How To Be A Horse Trainer

13 Feb

How to be a horse trainer in today’s day and age. They say that all you need is a shingle, some paint, a nail, and a hammer. And you know what? For the most part, they’re right. I gave up my Amateur status about 2 years ago now, but been a “Professional Amateur” for years. I’ve hired many horse trainers in my lifetime, so gained some valuable insight even before I bought my own shingle. Here I’m going to list some practical, some funny, and some common sense advise on how to be a horse trainer.

How To Be a Horse Trainer

1) Learn to Enjoy Long Days

Notice how I said learn to enjoy and not just work long days. Training horses is thankless work. Owners expect results and the horses don’t go away just because you’re tired. I currently work a full time job that usually takes up about 52 hours a week by the time you add in travel. I get home, change, snarf down my fast food, and rush out to the barn to start riding. I do this EVERY DAY. And you know what? I LOVE IT. I truly get a thrill of happiness from climbing in bed every evening at 10:30pm tired to the bones, only to get up at 5am to feed horses before going to work and do it all over again. If you’re going to make it in this business, you HAVE to be this way, or you’ll never last.

2) Learn to Be Broke

I have nice horses, saddles, two barns, two arenas, cattle, and a whole slew of stuff that I’ve worked incredibly hard to get. With that said, I don’t purchase things that are simply for myself or the house very often. I would rather have a new bit or a saddle pad than a Kitchen Aid Mixer any day. The saying “My horses get new shoes more often than I do” rings true to the core. And I’m ok with that! Our house isn’t fancy, or our barn for that matter,  but it suits its purpose. The only way to make a million in the horse business is to start with two million, but it is a labor of love that so many of you reading this I’m sure can relate to. Being broke is ok – just make sure you budget for emergencies and horse shows.

How to be a horse trainer

3) Watch Every Tom, Dick, & Harry That You Can

Learning how to be a horse trainer doesn’t come from just yourself. Rent videos. Hire a trainer yourself. Go to shows in your discipline of choice and soak up all that you can. If you truly want to learn how to be a horse trainer, you won’t snub any kind of riding. You’re probably the type that goes to a movie just because a horse was on the poster. I grew up trotting and cantering everywhere I went just because I wanted to be riding my horse to all of those places, as well as to feel how my horse felt when he performed those moves. Even though I train horses and horse-people myself now, I still make a point to watch videos of other professionals to continuously enhance my own skills. I might not agree with every single thing, but I can guarantee that everyone has some kind of takeaway that could be beneficial at some point in time.

4) Ride As Many and as Much as You Can

You won’t learn how to be a horse trainer by sitting on the couch. And you also won’t learn how to be a horse trainer by riding the same horse for ten years straight. When I was younger, my parents told me that if I wanted to step up, I needed to train my horse, sell it for a profit, and then I could use that to buy a better horse. The next thing you know, I was riding that six figure horse that I had always dreamed of, and saw my face in the magazines that I used to pour over every night. While I loved my first pony tremendously, I knew even back then that staying with one horse would not get me where I needed to be. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have that special one that you never let go, but if you really want to learn how to be a horse trainer, you’ll have to find room to either expand your pocketbook to keep more horses, or learn how to let some of them go on to new homes.

5) Quit Counting Bruises

You will get hurt training and riding horses. In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. I love these big galoots more than anyone else, but they sometimes don’t realize just how big they are. They say that you aren’t a true horseman if you can still count the number of times you’ve fallen off, and I believe there’s truth in that. My first pony used to dump me almost every day, much to the worry of my mother, as well as my own frustration. I think it made it worse when he would stop, turn around, and almost horse laugh at the sight of me on the ground pouting. That pony taught me though to not give up, and I soon learned how to stick with him no matter what antics he tried to pull. It also taught me the valuable lesson that even if you fall off you still must get back on. In most cases. And that leads me to….

How to be a horse trainer

6) You Have to Send Some Horses Home

It’s inevitable. You’ve hung your shingle and are accepting outside horses. Everything is going well until Ol’ Buck shows up. He just doesn’t seem to want to learn anything and each day is a new battle. He randomly explodes in horsie fits of anger and eventually yard darts you across the arena. Sometimes being a good trainer is knowing when to quit, as well as when to stop taking peoples money. I now have a 90 day minimum on breaking colts, but I also warn the owners from the beginning that I reserve the right to send them home if I feel like I’m either in danger or not doing the horse any good. Trust me, they might be mad at first but will eventually come to terms and respect your decision.

The Conclusion of How To Be a Horse Trainer…

How to be a horse trainer

Learning how to be a horse trainer is a long, tiring, and thankless road to walk upon. With that said, it is also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. The joy of seeing an owner smile when they ride a horse that you’ve trained for them really is a beautiful thing. Comment below and let me some other things you think folks should know when wondering how to be a horse trainer! And of course if you ever need some advice, feel free to call me at 678-492-0440 or visit us online at!

Heidi Cook
Cook Arena

One Response to “How To Be A Horse Trainer”

  1. Tammy Shaw September 19, 2015 at 8:57 pm #

    Heidi and her husband are some of the best people around when it comes to horses…I have sent two horses her way (one was a TWH) Both came back to home, much better than they left. I couldn’t have asked for anything better!

    Heidi treats these animals with respect, but demands their attention and helps them develop a great work ethic.

    If you needs a horse to be trained, I would recommend cook arena!

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