Concept Clinics: A different approach


I’ve been thinking for a while now about the process of learning. It could have something to do with the number of times trainers told me to do things that didn’t make sense to me. Sometimes threads would come together and I’d have a flash. Some things took years to dawn on me. Now that I’m the trainer, I try to do better connecting the dots.

Then I read about linear thinking (a sequential progression to a logical end)  versus non-linear or spherical thinking (connected thought in multiple areas, rather than one, based on the concept that there is more than one way to apply logic.) Non-linear is more creative and dimensional. It gives a rider more ways to understand–like having several doors into a barn instead of just one.

It’s a smarter way to train horses. As a professional, I depend on a toolbox brimming with techniques because horses are each sentient unique creatures and one size does not fit all. I notice the same thing is true of humans.

And ok, it happens to be the way my mind works, too. So I’ve applied that idea, and a few others I know about how people learn, and designed three clinics that explain what I’m thinking.

Concept Clinics give riders an opportunity to explore a related group of ideas with exercises designed to clarify and deepen the awareness and practice of fundamental principles of communication and training.

Calming Signals If you are standing next to your horse and he looks away, do you think he’s distracted or even disrespectful? When your horse yawns, is he sleepy or bored? If he moves slowly, is he lazy?   Calming Signals is a concept clinic on the ground. We’ll learn to read and respond to calming signals with special attention to comprehension (active listening, intention, and focus). It’s a different approach to haltering, leading exercises, and your body language. I’ll say breathe a few thousand times. We’ll spend the rest of the day doing in-hand horse agility, where the conversation is the most fun.

Dressage Rhymes with Massage. If your horse is young, sound, and has had all the advantages, it takes twenty minutes for the synovial fluid to warm his joints. And that same twenty minutes for you. Warm up is by far the most important part of the ride for strength and positive attitude. This is a relaxed and forward Concept Clinic, using warm-up methods designed to help a horse be physically and mentally responsive. We’ll start with exercises to systematically warm-up and connect your horse. Clinic includes how to ride circles, riding balanced transitions and a different approach to asking for bend, as well as the use of a neck-ring, long rein, and correct contact. This clinic makes young horses steadier, midlife horses stronger, and elder horses more supple.

Rhythm and Dance Clinic. Rhythm is the foundation of the Dressage training pyramid. Rhythmic movement promotes relaxation (walking, grazing, trotting) and bad reactions always include a loss of rhythm (spooking, bucking, bolting.) We’ll use ground pole exercises to balance transitions, with special focus on the use of seat and legs to encourage rhythm and alter stride within gaits, using half-halts and lengthenings. This clinic includes Riding to Music and finishes with a quadrille or group ride.

I’ll continue my traditional clinics, but I’m also offering Concept clinics. (More information) If you’re interested in hosting one, I’m happy to travel, and I also keep a list of barns looking to partner with other barns on clinics.

Right now, I’d appreciate your feedback on the idea. What would you think about this sort of event? Is there a topic that would really benefit from this approach? How do you think and learn?

Thank you, I appreciate your thoughts.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
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This blog is free, and it always will be. Free to read, but also free of ads because I turn away sponsorships and pay to keep ads off my site. I like to read a clean page and think you do too. If you appreciate the work I do, or if your horse does, consider making a donation.

Anna Blake

64 thoughts on “Concept Clinics: A different approach”

    • yes, this is a great idea…I think it is the progressive wave of the future for like-minded horse-people. I am a psychologist but mostly, with my horse, a student in training looking for trainer like you most of my adult life…while it took longer than I hoped for the “tide to turn” teaching horses and humans, I am thrilled it finally is.

      I wish I lived closer too…would be a regular student ant hostess.
      these sound wonderful…and the direction to go to continue to learn what the horses need us to know for the kind of relationship most of us want..perfect!

      • I appreciate your thoughts, Mary Ellen. A more compassionate approach has always existed, maybe it’s time has come. I hope so. (I also keep a list of interested riders in case I get booked in your state.)

    • I travel some, let me know where you are and I can keep you posted. Sometimes a group of barns has me come and then share me! 🙂

    • Put greater Washington DC area on your list – LOADS of barns in Maryland for sure . And if there are any readers from this are here – leave a comment .
      Thanks- Betsy Keesler- Charles County

      • I would love to attend a clinic in the Washington, DC, Maryland area. I’m from PA and have recently discovered Ana’s books which I am devouring. I’m looking for a host barn so I can get Ana out here on the East Coast. I don’t have an area or adequate parking at my place. Let me know if anyone has a venue and wants to partner. I’ll do all the arrangements.

    • That works for me, I say as we are both under snow. I like outdoors, so yes. Contact me on the link at the top of the page. Thank you, Darcy.

  1. I love this Anna! I started teaching in an online format last year and what you described about linear versus non-linear thinking is key. And boy is that hard to do in a written format! This year we hit our stride and the group is really doing well now that I’ve figured out how to embrace my non-linear way of thinking and responding to the online format. So I can tell you – folks are eating up and it’s helping them find their own way instead of trying to mimic my way.

    I love it! And would be happy to see if I could get a clinic organized in Grand Junction sometime.

    • Oh, would I love to have a sit-down with you! I think a lot of us are non-linear and that’s why traditional methods aren’t as effective as they can be. It’s certainly my approach writing in my blog and I’m thrilled it’s working for you. I’d also love to come to Grand Junction… I think you know a couple of folks there who would come… Thanks, Andrea. I look forward to hearing more about your experiences.

