Big name clinicians – worthwhile?

There are a few really big name riders/trainers coming to our area this winter for clinics, and I’ve been giving them a bit of thought. I’ve only done one clinic before, way back in 2003ish with Phyllis Dawson. To be honest, I really got nothing out of it. I don’t remember a single thing about it except for her telling me how much she hated Waterford bits (what my horse at the time was going in, because she pulled like a freight train and the Waterford was magic). That experience put me off a bit.

freight train

But now Henry and I have jumped into this eventing thing with all 6 of our feet and I have actual goals that include possibly another level beyond the one we’re at. We also don’t get super frequent instruction over fences, and almost never have XC schools with a trainer present (if we’re counting, we’ve had a supervised XC school a grand total of twice) so maybe we would actually get some useful tidbits out of a weekend clinic. Of course, my devil’s advocate side says we’d probably get just as many useful tidbits from a weekend XC school with one of our other local trainers, and I have one planned in July. There’s still something kind of fun about the idea of riding with a big name and the possibility of gleaning a little extra wisdom from their wealth of experience.

The thing I’m stuck on is – are they really worth the money? By the time you factor in the cost of the clinic, the cost to the facility, the stall, the gas money, the hotel, etc etc it would probably cost me as much as a recognized event. That’s not astronomical, but it’s not chump change either, especially when your budget isn’t exactly overflowing with extra cash.

help us

I know that whether or not a two day clinic is really worthwhile depends a lot on who the clinician is, which has factored into my thought process as well. Of the ones that are coming down here, really only two interest me: Buck Davidson and Boyd Martin. From reading articles, clinic reviews, and watching videos, I’d probably lean more toward Buck (too bad because Boyd is dreamy AF and it’d be nice to stare at that for 3 days) but would need to look into both of them more.

I also have the possibility of clinicing with Charles de Kunffy at some point this year. Not as expensive as Buck or Boyd, but still not cheap for a 45 minute ride.

What do you think – are big name clinics worth the expense, or are you better off just using that money to take more lessons with your regular trainers?

37 thoughts on “Big name clinicians – worthwhile?

  1. I think it all depends on the actual person who is doing the clinic. Certain BNR have better feedback and reviews on their teaching style than others. My trainer has ridden with Boyd a number of times in clinics and lessons (as well as knows him personally), so if you’d like some inside info, feel free to email me.


  2. Great timing. Clayton Fredericks is coming to my area for a two-day clinic and I’m trying to decide if I should jump at the chance (we rarely get big-names here) even though we’re just baby beginners or if I should just focus on lessoning with local trainers until we’ve progressed enough to warrant such a clinic. Big names don’t always mean good trainers (as you experienced)

    I think if you’re at a high enough level (BN or above) – and you have the funds – clinicing with a big-namer would be like checking off a bucket list (albeit with the benefit of learning new things). Maybe someone can tell you their experience with clinicing with Boyd or Buck and let you know if it was worth it (FWIW, my non-horsey hubs would totally sign up for auditing a Boyd clinic – dreamy AND an accent!) We actually walked the Rolex xc course w/ Boyd and Allison Springer in a group and really enjoyed it and learned quite a bit.


  3. I’m a huge advocate of auditing clinics. If were you and decided not to go to any of those with a pony, I’d totally go audit if available. If nothing else, it will give you a better game plan for determining if you want to bring a horse next time.


  4. I think it really depends on the clinician and their teaching style. And in my opinion, if it’s a group lesson format, I would pass. I don’t think doing jumping exercises in a group does half as much as getting 45 mins or so of individual attention. If I’m going to pay that much for a clinic, I want to know what my issues are and what I need to do to fix them. I want homework. I want the information from the clinic to last me MONTHS afterwards! Plus being able to watch the other riders’ lessons and give them your full attention (i.e. watching when you’re not riding) is great and helpful too. Obviously for XC you’re usually going to be in a group, but for SJ or dressage, individual attention is best! Boyd and Buck are both good teachers, and all-around nice guys.


    1. I agree that it depends on the clinician and teaching style, and it also depends on you and your horse. When Hawley Bennett came to our barn there were some horse-rider pairs that got a TON of feedback, but they also had a TON to work on at that level, whether they realised it or not. I did hear from a few people that they felt like they didn’t get as much out of their time with HB because they didn’t get a ton of feedback. But that’s because they consistently rode the exercises well, and that was a double edged sword. The exercises were really valuable, I think, and HB did give everyone feedback, but if you were doing well she wasn’t necessarily PICKING on you, and there wasn’t time to challenge individual riders in the group setting.

