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"Good Horsemanship is Built on Solid Basics...So is Good Business!"

Business & Association Development, Marketing, Professional Workshops forthe Horse Industry

by Lisa Derby Oden

Take a look through any of the horse publications and you'll see that a wide variety of seminar and clinic topics is available: horse training techniques, saddle fitting, pasture maintenance, breeding, legal issues, insurance, marketing and more. No matter what part of the horse industry you 're in, seminars and clinics offer your clients a chance at on-going education and new perspectives. These programs also draw newcomers to your business.
When organizing a clinic or seminar, it's best to give yourself six months or more, depending on the size of group you're planning on attracting. The following checklist will ensure that you cover the bases for running a successful clinic or seminar.
1) Choose the theme - Have you had requests for a specific topic or method that can be explored in greater depth than you're able to on a regular basis? Do you have a mentor that you know your clients would benefit from hearing or seeing? Is there a topic you've always wanted to know more about? Is there an individual who's providing seminars around the country, but hasn 't been in your general area yet?
2) Choose a date - You'll actually do better to choose two or three dates, and as you contact presenters you'll narrow your choices to a final selection. Check the local and regional horse calendars also. What other activities are taking place on the same date? How will these other activities impact your ability to fill your clinic or seminar? Does your date fall during a school vacation? Do you want it to? If you're planning during winter, and some potentially conflicting dates haven't been announced yet, you may be able to refer to back issues of trade publications to find out when other groups and businesses typically hold their events. It's no guarantee of course, and you'll also discover its difficult not to conflict with something. Try to work the conflicts out so that it is on a date with something being offered to another riding/breed discipline, or just outside of the area that you think your participants will come from.
3) Decide where to hold the clinic/seminar - Will you run the clinic or seminar on your farm or business address? Or will you choose another site, such as a farm that has an indoor arena if you don't, or a hotel or restaurant with meeting space and audio/visual equipment? Factors to consider are: insurance for the program, easy access for travelers, parking, availability of food, restroom capacity.
4) Draw up a clinic/seminar budget - All your costs need to be included here: clinician and their travel and accommodations; facility rental; publicity; postage, phone and any other office costs; food if you're providing this; insurance; permits if required; assistants for the day of the program. This will help you determine the fee to attend. If the fee seems out of line, consider approaching local businesses or related businesses as sponsors to help cover costs, and to give them some exposure too.
5) Work with the clinician/presenter to publicize the event - Ask your presenter to provide you with a brief biography and list of accomplishments, and a photo. Ask that the presenter also include your seminar/clinic in any announcements they make regarding their schedule and itinerary.
6) Send calendar announcements to the trade publications three monthsbefore the event - For example, your clinic will be held November 15. You'll get the best exposure by letting people know starting in September. This means that a monthly publication needs to have the information in mid-July or early August. Your calendar listing will then appear in September, October, and November.
7) Submit advertising three months in advance of the event - People will learn about your program several ways. Some will see it in the calendar, some will read about it in media releases, some will see your ads, some will get a flyer in the mail, some will hear about it from their horse club. If you want to draw people from a large geographic area, the trade publications are a good place to advertise. Selected websites can offer more exposure too. If you're looking for local draw, then ads with local papers and local horse clubs work well.
8) Prepare media releases - Send these to trade publications and local newspapers. Most trade publications are monthly, so be sure that the press releases arrive in order to be placed in the issue just prior to the event. Local newspapers are daily or weekly, and release should arrive to be placed a week before the event. Remember to include WHO is featured, WHAT the program is about, WHY to attend (what will participants work on or learn), WHERE and WHEN the program will be held, and HOW to register. If you have a non-profit association providing your food as a fundraiser for their group, you may be able to get a public service announcement made with local radio and television. The ad would state, "XYZ non-profit is conducting a bbq fundraiser at the Clinic of the Year being held at Horse Center." They are the focus, but you all get exposure.
9) Make good use of your mailing list. Postcards can be sent at a very reasonable price. Or mail out flyers that include a registration form along with deadlines, directions to the event, cancellation policy, and who to contact for additional information. Send these to stables, riders, feed and tack shops, and horse clubs and associations. Mail them to arrive three to four weeks ahead of the event.
10) Hire or recruit assistants - You'll need help the day of the event to be sure things go smoothly. Jobs may include: set-up, parking, registration, general question answering (restroom, schedule, food), presenter greeter, moderator/timer, and clean-up.
11) Make evaluation forms available - Whether you hand them out, include them in a program, or set them in an easy-access location, evaluations can help you to make improvements for future years. You may get a better response to these if you make it part of a fre drawing. Keep the evaluation as brief as possible, easy to answer, with room for additional comments if desired.
12) Prepare a follow-up media release - This will take the reader through the days activities. Be sure to include quotes from participants about what they learned, and photos of the days activities. Send this to all the same publications you sent the first media release to.
13) Send a thank-you - The site, assistants, presenters, and sponsors will all be pleased to work with you again if you have given them appropriate consideration. This is a professional courtesy that will build long-term good will for your horse business.

(Lisa Derby Oden has been providing business development, marketing, and association consulting services to the horse industry since 1995. Oden is author of "Growing Your Horse Business" and "Bang For Your Buck: Making $ense of Marketing For Your Horse Business." She is the 1999 AHC Van Ness Award recipient for outstanding service to the horse industry. She can be reached at: (603)878-1694; email at; or visit her website at

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