Thursday 23 November 2017

Clinic/Lesson Organizing

I'm going to try to make some clinics happen up coast this year - wish me luck!

This post brought to you with blurry phone pics of us in our reflective gear.

I thought I'd outline my plan here and then hope that you'll all give me some input from either a participant or organizer perspective. I'd really like to make this work and hope to set it up as a monthly thing.
I think the reflective flagging tape in her tail really makes us legit, lol

Background/things worth noting:

-Hometown has plenty of horses, but very little coaching, and very, very, few competitive riders.

-I'd say there are more western than english riders.

-There used to be regular clinics with different coaches, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside.

-There's a large outdoor arena, with kitchen and washroom facilities that we can rent. Ditto an indoor arena, same story. Would add $20 per person per day for cost.

-I'm just inviting my regular coach, EC to come up there to teach. She's got a good reputation locally, and a very impressive resume. (although it's eventing and dressage based, not western)

-She'll teach for her normal lesson cost, plus transportation (ferry/gas). She'll stay with me, so no cost there. We're looking at about $75 for a private lesson that way (cost @ her barn is $60). Booking a facility here would add to the $75 base cost.
But that canter!! She felt a bit flat and quick tonite but all the pics look not too bad still! Visible improvement!

My plan for now:

I need to keep this low risk and easy to set up for now!

So, rather than a clinic format, I think for now I'd like to just advertise in advance of when she's going to be the area, and then just book lesson times for people. EC can just travel to them on the day to the place of their choosing. This saves me being on the hook for arena booking fees should this not work out. It also saves me a bunch of organizing.

As far as payment goes, I think I'll also just leave that to the individual to pay directly to EC on the day. Again, keep it simple.

Auditing is free, and allowed if the person taking the lesson is good with it.


To make this 'a thing' if numbers are tight, I could potentially book myself an extra lesson/cover a bit of any shortfall once in a while. Is it better to do that to establish this as a regular, predictable lesson schedule every month, or do I just cancel in advance if numbers are tight? Part of me says cancel, and reschedule, the other part of me says it's better to be consistent so people can reliably plan to book a lesson each month. I don't want to fall into the pattern of people being reluctant to commit until the last minute when they're sure the clinic is a go.

Any ideas for what I could do to attract some of the "western" or "trail riding" crowd?

Should I organize some kind of pub night or dinner get together the night before?

Look, it's another uphill canter pic! Proof EC is magical and worth every penny :)



  1. These things are not easy to organize. Here is what I would try: send out an email and/or FB notice that you are planning to have EC come every month (or whatever the schedule is). I would put in the cost and what you were thinking- like EC would travel to their location (within a certain distance) or they could haul in to your place (if that is possible). Cost would be $75 lesson. Tell them how many spots are available and if semi-private is an option.

    To get the Western people is a bit tougher. If any are interested in Western Dressage that would work. Some may want to try jumping anyway.

    I would have in my head what the minimum is that will make this work for EC and go from there.

    1. I posted exactly what you suggested to Facebook, and as of today, already have 6 people (need 5 to make it a go). So,yay! Surprisingly, 2 of the 6 are western/trail riding people I know, so fingers crossed, word of mouth might help if they have good reviews of their lesson.

  2. set up EC with paypal payments, it is easy, Sally uses it. That way you arent on the hook for payments. I think the price is fine it is near what we pay for lessons here. I think set up an online doodle or something to see who is interested so you can plan it out if you want! Good luck!

    1. She's good with PayPal and e-Transfer, great idea! Yes I really don't want to be on the hook for payment!

  3. Wishing you luck in the organization! Sometimes ppl can be so hard to get on board with stuff and drop out at the last minute, which can complicate the idea of riders paying EC directs (unless they are required to do so in advance). It could be great tho! Sometimes it feels like a hassle getting all these moving parts in order but it's usually worth it!!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! Fingers crossed ppl are on their best behaviour this once!

