Uncommon Horse Sense


Clinic Schedule





Teaching is the process of encouraging the student to step outside of his comfort zone and continuously expand his knowledge and understanding of the world around him.
























Tips On Organizing A Clinic


      If you have never done it before, the thought of organizing a clinic can be daunting.  But, like many things in life, once you get started you find out it’s not so bad.  To give you some direction and help you get off on the right foot, I made up a list of things to consider when organizing your clinic. 

          A successful clinic is based on two factors coming together in a coordinated effort: the dissemination of pertinent information in an intelligible format, and the effective organization of the clinic so that that can occur.  There are other ancillary reasons people attend clinics, but the main reason most spend their time and money to attend a clinic is that they want to learn something.  The type of information that is presented and the way in which it is presented is primarily the responsibility of the clinician; bring together the clinician, riders, auditors, facility and all of the other elements necessary for a successful clinic is the responsibility of the organizing host, and it is no small task. 

      The following is a check list of things to consider when organizing a clinic.

 Financial Considerations:

      I firmly believe: “A good deal is only good, if it’s good for everyone involved.” 

      Whether we like it or not every clinic is a financial event, as well as a learning event.  There are three basic ways a clinic can be structured: The first is when the host assumes the financial risk and potential profit, the second is when the clinician does, and the third is when both share in the risk and profit. 

      Most clinicians prefer to operate under the first arrangement; where they are paid for their travel and boarding expenses, plus receive a fee for conducting the clinic.  It is up to the host to make arrangements for the facilities, handle the advertising and decide how much to charge the participants and auditors to cover the cost of the clinician and all operating expenses.  You can see why clinicians prefer this type of arrangement; while they don’t share in any of the profits (if any), likewise they don’t take any risk.  They get paid the same, whether one person, or one hundred people show up for the clinic. 

      What the host is counting on in this type of arrangement is that the clinician’s “name recognition” will be enough of a draw to bring in the necessary participants and auditors.  Because of the risk the host is taking, and the high fixed overhead (clinician’s fees as well as facility expenses) fees for participating can be quite substantial; from a few of hundred dollars per day, to well in excess of five hundred dollars per day.  

       In the second arrangement the clinician assumes all financial responsibilities, and I have conducted clinics in the past where I took all of the risk.  After the clinic was finished, any expenses the host incurred were covered from the proceeds, I was reimbursed for my expenses and what ever was left was my profit for conducting the clinic.  The problem with this structure is that there is no monetary incentive for the host to put much effort into making the clinic a financial success.  That said, I have found over the years that, with few exceptions, anyone who is willing to put forth the effort to host a clinic, is also conscientious enough to take their responsibilities seriously. 

      Admittedly, however, there have been occasions when after two weeks of travel (conducting clinics on the weekends and giving lessons during the week) I arrived home with a few hundred dollars less than when I left.  While I truly enjoy teach people about horses and watching them gain confidence and grow in their relationship with their horse, I am not independently wealthy enough to continue that arrangement for very long.

      The third arrangement seems to work out best for both the clinician and the host; both share in the risk, and both share in the profits.  After expenses are covered, any profits are split according to a schedule agreed upon when the clinic was set up.  Likewise, expenses would be shared in the unlikely event that they exceed the proceeds.  In this way all parties have incentive to make the clinic a success.

 Getting your moneys worth:

      Although for some people attending a clinic is a social event, the main reason most people attend is to learn something; and that is in fact what they laid their hard earned money down for.  How much they learn is dependant on a lot of different variables: from how well the clinician presents his material, to whether they can see or hear what is being said, even personal preparation and attitude play a big role. 

      Creating an environment that maximizes the opportunity for each participant to learn takes the collective effort of all three contributors: the clinician, the host and the participants.  Each has his particular responsibilities to that end.

 The Clinician

     In a nut shell, the clinician’s primary responsibility is to present pertinent information in an organized, understandable manner.  The key words here are: pertinent, organized and understandable.

      The subject, depth and scope of the material being taught should be discussed and agreed upon by the clinician and host at the very outset of organizing the clinic.  The host needs to understand the interests and abilities of the prospective participants and inform the clinician, so the program can be geared to meet the participant’s needs.

      Some clinicians have a “set program” they conduct at their clinics that they are unwilling or unable to modify, and if the participants requested something different, perhaps the host should consider a different clinician. 

      The size of the clinic can be a real factor in determining its success.  Here “the bigger the better” philosophy may be conducive to improving profits for the host and/or the clinician, but it often detracts from the learning process for the participants.  Depending on the subject matter, I find it difficult to observe and provide individual attention to more than about 12 participants at a time, and like to keep that as the maximum number of participants in any given secession.  I’d rather have 12 people who feel they really got the attention and help they needed, than 24 people who feel they didn’t get their issues addressed appropriately.

      About ten years ago a friend of mine attended a natural horsemanship clinic put on by one of the “big name” clinicians.  Because of the clinician’s notoriety, the clinic was well attended, and there were well over 30 riders in the arena with him.  Do in large part to the size of the group, the clinician never addressed him, or the problems he was having with his horse, directly during the four days he rode in the clinic.  At the end of the clinic I asked him how he felt about the experience, he said: “Well, at least I can say I rode in a ‘__________’ clinic.”  Had I been him I would have felt slighted, considering the amount of money he paid, and how little attention was given to him.  But he seemed quite satisfied just to be able to say he rode in a “__________” clinic.

      I’ve attended clinics that, over the course of several days, seemed to have little or no direction to them, and it was difficult to understand what the clinician was even trying to teach.  Whether you are teaching horses or people, there needs to be well defined goals and a plan on how to achieve them.  The clinician should be able to provide an outline of the material that will be taught, and the methodology to be used.  This can be use as a selling point for promoting the clinic, as well as give potential participants an understanding of what will be expected of them, and what they can expect to accomplish during the course of the clinic.

 The Host

      The host’s primary function is to bring the clinician and participants together in a facility that allows the interaction necessary for learning to occur.   Depending on the arrangements, he also has the added responsibility of trying to make the clinic a financial success for himself (or his organization) and the clinician. 

      To accomplish this he needs to arrange for the use of the facilities, promote the clinic and handle the finances.  It’s a big job and organizational skills are of utmost importance.  To assist in this organization you will find a list of things to consider about the facility requirements, advertising and promoting the clinic.

 The Participant

     The participant should review the clinic outline to see if the subject matter is right for their horsemanship goals; and determine if the level of activity is appropriate for them or their horse’s abilities. 

      I have often had people ask me whether they should bring an experienced horse or an inexperienced horse into a clinic.  The answer to that depends on who needs more help, the rider or the horse.  If rider is fairly well versed in the subject matter, but needs to know how to help an inexperienced horse learn it; then bring the inexperienced horse so the rider can learn how to help the horse progress.  If the rider is fairly new to the subject matter, riding a more experienced horse will help him focus on what he needs to learn, and not be bothered by the horse’s inability.  The most important thing is for the rider to maximize his learning, since he can always pass that information on to the horse later, once he understands it.

 Facility Requirements:


      Whether the clinic is to be held in an indoor arena, an outdoor arena, or out on the trail depends on the activities and the predictability of the weather conditions where the clinic is to be held.  Having an alternate “rain day” usually isn’t practical because the clinician and/or the riders may not be able to change their schedules to accommodate the alternate day.  Because of the lead time necessary for booking a clinic, predicting the weather may be next to impossible.  Even if the planned activities are to take place on the trail or in an outdoor arena, it is often desirable to have an indoor arena available as an alternative.

      The size of the facility and the activities will determine how many riders will be able to participate in the clinic.  I try to keep the number of participants to 12 or less, so I can give each individual the attention they deserve.   

 Sound System

      A sound system that is adequate for both the participants and the auditors will be necessary.  Many indoor arenas already have a sound system that can be tapped into.  If one is not available, a guitar amplifier often works well, or a PA system could be rented from a local music store.  I have a portable microphone system that can be plugged into the existing sound system or a guitar/PA amplifier.

      An outdoor arena will require a system with several speakers located around the arena and in proximity to the auditors in order for everyone to adequately hear what is being said.

 Auditor Seating

      Auditors will need a safe place to watch the activities in relative comfort.  In an indoor arena one end of the arena can be paneled off to accommodate a seating area.  If seating is not available, be sure to tell them to bring their own chairs with them in the advertising material. 

 Lavatory Facility

      If the facility does not have a lavatory available, a portable unit can usually be rented for the duration of the clinic for a nominal fee.

 Meal Service

      It is often desirable to have food available on site for the auditors as well as the participants.  This prevents people from having to drive somewhere to get a meal, and encourages leisurely interaction between auditors, participants and the clinician.  The camaraderie and exchange of ideas is beneficial to everyone involved.

      The local Pony Club or 4H Club may want to set up a booth to make money for the club.  Or if a riding club is sponsoring the event they may want to have a pot lock lunch.  You can usually get one of the “meals on wheels” vendors to come if none of the clubs want to participate.


      Most people plan their horse related activities well in advance of the event, this is especially true if they have a show schedule to consider.  For some this planning may occur as much as a year in advance of the activity, for most it’s a more seasonal activity.  It’s important therefore, to get advertising out early so the clinic can be scheduled into other horse related activities.  Advertising should go out at least three months in advance of the clinic so people have time to plan for it.

 Getting the Word Out 

  Once you have booked the clinic and the facility, it's time to start promoting your clinic. Take the time to list the clinic everywhere you can.  Most regions have local horse magazines or newspapers that offer a free calendar for upcoming events.  Some will even publish a short article about your club and the clinic, if you provide them with the text.  If no one in the group wants to write an article, I can provide one for you that you can use as is, or modify to promote your group as well as the clinic.  Be sure to include the vital statistics: date, location, fees, clinician and the activities that will be covered in the clinic.

  Create a flyer (or I can provide one for you) to put up on notice boards at tack and feed stores, horse shows and barns.  If you create your own be sure to make it stand out; make it in color, and if possible, use attention getting graphics.  Clip art and/or a photo will enhance its appearance tremendously.

     Like the local papers, local radio stations often times have an “upcoming events” segment you can use to promote the clinic.  Sometimes an advertising spot can be purchased at very reasonable costs, or you may be able to get the station to conduct an interview with one of the club members.

     Keep the advertising local.  Generally speaking it doesn’t pay to advertise much beyond a 40 mile radius in the eastern part of the country, or a 75 mile radius in the west (people in the west are used to traveling greater distances, things are more spread out).

     If I have done a clinic in your area in the past, I have a data base of previous attendees who can be notified by mail or phone of the upcoming clinic.  Let me know how you want to contact them.

      If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at any time.  The goal here is to make the clinic a success for everyone involved, so don’t hesitate to let me know if I can be of any assistance.