More Common Questions You Should Ask A Horse TrainerBy Jeffrey Rolo
If you haven't already read Important Questions To Ask A Horse Trainer, I recommend you do so first before reading this conclusion. So with that said, let's move on to some more questions that you should ask a horse trainer while investigating his services.
What does the training regimen entail?
It is important to establish mutual expectations for exactly what level of training and activity your horse will receive. Horse trainers will often charge you by the month, but does that monthly rate guarantee a specific level of work? Is your horse worked once a day? If so, for how many hours? Will he be exercised outside of the actual lesson routines? What training activities will your horse undergo? If your horse is being brought in for saddle training, is regular groundwork included as part of the training? (The answer to that last question should be an enthusiastic "yes.") If your horse is being saddle trained, does the training include road and trail work?
I personally feel that five lessons of approximately an hour's length each per week is a reasonable expectation, and the training should include groundwork, arena work, and road/trail work.
What type of support will I receive?
The best results will be obtained when a horse trainer supplements the horse's training with some personal instruction for the owner. Ideally you want to be familiar with the trainer's techniques so that your horse doesn't get slapped with "culture shock" when he returns home due to conflicting training methods.
Will the horse trainer provide you some riding lessons during the horse training? Will he allow you to observe some of the lessons? Will he give you a call at least once a week to give you an update on how the horse is progressing? Will he be available for questions once the training period is finished?
I would strongly advise attending some of the work sessions, and asking the trainer to allow you to perform some of the work yourself under his experienced eye. You also want a horse trainer that is willing to give you status updates with specifics, as well as tackle any follow-up questions you may have after the transaction is finished.
On the flip side, as a buyer of a horse trainer's services, it's important to understand that additional support can only go so far before it becomes unreasonable. It is fine to ask a trainer to work with you for a few sessions, but you'll cramp his style if you stick your nose into all his lessons. It is fine to expect a trainer to answer questions that are directly related to the work he performed, but it's not reasonable to expect him to start answering horse questions just because you used his services once. You purchased his training services, but you didn't purchase a lifetime on-call horse expert (unless you are willing to pay for the follow-up support, of course).
Make sure you both are in agreement about the levels of support you as an owner should receive.
Who will be working my horse?
The bigger farms have multiple staff members, and often a horse trainer not only teaches horses, he also teaches students in the arts of horsemanship. What you may not know is that sometimes when you bring a horse to a trainer, the trainer's students or staff members may work with your horse more than the trainer himself.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It makes perfect sense for a student or staffer to perform some of the exercise routines, which frees up the trainer's time for the more technical aspects of training. But you should know exactly what you're getting into, and exactly who will be interacting with your horse.
What type of tack will be used on my horse?
It's important to know which types of gear will be used with your horse during the training process for two reasons. First, you want to ensure that the gear matches your expectations (i.e., you may not want certain bits to be used due to their severity). Second, if your horse is trained with specific gear, you may want to ensure you have similar gear on-hand at your place when your horse is returned to you.
What types of paperwork and/or contracts are involved?
I miss the days of conducting most of your business with a firm handshake, but unfortunately that's not the safest way to do business nowadays. If your horse trainer owns a sizable farm, chances are good he will have a training and/or boarding contract on-hand for you to sign. If so, be sure to read the contract – don't just sign away on the dotted line without fully understanding all the terms.
If you are soliciting the services of a smaller horse trainer that may not already have a contract in place, it's a good idea to consider creating one, whether through the use of a lawyer or a personally-written one. Ones written by a lawyer are always for the best since the law can be a complex creature, but if you are trying to save money then it's fine to draw up a personal contract. Itemize the terms, and at the end of the contract insert a clause that states if any of the terms are determined to be illegal by a court of law, the rest of the contract will still be considered legally binding.
Horse insurance is another consideration. Does the farm include horse insurance for all the horses undergoing training? If not, do you want to purchase a plan to cover for unexpected injuries? There is no right or wrong answer regarding the need for horse insurance – it's purely an individual choice. Just be sure you know what is, or isn't, covered by a horse trainer when your horse is boarded at his place.
The questions I've provided you so far are some of the more common ones you'll want to consider, but don't be afraid to ask questions of your own even if they aren't on this list. No one wants to be a "pest," but unless you go way beyond the realm of reasonable questioning, a potential horse trainer should not hesitate to answer your questions or grow impatient during the questioning. If he does, take that as a serious red flag.
Remember: he's trying his best to sell himself to you, so if you can detect character and/or personality flaws while he's putting on his best face, how will he behave when he works unobserved with your horse? Someone that is impatient towards you will very likely be impatient with your horse, and that is the mark of a very poor trainer. Attitude is just as important as skill when it comes to working with horses.
The questions and tips we've provided you so far will get you off on the right foot when interviewing a horse trainer, but our final article in the series will give you the ammunition you need when determining whether or not a horse trainer is intentionally dragging his feet: Horse Trainers And Reasonable Timeline Expectations.
Articles In This Series: