Last Updated on January 9, 2022
Many people dream about making a career of training horses. But how much do horse trainers actually make?
What Does It Mean To Be A Horse Trainer?
No doubt many children grow up wanting to be a horse trainer. But what does this really mean? Is it as simple as it sounds? And can you actually make enough money turning horse training into your career?
The less glamorous side of training horses involves their daily care. This includes feeding, cleaning out stalls, performing equine first aid, taking horses in and out of turnout, and keeping their equipment tidy. Barn management also can include office work, scheduling appointments with the vet and farrier, and dealing with owners and clients.
Horse trainers also get to develop a riding program for the horses they work with. They may develop young horses under the saddle or gently retrain older horses who are still inexperienced. Horse trainers usually specialize in one discipline such as jumping, racing, or reining and help the horse develop skills specific to that need. Some also work with horses who have had past trauma or have developed bad habits and need some retraining.
Trainers also work with clients, helping them to become stronger riders and more comfortable with their horses. Sometimes an owner will send their horse to live at a trainer’s barn so the horse can be under their care and be retrained after behavioral problems have surfaced.
After the trainer has worked with the horse for some time, the client may come and ride under the trainer’s watch. This helps the owner and their horse continue to work together well and keep progressing after they leave.
How Much Do Horse Trainers Get Paid?
Some top horse trainers can make close to $200,000 annually. This comes after much hard work, experience, and success. But is that a realistic number for most people?
At the end of 2021, the annual average salary of a horse trainer was $37,000. This averaged out to just under $18 an hour.
Horse trainer salaries can vary greatly based on experience and the location of the job. Top earners with a greater skill level reported earning closer to $55,000 a year.
California seems to top the list as the highest paying for horse trainers. Trainers made an average of $21 an hour in San Mateo, California.
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Earning Prize Money As A Horse Trainer
Horse trainers can also get paid in prize money if their horses compete and excel on a high level. Earning this type of money can only be expected for seasoned trainers who have dedicated their lives to showing and competing with horses. And high earnings usually only come in the horse racing world. However, the bonus money they can potentially make makes it all worth it!
Trainers whose horses compete at the Melbourne cup earn 10% of the prize money. This may not seem like a high percentage. However, the prize money for first place is $4,400,000, and this means the trainer could potentially earn $400,000 from winning just one race.
The Dubai World Cup is potentially the biggest of all the horse racing events globally. In 2021 it was recorded that the total prize money was worth 12 million dollars. While it’s unlikely one horse would win all of the prize money, and it’s unclear how much would be given to the trainer, you can imagine that the earnings would still be huge.
Many people know of the Kentucky Derby. The derby recently raised its’ purse, or prize money, to three million divided out among the top five placed horses. This means that $1.86 million goes to the winner of the derby. The money is divided at the owners’ discretion among the trainer, jockey, and other members of the team.
All of these earnings are just for one race. Horses can have many starts in their careers, accumulating a much high purse than you would think.
The current highest-earning horse is the turf racehorse Winx from Australia. The mare has 43 starts, 37 wins, and earned a total of $26,451,175 in prize money. It’s unclear how much money her trainers earned from her winnings. However, if they earned only 10% of the purse money Winx won, they still would have over 2.5 million!
How To Become A Horse Trainer
Becoming a horse trainer takes time and hard work.
There are many certificates and degrees you can earn in equine science. Many colleges offer courses, and there are also online options for those wanting to get a bachelor’s degree in equine studies. However, horse trainers learn best from hands-on experience.
Working closely with other horse trainers is the key to developing the skills needed to train horses. You may become a ‘working student,’ meaning you are trading work around the barn for education about riding and training horses. They often work very closely with the trainer, learning tricks and picking up on small details that can help train horses to be respectful animals. Working students often get to compete on the horses they are working with as well.
You can also work as a groom for an equestrian center or at a trainer’s private barn. Working with horses daily teaches you much about how horses think and how their environment affects their temperament. It would be wise to start taking riding lessons in the discipline you intend to work in. Every time you are in the saddle, not only are you training the horse, but you are also learning to sharpen your skills.
Many people choose to work with multiple trainers as well. Each horseman has their own style of training and riding. Learning from many professionals helps you fine-tune your style, and it also helps you determine which niche with horses you would like to specialize in.
There is no better substitute for learning about training horses than spending time with both the professionals and their horses.
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How Much Do Horse Trainers Make?
The average salary of a horse trainer can certainly add up. This makes training horses a realistic career if you are willing to put the hard work and time into developing the needed skills.