Lots of talk lately about the loss of beginner friendly lesson programs, specifically those with school horses. While I know the transition to owner and lease clients only is driven by finances (and let’s be honest, how many local trainers are swimming in cash?), I’m very sad to see that if I was a kid now, I’d never be able to start riding. I’m even having trouble finding places to ride as a semi-competent adult with a lame horse, if it wasn’t for generous people with their own animals.
On the other hand, in my local area, the moment people get wind that someone is teaching and has even half-sane lesson horses available, they are inundated with interest. Mostly from horseless AA’s and re-riders, but that’s my circle now so who knows about parents and kids. The barns I’ve been at with even a handful of school horses are in high demand, with people moving up the pipeline to lease/own, but that would never have bitten the bullet at first.
Clearly there is interest. And call me nostalgic for wanting to see more “average” kids like I was get into the sport (as average as someone whose parents paid for weekly lessons and eventually board at a small local barn can be). What I don’t know, is if these instructors without the AA-show-lease-or-own-only programs are staying afloat organically or just teaching to subsidize a horse collection.
So, let’s say 100% theoretically, I’m a trainer wanting to start a business, with a plan to have a handful of lesson/half lease horses to get kids started and adults back in the tack, and stick to the local/C shows that won’t require leaving for weeks on end. Let’s assume I’m good at it, am good a picking horses with a brain for the program and for clients, and that I know when it’s time to pass a client along to other programs if they outgrow me. Is this a Definite Failure? A business that only works if you’re using a facility paid for by family? A thing that would only work as a part of a larger program? Are there programs like this that ARE successful in your area?
Obviously many programs have moved away from this, but the ones I know of have changed to heavy A show schedules and higher level competitive clients. I’m wondering if there’s a viable niche for making the sport more accessible, bolstering local show circuits, and maybe creating lifelong riders that aren’t coming from the 1%.