Editor's note: For the next few weeks we will be running a series of articles on hiring riding instructors and hiring employees for your horse farm or stable. Check back under Articles>Stable Management for additional articles in these series.
Creating a pricing structure is a task that can be stressful for service-based businesses such as horse farms/stables or riding instructors. There is a delicate balance between establishing a price that the local market can afford and charging a fee that covers the cost of doing business.
The good news is that you have flexibility in determining the pricing structure. The bad news is that there is not a foolproof equation that works for every situation.
While there isn’t one approach that is guaranteed to work for every lesson stable, there are a few things every lesson barn owner or manager can use to guide his or her decision-making process. Look at what you offer compared to what others offer—private arena, superior school horses, certified instructors, well-fitting tack for all sizes of riders, experience of instructors, etc. You can also offer a discount if riders are using their own horses and tack.
Know the Marketplace
Start by gathering competitive information. Find out what the lesson fees are at other local stables. Take into account that some disciplines might command higher prices than others. Look outside your region to learn what other instructors with similar expertise are charging.
“My lesson rates are based on what is available in the area for similar types of instruction from teachers with similar levels of experience,” said Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg, owner of CRK Training Stable in California.
The CHA Master Instructor and AQHA Professional Horseman said she makes sure her rates are competitive within the area.
Account for Experience
The instructor’s level of experience will influence the cost. For example, an apprentice or new instructor is likely not able to charge as much as a trainer who has been established in the industry and/or has a proven competitive record.
Consider Rider Goals
Think about the rider you plan to teach. Beginners and recreational riders are willing to pay less than a client interested in competitive events. The level of competition can also influence your fee structure.
“I don't want to compare my rates with, say, an instructor who only teaches upper level dressage,” said Rohnke Kronsberg.
Expenses are another part of the equation. Providing lesson horses and tack adds to the cost of doing business.
“I offer a discount if riders are using their own horses and tack,” Rohnke Kronsberg said.
Aside from the horses and equipment, you know that insurance, property maintenance, etc. quickly add up and should be taken into account.
Look for ways to maximize your lesson program. Christy Landwehr, Chief Executive Officer for the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA), explained that if you can offer semi-private or group lessons, you can charge more as a total per hour and potentially increase your profits. However, if you’re providing the lesson horses, that will increase overhead.
She also encouraged farms and stables to generate income on non-riding days.
“Make sure you get paid on bad weather days by providing unmounted lessons,” Landwehr added.
That might include watching DVDs, webinars or YouTube videos on equine industry issues that are provided by CHA or a workshop by a local cooperative extension agent, a professor from a local university or a manufacturer’s representative.
The bottom line is that you’re in business to make a profit. Create a pricing schedule that is fair to your clients and yourself.