From the time you are born, you begin learning. You learn from things you see around you, from the people around you, and from personal experiences. As you get older, you also learn from books and reading, and from teachers. When you decided to decide to be a competitor in an equine sport, whether that be a barrel racer, calf roper, or any of the other great rodeo sports, you should begin your learning process again and continue as long as you participate in that sport. In the words of the great horsemanship teacher, Richard Winters, “You can never learn too much….and clinics are a great way to continue learning.”
There are many clinics and schools for different equine sports across the nation today. Clinics are a great way to learn more about your sport from an experienced teacher. Whether you are a beginner or a veteran just wanting to fine tune, the concentrated attention you receive at a clinic can help you focus, identify problems, and become a better competitor. This is an opportunity to get personalized coaching from an experienced professional. Clinics also offer you the time to work on your horse in different arenas under different conditions.
For the beginner, attending a clinic is an excellent way to learn the sport correctly, rather than relying on trial and error. It will help prevent developing bad habits that will have to be either corrected later or stand in the way of improvements in your performance. For the more advanced students, clinics provide professional insight to continue to improve you and your horse’s performance.
When you start looking for the clinic you think would be best for you, look carefully. Choosing a clinic is basically selecting an instructor. Talk to other barrel racers who have attended a clinic you are considering. Did they feel they benefited from the experience? Would they recommend it to you?
Next, decide what results you want out of a clinic. You should have a goal. It might be as simple as, “I want to fix the problem my horse is having at the first barrel,” or “I want to take 5/10ths off of my time,” or you might just want to get your and your horse mentally and physically tuned to win.
The main thing is to pick out a clinic and set your goals. Remember to make your reservations well in advance. Some schools fill up quite quickly, so reserve your place in plenty of time. Remember to consider where you will be staying during the clinic. Are there hookups on location for your trailer’s sleeping quarters? Some clinics may have housing or dormitories available. If not, find what hotels are available nearby and make your reservations early.
Another good question to ask is, “Is there an extra charge for having someone accompany you to the clinic?” If not, arrange to have a friend or relative attend with you. Have your companion take notes as much during the clinic as possible, and video your runs (if allowed). It’s hard to remember everything you hear in a clinic. Bringing a companion makes sense for other reasons too. The second set of eyes and ears is invaluable. Often, the clinic participant absorbs only the instructions that are aimed directly at him, while a spectator is able to benefit from the tips given to all the participants.
Once you have chosen you clinic, registered, and have made sleeping arrangements, you are still not ready. More preparation is in order to get the most out of your clinic. The following is a good checklist before attending a barrel clinic.
1. Have all equipment clean, repaired and ready for use.
2. Have your horse clean, healthy and conditioned to stand some concentrated work. The constant exercise and drills that will be done will be taxing on the horse. An out- of-shape horse will be subject to strains and soreness. Ask your vet to provide whatever health papers are needed for the states you will pass through on the way to the clinic or for the clinic’s requirements.
3. Bring the necessary feed and hay, and buckets for watering and feeding. It is also a good idea to bring a horse first-aid kit. Horses often need special attention (like rubdowns, liniment, etc.) due to the concentrated demands of the clinic.
4. Bring adequate clothing. Most clinics go on in spite of inclement weather. A raincoat is a must. If you are staying in a dorm or bunkhouse, bring bedding and sheets. A jacket is always a good idea. If it turns cold you can always wear multiple layers.
5. Get plenty of rest before hand. You want to be attentive and alert.
6. Prepare a list of questions about areas you need help with to discuss with the instructors.
7. Organize yourself so that you can give your attention to learning instead of trying to find misplaced items or do last minute preparations.
8. If you will be traveling from some distance away, you might consider arriving the day before the clinic in order to allow you and your horse time to rest. If you choose this option, be sure to notify the clinic officials and get their permission.
One of the most important steps in getting ready for a clinic is preparing your mind and attitude. You need to go to the clinic with an open mind. Be ready to try new things and be receptive to suggestions and criticism. Always remember, you are there to learn and take advantage of the opportunity to try new methods and equipment.
When you arrive at the clinic, check and find out where you are supposed to park, put your horse, etc. Make your horse’s care a priority. He is your partner at this clinic, so you want him to be comfortable and ready to work. He needs quality care and rest just as you do.
Find out the schedule so you will know when and where you are expected to be. If there is a schedule posted or handed out, take a photo of it with your phone. You are less likely to lose your phone than a paper schedule, so you will always have it with you. Enjoy the clinic and have fun, but keep in mind that you are there on business. You have paid to learn and you should learn everything you can. Get as much out of the clinic as possible.
Focus on what the instructors tell you. If you don’t understand something, ask again until it is explained in a way you can understand. You have paid your money to learn. If you don’t understand something and don’t ask questions, you are cheating yourself and your horse.
Arriving at a clinic is uncomfortable for some people. Someone new to the sport can easily be unnerved by the more experienced students and the trophy buckles, saddles and horse trailers they have won. Keep in mind that they are at the clinic for the same reason as you are. They are there because they need to learn, also. There will be beginners, intermediates, and experienced riders. Don’t let the other students intimidate you. They were once beginners too.
Even if the clinic you are attending allows you to bring more than one horse, we strongly advise against it. Part of most clinics is horsemanship, and you should work as thoroughly as possible with one horse at a clinic. The clinic is a concentrated time for you and your horse to learn together.
The end of clinic competitions are featured at most clinics, but remember… they are not a gauge of whether the clinic was a success. During the final competition you might not have the best time or score. Sometimes the horse is tired. More than likely the rider is tired, also, and a good performance at the end of the clinic just may not happen. If you know what you did wrong and how to correct it, though, the clinic was a success. You should take the new knowledge you have acquired during the clinic and apply it to what you do in the practice pen. Knowing how to go home and work it out will insure that the winning runs WILL be there in the future
Everybody can learn something to help them become a better competitor and be the winner that he or she wants to be. With any sport, you should never stop learning and improving.
R.E. and Martha Josey are beginning their 50th year of the longest running calf roping and barrel racing schools and clinics in the nation. There are at least 10 clinics and schools held at the Josey Ranch in Marshall, Texas, throughout the year, with at least 10 Team Josey Clinics across the nation yearly. If you would like to take advantage of the knowledge and experience from 50 years of World Champions training future champions by attending a Josey barrel racing or calf roping clinic or 7 day school, you can find the complete Josey Events Schedule at www.barrelracers.com.
Martha Josey personifies barrel racing for many people. She was the first and only cowgirl to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in four consecutive decades. She has the distinction of winning both the AQHA and WPRA World Championships in the same year. Her career has stretched, win-to-win, over four decades. For more information, visit BarrelRacers.com.
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 7