Traveling to a clinic or lesson? Simple Equine sponsored rider Ben Franklin has some tips to share. Ben has many people travelling to take a lesson or participate in a clinic with him. Ben is also one of the lucky (and talented) folks whose trainer is the one and only Carl Hester! Therefore, he has ample experience about this topic and can understand it from both the instructor and student point of view.
Decide the WHO before you commit
If it’s your regular instructor, this point can be skipped. However, if it’s not, are you planning to take a lesson or clinic with someone new? Take the time to do some homework. Talk to other people about the instructor’s style, what kind of things they have learned from them etc. See if there are any videos of the instructor teaching or riding. You can learn a lot about someone, and then decide whether you believe you will truly benefit from a lesson or clinic with them. There are many people to learn from, just make sure you make smart choices about who you spend your time (and money) with.
Plan the journey in advance
Make sure you know the address (or GPS address) of the venue you are heading to. Take time to look at the route in advance so that you can plan accordingly - certain roads or tracks may not be appropriate depending on the size of your truck or lorry and there could be scheduled maintenance and road repairs which might make sense to avoid. Also take into account the time of day you are having your lesson - for example, will you need to allow extra time because it’s rush hour? And, don’t forget about the weather - a nasty rain storm, wind or snow can all impact journey time.
Plan the gear in advance
Traveling to a clinic or lesson is something special. It’s a time for you to learn, but it’s also a time to put your best foot forward. Consider what you will wear, and what your horse will wear as well. Make sure your horse will be suitably kitted out - correct boots for jumping, for example. Take into account the conditions you will be riding in - whether you will be riding indoors or outdoors, and what the weather will be. Instructors appreciate a nicely turned out horse and rider. Generally speaking, it’s also helpful if the rider is in reasonably fitted clothing, so that the instructor can properly see the rider’s position. Take pride and have your tack and boots sparkling, and everything freshly laundered. Make a checklist so as not to forget anything you may need - less is not more in this case, as you want to be prepared for every eventuality!
Make your horse sparkle
Grey horses aside (who always seem to roll in something vile right before you need them to be clean), plan to tidy up and clean your horse the day before you go. Prepping them ahead of time can save you a lot of time and stress on the day itself. Then hopefully, the day of, you’ll just need to give them a final hearty groom, a spot clean, and maybe a spritz of shine spray or a little tail detangler.
On the day, allow extra time
As we all know too well, horses are so unpredictable. It’s always a good idea to allow more time than you think you’ll need. Plan to arrive at the venue early. Give your horse time to settle, allowing them some hay and a drink. A quick final brush or toweling off, a fresh coat of hoof polish and they should be good to go. Get yourself completely ready before you tack up your own horse, especially if you are on your own; the last thing you want to be doing is fussing with yourself when you’ve got a horse that is raring to get going.
Be courteous and if possible, try to know the protocol
If you’ve gotten there in plenty of time, it can always be helpful to watch the rider before you - did they go into the arena ahead of their scheduled time? Did they do any warm up other than in the walk? Did they walk on the inside track or outside track, or stay down at one end of the arena? Did they have a long discussion with the instructor before they got to work? These observations can help clue you in on what to do so that things go smoothly.
If given permission, do take your horse into the training area and walk them round for 10 minutes. Let them get familiar with the surroundings and settle in. Evaluate how your horse is feeling on that day, and be prepared to discuss that with the trainer.
Have the appropriate length of whip and spurs (if necessary) available by the side of the arena so that they are within easy reach for your trainer should you need them. And, a bottle of water, because one always wants to stay hydrated.
Tell the trainer key points
A lesson or clinic goes by quickly. Be prepared (even consider writing down) a couple of goals, and also perhaps a couple of things you’ve been working on or are having recent problems or issues with. The trainer is there to help you improve, and perhaps they will be able to advise you on some potential resolutions, or give you suggestions about how to achieve your goals.
If you are commencing test riding, make sure you have the test on hand to share with the trainer. Discuss what you have been working on in the test and what you need to improve on.
Traveling to a lesson or clinic is almost like going to a horse show - it’s as if you are taking four at home lessons all at once, you’ll get so much out of it! Do your absolute best, but don’t forget to smile and enjoy the training session. Utilise each minute of training and learning after the session and write down “reminder” bullet notes with a pen and paper so that you can recap and look back on what you’ve learned.
Thank your horse
Your horse has just traveled in a horsebox or trailer, worked as hard, or maybe even harder than you, and they deserve to be treated with kindness and consideration. A nice groom, a bath or liniment rinse and maybe wrapping their legs overnight are in order. And don’t forget a good pat, some praise, and a carrot, apple, polo or other appropriate reward.
By Ben Franklin and Tara Korde
Ben Franklin is a dressage rider and trainer based in Buckinghamshire, UK. Ben travels globally to give clinics and teach his clients.