Male trainer training brown horse - What to look for in a horse trainer

What Exactly Is a Horse Trainer?

A horse trainer is someone who’s employed to undertake work with another person’s horse. Their role may include a variety of different duties.

As summarized in a previous article, a horse trainer may:

  • Work with introducing horses to saddle
  • Re-educate horses who are moving from one discipline to the next (such as a horse that has retired from racing and will be used in eventing)
  • Start a horse in harness or prepare it for a particular discipline, such as dressage, show jumping, trail riding or Western pleasure
  • Work specifically with horses that have been identified as having behavioural or safety issues—bucking, rearing, biting, kicking, refusing to be caught and such
  • Train horses for performance (for instance, in dressage, riding schools or racing)

If you’re looking to find a horse trainer to work with your horse, it’s important that you know what area of equine education you’d like the trainer to work on.  Sending a dressage horse to a racehorse trainer, for example, would be completely unfruitful. When it comes to seeking the right trainer, it’s essential to know that the people you talk with are in a position to carry out the work that needs to be done.

As a horse owner, it’s important to make yourself aware of any issues that you have with your horse, and the level of education you’d like your horse to achieve, well before you start to search for the right trainer. Once you know what you’d like done, then you can start your search for the ideal trainer for you and your horse.

What to Look for in a Horse Trainer

There are many things you should consider when it comes to employing the right horse trainer. This person needs to be a good fit for your horse—and you, also!  Below, we’ll take a look at the following factors that you may take into consideration:

  • Qualifications and experience
  • Location
  • Finances
  • Facilities

The Horse Trainer’s Qualifications and Experience Level

The role of the horse trainer can be rather varied, depending on what educational area and discipline a particular trainer chooses to focus on. That being said, trainers within different disciplines need many of the same qualities (also summarized in a previous article):

  • Patience
  • An understanding of equine behaviour, fitness and nutrition
  • A level of strength and fitness that will enable them to work with and even ride multiple horses on a daily basis
  • The ability to assess a horse and determine (and adjust) a training plan
  • Empathy for the equine species and an awareness of their fight or flight reflex

When you’re looking to hire an appropriate trainer for your horse, ask questions and look for signs that each potential trainer possesses the qualities above. Being able to read a horse correctly and respond appropriately to its needs—while also gaining the desired result—are also important abilities to consider.

On top of this, you may also need to look at qualifications. Depending on the discipline of your horse, a training qualification may not be necessary. The racing industry (harness and gallops) requires horse trainers to be formally qualified to undertake a training role. Much of the English industry is made up of horse trainers who have qualifications relating to riding, horse husbandry and coaching, but these aren’t essential.

Don’t dismiss a potential trainer because they haven’t got a particular qualification, if this isn’t necessary for them to fulfill their job. However, recognize the value of a trainer’s investment in their skills and education in order to gain a piece of paper that revolves around horses. This may illustrate their dedication and willingness to learn all they can about horses and their care.

The Horse Trainer’s Location

Where each potential horse trainer is located will greatly impact whom you decide to employ. If you can’t easily access your horse during its time away, this may prove to be a problem for you. Likewise, getting your horse to the trainer may become difficult if the trainer’s home base is hours away.

A local trainer can often be more convenient, but if a long-distance trip means that the right person will undertake the job, then this option shouldn’t be overlooked.

Finances: The Cost of Hiring a Horse Trainer

The first cost you’ll incur as a horse owner is that of transporting your horse to the trainer. Once it’s with the trainer, there will be ongoing fees. These will often include fees for training, stabling, feeding and caring for the horse, along with bedding costs. Be sure you know about all the costs involved and are prepared for any extras that may be thrown your way—like a vet call for a case of colic.

If you find a great trainer but can only afford half the time they recommend that they spend with your horse, take the time to save up more money or find someone else. It’s not wise to get a training job only half-done because you can’t pay for the full process.

The Horse Trainer’s Facilities

Training facility in Oregon - What to look for in a horse trainer

Before hiring a trainer to take on your horse, be sure that you can see their facilities. If your horse is to be ridden, stabled, pastured (paddocked), or worked in a round pen or lunging yard, then it’s important that these facilities are available on the property where the horse resides  (or very close to it), and that they’re safe and in working order.

There’s nothing wrong with asking to see all the facilities that you know will be used for your horse during its stay with the trainer. This will help you ensure that the job can be carried out properly, and that your horse will be safe. If you can’t assess all these facilities in person, arrange for someone to go on your behalf or ask for clear photos of the facilities.

How to Find a Horse Trainer

Once you’ve determined what type of training is required for your horse, and the skills and qualifications you’d like to see in a potential trainer, it’ll be time to start your official search for one. Many good trainers can be found through recommendations from others who have used their skills and services with success.

More specifically, you can find a horse trainer via:

  • Conversations with local horse-related contacts
  • Online searches
  • Local directories

Often, the best way to find a suitable trainer is to ask people you know in the industry about trainers. To do this, you might talk to:

  • People at local riding clubs
  • Your veterinarian
  • Your farrier
  • Another equine industry professional

Of course, doing a search online or in local directories can make you aware of trainers nearby, too. If you find a potential trainer locally, don’t be afraid to ask them for client testimonials or the contact information of a happy customer who’d be willing to talk with you about their training experience.

Meeting Your Horse Trainer in Person

Some people are great over the phone, and others are terrible! They may not be able to communicate well or sell themselves, so it’s best that you meet each potential trainer in person to ask questions, make sure you’re understood and see how they relate to you as a person.

Going to meet them and seeing their facilities will give you an opportunity to ask any further questions you may have, and get a feel for where your horse may be going. If you can’t do this for some reason, it may be worth finding a knowledgeable horse contact who can go on your behalf. The more information you have before choosing a trainer, the better!

Always Do Your Research

As stated above, horse trainers can have varying roles, although many of their skills and qualities will overlap throughout a variety of disciplines.

If you’re interested in getting into this line of work yourself, be sure to check out our previous article, The Horse Trainer: How to Become One and What’s Involved.

The bottom line is, when it comes to picking a horse trainer for your horse, make sure you do your research!


image 1: Pixabay; image 2: Pixabay