Thursday, December 20, 2012

Do You Have a Plan When You Ride/Train Your Horse?

Someone posted a question similar to this in one of the online groups I follow.  People have asked me this before, but as I mostly lurk on this particular group, I didn't add my two cents.  But many other group members did comment.
To paraphrase, most people said they start with a plan in mind, but let the horse dictate what actually happens.  As I read the the replies, it started to occur to me that I USED to take this tack, but not anymore.
Let me explain...
When I train a horse, I have a plan with several components.  I have the Master Plan, which is the Training Scale.  I also have the "Plan of Attack", which takes into consideration the overall picture of the horse--his conformation and his personality.  Different horse-types require different focuses of the training scale at different times in their training.  Those are my general goals.
Then I have more specific goals, based on the long term goals--such as, a general timeline for progression (usually month to month), and this part of the plan is the most flexible, even after the idea is set.  The reason is that I initiate this timeline on a "best-case scenario", which doesn't take into consideration any hiccups (lameness, sickness, unanticipated weaknesses that need more time at a certain point, etc.).  The timeline usually gets longer, as we take into account any interruption, unforseen circumstances, or slow-down in the training.
Then we have the benchmark plan.....that is specific points of progression (apart from the timeline), and is used for competition purposes. Such as, as the purpose and elements of "Training Level" get easy for the horse, we should already be flowing into the concepts of "First Level" (where impulsion is introduced), such as the lengthening of the trot and canter. Then as all the elements of First Level are becoming easier, begin to introduce the notion of collection through some steps of the shoulder-in and other more sophisticated lateral work, and so on.
And to answer the question of a daily plan, yes, I do have a plan for each ride.  And I expect to be able to execute the elements of my plan.  If the horse is dictating something other than I have planned on a regular basis, then I believe the failure is mine!
If I don't "get to" the elements of the plan I lay out for the day, I have to wonder--"is my plan unrealistic"? Or, "do I really understand the training scale"? Or, "am I skipping ahead of where my horse truly is in its training"?
I believe that if I am not able to execute my plan for the training session at least 98% of the time, then there is something wrong with the master plan, or of my execution of the master plan, plan of attack, or timeline (the big picture).  If you are not able to execute the daily plan, it is just a symptom of a bigger problem in your training.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Horse Hates Dressage

I hear this from time to time; mostly when I visit a boarding barn that has mixed disciplines.  I usually don't respond, but I think it is time to put my "official position" to paper.

No horse hates dressage. When someone claims that their horse hates dressage, they are telling me that:

A. They have no idea what dressage is
B. They are not applying the principles of dressage correctly, or
C. They are too lazy to learn to ride and train their horse properly.

Most of the time, quite honestly, I believe the reason is B.  I further believe that they don't do it on purpose.  The biggest reason that people don't apply the principles correctly, is that it is difficult to be as disciplined as you need to be every day in order to develop your horse into the best athlete he can be, no matter what specialty discipline you choose.
It takes a committed effort over a very long period of time to learn the principles of riding (let's not even call it dressage for a moment, since it applies to EVERY discipline--not just "dressage"), and it takes much perfect practice to become proficient in applying those principles dynamically and still maintain the logical progression that the horse needs.
So, it is not the horse that hates dressage.  It is that the person has not yet understood that DRESSAGE is the fundamental necessity of the horse/human partnership, no matter what purpose the horse serves the rider. Yes, it is difficult to develop the horse's muscles in a way that doesn't injure the horse or break him down prematurely, and sometimes the horse resists.  But he only resists in the same way that a person would resist having to do an intense workout at the gym.  If the rider understands how to push, encourage, cajole, and insist, the horse will develop the joy of fitness along the way.  Will he love every step?--no.  Neither do we.  Sometimes, it is very difficult, and the horse doesn't understand that becoming stronger and more ambidextrous will help him feel better and live longer.  We understand that for ourselves, because we are human and we have the gift of abstract thought.  Horses don't have that capacity, but they are naturally agreeable creatures, and if we train OURSELVES to understand and be able to apply the principles of dressage/riding, and we push hard, but not too hard, and set your horse up for success with the effort, your horse WILL like dressage. And your performance will reap the benefits, no matter what discipline you enjoy.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


