How to Become a Horse Trainer: Salary, Career & Education Info


It’s time to get out your cowboy or cowgirl boots and Wrangler Jeans. Why you ask? Well that’s because today we are going to giddy up and talk about how to become a horse trainer. This is an exciting and interesting field that that will allow you to work with some of the world’s coolest animals. So set down the saddle and mosey on down our article about this exciting career path.

How to Become a Horse Trainer

When it comes down to how to become a horse trainer, you will have a few different avenues that you are able to pursue. You will obviously want to review the options and select the path that will closely suit you needs without costing you too much time or money. This is especially important because the job growth is only expected to increase 15% from 2012 to 2022. While this is pretty close to the national average, it’s still not amazing. You don’t want to start down a path of horse training with tons of money invested only to have to turn around and begin again.

A great place to start working towards your dream of becoming an equine trainer, will be to work in stables or as a horse groomer. It will be pretty important to have stellar riding abilities as well as being very comfortable around the animals. Having a solid knowledge of horse husbandry and training positions will help you to become a trainer as well.

It is common for horse trainers to work as apprentices performing duties under the supervision of an experienced mentor. This is also an excellent way to soak up as much information as possible to ensure that you are the best horse trainer you can be.

There is also the option to receive formal schooling in order to become a horse trainer. Completing an equine studies program or certification will arm you with many of the required skills to become an awesome equine trainer. Courses that you may cover during your classes may include horsemanship, equine behavior, animal ethics and welfare, equine nutrition and equine diseases.

What Does a Horse Trainer Do?

 

Now we know how to become a horse trainer, but we are sure you’re wondering what the job duties are. Well that’s what we would be wondering, anyhow. So grab a pen and paper for some note taking because we are going to lay it all on you.

One of the most important things that you will do as a horse trainer will be to get the horses as used to human contact as possible. Many trainers will give the horses treats and other forms of positive reinforcement. As a trainer you will use your voice a lot as well as engage in a good amount of physical contact. Once the horse seems to be comfortable with you, it will be time to gradually bring in other people for further conditioning.

Equine trainers will learn to analyze and interpret their horses behaviors and dispositions. With the observations made you will be able to correct many behavioral problems. Issues often encountered are head tossing, kicking, biting and the horses desire to be dominant. Some other common issue that you will be able to address are bolting, nervousness and restlessness. The latter behavioral issues will take more time and finesse to manage though.

As a horse trainer, you will also be tasked to observe and manage the horse’s nutritional, feeding habits and health. Since you will be the first line of defense for the horses in your care, you will be in continual contact with veterinarians and horse nutritionists to ensure that your stallions and mares stay in good health. You’ll also need to monitor them for injuries as well depending on the type of training they are subjected to.

Horse trainers will also be responsible for the day to day care of their charges. You’ll be required to clean the stables and groom them. If you are able to delegate these daily chores, you will still need to monitor what your assistants are doing. Being as intricately involved as possible is the only way to ensure the happiness and health of the horses that are in your care.

It is very common for horse trainers for horse shows or other activities. In this cases the desired result is to get the horse to perform different commands and tricks. You’ll use different training styles to get your steed to giddy up. Take a quick look at some of the different type of events and what it is that your horse will need to be doing:

  • Dressage – your equine friend will need to learn and perform set movements in a specific manner
  • Cutting – this is a Western style of training that requires the horse to successfully herd livestock
  • Barrel racing – this is a rodeo event that will require the horse to navigate a clover shaped obstacle like course
  • Trail riding – this is a task that is as simple as it sounds. You’ll teach your horses how to walk along trails
  • Show jumping – horses will learn how to scale fences that are set at various heights
  • Reining – horses will perform a Western form of the aforementioned dressage activity
  • Western pleasure – possibly one of the more important activities that you will train your horse to do. The purpose of Western Pleasure is to train a horse to enjoy being ridden

How to Become a Certified Horse Trainer

So we know that we have already mentioned that getting a degree or becoming certified is not absolutely required to become a horse trainer. Having said that, there are viable options to becoming a certified horse trainer. There are schools that will offer legitimate programs for you to enroll in should you feel the need to receive an actual certificate.

Meredith Manor

Meredith Manor is a well-respected Equine school that offers an array of training, teaching, equine massage therapy and leather working certifications. Obviously you’ll be most interested in the Training certification and you will have three levels to choose from. Each level will cover different and very important skills for becoming the best horse trainer you can become. Upon the completion of each level’s requirements you will also receive a certification. Take a quick look at this great little video from the head of Meredith Manor. It’s pretty quick and worth the watch.

