Recently someone asked me how I settled on the format of my Clinic Tour. Why do I do things the way I do? I’ve developed the format after learning something from each clinic—and there have been lots of clinics over the past two decades to help teach me the best style...
Years ago, I did clinics here at my ranch in rural Colorado. I had up to twenty school horses and people came from all over the country for 5-day intensive horsemanship clinics. Now, I travel over 150 days per year and give clinics across the country— and not at home. Thank god I have great people to help me with all of that planning! As my crew will be the first to tell you, I just go where they point me.
From the time the clinic starts until the last rider leaves, the format of the clinic is totally up to me. While I have say, I’ve probably never done two clinics that were exactly the same (because the horses and riders somewhat determine the direction of the clinic), I do have a clinic format that I am quite comfortable with and one that I think works well for the riders. But my clinics have evolved every year. I always have the goal of making them better, and I also grow the way I teach things as I develop new techniques and gain new perspectives throughout my career.
These days, clinics are really more of an intimate affair for me; at least compared to horse fairs and expos, where I make presentations to thousands of people and in-between presentations I might talk briefly to hundreds of horse owners face to face. But during clinics I get to work hands-on with the horses and their humans, with plenty of time to make sure each person/horse gets the time and attention s/he needs. I can check the horse’s health and well-being, their tack and fit, their manners and attitude, the relationship with their human. I can ask appropriate questions about the horse’s training, experience and care. And best of all I can handle the horse, ride the horse and experiment with him to figure out his needs. As much as I love teaching people, for me, working with different horses and helping them get along better with their humans is the most gratifying.
I prefer to have my clinics in settings that are comfortable and up close and personal for both the riders and spectators; usually in first-class private facilities where the owner is dedicated to providing education for horse owners. I learned a long time ago that every facility has an atmosphere or culture, if you will. I love doing clinics where the atmosphere is open-minded, friendly and welcoming. I do not want barriers between the people and me, like you might get at huge commercial facility—I want a casual atmosphere where riders and spectators alike feel comfortable asking me questions, having casual conversations at lunch; where I can watch people as they unload, tack-up and hang out with their horses.
I start every clinic with an introduction of the riders and their horses and I always ask people, if there was only one thing you could learn or work on this weekend, what would it be? It’s always interesting to hear what people’s goals and interests are—there are often lots of similarities in the list from one clinic to another and often many people in one clinic share some common goals, like building confidence or gaining more authority over their horse. Sometimes a rider will bring up a topic that is not normally in my plan for the clinic, like saddle fitting, so I’ll make a plan to add in an extra session after lunch for those that are interested. It’s important to me that everyone-- riders and spectators, goes away happy at the end of the weekend and with a renewed enthusiasm for horses.
In my clinics, I am not interested in force-feeding information to people nor am I interested in forcing my techniques/equipment/beliefs on others. I want to provide the information that people need to be more successful with their horse, no matter what discipline they choose or what level they ride. It is not so important to me the actual techniques used, but it is important to me that people understand their horse’s behavior and know how to influence it and why what they are doing works or doesn’t work. I do not need people in my clinics to fit into my mold—dress the way I dress, use the words I use or renounce other trainers. I am happy to meet people wherever they are in this journey and help them move in the right direction to achieve their goals—I don’t need them to become a mini-me.
The content in my clinics is user-driven, from the bottom-up. I start every clinic saying to the riders, “I am here for you, not the other way around. My goal is to make sure riders are safe and have a good time; and I certainly hope that you will learn something about your horse and about yourself in the process.”
One thing I love about clinics is that it is my time to actually get to know you and your horse, observe the good things and see what road blocks we may need to work on. In clinics, I like it that I can take the time to work with a horse from the ground or hop on and ride him, to see what works and/or to show the owner what she needs to do. What I love most about my job is being able to help horses and riders be happier with each other.
I am excited about my 2012 Clinic Tour and the places it will take me and the horses and people I will meet along the way. I can see by the early-bird registrations that many riders are excited about it too; many of our clinics are already half-full. Now that I’ve completed my last clinic for this year, I am eagerly looking forward to 2012 clinics and I hope to see you there—with or without your horse!
Enjoy the ride!
PS—Click here to see the dates and locations for my 2012 clinic tour and to find more information on our early-bird specials! http://shopping.juliegoodnight.com/Clinic-Sign-Up-to-Ride-Clinic-Rider.htm