Lesson Business Critique

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Lesson Business Critique

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  • Horse english lesson business card
  • Tessa lawson horsemanship

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    09-17-2012, 05:49 PM
Lesson Business Critique

Forgive my newbie lack of knowledge about the forum, but this seemed to be the most appropriate place for my question.
I just started my business: Tessa Lawson Horsemanship. I teach horsemanship lessons to children and adults and my curriculum covers many aspects of horsemanship, not just riding. I teach about anatomy, psychology, tack, nutrition, etc. My mission is to build safe, responsible future horse owners.
My question is, does anyone out there have experience in this field that would be willing to give me advise, warnings, criticism, etc.
I have been teaching since 2008 and learned how to teach at Rawhide Ranch: a large summer camp geared toward western riding. I have audited a CHA clinic; I could not afford certification at the time however. I do plan on attending another CHA clinic in the spring and becoming certified. At the ranch, I worked my way up from knowing very little, to becoming one of 2 lead riding instructors for the beginner program and taught from 30 to 100 students each day, with class sizes averaging about 15 students but up to 25 students. I was in charge of assigning riders to horses, teaching class, and overseeing 3-5 assistants. I have since moved to Northern Ca and wanted to continue teaching. Financial difficulties forced me to sell my horse, so I have partnered up with the owner of a local facility. She teaches some lessons but focuses on taking tourists on trail rides in the redwoods. I ride her horses regularly, usually about 5 days a week, and I am continually pushing myself to learn more.
I charge $40 per hourly lesson and I give her $20 of that for using the horse.
I have a website, business cards, a business email, flyers at all the local feed and tack shops, a craigslist ad (where most of my business has come from). I have lesson plans and take home materials for my students. I keep detailed notes on each student and know exactly what I will be teaching at their next lesson.
I also invested in new, ASTM-SEI approved helmets, since the owner of the stables does not provide helmets (gasp, right?).
I only have access to western saddles, but would it behoove me to invest in english saddles as well? Would teaching english help me find more clients? Or should I focus on one discipline?
I have been going for about a month and a half and I have 6 regular students. I can accommodate about 20 students a week. One family just purchased $1000 in lessons upfront.
So, Basically my questions are
1) How can I find more students?
2) Should I teach english as well as western? (I am confident I can teach english)
3) Should I purchase Instructor liability insurance? (is the $750 a year really worth it?)
4) What else can I offer to make my business stand out?
5) Would it be bad form to contact other facilities to teach at different places? (The stables I teach at only have a round pen, no arena. I have to trailer horses to a local public arena to use one) I would also want to do this to accommodate clients' locations/reduce their drive time.

Thank you in advance for any help at all, and please don't be shy- I thrive on and welcome criticism in any form!
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    09-18-2012, 01:53 PM
If you intend to do this as a business, I would highly recommend the insurance. I dont' teach, but everyone I know that does, has this insurance. I've given a few random lessons , without insurance (only with a signed liability waiver) and my husband is very nervous about me doing this.

I think most trainers don't provide helmets. If the helmet is yours, and the rider has an accident for which the helmet did not provide enough protection, they may try to sue YOU. If you do provide helmets, be sure that this is written into the liability waiver that each and every student signs when they ride with you.

Riding only in a round pen would bore me after a while. Is there at lease a pasture you can ride in?

Can you , after a bit, create some kind of "show" or "gymkana" , so that your students have a goal to work toward? Young kids love this kind of competition , with ribbons awarded and all.

I can see it as good to have both Western and English tack available. But how do you do this, if you are using a variety of horses belonging to the owner? Or are they very limited in number (the horses you use), such that you can have an idea of saddle fit.?

You can also use videos to show exemplary riding.

Word of mouth is the best advertising. GEt on Facebook and get your clients to get you on their FB, too.
    09-18-2012, 03:02 PM
My suggestion is to teach what you are comfotable and knowledgeable in. Its better to be really good at one thing, than ok at a few things. Giving students lots of english skills and taking them to a show and watching them place is going to be fun for them and a huge confidence booster. This, in turn, will keep them under your training and instruction.

Students will accumulate with lots of time. Make flyers, post ads online, place an ad in the local news paper, etc. Word of mouth is the best way to add students, though. The more enjoyable you make their lessons, the more that they are going to talk about them, and suggest you to other people. Shows are also a great way to get your name out there.