 

Certified Horsemanship Association

The Certified Horsemanship Association is another organization that offers several equine certifications. These are certifications that will allow you to learn the ropes of being a trainer as well as branch out in other areas. The main areas that will be covered during this course are: leaning and understanding equine anatomy, diet, health care and disease knowledge and the skills to catch, halter, lead, tie and groom horses. There is a lot of ground covered in this certification and tons of useful knowledge will surely be gained. The Certified Horsemanship Association has a very informative series of videos that cover the gamut of horse related inquires, services and skills. Click here to see what they have to offer and to pick up some great knowledge.

A Few More Animal Training Schools

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Horse Trainer Salary

According to our resourceful friends at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, horse trainers will bring in an average yearly salary of $31,030 or $14.92 an hour. This is the most accurate information as of May 2013. The lower 10% of those employed as horse trainers are reported by the BLS to make $17,570 a year. Those trainers that are in the top 10th percentile of earners are making $52,460 a year.

Your salary will ultimately depend upon where you are employed and what specific type of horse training you do. For example states likes California, Oregon, New Mexico, New York and Arkansas have the highest mean annual wage. Whereas we can see that Nevada, Arizona, Missouri and North Carolina have the lowest mean annual wage.

What Kind of Horses Can I Train?

This is another excellent question! There are many different breeds of horses and all of them are trainable, but there are specifics types that you will train for specific purposes. Now we will take a quick look at these fine fillies and shed some light on the situation.

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Thoroughbreds

Thoroughbred horses are considered by many in the equestrian community to be the best known for horse racing. Some think of thoroughbreds as being purebred horses, but that is not always so. Thoroughbreds are considered “hot blooded” horses and are known for their agility, high speed and free spirit.

As we’ve mentioned, thoroughbreds are the most popular horses for racing, but their skills don’t stop there. These horses are a trainers dream as they are excellent candidates for show jumping, combined training, dressage, polo and fox hunting. There is a lot of potential for trainers to really go far with this type of horse

American Quarter Horse

American Quarter Horses are as their names states, an American breed of horse that is especially adept at dashing short distances. They received their name because they are so great at being able to outrun other horse breads in races that are of a quarter of a mile or less.

These awesome equines are great for horse trainers as well. These guys are known for their performance in rodeos, horse shows and working ranch horses. As a horse trainer, you will be able to train American Quarter Horses in reining, cutting, barrel racing, calf roping and other Western riding and rodeo skills.

Norwegian Fjord

Norwegian Fjord’s are beautifully strong steeds that were originally bred to help pull plows and various other heavy loads. In more present years, they have been used most often as therapeutic horses but they are also excellent farm horses.

We want to jump back to the use of Norwegian Fjord’s for therapeutic purposes for a moment. The main reason these broad bad boys are used for this purpose is because they are super sturdy animals. They are able to steadily and safely hold therapy patients that may be lacking the best balance and coordination. Their exceptionally gentle nature is another highly desired trait that they possess.

Horse Training Schools

There are a surprising amount of schools that can be attended to become a horse trainer. We are going to take a look at a few that may be just what you are looking for with many degree options available.

Texas A&M Equine

Texas A&M Equine offers quite a few different degree programs and even has one certificate program. Each option will provide you many of the essential tools to become a qualified horse trainer. You will ultimately have to decide which avenue to take and which one is going to arm you with the best skills.

There are two Bachelor’s in Animal Science degrees that are the most common schooling paths pursued at Texas A&M Equine. Each Animal Science degree will have you focus on the biology, genetics, physics and physiology of horses. The Animal Science in Animal Production has a heavier focus on the business side of the horse business, but covers the aforementioned information as well.

The Certificate in Equine Science option is a 22 credit program. There is a hardcore focus on equine care, behavior, health, nutrition and training skills. We don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty spot on for the skills that you will be in need of.

Wilson College

Wilson College has a full equestrian studies department that offers two Equine Management course. Each program will cover different but very important aspects of horse training. You will ultimately walk away with a Bachelor’s in Equine studies.

Wilson College offers a degree in Equine Management Concentration. This degree path is best suited for those that are interested in barn management. It will help you to learn all of the mechanics that are involved with running a stable and handling horses within the stable. While it is a more business geared program, you will still learning plenty of horse training skills.

The Equestrian Management Concentration program that is also offered at Wilson College is designed for students that have a primary interest in riding and teaching horses. There is a heavy concentration on the biology, psychology, physical education and veterinary medical technology. This course allows you to really get into the horse ring for some great practice training and riding a horse.

