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Finding Your Professional Horseman

Selecting a Horse Trainer and Riding Instructor by Shane Ledyard

· Horsemanship

 "Trainer style is such an important factor—and every rider reacts differently to certain styles.​" ~ Shane Ledyard

Many great horsemen have said that horse selection is the most important variable in riding success. There is no doubt that this statement is true, and to take that concept a step further, another very important factor in a successful riding career is trainer selection.

Whether you are considering taking riding lessons or sending your horse out to be trained, there are all different types of trainers available in the market today.  Some are breed or discipline specific, while others are behavior specialists.  Depending on what your goals and/or horse’s needs are, there no is doubt that there is someone out there that can help you move forward.  

To find a trainer, you can search on the internet or in horse periodicals like the one you are reading now. You can also talk to other horse people; ask tack shop employees, your blacksmith, your veterinarian, etc.  These are people who are out in the horse world everyday and have a good sense of the industry. Once you have a list to work with, there are several key points that should be considered when choosing the trainer that is right for you.

Reputation is the first thing to bear in mind.  The horse industry is a close knit community and in your original networking you will likely find out who definitely to stay away from and who to keep on your list.  

Next, ask yourself what your goals are.  For example, if your ultimate goal is simply to ride a perfect second level dressage test or jump around a 2’ 6” hunter course, then find a trainer who has students that have accomplished this or similar goals. This person will likely be a lot different from the trainer you hire to go Grand Prix or an international hunter derby. You don’t want to buy too much trainer but you definitely want to hire someone that has a track record for helping people accomplish the same goals that you have.

After you have established your goals, take the time to analyze how realistic they are as per your budget, your time and your horse’s ability.  Make sure when you are interviewing trainers they are well aware of your specific goals.  Ask them to discuss how they believe you can get these goals accomplished. Also ask what kind of expenses can be expected as well as their availability.

Now that you have narrowed down your list of trainers, it is time to go and watch a couple lessons or training sessions. Trainer style is such an important factor—and every rider reacts differently to certain styles. Some trainers will drill a horse and rider while others take a softer and slower approach. You should also observe how the students interact with the trainer. Are the horses sound and happy? If you like everything that you are seeing, then the next step is to set up a “test” lesson or training session.

The test session is mission critical. Even if all of your initial research checks out, the chemistry may not be right. Sometimes certain trainers simply are not suited for a certain type of horse or rider. This doesn’t make them a bad trainer—it is just a reality of the business. If this is the case, then you should keep shopping. 

Through the trainer selection process be picky and stick to the criteria that matters most to you.  Continually bear in mind that the trainer you select will directly affect your happiness as well as your long term riding success. Lastly, remember that horse sense is nothing more than common sense. When you find a trainer that matches your personality, has clear training methods and still shows true passion for the horse itself, you should be well on your way to riding success.

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