Majority of horse owners have a differing view of what a perfect horse professional is or is not. Poll any number of owners and you will get nearly that many number of opinions. There are three key elements to consider when searching for an equine professional in any area or discipline.

What are the needs of the horse?

For example, a young horse may need several months of qualified training before it is ready for an owner to ride or show. An older horse may require only a tune-up or may also require longer sessions if adding training in additional disciplines. Important items for consideration here are if a professional can meet the short or long term goals of the project.

What are your needs as the owner?

Determine your goals for involvement as a horse owner. Some owners desire to be very involved in the training, showing or riding of their horse. Other owners have more of a hands-off approach to ownership and enjoy watching others work with their horse. In return some professionals enjoy working directly with client education and others prefer to deal only with the horses. Your involvement goals will play a role in selection of a professional.

What is the end goal of the training program / use of the horse?

Here is a tricky question and where it is important to be realistic. Some breeds, bloodlines and body types of horses are better suited toward one performance area vs. another performance area. It is important to choose disciplines that play to the strengths of your horse. A good professional will help you find & strengthen the positive aspects your horse displays in order to help you toward your goal use for the horse. A good trainer should also be able to tell you if he / she believes’ a horse is suited for a particular discipline and why.

Below are some other helpful tips in choosing a professional to fit your needs.

Do your homework – Research professionals well before your horse is ready to be started under saddle or several months before the next show season begins. The extra time you take to choose a good professional will pay off for both you and your horse in the long run. Do your friends have recommendations? Does the trainer / instructor you are looking at have openings? Are they qualified to train horses or provide instruction through previous experience or education? Does the instructor / trainer carry insurance to protect themselves and or the horse?

Not all Professionals are professional or created equal - This statement may strike some as odd because it is so obvious, however it is often a neglected thought. As in all business, quality of work with horses counts and attributes to successful horse and owner partnerships. Many professionals in the equine industry perform with quality and integrity, Some trainers / instructors are simply not professionals, nor do they have the knowledge or skills to be professionals. Unfortunately, many parts of the equine industry do not require a degree or certification or training to perform as a professional. For this reason, it is very important to protect yourself and your equine partner by following suggestion # 1. (Do your homework)

Determine if you require a trainer or an instructor or both - There is a difference between a professional trainer and a professional instructor. That does not mean one individual can not perform both tasks. It does mean that some individuals are qualified to provide one or the other service but not both.

Ask for references – Check with current and previous clients and or show management from various places a professional has exhibited. Is the trainer / instructor banned from a certain group? Why? If you get negative feedback regarding a professional, ask the person directly for their version of the story. If the individual is willing to discuss a negative comment, it will give an indication of how they handle conflict, which can be very insightful regarding your future dealings with that person.

Check your budget – Training and lessons costs money plain and simple. How much are you willing to spend? Do you have enough cash to finish the project you start? Have a candid discussion to see what potential costs might be incurred. Will the services fit your budget? Majority of the professionals I know charge according to their skill & experience level. Therefore, the more skilled the professional, the higher the charge for services will be.

Gage your comfort level. – Ask to sit in on a lesson or attend a show the professional is participating in. Do you enjoy how they work with horses & clients? Do you understand when they explain something to a student? Does the professional work well one on one or with groups? Will the they consider an evaluation with the horse?

Inspect the merchandise – View colts the trainer has started or older horses the trainer has worked on. Are those horses comfortable / performers / do well for their owners? Does the trainer have video or photos to share? Watch students of the instructor at a show. How do they perform? Are the students confident and prepared?

Tour the facilities – How clean and organized is the barn / arena / office / tack room? If those areas are all dirty and chaotic, what does that say about the general training / lesson operation? What type of reception do you receive?

Honestly answering the questions above will help you have an open conversation with potential equine professionals. A search process is necessary to find a trainer / instructor to meet the needs & goals of you and your horse. Candid discussions also help alleviate any confusion later on in the training process. As the horse progresses in the training process it may be more difficult to switch professionals due to location, schedules or finances. This is a decision you want to take time in making and make correctly the first time.

What do others find valuable in choosing an equine professional?

By: Melissa Harms - Grossman, B.S. Animal Science, Equine Emphasis