So your young horse has 'come of age' and you're ready to take the big step to send him off to the trainers for breaking in or more politically correctly known as 'starting'. Or perhaps you want to send your horse away for some professional training or re-training of some kind. Well what do you look for in a trainer? What's important and what isn't?
I'm hoping to share this knowledge so that you as the client and horse owner can know WHEN TO GET YOUR HORSE OUT OF THERE!!!
Few people realise just how important it is that their young horses get a great start to life. THIS is arguably the most important aspect of their riding career and if it doesn't start on the right foot you can have all sorts of mental and physical issues to deal with for months or even years to come!
Here's the 10 things I'd suggest are questionable in a trainer you're considering or signs that perhaps you should
re-consider your horse being there!
(1) Trainer has no paperwork whatsoever for you to sign upon arrival. None. Whatsoever. No waivers. No contracts. Not even a receipt of your payment. I'd probably suggest questioning this as you have no security as to what is happening with your horse!
(2) Trainer is super super cheap. I see this a lot. Trainers advertising that they can take your young horse for only $100 or thereabouts per week and break it in for you and are promising they'll turn it into a dressage superstar or eventing champion in just a few weeks - price includes feed. I'd seriously question my horse going there. In this day in age the old adage applies - you get what you pay for!
(3) You arrive to trainers property for your allotted arrival time and no one is there to greet you except a super young stable hand who has no idea what is going on with your booking and suggests putting your horse into a dodgy looking paddock with a few other horses until the trainer gets back. Upon contacting the trainer they confirm with ''yeah just chuck him in that paddock with the others". Drive away now and don't look back!
(4) The paddocks/yards/stables the trainer wants to house your horse in consists of falling down barbed wire, old electric fencing that no longer works, rusty corrugated iron that is flapping in the wind and has 'bits and pieces' everywhere. Do you really want your horse spending the next few weeks here?
(5) You contact the trainer after your horse's first week of training to see how your precious equine friend is progressing and settling in, and the trainer avoids your calls and when they do finally reply they give you very short and sweet answers like 'he's good' or 'yes all is well'. No details or explanations, no photos, no quick video footage. Nothing. This is the moment you NEED TO GO AND SEE YOUR HORSE! TAKE THE FLOAT WITH YOU! I know some people aren't as talkative as others, but as the paying client you deserve to know how your horse is going in their training. A few things like - "yes He's going good, I've bagged him down and lunged him" or "what a lovely mare, she is coming along nicely and here are some photos of her from today". This way there is an open line of communication between you and the trainer about YOUR horse! Remember, this part of a horse's life is SUPER important and horses remember very positive experiences for a long time, but they generally remember very negative experiences for even longer!
(6) After week 2 the trainer rings you and says 'this horse is no good, it's dangerous, it has mental issues, you should dog it'.....big warning sign here. That placid, good natured youngster you took to a horsemanship clinic only a month prior is suddenly a monster? Take your horse home now!!
(7) You arrive to see your horse after a training session and it has missing hair on it's sides from the spurs and bloody rub marks around it's mouth from the bit. The trainer makes excuses and says something along the lines of 'oh he's had a hard session today'....Go home, pick up the float, and take your horse home NOW!
(8) Trainer is breaking in your young horse and says halfway through the training - "oh I changed his bit to something stronger as he was being a bit ignorant" - you arrive to see your young horse in a pelham, long western shank, or similar. Take the horse home NOW!
(9) You go to visit your horse and he has cuts, bruises and scrapes all over him. When you ask the trainer what happened he brushes off your question like it's no big deal. Trainer clearly hasn't treated any of the above with anything medicinal and horse is looking very worse for wear. Take the horse home NOW!
(10) Lastly - you ask to watch a training session whilst the horse is at the trainers, and they agree to see you at 11am. You arrive a bit early because there was less traffic than you expected only to find the trainer flogging your horse or lunging it till it's sweating and heaving. Trainer looks surprised you've arrived early and says ''oh I was just warming him up"
TAKE THE HORSE HOME NOW!!!!!
DIsclaimer: The above is only my opinion and I'm posting it in the hope that it can help prevent horse owners and more specifically their horses from experiencing a negative situation with a trainer. There are a ton of amazing and talented horse men and women out there who really know their stuff. Unfortunately like every industry there are just as many who are unqualified, inexperienced and unreliable. I'd encourage you to do your research and make an informed choice based on your first hand experience with a trainer. The more expensive trainers tend to have a great reputation, have some qualifications, and are usually insured.
As a trainer myself, I am only too happy for clients to come along and watch me work with my own horses or clients horses, attend a lesson prior to committing to sending their horse to me and ask lots and lots of questions so they know how I operate and what my methods are. I personally enjoy seeing the process and progress of horses in my care and once they leave my care seeing their future successes with their owners. It's a buzz to see a horse a few years down the track succeeding in whatever they are doing and think ''hey I started that horse off and helped him become the lovely calm natured and willing horse he is now".
The age of technology now means it's a very quick exercise to take and send photos/video footage with our smartphones and send a quick message to the client to touch base on their horse's training progression.
Next week I'll write up a blog on what kind of things to look for in a good trainer.
Until then, happy horsing around and remember to keep on loving your horses.
~ Hayley :)