      I replied to this comment specifically, though, because I disagree about the group setting. I think XC is way better done in small groups 2-3, 4 max) because the horses need time to walk back and repeat things etc. Stadium lessons of 2 are perfect for me because I get to watch the other rider and my horse gets a breathing break (and who am I kidding, so do I!). Group dressage lessons are essentially worthless to me. Once again though it’s all affect by who is in your group and how on their shit they are. Often I have noticed that one rider who needs a lot more help at that level gets it, and the other riders can suffer a little bit. Less so in a smaller lesson though.


  5. Personally, I’m not a big fan of clinics. The important part to look at is how the groups will be structured – If there are more than 3 or 4 to a group, you’re not likely to get much individual attention. I’ve ridden in a few clinics and audited a ton – if the groups are 5+ it is a LOT of standing around. In a two hour session, you may only get to jump through the exercises 3 or 4 times. In that case, Id get more out of a private lesson for a lot less money.


  6. I have very limited clinic experience, but Memorial Day Weekend was a great chance to clinic with 2 BNTs. Since Roger and I are a new partnership, I thought it was really interesting to see what they both thought of he and I together, and I found both clinics to be helpful in their own ways. The one guy was an OTTB specialist and the other one was a BNT in Massachusetts, so I felt very lucky to ride in front of them, even though I wasn’t riding my best. I think it depends on who is teaching and what you hope to get out of it, and obviously cost is a factor too. Besides, you never know what opportunities may come out of clinicing 🙂 To me, doing clinics with BNTs (or non-BNTs) is always worthwhile because you get a new set of eyes on you and your horse.


  7. I’ve ridden with BNTs who were awful and BNTs who are amazing. I had one who right off the bat, as you had happen, said something negative – that she hated my horse and that the horse didn’t have any talent (seriously?!). I absolutely resented that I had spent money on this woman. Meanwhile I’ve cliniced with Lucinda Green the past two years and love the way she inspires me to ride! She finds something positive in every rider and while she can be tough and very blunt, she really wants everyone to benefit from their time with her and criticized because she wants you to be a better, safer cross country rider. Two years in a row I heard a lot of the same things/concepts, but I usually photograph all the levels I’m not riding in – I get to hear the same concepts applied to the intermediate/prelim group as in the BN group to different effects, which is also super interesting and helpful.


  8. You can probably guess how I feel about this, since after taking lessons with Doug Payne I pretty much worship the ground he walks on… Regarding clinics though- my impending one with Clayton Fredericks my first ever *clinic* with a BNT, and because it puts such a strain on my wallet I definitely wanted to do my research (ie youtube stalking) before jumping on board. The advantage I hope to get from the clinic (vs one lesson) is that he will get a chance to see the whole picture- D/SJ/XC, and see what weaknesses transgress the disciplines and work to fix them. Also, I try to eek all my pennies out of auditing the other riders and bring a notebook with me (which so far I’ve noticed not many others do?) and learn from their mistakes/his feedback…

    I guess I’ll have a better opinion on this come August 3rd. But still, I suspect if you go into the clinic trying to learn and do all you can, you would get a ton out of it. (PS I also think Buck Davidson would be a great choice in a clinician)


  9. I’m not a fan of clinics. I don’t feel I get enough out of them. It’s a whirlwind group lesson so the focus isn’t on you, the clinician doesn’t know you or your horse. I just don’t find them helpful.
    Maybe one that runs the whole weekend would be different though.
    But personally I’d rather spend the money on extra lessons with my regular coach.


  10. I say go for it!!

    I think any time with a bnt that you respect it well worth it… It can’t hurt and you and Henry are bound to get something from it 🙂

    But that’s my 2 cents lol


  11. I’m going to be no help at all, because personally I’m not into clinics. I see the value, and certainly many equestrians I’ve spoken with and those here in blogland seem to really get a lot out of doing them, and I think that’s great. But… I don’t really think I’m experienced enough or able to change quickly enough to take full advantage of what a clinician offers.

    That said, I think you and Henry are great candidates for a clinic — both of you are really talented, well schooled and able to adjust really quickly from what I’ve seen (not that I’m any sort of expert).

    So… I guess that’s the SUPER LONG way of saying go for it!


  12. i’ve only ridden in one clinic – with a trainer (grant schneidman) that my own regular trainer has ridden with frequently and knows well. so i knew the lesson would jive with my current program and that i’d keep building on the concepts in my regular lessons.

    i think just as much as it depends on the clinician, it also depends on your goals. for instance, i’d like to do an xc clinic to learn more about strategy and reading terrain and understanding how to string different questions together and adjust the canter accordingly for each…

    tho in the interest of honesty – i’m also dazzled by pretty shiny things and want to try a couple more clinics just to see what it’s all about haha. so that side of me says go for it (and take lots of notes to tell us all about it haha)


  13. I have always enjoyed doing clinics and felt I was able to get things out of them. However, with a pretty green horse and that fact that I don’t ride a whole ton anymore, I probably won’t be signing up for a clinic anytime soon. Not to mention it is way out of my budget.