I was perusing the news feed on my Google+ account this morning, and came across a post about the definition of Pseudoscience.  Of course, my mind raced past all the standard commercialization of television interruptions (er, commercials), right to, what else? Horses. Or should I say, Humans who are in the Horse Business.
To view the post, go to Google+ and search the hashtag #sciencesunday (Iwish I knew how to link it directly to this blog).  You will also be able to see it on my page (+Mary McGuire Smith), along with some other things that have been interesting to me.
Anyway, back to pseudoscience...
It is rampant in the horse training business, it is rampant in the horse lesson business, and it is rampant in the horse care/products business. 
Our challenge as professionals is to be the critical eye for our clients (both horse and human), and to ferret out the metaphysical science (or true science) from the pseudoscience; to advocate true science in every aspect of our business, and to educate our clients to the difference.
The easy path is the pseudoscience, and the danger is can go down the wrong path for quite a while before everything falls apart (and it will), and when it does, it is catastrophic for a living, breathing animal who looks to their human for their very existence.  It is a big responsibility we bear. Have you succombed to pseudoscience?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I Bought a Horse!

Okay, I know it has been a long time since I have paid attention to this blog, but I have an excuse this time.  It is the only excuse that is legitimate!  I bought a horse!
And this is not just any horse.  I bought a Friesian.  And not just any Friesian; a Friesian that is talented for Dressage!

I have actually owned him since April.  The way I found him and the circumstances surrounding the sale are a long story that I will tell later, I promise.  His registered name is Jelle, and he is a 9 year old gelding.  He was imported, although I am not sure of what year he arrived in the USA.  The people who I bought him from had never ridden before they bought him, and never took a lesson while they owned him.  Jelle got ridden (in a western saddle!) about 6-8 times over the course of the year in which they owned him, and was about 300 pounds overweight, and in terrible (fitness) shape!  He couldn't hold a canter for even 20m, and had no concept of being connected and round.

I have been training him for the last six months and bringing him back into fitness.  I also had to buy a saddle (a new County Perfection, of course!), and summer was a challenge for the black horse here in Florida (not to mention, for me, too)!  Thank goodness it wasn't as hot this summer as the past two!

So, I just wanted to introduce my boy.  He is a dream to ride, train, and just to be around.  He really is like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Price of Horses

"A horse, a horse; My Kingdom for a horse!"

Although King Richard's famous quote in the Shakespearean play is more about desperation than the actual price of a horse, the quote seems to embody our view of the modern-day price of horses.

The real-life, raw purchase price of a horse (with no parameters or filters set) varies from "free" to well over a million dollars (yes, for one horse).

But let me divulge some of the normal paramaters and costs for you, because I am sure you want to shoot me for giving you no information at all above, right?  Hold on to your seats......

I added up standard guidelines of the actual cost to "produce" a horse, because we have to have a basis for determining actual profit and loss.  Of course there are regional variations, but these are becoming more narrow in this economy.

Here is a "best-case" scenario of some of the costs if you are a person who breeds a mare, raises a baby, sells it and wants to break even.

Breeders, stop reading here, because if you read further, you will never breed another mare, run away screaming, and go panhandle on the interstate (it is more profitable and 'way less stressful, trust me).

And all you people who are complaining about what you have to pay for a horse, you are required to read all the way to the end...

The Raw Cost of Producing a Horse, broken out into ages:

Cost of Foal when it hits the ground (includes a portion of the purchase price of the mare <$10,000.00/8 foals>, stallion semen and regular breeding costs <$1800.00>, mare care for 18 months <$5591.00 includes 30 minutes of labor per day at $12.00 per hour>, vet care no emergencies, feet trimmed no shoes, etc. for both mare and baby)--


Cost of the foal bith to weaning at 6 months--  (includes feed, hay, shavings, feet trimmed, regular vet care, and mineral supplement, for both mare and baby)


Cost of foal birth to 3 years old--  (includes only baby at this point-- feed, hay, shavings, feet trimmed, 30 minutes of labor a day, biannual shots from vet and annual dentist) Note: no professional training has been included in this price, and labor is VERY conservative at 30 minutes per day.


