Why I Never Became a Horse Trainer

    Life with Horses - Why I Never Became a Horse Trainer
    My trainer friend Sue and her assistant BJ. They may be smiling but I still don’t want their jobs.

    Once upon a time, when I was infatuated with the realization that I had conquered some small landmark in the realm of horsemanship, I considered becoming a professional horse trainer. That didn’t last long. Within a few years I had witnessed what “the business” can do to an otherwise good-natured soul who loved horses. The daily competition to win clients—and then to keep them happy—turned even the most congenial professionals into reclusive, jaded misanthropes.

    Okay, so I’m exaggerating a little.

    But over the years I began to see a trend: The vast majority of professional trainers were great with horses. They could communicate with a variety of equines and they turned out solid, dependable mounts. They just had problems with people. It’s not like they were anti-social or maladjusted. It’s just that people expect (or demand) so much from a horse trainer that it’s nearly impossible to continuously meet their expectations. Everyone wants their young horse to mature into a champion. And despite begging a trainer to be upfront and honest, no one truly enjoys hearing that their horse is unsound, unsafe or untalented, especially after spending a thousand bucks or more in training fees.

    Let’s face it. Most of us can figure out a horse soon enough and what it takes to get through to them. But human beings come into a barn with so many personality quirks that it would take a degree in psychology to chart and analyze each individual’s quirks and how to motivate them. In the end, what causes professional horse trainers to become bitter and flippant, or just plain burned out, are the people.

    I can’t say I blame them.

    I am not someone to put up with a lot of stress. I can’t count how many times I’ve told my friend Sue, who is indeed a professional horse trainer, “I am so glad I don’t have your job.” Even better is, “I would never want your job.”

    My comments are elicited not from issues she’s having with a horse, but conflicts she’s enduring with a client. She’s not alone. I have numerous professional horse trainers as friends and acquaintances, and they frequently share tales of woe. Sometimes it’s about a client who has become disenchanted with their horse’s show record. Other times a client decides another barn can make them feel more special. Then there are disagreements about a few dollars or misinterpreted offhand comments. In such cases everything gets blown way, way out of proportion and everyone’s unhappy, and the client leaves.

    About a decade ago, when I was chatting with my friend Karole (yes, also a professional horse trainer) during a weeklong show, she shared this sentiment. “There is no loyalty in the horse world. I never think of a client as a friend. It’s a business arrangement. It’s all nice and sweet if we get along and think each other is fantastic, but eventually, that client is going to leave, for one reason or another. And if I’ve allowed them to become a close friend, then my feelings get hurt. It’s happened before and I can’t take it anymore.”

    That feeling of losing a friend is what would kill me. I’m too thin skinned. That’s why I believe that most of the professional trainers who survive a decade or more in the horse business have either learned to remain emotionally distant from their clients or they’re just incredibly tough. Since I tend to befriend pretty much anyone, and I’m also an emotional wuss, it’s a good thing I never followed my original dream.

    << Previous Entry

    Back to Life with Horses


    1. Good blog. so many people hang out shingles because they can ride a little bit and think it would be fun and easy to train horses for a living. It’s a hard living and money comes and goes. Better to go to college or get a real job and ride horses for fun.

    2. Training horses sounds like a fun job, but its a lot of work! I always wanted to do that but now that I have a horse of my own, NO WAY! Sometimes, it’s more work than fun.

    3. Good article. I can totally relate-one more note-some professional trainers that start out with good intentions of keeping the horse’s needs and speed of progress first have resorted to pushing these horses too hard. Many times “going through them” I was a show groom/assistant trainer for 12 years and you see first hand what a “natural horseman” ends up doing to the horses to please the client and keep the almighty dollar coming in. He is not longer the natural horseman-he has spawned into the old time movie cowboy. Let’s flipped them over, hang them up, totally exhausted them, make them head shy, and very paranoid. Turn these horses out and then discard this horse for a horse that “can take it”. The ones with less self preservation instincts. Most of these owners tend to be clueless, wealthy and demanding. Many of them have no understanding of how a horse should be handled or trained. They just want their name or farm name in lights! If one horse doesn’t cut it…let’s buy another one and throw the damaged one away. These damaged ones take YEARS to bring back to trust and be whole again. Flashback of their days at the “training barn” can come back at any moment for no good reason and without warning. Are these horses dangerous, hell yes. Is there hope? Yes but in different professional hands without the pressure of the wealthy clients. So you want to be a horse trainer-cowboy up! Because it is a HARD business! Most of the”trainers” need to quit-they are burned out…go out and get a different job and do this on the side-don’t depend on this to make you your millions!

    4. I would love to be a horse trainer, but after spending six years working on a horse farm that did just about everything (trail rides, hay rides, pony parties, training, buying and selling horses, lessons, pony rides, etc.) I found what a hard buisness the horse industry in general is. It may be enjoyable to be with horses all the time, but boy, do I have stories about the people, too. Not to mention that until your get super good at what you do and your name out- which can take years- it’s such an unreliable buisness. Again, I would love to do it, but there are just too many holes. I’m going to college and majoring in Criminal Justice instead. I’ve done an internship with the local police and already have a job waiting for me there for when I turn 21. I’ll enjoy chasing criminals, but it’s a pity that I’ll have to keep the horses on the side.

    5. Part of the problem with horse trainers is they do not understand that the clients pay them for services. Most trainers have horrible business sense and do not have the people skills to deal affectively with clients. People only leave when they are unhappy.


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    CAPTCHA Image