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Your going to a driving clinic and you want to get the most out of it that you can! I think one’s attitude going into the driving clinic is important. It starts with knowing what to expect before you go. Your going to a driving clinic and you want to get the most out of it that you can! I think one’s attitude going into the driving clinic is important. Your going to a driving clinic and you want to get the most out of it that you can! I think one’s attitude going into the driving clinic is important.

I have participated in many driving and riding clinics over the years. Most of these were many years ago when I was learning the craft of driving.  I have been driving for over thirty-four years. In the past twenty-five years, I have been the clinician for many clinics both here in the United States, as well as internationally.

As a participant in a clinic, there are many things that will make your experience the best that it can be. After all, you are paying good money for the driving clinic, so you want to get as much out of it as you can.

Here is a list of some basic things you need to have at a driving clinic:

  1.  Come with an open mind.
  2.  Have your driving horse in the best condition you can.
  3.  Be sure your harness is properly fitted to your horse.
  4.  Be sure your vehicle is in good working order.
  5.  Bring a helper with you. Helpers can assist you with getting ready to drive, as well as being a second set of eyes and ears during your lesson.
  6.  Have a camera or cell phone that your helper can use to take video or pictures of your lesson.
  7.  Always wear a helmet.
  8.  Bring plenty of clothes for layering, if needed.
  9.  Be kind and respectful to the clinician and other drivers.
  10.  Be on time for your lesson.

From the clinicians’ point of view, they are getting paid to help you with any specific problem or driving movement that you might want to work on. 

Eileen giving a lesson to a pair at the HCCDC clinic in Calgary, Canada
Eileen giving a lesson to a pair at the HCCDC clinic in Calgary, Canada

Not all clinicians teach the same!

The first thing you need to realize that not all clinicians, work the same way when giving a lesson.  You can go to one trainer and they will approach an issue one way and then if you go to a second trainer, they may approach the same issue in a different way.  This does not mean that one way is wrong, or one way is better than another.  People in general do not always learn the same.  There are three different ways that people learn:

  1. Visual – They learn through seeing, they think in pictures.
  2. Auditory – They learn through listening, they think in words.
  3. Kinesthetic – They learn through moving, doing and touching.

Clinicians develop their way of training which in many ways are based on how they learned and on their life experience with driving horses.   

Once you arrive at the driving clinic grounds, make sure you find out where you need to park and where the arenas are that you will be having your lesson in.  If the clinic is more than one day, then you will need to find your camping space and a place to house your horse.

Check out the facility

When you are all settled in, then take a bit of time to check out the facility and say hello to your hosts. Generally, there will be a schedule board with the times for the lessons.

There is a schedule to be kept, so make sure you are at the arena at least five minutes before your time slot.  Lessons at a clinic are generally forty-five to fifty minutes with a ten-minute break in between.  These ten minutes is when the clinician has a chance to sit down, have a drink and take a walk to those little green, blue or white boxes.  Be patient, and if the clinician is a couple minutes behind, it is not the end of the world.

Once you have finished your lesson, be polite and thank the clinician, they really do appreciate it.  Exit the arena as the next student is waiting to come in.

I have just returned from a clinic in Calgary, Canada sponsored on by the High Country Carriage Driving Club. I was one of two clinicians invited to this yearly event that the club has.

The event was well received by drivers in Canada, and the club did a great job in keeping the event running like a well-oiled machine. This was amazing, as at the last minute, they had a acquire another facility as the weather decided to rain the week before and for two days of the event.

Rain was on the schedule!

This being a four-day event, the days were long for the clinicians with eight lessons each day.  You can see that well mannered horses, as well as knowledgeable drivers, made our jobs easier.  The organizers kept us well feed and dry, which was a chore within itself!

By the last day of the clinic, both the students and I were able to see the progress that many of the horses had made over the four days.  Many of the students that I taught, took a lesson from me all four days which made it easier to work on specific things that the students were having trouble with.

