Your training fees are your bread and butter. No matter your longevity in the business, you may always wonder: “Am I charging enough…or too much?”
That’s not often easy to determine. Location is a major factor in pricing training for any discipline, along with the level and type of your competition, the temperature of your prospective clientele, and your relative position in the market. Here’s our informal survey of who is charging what. (Note: Some barns combine board and training fees; others break them out separately. The majority of the fees listed below are for training and other services and DO NOT include board, unless otherwise noted.)
Just north of Orange County, Calif., Kelli Clevenger of Countrywood Farm in Chino Hills charges $525/month for training and full care: That includes five lessons or professional rides a week, grooming, show clipping, bathing, turnout, longing, lunch and supplements, wrapping, blanketing, and medical treatment. Horses are turned out the two days they are not ridden. Clevenger uses her website to ensure clarity, and let clients know what they are and aren’t getting.
Not that many clients have questions. With 25 horses in training, Clevenger says almost three-quarters of her customers have been with her for a decade or longer. “I think I’m fair, maybe even low,” she says. “I give a great lesson, my clients are happy, and our horses are healthy.”
In the heart of northern Virginia, we found a rate of $550/month, based upon two lessons and one training ride or one lesson and two training rides a week. For $700/month, a rider pays for five sessions in any combination of rides and lessons.
Shawnee Acres in Lacama, N.C., charges $675/month for board plus training, which includes five rides per week. Riders can have a lesson in lieu of a ride each week. Lessons alone are $140 for four lessons (a private at 45 minutes), while separate training rides are $35 each.
Charges in Texas are higher. One AA show barn charges $1,250/month for all the private lessons and training rides needed at home and at shows. Another barn charges $900/month for four lessons a week and necessary training rides.
A rider in St. Louis, Mo., told us about fees there: $45/training ride or lesson (group or private). Additional training packages are available, and the price is customized upon request, says our reporter, with ranges from $175 to $300 “on top of board.”
Finally, in the nation’s capital, we found $700/month board that includes amenities like supervision of vet/farrier/dentist visits, laundry service, no extra charges for private turnout/hand walking/or care for any injury, and an owner/trainer who is onsite 24/7. Riding costs are $30/training ride and $45/lesson (group or private).
Holly Hudspeth Eventing of Equiventure Farm in Rougemont, N.C., charges $700/month for full training or rides, five to six days a week.
Robyn Fisher, who bases her eventing and jumping training business at Mill Creek Equestrian Center in Topanga, Calif., slates her services this way: Full training includes 18 to 20 half-hour private lessons or training rides at $1,000/month. She also offers weekly and monthly “full care” at $400/week or $1,500/month, with individual rides at $80.
Capstone Training offers eventing, jumping, and dressage training in Snohomish, Wash. Full training is $500/month with either training rides five days a week or four rides plus one lesson. Partial and half-training rates are $400/month and $300/month, respectively.
At Holling Eventing, based at Willow Run Farm in Ocala, Fla., United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Eventing Committee member Jonathan Holling charges $800/month for training. Lessons and training rides are $85 each. Holling runs his business with his wife, Jennifer, who is also a top-level competitor.
Another committee member, Thomas Angle of Goose Downs Farm in Galisteo, N.M., suggests that trainers don’t really calculate what it costs to do training. “People shortchange themselves, and often don’t make their costs. I can make more money teaching a group lesson than doing training.” Angle figures he’s “right at the top of what this market will bear” at $750/month, $225/week.
At Oak Creek Farm Dressage Training and Performance Gypsy Horses in Placerville, Calif., trainer Stacy Sutton sets rates for full or short-term training at $600/month.
Ashley Hammill Dressage in San Antonio, Texas, offers full training, five days a week, for $175/week or $700/month. Lessons and show fees are included in the price. Clients can also opt for partial training at five days for $135/week or $525/month, or three days of training at $125/week or $500/month.
In the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn., area, Colleen L. Holdin’s full monthly training fees are $600 for 16 lessons—up to four lessons a week—while half training is $340 for one lesson and one ride per week.
United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Gold, Silver and Bronze Medalist Julie Sodowsky charges $600/month for 20 training sessions, or $550 when the horse has been in training for three months. She is based at Pinnacle West Equestrian Center in Phoenix, Ariz.
Hearthstone Farm, Inc. in Dousman, Wisc., is home to USEF Dressage Committee Chair Jayne Ayers, who is also an international dressage and sport horse breeding judge. Ayers no longer personally provides much full training, but she agrees with Angle on the need to charge for all services rendered. “With training, remember you’re not only riding, but are also managing grooming, tack cleaning, vet and farrier services—that’s all part of it.” Full care is a lot of time and labor, in addition to sitting on the horse. “Don’t shortchange yourself, for it’s easy to forget how much goes into it. You have full responsibility for the horse,” Ayers notes.
WESTERN AND DRIVING
Karla Flippin Western Training in Whittier, Calif., prices full training at $350/month, which includes four to five days of training a week and two private lessons. Half training is $240/month, three days a week. Half training with lessons is $300/month, three days a week with two private lessons. Partial training is $160/month, two days a week, while partial training with lessons is $220/month, two days a week, with two private lessons per month.
“I’m way under [priced], but I’m the only person who does this ‘realistic’ training in the area,” says Flippin. “I haven’t raised my rates in four to five years, and have stayed steady with no slow periods. Lessons shouldn’t be for the elite. I try to give my customers more than what they pay for.”
Flippin trains solo, in a well-hidden locale. “My program includes ranch-related work, standing quietly while mounting, working gates, backing easily, side passing, leads, headset, leg yields and trail obstacle work,” she says.
Mark Stevens Quarter Horses, based at Springwater Farm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., sets training charges at $450/month, while Amber Nicole Quarter Horses in Fremont, Mich., charges $400/month.
In the driving discipline in southeast Wisconsin, Linda Block of Carriage Hill Driving Center says: “I take into consideration several factors, one being: How can I be the most affordable driving trainer in my region, in addition to being an accessible trainer to my customers?” Her fees are $740/month for outside board and training, and $910/month for a stall and training.
“I know that several disciplines have suffered some decrease in activity over the past several seasons due to our national economy,” says Block, who knows her market and urges you to do so, too. “In the carriage driving world, I have not felt that decline. Of course, our market is usually the more mature adult with a bit more disposable cash on hand.”
Block notes that Baby Boomers tend to have the necessary discretionary income, and a desire to spend it. “We are seeing a boom in our sport due to people who have been riders and are now experiencing arthritis, sciatica, and the general aches and pains that come with age,” she says. Driving offers a way for this group to remain involved with horses despite physical issues that impair riding.
So there you have it. Knowing your market and doing your homework can help you establish fees that work well for you and your customers. Stating those fees clearly and publicly helps avoid confusion and ensures that everyone is on the same page and treated fairly.