How to become a horse/riding trainer?
So I have NO idea what I want to do when I'm older. I've always wanted to do something with horses but I always figured it was a pretty unrealistic dream. However, I met this horse trainer in my area who trains horses for a living. He isn't famous, yet he still makes a living that way training reining horses. I thought it was a REALLY cool job and it kind of made me think that horse training was actually a possible future for me.
I've been training my horse Maverick on my own. He was already broke and everything when I got him, he was just very inexperienced and didn't know any specifics of anything really. He's a 6 year old Arabian. Through working with him I've learned a LOT. My trainer's always encouraging me about how his value has raised a LOT since I've been working with him. I'm always the first one to ride her new horses (after her obviously) because she claims that I could ride most broke horses by now with my experience and she'd like to get me riding as many different horses as possible to boost my experience level. Personally, I think she's exaggerating and trying to boost my confidence by saying I can ride most horses but hey, it's still nice of her to say haha :)
Anyways, that's a little bit about me, now question time. I'd like to know more about horse training. How do you get into this profession? Is it hard to make a living off of this? How do people generally base their time and costs per horse? Are there different costs depending on what's going to be done for your horse? What are things I should look into to make my decision? Is it always done at your own place or do people travel to different places to train horses? How many people generally want their horses trained? Is it a popular business? What are some of your experiences with training horses or sending your horse in to be trained?
The other part of this thread that I'd like to touch on is being a riding coach. I know a lot more about this than horse training because I always stick around to watch my trainer's lessons and I've talked to her a lot about it. She isn't certified though, what she teaches is based on her 40+ years of experience so she can only tell me so much about it. What I know is that riding lessons generally base from 20-40 bucks an hour for one rider. The horse is often supplied by the trainer, or by the rider. The rider must wear a helmet and boots with a heel. They learn stable management, riding, grooming and tacking up, safety, tack, etc (or at least that's what I learned in my lessons).
Next year I'll be starting a riding program that'll teach me more about riding and stable management and then when I've finished that program I can apply for a connected program to become a certified instructor. My coach says that I'm ready to be giving beginner riding lessons already based on my knowledge of riding over the years so in the summer I'll ask around to see if anyone would like beginner lessons for $20 an hour. I've already given mini lessons to a few beginners who are my friends, a jumping lesson to a more experienced friend, and some mini lessons to some kids at our barn. They all said that they loved lessons with me and that I did a good job explaining details and why we did the things I told them to. Giving those lessons was even a learning experience for me and I decided that that'd be something I'd be interested in continuing as well.
More questions... How hard is it finding people to give lessons to? Are people generally pretty good at keeping the dates in mind and to come to lessons when they're scheduled? What are your experiences with teaching beginner and advanced riding lessons? Any tips for me on finding people to teach, advertising and teaching in itself?
I'll take pretty much any information you can give me on horse training and rider training. Thanks a lot for reading through my whole thread! :)
Some go to school to get their start in training and it may depend in what discipline you are looking to train in. I found that those kids that I went to high school with that went to college for training while I started from the bottom stall cleaning, turning out and grooming we ended up in the same positions(actually riding) in about the same amount of time. I was making a little money and they were spending theirs on college. But I didn't have any idea on an alternate career other than horses/ranch work so college would of been a waste for me at the time, in my opinion. The kids that did go to college had other ideas and ambitions.
I have found that most work their way up, stall cleaning, grooming and saddling, lopers, assistants, colt starters and training assistants then eventually venturing out to train on their own. Many get weeded out in the process. Long days and mostly 6/7 days a week not including shows on very little pay and crappy living conditions, usually a camp trailer behind the barn..LOL! Some trainers offer you a few holes in the barn for your own outside horses to ride and make a little extra money on.
More than likely you will start out with some lesser known trainers, but with a good work ethic and build a reputation for yourself you can work yourself up to the big name trainers. It is easier to make a name for yourself under a bigger trainer, the clients recognize you and may send a horse or two your way when you are out on your own or send clients. And when advertising your services it helps if potential clients can associate with who you had worked for. Not saying that a big name trainer is the ultimate because their is plenty of awesome trainers out their that no one has heard of. All it takes is a big money client that can afford to send 10 futurity prospects to you and hopefully one of them makes the cut a wins you a check :) But horse show trainers are a lot like movie stars, its about who is big right now.
I realized I can not deal with the public or clients. I love training horses, but not the people. I just ride horses for people I know anymore and very rarely that now.
Anyhow that's how I got started, hopefully someone else has some insight or better advice! LOL!
Go to college, such as William Woods in Fulton MO, Stephens College in Columbia MO, or Lexington KY has many degree programs for horses.
That is what I would suggest, as would give you best exposure to training, and help you meet people in the field.
Or can apprentice with trainer.
The biggest thing I can recommend is experience. Decide now what kind of trainer you want to be so you can focus your experience in that area. Like you, when I was young I wanted to be a horse trainer, what I didn't realize is that most horse trainers are specialists catering to very specific clientèle. Colt starters rarely are able to produce a "finished" horse, a reining trainer probably knows little about how to show well in jumping, many English trainers don't excel at teaching western events.
Showing is often a BIG part of being a successful trainer, once you have a good foundation in basic horsemanship, find the sport you enjoy and show, show, show, to learn all the ins and outs of how to compete well in that area. Because most people who pay the real money for trainers have their horses for competition, they need someone who can show them all of the little things that make the difference between the top horses/riders and all the wannabees. Also consider an apprenticeship to a trainer, to get experience with different training techniques.
Can start working at trainer's barn for little or no pay and go from there. Be prepared to ride the worst crazy horses and get used like a slave.
