Horse Trainers: Trust, But VerifyBy Jeffrey Rolo
Sending your horse away to another stable for training can be difficult, because not only is it highly likely that you miss your equine companion, there is also a chance you may idly wonder whether your trainer is truly earning his fee. Mutual trust between a horse owner and a horse trainer are required to gain the most out of the business relationship, and often this trust starts to deteriorate as the weeks go by and progress is deemed by the horse owner to be lacking. So it probably comes as little surprise that some visitors to AlphaHorse have written me to ask:
I think the horse trainer I hired is working too slow. How do I know he isn't dragging his feet when I'm not watching?
Quick side note: If you haven't already read How Do I Know A Horse Trainer Isn't Milking Me and/or Important Questions To Ask A Horse Trainer previously, I recommend you do so first since you may gain even more from this article.
That's a good question, and obviously without being able to witness a horse trainer's performance personally, it would be impossible for me to remotely determine whether an unscrupulous trainer was taking advantage of a horse owner. But I can provide some advice as well as my personal thoughts about reasonable timeline training expectations.
First and foremost, I strongly encourage you to watch at least one horse training session per week if possible. You don't want to be a nuisance or chatter in the trainer's ear as he's trying to work with your horse; most trainers would rather be able to focus on the horse rather than observers. But witnessing his performance personally will go a long ways towards appeasing your concerns… or confirming your suspicions, whichever the case may be. If your trainer is very resistant to allowing you to occasionally observe the lessons, he may be hiding something. Tread carefully.
If possible, take it a step further and see if your horse trainer would be willing to work with you and your horse simultaneously once a week. Have him teach you the techniques so that you can perform them under his supervision. Not only does it provide you direct knowledge of how your horse is progressing, but it also teaches you valuable techniques that you may wish to continue incorporating once the training is over.
A horse trainer will likely charge an additional fee for providing you with one-on-one training, as opposed to allowing you to simply observe from afar. This is a perfectly reasonable and common request, so be prepared to compensate a trainer for this additional service if he's willing to provide it. It's a worthwhile investment.
What if you simply cannot observe your horse in action due to time or distance limitations? Well, it's possible you could request that one of the trainer's students or staff members film a lesson from time to time and send it to you physically or digitally. It's not terribly common, so don't expect it to happen, but it doesn't hurt to ask. I've done much of my past business via video.
When left without any visual proof of progress, you'll be entirely reliant on trust, verbal feedback from the trainer, and gut instinct. That's not an ideal combination to depend on, but thankfully most people can visit their horses regularly since it's not too common to send a horse away for training halfway across the country.
But what about the timelines you promised!? Don't worry, I left the timeline discussion last for a reason… and we'll cover reasonable timeline expectations in the conclusion to this article: Horse Trainers And Reasonable Timeline Expectations.
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