The first few months in a horse’s training experience can be among the most important. it’s the time when a youngster learns the basics that he’ll use for the rest of his performance career, and it can also be a time that will influence how he will or won?t learn, or how he’ll behave, for the rest of his life.
Think of this decision as much the same as choosing a private school or college for your child. Except that, unless your horse has severe temperament issues, a poor choice on your part probably won?t ruin his entire life.
While horses have strong memories and, thus, remember the past more than dogs, they do live in the present better than humans. That’s why, most of the time, if you change where they live and how they?re ridden and trained, their attitude and performance will change.
In the September issue, we discussed how to prepare your horse to ?go to school,? in order to get the most for your dollar. This month we’ll consider factors to weigh when choosing the best trainer for your horse. Remember that fame is a less-than-perfect barometer in this decision; there are many very good horsemen across the country who aren?t nationally, or even locally, famous.
1) Record and Reputation
Trainers who?ve won numerous awards in young-horse competitions can be a good place to start your search, especially if you have a horse you plan to compete, on the line or, later, under saddle. But a competition record isn?t necessarily the best indicator of a trainer?s skill in starting young horses under saddle.
If you’re interested in one or more trainers you don’t know or haven’t worked with before, find someone who has. If you can’t, the trainers should be able to give you contact information for a few people whose horses they’ve started. If they can’t, move on.
You should make sure that you’re dealing with someone who makes young horses their specialty or, at least, an important part of their business. Many trainers won?t touch babies. Some may even take your money but be unable or unwilling to actually work with your baby. So You’ll go several months without progress and just have to start over.
And find out whether he or she specializes in a breed or discipline or works with any and all horses. If you?ve decided to keep your colt intact, make sure that’s OK too. Many barns will not accept stallions, no matter their age.
2) Is the trainer?s personality compatible with yours’
Do you want someone who?ll call, text or email you about your horse’s progress regularly, even almost every day (perhaps even gushing about your horse’s athletic brilliance or darling personality)’ Or will you be angry or disappointed when a laconic cowboy only gives you a brief update ? ?Yeah, He’s doing good? ? if you call him first’
Honestly, few trainers will automatically call or electronically contact an owner, unless it’s an emergency. They just don’t have the time or the inclination, and most of the time there isn?t anything earth shattering to report. Most days with young horses are, literally, a few more baby steps. But most will chat for a few minutes if you call or will respond to your email. If a daily report is what you really need, your search will be a long one.
Decide how important the proximity of your horse is to you. Do you want to regularly see him worked, or are you happy to let the trainer do their job and visit occasionally’ If the answer is the latter, You’ll probably have a wider choice. But if you must be a part of the process, you better find someone close to home.
4) Stable/farm set-up and management
To avoid disappointment and misunderstanding, you should go to the trainer?s farm and check out the operation, just like you would a private school or college. Do horses live outside or in a barn, and is that according to your preference’ If the horses are stabled, do they get turned out’
Similarly, if you want your youngster to jump, you probably want to send him to a trainer with jumps so he can be introduced to the concept. Early training is basically the same, no matter the discipline.
While you’re visiting, evaluate the quality of the care and stable management. Do things seem to proceed on a regular schedule’
Do the horses look healthy and happy’ Are the fences in good shape’ Is the barn orderly and neat’ It certainly doesn’t need to be fancy, but it shouldn?t look like a hoarder?s closet either.
it’s been said that you get what you pay for, and that’s usually true for training. But the cost of training can be inversely proportional to the competence and reliability. In other words, you may find high training fees that reflect location and marketing more than competence. Low training fees may not mean you?ve found a bargain, but a big feel may also not mean anything more than that a lot of people consider it fashionable to send their horses there.
If you get a contract, read it carefully to see what’s included in the training fee. Is this training for a specified time period (usually three or six months) or for an unspecified period’ A specified time period means that the trainer intends to have your horse going under saddle by the end of that period (barring unforeseen circumstances) and then you take him away.
Does the training fee include hay, grain and bedding, or will you have to provide them or pay an additional charge for them’ If it’s the latter, determine whether it would be more cost-effective for you to provide these or to pay the facility for them.
Check the contract for any other fine print, like charges for blanket changes or holding your horse for the farrier or the veterinarian. And if there is no contract, be sure to ask these questions.
If you choose a trainer you don’t know to start your young horse under saddle, take the time to be confident that the person?s style, operation and fees are suitable to you and to your horse.