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Clinician Woes

Paul and I are experienced dressage clinicians and it is always difficult to figure out just what is the right number of rides to make a clinic viable.

In the past few years we have tried very hard to keep the fee schedule the same for our clinic hosts and our rate schedule has been based on a rather old fashioned method of price per ride with a minimum number of rides needed per day to make our trip and time worthwhile. We allow the host barn to add to our fees so they can make money too and often allow the barn to keep the auditor fees.

I was chatting with a high profile Olympic dressage rider who was giving a clinic in our WVH Ride with an Olympian series recently and we were discussing the dilemma. You want to be approachable for riders of all ages and levels and want to keep your prices fair for the experience you have to share. It was pointed out to me that working on a per ride basis with minimums does not incentivize the hosting barn to promote or push the clinic experience beyond their comfort zone. For example, if the barn has enough riders in their own barn to fill a clinic they may not broadband news of the clinic and spread the word. They may not even encourage auditors.

Perhaps this is fear on the host's part that their clientele may be swallowed up by a neighboring trainer who comes and sits in chairs, chats up other people present and even hands out their own business cards. This can and does happen I am sure. But as a trainer should you be scared your students will be siphoned off or instead should you use the clinic opportunity to bring new students into your own circle? It is as most things are, whether you see the glass half empty or half full and whether you are confident that the services you are providing outshine the competition.

My experienced Olympian friend suggested I adopt the method of most advanced competitors/trainers/clinicians and just charge a daily fee regardless of how many rides the barn books. This was explained as an incentive to the barn to provide as many rides as possible though it was also suggested that I put a cap on how many a day and what break times were required so we were not overburdened. 

Our clinics usually book 8-10 rides per day. Sometimes starting bright and early at 7a.m. and sometimes starting later and finishing early evening. More recently we have had a valued host cancel a clinic at the last minute as they could only garner 6 rides per day. I am not sure how much press was put into pushing the clinic as I didn't see any but regardless of what effort was made they decided to shelve the clinic which disappointed the 12 riders that had signed up. I was going to suggest they take another 24/48 hours and see if they could muster a few more but sadly did not get the chance to suggest it. Although we charge a mileage fee to cover our travel and expenses ( which of course it doesn't fully cover ), the longer distances in the U.S.A. versus Europe negatively impact the viability of a venue if they are far away from home base and they don't fill a clinic. For example, four hours of driving each way, meals along the way, meals during the visit, hotel costs if applicable etc. all add up. Plus gas, wear and tear on the vehicle etc. 

Conclusion: For clinics farther afield we will charge a daily rate in future. For clinics closer to home, say within a one to two hour drive we will continue to offer the per ride option.


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