Saturday, December 15, 2012

The High Cost of Education

I don't frequent message boards, but recently there was a thread in the COTH that made me take a long pause.

It was about why clinicians and clinics are so expensive and why clinicians charge so much for their day fees.

I make no bones about my occupation. I host and organize clinics.

Actually, a lot of clinics (in the vicinity of 20-30 a year, across North America some public, some private), all handled through a professionally managed LLC, not my personal bank account.

A lot of clinics with a lot of good people from all over the world (Ulf Moeller, Christoph Hess, Edward Gal, Shannon Peters, Lendon Gray to name a few).

I really count myself lucky to be a side benefactor to playing host. I'm paid fairly well to do a job that is just easy for me, I meet my heroes, I get to hang with some seriously cool people, and I help people achieve their goals. If there's a glass of wine in there, it's a bigger perk.

Yes, I occasionally ride depending on who it is, where it is (I'm not driving my trailer to California), expectations for the clinician (Ulf only wanted young horses), and where I'm at in my training with the horse (bucking bronco is not worth it).

Do I make a million bucks? No. But the education, the people and being in the community has been priceless. It's opened a lot of doors.

All in all, I do it because I believe that education, shouldn't be closed door and everyone should have access on some scale to quality instruction. Everyone should benefit. My advertised clinics are and will always be open to the public with very few strings attached (three tenets: 1. Pay on time. 2. Show up on time and give it your best effort. 3. No assholes).

And as froofy as this sounds: people should be inspired to a greater level. I believe being in an environment that demands quality only makes you rise to that level.

But education, at any level, isn't cheap.

Neither is the associated expenses of hosting and bringing people to the physical location. This all costs money and is a huge fiscal responsibility.

As much as I try to be fair in the pricing to clients and to everyone, I still cringe at putting it out. I still worry about my clients traveling in good distances for what amounts for two days of really intensive training. I still worry about fill and fill rate, I still ham through the details.

While there are good, regular, teachers abound (I still train locally) and I will always say go with the person you're most comfortable with, get to regularly and can fiscally afford, the very best in the world cost especially if you have ambitions to eventually reach their level or step up your game.

But what constitutes the price per ride?

Among factors: you're paying for their time, expertise and teacher's ability to help. You're paying for potential networking time/sale, the wear and tear on a facility, the staff that has to take care of the teacher's horses while away, the staff that takes care of your horse and the facility while you're here, the insurance and a number of other items. You're subsidizing my efforts putting it all together and the fiscal liability factor.

Everyone needs to share their fair share of the costs.

But, if you want to clock out the math here we go:

Average theoretical budget for a US based clinician for two days, locally:

$3,000 (for two days of education by a rider/coach that is actively competing internationally)
$   500  (flight)
$   300 (food for three days)
$   600 (arena)
$   100 (insurance) 
$   300 (hotel, if you don't have a spare room or house)
$   300 (gas for transport for yourself as you gallivant across the county for three days)
$5,100 -- Total

Now take that number and divide by the allowable number of participants, which is usually 8-10 over two days. Divide by 16 as your BEP.

$5,100/16 = $318.75 a lesson. Round to $320.

If you noticed one thing missing- its accountability for your time.

You know, the time you take to contact the clinician and negotiate dates, the time to email/call/sky write people/organizations to tell them about the clinic, the advertising that you have to do, handling the last minute add/drops, the coordination between you, the facility, the camera dude, the photographer. The time setting up the arena, inspecting things, arranging flight and accommodation, asking for payments, et all. Never mind the time spent physically on location making sure details are attended to. Or the time you have to take off from your regularly paying job or horses to do this. 

You're looking at about 30 hours of work for one, two day event.

This is the reality of a clinic and of a sport that is growing in a world that is more expensive to live in.

I'm not bemoaning it, or complaining (I'm right down in the trenches with you on this), but what I am asking is this: if you can't afford it, don't pick apart something that is benefiting a community and helping riders grow in their own personal path. If you want to contribute, host, do something that helps people in this capacity.

It's only when we really truly respect each other and stop trying to put our personal vendetta/petty justifications on each other do we progress as a sport and grow as a community. 


Karen said...

Excellent post. Word.

Net said...

I was split on that thread. On the one hand, I only want to ride with a clinician who fits with my program in which I'm riding and don't ride with someone if I don't know anything about their teaching style - but have been able to afford riding in every small and big name clinic I've been interested in. (Availability of spots and injury recovery haven't been as friendly to me!) On the other hand, I'm ridiculously lucky to be living on horse property in an affordable area with a job which pays very well for this area. And I know how lucky I am.

I didn't understand how you can complain of what the clinicians charge - I think the market balances, so if riders stop affording it, the clinics won't be so expensive.

At the same time, I would love to see many small grants for clinics all over the country for those who aren't as easily able to afford the rides as I am. I don't know if that's a financially feasible option, but I think when you're talking about any of the USDF coaches, for example, there should be grants available for riders as by definition of their being team coaches, those coaches had better teach in a USDF-acceptable way! Maybe a program where clinicians can become eligible for USDF grants wherever they go? Whether it's someone trying to save to go to a rated show or pay next month's board, or someone saving to travel and compete or train in Europe, there are times grants for clinics can be very valuable.

The one thing I disagreed with was that those clinicians are never worth it. If they weren't worth it to everyone, no one would pay. We each place different values on circumstances. As far as my ride in a fairly expensive (though not top end expensive) clinic with Jeremy Steinberg - my trainer watched my first ride and when I dismounted afterward told me it was the best money I had ever spent, even if I got nothing from the second ride. I agree - I had specifically chosen to ride with him after seeing work he did with other riders which I knew was in the area I needed most help, and I wasn't disappointed. Working with him changed the entire way my horse and I relate, and THAT is priceless.

Net said...

Oh! And I think you can email me through my account? I don't want to type my email address publicly, but I think it'll let you write to me then I can email back about the info I need to get you. :)

Kelly said...

Net- you can email me here: