What Does a Racehorse Trainer Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image is a jockey on a horse, consulting with the trainer. Text reads:

Image by Melissa Ling © The Balance 2019

Racehorse trainers supervise the daily care and conditioning of the horses in their stable to properly prepare them for competition on the track. They are responsible for ensuring that the horses in their care receive proper nutrition, veterinary attention, and exercise.

Trainers may branch out into offering bloodstock agent services, such as representing clients at public auctions, evaluating horses for private purchase, referring clients to insurance agents, or selecting and training young horses for resale.

Trainers may also offer initial breaking and training services for young horses at a training center that they own or operate. There are a number of these facilities concentrated in Florida and South Carolina. These areas offer favorable weather conditions for year-round training plus convenient access to top-quality veterinary services.

Racehorse Trainer Duties & Responsibilities

The job of a racehorse trainer often involves the following tasks:

  • Plan workouts.
  • Enter horses in appropriate races.
  • Advise the jockey on race strategy.
  • Notify owners of the progress on their horses' training and race entry options.
  • Supervise stable employees.
  • Schedule health care and maintenance appointments for horses.

Trainers must be familiar with the prevention and treatment of equine injuries, know how to properly utilize tack and other training aids properly, and be knowledgeable about equine anatomy and physiology.

Familiarity with medications and the amount of time it takes for a drug to leave the horse’s system is of great importance; trainers must be careful to avoid positive drug tests, which can result in fines and suspensions.

Racehorse Trainer Salary

A racehorse trainer's salary depends largely on their level of experience and success. Those with proven track records of training horses that win premier races will make a great living, as trainers typically collect 10% of the purse money won by the horses in their care. They can also charge a day rate of $65 to $100 per day per horse to cover labor costs, hay, grain, straw, stall rent, office and barn equipment, tack, and supplies.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides salary data for all animal trainers, not just those for horses. Racehorse trainers typically earn more money than trainers of other kinds of animals.

  • Median Annual Salary: $29,290 ($14.08/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $55,760 ($26.81/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $20,270 ($9.74/hour)

When calculating earnings, trainers must also factor in costs such as travel expenses, salaries for any people who work for them, and liability insurance.

Education, Training, & Certification

No formal degree or specific educational path is required to become a trainer. Many trainers work their way up in the industry, starting out as a hot walker (someone who walks horses after they work out), groom, or exercise rider.

  • Licensing: Trainers must be licensed by the racing commission of each state where they intend to start horses, and licensing requirements vary from state to state. Generally, a trainer must demonstrate their knowledge of racing regulations, terminology, and general horsemanship skills through written and practical exams. Testing is usually administered by the racing stewards (officials) at the track. Some tracks require one to two years of prior track licensing (as an owner, groom, or assistant trainer) before an individual can apply for a trainer's license.

Racehorse Trainer Skills & Competencies

Not everyone has what it takes to be an effective racehorse trainer. Here are the qualities and aptitudes a successful trainer will possess:

  • Terrific judge of horse talent: Racehorse trainers can see which horses have the greatest capacity for racing and the ability to maximize their talent.
  • Interspecies and interpersonal communication skills: They must be able to communicate effectively with horses and the people who they work for and who work for them.
  • Racing strategy: Along with the jockey, they determine how to run a particular race to beat their horse's challengers.

Job Outlook

The broad category of animal care and service workers is expected to grow 22% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Work Environment

Racehorse trainers can find work across the United States and in many countries on the international circuit. Major international racing venues include Dubai, England, Ireland, France, Japan, Canada, South Africa, and Hong Kong.

Trainers work the majority of their day outdoors in widely varying weather conditions. Frequent travel is usually required as horses in their care race at tracks across the country.

Work Schedule

Trainers often work six to seven days a week and must be on call for emergencies related to horses in their care. The hours can be long; many trainers start their day before sunrise.

How to Get the Job

APPRENTICESHIP

Most trainers apprentice with an experienced trainer to learn the ins and outs of the job.

FIND JOBS

EQUISTAFF and Yard & Groom post job openings in horse-related fields. Once you're an established and successful trainer, owners will request your services.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People interested in becoming racehorse trainers might also consider the following jobs. The figures provided are median annual salaries: