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How did you get your Eventing (Lessons and Training) barn established?

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  • How did you get your Eventing (Lessons and Training) barn established?

    I want nothing more than to be a trainer. I have some experience giving lessons. Just little kid lessons when I worked for a trainer a while ago and am currently teaching my neighbor to ride on weekends I come home from school (for free. I am still an ammy), but when I gradutate college I want to open my own farm and start teaching people to ride and compete and board horses and train. Obviously I know that right now I am no expert. I have a seven year old I did all the training on (ground up. I got her as a baby out of a field) and we are jumping 3'6, but I wont take her above BN until next fall. It did take me a while to train her, but I know now what it takes to get a horse going well and I CAN actually do it! ha I am hoping to work under my current trainer at school, who is also our schools equestrain team coach, when I am senior to learn more about this business and what not.

    Obviously I know that its going to be hard, but how did you bring in clients if you werent some super star at eventing.
    I am slightly one up on most people because I have my own barn already and I have a small pony and an old Been there done that guy to give lessons off of and hopefully my pasture pet who needs to be worked will be a good school horse when i have the time for her (my current show horse will be off limits for a while..). Anyway sorry to drag on, but what does it take to get everything started?
    ~*It's not about the ribbons, but about the ride behind it"
    R.I.P. Teddy O'Connor

  • #2
    Well since nobody else bit, I'll bite. I am not a trainer but I'm a client who's tended to work with younger trainers. What seemed to help them most--besides the obvious qualifications of good teaching ability, good work ethic, honesty, and decent business sense--were the following:

    --affiliation with a BNT. Being somebody's ex-working student, groom, or assistant trainer goes a long way toward increasing client confidence in your abilities and philosophies as a trainer. If they know you've been trained by someone who really knows their stuff, they're more likely to take a chance on you.

    --the price is right. Younger trainers typically charge less, sometimes as little as half of what the BNT charges. I've paid $30 per lesson with some of them, $40 with a few others. That's not much profit for them but it helps get their name out there.

    --they're willing to ride the crappy horses, especially crappy client horses, in training (and again at a very good price, less than you'd pay with a BNT). Let's face it, most clients will come to you with a horse already in their possession; even if you have the greatest eye for sale horses, that does you no good when your client only has one horse and can't afford another. So you have to be able to work with what you're presented with.

    --The better your riding creds, the better the scope of clients you'll get. In my area, a frequent champion rider at AEC's at Beginner Novice has hung out her shingle as a trainer. While that's fine and dandy, what's she going to do with her clients when they reach her own level of competence!? Personally I look for trainers who've ridden at least to my goal level (Training), and preferably up to Prelim or higher.

    --They had school horses and the other trainers did not. Many bigger-name trainers don't need schoolhorses to attract clients, so if you've got a school horse, you may rope in a horseless client that others could not. The holy grail of eventing schoolhorses is a pony, a been-there-done-that older horse who can get people to the combined test level, and a Novice or Training schoolmaster. If you can find that final one, you will have clients coming out of your ears. It only takes one successful spin around a BN or Novice XC course in competition to hook most competitors into buying/leasing their own mount.
    Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/


    • #3
      jn4jenny, that's probably the best written description of what it takes to start out successfully I've ever seen.

      The only things I can think to add would be having a trailer to transport clients to shows and the nicest facilities you can start with.
      "We don't ride the clock. We ride the horse." Reiner Klimke.


      • Original Poster

        Thank you soo much! That has helped a ton! What if I was never a working student, what is I just train with a BNT? I ride with Bill Hoos (big name trainer for the area here) when I can, but could never afford to be a WS for him.. will that count?
        ~*It's not about the ribbons, but about the ride behind it"
        R.I.P. Teddy O'Connor


        • #5
          Great advice. FWIW, I don't think anyone should be teaching other eventers how to event if you have only gone BN. Get some real knowledge and experience first please.
          Shop online at


          • #6
            I do agree the former advice is very sound, but I especially agree that I don't think anyone should be training eventers who has only gone BN--not to say that you couldn't do it, I know many have, but I would want someone who has ridden at least at Prelim. I've been looking for awhile for someone to come work out of a training barn I own, but I specifically want prelim experience or higher.