In general, if a facility already had a trainer affiliated, then it would be rude to contact them. If they do not, then I don't personally think that it would be out of place.
Corporal and Tessa7707 like this.
    09-18-2012, 03:55 PM
1) How can I find more students?
Network. DH, DD and I are "whoring" ourselves out bc we have now published 2/40 books that he has been writing since the mid-1960's. We are using every available social network to advertise to everybody we know...even here! (I'm so NOT ashamed!!) =b
2) Should I teach english as well as western? (I am confident I can teach english)
Agree with above. Teach ONLY what you are very familiar with. You might fill a nitch in your area that nobody else teaches.
3) Should I purchase Instructor liability insurance? (is the $750 a year really worth it?)
You should have bought that yesterday, so do it today.
4) What else can I offer to make my business stand out?
Testimonials. Word of mouth still works best.
5) Would it be bad form to contact other facilities to teach at different places? (The stables I teach at only have a round pen, no arena. I have to trailer horses to a local public arena to use one) I would also want to do this to accommodate clients' locations/reduce their drive time.
Nope. Include your gas$ in your lesson price. I loved my riding academy but I never made any money at it. I DID cover my horse-keeping costs with it.
ONE MORE THING. If you can afford it, get certified to teach equitation. THAT will give you an edge.
Tessa7707 likes this.
    09-19-2012, 12:02 AM
Thank you guys for all the help!

Ok, Looks like I definitely need to get that insurance. My quote from Equisure was $750. Any other companies anyone else uses that they like or dislike? Is that a fair price?

Around here most people learn from a friend of a friend who has a horse, and there aren't many training barns where people can go to find quality lessons. If riding lessons in general are not very common around here, english lessons are even less common. At the levels I am teaching, and correct me if I am wrong, but the beginner basics are very similar in both english and western. My main differentiation in teaching would be teaching the two handed rein hold and the leading rein vs. the direct rein of opposition. Thumbs up, elbows in. Stirrups a little shorter. I am not trying to offend highly skilled english riders, so keep in mind I am teaching beginners for now.

When I get certified by the CHA in the spring I'm aiming for English Level 2 and Western Level 3.

The vast majority of my students have never been on a horse, or they went on a trail ride once on vacation.

So far, I think my students are having a lot of fun. One student on Saturday gave me a big ol' hug after her lesson (she's 11). I have had parents switch from other instructors to me and they say they appreciate my level of knowledge that their previous instructors didn't have. (one parent said 'I didn't know you could use your legs to ask a horse to turn!'. This parent OWNS 2 horses , and that is a prime example of how many horse people are in my area)

There isn't even a pasture as an option for another area to ride. Her pastures are steeply sloped. I do take students out on trail and will be trailering to a public indoor arena when the rainy season hits.

Thank you all for your tactful help!
    09-19-2012, 12:51 AM
TinyLiny: The owner of the stables has bred most of her own horses, and breeds for a very specific type of quarter horse. So, in general, a saddle that fits one will fit most of them. When using student-owned horses, should I expect them to have their own saddle?

I probably could create some sort of show. That's a great idea!

I do have a facebook page. I post pictures of students (with their permission of course) and they can post pictures too. I have posted funny horse pics or instructional videos by the CHA. I also talk to my students a LOT on facebook. They message me with questions, concerns, etc. and I always take the time to write them back.

ArrowAttack: We definitely do not have ANY english shows up here. The closest thing we have are annual rodeos and gymkhana. So maybe this is something I should become more educated on in order to fill that niche?
And thanks for the tip on contacting other facilities, that makes sense. I love the owner of the current barn (her horses are great too), it's just the facility itself.
    09-19-2012, 12:37 PM
I know it seems like a good opportunity to branch out into English riding in your area but I agree with the other posters....teach what you know. You are in effect taking advantage of a persons lack of knowledge by assuming you can teach a particular style that you are not familiar with even if you are only targeting beginners. A beginner wants to move up to advanced and if you start the foundation wrong that will effect their ability later on.

Stick with what you know and maybe find out about the other facilities and instructors in your area and see what you can offer that they don't. You seem kind, fun, knowledgeable, and engaging. Stick to that. Any business takes time to grow. Why not offer an after school camp where kids can go after school to wait for their parents? Also contact girl and boy scout troops because they have badges for horse riding and horsemanship.
Tessa7707 likes this.
    09-19-2012, 12:48 PM
Thanks uflrh9y! That was super helpful. I really like the idea of an after-school program, I just wonder how they would get to the lesson?

I definitely like the idea of the boy/girls scout troop. I knew that too, and totally didn't think about that. Troops would come to my old ranch to get their badges. I'm not sure I have enough horses for a whole troop though.

With the english thing, thank you guys for being honest without being mean.
uflrh9y likes this.
    09-21-2012, 01:04 PM
Good luck. I sure enjoyed my teaching as opposed to Public School teaching bc my students were motivated. No matter what opinions have been posted on this thread, I think we'll all agree that it used to be much simpler to hang out a teaching "shingle" years ago before the country became so "sue-happy."
    09-21-2012, 04:57 PM
Yeah, at the ranch we got a lot of kids at the camp who just weren't into riding horses! I couldn't believe it because this camp costs like $700 a week! For some reason their parents just sent them. Anyway, now that I'm on my own, my students are so much more enthusiastic and an absolute joy to teach. I feel bad charging them at all!

As far as the sue-happy people, we had to be on our game at the ranch to avoid being sued. We were a huge ranch and most of our clients were rich, southern California people (nothing against 'em) who knew little about horses and would sue at the drop of a hat. So I have had safety procedures and policies drilled into my head.

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