Horse Trainer Job Description

From Mr. Ed to Secretariat, all horses that have been used in racing, movies, shows, and competitions have been trained by professional horse trainers. Trainers teach horses to follow specific cues and riding commands, correcting behavioral issues, managing a horse’s diet, and overseeing exercise regimes. Horse trainers also keep horses groomed and stalled. These professionals love horses, are patient, and able to produce results in a relatively short period of time as needed. It is not uncommon for horse trainers to work six or seven days per week and up to 12 hours per day, if necessary. Horse trainers should enjoy working outdoors, where most training takes place, though some exercises can be done in indoor training arenas. Horse trainers might work for riding stables, training centers, entertainment companies, or be self-employed.


Horse Trainer Duties and Responsibilities

Specific job duties for horse trainers vary based on their employer. However, there are several core tasks common to all horse trainers, such as:

Train Horses for Riding, Shows, and More

Horse trainers are mainly responsible for creating and administering training programs for racehorses and show horses as well as horses used in the entertainment industry. They apply various training styles to teach horses to walk trails, run racecourses, jump fences or other obstacles, or perform stunts in movies or live shows. Horse trainers working with racehorses might work with jockeys to train them to interact and work with horses during an event.

Supervise Daily Exercises

In most cases, horses are given one or two exercise sessions, usually in the early morning and afternoon. Horse trainers devise exercise regimens based on what horses are being trained for and oversee these exercises, which might be led by an assistant trainer. Horse trainers also use this time to evaluate a horse’s health and check for injuries.

Assess and Correct Problematic Behaviors

Biting, head tossing, and kicking are common behavioral issues displayed by horses; it falls to a horse trainer to correct these issues. Horse trainers use repetitive positive reinforcement practices, voice commands, and contact with the horse to train them to be more comfortable around people, less aggressive, and to ease nervousness that can cause them to bolt, bite, or throw riders.

Groom and Feed Horses

Horse trainers ensure the horses they are training are well-fed and groomed. They monitor each horse’s nutritional needs and diet, recording eating habits. Horse trainers work closely with veterinarians to ensure a horse is getting proper nutrition.


Horse Trainer Skills and Qualifications

A love of horses is, of course, on top of any list of skills and qualifications for horse trainers, but what other abilities should these professionals possess? Patience is vital. Below are some of the skills employers tend to look for based on job postings we examined:

  • Riding skills – to guide horses over different types of terrains and through various courses as needed
  • Horse handling – horse trainers must be comfortable in all aspects of equine management, from haltering and leading to blanketing and cooling horses down after exercising or training
  • Physical fitness – from standing for long periods of time in varying climates to suffering the occasional fall or kick, horse trainers endure many physical demands
  • Mentoring skills – horse trainers often work with assistants and horse groomers who wish to enter the field of horse training
  • Communication – to direct horses to follow certain commands, instruct riders, and change a horse’s behaviors
  • Time management – horse trainers outline schedules for training sessions, ensuring horses are trained within a specified amount of time
  • Team player – to work and communicate openly with owners, stable workers, barn managers, assistant trainers, groomers, and other professionals


Tools of the Trade

Horse trainers must be adept at using the following:

  • Basic riding equipment (bridles, sidepulls, reins, saddles)
  • Horse training equipment (lunge lines, halters)


Horse Trainer Education and Training

In many cases, employers seeking horse trainers require no formal education beyond a high school diploma or equivalent. A degree in equine science, offering courses such as equine management, anatomy, health, and behavior, can be helpful. One might also choose courses in introductory and advanced horsemanship, stable management, and riding instruction. Many trainers begin their careers taking entry-level jobs in stables, such as grooming, feeding, or cleaning, working their way up by apprenticing with a horse trainer.


Horse Trainer Salary

Animal trainers of all kinds, including horse trainers, earn a median annual salary of nearly $29,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Horse trainers in the 10th percentile make about $20,000 per year, while top earners can realize an annual salary of $56,000.

Horse trainers working to train horses for participating in spectator sporting events earn among the highest salaries for this occupation, with a mean annual wage of nearly $39,000. Kentucky currently tops the list of U.S. states for average annual pay for horse trainers at just over $42,000, followed by Arizona (about $40,800) and Washington (nearly $40,300), as reported by the BLS.

Job growth statistics provided by the BLS indicate that an 11 percent growth rate is predicted for all animal trainers through 2026. In 2016, close to 55,000 animal trainers were employed in the U.S.; by 2026, it is expected that figure will increase to 61,000.


Helpful Resources

Ready to take the reins and start your career as a horse trainer? Learn more about what this occupation entails by examining the resources we’ve provided below:

Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) – From horse trainers to barn managers, anyone who works with horses as a hobby or career can find something to love about CHA. Access webinars covering such topics as equine behavior and riding instruction techniques, network, attend workshops and hear guest speakers at conferences, review professional articles, and so much more.

Horse Training In-Hand: A Modern Guide to Working from the Ground – Giving details about how to incorporate classical training methods with modern approaches, this book explores how horse trainers can improve their training programs. Offers color photos to support the text.

CRK Training Blog – Hosted by the owner of a riding and training stable, this blog offers plenty of great tips and suggestions for horse trainers of every level with articles such as “What is Your Horse’s Personality?”, “Why Every Rider is a Trainer,” and “The Wheel of Horsemanship.”

Trainer Magazine, North American Edition – Focusing on thoroughbred horse trainers, this magazine offers training tips, horse health features, interviews with racing trainers, and retraining strategies.

Show Horse Magazine – See what the show horse world is really like, with photos and articles about training, the show season, and features of notable individuals in the field. Includes an annual trainer directory.

CHA Blog – Horse trainers can find interesting articles featuring interviews with professional trainers, handlers, and more, current trends in the industry, helpful tips, and safety.

Horse Speak: An Equine-Human Translation Guide: Conversations with Horses in Their Language – Communication is key when it comes to horse training–but how can you tell what your horse is trying to tell you? How can you get your horse to understand what you’re trying to tell him or her? Follow detailed templates and photographs to apply the methods discussed in this book to ensure you have the communication needed for successful horse training.


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