We all love to cruise Facebook, Twitter, our email, websites and calendars for horse shows and clinics to attend. It’s fun to read the information, put the date on your calendar, look at the credentials of the clinician, go to their website and check out the photos and videos of their horses competing.

Clinics aren’t new, but online creativity with publicity is, and one thing all this great up-to-the-minute, at-your-fingertips entry information can bring? The really bad problem of No Shows. It’s just so easy to press a button and say “yes” when you really haven’t thought it through.

Photo by Holly - organizing a clinic takes money, time and attention.

Photo by Holly – organizing a clinic takes money, time and attention.

Here’s a typical organizational path. As a clinic organizer, I pick up my phone and call three or four big-name trainers. It probably takes several calls and messages over a couple of days to reach them, because they’re busy, and I’m working full time. Finally we touch base, and go through calendar dates and prices. I promise to call them back and confirm as soon as I sort through the two or three candidate’s dates. I take into account the time of year, who I might be able to get to come at that time, take a quick poll of some of my most reliable friends, double check other clinic costs and prices, debate whether we need to use an indoor (depends on time of year). To this point I’ve got easily 10 hours of time invested.

I call the clinician back, and confirm a date with them. Now the real work begins. I write a flyer with a shorter version for social media, find photos I can use without copyright infringement, make a list of things I will need to provide (release forms, directions, jumps or arena things, time schedule and anything the facility owner might need). I need to time the posting of the clinics so that it’s not too far out (people will forget) and not too close (people can’t plan and won’t be able to to fit it in). I keep an eye on the weather – always – especially if an outdoor clinic. I set an alternate date, and an alternate rain proof facility just in case. I meet with the facility owner and go over release forms, costs, insurance and how the clinic will run (do they need to cancel lessons? Can they do lessons in another arena while we are clinicing? Where will the trailers park? Can outside horses access your wash rack on a hot day? Are there stalls available?) More planning – more online work and on the ground work – another 10 hours of time.

As soon as I post the clinic date and information, the emails and messages begin. “Oh I can’t wait! Save me a spot!” and “I’m coming for sure, I want to ride in the morning with both my horses and I want a private dressage lesson, no jumping,” and, “Do you have room for my 7 year old walk-trot rider on her 12 hand pony?” The joy of my life is the simple, clear, and follow-directions participant who has given me their signed release, readable Coggins, and money ahead of time, arrives early, helps set jumps, thanks me upon leaving and cleans up their horse’s hay and poop around the trailer before they go. Ahh!

But the No Show’s ruin the clinic for everyone. Despite numerous emails and messages, promises, and enthusiasm online, they don’t follow up. “Liking” something, and actually getting your horse and saddle in the trailer and showing up are two different things, and No Shows have absolutely no conscience about doing the former and not doing the latter.  I try to make sure that everyone who says they want a space knows I consider their response to be a COMMITMENT, that they will be there. A No Show makes a clinic organizer look like a liar. I hate that.

By the time a No Show has not shown up, I’ve already put in probably an hour or two just on that person alone – fitting their name into the schedule, making sure they got the email with the attached release form, giving them directions, and double checking that they were coming about five times – after answering texts and messages at all hours of the night and day.

Learn with your friends at clinics. Photo by Holly Covey

Learn with your friends at clinics. Photo by Holly Covey

While a No Show doesn’t provide any income, sucks away an organizer’s time, and forces everyone else to adjust to their lost time slot, the good participants also are impacted. Perhaps they have a great clinic and really connect with the instructor. Because of a few No Shows, the clinician didn’t get his minimum and probably isn’t coming back – and that person won’t get the chance to move forward in their training unless they do something else. Perhaps a few No Shows left an organizer with a big bill to pay because they kindly didn’t require an up front payment or deposit. Now a No Show has gotten into your pocket, as well as your time. At best, a No Show is a very annoying inconvenience, and at worst they cost you big money.

Or perhaps No Shows insist they will come, and require a space in a full clinic with a wait list, but don’t bother to tell you they had no intention of coming, leaving you with 6 riders in three sessions and 3 riders in one when someone else could have had a better experience to even out the groups. They force you to apologize to others, and to the clinicians, who count on that income. They are the ones that force an organizer to require deposits or even full payment up front – thank them for that, riders. Those of us that do organize clinics and shows are now sharing a list of “no show” people who are doing this and costing us money and making us tear our hair out. Warning – you’re not going to be included in future events no matter how many “likes” you give us. We know who you are, and show/clinic organizers do, too, and don’t be surprised when you aren’t welcome in the future – anywhere. I have two people right now I’ve learned not to include in future events due to chronic No-Showism, (not just me, by the way) yet they are on Facebook chatting about the NEXT clinic, show or lesson they want to attend (but won’t).

To avoid being a dreaded No Show, do this. Sure, go ahead and “Like” my clinic on your social media, share notice of it with your friends and find out who might be going. Check with the organizer, get all your questions answered, and READ ALL the information about the clinic. Put the date on your calendar. Go visit the website of the scheduled clinician, do a little research, see if they look like someone you’d like to ride with. Imagine yourself and your horse at the clinic. What do you hope to gain from participating? Are you fit enough? Is your horse ready? Do you need to get in shape? Do you have a trailer ride? Can you take the day off work? What about family needs? And does it fit in the budget? All those things should be thought about and planned for ahead of time. If anyone of those isn’t in place, DON’T commit to a clinic space until you’ve got it fixed. If you make plans and something falls through, don’t panic. Call or message the organizer, as soon as you can, as far out from the date as you can, and ask for help. Often an organizer can find you a trailer space, or a stall at the barn, or even a babysitter if you give them enough time to help. Two weeks from the clinic, double check that you’re on track to participate. Is your horse ridden and ready, your tack, you? Do you have your payment ready and is your transportation lined up? If you’re going with someone else, double check with your mate and make sure both of you are organized and ready. And when the day comes, arrive early, watch other sessions, follow the rules of the facility and thank the organizer.

Clinics are wonderful educational opportunities but they are so much more if you give yourself the gift of instruction, join with others who ride like you do, and have loads of fun with new and old riding friends. Don’t be a No Show!