If you are taking a private lesson or participating in a clinic, your mindset going into it will set the tone for what you will learn. Getting the most out of a lesson or clinic is all up to you.

What is a lesson as compared to a clinic?

  • Clinic:  a group meeting devoted to the analysis and solution of concrete problems or to the acquiring of specific skills or  knowledge. Examples: writing clinics, golf clinics, driving clinic.
  • Lesson: an activity that you do in order to learn something

As you can see both a lesson and a clinic are an activity that one participates in to learn something, in this case driving a horse.

 Lessons are generally given one on one.  I know there are some trainers that will do lessons for a group, but in my experience with giving driving lessons, it is very hard to concentrate on a group of drivers at one time. Drivers are generally at different levels of skill as are their horses. Private lessons also provide a quieter and distraction free experience. There is also the safety issue of a group of drivers in an arena at the same time, especially if the arena is not large enough.

 Clinics are generally given to one student at a time with spectators and other drivers watching. This way all of the drivers and spectators get the benefit of what each student is working on and the knowledge of the clinician.

 When you are paying good money to a driving instructor you expect to get good instruction.  You as the student, need to be able to take constructive instruction, whether it is how you are used to doing things or not.

 Instructors all have different ways of teaching and as in anything, there are different ways to do most things.  If you do it one way and the instructor shows you a different way, it does not mean that either one of you is wrong. 

When you have worked with horses for years, you soon realize that every horse learns in a different way, and processes the information given them in different ways. 

 Students should never argue with the instructor and the instructor should never yell or demean the student.  With horses there is never a clear right or wrong way of doing a movement, just many different ways to look at something.  Besides arguing and yelling will just upset the horse!

 You should always start your lesson by letting the instructor know what issues that you want to work on.  By doing this, the instructor will be looking at how you are currently driving your horse to be able to discern what you or the horse is doing wrong.

 When you have paid your money to attend a clinic as a driver or as an auditor, there are things you need to know.  As the driver, you need to come with a clean and well groomed horse.  Your cart or carriage should be reasonably clean and in good, safe working condition.  Your harness should be clean and in good condition.  Bailing twine holding your trace onto the carriage is not good condition!

Know ahead of time what you want to work on with the clinician.  The clinician will not know what issues you or your horses are having unless you let them know. 

Clinic at Verde Valley Equine Festival

Verde Valley Equine Festival in Cottonwood Arizona with Eileen doing a participation clinic with drivers

 After you have completed your time with the clinician, and after you have put your horse away, you should write down the comments that the clinician has given you while they are clear in your mind.  This way when you get home you won’t be going, “what did the clinician say about my trot”?  You can also get permission from the organizers to be able to record your lesson with the clinician.

 Now, it is time to go and watch the other participants with their horses.  It is amazing how many drivers will have the same issues.  You will probably also learn other lessons that will be of help.  It is always good to experience the “wow” moment when the clinician says something that you have been having an issue with.  You can always come away with one good tip and that tip makes the whole clinic worth it.  While you are watching the other students, be respectful and not talk loud to your friend that just showed up.  Pay attention and learn as much as you can from the clinic.  After all, you have paid good money for this experience so make the most of it.

 When you have a scheduled lesson with a trainer and you are using your horse, then you need to allow enough time at the lesson location to get your horse and carriage unloaded and hitched up before your lesson time. 

 If you are taking lessons on a trainers horse, you probably expect that the trainer will have the horse ready for you when you arrive.  If you are late, then the horse has to do more work than just your lesson.  Be respectful of the trainer and their well trained horses.

 When you have taken lessons from the same trainer for awhile, then they will know what items and issues that you have been working on

When you are driving your own horse and have worked with the same trainer for awhile, then the trainer will know if you have worked on your lessons at home.  Working on lessons at home will make your next lesson better and you will not be repeating the same thing over and over.  The trainer always likes to see their students advance in their driving abilities

Be on time, be ready and have an open mind and you will start “Getting The Most Out Of A Lesson”.