Cost of horse, birth to 4 years old-- (above price, and with one year of training under saddle at $1500.00 per month, 2 schooling shows with trainer, and 4 rated shows with trainer)


$51,455.00 after just one year of training and 6 shows. In Dressage, the horse would typically still be in Training Level, with maybe a test or two at First Level for a very talented horse.  And $51,455.00 is just barely breaking even if everything has gone perfectly and there are no extraneous costs in four years. Yeah, right.
I want you all to consider something.  The above calculations are raw and technical, and do not take anything that is intangible into consideration, such as bloodlines, breed, talent, temperament, health, etc.  It assumes NO health issues or injury, and let's face it, what horse lives for four years and never has an emergency call from the vet?
If we paid for everything that is put into a horse, very few of us would be able to afford one.  All along the way, people are willing to lose money (the cold, hard cash kind), in order to be able to "afford" a horse.
No wonder the asking price for a 10 year old talented Grand Prix horse is over $250,000.00. You do the math.
But maybe these calculations will make you understand why there is so much variation in price in horses.  When it comes time to sell your horse, the price is not generated by how much you have spent, but rather, what the market will bear for YOUR horse, with his particular set of circumstances at that point in his life.  I think with this in mind, buyers may appreciate a breeder's perspective a little more.  
Now here is a bare-bones cost calculations, without taking some indirect costs into account (like mare depreciation, a lesser quality stallion, pasture only, feed just to keep minimum weight, owner administered shots, minimal trimming, no labor figured in, no training, no showing, etc.) 
Cost at birth-- $5205.00
Cost at weaning (3 months)--$5451.00
Cost at 3 years old-- $10,137.00
Again, that price is barebones, and doesn't really reflect the time and effort put in (everyone's time is worth SOMETHING!) And who would want an untouched 3 year old that has had substandard care for his entire short life, much less pay $10,000.00+ for it?
The bottom line is, that if you are getting a pleasant, healthy horse that is ride-able for less than $50,000.00 you are getting a bargain.  If you are getting a horse that has a good temperament, solid basic dressage training, has been shown, and has fairly good gaits for less than $50K, you are getting much, much more than you "paid for". 

Conversely, an ill-tempered, untalented or badly trained horse (or even a horse that is just not suited to the kind of riding you want to do) is worth LESS than nothing.  Because at best, it will cost you more money and give you no pleasure, and at worst, it can kill you.  I am not kidding.  I am not exaggerating.

If you are having trouble believing me, do some honest calculations of your own.  I didn't even include farm and pasture management and maintenance, insurance, taxes, or salary for the farm owner/breeder.

Both categories--buyers AND sellers also need to understand that a horse puchase is like a car purchase...fully 90% of us will never recoup our investment in dollars.  Horses generally DEPRECIATE much like a car does; quickly at first, levelling off after a while, and settling into a minimal selling price as the horse ages and is ridden.  And gas, oil and tune-ups (feed, hay, and training) are never recouped.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


There is an opportunity for us dressage riders that is being completely overlooked.  I hear so many people talking about all the dressage clinics that are being offered in our area, and how they "would" participate, if only they had the money (yes, riding in a clinic can be expensive).
Another thing I hear is that the person doesn't feel like they are "ready" to ride with a particular clinician.  I get that.
But what I don't get is that those same people who were lamenting about a lack of money (often $150-400.00 per ride), or lacking the expertise to ride in the clinic don't take advantage of the wonderful learning opportunity they would have by auditing (watching) the clinic.
I think the most well-attended clinic I have been to (auditing-wise) has had a grand total of about 15 auditors.
Talk about a missed opportunity!  Most clinics' auditing fee is between $15-25.00, and a lot of times includes a lunch!!  That is for all day!  And you get to take notes, and in a lot of clinics, you can talk with and ask questions of the clinician!!  That is a fraction of what it costs to ride for just 45 minutes in front of this instructor!  And you get 8 hours of instruction/lecture. And you don't have to worry about your horse, or transport, or anything can enjoy yourself, no stress...what could be better?
This is an incredible learning opportunity, and most people miss it.
We should be PACKING the clinics with auditors!  We, as riders, should audit every clinic that we don't ride in.
Why is this not happening? Can someone tell me, because I really want to know.  We have great clinicians come to our area of Florida (I know we are very lucky!) to give clinics at both private and public barns.  Big names such as Henk van Bergen and Kathy Connelly (both of whom I have actually ridden in clinics with), Jane Savoie, Betsy Steiner, Conrad Schumacher, Arthur Kottas (although not for a while), Marius Schreiner from the SRS, and many others from all over the world, some world leaders, and some lesser-knowns, but just as effective.
And every one of these clinics had just a spattering of auditors.
I am going to make it even more of a priority to audit the clinics that I don't ride in, to learn even more, to support the people who commit many hard hours of work to make these clinics happen, and to support my sport in my area.  Who else feels the way I do about this?  Please let me know your opinions.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Are You Serious?

