How to Become a Professional Horse Trainer
There are several different methods of training horses, and several different disciplines. Becoming a horse trainer for thoroughbred, or standardbred, racehorses involves special licensing, so this will not be specifically covered here. Today we will talk about how to become a trainer for show and pleasure horses, which includes halter (conformation) horses.
What is a Professional Horse Trainer?
A professional horse trainer is one who makes their income training other people's horses. They get paid to train horses. Once a person is paid to train somebodies horse they are no longer considered an “Amateur” in terms of showing, and in many cases cannot show horses as an amateur for several years after they stop working as a professional horse trainer.
A professional trainer might own their own stable, where clients also pay to board their horses while in training, might rent stalls at another stable and train out of that stable, or might work specifically for one client training their horses at the clients stable.
Some horse trainers train a horse for 30 – 90 days and that is all, the horse leaves and is never seen again. Others, particularly those who train for horse shows, may train the same horse, or horses, for years, and will coach the owners/riders (amateur owners) as well.
Horse trainers often have to coach young riders in preparation for horse shows.
How to get Started as a Horse Trainer
A person can attend a college to learn the skills needed to train horses. This will include such things as:
- Foal Training – Halter Training
- Ground Driving
- Basic Training
- Advanced Training
Typically college students will also learn other important skills such as diet, how to keep a horse sound, conformation to performance, and horse health. It is important to have well rounded knowledge since it is not enough to train a horse to be a saddleseat horse if the horse is not physically built for that discipline. As well if a trainer cannot spot the early signs of stress, lameness, or health issues, they could put the horse at risk.
Some people learn by becoming a groom, or trainers assistant, for a person who is a professional trainer. Eventually they learn the trade themselves. Sometimes they do so by apprenticing with a trainer on the understanding they are working cheap (or for free) for the trainer as an assistant in exchange for being taught skills to become a horse trainer themselves.
A good trainer will also have the ability to instruct students. This way a trainer can also act as a coach at horse shows, which will result in them attracting more horses.
Some horse trainers are “self taught” having owned their own horses and trained them to a level where the horses catch the eye of people at horse shows and the person gets attention for their horse training abilities.
A trainer must have the necessary tack and equipment for training at their disposal. Trainers usually use their own tack for training unless coaching a person in a lesson or at a show.
At some point in order to attract clients a person has to promote themselves. You can call yourself a professional horse trainer, but you still have to get people to pay you to train their horses!
Find your niche and promote towards that, but in the early stages you should also accept some horses for basic training / pleasure riding. Your niche might be Quarter Horses, Morgans, Jumpers, Rodeo, or so forth.
Most people will start out by showing their own horses, thus making a name for themselves. They will usually accept a few new clients by offering training at a low rate just to establish themselves as a horse trainer.
You can put up signs at tack stores, feed stores, and auction markets. You can put an ad in the local newspaper. If you are training horses specifically towards the show circuit you will want to target your search for new clients to winter and spring, as that is when most horses enter training. Young horses may have some training in the fall, but very few people are looking for trainers in the summer once the show season has begun, although they will notice you and keep you in mind for next year. Always have business cards on hand at shows, and if you have stalls at the show always leave some business cards there so people can take them. You can advertise in show prize lists.
How much should Horse Trainers charge?
How much you charge for training a horse is up to you. You will probably spend less than an hour a day training a horse, and it should have 2 days off a week. Calculate how much you think this is worth, based on your experience, skill, and other rates in the area. If you have a groom, or assistant, calculate for paying them as well, noting their help can allow you to spend less time on any one horse as they will be doing a lot of the work too (grooming/lunging/saddling). Calculate (and charge) board costs additionally if you are also providing board.