The time of year is fast approaching when horse people begin to look for a trainer to start their young ones that will be turning two this coming year. So, I figured that it would be a good time to write one on how to get a little bit ahead of the game in finding that right trainer for your prospect.
First thing that I would do is find out what discipline it was that I wanted to try my horse out in. For the most part the first 90 days or so is going to be the same training whether it is towards western pleasure or working cowhorse. But, there is a bonus to having your horse started by someone who is showing in the event that you are wanting to do. That trainer will be able to tell you faster as to whether or not your horse has the potential to compete in your chosen discipline.
OK, so now we know what event, how do we find reputable trainers? First place to look is the local horse publications to get contact information Another place is your breed affiliate websites like AQHA or the Paint Horse Association. These associations have a list of professionals and some event associations have the same. Another place to find a trainer is at the horse shows. Attend some shows and watch some of the trainers in action. How do they handle the horses that they are riding?
Now you have a couple of names and numbers, what is next? Call and talk to the trainers you have in mind, and find out if their program fits you and your ideas. Next, plan a time to go to their place and visit to make sure that the place and the care of the horses meets your expectations. You can also ask for references, but I can not imagine someone giving you a reference of someone who had a bad experience. However, it would give you some perspective from some one else.
Here is where the advice gets pretty frank. If you have read any of my articles in the past you know that I really like to keep things real and tell it like it is, or at least the way I see it. So here it goes. The best advice that I can give you when looking for a trainer is to go with your gut feeling about the person. You know, your instinct will tell you a great deal about someone. If you feel uneasy, there is a reason, that is your gut telling you something. If you want a gut check then ask around some and see what you get in response. Keep in mind though that there is always a couple of people that are dissatisfied. I was even fired once from training because I would not yell at their daughter.
Here are a couple of questions that prospective clients have asked me and some of my responses:
How often do you work your horses and for how long?
Horses can handle 45 minutes of training a day at the most, 15 minutes of warm up 30 minutes of learning, then some cool down. 4 to 5 days a week. Some horses can handle more and some less it really depends on the horse.
How much experience do you have?
A lot of time that depends on the age of the trainer. If he/she is 25 years old, 5 years is a lot. But 5 years is not much when you are 45. Here is a good gauge, if it takes around 3 to 4 years to make a really good seasoned horse for the show pen then how could a person learn any faster.
How much do you charge and what does that include?
Training charges usually include training and board. Board being stall, shavings, the cleaning of, feed, hay, water, lights, blanketing your horse, basic care. This does not include supplements, attending to additional medical needs, hauling, showing, selling.
What is your fee for selling my horse for me?
Yes people believe it or not trainers actually like to make a living the same as you. It is acceptable for a trainer to get ten percent of the sale price of the horse which is paid by the seller. Think of it like a Realtor. You are paying for the trainers contacts and ability to show your horse to best of the horses ability. If you decide that you want X amount for your horse and what ever he makes on top of that is his then do not be surprised if your trainer sells the horse and makes more money than you did because you undervalued your horse. The 10 percent works best, it keeps you both honest and motivates your trainer to sell him with your best interests at heart.
How much does showing cost?
This is something that you need to establish from the beginning with your trainer. Expenses you should expect to pay when going to a show are stall fee, shavings, entry fees, hotel expense for trainer, tack stall fee, hauling expense and trainers day fee. This is a basic list, some trainers charge for things like stall decorations, clipping or even saddling your horse. For the most part it seems like a lot of money, but keep in mind the trainer is only making the day fee (unless you charge for clipping and saddling). If you are competing in an event with winnings, you should definitely discuss that before hand. Some trainers take 50% of winnings, this is something you need to negotiate in the beginning and not after a class has been won.
You need to look at things from both sides when dealing with your trainer. If you expect your trainer to work your horse 7 days a week and all day long, then you should expect to pay him like a full time worker. Trainers also like to have days off, you work 5 days a week and get days off. We normally work 5 days a week plus show or give lessons on the weekends. Also your expenses for a weekend show may be $400, more or less depending on the show. Your trainer usually makes somewhere around $80 dollars for that whole weekend. Believe me he is not getting rich off of you. It should not cost your trainer to show your horse, remember this is his job and your hobby not the other way around.
I know that there are horror stories out there about trainers, some may be true and some not. There are just as many horror stories out there about owners too. I have heard horrible stories about possible clients and once in the barn turned out to be just fine. Then I have had others that acted so sincere and sweet and ended up being the horror story. It really comes down to an open line of communication, and getting to know the person that you are about to do business with before jumping in head first. A wise man once said believe nothing of what you hear and half of what you see.