    However, there are definitely good clinicians and bad clinicians and I would definitely look into how good of a teacher any given person is before riding in a clinic. Some people are good at teaching, others are just good at riding. I agree you are at a place where a clinic would be very helpful. If it’s someone you are interested in riding with and you are able to go, I think it’s worth trying to go to. If you don’t like it, you don’t ever have to ride with them again.


  14. Different discipline, but I’ve ridden with a big AQHA trainer a few times in clinics and got a lot out of it. I think part of this is definitely due to the fact that you can have more people going at once when you’re just flatting vs jumping. I know for us, it was a matter of getting an opinion from a big name who knew what little details the big judges were looking for at the really high levels (headed to a World Show or something). Not sure how useful it would have been if we hadn’t been showing at that level, although I did pick up exercises I still use to this day.


  15. I went to a clinic with Jimmy Wofford in 2009. It was singlehandedly the best clinic of my life. I figured out a lot of things that weekend that improved my riding astronomically. I had a blast, Wofford was very insightful, and we jumped our first corner that weekend! Out of this world.

    That being said, I’ve definitely done clinics that were awful and not worth it. That was back in my Western days, but awful nonetheless. I think it depends completely on 1) who you’re riding with and 2) What you’re looking to get out of it.

    When I rode with Wofford I wanted a pro’s opinion on my mare and what I could do to ride her particular personality better, rather than try to change her. That’s what I got so it was worth it for me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It was AMAZING. He’s my eventing idol and I never thought he would come to Montana. I learned so much that clinic that has absolutely improved my riding. It was life changing!


  16. The right clinic can be totally worthwhile.

    Dressage clinics (in my area) tend to be private lessons for 30-45 minutes and as long as you mesh with the instructor, that can be fabulous. The intensity can be a really great compliment to regular lessons and mixing it up instructor-wise is like riding a different horse–it shows you your strengths and weaknesses.

    Jumping clinics tend to be in groups and that is really hit and miss. Really. Reaalllllly hit and miss. Like… if one horse in your group decides not to horse that day and instructor is on a tight schedule, then he/she just teaches that horse and the rest of you go occasionally with an absent minded “good”. On the other hand, if you snag a solid group with a good trainer, you can learn a ton in a very short time.

    TBH, there isn’t a jumping clinician I’ve ridden with that I’d say “so amazing, must do”. That said, I’m also REALLY gun shy about putting a green horse in a clinic setting because the wrong instructor can set us back months. Again. I’ll always audit a jump clinic before I sign up for them, particularly with the horse I have now.

    So whatever that comes out to.


  17. I actually strongly dislike doing clinics with the BNTs. In my experience they, at best, get up on their soap box and speak in vagueries about the future/current state of our sport, and at worst, make an example of you (which happened to me at a Bernie Traurig clinic, and I wanted to die). Not saying BNTs can’t help you, though. Having seen some big names in our area in both clinics and lessons, I think your money is better spent shipping out to a big name for a one-on-one lesson than paying for a whole weekend in a clinic with them, where they have an audience and an agenda.


  18. I am insanely blessed to live about 45 minutes from arguably the top eventing trainer in our country. We’re not really big on international competition in SA yet, but he’s shortlisted for the Rio Olympics and has won the SA Champs 15 times, so he’s pretty much the best we’ve got. I’ve lessoned with him twice, and absolutely loved it. Does he tell me many of the things my regular trainer tells me? Yeah. (But my regular trainer is freaking brilliant). Does he tell me new things and give me valuable insights? Absolutely.
    I also find that the top trainers are often the most humble and least likely to talk down on you compared to trainers competing at almost the same level as we are. They don’t seem to feel the need to push you down, possibly because you’re no threat to their prestige.


  19. If you have the chance to ride with de Kunffy DO IT.

    I audited a clinic of his last fall. At the end of the day I wished I had hauled in (3 1/2 hours away) to ride. There was a full gamut of rider experience and horse types. Every horse went much better by the end of their sessions, especially a young eventer and her ottb mare. Their ride was super inspiring. The riders that got the most out of it were the ones that listened. Open ears, open mind.

    Mr. de Kunffy is a consummate horseman – well worth whatever he charges.


  20. No, I don’t ride dressage anymore, but dressage clinics are totally worth it for the individualized attention–whether you or the clinician click or not, it’s bound to be instructive. Jumping clinics? I don’t know–they seem to run like group lessons and I’d probably just try to find video to watch what the trainer does to determine whether or not it’d be helpful. I’m toying with auditing the GM clinic here(ish) in October, but then I think, why? when there is SO MUCH video of GM clinics online for free. Plus all the books everybody has published. If I’m on a tight budget (which I am), and the cost of a clinic is about the cost of a show, I’m going to the show. If the Internet with all it’s free video didn’t exist, I’d probably feel very differently about it.