            • Original Poster

              I will DEFINITELY be going higher than BN by the time I am ready to start training students to event! I guess I left that out, sorry. I should be going training or Prelim by the time I am out of College.
              ~*It's not about the ribbons, but about the ride behind it"
              R.I.P. Teddy O'Connor


              • #8
                jn4jenny said it very well

                You should probably pm eventrider
                and look at her website

                "Perhaps the final test of anybody's love of dogs is their willingness to permit them to make a camping ground of the bed" -Henry T. Merwin


                • #9
                  You're putting the cart (and the stable, and the students) before the horse here. There's a big, huge, enormous difference between training a horse and BEING a trainer--and a bigger one between being a good rider and being a good teacher. You're on the right track teaching beginners and planning to work with/for your coach, but just doing that for a year won't qualify you to open your own place. My suggestion is to work for someone well-respected (probably for peanuts or for free at first) for a couple of years before going out on your own. This does two things: one, you learn to teach correctly because you're being taught to do so. You wouldn't be a doctor without going to med school; don't be an instructor without learning how to teach. two, it will provide you with students while developing your own reputation. Then when you're ready for your own place, you won't have to go trolling for students, they'll seek you out.
                  This just scratches the surface of what it takes to be a good instructor, so seek out everything you can get your hands on (books, videos, advice from experienced instructors, training and lessons) and learn everything you possibly can. The best instructors never, ever stop doing this.
                  Good luck!


                  • #10
                    I started teaching eventing when I was competing at Training, but I had a pretty good dressage and showjumping background too including a stint as a WS for a BNT. And I had a been-there done-that show horse who would pack students around at 4'. By the time I got serious in coaching eventing I'd produced two Preliminary horses from the ground up and ridden with some BNTs in eventing too.

                    I'll definitely agree that probably THE most helpful thing in getting my business established was having darn nice school horses. Especially since I produced them myself. A) it gives horseless (or unsuitably horsed) students something they can win on, which is good advertising and B) the fact that you trained the horse yourself is good advertising. When I started out I had one horse that would pack people around at shows and get them addicted to xc; now I have two horses that are safe enough for rank beginners, one will pack around at BN, one at Novice; another will pack through Training and win the dressage but isn't a beginner horse. It is HARD to find a barn that has really nice school horses.

                    As for riding crappy horses, yep, you have to be willing to ride them, and more importantly you have to know how to ride them and FIX THEM. (There is the "being a trainer" thing). Piloting a couple of nice imported trained event horses around at Prelim is NOT going to get much of a career. The clients who can afford those horses will go to the BNTs. You have to be able to make a stiff, ridden-upside-down-for-ten-years, downhill halter-type put in a respectable effort at BN. If you can do that, you can have as many clients as you want. (and eventually you won't have to ride those kinds of horses anymore!!)

                    Third Charm Event Team


                    • #11
                      OP, Here is a quick outline of what I had to do to become a trainer:

                      I had a pretty good buissness going before I turned 21. The biggest thing that helped that was I was a working student for two almost but not quite BNT (can I call them bNT?) who were both long and short listed for the Olympic teams. When I got done being a working student at the first trainer's stable I built up a decent amount of clients by working with problem horses. You could not pay me enough to touch those horses now though! But the thing with being young and not a BNT is that those are going to be the horses coming thru your door for the first however many years till you 'pay your dues'. And I had the use of a couple horses for basic w/t/c lessons for low level dressage and huntseat.

                      After coming back from the second WS position where I had the chance to work more on young horses for XC and compete to the upper levels at events, I got in more sales horses. I also had a couple horses that you could learn to jump on. At that point I had a waiting list for lessons and training.

                      Now wait for it: You can loose it all in a second. I had a horse due a rotational fall over a xc jump and shattered my ankle, split my tibia, and poof there went everything. Just as fast as you can build it up it can come tumbling down.

                      After that I went on to do a few smaller GP in show jumping out east, and trained a few horses up to 4th level and one to PSG. Got some clients back.

