The Time I Chose a Trainer

Over a decade ago, my heart horse suffered a career-ending injury that resulted in her early retirement. It was a life-altering moment that set us on a whole new course of horsemanship. At the time, I was devastated. She was a talented mare and we were just starting to climb the ranks at state-level competitions. This was not part of the plan. However, looking back on the injury and the resulting unexpected retirement, I am grateful for the new eyes it gave me to appreciate the simple act of being able to ride my horse.

For years now, I have dreamed of the day I would be able to breed her and hopefully raise that baby. It would be like a second chance at a riding career with my special mare. It was a huge dream, so my heart was invested. I knew that to have second chance, I would have to do it right. I would have to make some big decisions along the way. Two and a half years ago, I met my little filly when she came into the world and engulfed my heart. Ever since then, decisions have not been made lightly when it came to her care.

Now that she is ready to be started under saddle, it quickly became time to choose a trainer. Like every owner of young horses, I have heard all the horror stories of trainers-gone-rouge. Parting with my most prized possession for a few months seemed almost impossible. I knew I would have to find a trainer I could trust to train my horse with love and discipline.

Immediately, I took to Facebook groups. After all, isn't word of mouth the way business is done in this industry and isn't it easier to trust people who are trusted by people you trust? I asked the group for their recommendations on a trainer who was experienced with starting horses under saddle, knowledgeable of my breed of horse and possible future disciplines, and (most importantly) gentle and patient with horses throughout the process. I was flooded by recommendations from people I knew and people I didn't know. Messages poured in from trainers looking for new clients and I had some standard questions I asked each of them:

  • What is your philosophy on training young horses? 
    • This helped me understand how they approach the process and thus my special horse. Learning about their why and their how would enlighten me if this was a good match.
  • What are your specific goals with a coming 3 year old?
    • Some trainers had very specific performance objectives that gave me the impression my horse was just a number to them. Others communicated they focus on progress and building confidence, something I know my young horse and I needed.
  • What are the investment and stabling/care details?
    • Price is important, because it tells you what you're buying and horse training is not something I ever recommend getting a bargain on. After all, this will be the foundation of your horse's riding career. Also, understanding if a trainer was an hour away or a state away gave me comfort of the possibility of regular visits while my filly would be away. 
  • Are you willing to provide references?
    • This connotes confidence in their past results and proof of experience working with and training other people's horses. 

After asking various trainers these questions and contemplating their answers, I narrowed it down to the front runner. She had been referred by the most people who I personally knew and they raved about her. After conversing with her, my nerves were calmed and I was extremely confident my filly would be in good hands with her. We signed a contract, exchanged a deposit, and picked a date for training to start.

A big decision about the future of my special horse was as simple as asking my network for recommendations, putting serious thought into my horse's specific needs and how a trainer would fit into that picture, and ultimately trusting my gut to select the best horseman or woman. I hope this is an encouragement to you if you are on the fence about a big decision for your horse. Trust your peers, trust your mind, and trust your gut!