“Dear Stacy, I am studying to become a horse trainer at LBCC and had a question I would like to ask you. What, in your opinion are the most important steps to take to become a horse trainer? Your answer would be greatly appreciated! Thank you. ” -Holly B.

The number one thing is knowing yourself and your goals. These will likely change as you change but it is still important to have a general idea of where you are headed. Being a horse trainer can mean different things to different people. For example, you could be a horse trainer who does some training and some lesson, or you could be a horse trainer and take horses to national shows or even the Olympics.

Knowing this general direction is important because three things to consider when becoming a horse trainer are the lifestyle, your knowledge level and your financial capabilities.Your current knowledge level will determine where you start...your willingness to learn will determine where you go.-Stacy Westfall

Lifestyle: Being a horse trainer is quite often a lifestyle choice. Unless you do just seasonal training, the job of a horse trainer is often seven days a week, 365 days a year. If you have other people paying you to care for and train their horses they expect you to be there most of the time. It is also challenging to find reliable help especially when you are starting your business so be prepared to be heavily involved. Put some serious thought into your goals and your commitment level. For example, a lesson program may be easier to manage the hours and schedule vacations around. If you are aiming for national championships you need to realize that you will be dedicating most of your time to that dream including many weekends, weeknights and holidays.

Education.  Do you have the knowledge or a plan to acquire the knowledge to reach your goals? Some of my favorite people to coach are trainers, people who are committed to learning more and are willing to seek out the knowledge to go to the next level. They come with great questions and enough experience to absorb a lot of instruction. Your current knowledge level will determine where you start…your willingness to learn will determine where you go. 

Financial responsibility. The biggest mistake I consistently see young trainers make is ‘keeping up with the Jones’. Young trainers seem to be under the impression that if they drive the same truck and pull the same trailer as the top trainers, they will become the next top trainer. The problem is that these big rigs come with big payments. When we were getting our business started Jesse and I both worked ‘regular’ jobs AND trained on the side. This gave us the ability to keep our rates low and prove ourselves to our clients. Jesse would leave at 6:30am, drive 30 mins, work until 4:00, drive 30 mins, meet me at the barn and then we would train horses until 11 then drive home. Then repeat. Thankfully I read a book by Larry Burkett about getting out of debt and later became a huge fan of Dave Ramsey. The ability to manage money will be a huge determiner of your success.

There are so many ways to ‘be a horse trainer’ that you really need to look at what that means to you. What are you best at? What do you enjoy? Do you love giving lessons? Entry level or sport specific? Or are you happiest when you are alone in the barn without other people?

Answer these questions now…and once a year, every year. You will change, your goals will change, and your business should change and grow with it.