                      Then became ill. Couldn't ride or train for the last four years. Now once again I am just starting the whole thing over again. Getting students. Trying to get in training horses. Getting a few nice sales horses. I have a couple of horses that show true potential for upper level eventing, upper level dressage, and GP jumpers.

                      Here is the thing: If it weren't for my family I would have been out on the streets. Think long and hard about if you want to try to make it in the horse world as a pro. Even now without my husband having a good job I wouldn't be able to try to build a buissness back up again.

                      ETA: Oh and on top of the WS things, I also grew up reschooling nasty ponies and horses most people wouldn't touch with a 10ft pole. That was because my parent's could not afford nice horses for us, but my father new enough to teach us to fix them. He taught quite a few kids in our PC. He is the reason I could ride well enough to have the trainers take me on as a WS. For the first trainer I didn't have much 'prettiness' to me, but I could get a horse over the jump come hell or high water.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Rescue_Rider9 View Post
                        Thank you soo much! That has helped a ton! What if I was never a working student, what is I just train with a BNT? I ride with Bill Hoos (big name trainer for the area here) when I can, but could never afford to be a WS for him.. will that count?
                        That's sort of like saying, "I want to be a lawyer but I can't afford law school, so can I just be a lawyer without going to law school?" If you want to be a trainer, you need a trainer's education. It's about sitting on as many horses as you can, working with as many clients as you can, and learning to run your barn like a professional, all with someone who's been there/done that advising you about how best to negotiate each situation.

                        That 7-year-old mare you're bringing along might be your ticket to a working student gig. That's one thing about being a trainer: you can't get too attached to your own horses. Give the mare a winning season at Novice and sell her for $10,000, then go work for Bill Hoos who pays his working students $10 an hour toward their board and housing expenses. Between the chump wages and the money from your mare's sale, you'll pay for at least 9 to 12 months of experience. I've also met people who waitressed during their working student gigs to supplement income; it's difficult work but very good money.
                        Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/


                        • #13
                          RR, I'm just going to put it out there that *I* am doing what you want to do (slowly), and the number one thing you need to know is that having a trainer you work with ON A REGULAR BASIS, who DOES WHAT YOU WANT TO DO and takes you out and introduces you to people and is well respected in the area is absolutely the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER.

                          You can go run around prelim ALL DAY LONG, but people want to know WHERE you got YOUR education and if you can emulate it to THEM. It is NOT enough to just get around at a certain level. If you don't have a good teacher TEACHING you, you CANNOT teach anyone.

                          If you want some realistic tips about getting started in our area, I'll give them to you, but you need to listen and learn from ANYONE YOU CAN.
                          Big Idea Eventing


                          • #14
                            Event Trainer

                            I would agree with a lot of what many people have posted here. YOU MUST PAY YOUR DUES!! One problem we have is there are so many people who have parents that have money to buy them a farm and they just through up a sign and call themselves trainers. This is a large reason we have many problems in our sport. You could spend years and years riding up through Preliminary and it still won't mean you will be able to teach this sport safely.

                            You must find someone that is a well-rounded horsemen (or women) that you respect and want to learn EVERYTHING from. It is going to take you a hell of a lot longer than a year to become that trainer that you want to be. Being a trainer is not just about riding, it is also about the proper care of a horse and safety of a rider. Some of this you can learn in books but most of this is learned through years of experience. Bill Hoos is wonderful and if he would take you under his wing for many years and train you to be the all-around horseperson, you should do it. But don't count out you may have to move to get what you want. I have not only lived many places in this country to train with the people that are the best but have lived in other countries to train with the people at the top of our sport.

                            It is a huge sacrifice and many years of blood, sweat and tears. Be prepared to miss many family activities (Christmas, holidays, weddings etc...) Those things can't be first on the list when you are going through all your years to get there. Be prepared to do all the dirty work.....Can't tell you how many Christmas's I have spent cleaning stalls.

                            Go be a working student for someone that has 'career programs', bring your horse, learn as much as you can, ride every single horse that you can get your hands on no matter what they are doing, watch as many lessons a day with your trainer and ask questions and learn. A good trainer will take you under their wing if you "prove yourself". I would spend as many hours as my trainers were teaching to watch and listen to them teach all types of riders.