As a clinician, there are many things that I look at when helping the students:

  • Look at the vehicle that they are using for safety.
  • Check the harness for proper fit.
  • Ask about the horse and its history.
  • Find out if the student is a new driver or a seasoned driver.
  • Then find out what they want to work on and accomplish.

There is a lot of work that the clinician does while teaching a student.  When they ask you to remind them what they were working on the prior day, don’t think they have a bad memory.  They have seen eight students, that they have just met on the prior day, and remembering exactly what they worked on with you can sometimes be difficult.  Speak up and refresh their memory, it only takes a sentence to jog the clinicians mind.

Remember to get the most out of the clinic, keep an open mind, and be able to adjust if schedules get backed up.  After all, you have come to learn and getting upset does not help you or your horse. If you get one good tip that helps you with your horse, then the clinic was worth participating in!  You have paid good money for the opportunity, so learn and most of all have fun!

It was a pleasure to be invited by the High Country Carriage Driving Club to be one of their two clinicians at their 4th Annual Driving Bonanza in Calgary Canada. The event was held June 24 to 27, 2019 at the Fish Creek Ranch in Bragg Creek, Alberta. Due to inclement weather it was moved to a nearby fairgrounds. The lovely facility with a new covered inside arena had plenty of room for two clinicians to work students at the same time.

Enclosed arena at the Fairgrounds

The hosts of the event Susan and Doug did a great job keeping everything running, even with the change of venue. Monday and Thursday were wet days but the students took it with a grain of salt. They all showed up on time at the arena for their scheduled lesson.

There wide range of horses that here presented included singles, and pairs of all sizes. The breeds that were being driven included:

  • Andalusian
  • Fjord Mix
  • Miniature
  • Standardbred
  • Shire
  • Mule
  • Welsh Cob
  • Haflinger

and I’m sure I have probably missed one or two breeds.

Eileen Teaching at the HCCDC Driving Bonanza in Alberta Canada
Eileen Teaching at the HCCDC Driving Bonanza in Alberta Canada

Eight lessons were taught each day with different drivers and sometimes the same drivers with different horses. Some students had a lesson with me each day. It was nice to see the progress that they had made by the last day.

The 4th Annual Driving Bonanza ran smoothly despite the rain and cold. The two sunny days I taught most of the students outside. They were able to practice cones as well as drive in an area that was flat enough to do a dressage test.

I was asked to do a Participation Clinic at Verde Valley Equine Festival on Sunday April 23, 2017.  The day started out sunny with a temperatures in the mid eighties.  I arrived at the venue in Cottonwood Arizona at 8:30 to find people and horses already milling around the fair grounds.  The driving participation clinic started at 9:30 with two drivers signed up to participate.

The first driver had a well seasoned draft mare she was driving and the second driver had a Morgan mare that has been driving about two years with a new driver.  Both horses were well behaved and the drivers were proficient equal with their level of driving.

Many of the spectators that arrived were there to watch and learn about driving and how much fun that it can be.  It was really good to see the interest in the sport of driving as we need to bring more people into this sport so that it will live on for many years.

This Participation Clinic at Verde Valley Equine Festival was proof that people can get excited about this very old form of transportation and how it has transformed into a fun way to use ones horse.

Harnessing Clinic

After a brief break I then did a talk on harness and harnessing.  Even though the wind decided to show it’s ugly head there was a good turnout of people wanting to learn!  I brought along my miniature horse “Snoopy” as a demonstration horse to show how to fit and put on the harness an hitch to a cart.

While I was answering questions I had any of the attendees who wanted to try and put together a harness to do so.  I supplied a horse size harness with 29 parts that were disassembled for them to put together.  When it was assembled I gave them one of my “Harnessing & Saddling A Step By Step Guide” as a prize.  There is nothing better than hands on experience to teach a student how to do something!

Snoopy and I were invited to spend a day with the Arizona Draft Horse Association at a play day.  We were the only ones to accept their invitation , so it was Snoopy a mini with all of their draft horses.  We had a great time and Snoopy was not at all intimidated.  This is just another way you can spend driving your horse no matter the size.