An Homage to Auditing or more than just sitting there

Perhaps you were not quick enough to get signed up for a clinic. Maybe we didn't hear about the clinic in time and think "well shoot.  I wanted to ride!! I really wanted to get some feedback from This Wonderful Teacher" Guess what?  Even if you aren't riding you can still learn a great deal from auditing a clinic. Clinicians by nature, are teachers. Their classroom is the arena and EVERYONE in the arena, not just the one on the horse, are the students.

Having sat through numerous clinics over the course of my life both valuable and perhaps not so much I've been able to pick up a lot. Yes, it's certainly wonderful to be the rider but if for whatever reason you've not scored a riding spot all hope is not lost. For a fraction of the cost you pay to ride, auditors have the pleasure of observing the ENTIRE DAY of rides...that's right for anywhere from $0 to $200.00 (depending on the clinician/symposium) you can go home with tons of knowledge and insight. 

Here are the top 5 reasons to Audit a Clinic:

 1: It's Cheaper than Riding   Yes, that's right. It's worth repeating. Auditing a clinic is a more affordable option than riding in a clinic. Throughout the course of two days a rider can absorb a lot of the same lessons as if you'd ridden in the clinic. If you think you only learn riding techniques by riding them, well, to be frank.  You're wrong.  You watch videos, read magazines and books.  A clinic is just the same.  Most riders when paying attention will have some of the bodily feelings of riding even while sitting in a chair while they watch a horse go, so in a way you're riding every ride and getting that feeling. Every clinician has a trademark or an emphasis...that will be repeated and worked on throughout the clinic. Guaranteed you'll go home from even a day of auditing with that idea imprinted in your mind and YOU'LL TRY IT AT HOME!

2: Clinicians Interact with Auditors Ever watched Youtube and wished you could ask George Morris a question? If your answer is yes, then you should know many times clinicians will answer questions from auditors.  So long as you are polite and wait until it's a good time most clinicians are happy to answer your questions. It's also not all together uncommon for clinicians to engage with auditors with non-mounted learning experiences especially as it relates to riding position.  If you stick around for lunch there are often plenty of chances to interact with clinicians.  

3: Try Before You Buy Has someone in the area brought in a new clinician? Perhaps someone you haven't heard about, and your budget is already shot from buying fancy stirrup irons?  Not certain you are ready to pay $150.00 for a lesson? Audit the clinic. Watch this new person teach and see if you think that person is someone you'd like to work with or if their methodology is something that's helpful to you. If yes, then you are certainly poised to immediately speak to the clinic organizer and get a spot in the next clinic.  If no, well then you just saved a whole bunch of money.

4: Support Your Community If there is no interest, people won't organize clinics. How do clinic organizers know if people are interested in clinics? Well, folks sign up to ride and people come to audit. If perhaps you're too busy to ride in THIS clinic or can't do a clinic right now because your horse is injured...well audit. Let the organizer know that you're interested. Organizing clinics takes time and energy, if there is no interest there will be no clinics, and it could be a long time until someone in your area tries again to bring someone in. Auditors ARE part of the clinic experience, they bring an essential vibe to each clinic that's appreciated by both rider and clinician alike.

5: It's fun Don't tell them, most especially if they aren't famous for a sense of humor, but clinicians are funny. It's a great time to be with your horsey friends over the course of a couple of days learning and enjoying the horse world without having to haul the horse and do the thing. It's relaxing, entertaining and good to experience something a little different than your normal weekend of cleaning the house once you get home from the barn.

Not enough yet? about 2 more BONUS reasons to audit a clinic.

6: Get Inspired!! Inevitably there will be at least one great ride and one ride that's got some pretty awful moments.  Both types of rides are totally inspiring. One ride is the one you want to have and the other fills you with pride in the person who gets through that tough spot. Auditing a good clinic will really inspire you to go home and try some new things. 

7: What's Happening? Just moved to the area? Audit the clinic, meet new people who are active in the community.  Looking for a new trainer? Go to a clinic and watch them ride. Trying to sell a horse/buy a horse/check out a barn...AUDIT a clinic. Go to the place where the people who you need to talk to are going to be. 



HOrsemanship: A Beginners Guide

Strictly speaking “horsemanship” is a term that simply means: the art and practice of riding horses.  However, many (including myself) would argue that horsemanship is a broader term, extending beyond simply riding. In my mind horsemanship is a skill set which encompasses the competent handling, management and riding of horses. 