People call me about lessons, training, and buying horses all the time.  I am constantly amazed at the array of calls, emails and inquiries. (thank you, thank you, and please, keep contacting!)

They range all the way from clueless people who call me up out of the phone book who want to "borrow your horse to take on a trail ride with some friends for the weekend" (seriously, it happened!  thank God that was only once), to breeders with amazing young horse prospects--started and unstarted--that want to put their horse in full training with me to compete on the Florida circuit and everything in between.

Each one of them, including the clueless people mentioned above, are very serious when they call me.

So what do I mean when I ask the question "Are you serious?"  I mean, what are your goals?  Why do you ride (or want to ride) horses?  And the most important question of all--

What are you willing to do to achieve your goal?

What are you willing to sacrifice?

What are you willing to change in your life to accommodate the time, money, and work that it takes to ride a horse (well)?

I have been riding, training, showing, breeding, (living and breathing) horses for almost my entire life.  I can answer the above questions with the only acceptable answer there really is:

I will do anything.  I will do whatever it takes.  I will give up anything.

And only when you are on my side of age, can you answer that as I have above.  If you are on the newer side of age (below 50, let's say), you can only answer in the prospective term:

I am willing to do anything.  I am willing to do whatever it takes.  I am willing to give up anything.

And then you will spend the rest of your life proving it.

Anything less will get you less.  How much less is directly related to what roadblocks you are willing to accept.

Students come to me with differing long-term goals-- to learn to ride, or to progress in their riding, or to be coached, or learn to train horses, or learn to teach others to ride horses.  In the beginning, I try to have them define what their goals are--short term and long term.  (I realize as I write this that I need to be more assertive about clearly defining these with them).

Everyone of my students think they are serious.  But are they?  Are you?  They ask me if they are talented enough, which is difficult to answer.  Many of them declare that they are talented, and want to be the best, so I get all excited and start asking them the questions:

How many times per week can you ride and take lessons? (once a week is NOT serious--5-6 times is)

When will you be ready to buy a horse? (the serious answer to this question depends on the rider, and the answer to the first question)

Are you willing to put your horse (or your prospective horse) into full training with me? (this doesn't, and shouldn't, mean that you can't ride your own horse, but the trainer has to be able to maintain a supporting role in keeping the horse tuned up for you--you are not a trainer)

How much time and money are you willing to invest in your horse's care--nutrition, athletic maintenance, shoeing, grooming, etc.? (an athlete is an athlete, and your athlete deserves the utmost standard of care)

How much time and money are you willing to invest in showing?  (whether it is you showing your horse, or your trainer, or a combination)

If you are not willing to commit to whatever it takes to answer the above questions in the affirmative (whatever it takes), then you are not serious.

Before you answer, "I can't afford it", and get all depressed, read on:

The most money my household has ever brought in has been a little over $80,000.00 in one year (gross receipts, combined income).  Many more years, the income has been much less--one year, there was less than $9,000.00.  So income is no excuse.  Where there is a will, there is a way.

Success has very little to do with talent or money, and has everything to do with grit and determination.  It has everything to do with clarity of purpose, persistence, single-mindedness, and quality experience.

Your success in riding (as well as any other endeavor on earth) absolutely depends on your commitment to excellent education, commitment to your horse and your trainer, and thousands of hours in the saddle and in the barn.

The only thing holding you back is you.  I don't want to hear "if only I had more money...if only I didn't have to work...if only I didn't have kids...if only my husband was more supportive....if only I didn't have a husband....if only I had a barn....if only I had a horse.....blah, blah, blah.  Those are all excuses!

You can and should find a great instructor (ask here in the comment box below, or email me for instructions!) among all the shysters out there (and there are TONS--beware!).

Take lessons, seriously.  Buy, trade, work for all the lessons you can possible take....ride at LEAST 4 days a week in lessons at first, and as you achieve your goals, purchase a horse if that makes sense and board it with your trainer.  Your trainer should ride your horse a LOT--how much depends on the horse, your own riding level at the moment, and your goals.

Ride, ride, ride--  I don't want to hear, "it's too hot, it's too cold, it's raining, I don't feel well, I have to go (insert anywhere), my kid is sick, my  husband is complaining about money, my husband says I spend too much time at the barn, my mom wants me to do chores, my boyfriend wants to go out tonight, blah, blah, blah".  Not acceptable.

Those are all excuses, and you need to decide what you will sacrifice--your horse? Your riding? Your success?  Don't blame it on the others in your life--YOU take control.   RIDE!

