"Horse training is a process of trial and error," Darla Lee states. Photo © Ali Hubbell

Common Misconceptions of Horse Trainers with Darla Lee

Editor’s Note: Ohio trainer and GoHorseShow writer Darla Lee discusses some common misconceptions about horse trainers. Darla Lee was born in Apple Valley, California where she began riding horses at the age of nine. She later moved to Ohio where she attended College at the University of Findlay. She has worked for many top trainers in the industry and the past fifteen years operates Lee Quarter Horses located in Plain City, Ohio with her husband Brian where they specialize in western pleasure, hunter under saddle and all-around events on the AQHA and NSBA circuits.

Read her nine common misconceptions about horse trainers below. Do you agree? Let us know.


They are rich

When a customer gets their monthly training bill in the mail, they are most likely in shock generally at just how much money it takes to have a horse in training. Then, people usually start doing the math and think if a horse trainer has twenty horses in training that all have the same size bill, they must be rolling the money in from the mailbox in wheelbarrows. But horse trainers being wealthy is very far from being a reality.

When you separate out the things that get directly billed from costs like farrier or stalls and entries, the remaining places for profit become somewhat smaller. According to Statista, the national average workweek of employees in the United States from March 2017 to March 2018 is 34.5 hours a week. When broken down over five days a week, that’s only about seven hours a day.

There are not many horse trainers who work those kinds of hours. Horse trainers average workweek can rival that of any profession. So, if you break down their hourly wage, it could bring you to tears. It’s certainly easy to think your trainer is making a lot of money when they show up with new trucks, trailers, saddles and show clothes, but it is a very competitive market in which trainers need costly equipment to get the job done right.

They want to rush the horses

This is one that frustrates many horse trainers on a daily basis. Society easily decides that horse trainers are the ones wanting to rush horses to the show pen. In fact, a lot of the time, the owners are the ones pressing for progress for the money they are spending. There is not a horse trainer in the world who wants to show a horse before it’s ready, but sometimes they have to because that’s what the owner is paying for and are expecting results.

They should be riding your horse every day

There is a massive misconception in the horse world that horses need to be ridden every day. In reality, you are paying your trainer to know when your horse needs to be ridden and when they need a day off. Even professional athletes need recovery days. Sometimes a horse needs ridden two times a day or needs two days off. A good horseman can make these decisions and progress a horse the proper way. There is no exact number of days a horse needs to be ridden to progress.

They do what they love

To an extent this one is true. Horse trainers love to ride. But horse training is not all about riding. There is coaching, driving, reservations, billing, endless phone calls, selling, buying, packing, unpacking, fashion consulting and sometimes even life coaching. And when you choose to do something you love, the only problem is it does become a job somewhat. Undoubtedly, ask a horse trainer what he likes about his job, and he can tell you equally some things that are not so great about it. There is an old saying, “Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” Well, for horse trainers, it’s more like do what you love, and you will work to the bone the rest of your life.

Your trainer does not care about the well being of your horse

This one always shocks me. No one cares more about the horses than the trainers. They are the ones who spend every day with the animals. They not only often learn to care for them more than their owners, but they are also a vital part of their livelihood. If a horse trainer has a horse get injured or sick, it affects their job and ability to make money. Horse trainers want and need their horses to be taken care of and take great strides to make sure they are safe and healthy at all times.

They don’t care if you win or lose

I have had a customer say to me, “You don’t care whether I win or lose, you still make the same money.” That is a true statement, but there is no way in any universe that your trainer does not care if you lose. To do the job of being a horse trainer, you have to start with a competitive spirit. There is no horse trainer out there who likes seeing their customers not do well in the pen. We are your biggest cheerleader and are always pulling for you to win.

They don’t know if you are unhappy

When customers are unhappy with their horse trainers, they often think the trainer does not know they are unhappy or thinking of making a change. The trainers always know. It may be that they are not getting along with your horse or maybe just the relationship running its course. But you can bet if you are unhappy, your trainer knows.

Trainers are mad at you when you mess up

Often, I overhear customers say that their horse trainer is going to be so mad at them. I always get a little giggle out of it. When a customer is showing and has done poorly, and the trainer seems upset, there is so much more to it. They are likely frustrated with the horse or themselves for not having you and your horse prepared. Although many times, it may seem like your trainer is just mad at you.

Trainers never make mistakes

If there is one thing that is true in the horse world, it is that everyone makes mistakes. Horse training is a process of trial and error. Horse trainers make mistakes and wrong decisions so often trying to figure out the perfect methods for a particular horse. Each horse is so different that one thing that is good for one horse can be bad for another. Sometimes, you have to do the wrong thing before you figure out what the right thing is. Horse trainers are just human after all.

Do you agree with Darla Lee’s comments? Let us know on our Facebook page or comments section of this article.