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Why Are Julie Goodnight Clinic Riders So Nervous?

I know from what people tell me—either before or after the clinic—that they were very nervous to ride with me. This always surprises me, although I’ve heard it enough to know it is a common theme—not just in my clinics but for everyone. It surprises me because I know how hard I work to make sure all the riders are safe and satisfied during one of my clinics and I think that most people who have ridden with me would agree that there’s no point in being apprehensive about riding with me. I’m actually a pretty nice person.

I always tell the riders at the beginning of every clinic that nervousness is a wasted emotion, because I’m here to make sure they have fun and learn something and no one is under any pressure. But still, I know people are reticent and I know there are some that will never sign up to begin with because of it and I wish I knew how to alleviate those fears. So what is it about taking a horsemanship clinic that is so frightening? Maybe if I can understand it better, I can get people to relax quicker. Is it fear of the unknown? Fear of riding around other people? Fear you’ll lose control of your horse? Fear of riding in an unknown place? Based on a previous bad experience? Horror stories heard from others?

On one level, I totally get it—riding in front of a group with a bunch of strangers can be nerve wracking. Riding and horses is such a voluminous amount of information to master that it can be overwhelming at times. The unknown quantity of how your horse will respond in an unknown situation is a little frightening. On the other hand, the opportunity to learn, grow, explore new concepts and master new skills is quite compelling.

What about you? Do you like to ride in clinics? What do you get out of it? Does it make you nervous? Why? How many clinics have  you taken and what did you like the most? What advice would you offer to someone who has never taken a clinic and how would  you choose what clinic to attend? I’ll be interested to hear.
Enjoy the ride,

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  1. I am one of those people who gets extremely nervous at everything.. I have s clinic tomorrow, my first one.. and im so very nervous. For me its the unexpected. Even though my horse is a complete saint I worry that for some reason ill lose control of him or he will do a long jump fistance annd ill fall off or something like that. Even i worry that the clinician is extremely mean and wont be happy with the way i ride an d will yell at me and stufd.

  2. I would love to ride in a clinic, especially one taught by someone who I respect and admire as much as you! But I am one of those nervous people, as well. It’s really the fear of everything. Losing control of my horse, or getting there and being taught things that are way beyond the scope of my abilities, having other people watch me ride, meeting a celebrity(!), and a number of other things. On one hand, I /know/ that as soon as I get there, everything will work out, and I’ll probably leave with a huge grin on my face and a lot of great information, but it’s talking myself into going in the first place that’s the hard part!

    I’m not really sure that it’s something anyone can say/do to make the feelings go away. It’s up to the rider to really push themselves through their fear and give it a try. It’s a HUGE confidence builder, but taking that step – especially for a shy, timid person – is really tough.

  3. I have never attended a riding clinic, but have attended some of the Horse Expos and Equine Affaire on the East Coast. My adult, daughter and I will be attending the CLazyU Retreat in May 2011. We have back yard horses and are avid trail riders with only occasional lessons. We will be using the ranch horses. I am nervous that we will not be as experienced as the other women at the clinic. One, in riding experience for the lessons and two, this is our first trip to Colorado and have never experience riding in the mountains! We don’t want to slow the group down.

  4. I finally got time to catch up on these posts. Wow. A bunch of good ones, Julie. About clinics, yes I’m one of those nervous ones. Mainly I’m nervous about what the horse might do. I took him to one clinic when he was about 4. It was advertised for young and green horses and I thought that would be perfect. It ended up indoors. First thing was a bit of a talk and all horses were lined up along the side of the arena, by a bunch of stalls and stuff and crammed close together. My horse wasn’t used to being indoors and in with a large group. Next came the PA system and that did it. He was anxious. We put him in the arena and he did frantic circles. The clinician took him and helped but I felt I needed way too much attention and it was embarrassing. At one point we were under saddle and a big tractor came up to the arena door which wasn’t good either. All in all it was way too much at once for us both. It wasn’t supposed to be indoors. If I were doing a clinic for green horses I’d do it very differently but I’m really conservative. So, now I’m a big chicken about them. This is a good horse, just inexperienced which is why I picked a green horse clinic. I don’t mind criticism in front of others, that part is ok.

  5. Oh gosh, insights from the desperately shy. Just READING about your clinic raced me back some 30 years to the one and only clinic I ever sustained! Maybe it was worse being a kind of backyard kid on a average horse in the middle of a “well-heeled, well-horsed” crowd. But we’ll put that aside for the moment. It was terrifying, more terrifying than showing because it also seemed to go on forever. And I can, to this day, remember the feeling of “am I doing something that’s bad for my horse” which would have made me want to sink into the ground! I think if we would have talked BEFOREHAND, rather than after, to discuss what was being looked at, it would have helped. If there had been an opportunity, maybe even on the ground, to get to know one another, to establish some kind of rapport — okay, we don’t need to go out for a coffee — but something to replace the “judge”/”lowly rider making all the mistakes” dynamic, that would have helped. Later I became a teacher and when I was under observation (which I still tremble at, but have learned to live with) I emphasize to my students that I’m the one being observed, not them. In this case, though perhaps not 100% the same, it might be useful to emphasize: I’m looking at your horse in the first instance: their action, their reactions, or whatever it is. Or perhaps something specific: I’ll be spending the first X minutes looking at Y. It just takes the pressure off. It’s most likely you know all this, but your query just brought back the memory and it’s nice to finally turn it into something useful (hopefully!)

  6. I am going to enter my first clinic and while I am looking forward to the learning I will get. It is wondering how my mare will do. She takes all of her cues from me.

  7. I just took part in a clinic in Santa Fe and heard the same from my friends who came to watch. I think taking criticism in front of a crowd (even when incredibly constructive) can be tough for some people. Just going to a trainer can require a level of humility some folks aren’t ready for.

    Add to that a bit of celebrity of the trainer. Feggedabuttit.

    But I’ve learned so much from every clinic I’ve been part of that it’s a critical component of my growth.

  8. I have been in a couple of clinics but always with a school horse and I enjoyed it very much. I have to admit I was nervous about the unexpected but it was great. I was in a jumping clinic and took a jump to early and the horse compensated and I ended up around his neck embarrasing but I lived through it. I would love to attend a clinic with my 7 yr old TWH but I would be really nervous about how she would react at the clinic in an unfamiliar area. Therefore I would probably put it off even if I really really would love to go with her. The first show I ever attended was with my young arabian and he did so much better than I thought he would be and I was very surprised I handled anything he gave me.

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