Saturday, April 17, 2010

Henk van Bergen Clinic April 13-14

Riding in a clinic is not easy. Teaching a clinic is not easy. Typically, the clinician and the rider have never seen each other, so they have not developed an understanding of the other--for the clinician, that means not knowing where the student is in terms of their riding/learning journey, how solid (and compatible) the student's understanding of the basics is, what their fitness level is, etc. And for the student, the clinician's accent and terminology may be difficult to understand in a teaching situation, his/her methodology may be unlike their regular instructor's, and if the student works without an instructor they may be unused to listening to someone as they are riding. And then there is always the challenge of a clear understanding of the system (which I interpret as the Training Scale).
It seems, in this country (and I suspect, many others), that people see a horse/rider combination that is successful at a competition, and they want to jump on the clinic bandwagon with this person without really knowing if they are going to be a good clinician or not. Basing their quality as a clinician on their quality as a rider at a competition is not the best way to go about picking a clinician.

There are clinicians that may be very good (or great) riders or trainers, but may fall short as clinicians or instructors because when you add the necessity for human communication, they either don't have the desire to impart information to the human that is struggling to understand and apply the skills needed to communicate with the horse, or they can't.

Henk van Bergen is probably the best clinician I have ever come across. There are others that I have audited and admired (and might take a clinic-lesson from), but Henk is the culmination of all the good qualities I have seen in other clinicians. He talks about the system of riding and training (which is, of course, the training scale), and has the ability to not only focus in on the "priority"--he speaks of this a lot--himself, but also give the student the tools to focus on the correct principle at the level that each student rides. In other words, he will focus in on a particular fundamental aspect of the training scale, and suggest an exercise that respects the rider's and horse's level of training (whether it is training level or Grand Prix) that will improve the priority that he sees that the horse needs at that particular moment.

For those of you who haven't heard of Henk van Bergen, He is from Holland, became a certified riding instructor there in 1966, has coached the Dutch Dressage Team at the 1972 and 1992 Olympics, coached the Japanese Dressage Team at the 1988 Olympic Games, and coached private students at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, CA In 1988 he was also appointed the Dutch National rainer, and has coached the British National Young Riders Team for the last eight years. He sold his farm in Holland and "retired" last year from the British team, and now travels exclusively giving clinics in England, Spain, and the U.S. He was the featured presenter of the 2009 and 2010 Succeed/USDF FEI Level Dressage Trainers' Conference here in Florida.

At the risk of making him so popular that we can no longer book him to come to Palm City, Henk van Bergen is probably one of the most qualified and able clinicians I have ever had the privilege of riding with. I am SO happy that I will get the chance to ride with him on a regular basis in clinics, since he is planning to come to our area of Florida on a quarterly basis. Enjoy these pictures of Austin and me and I will be posting some of my recollections of the clinic as we go along.

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