View Full Version : Clinic report: Eric Smiley at Waredaca

Jun. 9, 2011, 03:53 PM
Thought I'd post this in case anybody has the opportunity to work with him.

He did a three day clinic; 2 person dressage schools on day one, small group SJ day 2, small group XC day 3.

It was STUPID hot and sticky the whole time, and he was remarkably cheerful and energetic despite truly crushing conditions.

I loved this clinic. He has a very clear program/framework for teaching, which he conveys in an articulate and understandable way. He listens when you talk about your horse (I had a terrible crash in SJ last year and have been sorting myself out ever since, and he really took time to hear what had happened and think about it -- and we were therefore able to put both jump days in context).

He did not overface anyone that I saw (I watched a bit of other sessions), but did challenge you -- mostly in the way you _THINK_ about your horse or your problems. Not a "jack the fence" up kind of challenge.

He was kind and funny, but conveyed absolute command of his subject matter at all times.

On a personal note, I think I had a real breakthrough in how to think about our SJ issue (and the crash itself, which has been a bit mysterious for me). I have a new way of thinking about the problem and am actually excited to work on it, rather than dreading it. This wasn't some technical fix as much as a way of "getting into the horse's mind".

Anyway, I highly recommend working with him, or auditing him, if you get the chance. The three day format was a big commitment of time and money but there is no question that it enabled him to work more deeply with us, and gave us a continuum of instruction -- and by the time we got to xc we were all very comfortable with him, not just arriving fresh and intimidated...

Jun. 9, 2011, 06:57 PM
I got to ride with him last fall and it was a really good clinic. He doesn't take excuses, but he clearly thinks about what you've said and watches what's happening - I got a bit of "shut up and ride" - but he can articulate what you need to be doing when you do 'shut up and ride". And it really worked.

I am missing him up here this summer b/c of work, and other prior commitments, but I will second that he knows what he's doing and a great teacher!

I'm glad you conquered your problem! Coming back after a crash is hard.

Dr. Doolittle
Jun. 9, 2011, 09:08 PM
DAMN, asterix, that has every earmark of a *rave review*! And makes me wish I had had a chance to work with him. :sigh:

I am delighted to hear that he was able to give you some useful tools--mental and training--that will help you with that "elephant in the room" which has been plaguing you since last year. That alone would be worth the price of admission. Breakthroughs? Icing on the cake...

I would have loved to have been able to audit! Your report left us wanting more ;)

(OT, I hope you got my e-mail response re: my student and the YEH; I sent it from my phone, and I am too electronically challenged to figure out whether I have actually "sent something from my phone via e-mail." Thanks for your generous help, as always.)

Jun. 10, 2011, 06:58 AM
We had a great time at the clinic - I agree with asterix that he has a very clear style of teaching and is very articulate. He understood my rather quirky horse well and was great about working with me to improve my ride on the horse, rather than changing his way of going. My only regret is that I didn't sign my baby up too, as it would've been a great experience for him too!

lucky dog farm
Jun. 10, 2011, 08:01 AM
I got to ride with him fall as well and had the BEST time with him. He understands how to get the best out your horse without scaring the pants off of the rider. It was a great time and I would do it again in a minute.

Jun. 10, 2011, 08:49 AM
Hey Dr, D, didn't get your note, but I assume she sorted herself out ...

He just gave me a different way to think about why my horse does what he does in stadium (look, look, look), and how to support him and give him more confidence (it's pretty simple -- don't punish him, give him a good ride and let him take the moment he needs). Obviously we can't go around jumping bigger fences until he has more consistent confidence, but at novice height this works just fine. Most importantly, it changes my thinking in a way that I think will enable me to better GIVE him the ride he needs. We'll see at Rubicon.

It also put into context the crash in a way that helps me think about avoiding the mental box he was in that day, rather than thinking that at any moment he might just freak out and crash.

And the icing on the cake was that when he saw him on XC, where the flipping pony is an ENTIRELY different animal, he said "I think this horse can jump anything you want to jump. You just need to help him keep the open, active mind he has out here in the ring."

Now, doing that is going to be a challenge, of course, but it's THAT kind of analysis and insight that was so refreshing.

We all got plenty of more nuts and bolts technical input as well, but for me this was what I needed most.

I guess I would say that unlike many clinicians -- where I would bring a horse who was moving up or to confirm skills -- this is a clinician to whom I would also bring a horse I was really having a problem with.

Jun. 10, 2011, 09:15 AM
Wow! Sounds fabulous!

Jun. 10, 2011, 12:49 PM
He does a clinic at my house every year (it's actually this upcoming week - if only I weren't currently 3,000 miles from home...) and he's the best!! Very straightforward, direct, no-nonsense approach. I tend to over think everything, so he's a perfect, refreshing change for me.

If you get a chance to ride with him, DO IT!! :)

Jun. 10, 2011, 03:55 PM
I think I am now putting a face and name to Asterix, as I believe from the description that I rode in her group! :D Her description of the improvement and approach to the issues she and her horse were having was perfect, and I agree that Eric was open to discussing the issues and helping, without trying to radically change things like some clinicians do.

He is very focused on simplicity and precision of language, which was refreshing to me as well. Everything was designed to provide building blocks from one day to the next, to result in a horse that is making good decisions and a rider who is supporting those decisions and allowing them to happen.

My young horse was very good, but just "bad" enough to be useful! He did have a couple of stops on XC (has NEVER stopped on XC before) but it did not surprise me, nor were they bad. He doesn't yet believe that he can jump from a shorter, more powerful stride (he doesn't really have that stride yet!) He wants to go either short but not powerful, or big, and when we asked him to go short and powerful, his decision was "can't." It was him not making a quick enough or correct decision. We just came around again, supported him again, and he made a better decision. Those decisions kept getting better throughout the session, and I was very pleased with his progress.

I got all embarrassed with everyone telling me how lovely my horse is and what potential he has... I guess I need to start believing it! He really is a nice horse, and I'm taking my time to allow him to develop at his own pace, rather than adhere to some pre-set time schedule (I did have plans for this season, but they're out the window at the moment, as he needs more time to develop and learn.)

Asterix, it was really fun to watch you work through the issues and come away with a new plan!

Jun. 10, 2011, 04:27 PM
Also (and I know I'm piping up again about a clinic I didn't even go to, but I just loooove Eric!) if you ever ride with him, the great thing is that if you ride with him AGAIN he'll remember you with an accuracy that is almost uncanny. He hasn't seen me ride since 2009 for a number of bad luck reasons, but I ran into him at Bramham last weekend and he immediately asked me about my horse (by name), my new horse (who he has never met but that I had told him about last time), and a number of very specific details about my riding and competitive goals that we'd discussed before. The man is good.

Jun. 10, 2011, 08:57 PM
After seeing this thread, I checked Eric Smiley's clinic schedule and saw there were several in NH/MA, where my two younger mares are for the summer.

I then alerted Glenbaer, and now she's planning to ride one of mine in the NH clinic. :)

So thanks, asterix, for bringing this to my attention. I've never ridden with ES but have watched him teach in Ireland and have seen him ride at Badminton. I much admire his style on both counts.

Jun. 10, 2011, 10:17 PM
JER, I hope and assume you won't be disappointed!

Colliemom, yes, that was me - I already knew who you were ;)

Your horse IS lovely and you should absolutely believe it!!!!!