Never, ever stop taking lessons (and your lessons will get more expensive the more you learn....I pay $300.00 per 45 minute ride for my lessons, plus I have to trailer down to the facility, and pay for a stall, and give up the money I would make giving lessons that day--so you can see some of what you have to look forward to....  Riding well is expensive and insists on continuing education and experience, but there is no excuse for riding poorly.  To back off is to give up, and that cannot be any part of your genetic makeup.

If you want to ride, RIDE.  Find a great instructor (that is actually the hardest part--but remember, you have grit and determination, and will find a way, no matter what).  Find the money.  Find the time.  Find a way.  No excuses.

Go get yours.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Do You Own a Dressage Horse That You Want Trained/Shown?

I have an opening for one training horse in my barn in Vero Beach, FL.  If you have a quality dressage horse that you would like to have campaigned on the WEF Circuit, call me after visiting my website.  

I will speak with you about your candidate, his/her care, the specifics of the training and showing programs, and set up an evaluation with you.
Serious inquiries only, please.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Horse Buying

Is this a good time to buy a horse?  Lots of people are really excited about the prices they have seen in the horse classified websites, and at their neighborhood barns.  Horses that have been for sale for a while are getting their prices reduced, and you truly can find some bargains, but does this reflect a change in the market, or has it always been this way?  And more to the point, is it right for you?

I have always been able to find a bargain for my students and clients, but my version (and theirs) may be a bit different than those who are not experienced with buying horses (this is true for trainers/instructors as well as for students/clients).

So I believe the true price of horses has not changed in relation to the dollar:value ratio.  Good, healthy, well-trained horses still bring the same price they always have (that doesn't mean that I can't negotiate a much better price than you can), and unhealthy, ill-trained, untalented horses (even if they are all shiny on the outside) are still the cheap ones.

I believe that the truest bargain is the horse that is well-trained and well-maintained, healthy, honestly presented and reasonably priced.   It seems like that should be a given, but nothing could be further from the truth.

There is very little regulation in the sale of horses, and even less ability to recover loss.  Sellers vary from from crooked horse dealers to honest horse dealers, to knowledgeable trainers/instructors to bad instructors/trainers, to backyard owners to people who have no business having a horse or an animal of any kind.  And you cannot pick out which are which even in a lineup.  It doesn't matter whether the seller is dishonest intentionally, or out of ignorance or being barn-blind---a lie is a lie.  Can you tell when someone is lying to you, or withholding truth?  Even if they think it is the truth?  Are you willing to pay for it?

That is where your trainer/instructor comes in.  They know your level of experience, proficiency in handling/riding, your knowledge of costs, and where/how the prospective horse will reside.

If your instructor is very experienced, and with a good and well-known reputation in the horse industry, they can find real bargains for you in every reasonable price range.  But the definition of a bargain changes with each client, and with each horse.  Good instructors/trainers know this, too.

A good instructor/trainer will guide you in the horse-buying experience.  They will NOT pressure you into buying a horse.  They may suggest that you are ready for one based on their regular work with you on their own school horses, but a red flag should go up if they start with the pressure tactics.  When you are ready to buy is ultimately up to you and no one else!

In fact, a good instructor will probably counsel you to proceed cautiously if you bring up the subject of horse-purchase.  A good instructor will sit down with you and discuss your current level of proficiency in riding (and especially your proficiency in horsemanship, stable management, etc.), your cost commitment, and your time commitment, as well as other indirect aspects of horse ownership.  There is a lot to cover!  If they don't discuss this with you, more red flags should go up for you!  Horses live into their twenties, and many times beyond that, and you need to know what you are in for!  Don't expect your trainer to pussyfoot around!  If they don't scare you, they haven't told you the truth!  You have to really want this, even after discussing all the ins and outs.

If you are fully aware of what you are getting yourself into (and it coincides with your personal goals), you should put yourself into your trainer's hands.  Allow him/her to represent you fully in the transaction, and pay him/her accordingly!  It is cheaper in the long run (and many times, even in the short run).

What you should pay your trainer varies widely.  An industry standard is 10% of the purchase price of the horse, plus any expenses incurred in the search (phone bills, gas, meals while travelling, airfare if applicable, advertising if applicable, etc.).  This is in addition to the purchase price of the horse!  But again, this is absolutely worth the price.  You should never, ever go horse shopping without your professional!

