There is an old saying that says, “You can’t teach what you don’t know.” How true this is in the horse world. You can buy a horse and work with him hours a day, but his skill level will be limited to only what his teacher knows. Once that skill level is reached, then it may be time to look for a trainer if you want your horse’s performance to continue to improve. How do you look for the right trainer?
Sometimes even accomplished riders hire someone else to work or train their horses. Some horse owners may not have the time to dedicate to full training, so they will hire a trainer. Others would like a more experienced rider to ride their horses for them. Whatever your reason may be, hiring a trainer should be approached with much thought and consideration.
Choosing the right trainer may be one of the most important decisions any horseman can make. It can also be one that many people make for the WRONG reasons.
“I saw this girl win,” says one barrel racer, “and I guess I just wanted to win, too. I didn’t stop to find out how she did it…and I didn’t realize until later that most of her horses only last her one season.”
“Another adds, “In my case I failed to understand just how long it takes to go from an unbroken horse to a finished one. I am very satisfied with my horse now. The trainer did a good job, but I wish I’d known just how much time (and money) it would take to get to that point. “
“I wish I had a happy ending like that,” says still another horse owner. “I picked out a prospect, took him to a trainer, and contracted with him to keep him a set length of time. He did. And when the time was up, it was evident that the horse had not been suited for the event we were working him for. This was something the trainer had known for months, but didn’t feel it was his place to tell me.“
All of these problems could have been avoided by simply investigating the trainer thoroughly beforehand, clearly understanding the training process, and by keeping a clear line of communication between trainer and owner.
Most people decide to use services of a horse trainer because they want a superior product, they feel that a professional will be able to do a better job, or because they have run into problems trying to train the horse themselves.
There is no real place to shop for a horse trainer other than searching online or in magazine and classifieds advertising. Some may look very impressive and have a beautiful website, but unfortunately, the best web designer or ad writer may not be the best horse trainer.
It is usually best to do your own investigating. Look at other horses this trainer has produced. Do they look like good performers? Do they look sound with good minds? Talk to others who have used the trainer. Are they satisfied? Do they feel that they got their money’s worth out of the trainer’s training process?
Visit with the trainer. Look at the facility. Will you feel comfortable with your horse being there? Make sure you tell the trainer what you have in mind and what your expectations are, then ask for their honest assessment of the situation. How much time will be involved? Are you welcome to come observe training sessions? Will the trainer devote some time toward the end of the training stay to getting you and the horse working together? Will he or she provide you with regular progress reports on the development of your horse? Also, make sure you ask, What is the full cost of the training? Does that include feed? Which veterinarian is used? If a vet is needed, are owners notified? Does your training agreement involve the trainer hauling or showing the animal? If so, what costs are involved?
Once you have found a trainer that you feel comfortable with, remember that your status as owner does not allow you to have free reign with your trainer’s schedule. Most trainers work all day long riding horses. At the end of the day, when the work is done and they are finally able to relax, that should not have to spend their personal time on the phone with the owners. Some owners even like to surprise the trainer by showing up unexpectedly to check on the horse. They more often catch the trainer in the shower than mistreating a horse. Please respect the trainer’s personal time.
The best advice is, once you decide upon a trainer, keep a professional, respectful, open line of communication with him or her, just as you expect from them. If problems arise with your horse or training, you expect them to let you know, just as if you have a concern with some aspect of the training process, you should be able to communicate and discuss that concern with the trainer. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, but be prepared to listen to the answers and act accordingly. You have entered into a professional contract with the trainer and when it comes down to it, both parties are expected to act professionally.
You can find many great inside horse training tips and advice on my website: www.barrelracers.com. We are constantly updating videos to not only help just barrel racers, but anyone who owns a horse. Also, my new book, Run to Win with Me is a great reference guide that covers prospecting for a horse, proper equipment and safety, training exercises, how to recognize warning signs of health issues and so many other great subjects you should know as a horse owner. For more information, horse sales, products, or training questions, please call the Josey Western Store at 903 935-5358.
Martha Josey personifies barrel racing for many people. She was the first and only cowgirl to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in four consecutive decades. She has the distinction of winning both the AQHA and WPRA World Championships in the same year. Her career has stretched, win-to-win, over four decades. For more information, visit BarrelRacers.com.
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 2