Three Ways to Become a Horse Trainer, By Bob Jeffreys and Suzanne Sheppard
Bob Jeffreys & Suzanne Sheppard
People who love to ride horses often envy those of us who work with or are around horses every day. They truly believe that it would be just great if they could quit their current job and subsequently work at training horses, or if just starting out, choose a career with horses right from the get go. There is nothing else quite so rewarding as working with horses. The look in a horse’s eye when he figures out what you want, or the expression of joy shown by a client when she rides her young horse for the first time, are just a few examples of what makes this job worthwhile. The lifestyle itself is not just appealing; it’s often liberating. Once you mount up and begin to ride in the arena or out on the trail, there are no lawyers, regulations, government interference, nagging bosses, or people trying to get your money; there’s just you and that horse. If you truly believe that time spent with God’s finest creatures is what you’re all about, then read on for suggestions on the best ways to prepare yourself to follow your dream!
There are several different ways to get started, and we’ll discuss three of the most common avenues available to assist you in achieving your goals. Be aware that good trainers learn not only by working with lots of horses, but also by doing so under the supervision of highly skilled, more experienced trainers. Why is it just not sufficient to work with horses as your only teachers? Because when learning to train you need feedback from a professional who knows more than you do. After all, we can’t watch ourselves train, and therefore can’t see the little (or not so little) mistakes that we make. Furthermore, we don’t need to recreate the wheel; people have been effectively training horses for thousands of years, so why not take advantage of the knowledge that’s already out there? So find a situation in which someone is willing and able to show you the ropes and become your coach as you learn.
The first option, and a great one for youngsters to get started, is to attend an equestrian college. Here equine education is augmented with an academic degree. We are personally familiar with several such schools, and therefore can highly recommend them. Every year there are numerous applicants lined up for matriculation at these schools. In years past equine colleges had to do a lot of recruiting, but today there is certainly no shortage of students.
It is at graduation time that shortages are more likely to be noticed, since the shortages are in job openings. Be sure to check on the job placement rates, as one valuable benefit would be support in getting hired upon graduation. If you’re not one of the lucky ones who are hired by breeding, racing, medical or other such facilities, you’ll have to consider apprenticing at an established facility, or starting up an operation on your own. We receive dozens of requests each year to work at Bob’s ranch from many such students, with good academic and equine credits. We personally prefer to help out our own students first, and we’re sure we’re not alone in this regard. It makes sense for us to hire people who are already trained in our philosophies and techniques so that we know they are teaching horses effectively, safely, and in a way that is consistent with our approach.
Therefore, if you want to work with a specific trainer and/or with a particular training system, your best bet would be to attend horsemanship training courses offered by those trainers, such as we offer. Because we teach our ProTrackâ„¢ Trainer Certification Program personally, our students enjoy working directly with us. There’s nothing like learning from the creators of a system; sometimes trying to learn second-hand from others can result in a shallow, incomplete education with holes in your training. Work directly with the source!
If you want to pursue this second option, then contact the trainer, get all the info you can, and then visit the trainer and the facility. Discuss your needs, experience and goals, and get a feeling for his/her skill level, ability to explain and teach, and personal style. Is this a person you respect, who can not only train horses, but who can also teach people? If you’re going to invest the time and money into the program, be sure that your prospective teacher is one who will truly help you, and that he/she has a real commitment to your education, training and safety.
Also, is there flexibility built into the schedule? Most of us have very busy lives, and the rigid schedule of some programs can make it almost impossible to participate. Our particular program consists of nine weeks spread out over five or six months of extensive and intensive horse training and riding instruction, and we offer both a certification track(” ProTrackâ„¢”), and horsemanship education courses. We try to build in choices; not only in terms of whether people want to simply become the best horseman or horsewoman they can be, or to work towards certification, thereby enhancing their knowledge, expertise and professional credentials, but also in whether to complete the program in one year, or to spread out the coursework over two or more years.
This type of education is completely hands-on; there is no academic degree associated with these types of programs, just horsemanship and business savvy applicable specifically to effective, safe, profitable, horse training. For example, in our own program we’ll show you how to decipher what people really mean when they tell you about their horse. “He’s just a little light in the front end”, or “He’s got a really strong hind end” probably mean that this is a horse that will rear at the drop of a hat! Once on your own you still have to establish a practice, which usually takes some time, and putting a well established trainer’s name behind your method can help minimize that time.
A third approach is to apprentice privately at an established training barn under the tutelage of their resident trainer. Since these positions are quite competitively sought after, you may have to accept very little or no pay for awhile, or even pay the trainer for the “privilege” of hanging around and assisting when permitted. While this may initially be a more convenient option for you, the local resident trainers may not be particularly good teachers, and may not pay particular attention to your education, as they are primarily concerned with getting their own job done. However, if you work hard enough and long enough with them, you might eventually learn some of their secrets. Unfortunately this education by osmosis can take quite awhile, and you may need to work with more than one trainer to find a system that works for you.
We won’t kid you that this will be a walk in the park, however, because just like everything else, working with horses looks easier than it actually is. You can expect to work long, hard hours and get dirty. Sometimes the job can even be dangerous, and usually the pay is not that great. Vacations can be few, and you normally have to work through your sick days. But if deep down you have the soul of a horseman, then it’ll all be worth it, and you’ll be one of the lucky few whose days fly by “˜cause you’re doing work that is meaningful to you, and having fun.
© February 2007. For info about our Horsemanship Ed Courses or ProTrackâ„¢ Trainer Certification Program call (845)692-7478