Having been involved in the horse world for the majority of my life, this is a statement I have heard more times than I can remember.
“I’m going to be a horse trainer.”
That’s all well and good. Congratulations! Now how are you going to accomplish this? Having and training your own horse does not a trainer make. There are no guidelines written down somewhere that give you the steps you need to take. It seems anyone can hang out a shingle. There is no need for accreditation. You can go to college and take equestrian sciences, but is that enough? Being a trainer is much like being a chef. Just because you can cook, doesn’t make you one. When you go to apply for a job, they may ask you where you went to school, but what is more to important a potential employer is: Who have you worked under?
The grand illusion is: you hang out your shingle, get some clients and start making money. It’s not quite that easy. The fact is, you know what you know. And unless you broaden your horizons and start working with people who have already built a reputation of their own, what you know will always be a journey of trial and error. You want to be a trainer? Here’s some suggestions.
- Find the discipline you are passionate about. Dressage. Jumping. Western Pleasure. Reining. The list is long. Then find a mentor. Someone who has spent years in the discipline and built a reputation in their field. Ideally, this will lead you to being a working student. The hours will be long. The demands high. The pay almost non-existent. But if you keep your eyes and ear open, the education you will get is priceless.
- Continue your education even after you have started on your own. Attend clinics. Ride under clinicians. This is your resume. Read. Ask. Inquire. Keep in touch with your mentor always and never be too prideful to ask for help. Never assume you are the end all, be all. We are never too old to learn.
- Start small. Build a solid client base with a few horses. Use social media to advertise progress. Get out to shows. Remember there are eyes on you, watching how you treat your clients, their horses and your own horses. Be a humble winner and a gracious loser. Blue ribbons don’t just happen.
Technically, I am a trainer. I have trained under a Master who instructs all over the world and has put in years and years working under Masters of the past to get where he is now. I continue training at home under another trainer that is regularly instructed under the Master. I know what I know and daily learn and absorb as much as I can. I see the progress of the horses I am training, but still stumble over calling myself ‘trainer’. The people who mentor me are at the level I aspire to be and this has been a journey of years.
You want to be a trainer? Awesome. But… be prepared for a long road of ramen noodles after working a twelve hour day. You will be tired and earn a pittance. For years. A social life? Hmmm.. Not for a while. And when you do go out, people may get weary of you steering every conversation to horses. Do not be discouraged by critics, because you will have them. It’s the nature of the business.
Is the journey worth it? Absolutely. You are partnering with amazing animals who will teach you as much as you teach them. But the most important thing about being a trainer is putting the horse first. Train with compassion, integrity, and honesty. Remember there are no short cuts. While one horse may progress rapidly, another one may progress in baby steps. Train on horse time. Not client time.
And always remember to dance…..