Should you go to a clinic?

Star and I have struggled a little with finding a steady connection with the bit. Star’s automatic reflex is to raise her neck and brace herself, especially if she is a bit tense or nervous, becoming quick in her gait and keeping her back hollow. Ick.

Of course I would like to slow her tempo, adding cadence and push from her hindquarters, engaging her back, and getting a nice, steady connection with the bit. It’s a work in progress.

Right now I’m in the midst of a three day clinic with Corinne Dorrepaal, a wise and experienced trainer from Holland who comes to the USA for clinics occasionally. Lucky me!


Much improved connection, thanks to Corinne’s help at the clinic

Clinics are expensive – each lesson usually  two to four times what you normally spend on a lesson – and I found myself thinking about that cost. Is it worth it?

It depends. In Corinne’s case, Yes! Here’s my metric for deciding whether to spend the money on a clinician:

  1. Is he or she an effective teacher?  Many clinicians offer years of experience, having seen literally thousands of horses and riders of all sorts. They draw on that vast resource of knowledge to quickly solve your riding problems.
  2. Does this person treat the students and horses with respect?  A positive attitude with respect for horse and rider is nonnegotiable. They must not drive the horse into the ground with too much work during the clinic (and if you feel the work is too hard, Speak Up!), or use their authority to abuse horse or rider.
  3. Does this clinician offer something different from my current teacher, but not conflicting with her general methods? If it’s just more of what your teacher offers (without further depth), why bother? If it conflicts with what you do at home…you will have a problem continuing the work and either lose all you gained at the clinic, or have conflict with your trainer. Don’t do it.
  4. Do I finish the lessons with practical exercises to take home and a clear understanding of what I need to do, practice, work on, aim for?


    Starlight in a nice uphill collected canter. She can’t maintain this very long yet, just a few strides and then we let her go bigger for a few strides, then collect again..

  5. Is the clinician open to questions and discussion when I need more clarification?
  6. How did I feel about the lesson(s)? I always try to have my clinics videotaped, as many of the sessions as I can. I’m a visual learner, not auditory, so watching video helps me understand what happened and reinforces what I felt. It also helps me decide if it is worth going back to the clinician because the real question is…
  7. Does this clinician make a positive difference in my horse and me quickly and effectively? 

Day one of the Corinne Dorrepaal clinic, within 15 minutes she had my horse looking so much better! Of course, in my lessons at home, this happens too. A little warmup and some coaching does a lot of good. But I felt we made some important strides forward in the area of getting a good connection over the top.

What I took away from my first day:

  • The gray areas matter: always pay attention to the little things, don’t be sloppy. Every transition, every moment.
  • Keep asking Star to lower her neck (from the base of the neck) all the time. Be wary because she starts to bring it back up and you don’t realize it. Especially in the transitions, lower the neck, it improves them and also makes her stronger.
  • Slow the tempo down in trot and canter. Keep the energy through frequent transitions within the gait (“almost walk, trot on”), but keep the tempo fairly slow.

More insights in a few days! And here is a small portion of the lesson video, focusing on collecting for a few strides, then lengthening for a few strides exercise, all while keeping the neck low to engage the back. We begin with a little walk work and proceed to trot.




7 thoughts on “Should you go to a clinic?

  1. Great post!!! Really good read for me right now, I’ve been wanting to plan for a clinic (aaargh, if I dare to and think we might be ready) in late winter, maybe February.
    A big step.
    And yes, so many times it can be just the wrong thing to do. Not the right time for the rider and horse together, horse not ready, or simply just not a good fit with the clinician.
    Truly enjoyed reading your post – from what I can tell you’ve really lucked out with your clinician. (And Starlight looks like such a star in the video by the way. I LIKE how she really wants to GO, what a great team you make.) Have you decided to try other clinicians again this year? Curious about your thoughts here. I still havent’ really decided exactly how and when to approach this.


    • At this point, my clinic plans are Miguel Tavora in late October, and MAYBE Jan Ebeling if/when he comes back to our barn this fall – if the timing works out. Wouldn’t that be cool? We’ll see. So much to work on, meanwhile! But Star is making good progress (at the moment). Funny how progress comes in fits and starts, with times of regression along the way. Have to plan for that, since it is never a linear progression. Who would you clinic with if you went to one?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh wow. Ebeling! You must go! 🙂 That would indeed be super cool. How fun. I, myself, would be a nervous wreck haha.
        I think you’ll be ready, and besides, no one says she’ll have to be close to ride 3rd level in the showring just to clinic with a really good clinician 🙂

        If I could, I would love to catch a ride somehow and be able to go to Davis, when Jeremy Steinberg comes there. Not sure when it will materialize, but I dream…


      • GO to JEREMY!!! He would be amazing. I audited Jan Ebeling when he was here in July and next time I hope to ride, although it’s VERY expensive. But he was very good, clear, kind, insightful. I would be interested to see what he would add to Star’s training.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s