Clinic Etiquette 4-1-1

Currently, CEC Elite Training is buzzing with excitement for our upcoming clinic weekend with German international dressage competitor, Kathleen Keller. The first rider will enter at A beginning at 6:45AM tomorrow morning, Friday, July 1st. My time is set for 7:30AM. Kathleen, daughter of Dolf Dietram Keller, currently rides and competes for Germany’s B-Team – meaning, the group of riders are the future Olympian’s for the country. We are all so thrilled to revel in her knowledge for three days!

With this clinic looming on the literal horizon, I felt as if it would be appropriate to share my list for proper etiquette. Clinics are far more than just an opportunity to watch an instructor guide various horse/rider combinations through a series of movements and techniques. There is a technique behind being a demonstrative rider and/or auditor!

  1. Look Professionally Put Together
    Looking professional to your clinician, and audience, is a sign of respect. This person is donating his or her time to you and your horse, sharing their guidance and expertise in hopes of you having a fantastic training session and taking away some valuable pieces of information. Plan your outfit the night before so the morning of, you aren’t in a mad scramble around your room, helplessly throwing clothes around like ragdolls. I tend to lean more towards traditional, subtle colors for clinics and shirts with collars; however, I have been known to sport my pink breeches during one of my rides with Volker Brommann. Hindsight is 20/20 and I probably wouldn’t opt for those again… Anyway, make sure your shirt is neatly tucked into your clean breeches, a belt is perfectly in place and your boots are tidy. When it comes to hair, I opt for a low ponytail, braid, or preferably, a bun at the nape of your neck. Your riding wardrobe doesn’t necessarily matter on a daily basis, but it matters during a clinic because putting A+ effort into your look gives the impression that you are dedicated and serious. Again, it all comes back to appreciation of professionalism.
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I always aim to dress professionally when I ride. In my personal view, it a sign of respect to my barn and my trainer. I plan on wearing this outfit this weekend because it’s neutral yet elegant!
  1. Horse Appearance
    While you as a rider need to be looking sharp, this rule equally applies to your horse. The day or so before the clinic, give your horse a good spa bath and touch up areas that require clippers. On the day of, get to your barn or clinic location earlier than the time you’ve already allotted yourself. Give your horse the once over – checking for any bumps, scratches, or cuts (tip: you should do this everyday, clinic or no clinic), then really take your time in the grooming department. Start out by giving your equine a solid curry session. This will bring out the natural oils of the coat, resulting in luminous shine. Dandy brush away the loose hair and dirt, comb through the mane, if it is not braided (some clinics require braided manes), and pick hooves thoroughly. Apply a nice detangler-shine to the tail; I use ol’ reliable Cowboy Magic, and gently brush the coarse hair, starting from the bottom and working your way up. Shavings in tails are a big no! Lastly, use an old rag to wipe dirt out of nostrils and clean up the face. Don’t forget a mist of fly spray, as a finishing touch, and a shine spray if you feel so inclined – just don’t apply it where the saddle goes or else you’re in for a slippery ride. Select a clean saddle pad for the training session and if able, an equally clean pair of polo wraps – they are always professional. Oh, and please leather soap/condition your tack!
  1. Be On Time
    This is probably the biggest rule of thumb when it comes to proper clinic etiquette. Depending on how your clinic is held, your instructor will either want to guide you through your warm-up routine or they will want to begin the “real” work as soon as your time begins. If the latter of this option happens to be the case, make sure you are on and warming-up at least 15 minutes before your required time. Every horse and rider’s warm-up routine differs. Either way, you need to plan accordingly, as time management is an important skill to have when you’re a dressage rider. Be courteous to other riders too – if you’re late, you’re pushing their time back, which puts the entire clinic behind. This is especially difficult if the clinician needs to catch a flight back to their hometown at the end of the day. Every rider wants to feel like they received the same amount of time and attention as others… because clinics are not cheap! So, I repeat, be on time.
  1. Know When To Ask Questions
    Like I mentioned, auditing clinics is so much more than sitting in a chair, watching the rider before your eyes. It is important to engage with fellow auditors and your clinician. However, you must know the right time to ask questions. When the clinician is focused giving instruction to the rider, this is not the ideal time to interrupt with your opinions or questions. Usually, when the rider takes a walk break, this is your opportunity to ask. A handful of clinicians will question the auditors if they have anything they’d like to ask about what they have just seen. However, it is always polite to start out by saying “Insert instructor name, I have a question that I’d like to ask you, if that is okay.” Never just assume it is the perfect chance.
Work, work, train, train… and train some more.
  1. Take Notes
    I am a very visual person, and I find that note taking really helps me absorb all the information that can be easily forgotten in the mist of daily life. When I ride in a clinic, my mother videos my rides – Bailey has also videoed a few of my rides with Volker! I find this to be the best tool for clinic riders because you can always refer back to the video if you need to recall a key piece of training guidance. However, if you are just auditing, come to the clinic with a small notebook and a writing utensil of your choice, and be prepared to write like a mad man. At the top of the page, write the level of that particular rider and jot down statements that stand out to you. Pieces of what you learn as an auditor can be applied to your daily riding.
  1. Be Thankful and Appreciative
    This is the most important etiquette rule. Clinics are a big task to host. From setting the date, to organizing riders, to scheduling said riders and a location, to arena set up, to food, drink, chairs, and picking up the clinician, the task is not for the faint of heart. Offer to contribute to the clinic by bringing breakfast one morning or just a cooler full cold water. Water never goes unnoticed, am I right? Say thank you. Find the host, or hosts, and let them know just how appreciative you are for their hard work. And of course, thank your clinician after each ride, but that should be a major given!

All if this clinic talk has me feeling extra excited about tomorrow morning. Leah and I have been working very hard to prepare for our rides with Kathleen – we always strive to be the best we can be and we always are eager to learn new tricks of our trade. Look for daily updates on my Instagram and don’t forget to follow The Preppy Equestrian’s Snapchat (@thepreppyequest) as I am taking over all day Saturday and Sunday.

Show your next clinician that you’re etiquette is at the top of its game!

Happy clincing!

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