                            Do not expect to be teaching people if your experience only takes you to Novice, it is just not realistic.

                            Best of luck to you, work hard and doors will open!!
                            Last edited by Kanga; Nov. 8, 2009, 11:39 AM.


                            • #15
                              Another thought to build on what Epona said...once you get introduced (or introduce yourself) to well-respected trainers, spend lots of time watching them teach (in addition to watching your regular trainer's lessons) and watch them coach. I go to the warm-up area when I don't have anyone riding and ask some of the good trainers if I can eavesdrop while they coach their students. Everyone has always been happy to let me, and often engages me in conversation about why they're coaching the way they are for a particular student. As usual, eventers are always willing to help each other out. It's given me huge insights into different styles and approaches that I wouldn't get from working with just one person. And it's FREE!


                              • #16
                                Networking is going to be key, but it is something that you can start doing NOW. Join your local dressage and combined training association, join your local dressage group, and join any other horse group that shares a common interest. Join these organizations, volunteer a bit, attend activities and become known to other members. If you want to teach, contact your local 4-H and Pony Clubs to see if they can use some help. You might not be able to teach immediately, but you can observe lessons and what other instructors do. I guarantee that you will have a much easier time starting a lesson and training business if you have an active connection with the greater horse community. It has to go beyond showing frequently; it has to include giving back to the larger horse community.
                                In my area, we had a very talented young dressage rider/trainer move into the area. Her parents built a lovely facility for her. But the reason she has been so successful is that she became active in horse community. She joined all the local horse groups. She offered her facility at no charge to several local dressage and eventing groups for clinics. She volunteered her time to coach junior dressage teams. She donated lessons to silent auctions. She has attracted a number for students and horses for training. Her business is a success. She networked like crazy and continues to network.
                                Where Fjeral Norwegian Fjords Rule


                                • Original Poster

                                  I cannot sell my mare. She is my world and I would rather be teaching up down lessons for the rest of my life than sell that mare. I have another girl who if she makes it as an eventer or a nice anything will be sold, but my mare will not be sold. I bought. I trained her and I will keep her forever. Period. There are other ways that I can make in the horse world and I will find it.

                                  I never thought about working while I was being a working student. But I would rather pay for lessons with Bill than be a working student for him. There are many other working student oportunities out there that I can afford. I dont feel like this is the same as wanting to be a lawyer and not being able to afford law school. Bill hoos in incredibly expensiive to work for. There are other just as qualified trainers that i could work for...
                                  ~*It's not about the ribbons, but about the ride behind it"
                                  R.I.P. Teddy O'Connor


                                  • #18
                                    Most top-level working student positions are going to be expensive, because you get what you pay for. You're asking for advice on how to become established; that's probably what it's going to take.

                                    Most professionals I know would part with any still-rideable horse in their barn, for the right price.


                                    • #19
                                      Yeah, if you're going to be in the business, you have to think like a businessperson. There is not a horse in my barn that isn't for sale at some price. The only horses I currently do not have on my sales list are my 19 yo stallion (who would have basically no value on the market so there is no point!) and my 5 yo UL prospect, who despite being very talented is 15.2h and a chestnut TB mare to boot, so I would never be able to get out of her what she is worth!! (But, if someone came up and offered me enough money, she'd be outta here).

                                      Third Charm Event Team


                                      • #20
                                        Event Trainer

                                        Gully's Pilot is right.....You will get what you pay for!! Sometimes that is what it takes to work with the best. It is very expensive being a working student for anyone that is at the top but again that is the price you pay for working with high quality! You can not equate going to a junior college for 2years and getting an associates degree to graduating at the top of your class in an Ivy League College. It is the same with the horse industry and until people out there start doing more research on who they are riding with I am afraid we will continue to have people just hang signs up.

                                        Many of my years spent being a working student I would also have a night job, bartending, cocktail waitressing (whatever it took to make money to pay for my training), these are the sacrifices you will have to make if you don't have wealthy parents that are going to support this dream.