Friday, December 21, 2012

Set the world on fire

It's the end of the world year.

And the weather is matching it to boot. Gray, dreary, snow.

Three things I absolutely loathe. 

Not unhappy to bid the year goodbye. It's been an active year full of ups, downs and bumps along the way. I had a laundry list of goals for this year, some seemed a little far fetched and some were actually within striking distance.

Goals 2012
  1. Sinari to roll at 4th/PSG and school around I2.
    Check. More than Check, we actually pulled decent scores and earned all necessary  PSG scores for the PSG part of the Silver.
  2. Start/finish Silver Medal
    Started, one score shy at fourth level.
  3. Find a schoolmaster, start working towards CDI's
    EDIT 12/30/12: Actually something fell in my lap last minute. Details to follow. 
  4. Ride Sincere, and get him through his first big boy outings
    He's been backed and is doing really well in his new career. He's up for sale too.
  5. Continue to grow the business, but find balance in between.
    The business took over my life to some success and some failure.Along the way I figured out what I really want to try for 2013, and who really is in my corner (and who isn't). I did a lot of miles this year either way.
  6. Finish 2nd half of L program, gain scores for r.
    Couldn't find a program that jived with the schedule. I'm really worried about falling behind the curve on this one. No scores obtained for r.
  7. Start my apprenticeship for my organizers stuff
    Check. California was wonderful for this. I don't know if I'll be pursuing this in the future because I'm just refocusing on the riding portion of my life. 

1. Complete silver. Start Gold.
2. Be training the I2/GP. Be showing 2nd schooling 3rd/4th on Reba.
3. Find investment horses
4. Consistently devote two weeks of intense training per quarter.
5. Continue to grow the business, and remain financially solvent

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My heart's on the loose

First week back is the hardest for everyone.

Every time I go someplace I miss my horses. iPhone has made things easier by carrying photos and video of them wherever I go, but getting to watch people ride, and work can be exceptionally difficult especially since you want to take part and join in. I have a blast getting to know everyone and watching progress happen, but secretly I am a little jealous.

The weather hasn't been helping. I went from 70 degrees and sunny to cold, mud, slop and rain in Kentucky. Motivation has been lacking. Freezing my fingers off in the wee hours in the morning doesn't help.

Last week proved to be busy with make up appointments, riding, trying (and failing) to get the house cleaned, dinner with family/friends, phone calls, creating my 2013 calendar, running errands, attempting to go to a movie, and catching up on the ever elusive sleep. Riding time was carved out by the skin of my teeth and with more emphasis on correct spurts than full sessions.

The best part about coming home is getting to try out the work that you've learned.

Last week I had a fantastic lesson with an old friend and former local rider- Chrissa Hoffmann. Chrissa was one of the first to see the pony start out (four or five years old then), the first to get me to Florida to host, and the first rider in the area to really break out to the CDI and international levels. When she left for Florida and to further build her business, I have to say she left a hole in this part of the woods. While there are a few people moving to this area, I don't know if that void will be filled completely. I've had a lot of respect for her over the years, and she has a great eye for teaching and horses. 

It was my first lesson in a few months, and it really served as a vollying point to kick off the season. 2013 is bringing some ambitious goals and an equally ambitious calendar that spans a solid portion of coastline for all three horses. Plus those who are incoming. The calendar includes two weeks at Hilltop for training, some time in Florida (still feeling a little grumbly about this), a trip to Canada, and travel to shows.

Sinari has been on again and off again since October, she was turned out for a week and has been hacking ever since. She's had a tough schedule of travel, training and competition; so I felt that the downtime was really needed. I wasn't expecting much from the lesson to be honest because of this. But instead we ramped in and up into the I1 and some of the I2 work. Even did half steps and worked our butts off in the pir work. I feel pretty stoked for January and February if the trends continue on.

Reba sat this one out, I wanted a few more key details sorted out before we really go public. Her first real clinic will be in Florida, if I can squeak in a test that would be awesome too, but really I'm aiming her to be a spring pony. Right now, the focus is correctness and fitness. Something that is always going to be a long term project. But I'm super happy with her ability to collect and work the half steps from the ground.

Sincere on the other hand will be aimed towards eventing this year. The young man has a lot of ground to cover and if he's still around by fall I would like to see him at the AEC's as a BN or N horse. I'm not a fan of shipping to Texas for the championships, but we'll see. He's not FEH material and I don't necessarily agree with the program criteria. I'm really pleased with his training overall and he should be a sub-20 horse based on how well he carries himself and gaits.

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. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Turkey trotting (or 300 posts later)

I've been kinda quiet lately, namely because things, as usual are busy despite having no shows to attend to, and just coming off a two day clinic with Ulf Moeller and a trip up and down the East Coast (I think I did roughly 3,000 miles round trip) and then turning around and hosting Robert Dover plus planning a few fun projects for the Florida season next year. I'm very excited for the new year.

Like fall, things are changing, hopefully for the better. I have a few long term projects coming to fruition and others that are finally being put to rest. Either way, it's been a long climb this year with great moments and not-so great moments.

For two, very nice Indian Fall weeks, I was at home with my family and horses celebrating the holiday. After my last wandering into the yonder, I'm at home for, get this, a solid five weeks. I'm ecstatic.

The phone was mostly put on quiet throughout the holiday (alright we were playing Words with Friends) and I got to ride consistently and sleep in my own bed. This, and a stocked fridge, nothing really makes me happier.

Really, I am lucky to have this life, and while it isn't always wonderful, I'm thankful for the ability and support to pursue this path, for the horses that have come into my life, and for the people that continuously teach me.