Horsemanship in my mind covers: knowledge of breeds, colorations, markings, standard brands and anatomy of horses. Knowledge of all pieces of tack, how and why they are used. A functional ability to manage a horse through an endless array of situations: loading in a horse trailer, riding, leading down a barn aisle, familiarization with new places, hand grazing. A horseman should also know equine first aid, the equine digestive system, giving a horse a bath and basic biomechanics…

This is a short list. Because identifying suitable hay, changing tires, mucking stalls, providing and maintaining proper housing, riding correctly, training horses, communicating with vets and farriers, and the entire giant subcategory of "horse showing"  also appear on this list.

When you own a horse you need to know A LOT of things relating to the animal you own and ride, apart from simply how to pilot your steed.  Horsemanship is a broad ranging topic. Becoming a competent horse person is quite the undertaking.

There are many styles of horsemanship.  Traditional, natural and all things in between. Between disciplines and styles of riding and driving good horsemanship means something different. Truly, there is a broad spectrum of expectations.  All of them are hoping to achieve the same thing: happy healthy horses, and good safe riding.

There are a few things a person needs in order to become a true and competent horse person:

1: Time.  Spending time in your riding stable around horses and horse people is important. Becoming aware of the rhythms and patterns of horses and how things are done. Becoming part of the local culture and of course time enough to become fully comfortable around horses, and the situations that present themselves as part of horse life.

2: Observation. A lot of time the best way to learn about horsemanship is through simply watching. Observe horses and observe horse people. Watch what other riders and trainers do, then see if you are capable of emulating what they do. Posture, timing of corrections and asks. What do horse people wear (gloves are a good example)? Observe horses moving and how they act when they are in turn out, when they are in their stall. Watch other people ride, both in clinics, lessons and just for fun. What does posting look like or asking for a lope off? Head set, over-stride. Observe your horse’s reactions to things and the environment and the interactions you share with them.  If a horse is scared or nervous, what makes them better? What makes them worse?  Watch and see. 

Observation includes listening as well. The equestrian world is filled with its own special vocabulary. Listen to how seasoned horse people communicate, pick up the lingo, the special terms and when they are used. 

3: Mentors. If you’re new to the sport or looking to increase your skill, after spending your time in the barn, and observing things, also find the person or people whose horse skills you most admire and refer to them, if possible for help and advice. “If this was your horse what would you do”  Watch how they wrap legs, or handle a spook. Watch how they get a stubborn horse into a trailer or how they lead and handle their horses. Horsemanship is a skill which has been handed down for millennia. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from people who know more than   you. All horse people get a large portion of their information by asking for help. 

4: Education. Where possible seek out reputable educational materials and experiences. Take riding lessons and askyour instructor or mentor to help you learn how to do things you are unsure of. Read books and magazine articles from reputable sources. Be wary of self-published books, miracle cures for problem horses and guarantees of expertise within short periods of time. Be mindful that ANYONE can post videos on YouTube and the technique you may be watching on YouTube is perhaps dangerous, improperly done or just simply ineffective. 

Good books and magazines have the information you are looking for. “What does the bit do?” “Why do I need to change my posting diagonal?” Becoming a good horseman is primarily an experiential endeavor but a wealth of knowledge can be had from publications. Reading and watching videos can communicate the same concepts you are learning but in a different or more in-depth way. 

Reputable Sources include: (magazines) Equus, Practical Horsemanship, Chronicle of the Horse. (Books) Pony Club Manual of Horsemanship, Complete Equine Emergency Bible, International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.

5: Find your own Style. You don’t have to be a horseman like Buck Brannaman. You can be and should be your own horse person. It’s okay to meld natural horsemanship techniques with more traditional methods. So long as it’s safe, and effective develop the style that works for you and be confident in how you do it. The shared language between on rider and one horse may not necessarily work exactly the same for another rider and a different horse. 

Becoming a knowledgable horseman takes time and effort, but it’s worth it! In horses there is no end to the opportunity for expanding your knowledge base. Just when you think you have seen everything and done most everything something brand new crops up to challenge what you know. Horsemanship is something you can take pride in, and that pride will carry over into the rest of your life. Giving you more confidence than before you started your great journey.