Mel Harms-Grossman shares her thoughts on choosing the best trainer for your money (and more importantly, for your horse).
Pay the trainer you can’t afford, you say? Why yes, I do say this! If you have done your homework, you will want to select the trainer that does the best for your horse. Often times, this is the trainer that is the most educated and experienced. That selection will cost some money, and it is worth it. Especially if it’s a trainer who is educated, cares about the horse and your goals.
While the profession of “horse training” is not regulated in this country as many other professions are, there are still some check points to consider. For some tips on how to avoid an unhappy experience, read this article that was published on Horse Nation in November 2015.
Speaking of unhappy, it’s one of my least favorite types of horse and owner. There are numerous challenges of working through a previous poor training for both horse and owner. Here are a few challenges worth mentioning:
- Money: Wait, didn’t I just advocate for paying more? Yes, I am basically saying that you should pay more to save more. Training projects that come in because they have been through one or more failed training processes always cost the owner more in the long run, mostly because the owner already paid for a service. The owner will have to then pay to have that horse “unscrewed and redone.” This takes time, knowledge and patience.
- Safety: I have taken in many horses that were started by inexperienced people and turned out with huge safety issues. After this unfortunate experience, the experienced trainer has to go back, fix the safety issues, and often start from scratch to retrain the horse to learn safe behavior. This is well more difficult and time-consuming than to take on a “clean slate,” so to speak.
- The Problem Horse is often created by inexperience (see #2 above). This is most often not due to any fault of the horse, but by how the horse has been taught or handled. I have had an actual aggressive horse in for training on a very rare occasion. However, I have had many training horses with previous poor handling or poor training.
- Mental or Physical Trauma: This could be a side effect for both horse, inexperienced trainer and owner. No matter which individual has mental or physical trauma, it is an issue that will need work for improvement.
See how the “costs” are adding up?
While it is wonderful to give young or inexperienced people a shot, keep in mind that it may cost you. Although there are some successes, I have seen it fail time and time again. If you are the gambling type, hiring a youth or inexperienced trainer that can limp things along may provide odds you are willing to bet on. If not, encourage the young person to apprentice with a knowledgeable individual. Then hedge your bet on the trainer with the best odds.
The trainer with the best odds may be the one that costs a bit more. That trainer will have proof of better odds through education, apprenticeships, videos, references and perhaps show records. Place your training bet wisely!
For over 10 years, Melissa (Mel) Harms-Grossman has successfully trained horses for show at halter, reining, barrels, poles, ranch reining, trail, western pleasure and more recently ranch horse pleasure and western dressage. She enjoys starting colts, providing continuing education for started horses, finishing show horses and working to build confidence in trail horses. One of her most proud accomplishments is helping clients attain show goals of exhibiting at AQHA and FQHR World Shows. Mel trains horses at her own SunRunner Ranch in Buffalo, Minnesota.