  4. This sounds so similar to my situation!

    The clinics I arrange with my trainer are also $75 + arena fee, I also live in a more western area with very few competitive riders, Sandra also stays at my house to limit costs. Here are some thoughts on my experience that may help you:

    - I also had the thought that it would just take a few clinics to get the ball rolling and then they would get easier to fill, so I signed up for more lessons myself to start to make it worth Sandra's time to come down, however I have held 4 clinics over the last year and while I've been able to meet Sandra's minimum that makes the trip worth her time, I still haven't been able to fill a single one which sucks
    - I organize mine as a clinic format, mostly because I want S to keep coming and it makes her life a lot easier if I have everyone scheduled for the same location and she just shows up, teaches, and then gets one lump sum payment from me at the end. That said, this does make my job tougher, but we want to keep our trainers happy!
    - In the clinic write-ups, I highlight S's experience with horse physio and western dressage to make her a appeal to a wider demographic, I also one on one talk to people I know who are on the fence and explain her positive teaching style (some non-dressage people seem to have a view that dressage trainers will yell at them and make them feel bad about their riding), doing this has helped me get a few more clinic participants
    - don't consider someone confirmed until you have their money. I get people to pay when they sign up, but I have been flexible in some cases where a rider tells me they need to wait for their paycheque, etc., and in more than half of those cases they have cancelled last minute and burned me. Also it has happened multiple times that people tell me to put their name down for the next clinic well in advance, but then they change their mind a few weeks out when I go to confirm and collect payment.
    - My clinics always go Saturday and Sunday, we generally go out for supper Saturday night with anyone from the clinic who wants to come. These suppers are so much fun and have really helped dressage people in the area to get to know each other better, I highly recommend it! (Also I pay for S's supper and it means I don't have to cook after a long clinic day)
    - if you provide food or drinks during the clinic, make sure to add a couple bucks onto total cost of rides, food may seem cheap but the out-of-pocket expenses add up if you don't recoup them
    - do your arenas charge per person or per day? In my area I have to book them per day at a flat rate cost. At first I divided the arena fees by 10 people (max number S can teach in a day), but then I had to pick up the extra myself if we had less than 10. One clinic this added up to over $120 extra for myself which really sucked so I found a cheaper arena and now divide the cost by 7 or 8 instead of 10. The per day arena booking is also a big reason I organize as a clinic instead of just coordinating lesson times, so if your place charges per person that is a lot easier and gives you more flexibility.

    I know some of this sounds really negative, and I don't mean it to. Overall me and a few of the people around here have really benefited from these clinics and it led me to be able to have the show here and all the rest. However, our core group of people is just too small, if even one or two regulars can't do the clinic it really impacts whether I have to cancel or not, and I'm always scrambling to find more people to sign up.

    Good luck!

    1. The arena thing is the trickiest part for me. There are two main horsey areas and a facility in each that is club/community based and accessible to everyone. In normal circumstances, no booking required, no fees, we all just drop in and share. You can book privately by the hour or day if you choose. So that's cool. BUT all have different rules, and none are perfect for everyone (ie the indoor arena rules do not allow jumping, some dressage folks dislike the footing in the one outdoor). It is possible to book any of the arenas for the day privately, but that gets pricey. So, that's my reasoning at this point to let people choose the place that works best for their lesson goals, book it privately for their hour if they wish, and she'll meet them there.
      The money thing is worrying. Thanks for the input - much appreciated!
      I need to do a better job with highlighting her teaching abilities, and less with the credentials and accolades. You're right, I think those are intimidating to some, and not at all representative of who she is or how she teaches! I like the western dressage idea - she's actually in to that and also locally notorious for bringing her dressage horse (in dressage tack, of course!) and cleaning up in western games :)

  5. Good lord, she looks SO powerful in her canter.

    In re: the clinic, you should have people put a deposit down ahead of time to secure their spots and have it be non-refundable unless they have a vet or drs note. So many people drop out at the last second and the last thing you need is to to be out $$.

    1. I LOVE her canter now. It's been so painful to get here, and we have so much work to still do, but every time that I ride or watch her canter now I am glad I put in the time. You'll remember, she literally could not canter at all 3 years ago!
      Ahhh, the money thing is freaking me out now. Literally no one that I've talked to has had good things to say about that.

  6. Not sure if anyone else has mentioned this but outside of offering it for auditors I wonder if EC would be ok with allowing people to come watch for free the first couple of times she teaches? It might encourage more people to take lessons if they could watch her teach lessons in person first. Other than that I have no experience and nothing to add but I wish you luck! It's always great to have more opportunities for lessons especially from someone that amazing!

    1. People are definitely allowed to come watch for free! The one thing I didn't think of is that some riders would rather not ride in front of an audience, so I'm hopefully going to be able to schedule them first or last in the day.

  7. What a great idea! I hope you find success in this endeavor. I wish I had more time to organize something here - we need it for sure.

    1. I thought I was keeping it simple, but yes, it's turning into a lot more time and energy to organize than I thought. It's way easier to just drive to the clinician and book your own lesson, but I hope the community benefits and we have more fun trying to organize a clinic.