By Bill Dunigan
Many riders have asked this question over the years. Quite a number of them are self-taught. Likewise, many of them have also trained their own horses. This is a very common situation in the horse world. However, the more involved we become in competing, the more assistance we need. The chances are that the riders who are placing ahead of you have a coach, trainer, or instructor to work with or seek input from.
Look for instance at the equestrian teams of any of the countries competing in international competitions. All of these teams have coaches. The same thing is true of any of the riding teams associated with schools everywhere. If you look at the top competitors in your field competing as individuals, you will find they have a few select, trusted, and knowledgeable friends or family members who constantly give them feedback. This is in itself, a form of coaching. Today the caliber of horses is so high and the talent, knowledge and ability of the riders is so superior, that if you are competing you need someone on the ground.
Most of our friends or family are accustomed to seeing us ride a particular way or our horse going a certain way, and as a result may miss something that really needs to change. When we bring in a new set of eyes itís interesting how these things suddenly get resolved. Also, most of us tend to hear only what we want to hear from people we already know. Donít underestimate the value of that outside opinion.
The clinician is there to help as much as possible in a short period of time. As a result of the time constraints, they will tend to zero in on very specific areas. If you approach the opportunity as a real learning experience, itís amazing just how much you can come away with. I am not suggesting that a clinic will be a fix all event. Instead, it should give you a different perspective from which to view things. It should provide you with some additional ideas on how to resolve some of the issues you may be encountering. Every clinician and clinic is both similar and different at the same time. Each will have their own individual way of expressing themselves.
Hopefully, you will be able to gain enough insight into how best to resolve your particular problems. The clinician is there to help you. The last thing in the world you should want at a clinic is for your horse to go perfectly or for you to ride perfectly. You are paying for the help, so if you are ever going to make mistakes, this is the time to do it. That way you can really get your moneyís worth. If the clinician never sees the problem, there isnít much they can do to help you take care of it. Donít be timid about asking questions. I know that when I am teaching a clinic I want questions. That shows me that they are paying attention and have a sincere interest. You may not have the chance to work with that individual again so be sure you learn as much as possible. If something is mentioned to either you or another rider and you donít quite understand it, go ahead and ask. I never want a student to go away from any of my clinics without understanding what was discussed.
In summery let me say that one of the aims of an instructor is to impart as much knowledge as they can, in a given period of time, in such a way that each and every rider can improve and continue to grow in their riding and training abilities. As a participant in a clinic you should watch and listen to everything being said. It may not be something that you need right now, but you never know what you might encounter later with your current horse or the next one. If you have the opportunity to attend a clinic, donít hesitate. There are many very capable clinicians available today in all riding disciplines. Take advantage of the opportunity to work with someone different and if you make it a real learning experience, you just may gain some valuable information that can help you now and well into the future.
You have permission to copy and reuse this article provided there are no changes made to the article and credit is given to the author and the link to his website remains in place. Please notify him by email if you are going to use this article. You may contact Bill Dunigan through his website: http://www.BarrelRacingClinic.com
About the Author
Bill Dunigan has been teaching and competing in excess of 40 years. He has taught and competed in Barrel Racing, Hunter/Jumper, Eventing, Dressage and served as President of a local Dressage Association. During this time, he Fox Hunted four days a week with two different Hunt clubs, one of which he served as Joint Master. Bill qualified six years in a row for the World Championships with the National Barrel Horse Association.