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Finding the Right Horse Trainer

Updated on October 19, 2011
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Donna Campbell Smith is a published author, freelance writer, and photographer. She also specializes in horses.

The Five Ps


Choosing the right horse trainer or riding instructor for you and your horse is a very personal endeavor. Even a very competent professional may not be right for you. Consider the five P's, profession, practicality, performance record, physical appearance of the facility and horses, and personality before signing a contract with anyone, no matter how highly recommended.

Ask about a trainer's performance record
Ask about a trainer's performance record

Five Points to Choosing a Horse Trainer


1. Profession - I list profession first because it eliminates easily any trainer or instructor whose expertise does not fit your goals. If you want to learn dressage, don't go to someone who teaches saddleseat equitation or western pleasure. Or if you have a quarter horse it does not usually make sense to take it to a Morgan barn for training. Children are normally happier with trainers that specialize in youth events. Yes, there are trainers and instructors who work in many disciplines, but to get the most for your time and money find a professional who works in your desired field.

2. Practicality - Don't be embarrassed if a trainer's rates are more than you can afford. And if distance makes getting to your training sessions too difficult then it's money wasted. If money and time are no object, then disregard the second 'P'. But, the most expensive is not always the best when it comes to trainers and riding instructors. There are many individuals in the equestrian field who have great talent, who are not necessarily charging the highest fees.

3. Performance Record - is this person successful in his field? Has his students or horses won consistently? Does he have customers who stay with him, or is the turnover frequent? Talk to other customers. Are they content? Does the barn look busy?

4. Physical appearance of the facility and horses. This does not mean the barn has to be fancy, but is it safe and clean? Are the horses in good shape and well groomed? Do they look happy, or are they cowering in the backs of their stalls? Is the surrounding barnyard mowed, free of debris, and are the fences safe? How does the footing in the work arena and round pens look? These are all questions to ask yourself when you visit the facility for the first time.

5. Personality - Okay, you have found a trainer with a good track record, the barn looks nice, the horses are happy and he is close to home and the fees fit your budget.

Where Do You Go to Find a Horse Trainer?

Where do you go to start your search for the horse trainer who fits the criteria you need? Word of mouth is one way. Another is your breed association's membership list. Often the list indicates who are trainers. Horse directories are often published by state horse councils and county or state cooperative extension services. Horse publications, newspaper and online classified ads have ads placed by trainers as well.

Don't be shy about asking for references and follow up on checking those references. Watch the trainer work, ask questions - before you commit to a contract.

If for any reason, you do not fell comfortable with the person, keep looking. Most professionals don't mind if you come out to visit the barn, watch a few lessons or training sessions, as long as you do not get in the way or expect them to stop their work to chat. If you are seriously considering them for your business, then you should make an appointment to discuss goals and contractual terms.

When you have examined the five P's and found your ideal trainer stay involved and be a good client in order to gain the best experience. Keep appointments with promptness and pay your bills on time.

Listen and learn. If you have a concern or question its okay to ask. And most importantly, enjoy the experience. Horses are supposed to be fun.


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