How do you know if you are ‘good’ enough to ride with a clinician?

The answer to this is simple. Ask yourself these two things: Would the clinician want to teach you? And are you going to get anything out of it? And a corollary to the second question: is what you are going to get out of it worth the amount of money the particular clinician is charging?

Let’s face it – clinicians come in many flavors. Some, despite a whole slew of credentials, have no particularly helpful advice for riders or horses who have not reached a certain skill level. If the clinician has professed a preference for working with FEI horses and you show up with a training level Mustang, why would you be surprised at a lukewarm reception? On the other hand, some clinicians relish the chance to take on all comers and are happy to apply their brand of expertise to each horse they meet.

From an instructor’s point of view, I am often happy to send a student to a clinician who can reinforce my teaching or, by delivering much the same message in different words, can help the rider break through a problem she may have been having.

That said, there are certain clinicians that I discourage some students from riding with. A strong minded rider may not care if the clinician lacks good inter -personal skills. But about 30 years ago before she mellowed out, Lendon Gray, while extremely accomplished, was known for running out of patience as the day proceeded. If you were a first-time, insecure participant, you did not want to get the 3 o’clock lesson because invariably she would make that rider cry.

As for what a lesson is worth, I suppose that depends on how you define “disposable income. ” You have to ask yourself if there’s enough value in shelling out the money for an expensive clinic ride if that same amount of money could buy you three lessons from your regular instructor. As an aside, looking at the exorbitant fees some “Hollywood” clinicians are charging – I heard as much as four, five and nearly $600 for a single ride – I have to wonder if any information they can impart could be that precious.

One final thought – window shop before you buy. It never hurts to audit a new person’s teaching the first time before you put you and your horse on the spot. If they’re good with someone like you or with the kind of horse you’ll bring, it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll enjoy your lessons.

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