Lesson Student Inconsistency

Hey COTHers,
II just want to make sure I"m not being too harsh. I have policies for my lesson students that I am pretty strict about but with COVID have been lenient, more than likely too much. Here’s a quick run down:

10+ minutes late- forfeit lesson, even if it’s prepaid (3 strikes)
No call No show- 1 strike and you’re out if you don’t respond to my call, up to my discretion of you do
Same Day cancel - 3 strikes and a $10 per occurrence no scheduling until I’ve been paid those fees

I have a student who I am struggling with. Her grandmother brings her and can’t seem to keep things together. They have 6 cancelations in the 7 months she’s been riding here for various reasons (no proper attire, sickness, funds etc) and a no call no show that I decided to keep on record but not penalize for due to them being sick. This person has also gotten in my face about getting my Covid vaccinations not only in person, but over text and over Facebook messenger. I had to tell her twice to leave it be.

Overall, they miss at least one lesson a month, and have been inappropriate with communications with me. They texted me last night at 10pm asking for me to float the lesson this week and they would pay me double next week. I said no to that.

I’m thinking give them one more lesson, if they screw it up in some way, then I’ll kick them from the program. Too much? Should I say something now or just let it play out?

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I personally feel the “3 strikes” and $10 per occurrence is harsh for same-day cancellations. (3 strikes over what time period?) The reality is, kids get sick a lot, and sometimes their illnesses come on fast (i.e., parent gets a call to pick them up at school). As a parent of a young child, I wouldn’t expect to pay for a lesson if my child is sick and I call to let you know.

I think it’s fine to charge for “no shows” (though that might be hard to enforce) or boot repeat offenders from the program.


I am just glade I do not own a business any longer as the pitfalls of legation appear like sinkholes in Florida

OP, you can not continually modify your Rules… once that has begun, modification to need becomes the Rule of expectation.

By just telling them to buzz of get out of here, with the current sue every one for anything attitude of people, they may claim something such as hurt feeling have harmed the poor little child and now it is in consulting to repair the damage

When I did have my businesses I got to the point that I did not deal with private citizens, just narrow the business model to corporations with Everything in writing that spelled out just what was to be done and how it was to be accomplished …and payment.

Rules are rules for a reason and they need to be adhered

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It sounds like with this particular family that you do not want to deal with them anymore. (Ignoring if the no shows are reasonable or not.)

Why not just suggest a different barn to Grandma so she and her daughter can find a place that fits their needs and you do not have to deal with a client that you do not want to deal with?


Same day cancellations cut into my bottom line though. If they confirm each lesson, and get those 3 strikes in a short period of time, I will usually ask if they want a different time slot that would work better for them, or if there is anything I can do to avoid these cancellations. Unfortunately, some of my clientele forced me to get strict about these things as they abused my prior policies.

The polices are there for reference, however, what do you think about the specific student I was asking about? There is a clear lack of respect of my time and boundaries, and them asking to float a lesson this week really made me think about terminating them from the program. Ultimately it’s my business and I have to make money to continue to do it.

I always do suggest a different barn when I release a student, so that was always the plan, sorry I forgot to include that!

The reality is, I don’t want to deal with them anymore, you’re very correct. The extra effort and work I’m putting in on my end isn’t worth the money earned from them because they don’t show for at least one lesson a month. It sounds awful of me to say that, and I didn’t want it to come down to that, but ultimate it’s my business and I have to make money to continue to teach lessons.

We do not know the people.
We only know the tid bit you posted.

Some families things are difficult and then kid is punished because of the adults in their world having a problem.
We can not guess if this is the case here or not.

Floating a lesson sounds like a family that is struggling but is trying to still allow their kid to have some form of what their normal life was.
Now, that in no way means you have to go along with this. It does not make you a bad person. You too need to make a living.

Is there another lesson program that is closer to where they live? Or that has a lesson string where if one kid does not show up the lesson still goes on and it is not a big deal? Make them a list of these types of places and tell them that your program can no long accommodate them and let them move on.


Thank you so much for this! This is a great idea.

I understand that no-shows affect the bottom line and also make it hard to plan each horse’s week–i.e., when are they getting used for lessons and when are they getting days off.

I also agree with the other posters that if this particular family doesn’t work with your program, cut them loose.

I’m struggling to remember back to the time my daughter was doing weekly lessons. It seems like once the student was a serious riding student, the trainer put them on a monthly program --you pay a certain flat fee per month for one or two lessons per week. Alternatively, some of the trainers sell packages of 10 prepaid lessons.


That’s what I try to do. 4-8 prepaid lessons 7-15% off. I operate in a low income area and all but 2 of my 10 students have to pay a la carte. I have tried the monthly flat fee so many times and people never go for it. I don’t want to make it mandatory and lose 8 students. I feel kinda trapped on this one.


Do prepaid lessons. They pay when the lesson is booked. No show and they don’t get a make up. If they cancel within 24 hours then they can reschedule but no refund. IF they are late and its a private lesson they only get to ride until the normal end of the lesson.

I thought this was the norm. It is for other sports/activities as well. Gymnastics, dance, team sports… you pay up front for the season, session or month.


