Racehorse trainers supervise the daily care and conditioning of the horses in their stable to properly prepare them for competition on the track.
Racehorse trainers are responsible for ensuring that the horses in their care receive proper nutrition, veterinary attention, and exercise.
Trainers are responsible for planning workouts, using the condition book to enter horses in appropriate races, advising the jockey on race strategy, supervising stable employees, scheduling routine services such as farrier visits, and obtaining veterinary care when necessary. Trainers must be familiar with 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.
Trainers must also interact with the owners of the horses in their care, keeping them up to date on their progress and potential race entry options.
Trainers often work six to seven days a week and must be on call for emergencies related to horses in their care. They work the majority of their day outdoors in widely varying weather conditions. The hours can be long; many trainers start their day as early as four o’clock in the morning. Frequent travel is usually required as horses routinely ship to various tracks across a region.
Racehorse trainers can condition a variety of racing breeds such as Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Arabians, and Standardbreds. Most trainers work with only one breed at a time as they develop their racing stable and clientele.
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 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 pinhooking 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—areas that offer favorable weather conditions for year-round training plus convenient access to top quality veterinary services.
Training & Licensing
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 hotwalker, groom, or exercise rider. Later, most aspiring trainers seek out an apprenticeship with an experienced trainer to learn the ins and outs of the business.
Trainers must be licensed by the racing commission of each state where they intend to start horses, and licensing requirements can 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, assistant trainer, etc) before an individual can apply for a trainer's license.
Trainers typically earn ten percent of the purse money won by the horses in their care. They also charge a “day rate” of $65 to $100 per day which includes labor costs (groom, hotwalker, and exercise rider), hay, grain, straw, stall rent, office and barn equipment, tack, and supplies.
When calculating their earnings, trainers must also factor in costs such as travel expenses, salary for the assistant trainer, health insurance, and liability insurance.
The median rate for animal trainers is listed in the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook as $26,580 yearly, though this figure includes all animal training professions. The highest 10% of animal trainers earned more than $53,580 ($25.76 per hour) according to the BLS.
Based on their win percentage in high dollar races, a top trainer can easily make a six figure salary. Most trainers, however, earn between $20,000 and $60,000 annually.
A successful trainer generally fields many requests from owners looking to obtain his services. New or less successful trainers may have to hustle to obtain new clients.
While all trainers are dealing with the economic downturn of the past several years, components of the Thoroughbred industry have started to show signs of stabilization (with regard to auction sale prices). This leads many in the industry to believe that a slow but steady pattern of growth is emerging.