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Five Traits Interns Need in the Equine Industry

In the profession of horse training, it is uncommon to see an aspiring trainer start a business on their own with no prior experience working under someone else’s guidance. In a field where physical labor, long hours, and paying your dues is merely part of the job description, an internship with a top trainer is almost a must these days.

Employers in the equine industry have higher expectations than ever before when selecting interns/employees. More experience and time with other trainers and getting another horseman’s ideas are considered very useful in this unique work field.

GoHorseShow heard from AQHA trainer Spencer Zimmerman (Pictured right) about the traits of his ideal intern. Spencer runs his business, Ultimate Equine out of Findlay, Ohio, with his wife, Kim. Spencer is also an instructor at the University of Findlay, where he allows many students to work for him, whether it be an internship position over the summer or merely cleaning stalls during the school year.

We also asked APHA/AQHA trainer Tim Gillespie of Whitesboro, Texas, what he looks for in his interns. Gillespie is currently hosting a young horsewoman from Austria, Bernadette Grubbauer. She is working and riding with Tim and his wife Shannon for the next three months, gathering all the information she can before heading back overseas.

We were also able to hear from Bernadette about her experiences while being here in the United States with Tim and Shannon. After speaking to these two accredited horsemen, we gathered the top five traits trainers love to see in an employee.

Reliable & Dedicated

Spencer tops his list of traits with an intern who is reliable and dedicated. “There is nothing more assuring than having someone who is going to show up and do their job, simply because it is what they want to be doing,” he says. “It is a relief knowing your horses are in the hands of someone who loves the sport and the animal.”

Hungry for Knowledge

Tim shares that one of the most valuable traits he looks for is people who are eager to learn. “We have had such good luck with young horseman from Australia and Europe. They are all so mature and have such a great work ethic,” he explains. “We like to talk to them a lot before they make such a big trip over here, to make sure they will get the knowledge they come for. If we can also see a video of them riding, that is a plus, too.”

“My biggest dream was to find an internship here in the United States and learn new things and improve my riding ability while seeing the “big shows” from a different view,” Bernadette Gruber shares. “I found Tim and Shannon at a clinic last year and loved how they worked with their horses. We clicked right away.”

Gruber adds, “I will continue to work on myself and become an overall better horsewoman. I will use everything I have learned here and will keep showing the circuit in Europe.”


“Another thing that is important to me is having someone who is detail-oriented and pays attention to the job at hand,” Spencer says. “There is a major difference between someone simply doing what is asked of them, and someone who goes the extra mile to ensure what they are doing is done to the best of their ability.”


This may be a given, but it is a critical quality all professionals look for when selecting someone to come work for them. “We try to get references for anyone who contacts us about working with us,” Tim shares. “We also look at Facebook pages and any other social media platforms, just as any other employer would. We feel honored to share knowledge with anyone who wants to come over and learn here and share it with their industry.”

Honesty & Integrity

Spencer rounds out his list with honesty and integrity. “We must keep the horse’s integrity upheld in the industry, so we must find that in our help, as well. And of course, honesty is important and plays a factor in this as well. If something were ever to happen, it is crucial that our help would come to us with it while keeping the horse’s integrity as the top priority and being honest about what may have happened.”

While many of these qualities may seem obvious, these are some of the top attributes that horse trainers need their help to have to ensure their businesses run smoothly and efficiently. Interns play an essential part in a professional’s life, and they could not do it without their help and everyone behind the scenes.


About the Author: Ellia Aguayo has been an equestrian for fourteen years. She is currently a senior at the University of Findlay, majoring in Western Equestrian Studies and Animal Science-Industry. She is originally from Lebanon, Indiana. She has spent the past two years showing in the amateur western pleasure and horsemanship with her horse, Lopin On The Rocks. After selling her horse in August, she is looking for new ways to stay involved in the industry.