidding! I’m going to do a large circle and go in straight. I can’t be the only one to whom this happens.

4. You’re not nearly as prepared as you thought. Did you spend the weeks leading into the clinic legging up your horse, working on your seat and hands and generally trying to be on your game so that you could get the most out of the clinic? It doesn’t matter. You’ll still walk away sore, wondering if you know anything at all about horses. You might as well have spent the last few months letting your horse get fat in the field and watching “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” for how you’ll feel about your riding during the clinic.

5. Every decision you’ve made in your life leading to this point has been wrong. What made you think it was a good idea to pay to have someone tell you you’re riding incorrectly? Why did you ever start riding horses? What is your purpose in life? Why were you even born? All of these questions and more will go through your mind as you work to master a particular task or skill.

6. You will 100% do it again. No matter how much your body or ego may hurt, you realize that having the opportunity to focus on your riding and get some practical, usable advice is invaluable. You come away determined to do better and improve your riding, and you know you’ll get even more out of the next clinic you take.

Never keep learning, Horse Nation. And, above all else, go riding!

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