Throughout the year there are dressage clinics held throughout the country. These clinicians vary from Olympians to local professionals and the participants can be from beginners to professionals themselves. To have a successful clinic and to be able to learn the most we must be prepared in advance in order to get the most out of it. One of the first things we can do is have a clean professional appearance. A tidy appearance will show respect to the clinician and a pleasing look for the auditors.
The first thing we can do is look at our horse. We want a clean, well groomed horse to present to the clinician. Be sure to bathe your horse before you arrive at the clinic, you may have to give your horse another bath before the clinic starts, but it is always easiest if you arrive with a clean horse. You never know what might be in store when you get there so be prepared and arrive clean. After bathing put a cooler on your horse to help it dry and also to help keep it warm. When the horse is dry it’s time to clean up any stray hairs. Clip the long hairs under the fetlocks and also the hairs under the horses chin and jaw, and pull the mane. I prefer to keep the whiskers on my horses as I believe they need them to feel around in the dark. The tail should be banged and the hair at the base of the tail may be trimmed to help show off the horses back side. All this trimming will give your horse clean lines and a clean polished look. Make sure all of your horses shoes or hooves are in good order before you leave, nothing like arriving somewhere new without a shoe or a cracked hoof! Make sure your saddle and bridle are clean and in good working order.
For your ride you want to curry and brush your horse to help bring out the natural oils in the coat that will make him shiny. Put a detangler in the tail and brush it out. You may also use a shining spray such as show sheen on the coat to add more shine. Pick the hooves and apply hoof oil. Braiding may be required, for most clinics it is not, just present a tidy well brushed pulled mane. For the clinic you want to use a clean, conservative saddle pad and polos. Colored polos and matching saddle pads are fine as long as they are conservative. When in doubt go with white. You want to be tacked up a few minutes ahead of time in case the rider before you is finished early. To wait for your time you may hand walk your horse in the barn aisle or warm up in a different arena. It is generally accepted to bring your horse in five minutes early to help warm up and get your horse acclimated to the surroundings.
It is also very important that you as the rider are also clean, tidy and well turned out. Clean and polish your boots, put some elbow grease on and make them shine! Breeches should be fitted, clean, neat, conservative color, and with a belt. Your top should be a polo shirt, short or long sleeve, sweater, vest or fitted jacket. You want to be prepared for the weather and dress accordingly. It is not comfortable to ride in clothes that are too warm in a clinic! The style should be neat, classy and conservative. Your hair should be neatly kept up in a bun and your helmet clean. Be prepared to have a whip and spurs for your ride in case the instructor wishes you to have them.
It is important to talk to the clinic organizer or other participants who have ridden with the instructor before to find out what their preferences are. There are some clinicians who want to see and be a part of your warm up routine; there are others who prefer that you warm up on your own. When you do enter the arena and it is your time for the lesson it is important to talk to the clinician. Tell them who you are and who your horse is, name, age, breeding and level working on. Tell the instructor of your problems and what you would like help on. It is also very important that you let the clinician know of any injuries you or your horse have or are recovering from; this will help them pace the lesson and help prevent future injuries. Once those formalities are out of the way it is time to learn! Always try to do what the instructor is asking of you and if you can’t hear or don’t understand, let them know! It can be equally frustrating for the clinician so sometimes it is best to talk it over to understand.
Following these tips will prepare you to be well turned out for your clinic. A tidy appearance will give you confidence by looking good and it will show respect to your instructor who should in return treat you with respect. You will be ready to ride and learn a lot!!