Clinic Blues

Clinics are not the easiest thing in the world either for those that organise them, the participants or the trainer/teacher. The organiser because there is a mountain of work to be done "behind the scenes": preparing the school, the stables, the time table; endless phone calls and e-mails and always at someone's beck and call. The trainer and the riders all have an infinite number of likes and dislikes that all need to be accommodated and just when you settle down to actually watch a lesson, something else crops up. Then there is the issue of some poor horse who is left filthy dirty with no hay or water while the owner pontificates about the finer points of "Classical riding". It drives you nuts! By the time you actually get to sit on your horse you are totally stressed out!

If you are a participant, no one seems to appreciate how much money you have shelled out for stabling and B & B on top of the tuition fees, nor do they realise the amount of effort it has taken to organise you and your horse, plus your cat, dog, other horses, partner, work load etc... The directions are rubbish and when you eventually arrive at midnight, there is nowhere to park, nowhere to put your tack, your feed, your hay, no lights anywhere and no one to help you. The organiser seems deaf to any of your requests and you find that your lesson is at the worst possible time right after the rider you especially wanted to watch. You desperately hope your horse will behave but you become so anxious that you ride worse than ever and your lesson is a disaster.

If you are just a spectator it is not much better. After criss-crossing the countryside trying to find the place, you arrive to what seems like a totally deserted yard. You creep around, furtively looking for the loo, the school and access to the gallery where your view is largely obscured by pillars and guard rails. The trainer is inaudible because the PA system is useless and although questions are invited the trainer responds with such complete disdain that you wonder why you drove 200 miles and paid £30 for this experience.

Now you may think the trainer has it easy. Not so! This is the 10th clinic in a row and after a hellish journey, you just want to go to bed but your hosts want to "talk horses" all night. Your pupils are all shapes and sizes with some serious basic problems but you have to somehow "pull something out of the bag" which gets results within a couple of lessons. Feeling desperate, you decide to demonstrate by riding a horse and the gallery fills miraculously with everyone expecting a minor miracle to be performed. If you manage to get a tune out of the terminally stiff, backward thinking beast, there is always some "expert" criticising your seat, your hands or your less than perfect "Classical" approach. And of course all the negative stuff flies around the internet chat groups faster than you can say "half halt"! If you could just pay off the mortgage...

Of course, it's not all bad and eventually things turn out fine and everyone has a great time. The organiser has some fantastic lessons "half price" and feels that all her hard work paid off. All the participants are inspired by the experience and go home with lots of positive aims for the future. The trainer feels that his tuition really made a difference to both horses and riders and is delighted to have met such an enthusiastic and dedicated group of riders and spectators. Even the stable staff are happy because everyone kept the yard looking immaculate and left their stables spotlessly clean. (Well maybe that's taking things too far!).

Finally - Is it another case of Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus

It has been brought to my attention that many trainers are male and many pupils are female and that the males cannot a) take female riders seriously and b) are too much the gentleman to make serious criticisms. Female trainers have no problem criticising their female (or male) pupils and are therefore less popular! If one compares the attitudes of Bettina and Filippa with Rodrigo and Herwig it would be easy to believe that this is true. Certain types of men like to flatter women rather than "teach" them. Of course there are a few misogynists who like nothing better than to reduce a women to tears for the "good of her equestrian soul" but maybe one should look at the sex of ones teacher rather than the qualifications? A good discussion point for "The road less travelled"?

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