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Finding just the right trainer for your horse is of paramount importance for you, as well as the horse. It is not unusual for an owner to pay more for training than they paid for the horse to begin with. Send your horse to the wrong trainer and you could be out thousands of dollars in addition to the valuable training time that could be lost forever. This is an area that is worth your investment in time and effort to fully check out any trainer that you are considering. Like any other profession, horse trainers come in all sizes, shapes and levels of competency. Most are very competent and ethical, but there are some who will take you and your cash for a ride.

We know from first hand experience that it is very easy to be taken advantage of when you are not alert and have not done your homework. We have recently had a terrible experience with a "well known" trainer, whom we failed to check out properly and in whom we put way too much trust. It will not happen again and you can learn from our experience. When we asked around after the experience, we easily found others who had bad experiences as well. Had we done our homework to begin with, we would not have had to go through a lengthy legal hassle to get satisfaction. We were ultimately well satisfied with the settlement, but we cannot get back the six months that we lost. Remember that well known is not the equivalent of good or ethical.

Enough of the negative, lets talk about the positive aspects of hiring a trainer. First, a good trainer is your best bet for success with your horse. This is true whether you are starting a youngster under saddle to be your trail horse or prepping your futurity prospect. A quality trainer knows their way around the industry of their specialty and can provide the right advice and guidance. The right trainer can help you focus on just where you and your horse are going in the future. He will give you a straight shooting evaluation of your horse's capabilities and limitations while pointing you both in the right direction. A good trainer will also know the value of properly caring for your horse so that his fitness matches the goals and activities, thereby avoiding performance threatening injuries.

A good trainer will usually be a good riding coach as well. Most do significant coaching for their clients, helping them to be better riders and exhibitors. What you can learn from a good trainer fills volumes. You can learn more from an hour with a quality trainer than you can from reading ten books. Ever try to ask a question of a book??? And, it's just plain fun to be part of something larger than yourself. You connect with the trainer's other clients who have similar interests and you become part of the team.


If you are training your horse for a specialty event like reining, show jumping, cutting, western pleasure, dressage or the like, you can usually find a list of trainers at the major organizations that govern the registrations and/or event. For example if you go to the National Reining Horse Association website, you can find a list of reining trainers. If you go to the American Quarter Horse Association, you can find a list of professional horsemen (and women) and so on.

You can also go to shows in your general area and ask of successful exhibitors, "Who trains your horse?" We recommend that you join organizations in your area. This will enable you to get to know the other horse people in your area of interest. Once you have the names of some trainers, you will want to ask around for recommendations from people who have had experience that you can evaluate. Most folks who are happy with their trainer are eager to share that with you. If they are not happy, they will get that across to you as well.

We can't stress enough how important it is to fully check out the trainers on your list. If you ask around enough, you will get the full scoop.


After you've found a few names that check out satisfactorily, it is important to make a visit to the trainer's facility and to interview the trainer (remember that he/she is interviewing you as well). Ask for a tour of the facility and be very observant while on the tour. Is the place generally well cared for? Are all the stalls reasonably clean? Do the horses look well fed and groomed? Ask about how many horse they train and how many riders they have. Does it sound reasonable? Ask about their program and who would be riding your horse and for how long and how often. Ask about the trainer's successes. Most will be more than happy to do a little bragging. If any areas of the facility are off limits, ask why and be sure that you are satisfied with the answer.

It is important to understand that the facility need not be a fancy million-dollar set-up to be completely satisfactory for training your horse. It should, however, be reasonably clean, in good repair and be satisfactory for the training you are seeking (i.e. a cutting trainer must have facilities for cattle).

Get a copy of their training contract and showing agreement. Read them carefully as you will be expected to adhere to these documents. Be sure to ask about fees for training, farrier/shoes, worming, vaccinations, showing, travel, etc. as there can be significant differences in what trainers charge. If a trainer charges $150 for shoes (very high) every six weeks, you will want to know that. If a trainer charges .70 cents a mile for travel, that is pretty high too and you will need to factor this into your decision. The extras added to your regular monthly training bill can be very significant. This is not to say that you should never pay high fees. If you go to a very prominent trainer, you are going to have to pay for it. It might be worth it if you are only interested in preparing for the futurities. However, if you are having the horse trained for your own use or are not concerned with having your horse compete at the highest level futurities, you would be well served to find a good, reputable trainer with reasonable fees. We know, we've done it both ways and hope you will learn from our mistakes


· We like a trainer within an hour or two of home so that we may visit often.
· Be wary of any trainer that requires an appointment for you to visit your horse. If they insist that you call first, it should be a tip that they want to prep your horse.
· Don't be overly impressed by a very fancy facility or a trainer with a big name.
· Be sure the trainer is willing to ride your horse when you visit to show you his progress.
· If it sounds like a trainer is overly optimistic, get a second opinion.
· Do visit your horse at least monthly and sometimes unannounced.
· Remember that "Show Sheen" can make your horse look shiny. Learn to look past this to the actual condition of your horse.
· If you are not happy with the training/trainer, take your horse elsewhere as it will not likely get better.
· Reassess your situation often.
· After a month or two, a good trainer should be able to let you know what potential your horse has (or doesn't have).
· Get progress reports from your trainer every month or so.
· Young horses generally get a break every few months, if your trainer is not sending the horse home for the break, the horse might be getting the break in a stall at the trainers facility. (With you paying for it). Ask about it.
· A trainer does not have to be a big name to be good at what they do and often are very successful.
· Be sure that you and the trainer fully understand and agree on your goals for the horse.
· Don't be overly impressed with a well-known trainer. Remember that some better known trainers can be "full of it" and some lesser known trainers can be absolutely terrific.
· Stay regularly involved in your horse's training. A good trainer will want your participation.


The relationship with your trainer can be lots of fun and a great learning experience for you as well as your horse. We recently went to a local show with our trainer and there were about 8 or 10 clients as well as the trainers showing horses that day. It was a fun group affair with people sharing in each other's successes and offering encouragement if things didn't go so well. So, do your homework, avoid the pitfalls and find the trainer that works for you. Build a relationship of respectful trust and you are certain to succeed.

Be good to your horse!!!