I’ve tried in the past to go to monthly flat rates, or lesson packages only. I would have lost a lot of students had I gone through with it. I operate in a low income area in SE Michigan and 80% of my students can only pay per week. I’ve made it clear that they will save money when they go monthly, but a lot of these families can’t/won’t do $185 per month all at once. They would rather spend $50 a week.

I think the reason these specific people won’t do it is because they know they will miss one or two…

If they’re skipping because they can’t afford the expense every week, can they afford the expense twice a month? Can you set them up to come twice a month instead of weekly? Yes, I get that weekly is the preferred attendance, and kid won’t make as much progress. Do you like the kid? Does the kid try in the lessons they do make? Are they part of a group or are they private? If they’re private, then it’s easier to deal with no progress and if they’re part of a group.

Even if you give them one more lesson and they show up on time and pay, there’s always the next one to screw up.

Are they making excuses because in honesty they can’t afford a lesson a week and they’re using the other reasons as other excuses? Are they taking up a lesson spot that another kid could use? Would a different day work better for them? Maybe now is just not in the stars for the kid to be learning to ride.


You can have them pay when they sign up for the lesson even if it’s a single lesson.

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A 12-hour or 24-hour cancellation policy is pretty standard, and most barns that I know of charge the full price of the lesson if cancelled with less than the stated notice. OP is being generous only charging a $10 fee, IME. I did all kinds of sports growing up and can’t recall ever having frequent cancellations due to getting sick. My niblings are currently active in many sports and activities, and none of them frequently get so sick they have to constantly cancel lessons/sessions/activities with less than 24-hour notice. I think if your kid is getting sick so frequently that constant cancellations are a problem, you need to 1) get a doctor to see if there’s something underlying and 2) find an instructor who offers a less strict scheduling policy.

Yes, there is a clear lack of organization and respect for your time from Gma. Personally, I’d tell them my program is not a good fit for them and send them on their way. Sucks to do it to a kid who has no control over the situation (I’ve had to do it before), but that’s life.

Alternatively, if you want and if your schedule permits, you can offer to let them continue with lessons, but they can’t schedule ahead. They have to call in the morning on a day they want to take a lesson, and see if you have a time slot available.


No riding instructor I have ever had would tolerate that. Client would be fired pronto for getting in instructors face, regardless of subject matter.

I certainly would have let that client go.

I briefly ran a wee lesson program. Cancellations were the worst part of the gig.


Same day cancellations should pay 100% of the lesson price no questions asked. Period end of story. Even if the trainer says don’t worry about it, get your venmo out and pay for the lesson.

The trainer didn’t make your child sick, but they did reserve time in their schedule for you that could have been filled by someone else paying. Pay them for the time you reserved, period.

Same goes if your horse suddenly goes lame and you have to back out of a clinic or trailering slot. That is sad for YOU, not for everyone else.

If you miss a hair appointment because work ran late, pay for it. If you miss a manicure because your dog had to go to the vet suddenly, pay for it. If you have to back out of a weekend getaway with two friends because of whatever legitimate reason, still pay your third of the hotel and rental car.


I really, truly do not understand adults who do not understand this extremely simple concept.


I guess some of us are lucky that when our kids were little, their trainers did not insist on being paid for the occasional missed lesson, provided they were given notice at the earliest opportunity. My daughter’s first trainer was also kind enough to let a kid swap their usual group lesson time for a different day and time if needed.

Of course, with the trainer being so understanding that kids occasionally get sick or have to miss for other reasons, we tried to be generous in return–helping out with stall mucking, feeding, jump painting, or any other ways we could be helpful members of the barn community. We also did not abuse the trainer’s understanding by making a habit of missing lessons–I realize a trainer might need to implement a tougher policy if a family cancels on short notice routinely.

Sometimes a generous spirit makes life better for everyone (and it certainly created a group of kids who were eager to be at the barn as often as possible!)


Well, there’s a difference between a same-day cancellation or no-show because “we forgot” and “I’m so sorry my other child ate peanut butter and we were at the ER.” I can’t imagine any of my past instructors charging for a missed lesson because of legitimate family emergency or illness.

And yeah, I thought cancellations with 24 hours were kinda standard to be paid anyways. I mean, horses are unpredictable creatures. Horse goes lame, you broke your foot, horse smashed his face into a wall and needed stitches, etc. are all pretty good reasons to let that one go- they aren’t anyone fault and they are unavoidable. But someone cancelling because of poor planning or because they decided to go to the beach instead? They can pay. Or the third time they have a stupid excuse, they can pay. I think OP’s policies are pretty flexible.

A serious consideration here for me would be how much I like the kid and how much the kid likes lessons. But I think the family actually might be a better fit at another barn. You can always tell them to check places out, and if they don’t work to let you know. Then Pray.


Last year my truck just stopped(!) and would go no further. Right after a fillup… Took me a while to get coach’s phone number, but she was my first call, Not AAA! She didn’t pickUP, but i left message, telling her i couldn’t make it and that OF COURSE i would pay for the lesson.

annnnnnd…i called my friendly neighborhood repair shop, told them my delima (non-function diesel truck, hauling trailer with a horse in it and they said, just get to them and they’d get me home … AAA got me a tow truck that made a double tow. My heart was in whack-mode every turn and hill on that 40 mile trip back to my town! scary~