So you want to become a horse trainer, huh? Sounds like fun—doing what you love and getting paid for it? Score! You are about to embark on a wonderful journey…but maybe don’t know where to start? No problem, I’ve developed a step-by-step guide to becoming a horse trainer. In this article you will find precise instructions guaranteed to help you find success in the industry—all for the low, low price of your sanity. Read on, friends.

Step 1: Learn to ride.

You already know how to ride? Great! Keep riding. Ride everything you can—babies, school masters, reiners, dressage horses, the wild pony in your neighbor’s yard—everything. Feeling good about your riding experience? Great! How many times have you fallen? If you can count the number on your hands, keep riding. Better yet, keep falling. Fall until you can’t count that high (or forget how to count, whichever comes first). Ride until your legs are made of superglue. Ride until sticking is second nature. Once your stick-ability is a 10, move on to Step 2…

Photo courtesy of Natasia Lind

Step 2: Forget everything you know about riding horses.

Trust me, you don’t know that much anyway…none of us do. Ask questions, take lessons, follow other professionals around, annoy all of the horse people you can find with all of the questions you can think of. Make it a point to become as educated as you possibly can and try not to cry yourself to sleep at night thinking about all of the things you don’t know even after all these years. Are you cramming as much knowledge as you can into your brain? Are you starting to become a little more humble? Sweet! On to Step 3…

Step 3: Learn to be a people person.

Try to put all the frustration and negativity that overcame you in Steps 1 and 2 aside and slap a smile on your face. Make people believe you’re the happiest, sweetest, most wonderful person they’ve ever met even though your back hurts, you’re not sure you even know how to ride anymore and, honestly, you can’t even remember where you are. Because, at the end of the day, you can’t train horses if you can’t convince people to give you horses to train.

Did you find a couple schmucks willing to give you a shot? Perfect, move on to Step 4…

Step 4: Become a jack-of-all-trades.

Now that you have the experience, are educating yourself and have somehow found someone to pay you to ride, embrace the fact that you yourself can’t pay anyone. That’s right, pick up that pitchfork. Learn to clean a stall in 2 minutes flat. Speaking of flats, can you change the one on your trailer? There are now horses to groom, feed and turn out, loose shoes that need to be pulled, appointments to schedule, fences to fix, and hay to be stacked. Did you think being a horse trainer meant you’d actually have time to ride? Ha!

Step 5. Remind yourself why you decided to do this in the first place.

After perfectly scheduling out your day and waking up before dawn for morning chores only to bring in a lame horse, you may start to question your career path. When that lame horse results in an emergency vet call that leaves you just enough money for Ramen Noodles for the week, you will heavily reconsider your life decisions. Now is the time to make a list of all the things you love about horses. Your list will be short, but make it anyway. Training horses professionally isn’t for everyone; you have to be a certain sort of crazy to make it work. Did that list make you feel better? Move on to Step 6…

Step 6. Revel in the life you’ve made.

Congratulations, you’ve made it this far! Sit back, trade those Ramen Noodles for a bottle of cheap wine and breathe in the smell of happiness. Listen to your horses munching on their hay, knowing you are making a difference for each and every one of them. Give yourself a pat on the back, or another large swig of Moscato, and know you’ve made it. Whether breaking babies or competing at the upper levels, your work is important for the industry and the horses thank you for keeping them happy and healthy, and giving them the skills to succeed in life.


About the Author
Lindsay Gilbert is the owner of Transitions Sport Horses, based in Lexington, KY. She specializes in repurposing OTTBs for careers in eventing, jumping and dressage. She also publishes a blog chronicling her road to the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover.