Horse trainers train horses for racing, and are responsible for their care at a stable or race track.
Pay for horse trainers varies depending on their ability, experience, and level of success.
Pay for horse trainers varies depending on how they are employed, their experience and their horses' success. They may:
- charge a fee for training horses and receive a percentage of their horses' winnings
- train young horses and make their money by selling them
- work as a co-trainer and receive a weekly wage and a share of winnings.
Owner-trainers train a small number of their own horses. They may need to do additional jobs to supplement their income. Foremen and junior partners sometimes get an accommodation supplement.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Horse trainers may do some or all of the following:
- educate horses to get used to riders, equipment and the racing environment
- organise training plans for horses and train them for racing
- ride horses on training tracks
- ensure horses are groomed and fed
- monitor horses' health
- communicate with horse owners
- train apprentice jockeys and stablehands
- market and sell horses at races and independently
- run their own business, including staff management.
Skills and knowledge
Horse trainers need to have:
- knowledge of horses' anatomy and their behaviour
- understanding of horses' nutritional requirements, especially to improve performance
- good horse-handling skills
- knowledge of horse training methods
- understanding of horse racing rules and procedures.
Horse trainers who employ staff must also have small business skills.
- usually start work early in the morning and finish late in the afternoon. They also work weekends and longer hours on race days
- work at stables and racetracks
- work outdoors in most weather conditions
- travel to race meetings and trials throughout New Zealand, and sometimes overseas.
What's the job really like?
Patience key to horse training
Rachael Frost says training a winning horse takes expert knowledge, and a lot of patience.
"To ready a horse for racing, they have to get used to being around other horses, learn how to gallop, and get used to the starting gates. You can't ride a horse one day and expect it to go racing the next. Some horses learn what we're all about in two to three weeks, and some take six months."
Love of horses, not money, must be driving force
Don't expect to make your fortune training racehorses, either. Rachael says that for most trainers it's more a lifestyle than a job. "It's not a high-income job, and there are lots of expenses."
But the upside – and what has kept her training for more than nine years – is her love of working with horses. Especially the ones that win. "Winning is the best thing about being a trainer. Seeing horses that love racing, and watching them win is great, because they get as much of a buzz out of it as you do. The really good horses know they're good."
There are no specific requirements to become a horse trainer, but you usually need at least six years' experience working with horses. This can include work as a:
- trackwork rider
- pre-trainer/horse breaker
- jockey or apprentice jockey
- harness driver.
Doing an apprenticeship and a National Certificate in Equine Studies (Level 3 and Level 4) is useful.
If you wish to train horses to compete at race meetings, you need to be licensed by New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing or Harness Racing New Zealand.
- Primary Industry Training Organisation website - information on training in equine studies
- Primary Industry Training Organisation website - information thoroughbred racing and harness racing
- Harness Racing New Zealand website - information about National Certificates in Equine Studies
A minimum of three years of secondary education is recommended.
Gateway opportunities for school students
For Year 11 to 13 students, the Gateway programme is a good way to work towards national certificates through Harness Racing New Zealand and gain industry knowledge. This may include off-site learning and some on-the-job training.
Horse trainers need to be:
- passionate about horses
- confident around horses
- patient and firm
- good communicators
- good at training and motivating staff
- dedicated and hard working.
Communication skills are very important. Throughout the course of a day you spend a lot of time talking with horse owners on the phone about how their horse is getting on.
Useful experience for horse trainers includes working:
- as a jockey
- as a pre-trainer or horse breaker
- as a stablehand
- with horses in other ways.
Horse trainers need to have a good level of fitness and health as the work can be physical and involve standing for long hours.
If you wish to train horses to compete at race meetings, you need to be licensed by the relevant organisation:
- New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing licenses people to train gallopers
- Harness Racing New Zealand licenses people to train trotters.
You need to meet standards set by the recognised racing authority, which include being:
- over 18 or 20, depending on the type of licence
- financially sound and of good character
- able to provide suitable accommodation for horses
- considered competent to train horses.
- New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing website - apply for licensing
- Harness Racing New Zealand website - information on training
Find out more about training
- Primary Industry Training Organisation (Primary ITO)
- (04) 801 9616 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.primaryito.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Range of factors contribute to demand for experienced horse trainers
Demand for experienced horse trainers is good because the number of horses needing to be trained remains steady.
The related jobs of stallion master and stud groom appear on Immigration New Zealand's regional skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled horse trainers from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Other factors affecting your chances of getting work are:
- the success of the horses you have trained
- your industry reputation
- your marketing.
Difficult to get first horse trainer job
It can be hard to get your first horse trainer job unless you have references from an established horse trainer.
To find an entry-level job in a stable, use the NZ Trainers Association website for information and to contact horse trainers directly.
Most horse trainers self-employed
Working as a stable foreman or assistant trainer for a successful horse trainer can help build up your contacts and reputation before setting up your own business.
Most horse trainers run their own horse-training business and contract out their services to racehorse owners.
- Cooper, W, executive officer, NZ Trainers' Association, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, October 2017.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Regional Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Richards, J, horse trainer, Te Akau Racing Stables, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, October 2017.
- Richardson, G, horse trainer, Richardson Racing Stables, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, October 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Horse trainers usually specialise in a particular type of horse racing training such as:
- harness racing
- thoroughbred racing.
Some horse trainers specialise as pre-trainers – working only with young race horses.
Last updated 7 July 2019