Reducing Lessons

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Shows and training excerptHorse show season is in full swing. I don’t care if you’re of the dressage, event, hunter, jumper, or western world, competitions are not cheap. But this week the focus is on training, practicing, and preparing for shows so that they are worth spending the money on. Today’s riders have become incredibly dependent upon lessons and one-on-one time with a professional trainer. Lessons Ð particularly private Ð can be quite expensive when they start to add up, so why not cut back? Do you really need all the instruction you’re paying for, or can you get by with less and work more on your own?

Some alternatives to, say, private weekly lessons: Group lessons, Biweekly lessons, Audit or videotape your clinics and lessons to practice on your own, Group/educational activities with local clubs, 4-H, breed associations, etc., Check out Web-based training sites, Barter for lessons or offer to exercise other horses.

As riders cut back on lessons or become more independent, this will negatively affect trainers, right? Elizabeth Clarke, a Massachusetts equine lawyer and head of the Equine Business Institute offers suggestions not just for clients cutting back, but also for professionals who may need to get a bit more creative in their business and with what they offer:

“In this climate, trainers and stable owners need to stay alert and be aware of what clients are under financial or other stress. Be a part of the solution where you can, before a client Ôhits the wall’ and you lose them altogether, or worse yet, have an abandoned horse in your barn. Be willing to offer alternatives regarding how services are purchased. Discount lessons if students pay for a certain number up front Ð it puts cash in your pocket, and leaves some in theirs. Don’t pressure students to take more lessons than they can afford. Communication and approachability are key when clients are facing financial trouble. You want to work out a solution before they are totally stuck. Even if it means helping a client move to a lower cost provider, or figure out other ways to reduce their costs (and accordingly, your revenue), you’re much better off if it happens before they are unable to pay the bill for services you’ve already provided. Talk to clients who are even just a little late in paying and be proactive about limiting your exposure to their financial problems

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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