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  • Writer's pictureKarl Avdek


Updated: Oct 31, 2021

Who is the ideal client for a horse trainer? What are some good "common sense" rules for a healthy (and successful) relationship between a client and trainer?



expectations; correct and realistic expectations.

responsibility and, above all else …

… teamwork, commitment, and loyalty.

those five “things”; those five (let’s call them relationship attributes”); honesty, communication, correct and realistic expectations, responsibility, and above all else; “teamwork” spell out what should comprise a great relationship between a trainer and a client; an owner/rider.

rule number 1.

there are three members on a horse team; the owner/rider, the trainer/teacher and of course … the horse.

baseball has 9; plus the manager

basketball has 5; plus the coach

football has 11; plus the coach

hockey has 6; plus the coach.

horse activities and competition has 3!!!

goal setting.

first; the “team” must set an intelligent and appropriate (meaning an) achieveable “goal”.

that goal can be as simple as a beginner rider’s first lesson; a walk/trot on a lunge line with the simple goals of learning balance and position; use of feet, legs, hands (and oh by the way … don’t fall off) and, of course it can go all the way up to hauling a horse for a world title.

the goal needs to be very specific. (we will have a lot more on this later; with discussions on visualization, stated and written affirmations, etc. but for now …) let’s just start with the fact that the goal needs to be stated, discussed between the partners (yes the horse too!) and a “strategy” needs to be conceived; i.e. the “how”.

the team needs a roadmap; a gps. together (very important word by the way …) what are we trying to accomplish and how are we going to get there; how are we going to achieve that goal. a goal without a “plan” is useless.

at clinics i like to illustrate this point with a story about a family that lives on the east coast. the man; the husband and father of the family, tells everybody that, for vacation they are going to go on a road trip all the way across the country to california. they will take two weeks to drive; see all the sights and landmarks along the way, and finally end up in california and spend a week on the beaches.

“oh yeah!!! yaaaaay”

they pack up the car and head out. however, two hours later they are still driving around within the limits of their small town and one of the children leans over toward the front seat.

"dad, i thought you said we were driving to california."

“we are,” his father responds.

“but we’re just driving around town the last two hours are you lost? aren’t we going to california?”

we are head for california. it’s just that i’m having a little trouble with the gps but don’t worry. i figured we’ll just drive around until we find it.”nd they are still driving around their small town. one of the kids in the back seat leans forward and asks,

getting somewhere; anywhere requires both a stated goal and a roadmap but the journey only “begins” there. the concept of “team” and “teamwork” is what makes a goal attainable.

correct and realistic expectations

it is, of course, very easy for most owner/riders to tell the trainers what they want to achieve.

they want to be competitive. they want to win.

great!!! super super great!!!

not, however, necessarily realistic.

“a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

lao tzu

“… every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better …”

brian tracy

i doubt that either mr. tzu or mr. tracy have ridden cutting horses however, they both knew what every highly successful performer knows; that …

it’s all about the process

even and especially results are all about process.

what does this mean? it means that professional baseball players take hundreds of swings and fly balls and ground balls every day. basketball players take hundreds of shots. tiger woods … well, you get the picture.

professional trainers ride eight to twelve hours a day. that’s why they’re better. if you want to be great you need to practice and practice and practice until you are great!!!

i like to tell the story of jimi hendrix who literally cooked his breakfast eggs with his guitar slung over his shoulder; who went to restaurants with his guitar so he could strum and pick between the salad and the entrée.

many owner/riders want to hear the word: now!!! i’m ready now!!! my horse works on the family dog just like a cutting horse. he’s ready now!!!

etc., etc., etc.

there are a lot of trainers who recognize this (psychological and emotional) “tick” and will feed the fantasy; rather than the reality … about how to actually get to goals and dreams. pursuing a fantasy can be costly in every possible way; physically, emotionally, and financially. pursuing a goal with intelligent action is an entirely different thing.

customer/riders need to seek out and listen to the trainer who will tell them the truth; i.e. “what you need to hear not what you want to hear.

hauling a horse to a world title or being a top non-pro or amateur requires a lot; time, money, work, a great horse. are you really ready for that now or will it require a year … or two or …

this, of course, requires …


there needs to be constant relevant dialogue between owner/rider and the trainer.

do not assume something is either right or wrong; ask and talk.

this applies specifically and most importantly, believe it or not … when things go wrong. oftentimes, when things are not going well the owner/rider assumes that it is the trainer’s fault. we all know the old adage about what happens when you assume, don’t we? you make an “ass” … out of “you … and me.”

don’t assume and worst of all; don’t begin to go to friends and other professionals and ask their advice. ask the trainer. work as a team!!!

this requires …


if an owner/rider is unhappy, he/she should speak about it with the trainer.

asap. there cannot be any dividing walls between the two camps; owner/rider and trainer. everybody needs to be on the same page or obviously both the horse and the goal will suffer.

the trainer has knowledge/expertise/experience that the owner/rider does not and the owner/rider has money. (let’s be blunt here!) misunderstandings; especially through a lack of honest dialogue result in circumstances where (a – work on an individual horse suffers and (b – owner/riders take their animals elsewhere.*

(and a word on trainers:) honest professionals not discuss the work of other trainers and do not steal or poach clients. beware the trainer who indulges in these practices, for they are probably just “smelling the dollars” if they can get you to switch into their barn by bad-mouthing other professionals.


… go with teamwork; individual responsibilities. yes, the owner/rider does control some of the money. (many trainers advance) some costs. the trainer rides and trains. each “partner” has a job. achieving goals works best when people take responsibility for their individual jobs and finally …

commitment and loyalty

when all these relationship “attributes” are in place goals become achievable. when there is commitment to the goal and loyalty to each other phenomenal things can be realized.

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