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.
Guys. I think Alli and Emma are some of my favorite people. First of all, they aren't crazy internet murderers. Second, and more importantly, they are wickedly funny. A story...

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 Emma Natalie. That girl deserves some serious acting credit. She is an absolute must have in these sorts of situations. Meanwhile, we found out Allison is a downright pro at impromptu counseling sessions. (Allison: If that real estate job doesn't work out, I suggest psychiatry!)

I mention this, because it would not be our last experience with crazy people and situations. (Are there magnets in our heads?)

See, just moments after the clinic had begun, we discovered a dramatic addition to the auditing crew: The Militant Shusher. Maybe you've come in contact with this person in your own experiences, but I guarantee you this version was a prime example. We must have handled the situation with some amount of grace, as one of the other auditors came up to congratulate us on keeping our cool with The Shusher. It turns out the other auditor had been shushed before us, as well as several others. The Shusher had gone on to even shush riders and people in golf carts. At one point the Shushing Eye was turned on the clinic organizer!

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.
However, some people learn best by discussing a point with someone to try to understand it more. Or questioning someone on a quote they did not hear clearly. With horse people, there is also always going to be the commentary on the horses and riders ("Oh! That was really well done!" "Look at how much they've improved!" "Oops! Did it look like she lost the haunches to you?") These types of comments and exchanges are not disturbing when done at a proper volume (a whisper), and can improve the clinic experience for many.

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!
DOC started the Novice/Beginner Novice riders off over some easy gallop fences. He wanted them to make sure their horses were galloping in balance with their heads up, looking at the fence 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.
After the gallop fences, DOC moved the riders to more complicated complexes, starting with a rather steep hill with a log on top.
Sonka-Dog oversees DOC.
Position was key here, and some riders really got it. It seemed difficult for some to release their horses to use their bodies to balance, an issue DOC really focused on the whole day.

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?


  1. You perfectly captured the strange and hilarious side of our adventure! So glad you and Emma turned out not to be murderers.

  2. your slo-mo videos are amazing - i definitely need some of that in my life haha!! also excited to hear your dressage take on it all. meanwhile the militant shusher is getting blocked from my memory bc really who needs that noise?? lol anyways it was definitely an awesome time and i will be relating his little snippets of wisdom to my rides for a long time to come

  3. I love the videos! What fun! Next time I want to meet up with you gals too (Alli can attest, I'm not a serial killer either!)

  4. Sonka is way too distracting, you should have been kicked out

  5. Great videos and recap. I agree that Shusher probably needed to move closer to DOC if she was having such a hard time hearing things.

  6. Those videos are pretty much amazing (blog post about what you use and how you edit?)! Sounds like such a fun time!


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