Saddle Up – A Day in the Life of a Horse Trainer

We love to hear or read personal stories from people that are actually working in the career fields that we cover. So in that vein, today we would like you to meet Bella Rose and her horses. Bella Rose was awesome enough to share her horse training stories with us, so that we could in turn share them with you guys.

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Meet Bella Rose

Bella Rose is a horse trainer that lives and works in Northern Illinois. Bella Rose has shared one of her typical days with us so that all of you aspiring horse trainers can get a glimpse into the daily life of a trainer. Bella doesn’t feel like her life is all that interesting, but we are sure that after you read a bit of her story, you will feel differently.

Bella Rose is a caretaker and horse trainer at a small private stable. She is in charge of 6 horses total as well as the stables. To give you a better idea of the charges she is working with, there are two horses in active training, two in maintenance work, one pregnant mare (cue squeals of excitement over a baby fowl being born soon) and lastly, Bella’s own horse.

The usual day for her starts bright and early at 6:30. Her first tasks of the day are to feed, turnout the horses and clean out the stalls. This doesn’t take really all that long to accomplish, which is really great on those wicked cold winter mornings. Can you say cold toes and fingers?! After she completes her morning routine, she will often head back inside, eat some breakfast and surf the internet. We are liking the sound of this job more and more!

Bella will let the horses relax and eat their breakfast for a few hours before getting down to business. The first thing that she does is saddle up and rides her charges to get them warmed up. She first likes to ride Ben. Ben is currently in dressage training and is a real blast to work with, even more so as he progresses. Next up is George, a huge four year old horse. He hasn’t been ridden very often and has what Bella refers to as “baby brain syndrome”, which really means that he has the attention span of a toddler. He’s only bucked her off once, so she is making progress in her training. After riding these newbies, she will groom them and check them over to ensure that they are healthy.

Next she will move on to her fully trained pals, Lucy and Pedro. These guys are fully trained in dressage and are super easy rides. They don’t require a whole lot of preamble and are good with a quick groom before being saddled up. Bella will run them through their paces, giving some reassuring pats and then let them enjoy some fresh air. She’ll end her training day with her own horse, Marley as she is understandably her favorite. Marley isn’t particularly skilled in anyone area, but she enjoys doing a bit of everything. Bella will take her into the indoor arena to practice a bit of jumping, dressage and western.

By the end of the day Bella and her horses are pooped. She will round out her daily duties with feeding them, bringing them into the paddocks and checking their water. A few other tasks that may need to be addressed during any given day are: dragging the arena, repairing blankeys, trimming hooves and loading the whole gang up in a trailer for a trail ride.

Once Bella has completed all of her duties, she will head back to her apartment on the grounds. Her nights usually consist of reading about horses, their care and training. She will also reconnect with some of her fellow horse trainers to compare notes. It’s pretty safe to say that she eats, sleeps and breathes horses and it’s just fine with her.

Final Grade

  • Degree vs Debt: B-

The pay for horse trainers is not that great in the lower ranges, but is more than sufficient on the average. The degree to debt ratio is again not too bad, especially considering that you don’t *have* to have a degree or any certifications. They too are available along with degrees though and are not too pricey

  • Degree Difficulty: A

For those of you that decide to pursue a degree to become a horse trainer, have no fear! The degree programs offered really are not too bad at all, especially since this is more of a passion driven career choice. A lot of the course work will be hands on learning and will give you a break from having to hit the books so much.

  •  Happiness Quotient: A+

This is definitely a profession that will leave you smiling at the end of the day…even if you may smell a bit like a barn, but hey that’s what showers are for! You can’t really go wrong with being outside and around animals. Horses are so smart and gentle that we can only imagine that every day would be pretty lovely.

  • Job Outlook: C-

We always like to be completely transparent with our lovely readers and aspiring horse trainers. With that in mind, we have to grade this career in terms of job outlook with a big fat C-. The reason for this borderline below average grade is because there is super slow growth in most areas. If you are going to pursue this path, do try to keep in mind the location you wish to be employed in prior to giving this career a shot. You’ll want to pursue an area that is known for horse shows, rodeos and breeding mainly.

Sources and Recommended Reading 

Without our awesome sources, we wouldn’t be anywhere, so we must give credit where credit is due. These are some pretty rocking resources and we suggest that you take a look as well as some notes, especially if you really want to become a horse trainer. So grab a pen and start clicking, folks!

 

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