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What does a Racehorse Trainer do?

By Christina Crockett
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Racehorse trainers commonly are responsible for the day-to-day preparations that it takes to train a horse to run races. These can be flat races — races run on turf, synthetic or dirt tracks — as well as steeplechases, or races run in combination with large fences that the horses must jump. Racehorse trainers take responsibility for deciding how the horse is cared for, which includes the animal’s feeding and grooming regimen, and particularly its exercise schedule.

A racehorse trainer’s job description includes deciding how the horse is prepared for a race. Examples of this include how far the horse should breeze, or run for practice leading up to a race. Each day incorporates strategic training plans and practices for the horse, set in place by the racehorse trainer. The trainer also decides at what age to start training the horse as well as what races to enter the horse in, how many races the horse should run each season and how much rest the horse requires between races.

Racehorse trainers often are hired by racehorse owners or are horse owners themselves, and they must not only understand what is required to successfully train a horse to run a race, they also must understand the aspects of business strategies in the racehorse industry. Often a business partner with horse owners, the racehorse trainer has considerable clout in deciding whom to hire as the horse’s grooms, exercise riders and jockey.

Becoming a racehorse trainer takes notable skill and knowledge of horses, including racing breeds such as Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. Many successful racehorses are not only trained well but have strategic breeding pedigrees, which the racehorse trainer must understand and follow in order to choose a winning prospect. In-depth knowledge of horses, their health and well-being, intricate training strategies and other competing racehorses is required to be a successful horse trainer. All trainers typically must be licensed in the geographical area where they train, which might require passing a licensing tests.

A knowledgeable, industry-savvy racehorse trainer can lead a lucrative career. Most leading trainers earn a substantial amount by taking a percentage of their horse’s winnings. The trainer's career earnings depend on various aspects, such as the overall value of the horse itself, the level of competition and how much prize money is involved in each race that is run.

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Discussion Comments
By Mor — On Sep 23, 2014

@pastanaga - If someone is hoping to one day be a racehorse trainer, I would start by writing to other trainers and asking how they got their own start.

I do have to say, though, that it seems like horses tend to run in some families. Most of the people I've ever met who worked with horses had been doing it since they were a child, because their parents did it before them.

By pastanaga — On Sep 22, 2014

@croydon - While it is competitive, I'm not sure if it really depends on luck so much as it just depends on extreme levels of passion and skill. Racehorse owners are basically interested in the bottom line. If they figure out that someone is talented, they are going to want to have that person as their racehorse trainer.

If you have your heart set on being a racehorse trainer, I think you would have to start out training horses in some other capacity, and making a name for yourself. Networking probably helps a lot too.

By croydon — On Sep 21, 2014

This is an extremely competitive career at all levels. Even just finding a chance to volunteer to get experience with horses can be difficult because so many young people are interested in working with horses.

That's not to say it's impossible, but it certainly helps if you have the money to be able to afford lessons yourself when you're just starting out. And it also helps if you can get a diploma or degree in some kind of equestrian science.

Other than that just try to jump at every opportunity you can and hope for the best. No matter how much you strive, to some extent getting a career as a racehorse trainer is going to depend on luck.

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