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Start off by riding as many horses as you can- the more horses/problem horses you ride, the more experience you have to help with future rides. Ask your instructor if you can help her with the beginner riding lessons- maybe you can be the one to teach the kids how to tack up/groom, and then you can watch their lesson and take notes. Ride in or audit as many clinics as possible, the "bigger" the name of the trainer the better. Everyone has a different teaching style, take what works for you and turn it into your own thing.
I would finish up by attending an equine university- keep in mind that needs to be more of a finishing school mentality, not a "hey I woke up and decided to be an instructor" type thing. I graduated from William Woods University back in the day and LOVED it- but there were so many people who wanted that EQS degree but had NO experience to back it up. You can't become an instructor purely from an Equine degree, but you can become a MUCH better one.
Best of luck!
I've been showing a lot too already in english and western pleasure classes and I've done a couple jumping classes as well. I also do a lot of gymkhanas. People generally know my name in our club. I get introduced to a lot of people by my coach...EVERYONE horsey in our area knows her, she's everywhere. So she makes sure that I'm known by everyone because I'm practically her daughter and I pretty much live at her place in the barn haha :p
Apprenticing would be a great experience for sure...I could ask my coach if she knows of any trainers that I'd be able to follow around for a while and see how they do things.
As for lessons, I've also been helping her with those :) She's asked me a few times if I could start a lesson for her if she just came home from work and needs to change and eat quickly before the lesson. And she always tells me when she's giving a lesson so that I can run over there and watch. So with me watching a LOT of her lessons and on top of that, taking lessons for 4 years with her, I definitely know how to work with kids like the ones she's taught. I've taught a few lessons myself and they went really well so I'm hoping that I'll get some regulars sometime!
Thanks a lot for the advise! :)
And no matter how much you show yourself, if you want to have good customer base, you need to have the skills to train and show many horses, of all attitudes and abilities. Plus good business skills for that matter.
The networks developed by going to college can be invaluable, particularly for someone that doesn't come from background in horses, where they showed at higher levels.
And can also help weed out what disciplines one is interested in, as Western, H/J, Saddleseat and Dressage are all available.
Focus can be on training horses, riding instruction, barn management, or specialize in broodmare/foals. Last time I looked, I think Lexington had 30+ programs, from AA to PhD.
I say go to school for something other then horses! Teaching, nurse, become a police officer or whatever floats your boat for a few reasons.
1. Turning a hobby into a job is the fastest way to ruin something that should be enjoyable. I work right now at a barn teaching, managing, riding/training new horses, and the whole 9 yards! There are days when I just DON'T want to get up and teach X amount of lessons, ride the spook and spinner, make schedules and tell people what to do. I just want to ENJOY being at the barn, not turn it into something I MUST do.
2. Every single local trainer I come upon is just "getting by". It really not a salary you can raise a family on or support your hobbies (ie, your horse). Get ready for LONG hours in the cold/heat working for CRAZY "horse people" with an equally crazy horse.
3. Injury, whether it's over time (arthritis) or something acute (leg fracture) or even a psychological thing (very bad accident). Whatever the circumstances are, what if you cannot work any longer?
You can still be a horse trainer and a riding instructor, but I wouldn't recommend it as a main source of income. I'm in nursing school now and one of my goals is to do a little training and instructing on the side. I really enjoy teaching and riding, but I never want to feel like my hobby is something I HAVE to do. It totally sucks the fun right out of something to be enjoyed.
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If you really want to train/coach, I would get a good job that is decent paying and flexible, then train or coach on the side. Like many already said, it is very difficult to make a living in the horse industry. There are several informative threads over in the Equine Careers and Education forum if you haven't checked those out yet.
I wouldn't recommend going to college university for equine stuff unless you have a LOT of money and a few years to burn. Everything learned there can be obtained through an internship or working students placements, and in all honesty you don't really come out any farther ahead compared to the next person.
I've done both sides of what you want to do, I've trained and coached. Training was great, if it could stay just me and the horse, I would probably still be doing it. You have to be excellent at dealing with people and really love it though, and that's where I lack, I am great with people when I want to be, but I just don't really want to put in that effort, the customer service side is not my thing. And good trainers will train the horses AND the riders. Coaching I really enjoyed, but I enjoy just going to the barn and riding my horse more, on my own time. I don't want to be stuck there working and answering to others, I found that doesn't really work for me, and even with the money it wasn't worth it to me. I THOUGHT that's what I wanted to do with my life 10 years ago, training and coaching, and I got an equine science degree and put in a good effort for about 8 years, but things change. It wasn't fun anymore, and working for not much pay was taking it's toll on me, I was barely making enough to scrape by. Getting a newer car or saving for a house was not doable at all on that wage. Training and coaching are 2 things I could fall back on anytime if I wanted to get back into the industry, part or full time, someday that might happen, but right now that's not what I want to do. I want to have fun and enjoy my time at the barn and with my horses. I want things to be on my terms.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you have a backup plan if the horse thing doesn't pan out. You might get sick/hurt, lose interest or just decide to try something different later on, you really never do know! I sure wish I had planned ahead better!! It's absolutely crucial to have a backup plan, I can not stress that enough. I was stuck working minimum wage jobs after I got out of the horse industry, because my equine science degree doesn't transfer over to anything else. And neither will coaching/training/working in a barn translate over on a resume. Something to keep in mind. I ended up having to go back to school before I could break into a different career, and had I planned better from the start I would have accounted for something like this down the road. You could get a degree, then try the training/coaching thing, if it doesn't pan out at least you have your degree to fall back on. Or do training/coaching on the side, lots of options for sure. But don't limit yourself, as no one knows what will happen in the future!
Good luck with whatever you decide to do:)
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