Some of my favorite horse related memories are of clinics I’ve attended, and those I’ve organized myself. Putting together a clinic, whether on a large or small scale, can be a very rewarding experience, but it can also turn into a stressful one if you aren’t organized.

Why do it?

  • Organizing a clinic takes a lot of work, but it also offers a lot of benefits.
  • A clinic allows you to learn from a professional you would not normally get to spend time with. Depending on the number of participants, clinicians will come from all over to teach you. •A clinic environment allows you to learn from other participants as well. They will be at different riding levels, have different horses, and each will have their own issues they are looking to improve on. You will get to see how the clinician helps them, and transfer that to yourself down the road.
  • Some clinicians offer a discount or complimentary participant spot to the clinic organizer(s) in return for their efforts. For those who find clinic fees formidable, this can be a good way to trade your time for a spot.
  • You get to meet and bring together like-minded equestrians in your community. You always come away from a clinic with new friends and great memories!

1. Selecting your clinician

The first step to organizing a clinic is choosing a clinician. If there is someone you think you would like to learn from, make sure you attend one of his/her other clinics first either as a participant or spectator so you know what to expect. Make sure you think it is something others would enjoy. Talk to the other participants afterwards to see how they felt about the clinic. Ask around before you commit, to ensure you’ll get enough response from the local equestrian community to make the clinic a success.

2. The facility

The type of facility you’ll need depends on the sort of clinic you’re holding, the number of participants, and any specifications from the clinician. If you are in an area where the weather is iffy, it’s good to have access to an indoor arena should you need it. You also want to make sure there is plenty of parking space for horse trailers and cars.

3. It’s a date!

Choosing a date for your clinic is not as simple as you may think. The clinician must first let you know what dates he or she is available. From there, you must decide which will work best. Factors to consider include:

  • Season/weather – Not many riders are die hard enough to attend a clinic in subzero weather in the dead of winter.
  • Holidays – Popular holidays and long weekends often mean people are busy doing other things. While a long weekend may seem an ideal time for a clinic, it can be hit and miss depending on how many people have alternative plans.
  • Show season – If you are setting up a discipline-specific clinic, make sure you avoid the big show dates.

4. The paperwork

Typically, each clinician will have a set of paperwork that he/she wants each participant to fill out. This may include an information sheet, and will most certainly include a liability form. It’s recommended that your host facility have each participant (and potentially each spectator) fill out a liability form as well. Talk to your equine insurance company to determine what, if any, insurance the facility needs in order to hold the clinic. Make sure you get all the forms in time for the clinic – start organizing early to avoid last minute problems and stress. It’s also a good idea to have extra forms on hand the day of the clinic, just in case someone didn’t get their forms in on time – they can fill one out before the clinic starts.

5. Accommodations

If your clinic runs more than one day, offer participants a list of nearby accommodations, and directions to each. Some facilities give the okay for people to pop a tent or park a camper on the property. Depending on where your clinician is coming from, you may have to plan accommodation for him or her as well. Some organizers host them at their homes, or set them up at a nearby hotel.

It’s also helpful to offer overnight accommodations for the horses, such as stalls, small paddocks or temporary stalls. Do some research on what other barns in your area charge for overnight stabling. Provide the participants with a list of what they need to bring, such as their own hay, grain, and bedding. Make up an information sheet for each horse’s stall that includes names, emergency numbers, allergies and feeding instructions. Ask participants to bring proof of current immunizations and possibly a negative Coggin’s. Depending on how much work you want to take on, you may offer to feed the horses, do a night check, and muck the stalls in the morning, so your participants can get a good night’s sleep after a hard day of riding.

6. Show me the money!

Typically, you will be responsible for making sure everyone gets their clinic fees in on time, and in full. If you are charging a fee for spectators/ auditors, you will also need to collect those fees the day of the clinic. Make sure you have change and small bills on hand.

7. What about auditors?

Most clinics offer the general equine public the opportunity to audit or watch the clinic from the sidelines. This generally involves charging a small fee per day.

  • Have nametags available for auditors, color coded for each day, so you know who has paid and who has not. This will also help the clinician identify people if they ask a question.
  • If you can, send spectators an information packet ahead of time (e-mail is handy) including directions, clinic times, and other information such as whether or not they should bring their own chairs, whether lunch will be provided, and so on.
  • Provide a safe area for auditors – some type of barrier between the auditor area and the clinic area is a must to ensure no loose or out-of-control horses can harm an auditor.
  • Make sure auditors can hear the clinician/sound system. Remember, they are paying to be there, so they should be able to hear what is going on.

8. Feeding the masses

As the organizer, you have several options when it comes to feeding hungry participants:

1) Offer lunch as part of the clinic/spectator fee.

2) Offer lunch for a separate fee (e.g. BBQ, catered).

3) Advise everyone to bring refreshments and/or point them to the nearest restaurants.

4) Suggest a potluck.

It’s a nice gesture to keep hot drinks such as coffee, tea, and hot chocolate brewing all day, especially during cold weather. Cold bottled water is very welcome during the hotter months.

9. Take care of yourself

Pulling together a clinic can be a huge undertaking, especially if it is a multi-day affair. Try not to take it all on yourself – it can quickly turn into a very busy and stressful experience and you’ll find yourself being pulled in several different directions at once, all day long. Delegate the easier tasks to friends and barn mates who are willing to help out.

The weeks leading up to the clinic, and the clinic itself (particularly if it happens over two or three days), can leave you feeling wiped out. Make sure to take care of yourself. Along with delegating what tasks you can, be sure to get adequate rest, eat properly, and try not to get so caught up in your organizational duties that you forget to have fun. Nobody wants a cranky clinic organizer! Understand you cannot control everything – things may go wrong, such as the sound system going down, but just be prepared the best you can and roll with the punches.

When all is said and done, if you plan ahead and cover all your bases, your clinic should be a successful and fun experience. You’ll learn new techniques, and make some valuable new friends. And who knows, you may want to do it all over again next year!