This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Horse trainers train horses for racing, and are responsible for their care at a stable or race track.
Pay for horse trainers varies depending on their ability, experience, and level of success.
Pay for horse trainers varies depending on how they are employed, their experience and their horses' success. They may:
- charge a fee for training horses and receive a percentage of their horses' winnings
- train young horses and make their money by selling them
- work as a co-trainer and receive a weekly wage and a share of winnings.
Owner-trainers train a small number of their own horses. They may need to do additional jobs to supplement their income.
What you will do
Horse trainers may do some or all of the following:
- help horses get used to riders, equipment and the racing environment
- organise training plans for horses and train them for racing
- ride horses on practice tracks
- ensure horses are groomed and fed
- monitor horses' health
- train apprentice jockeys and stablegrooms
- market and sell horses at races and independently
- run their own business, including staff management.
Skills and knowledge
Horse trainers need to have:
- knowledge of horses and their behaviour
- understanding of horses' nutritional requirements and anatomy
- good horse-handling skills
- knowledge of training methods
- understanding of racing rules and procedures.
Horse trainers who employ staff must also have small business skills.
- usually start work early in the morning and finish late in the afternoon. They also work weekends and longer hours on race days
- work at stables and racetracks
- work outdoors in most weather conditions
- travel to race meetings and trials throughout New Zealand, and sometimes overseas.
What's the job really like?
Rachael Frost - Horse Trainer
Patience key to horse training
Rachael Frost says training a winning horse takes expert knowledge, and a lot of patience.
"To ready a horse for racing, they have to get used to being around other horses, learn how to gallop, and get used to the starting gates. You can't ride a horse one day and expect it to go racing the next. Some horses learn what we're all about in two to three weeks, and some take six months."
Love of horses, not money, must be driving force
Don't expect to make your fortune training racehorses, either. Rachael says that for most trainers it's more a lifestyle than a job. "It's not a high-income job, and there are lots of expenses."
But the upside – and what has kept her training for more than nine years – is her love of working with horses. Especially the ones that win. "Winning is the best thing about being a trainer. Seeing horses that love racing, and watching them win is great, because they get as much of a buzz out of it as you do. The really good horses know they're good."
There are no specific entry requirements to become a horse trainer, but you usually need at least six years' experience working with horses. This can include work as a:
- jockey or apprentice jockey
- harness driver.
Doing an apprenticeship and a qualification in any aspect of equine studies is useful.
If you wish to train horses to compete at race meetings, you need to be licensed by New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing or Harness Racing New Zealand.
There are no specific secondary education requirements for horse trainers. However, three years of secondary education is useful.
Gateway opportunities for some school students
Year 11-13 students may be able to work towards national certificates through Harness Racing New Zealand, while still working toward NCEA. This may include off-site learning and some on-the-job training.
Horse trainers need to be:
- passionate about horses
- confident around horses
- patient and firm
- good communicators
- good at training and motivating staff.
Communication skills are very important. Throughout the course of a day you spend a lot of time talking with horse owners on the phone about how their horse is getting on.
Michael Pitman - Horse Trainer
Useful experience for horse trainers includes:
- experience as a jockey
- experience as a stablehand
- any other work with horses.
Horse trainers need to have a good level of fitness and health as the work can be physical and they often work long hours.
If you wish to train horses to compete at race meetings, you need to be licensed by the relevant body:
- New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing licenses people to train gallopers.
- Harness Racing New Zealand licenses people to train trotters.
You need to meet standards set down by the racing authority, which include being:
- over 18 or 20, depending on the type of licence
- financially sound and of good character
- able to provide suitable accommodation for horses
- considered competent to train horses.
- New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing website - information on licensing
- Harness Racing New Zealand website - information on training
Find out more about training
- Primary Industry Training Organisation (Primary ITO)
- (04) 801 9616 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.primaryito.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Range of factors contribute to demand for experienced horse trainers
Demand for experienced horse trainers is good because the:
- number of horses needing to be trained remains steady
- job of studgroom (horse trainer) appears on Immigration New Zealand's immediate skill shortage list, which means the Government is actively encouraging skilled horse trainers from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Horse trainers' chances of getting work also depend on:
- the success of the horses they train
- their industry reputation
- their marketing.
Be prepared to work as an assistant trainer for an established horse trainer
Working as a stable foreman or assistant trainer for a successful horse trainer can help you build up your contacts and reputation before you set up your own business.
Most horse trainers self-employed
Most horse trainers run their own horse-training businesses and contract out their services to racehorse owners.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Immediate Skill Shortage List', accessed September 2015, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Tocher, V, equine training adviser, Primary ITO, Careers New Zealand interview, September 2015.
Progression and specialisations
Horse trainers usually specialise in a particular type of horse training such as:
- harness racing
- thoroughbred racing.
Some horse trainers specialise as pre-trainers – working only with young horses.
Last updated 7 August 2017