  21. I board very close to both of those riders — and I think based on what I know about you and Henry, I think you’d really like riding with Buck. he’s a fabulous teacher (he’s one of my trainer’s favorites) and I think he’ll push you both enough. I don’t doubt that Boyd is a good teacher, but I don’t hear the same takeaways after his clinics and lessons. A good way to see what people REALLY think about these riders as clinicians is todo a quick search on COTH eventing forum for reviews!


  22. Are you familiar with Barb Whitmire and Coyote Springs Farm in Seguin? I took some lessons from her when I lived in San Antonio and she has Joe Meyer give clinics at her farm on a semi-regular basis and it looks like Lainey Ashker is coming again next month. She had Mark Phillips earlier in the year as well.

    I think its kind of hit or miss when it comes to riding with the Big Names. Years ago I had had a stopping issue with my gelding and was really looking forward to riding with Linda Allen to get some help with fixing it, but my horse jumped great and we didn’t have any stops at all. I was thrilled to have had a few great rides, but kind of bummed to not get some help with the issue I was wanting to work on. Not Linda’s fault at all, but it kind of felt like an expensive pat on the back.

    On the opposite side, I loved riding with Thomas Ritter with my WB mare when she was green. We spent most of the lesson in walk with a little bit of trot and I learned a ton of tricks from him.

    I think for me, if I had the choice of spending money on a show or spending the same money on a clinic with a Big Name, I’m probably going to choose the clinic because of where Chloe and I are in our training. We are just barely jumping 2’6″ and not even close to being competitive in the USEF show ring at that level (if they even offer 2’6″s at that particular show) with her still being green over fences. I’d rather spend the money working on getting her more broke.


    1. Yeah, I know of the place. It’s mostly lower level stuff but some would work for me. I am admittedly not a LA fan. I can’t find much on Joe Meyer to tell whether or not he might be worth it, but I have seen her clinic list.


  23. I think that clinics are great experiences! You should sign up for them over going to a show. I am a hunter/jumper but it really blends into all disciplines. First, do some research and ask around about the clinician. Some big name riders aren’t very good teachers but they get asked to teach because of their riding ability. If you hear good things about the clinician then go sign up! A clinic might cost the same amount as a show but you will get SO much more out of a clinic with someone who really knows their stuff.
    Also, I find it interesting that you don’t normally school xc with a trainer! In the HJ world we are lost without our trainers ringside.


  24. I really think it depends on the rider and where you are in your training. For you and Henry I think you could benefit a lot from it. You are a confident capable rider and Henry is going well. I think it would be a great experience for you both. For me, my nerves get in the way. I have had some good clinics but I find extra lessons with my trainer are better for me 🙂


  25. I really think it depends on who the clinician is and where your level is. My barn does a George Morris clinic which yes I admit GM is amazing but I am not to the level to ride in front of him. We do have another clinic in the fall with a different trainer that I will be attending. As a kid every spring I went to a week long clinic with a trainer in Indiana that was a tremendous help to my riding. From your blog it seems like you an Henry are at the place in your riding that a good clinic would be useful. Good luck!


  26. I’ve paid for a lot of clinics over the years because we didn’t have a resident trainer in our area. Long story short, I’d go with saving that money for schooling shows or regular trainer lessons. I audit clinics and get as much, if not more from them for a minimal cost – after all, no horse to prep and ride so I can be there all weekend auditing if I like. The exception I can think of is if there was something really specific I needed help with – maybe another set of eyes might be worth the $, or if you’re attending a regular series of clinics. Even if a clinic goes really well, the one weekend wonder dust never seems to stick long term, at least for me.


  27. I feel really similarly about clinics. I’ve had some where I’m like WOW YES and some where I feel like I could have gotten better instruction from my own trainer for half the cost. To me, it’s so freaking hit or miss that it almost feels random when I choose them. I tend to do them instead of shows, like if I had planned on a show and didn’t get to do it. I have a clinic tentatively planned for August because there’s only one show I want to do in July and only one in August so I have extra money in the shows/clinics budget. Right now, not taking regular lessons lets me show/clinic more, if I had more money, I’d probably sink it into more regular lessons rather than more clinics.

    That being said, I’ve known a few people who have ridden with Boyd Martin and think he walks on water. And even if he doesn’t help you thaaat much, he is definitely nice to look at for a few days. I don’t know anything about Buck though AND I’m a dressage rider so I can’t help you too much in the which one to pick department.


  28. Personally, if I knew they were coming back to my area within a year or so, I would audit both instead of riding, and then ride with one or both the next time around. That approach has gotten me the most bang for my buck. However, if they’re not coming back anytime soon, I’d do the youtube and forum stalking to research which would get you your money’s worth, then ride in one and audit the other.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s