This topic came up on one of the coaching forums last week, and it’s a sensitive subject, so after walking around in different people’s shoes, I think I can give a pretty sound analysis of the situation.
The topic is, the sensitive subject of hiring the arena to liveries to have lessons with external instructors.
Let me explain. Some yards charge liveries or external instructors a small (or not so small) fee when they have a lesson.
So let’s look at this from the point of view of the livery client. Horses are an expensive enough commodity, and lessons are also expensive so having an extra fee, however small, could put owners off having lessons and furthering their education. Owners can also feel that they are paying twice for using the arena – their livery bill and the lesson fee.
The instructor has a requirement to provide a competitive lesson fee whilst covering their overheads – insurance, travel, time. They don’t want to have to fork out for arena hire and lose out on some income. Paying the yard for arena hire generates more of a paper trail and requires invoices to be kept for the accounts. Alternatively they can put their lesson fees up for yards that have arena hire, but if friends from different yards were to discuss lesson prices they may feel they are being unfairly treated if their lesson is more expensive than their friend’s.
From the yard owner’s opinion, the freelance instructor is making money from their facilities, so they want a piece of the cake. If the yard owner is an instructor too then they want to protect their own business interests.
After much deliberating, I think that the best, and most politically correct answer, is for a yard owner, who ultimately has the responsibility in this arrangement, to factor in external instructors into their livery package. After all, you don’t see farriers being charged by a yard for using their electricity whilst shoeing horses. If a yard owner doesn’t teach then I don’t think they can expect liveries to pay a surcharge on a service the yard cannot supply. Even if a yard owner does teach, then it is very narrow minded of them to think they can cater for all riders. Everyone learns differently and one instructor may not suit one client best. To charge for external instructors can drive a wedge between liveries, meaning you may lose them to other yards or they will be less willing to use other services your yard, such as exercising horses, supplies. Also, as instructors we should be encouraging the development of all riders, whether they have outgrown our basic jumping lessons and want training from professional showjumpers, or if they just prefer a different manner of teaching. Therefore we shouldn’t be too proud to allow external instructors on our yard.
An alternative thought I had was that of clinics. A renowned trainer could come in once a month and run a clinic. They could be charged for use of facilities and the clients are kept nice and bust!
A livery package factors in use of the arena, and lights if necessary, so really it doesn’t matter if the livery is riding on their own or with an instructor; there is the same wear and tear on the facilities. I guess another factor to consider is whether the lesson has sole use of the arena, or if other liveries are permitted to share. This depends on the size of the arena, and what other facilities are available. I tend to think that if there is no arena charge then liveries can share to a certain extent, but if there is an arena fee you should expect to have the arena to yourself.
I think that if I were a yard owner I would incorporate arena use into my livery fees, charge for external riders to come in for a lesson with me, but not charge liveries any arena hire – regardless of instructor – unless they want some use of the arena, such as to practice a dressage test, which prevents other liveries from using the facility. This fee would be £5 or a similar denomination – not enough to break the bank, but enough to counterbalance the inconvenience of not being able to use the arena (and time taken to inform other liveries of the booking).
This arrangement would mean that instructors would feel welcome to the yard, wouldn’t need to drive prices up, and the liveries would be happy with their one off livery bill that they expect every month and can budget to it, as well as being encouraged to develop as a rider.