While I myself have done lots of clinics, I recently attended a clinic with a bunch of my barn mates who had never done a clinic before, so a LOT of things came up with them that I never would have thought of beforehand. I'm actually in the process of writing an article on "What To Expect From Your First Clinic" :)
It sounds like you're good with the attire and turnout, be neat and tidy. Always carry a crop for jumping, even if you don't use it. Use whatever other equipment you usually use when you jump, spurs, breastplate, running martingale, etc. Do NOT come in draw reins/german martingale, etc.
Since you are traveling for the clinic, I would definitely arrive early and give time for your horse to chill and settle in. Bring water buckets just in case and some hay for your guy to nibble on. I would also make a point to give yourself time to watch a session or two with the clinician before you ride if possible, so you know what to expect. Get a feel of their teaching style, the exercises you are going to do, and what sort of things you will be working on. You'll feel more prepared knowing what's coming and what to expect.
Be tacked up and ready to enter the ring as soon as the group before you is done, and start warming up as you usually would at home. The clinician will usually observe the group for a short time before calling everyone over to chat. They will do introductions and ask a bit about you and your horse. Usually I like to say my name and my horses name and age, I like to say what level we've been showing if applicable, what level we are schooling, and then just a sentence or two on what I feel needs the most work (we need to work on pace and rhythm, he hangs his front legs, we have an oxer phobia, etc). I would also tell them that this your first clinic as well, some clinicians get excited when they have a "clinic virgin", haha. :)
Some clinicians will do some flat work or more of an organized warm up as a group, and some will get you right into jumping. Every clinic I've been to prefers everyone to stand out of the way and watch while someone is doing a course or exercise, or if the arena is large enough that you have room to walk around in a small circle without obstructing anyone and can still pay attention that would be fine as well.
As far as mental preparation beforehand try not to be too nervous. Clinics are fun and a great way to learn new exercises and techniques. The clinician may ask you to do things a different way, or things you haven't done before. As long as they're not asking you to do anything dangerous or way out of your comfort zone, I wouldn't be concerned. Basically the whole point of a clinic is to get a new perspective on you and your horse, try new things, and then from that you can take what works for you and your horse and keep using it, or store that information for down the road when you are riding a different horse or advance up the levels or whatever. The biggest thing is to keep an open mind, and be willing to give things 100%! Ask LOTS of questions! Definitely take advantage of the clinician's time, you've paid to be there, so make sure you get as much out of it as you can. Watch the other riders go, and listen and learn from what they do and what the clinician tells them. Stick around and watch the groups after you if you can, there is SO much to be gained from just watching and learning!
If the clinician asks to get on your horse, definitely let them! Not very many clinicians will ask to ride the horses, but in my experience it has been an incredible learning experience, and almost like an honor that they like your horse enough to get on! Most of the time they will explain what they're doing as they're doing it, whether it's on the flat and over fences, they may get to school the horse on something specific, or may just demonstrate something to the class. So if this happens definitely pay close attention, basically it's like getting a training ride for free with someone explaining everything as they go, definitely take advantage of I, it doesn't happen very often! :)
At the end of the session, that's the time to ask any other questions you have brewing around in your head, and the clinician will usually talk a moment with each rider to recap the things covered and anything else that they feel went well/needs improvement, etc. And THANK THEM, that's so important!
I LOVE clinics, and do many of them. You really get out of them what you put in, you have to be ready and willing to try new things and give it 100%! Lots of time you're not going to have that crazy amazing breakthrough with your horse, but sometimes you may! As long as you come away with some good work and some new things to try and work on afterwards, I would consider it a success. You're not always going to mesh with every coach or clinician, but you can learn something from everyone regardless. You don't gain anything if you don't go outside your safe little bubble and try new things:)
Wow, that turned into a novel! I hope this helps! :)
Last edited by albertaeventer; 02-21-2013 at 03:18 PM.