The Horse Owner – Horse Trainer Relationship
By Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)
This is the first in a series of blogs on how we as owners interact with the different professionals that we rely on in the horse world. Some of these interactions include:
Horse Owner – Horse Trainer
Rider – Riding Instructor
Horse Owner – Clinician
Horse Owner – Veterinarian
Horse Owner – Farrier
Horse Owner – Stable/arena owner/manager
The horse owner – horse trainer relationship is very important for developing a horse. As a horse owner I have worked with quite a few trainers in the past to have my horse’s started and developed. As a trainer, I have the privilege of working with a number of horses in my training program.
At times, I hear fellow trainers express sadness that they have an unhappy client (horse owner) and other times I hear of an owner who is not happy with the trainer. I lend an ear when people want to talk and along the way, I have learned some important things that I practice as an owner and a trainer. Here I share some thoughts to help you with this process.
1) Research trainers and find out what they have to offer you as a horse owner.
When I say research, I mean look them up online, ask for references from the trainer, check out their record in the discipline of your interest, make an appointment and ask to speak with him or her for 15 minutes about training philosophy and ask that you get to see the training arena, feed, and stables. If you like your horse to have supplements, find out if the facility will give your horse supplements. Check out some videos he or she might have available. Find out how much training/riding is done by the trainer verses others on staff.
2) Begin the relationship with communication.
This is equally important for both the trainer and the owner.
As the owner, you will want to share with the trainer what your goals are for the horse. If you have done your homework as suggested in #1 above, you will know that this trainer and you are compatible. Be prepared to write these down as part of the contract process.
As the trainer, you want to be clear in sharing your philosophy and how you will develop this horse. You want to share a plan for the first 30 days that includes you calling or emailing the owner with some updates. Updates need to be more than “the horse is nice.” As the trainer, sit down and give some pluses and minuses and an honest evaluation.
Set up a review of the horse’s progress on a routine basis. For this, I suggest every 30 or 45 days needs a face-to-face meeting or detailed phone conversation. You may learn that your horse is not suited for a particular discipline…so listen to the trainer. As an owner, listen to what the trainer is saying about the horse. We all think our horse’s are amazing, but just like us they have some faults.
3) Begin the relationship with a written contract.
Any owner or trainer who does not want to start the relationship with a written contract is not doing things correctly. Make sure the contract has a release of liability, terms of payment, what fees will be due for relevant services (veterinarian, farrier, etc), understanding of when the owner can stop by (what are the business hours), how much riding lesson time is included so that the owner learns how to ride the horse (if that is part of the owner’s goals). Many things go into a written contract and you must remember this is a business arrangement, so start the process off correctly.
4) Have a Veterinarian check your horse before starting training.
Both the trainer and the owner have a stake in making certain the horse going into training is sound. For young horses, make sure the growth plates in the knees are closed. For all horses, make sure they are up to date on vaccinations, worming, farrier work, and that the horse is sound (basic flexion tests, radiographs if indicated). Trainers and owners alike do not like to learn a horse is lame after the first ride. This is not good for anyone.
5) See and show the horse in action.
As the owner, you need to make sure you take an interest in the progress of the horse. Take some time to see the horse ridden or shown. As the trainer, make opportunities available for the owner to see the horse in action.
I am sure you can come up with other items of importance in the horse-owner/horse-trainer relationship and I look forward to you sharing your thoughts.
Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, and co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).