Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dressage Clinic Etiquette

The definition of a "dressage clinic" is a short-term opportunity to have an intense lesson or two from a trainer that you admire/respect who is not normally available to you.  This clinic should be in addition to your regular lessons with your regular trainer/instructor.  Ideally, it should recur several times per year, but it should NOT be the only help you get with your horse unless you are a successful trainer yourself (and if you are, you already know that you need regular help because no one can successfully train/maintain a horse on their own....even the top trainers in the world ride with someone--in most cases everyday, but that is a different topic).

A Host offers a clinic with a trainer/instructor for several reasons:
1. The trainer/instructor is a person who does not live in the immediate area, and is someone who the Host themselves would like to take a lesson(s) from, or already does take lessons from.
2. The Host would like to offset costs of their own education by bringing the clinician to their barn rather than travelling to the trainer's barn (often in another state, country or even continent)
3. The Host has a facility (or access to one) that is conducive to optimal training that other riders in the area may not have (a standard dressage arena with good footing, a covered arena, mirrors, lights, etc).

Right off the bat, let me dispel a myth--
In every single instance, the Host does not make money on the clinic, trust me.

The Host commits their time, energy, and money into getting the clinician there, which means paying at least some of the costs up front. Airplane travel, accommodations, transport costs, and food/drink for the clinician are NOT FREE. Further, the price that the clinician charges is a per day charge, not a per ride charge since they are giving up potential income from regular lessons at their own facility to be in your area.
Depending on the level of experience and popularity of the clinician the per day cost to the organizer for the clinic fee alone is typically between $800-2000.00.  And the clinician will only teach 8 hours per day, maximum.  So base price of a ride will be a minimum of $100.00, plus expenses (which vary widely, depending on the other costs listed).  All these indirect costs have to be included in the price of each ride, or the host loses money by subsidizing your ride.  Not only is that not fair, no one can afford to do that.

So, here is your Etiquette part:

If someone contacts you about riding in a clinic, get all the details from the beginning:
     The date of the clinic
     The name and bio of the clinician (if you don't already work with them)
     The details of the lessons (private, semi-private, work in hand, clinician rides your horse, longe
                     lesson for you, etc.)
     The price of a ride
     The price of auditing
     The price of stabling
     The deadline for accepting/declining
     Date of deposit
     Date of final payment
     Details about refunds, filling rides, waiting lists, auditing, videoing, concessions onsite, and
              anything else you can think of that will make your ride live up to your expectations

The second you accept an invitation to ride, you accept responsibility for payment in full.
If the host is pre-planning, meaning she is accepting tentative commitments prior to reserving the dates for the clinician, then she may accept a deposit, refundable up to the point that she actually reserves the dates and makes travel arrangements for the clinician.
If a deposit is required, make sure you send it within 24 hours of oral acceptance of the invitation.  Before you accept the invitation, make sure you understand the terms of the deposit (when the date will be confirmed, and the terms of refund, if any)
If the date is set already, and you confirm your intent to ride by any form (orally, email, phone, etc.), you are immediately responsible for full payment, and should mail or deliver the check within 24 hours.
If you should become unable to ride for any reason, you should contact the Host immediately, and ask if they have a waiting list.  If they do, let them know that you can't make it, and why, and ask them to contact their waiting list people to see if someone can ride in your place.  If this is successful, you should receive a refund (there may be a nominal fee to cover time spent processing your ride time and also replacing your ride).
If they have no one on the waiting list, then they may allow you to find someone to fill the ride.  Otherwise, you have to pay for the ride anyway.

If you are not willing to take this risk, do not sign up to ride in the clinic.  End of story.

Next up--etiquette when you arrive at the clinic

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