Wednesday, September 30, 2015


When I was a little girl, our local feed store had this sign posted:

I have remembered that quote throughout my life, and I'm always willing to pay a fair price. But, after running shows and clinics for a few years, I hear many people bitching about the cost. I think a lot of people don't really understand what goes into these types of events and why it's a fair price. So, I figure I'll give a breakdown of what actually goes into putting on a show or a clinic.


First off, we pay the clinician. Clinicians don't charge by the ride, they charge by the day and that's usually around $1000 a day.

Then, we pay the clinician's travel, hotel and other expenses. Those expenses depend on where the clinician comes from and how long they're staying. Domestic flights can be anywhere from $250 to $500, international flights start at $1000 for a round trip ticket (you do have to return your clinician to his or her home). Hotels are $100 a night. And then you still have to feed your clinician.

Oh! And then you have to pay for the venue. Maybe you get lucky and somebody offers up a suitable place for free, but usually the venue owner wants a fee or a few free rides.

And then you also have to pay for breakfast and lunch for all the auditors and clinic riders and grooms.

These are all "up front" costs. We spend this money before we even know if we're going to fill the clinic.

So, adding it all up, and assuming that the clinician is on the cheaper and geographically closer side of things and you get a free venue and a food fairy, that's:

$1000 for the clinician per day.
$250 for the flights.
$100 per night for the clinician's hotel. (That's an East Coast price. You can probably get cheaper hotels in Arkansas.)

That's $135 a ride if the clinician does 10 rides a day. Some only do 8, that's $169 a ride. That's for a "cheap" clinician. If we're getting into international flights and Olympians or SRS instructors, that price is going up!

And we haven't even factored in the cost of the venue, food and the amenities that people want for clinics.

Now, there are auditing fees, and that can help offset costs, but every auditor also ups our food bill. Generally speaking, the audit fees are where we pay for the amenities and potentially make a profit. In my club, audit fees pay for some of our members who couldn't otherwise afford it to ride in our Big Name clinics.

Bottom line: Clinics ain't cheap, we aren't gouging you on that price.


First, we pay the judge. That's usually about $300 for an "L", $350-400 for an "r", exponentially more for anything higher than that.

Each ribbon is about $2 apiece. The first place prizes are 5-$10.

The food is about $50 for the day, and that's if we cheap out and serve you muffins and hot dogs.

So, lets say we have 20 rides in a show (That's our minimum, if we have less we cancel the show) and we've got an "L" grad for the judge. That's:

$300 for the judge.
$40 for ribbons (we go to 6th place)
$50 for prizes (I'll assume 5 classes based on how my classes usually go, we split Jrs and Open)
$50 for food
$100 for the venue

That's a total cost of $27 per ride. We charge $25 per ride at our shows. Not gouging you there, either.

If we have more rides, then our profit does go up. But, it's paying for stuff like better prizes and fancier ribbons, our Youth Team going to Dressage For Kids with Lendon Gray and sponsoring cash prizes to our Adult Amateurs to pay for training. We aren't bathing in your cash while cackling maniacally. We'd like to, don't get me wrong, but that's just not in our budget.

Shit! I forgot to add in our insurance. We have to have insurance on all our shows and clinics, and I don't even know what that costs because it's not my job in the GMO.

And, I definitely didn't add in the amount of money we should be paying all the volunteers who make our shows and clinics happen. We'd be sunk without them, these events can't happen without our volunteers.

Bottom line: Quit yer bitchin'! A lot of hard work goes into these events, and we aren't motivated by money when we put them on. We want to bring great clinicians, shows, experiences and opportunities to our community, and our "profit" is when you have a good time and learn something. The price we charge is really just what it costs us to put on events of this caliber.

I suppose we could charge less, but quality is like oats....

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Well, We Got That Out Of The Way

Spider and I achieved a milestone last Sunday. I received my very first "0" on a movement.

In 20 years of showing horses in dressage, I have never gotten a 0, until last Sunday. 

This is also the first time I've ever received the comment, "rearing".
Here's what happens when you receive a "0" in a movement: The test just keeps going, the world keeps spinning, and life goes on. Huh. Didn't see that one coming.

