A Synopsis of the Wellington 2008 Junior/Young Rider Clinic

Stillpoint Farm in Wellington, Florida, High Meadow Farm, in White Fences, Loxahatchee, Florida, and Dr. Cetty Weiss, along with a long list of fantastic sponsors, played host to a weekend of fun and educational experiences for eighteen fortunate up and coming teenage dressage riders. “O” judge, FEI rider, and trainer, Anne Gribbons, and FEI competitor and trainer, Steffen Peters, were on hand to orchestrate the training sessions. Other guest clinicians included Dr. Gordan, Kathy Connelly, Dr. Steve Engles D.V.M., Mrs. Roberta Williams, and Mary Phelps. Our own Vivienne Wiederhold aboard her magnificent mare, EM Donatella HW, was one of the participants.

The participants were showered with gifts and parties. A welcome party, a going away get together, souvenirs of hats, polo shirts, saddle pads, tickets to Challenge of the Americas, all helped promote friendship and fun amidst the education and hard work. Participants were treated to mini in-services in addition to their private training sessions. These included Kathy Connelly teaching methods of long lining, watching a chiropractic adjustment, learning about equine nutrition from a Purina spokesperson, and Mary Phelps’ biography of DressageDaily encouraging horse career opportunities. Attending the Challenge of the Americas in support of breast cancer awareness and finding a cure was particularly amazing. Not only was it truly enjoyable, but it was an education just to see that even top professionals have difficulties with their horses! Everybody makes mistakes and has training obstacles to overcome – even at huge public performances. (A favorite saying of ours is that the only difference between an amateur and a professional is that the professional knows how to cover their mistakes better! And – it’s true!)

The purpose of a clinic is to boost the horse and rider team ahead – give some additional goals for them to go back with their regular trainer and work on achieving little by little at home - refine particular movements, and/or help overcome a hurdle. It may serve to reaffirm that you are definitely on the right track. Additionally, the participants hopefully hear educational focus and training advice that aligns with what they have been studying or trying to accomplish in perhaps a slightly different way. This allows for the same information explained from a different vantage point to hopefully make such an impression that the rider experiences that “ah ha” “light-bulb” “now I get it” moment. In other words, if you as the rider are listening to the same opinion from your trainer, the judge at a horse show, and a clinician, you can be pretty sure that whatever it is, it does need your immediate and undivided attention. Conversely, it is almost impossible, no matter how experienced with numerous pedagogical credentials the clinician or judge has, for them to be one hundred percent correct and on the money every time. It is most difficult to assess a whole picture of a horse and rider team from two rides at a show or clinic, and that is something that the participant and their regular trainer have to critique afterwards and either refine their training focus, or realize that that particular point was only valid at that one particular moment in time on that day and not a reoccurring deficit. Every horse, and every rider, can not be at the top of their game for thousands of reasons on a daily basis, and this needs to be taken into consideration. Hopefully, the learning opportunity presented by a clinic will energize and excite the participants to desire and strive for continuous improvement.

Clinic participants need to understand all of this so that their experience at clinics is a positive one. They also need to know that there are many do’s and don’ts that are considered “politically correct clinic etiquette.” The following is a partial list to help.

DO arrive on time – in fact, schedule yourself so that you will have ample time to warm up and be ready for your ride.

* DO NOT be late.
* DO be a team player and support your fellow participants.
* DO NOT object if the clinician runs late. After all – you will want the clinician to give you their full attention and help during your ride, too, even if that means running over your allotted time.
* DO wear lovely clean breeches and tucked in shirts with gloves and a helmet each day.
* DO used sponsored saddle pads and shirts
* DO NOT wear show attire – it is not considered proper.
* DO be sure that your horse is meticulously cleaned, groomed and braided. Clinicians consider it a compliment to their expertise for the horse to enter the ring braided.
* DO be sure that your horse has clean saddle pads for each ride and that all the tack is clean.
* DO be ready to work and concentrate very hard.
* DO greet the clinician when you enter the ring with a proper salutation.
* DO NOT talk too much, however. The clinician will ask questions about you and your horse’s background…answer appropriately, brief, and to the point.
* DO NOT argue with the clinician.
* DO try your very best for the full lesson even if the work is hard or different than what you are used to doing.
* DO ask questions if you do not understand something.
* DO understand that there will be auditors who will hear both your strengths and weaknesses publically stated
* DO video tape your rides so that you can watch them over again and learn from them. Often, you are so busy concentrating, you may miss something.
* DO ask questions about opinions on future training goals when the session is over.
* DO be sure to appropriately thank the clinician as you leave the ring.
* DO be sure to cool out your equine friend and partner properly and thoroughly, and massage him/her with appropriate brace and/or liniment as the work load of a clinic is usually more than what is experienced during a normal training session.
* DO be sure to hand walk your equine friend and partner in between sessions, and/or arrange for turn out if possible.
* DO be sure to thoroughly clean your stall and space in the barn.
* DO be sure to dispose of manure the way that facility requires.
* DO be sure to follow all the rules of the host facility.
* DO NOT borrow anything with out asking – of course, being sure to immediately return it.
* DO be sure to leave everything the way you found it – or even better.
* DO NOT leave the premises without thanking everyone involved.
* DO be sure that all bills are paid in full prior to your leaving.
* DO remember to conduct yourself at all times as a respectful, responsible, humble, person of fine character because the overall impression you make on others is important and has a lasting effect.
* (NOTE – a written thank you note to the organizers and clinician afterwards is a nice touch!)

Vivienne and Donatella rode beautifully and represented themselves admirably. They performed as if they had vast experience at attending clinics, and showed themselves to be of fine character and ability. They earned the numerous accolades they received from their clinician, Anne Gribbons, and can be so very proud of themselves. Mrs. Gribbon’s assessment of Donatella is that she is an exceptionally smart mare, nice big size, with wonderful gaits, and definitely has the ability to “go all the way.” (FEI – here they come!) She noticed immediately that Donatella is very willing and tries to do everything right. Mrs. Gribbons also complimented Vivienne about her riding talent and ability. She also remarked that Vivienne had such nice long legs - just perfect for riding dressage. This introduction into the upper echelon of the dressage world was productive, and a smashing success.

A very special thank you to the wonderful sponsors for their support of the future of dressage – our junior and young riders!

* Weiss Family Chiropractic Center
* Karen Offield Farms in support of the Equestrian Aid Foundation
* Renee Isler in support of Paige Finnegan and Tokyo
* HWfarm.com/Horse Sales LLC
* Sal Massage
* Two Swans Farm
* Stillpoint Farm
* Sho Clothes
* DressageDaily.com
* Mary Phelps/ Markel Equine Insurance
* Purina
* Sidelines Magazine