With a lesson program, time is your greatest commodity. How are you spending yours? In today’s economy horses are becoming more a luxury, and clients are demanding more for their money. If they feel that they are not getting their value from your program, they won’t be shy about looking somewhere else. The following are nine simple tips to fine tune your lesson program to help maximize your time with each client.
1. Arena. Your arena is where you will spend the greatest amount of time with your clients. Is it set up to help you make the greatest impact on your client’s lesson as you can, or more for storage? It is important to keep the arena dragged and free of excess manure. It is also a good idea to keep equipment out of the arena area to prevent accidents. Keeping the arena clear will also save time; you won’t have to stop and move equipment.
With all manner of storage systems available, everything from wall mounted whip racks to rubber-made benches, it is easy to customize storage to fit your needs. Keep must-have equipment neat and readily available during a lesson so you don’t have to run to the tack room and hunt for that riding whip or untangled lunge lines.
Wall-mounted clocks are often overlooked as basic arena equipment. Having a large wall-mounted clock in the arena makes it easy to keep to your schedule and not shortchange your client or give away free time.
2. Lesson Contracts. With all the legal safeguards, such as lesson and boarding contracts and emergency contact forms to attend to, the amount of paperwork to be read, filled out, and signed can be daunting to any new client, especially since all they want is to learn to ride a horse without the hassle. Smoothing out the signing process ahead of time can help. Cut down on paperwork by having an attorney experienced in equine law go over the contracts and, where it is prudent, combine the liability and lesson contracts into one document to sign. Assemble the release, lesson package contract, and emergency contact form, flagged to show where they need to be signed and dated, together on a clipboard, to simplify the signing of the documents.
3. Talking to Your Clients. Work out ahead of time with your new client exactly what they are looking for in the way of riding lessons. That helps you set up a lesson plan and make the experience more pleasurable for both parties.
4. The First Lesson. Keep track of necessary information, such as which saddle and helmet the client uses, along with any other necessary information, by writing it down on note cards. I have found that clients, especially new ones, have a hard time remembering from one week to the next which equipment they used. Note cards cut down on time in the tack room.
5. Have a Lesson Plan. Regardless of the chosen discipline, a lesson plan helps tremendously in teaching the fundamentals of riding in a safe and timely manner, and enables the rider to achieve her goals in the allotted lesson period. If your program relies on pattern work on a set course, presenting it in a clear and concise manner, without having to stop and think one up on the spot, gives the rider confidence.
6. Friends Discount. Build up your lesson program by offering discounts to clients for their friends that sign up and for referrals. Offer to place them in a riding group together, which allows for an additional lesson in the same time slot.
7. Younger Siblings. Babysitters are at a premium, if they are available at all. So parents often bring younger siblings with them. With young children, boredom easily becomes a problem. Little kids are prone to get into mischief, or worse yet, get hurt on your property. So, provide a stash of games or coloring books to give little ones something to do.
8. Give a Lesson/Ride a Horse. If an instructor can work a horse in training and give a student a lesson at the same time, the instructor can demonstrate a point instead of trying to describe what needs to be done and how. This also opens up a whole new area of exercises, for instance, such as riding in pairs.
9. Returning Calls. Set up a specific time slot everyday to review and respond to your voice-mail and e-mail messages—good communication is a key element in customer relations. Commit to returning messages within a 24-hour period. Established clients will often be tolerant if messages are not being returned promptly, but potential new clients will simply move on.
The basis to any riding program is client care. The client has bought a time slot from you, as well as your attention. So take time to examine your approach. You may well identify areas that can be reworked, enabling you to spend more time working with your good paying clients.