Follow The Leader

Equestrian sports are very unique and all too similar to other sports at the same time. For parents/children and amateurs the culture would imply that we are all supposed to have a leader and follow them blindly. In a lot of ways that would make it much easier for the professionals in the industry. Unlike in a corporate setting a job interview for an equestrian position can be a lot like playing trust fall. This is honestly how it feels as a rider or owner when trying to find a new trainer as well.cat-trust-falling

A decent amount of the lower level equestrian professional population do not seem to have vast records that support their careers. Please note that I am not saying that every professional needs to be experienced at the upper levels. That said just because  you can WTC a horse or hang on over fences doesn’t make you a trainer. Honestly even being a good rider doesn’t always qualify someone as a good trainer or instructor. Not

It feels like there is an opinion that amateurs or anyone with the (perceived) means should support up and coming talent. I don’t necessarily disagree with this. If I had the means to do so (while also riding/showing my own) I would happily give a talented up and coming trainer the ride on my horses where appropriate. It is a two way street though.  A lot of the people that are in the middle grounds get taken advantage of. Not everyone with nice horses is a millionaire and a quick way to get those with the dollars to spend to run is to always have a hand out. If those young or up and coming trainers/riders want the ride on horses that could quite literally be their ride to the top it seems like there should be a give and a take. I totally understand that most professional equestrians are not getting rich by any stretch of the imagination. I am not implying that they don’t deserve to be paid either. BUT I do think that if you are going to go pro in this industry you need to be realistic about what to charge for services given relevant experience.

What is giving some of these professionals this mentality? It seems like it should not be that complicated to operate under a business model where you don’t take advantage of your clients and only expect to be paid what you have earned. If you didn’t find the horse/ actively search in my eyes you don’t deserve a commission. If you didn’t ride the horse you don’t get paid. If you didn’t actually do the service that is showing up on the bill please explain why any of us should be expected to pay for it. I know that I am not alone with saying that I don’t like surprises on my bills. I have even gotten to the point now where I don’t let most horse people bill me. I want to know what you charge for the service you have agreed to provide BEFORE it happens. I do acknowledge that that can be easier in eventing land when its 3 parts over 1-2 days 95% of the time vs assorted #s of classes spread over a week.

I just want to say that I respect the hell out of the pros in my life but it makes me a little sad that I have to be so skeptical when finding them. To all of the great horsemen/women that have groomed all of us to this point kudos to you!

How do you guys feel about this? Have there been specific areas that you have lived where this is more prevalent than others? Maybe even a specific discipline vs another?

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11 Comments

  1. I just had this conversation with my trainer yesterday. Because she a young pro with a small barn and my horse is the first young horse coming in. I told her what I can and can’t afford. That I will only be paying for X things and that I do not like surprises on my bills. So if there is something that needs to be charged she better be ready to talk to me about it first. I told her its because as a professional she should get paid but i can’t pay her if I get surprises charges because I am not rich and the last thing I want is to owe anyone anything. I think the conversation went well.

  2. I think as far as finding the right professional, word-of-mouth is probably the number one factor for me, but then in h/j land in Texas, everyone kind of knows everyone so it’s easy to find out stuff. Many of the barns in my area also have price sheets of expenses a client can expect related to boarding, training, and showing. I do get a heads up from my trainer if anything is going to be on my bill that isn’t usually, which I appreciate.

    I simply don’t have the means to offer an up-and-coming professional rides and shows on nice horses–some of them deserve the opportunities and some of them don’t. Again, it’s a word of mouth thing and I have seen it go both ways.

    1. Totally get what you are saying. Word of mouth is definitely helpful. I have found that too often though in the horse industry people can be afraid to share their experiences. Stinks for the next unlucky person though!

  3. We were just talking about this yesterday in my barn. My BO had been using a young, just staring out dressage trainer for the past couple of years. BO paid for four lessons on the horse she had in training for a junior in the barn because the junior was thinking of leasing the mare. Junior got one lesson, then suddenly the trainer was too busy. The mare was sold, and the lessons were supposed to roll over to another horse but that never happened. That was last fall and they’re still owed 3 lessons. It left a very bitter taste in everyone’s mouth and now my BO is having someone else work with her horses.

  4. The two most important things to me are #1 honesty and #2 open communication. I LIKE to be very involved with my horse’s care and training — I want to know whats going on, especially if I’m paying for it.

  5. Love this post so much, and I really relate. I absolutely agree that pro’s should be paid, but only for the work they DO! If I pay for x number training rides per week, you better sit on my horse x times per week. No buts about it. Otherwise, you need to offer to let the rides roll over to the next month, or reimburse for the rides you didn’t do. This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine, because I honestly see it as stealing. I am careful with my money, and I hate to feel like I am being taken advantage of. Thankfully I have found a trainer I trust now, but it hasn’t always been that way in the past.

  6. Agree. I think it’s important for trainer’s to be up front about what and when they charge. And a new kid on the block should not be charging what my trainer who shows grand prix is charging for a ride. I’m sorry, but they’re not going to supply the same product.
    No one likes surprises, especially when it comes to money. And in this sport those surprises can add up fast. I got really lucky with my current trainer. She charges me a flat monthly fee (which is higher in Wellington than in CT, because you know, Florida), and if anything is going to be above that, she lets me know before hand.

  7. Totally with you on the surprise charges. I refuse to pay for stuff like that because I’m always up front with what I expect and what I will pay for. I also get everything in writing. Unfortunately I was charged an incredible amount when I picked up after attempting to sell him, but since the extra charges weren’t agreed upon before in advance, I said I refused to pay for them and paid exactly what we had agreed upon (which was probably still too much because there’s no way he received 5 training rides/week). On the flip side, my BO is a young trainer who has a bunch of show kids, but doesn’t really have a training program going yet. I’ve paid her to get on P when I’m out of town and feel like she’s always been honest with me about whether or not she was actually able to ride. Though if P misses a day, it’s totally obvious and she knows that by now! While I agree that pros should get paid for the services provided, I don’t think anyone should expect to get rich off of being a professional rider. If they want to be a pro rider, more power to them, but it’s not my fault if they can’t pay their bills.