  2. I like the idea and would love to participate. Breathing and relaxing by the rider/handler is angst reducing for the horse. When you see how horses relax with Masterson, then transitioning to the rider on the horse seems it would be so powerful.

  3. I did Andrea Datz’s first 2 online clinics and I think you two definitely have to meet! I also think it might be a good idea to offer it as a series of sequential clinics, one building up to the next so you get a good foundation of understanding, i.e., everyone who wants to take the second clinic must have taken the first and so on. I kind-of-sort-of think this might be extra important for the competitive dressage riders I would hope you’d attract because I don’t think many in that group have much of a basic understanding of the horse as sentient being rather than horse-as- fulfilling-my-ambitions being. Wonderful idea, and if you can attract the competitive folks what an impact you could have!

    • I think that’s the part that gets in the way of progressing as a rider… it’s always the rider who has to change. If we think a horse will behave differently if we don’t do it first, well, it’s ugly. Thanks for you vote of confidence, Corey.

  4. Excellent! Wonderful, new, innovative ideas for clinics! It was ironic, as I read your blog, I remembered waaaay back in 1998 at my first (I almost hate to say it….) Parelli clinic, he used the terms linear thinking vs what he called, “Lateral thinking”. His concepts were exactly how you described non-linear thinking. Everybody thought he was nuts, but after 5 days at that clinic my mind was turned completely around in my thinking about horses and riding. Your clinic ideas are excellent concepts! Bring non-linear thinking to the forefront! You will improve not only humans, but life for their horses as well! You are a creative and talented woman, keep up the good work!

  5. As an elementary teacher, I am SO intrigued by this, Anna!
    The theory of learning that I embrace is constructivism. That theory proposes that students’ learning (&, I’ve come to find anyone’s learning) is based on 3 areas: what students come to the table with (their experiences up to now), peer interaction, and guided instruction by a qualified facilitator.
    Since horses are herd animals and operate from instinct, the first two are also crucial to our understanding of their learning. And, as riders, we are their facilitators to learning the discipline in which we ask them to ride.
    With no desire to understand the first two building blocks of their (& our) learning, how are we going to guide the instruction of our beloved riding partners?
    These clinics look like they address that very thing! Nice to see!
    I an no longer in a classroom. I started a fun, after school math enrichment program with original, old school math games (board, guessing, dice, etc). We build on this theory of learning for math through the use of games. It relaxes kids, and the math standards are imbedded in the games.
    It has been an amazing journey to see how students do construct what they learn using these 3 areas. I’d never want to be back in any overcrowded classroom again!

  6. What could possibly be better than MORE Anna Blake?! You have inviting ideas to help horses and their people. I hope to read clinic reports in your future blogs.

    • Hmmm, I thought about writing about clinics in the past but thought it would sound self-serving. I’ll consider it, thanks for the idea, Dawn.

  7. Any plans to hit the east coast in the future?! We’d love to have you! 😀
    xianleigh (@) earthlink (dot) net

  8. Sounds so great. I live in Arroyo Grande, Ca – on the coast 1/2 way between LA & SF.
    Please come visit & teach. I might be able to find a place for a clinic for you.
    Love your writing. Rich & oh so juicy!

  9. You have become an inspiration–and a link between a friend and I who swear you must listen in on our weekly conversations about riding.

    We are in New England–ever come this way (Western Connecticut to be precise!)

  10. Would love to see if I could organize something for you here out in Western CT. Been reading and loving your posts (I work in publishing and so adding in more reading is a real choice). My close friend and I share them and have decided that you are eavesdropping on our weekly “let’s hash out our rides” calls we have!

  11. Hi Anna. What a great idea. I am very interested in these clinics. I would host a small one but I only have a 66X120 outdoor, no sand. I can talk to a few barn owners in the area who have indoors. You know the weather in Michigan!!! Let me know if you are interested in coming this way!!

  12. This is a beautiful direction. Something I’ve been working on from a different angle, that of an equine assisted (human) coach. Evergreen State College in Olympia WA has adapted this to the college experience with great success since the 1960’s. It may work for some and not for others based on temperament, and you’ve acknowledged this by continuing to offer your regular classes. You are a constant inspiration!

    • Deb, I was thinking of Evergreen. I grew up in Olympia… I know it doesn’t suit everyone, but I think I might teach better this way. Thanks, Deb.

  13. There are a few of us (2-3) who don’t have our own horses but take riding lessons on school horses and are very interested in these clinics. Would you ever allow observers in a clinic?

    • Absolutely. Auditors are always welcome, the barn will probably charge a small fee, but it’s a great way to learn.

    • It just now dawned on me that I could be smart about this… (I know. I’ve always been better at horses than business or vacation.)Thanks, Lyn. I’m available December through April. 🙂

  14. Pingback: Calming Signals: The Dance of the Halter – Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog
  15. Just catching up here … I’m a few days behind. (It would be boring to be totally caught up all the time anyway . . . I’m staying with that.) If you already have others interested in New Mexico, please add me or if not, we can start a list! Central NM to be specific, in the East Mountains (east of Albuquerque). If others are already interested, I’m happy to help pull it together … we’re not that far from you. Thanks so much, Anna. i would learn so much more doing a clinic with you. Most of all, my horse would thank me forever!

  16. I have 7 horses at a wonderful trainer in DeKalb, Illinois. Check her out at Marie Hoffman’s Total Horse Method. I have read all of your books and believe we could all benefit from your thoughts. I would love to try to host something for you there. If not, I would like to attend anywhere in my area, think Chicago. What is the cost?
    Cheryl Baber
    [email protected]


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