Sunday, March 27, 2011

OVCTA's Test Clinic with Pamela Wooding

Saturday I was the organizer for OVCTA’s 2011 Test Clinic with Pamela Wooding. This was the first time I ran this size of a project. I have run big events, but they were for my own students, an audience accustomed to my many shortfalls. This time the audience was OVCTA and DVCTA members. I’ve also helped on committees that organized events bigger than our test clinic, but this was the first time I flew solo.

I know, I really didn’t have to fly solo. I could have delegated more of this event, but I had overcommitted myself in February and early March, which means I wasn’t organized enough to divide the job into delegate-able parts. Plus I have a bad habit of working things out in my head as I go, and if I delegate something, I have to be clear enough in my directions to give my help confidence.  Which makes delegating hard, especially first time I do something, because I really don’t know what I’m going to do until I do it. 

 I did pass along lunch/refreshments to Cheryle and Linda, and of course I had a lot of help on the day (by then I’d gotten organized enough to pass out jobs), but the rest of it was on me.  I learned a lot putting this project together.

A little info on our day – Pamela Wooding, a very tactful R judge with gobs and gobs of experience, and also a competitor of everything from training to FEI, came down from NJ. We had live demo horses, and each rider had prepared a specific test. Pam evaluated each horse’s basics, then helped them with any problem areas they were having in the tests, then each rider rode a complete test that Pam judged out loud. We had horses of many different breeds, shapes and background, and presented tests from Intro to Fourth, USEA Novice A and B, and I-2. Pam answered questions as we went, and in our Q and A session before lunch. We had a booklet for just about everyone that had descriptions of the changes to the tests, directives of the levels, where the double coefficients are, and bios of the horses and riders.

What I learned putting this together:

1.       This kind of education is EXPENSIVE.  The total bill for the day was over $1200.  The judge’s fee was the lion’s share of it, and given her experience, I think that is as it should be.

2.       Pricing an event like this is really hard. Most people have no idea of the expenses of this kind of education, and therefore think the auditor fee should be minimal. The riders, who know that they are there for the auditors, also think that their fee should be minimal. I do understand that money is tight, and in this world where so much information (and misinformation) is free on the internet, it makes writing a check for education hard. But I managed to keep the fees less than the cost of entering a schooling show, and included lunch. For as much information as was presented, I thought it was cheap.

Plus, in events like this one, there’s always ways around the expense. On Thursday, someone I had never met called and said she wanted to come but the finances were getting in the way. I happily handed her the registration table Saturday morning in return for her day’s auditing.

3.       Color printing from Staples makes education costs seem cheap. Only the front cover of the booklet was color, but when I went to send it to Staples online, the price came in at $352.80 for 30 copies. Wow. That is not what I had budgeted at all.

Of course, I found this out late Friday afternoon, when I had ran home to make Pam’s last changes to the booklet. My plan was to send it to Staples, then go back and ride two horses and braid one, then swing by Staples and pick the booklets up on my way home. But when I saw that price, I kinda panicked. My wonderful husband came to my rescue, and monitored the printer while 30 6-page, double-sided pages printed, then folded them for me. I would have been up until 3 am without his help.

4.       Cutting corners is a BAD idea. I cut a corner by not making an application for the demo riders, and it was a corner I really shouldn’t have cut.  I needed to have demo riders organized well before hand so Pam and I could work out the format, which meant I was looking for demo riders in my already-overloaded February. Because I didn’t make an application, my demo riders really didn’t understand what they were committing to. Once I realized my gaff, I apologized like mad, and probably over-communicated with them the last two weeks. It’s a testament to the rider’s character that they didn’t all revolt and refuse to ride. Thank you all of you. The day wouldn’t have been nearly as special without you and your horses.

5.       Set-up creates unforeseen dramas.  On Friday, Cara and I headed out to pick up the portable OVCTA arena, and I realized I had left my lights on. We jumped into Cara’s truck, and drove to Hunter Hill to get the arena, but alas, the arena now lives at Ludwig’s Hardware, which, of course, is 2 miles from the farm. When I hopped out of the truck to unload the arena, I ripped my jeans from the zipper to the tailbone. Great.

Then, Saturday morning Amy went to vacuum the lounge. The vacuum had died, so I suggested she use the shop vac. Dumb idea. The shop vac blew dust out the back side, and I mean a lot of dust – enough to set off the fire alarm. Rest assured, the fire department gets to Journey’s End FAST. 

6.       No matter how much you plan, on the day of the event, something will go wrong. My little PA system failed me miserably. If I put it too close to the wall, it fed back. I tracked down enough extension cord to get it away from the metal walls, and it would randomly feedback whenever anyone’s cell phone went off. Of course, feedback and horses never go well together, so we finally abandoned ship, and Pam ended the day hoarse projecting her voice. She did ok until the barn staff decided to drag the arena just outside of the indoor, but that was only temporary. But I couldn’t control that, which brings us to the next point.

7.       I can’t control everything. I really wish I could have controlled the weather (don’t we all??). It was COLD. Just to add insult to injury, last weekend it was 70. I was completely impressed by the die-hards who huddled there until the bitter end. You guys are awesome, so completely committed to your educations. And you must have more long johns than most of us.

8.       Trying to learn when I’m the organizer is pretty much impossible. I spent most of the day hopping up and down, answering questions, making sure everyone was where they needed to be, and doing random stuff. I was optimistic that I could squeeze some education time in as well, but it really didn’t happen. I got excellent, usable feedback when I was riding, but wasn’t able to sit still long enough to absorb much from the other rides.

9.       A beer with my awesome volunteers to celebrate a successful day makes everything so much better. But then, I knew that already. Thanks so much for all of your help, you are the best.

Linda was all over the place with her camera, so I’ll get some photos up soon. 


  1. Sounds like an amazing clinic. The club I belong to here puts cllinics on quite regularly. The cost of the clinician is always the biggest part. We don't have problems with riders expecting to get a deal, however. Maybe it's because we've done this for so long they're now educated to the benefit to themselves and their horses. Most of our riders don't see themselves as their to educated the auditers. I wonder how our numbers for auditers compare to yours, I'll bet ours are lower.

  2. As a project manager in real life and a former clinic and symposium organizer, welcome to my world! Great post, finances are always a sticking point in my neck of the woods, myself included. :-)