The movement in question was only the fourth movement in the test, but it didn't ruin the whole test. Honestly, I didn't even know it was "0" until I got my results. It was supposed to have been a shoulder-in, and there was definitely some shoulder-in in between the rearing. I was too busy trying to get my all my horse's feet back on the ground to really worry about nit-picky details like scores, anyway. We did somewhat salvage the test, as evidenced by the scores for the rest. I mean, the 4s and 5s aren't great, but look at all those 6s, 7s and 8s!

This is actually what a normal test looks like on Spider. When we're good we're awesome, the rest of the time it's three steps from disaster.
So, what happened? 

Hell if I know.  It was a new venue, a show ground we had never been to before. Spider hates that. I probably should have realized something was amiss when Spider pranced sideways all the way to the warm up. But, I'm sort of immune to that behavior from Spider. Then we got into the warmup and everyone else immediately left, which should maybe have been another warning sign. I heard the word "fractious" used as they all left, but they were probably talking about someone else's horse, because Spider wasn't being fractious, he was just being Spider.

By the time we got to the actual arena, Spider was in full "Spider" mode. We did get through the whole test without being eliminated, and we ended up with a 54%. That's not bad for a test that includes a 0 and rearing. 

This is the judge's way of saying, "Your horse is a talented jerk and you're a pretty idiot".

Luckily, I had a friend there who doesn't know anything about dressage, or horses, and she cheered me up after my test by saying, "I really liked that jumpy thing he was doing. It looked really cool!"

And that's why you always take a non-horsey friend with you to shows, because they will think that jumpy thing you did was awesome!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Difficult Horses

They say you "tell a gelding, ask a stallion and discuss it with a mare." If it's Spider, you file a motion, present peer reviewed evidence, form a committee, and then defend yourself. 

I've always known this about him, he is very sensitive and far too smart for his own good. One barn owner, who didn't like him very much, described him as "needy and co-dependant". Another, who liked him better, would say "Everything has to be all about Spider". My trainer says, "You have to make him think it was his idea."

Spider does not trust easily. There are certain people he (randomly) decides he doesn't like and he's an absolute terror for them. I've had to stop using perfectly good farriers, saddlers, vets and barn help because Spider wouldn't let them near him. I've had to have the Technical Delegate follow me back to the trailer at shows because Spider wouldn't let the bit checker near him.  I've had him come completely unglued at shows and clinics because something on the property didn't meet his stringent expectations.

Spider requires a level of tact and sensitivity from his riders and handlers that would probably make Podhajsky himself swear. Anything less results in a fight, and a fight is not something you want to get into with Spider. He fights to win, and will try to win no matter the cost.

Some might call this a "difficult" personality, and I suppose it is. He doesn't feel difficult to me, partly because I know him and all his odd little quirks, and partly because he does trust me and puts up with more from me than he does from others. Plus, I'm a little difficult myself, so my perception might be a bit skewed.

In my last lesson, and in many other lessons, my trainer has made a point to say, "He is not a Schoolmaster!" He means that I have to ride every step, train every step, treat every movement like it's the first time Spider has ever done it. Spider is not a Schoolmaster who will do every movement on a shift of seat and a wish, and he never will be. That is not in his makeup, not in his personality. Spider has to be convinced of every step, but when he is convinced he is brilliant.

His moments of brilliance usually cause me to think that it's all my fault that he isn't always brilliant. I see the potential in him, and blame myself for not realizing his potential. "If I were a better rider, he would be a better horse." "My seat must be bad, my hands must be wrong."  "I'm too stiff, not stiff enough, too fat, too skinny, too out of shape." "If I just rode better, he would be better."

I think that's something a lot of dressage riders do, we blame ourselves for the horse's training problems without ever stopping to think about the horse underneath us. Maybe, just maybe, the problem isn't just with us. Maybe, just maybe, you are riding a difficult horse, a horse with a problem that transcends the best Classical Horsemanship Dogma. That is what I have in Spider.

That doesn't mean that I should abandon the Classical Horsemanship Dogma. I keep right at it, making sure that my riding is correct at all times. But now, when Spider resists, I don't automatically think, "I'm wrong". Instead, I think, "I'm riding a difficult horse" and I persevere. Spider will never be a Schoolmaster, but he will teach me tact, sensitivity, and confidence if I let him.


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