There are other formulas for compensation, but make sure that the terms are clear and in writing before any work is done on your behalf!

If you don't have a trainer/instructor whom you are currently working with and trust, do not even look for a horse right now!  Find yourself a professional, experienced, qualified instructor and start taking lessons first.  Give it some time, make sure YOU have the skills necessary to own a horse (you must acquire these skills even if the horse will be boarded), and then when you have a good working relationship with the instructor, let him/her find the horse of your dreams.

That way, it has the best chance of succeeding, and not becoming your worst nightmare.

If you would like to contact me about this or any other horse-related issue, please email me at  or visit my website at

Next up---reasonable expectations when purchasing a horse.......

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Continuing the Dressage Clinic Etiquette

There are a lot of variables in clinics, which can make defining the etiquette on the day of the clinic a bit difficult.

But here are some standards:

If you are riding--

You and your horse should be in top shape, able to execute a 45 minute rigorous workout.  Please don't show up out of shape, or out of condition.

Of course, your horse should have his coggins test and shots up to date, his teeth floated, and his hooves/shoes done within 3 weeks prior to the clinic.

You and your horse must be groomed as if you are at a show.  You may or may not braid, but the horse should be clipped, bathed and groomed to his finest condition.

His tack should fit him well, be in good condition, and be clean and conditioned.  The bits should be clean and polished.  The saddle pads should be washed and sparkly clean.

You should be wearing an ASTM approved riding helmet, classy breeches, tall boots, a fitted shirt (short or long sleeves), belt, and gloves.  Everything should be clean and in good repair.  You should carry a regulation whip and wear spurs if your horse is used to them.

Determine well before your ride time whether the clinician wants to see you warm your horse up as part of the lesson, or whether you should warm up before the ride time.  Give yourself plenty of time.

Be in the arena on time.

Listen to the clinician.  Your ears are only open when your mouth is closed.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't give feedback, but be open-minded and try what the clinician tells you, even if it is a foreign concept.

That said, if the clinician asks you to do something that you fundamentally disagree with, or that you feel is not in the best interest of your horse, you MUST be your horse's advocate.  It is okay to refuse to do something that you do not feel comfortable with.  Explain to the clinician why you feel the way you do.  Chances are they will find another way to deal with an issue.

If you are auditing--

Pay the auditing fee as soon as you arrive.

Bring a chair.

Bring your own concessions (lunch is sometimes included in the audit fee, but don't assume--ask; and additional refreshments are almost always your responsibility).

Turn off your cellphone before you enter the clinic area.  If you must keep your phone on, at least turn it on vibrate, and GO OUTSIDE if you absolutely have to answer it.  Make sure that you are well out of earshot of the clinician, the rider, and the audience if you need to have a conversation on the phone.  And remember, if you are talking on the phone, you are not learning anything from the clinician, whom you have paid money to!

Enter the clinic area as quietly as possible if there is a lesson going on when you arrive.

Don't carry on a conversation with your fellow audience members.  Not only are you not learning, you are preventing those around you from hearing as well.

Don't ask questions or interrupt the clinician unless the format is specifically including the audience (this type of clinic is usually called a "symposium").  It is okay to talk with the clinician in between rides if there is time and the opportunity.

When you leave, make sure you clean up your space and leave it better than it was before you got there.

Can anyone think of anything else?

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

Sunday, January 8, 2012

To Sell, Or To Trade--That Is The Question

 This is Donna Dora.  She is my eight year old (April, 2003) registered Oldenburg GOV broodmare. 
I was planning to breed her to Voice this season, but then I started thinking about how long it would take to get any offspring she might produce under saddle and to the Grand Prix. Never mind all the potential risk of illness, injury, etc. along the way in breeding and raising a foal.
At first, I though I would sell her outright, but I wasn't sure what her pricepoint should be.
Then, I developed the much more appealing idea of offering her in trade for a young warmblood prospect who is already under saddle that I can start showing this year on the Wellington Winter Equestrian Festival circuit.
So I put her on, and I have been very pleased by the number of breeders who have shown interest.
I have an appointment to try out a fabulous five year old gelding in Ocala tomorrow. He has very similar bloodlines to Dora, and the video that I saw shows that he has very good gaits--very competitive on this international caliber show circuit.  The owner's facility is set up very similar to mine, so the transition for each horse will be easy, and she is right down the road from the Breeding Station that I would choose to breed Dora at anyway. I am very excited!  I will post the results as soon as I can!