A Horse Training Career: What Does It Take?
Things to Consider

A horse training career tends to be one of the first jobs that come to mind when you think about making a living with horses. When you love riding horses and are trying to figure out what to do with your life, becoming a trainer can seem like a natural fit.

While a career as a horse trainer can be very rewarding, there is also a lot more to it than just riding a horse for someone. I’d like to explore some of the other areas you’ll need to consider before jumping into a career training horses.

For more in-depth information you may be interested in my upcoming e-book.

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Training Horses is Really About Helping People, Too

If you love serving both people and horses, a horse training career may be right for you. You may think a career in equine training is all about horses, but it has a lot to do with helping and teaching people.

Behind every animal that needs to be trained is an owner or rider that is hoping for a positive change through what you do.

Whether they want him trail broke, able to load on a trailer, or jumping three foot courses with flying lead changes, they will have a specific goal for the horse in mind.

It will be your responsibility to do your best to reach those goals for the owner.

It is your job to communicate with the client in a positive way.

Horseback Riding Instructors and Trainers

Many trainers are also horseback riding instructors, and often the two terms are used interchangeably. At minimum, a trainer would show the owner how to implement the training they have done. On the other end of the spectrum they may also be the rider's regular instructor.

horse training career

Education, Experience and Pay

Training horses as a career can be as varied as all the horse training methods available. Some trainers want to get certified in natural horse training methods such as Parelli horse training, or Clinton Anderson horse training.

Some only train horses for the movies and other forms of entertainment. 

  • Check out all of your options and decide what program or course of study will best suit your career goals and interests.

In most cases if you are in it for the money, you are in the wrong field. The median annual wage for a horse trainer is just $26,580. The passion and rewards of doing what you love are what draw many to this field.

Employee or Independent Contractor?

A horse training career in the USA most often means that

You are in business for yourself

Some very large stables may offer horse training jobs as an employee, but most horse trainers are independent contractors.

An independent contractor means that:

  • you will set your own hours,
  • provide your own equipment,
  • are responsible for tracking all of your own income and expenses,
  • filing quarterly estimates of taxes and paying them
  • work at generating your own business.

Although a stable may hire you as a horse trainer and will possibly give you referrals, YOU will ultimately be responsible for building your own business.

Often these types of positions are paid on commission. That means that the stable may send you a client and you are paid a certain percentage of the horse training fee.

career horse training

A Hard Business Lesson

I had one horse related job that pulled the switcharoo on me after working there for a few years. The last year I worked there, (I quit because of this) I thought I was an employee at tax time like I had been in years past.

I found out the barn owner decided to make me an independent contractor at tax time.That was a years worth of taxes I had to pay out of pocket and all at once when I wasn’t planning on it! Ouch!

I assumed my employer had been taking taxes out all year because

that is what she had done before and I didn't have a contract.


Sometimes people may try to be dishonest with you.

A written work agreement is the first step in protecting yourself. It will define what type of working arrangement you will have.

Before you start your horse training career, you would be wise to talk to a local CPA or accountant that specializes in small businesses. This will help you start to become educated on the business aspects of a horse training career.

The Physical Demands Of A Horse Training Career

Besides the business aspect of a horse training career there is the physical demands to consider.

While it is very rewarding to train horses it is a very physically demanding career.

Long hours often outside in the elements are to be expected. Horses are unpredictable. If you have a bad fall while training it can put you out of work. Make sure you are ready for all the possibilities.

Liability and Insurance

Most farms will require you to have liability insurance to train horses on their property. Do your research on what the policy does and does not cover, and where. This can save you major headaches down the road just by picking the right policy for the situation.

In Summary: Know what kind of trainer you want to be. Get the education and experience you need. Be ready and plan for the business aspect of your horse training career. Then go out and get yourself started in one of the most rewarding careers with horses!

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