A Colorful Overview of the David O'Connor Clinic, and a Note About Shushing (with video!)
|Emma and Alli dutifully listening to DOC's pre-ride lecture.|
When I invited the two of them out for dinner the night prior to the clinic, I had expected a nice time at a good restaurant. I did not expect an old friend of mine to crash the party in a hilariously awkward fashion. Thank god for
I mention this, because it would not be our last experience with crazy people and situations. (Are there magnets in our heads?)
I feel that here is a good place for a quick note about clinic etiquette: Most people audit a clinic to learn a little, or understand an instructor's style. That requires a certain amount of respectful quiet so all can listen and form their own opinions. Auditors should remain as quiet as possible to keep this learning environment, as well as to avoid disturbing the focus of those in the clinic. I do not suggest throwing a social hour party during a clinic. This is most certainly a very disrespectful thing to do.
|Dog attendees should also remain seen-but-not-heard, but can be as loudly cute as they want.|
Unfortunately, our Shusher did not understand this. In defense, DOC was rather hard to hear at times. His microphone stopped working at moments, and the delightful breeze would whisk away his voice. However, the meaning of his teaching remained clear when you considered his pre-ride lecture and watched his expressive hand gestures. (At one point, I described it as Clinic Sign Language.) In everyone else's defense, the shushing was done quite rudely and loudly. At one point we were directly shushed when we were clarifying among ourselves something DOC had said. That's extremely frustrating to an auditor trying to get the most out of her experience.
If you find that you must shush someone during a clinic (hey, it happens), the best way to do it is probably quietly and with a little kindness. "Hey guys, I can't quite hear over you. Do you mind?" Another possibility is to move closer to the action, which is what probably should have happened in this situation. Many auditors had moved into the ring to assist with jump crew and to hear all the nuggets of wisdom.
Beyond the crazy, we had a great time. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Emma and Alli, both at similar levels in eventing, become inspired by different sections of the clinic. Meanwhile, I kept applying things to dressage, which took some creative thinking in places. (More on that tomorrow)
When we moved out to XC, the fun really started.
|Getting a ride and some wisdom from the DOC himself. Also, Pig lookalike straight ahead!|
We had fun discussing which distances we'd prefer (Emma loves to find the base, I don't mind a flyer, and Alli demands the perfect approach), and watching the rider's try to affect their horse's gallop by simply changing their body position. DOC had explained he likes a "cruising position" similar to that of a jockey, but before the fence riders should come more upright in their upper bodies to signal to the horse there something ahead to prepare for. Some horses were quick to pick up on this, others required a bit more instruction.
|The DOC himself giving a more direct lesson in listening and balancing to a clinic member's horse.|
|Sonka-Dog oversees DOC.|
Finally, DOC moved the riders to a water complex. A very small bank a couple of strides from the water separated the green horses from the more experienced. DOC's quietly supportive and non-confrontational attitude toward greenies was very interesting to see in action. When a young horse would act apprehensive about the down bank, DOC encouraged the riders to maintain a light contact and allow the horse time to understand the situation. He did not allow these horses to leave the situation, asking instead for them to walk down the ramp or approach it again from the other side. By the end of the clinic, the baby event horses were cantering down the drop and launching right into the water with ears pricked and happy expressions on their faces. That was probably the coolest thing to see.
The whole clinic was a great learning experience! Plus, Emma, Alli, and I got to experience all kinds of strange and hilarious. What more could you ask for?