No matter how experienced a horseman/woman you are there is always room for improvement and always more to learn about these animals we love so much. A good horse trainer you can trust can help you get to that next level, whatever your goals might be. Unfortunately, anyone with a saddle and a business card can call themselves a horse trainer. Finding a good horse trainer that respects you and your horse can be a challenge. Before you open up the phone book (does anyone even use the yellow pages anymore?) have a game plan and know how to weed out those trainers that might not be a good fit.
What kind of horse trainer do I need?
A trainer is a trainer, right? Wrong! There are practically as many different kinds of trainers out there as there are horse breeds and knowing what specialty you need before you start making calls can go a long way toward making your list of potential trainers a lot shorter.
First, really narrow in on your goals. Do you need some help halter breaking your colt? Do you want to learn more about natural horsemanship? Do you need someone to train your horse for you or do you want someone who is going to help you train your horse? Have a clear idea of your goals as a rider and you’ll know whether to call the cowboy down the street or the dressage facility the next town over.
5 things to keep in mind when looking for a good horse trainer:
Once you have narrowed down your list, you can start to shop around. Meet with the trainers, interview them on their styles and horse training philosophies, and check out the horses in their care. As you talk with them and tour their facilities, ask yourself these questions:
1. Is the property in good condition? Having a facility with all the bells and whistles doesn’t prove the trainer knows enough to be a great horseman. A barn and arena that are safe for horses and humans is a much better indicator.
2. Are the horses happy and healthy? A great sign is if the horses at the facility walk up to the fence to visit as you and the trainer walk by. Horses that are being roughly or are being over-used will turn away and stand at the back of the pen. The last thing you want is for your horse to do the same and this is not the kind of trainer you want to work with.
3. Is the trainer likeable? Granted, it’s not a popularity contest but, chances are, if something about him rubs you the wrong way, your horse will have the same reaction. No matter what your motivation for hiring a trainer is, you and your horse will be spending a lot of time with this person for at least the next few months, maybe longer; be sure he or she is someone you can actually get along with.
4. Does this trainer have a good reputation? No matter how big your area is, the horse community is very small. Ask around and it won’t take you long to find out what other horse owners and trainers think. If you hear something you’re not comfortable with about a trainer you are interested in working with, don’t be afraid to walk away.
5. Does the trainer handle horses in a way that makes sense? A trainer’s methods may be new to you and that’s fine, if it aligns with your basic beliefs, after all, you are there to learn. But if the way a trainer works with his horses makes you uncomfortable in any way, he’s not the right trainer for you or your horse.
What Not to Look For
One of the biggest mistakes people make when looking for a horse trainer is to judge a horse trainer by their farm. Just because someone has a state of the art equestrian facility and a shiny 16-horse trailer does not automatically mean she has the experience and know-how that would be best for you. There are many great trainers out that prefer the simple life, who spend their money on their horses.
That’s not to say that you should trust your horse with someone whose fences are in disrepair and whose water troughs are never clean. There’s a difference between a modest facility and a junk yard, so keep your eyes open for warning signs like rusty nails, unkempt horses, and moldy hay. Just don’t dismiss someone as a trainer simply because their boots are dirty.


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