1. Experience with horses
This is a very good question, I'll bet others will be interested in the responses you get.
Over the years I've hired 5 assistant trainers. Two were worthless and three were excellent long term employees. That's only a little better than a 50% success rate- take what I say with a grain of salt.
I did a formal interview and asked 10 questions. I wanted to know about:
1. Experience with horses
2. Experience with kids (for lessons)
3. Philosophy of horse training (or colt starting)
4. Experience with equipment operation (tractor, arena groomer, truck and trailer, etc)
5. I'd give them a problem to solve such as teaching a young horse (or beginning rider) to do a specific maneuver or work out a problem
6. I'd ask about their comfort level of working with difficult horses (or people)
7. Experience showing a horse in horse shows and what disciplines or events
8. Can every horse (or any horse) be trained to a high level- if yes; give examples. If no; what do you do with those horses that don't make the grade.
9. If you are training a young horse, how far will the horse progress (what will the horse be able to do) after 30 days? After 60 days? After 90?
10. What are your long term goals and why do you want to work for me?
After the interview I'd tell them I would make a decision in a few days. If I was impressed with them I'd ask them if they wanted a tour of the facility. This was when the real interview began. I learned more about them in an hour "tour" than in the formal interview. Sometime during the tour I'd ask them if they were willing to clean stalls and/or feed. I'd also ask them what they considered their greatest accomplishment with horses. At the end of the tour, if I was really considering hiring them, I'd ask them to catch, tack up and ride a horse.
Some things I was not impressed with.
Those who "knew it all" about horses.
Those who lied. (One twenty year old told me he had trained "hundreds of horses". At his age I did not believe him. And if he did, why was he wanting a job with a small time trainer like me?)
Those who did not know what they were doing. (One young woman stated that she could teach a horse "everything" within 30 days.)
Some things I liked.
Neat clean appearance. I didn't expect applicants wear a coat and tie or a dress, I really preferred them to wear clothes similar to what they would wear to work (maybe just a little nicer).
Applicants who were relaxed and confident.
Applicants who were willing to do anything that needed to be done.
Applicants who had a high interest in horses. Since this was an assistant trainer position, I didn't expect them to have trained a lot of horses, but I wanted them to demonstrate an interest in horses by having some significant experience.
I asked applicants to submit a resume before the interview. One woman brought about 20 pictures as her resume. They were of horses she trained and places of where she worked. I liked it. I hired her.
The best employee I hired was one I "found" by asking other trainers if they knew anyone who was good with horses who was looking for work. If you have been involved in the horse industry for any length of time you should have some contacts that will give you a good reference and/or help you find work.
Send resumes out to people you would like to work for. I hired a young woman from an unsolicited resume. I kept it for 6 months until I had an opening. It may take a little time, but many people hire from a collection of resumes they keep on file.
Good luck with your career.
I have had almost 12 years of experience and I've worked with many different breeds of horses. I've worked with horses at many different stages in training, all varying from halter breaking weanlings to taking a horse to their first show. I've had a lot of experience with young horses and I've had a lot of firsts with horses. I've also ridden and shown english, western, hunter o/f (jumping), hunter pace, saddleseat, trail, parade, and even gaited. I've ridden side saddle a few times and though I didn't like it, my trainer said I'm very good at it. I've also driven horses since I was 5 and I'm in the process of teaching my mare to drive, though I've never driven in a show. I am an accomplished bareback rider, I have successfully jumped a 2'6" course bareback, I've also trail ridden bareback, and played 'tag' bareback... I taught my mare bridleless last year and was able to do a few dressage tests and jump courses bridleless. I also taught her and another pony to neck rein and I have trained three horses. Two with help, and one completely by myself. All three horses are now in the lesson program and are completely kid-safe.
I also have experience with hard barn work. I work at a barn down the street where I ride and I muck stalls, rake halls, groom horses, water, feed, help bring in and out horses, and in exchange I get to ride a little.
2. Experience with kids (for lessons)
I have given about 17 lessons since August and I've helped with a few group lessons as well. In the summer, I was a horse camp counselor twice and I baby sit kids often, so I am pretty patient with them. 3. Philosophy of horse training (or colt starting)
I really like using a lot of Natural Horsemanship methods, especially Clinton Anderson. I am patient with the horse and I usually never lose my temper. I like to take things slow and steady and I never like to rush anything. If the horse needs it, I am willing to smack them, but for the most part, I am pretty gentle with them. 4. Experience with equipment operation (tractor, arena groomer, truck and trailer, etc)
I've helped load horses SO many times.. the worst time was I had to get two abused TWHs onto a trailor and the mare I was leading tried to run me over in the trailor. Luckily, I didn't panic and successfully pushed her away from me, tied her up, and got out. I haven't ever driven a tractor, only because I don't wanna break anything. My friend has had me help him before with the tractor and I've hitched stuff up to it, too. I can drive a truck, I've done it a lot, though I don't have my license yet. 5. I'd give them a problem to solve such as teaching a young horse (or beginning rider) to do a specific maneuver or work out a problem
I've lunged a horse from a horse's back before.. Its not very hard, but It was something my trainer wanted to see if I could do. I've also done easy stuff like opening gates and mailboxes.. I've also lead horses from the back of a horse before and a lot of from the ground stuff, too. 6. I'd ask about their comfort level of working with difficult horses (or people)
I don't mind a horse misbehaving, I just don't like rearing too much.. bucking I don't really have an issue with and I don't like taking off. But I can ride all those out for the most part.
I prefer one on one with a trainer, but I am ok with group stuff 7. Experience showing a horse in horse shows and what disciplines or events
I've shown weanlings and yearlings in halter classes before, and many greenies.. I've shown in Dressage, hunter under saddle, pleasure (english and western), jumping (hunter and show jumping) hunter pace, saddleseat, trail, parade, gaited.. 8. Can every horse (or any horse) be trained to a high level- if yes; give examples. If no; what do you do with those horses that don't make the grade.
no. If a horse has bad conformation, they can't do high level jumping without hurting themselves. That's just one example. 9. If you are training a young horse, how far will the horse progress (what will the horse be able to do) after 30 days? After 60 days? After 90?
It depends on the horse. How much handling its gotten, how fast it learns, etc. usually from 30 days and up, though. 10. What are your long term goals and why do you want to work for me?
I'd like to become a trainer and own a barn one day. Maybe give lessons to kids and train for the public. But I can only hope. :P