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3 Sept 2021

What Does a Horse Trainer Actually Do?

When cheering on a horse you have placed a bet on, it is normally the horse itself that gets the most attention and, hopefully, after the race all the plaudits that go with winning. After that, it might well be jockey’s performance, which is either ecstatically praised or angrily lamented. Yet when the bet has been placed and the horses are out of the stalls, you hardly ever hear the trainers name being ricochet between the walls of the betting shop. 

The reason for this – beyond the obvious that the horse and the jockey are actually visible during the race – is that, while many horse racing fans have a general idea what a horse trainer does, the actual breadth of their duties is a matter of widespread ignorance. When it comes to horse racing betting odds, it might be fairly easy to see how a jockey’s track record or a horse’s past performance are informing the numbers, but it’s less obvious to the uninitiated to see how the relative prestige of the horse trainer has played a role. 

Yet played a role the trainer undoubtedly has. In fact, they have played multiple roles beyond the one that everybody knows – getting the horse into peak physical condition before the race. For one thing, a trainer is not assigned to a single horse by that horse’s owner, and they do not occupy a role similar to an athlete’s trainer or coach. Trainers are in fact small-to medium-sized business owners who run a stable, most often train multiple horses, and are in charge of a team who are integral to the performance of a horse on race day. 

As you might expect of someone running a business and managing a team, a trainer in fact has many different roles and a highly varied job. Far more so, in fact, than the jockey’s and the horse, who only ride and race respectively. 

Basic Duties 

As mentioned, it is a horse trainer’s most fundamental duty to prepare a horse for race day. Many will not be surprised that this involves regulating the horse’s diet, exercise schedule, and its schooling. The last of these may not be as familiar as the first two. In horse racing, “schooling” refers to the techniques associated with improving the horse’s manner and behaviour when ridden by a jockey. Schooling is important for all horses, not just racing horses, and if you’ve ever ridden a horse yourself, you can be sure that this horse will have been well schooled to accept a rider calmly and respond to commands. 

As mentioned, a horse trainer will also, in the vast majority of cases, run a large stable and command a large team. This takes all the management skills and co-ordination that any team management needs in whichever field this may be in. Indeed, there is a good deal of business acumen that must avail a successful horse trainer before they can offer their services with any measure of success. 

It is a common misconception that a horse trainer will constantly be vying with others for the chance to train a prestigious horse. While some horse trainers are employed by owners, many also own, raise, and train their own racehorses for competition. 

Racing Advice 

For any competent horse trainer, an in-depth knowledge of the horse under their care will always be matched with an in-depth knowledge of the sport itself. This means that horse trainers also take on the role of advisors to horse owners, specifically suggesting which races to enter a particular racehorse in. 

This is a role that takes a good deal of expertise and knowledge of the both the horse in question and the conditions of a broad range of racing events. Normally, there will be a set type of race which most plays to a particular horse’s strengths. However, a horse can also be trained specifically for a certain event, which means a specific diet and training programme for the horse.

On race days, it is not unknown for the trainer to walk around the track to ascertain its qualities underfoot and advise the jockey on a racing strategy. There are those who might imagine that racing strategy and performance is the job of the jockey, but the unique knowledge had by a competent trainer means that they also fulfil a role in this department.

Commitment 

The earnings a professional trainer will make can vary a lot but is usually dependent on the amount of prize money that their horses can win. Being a horse trainer then is not simply a job that pays a set amount, but one which rewards the very highest level of commitment. 

When you consider just how many different fields of expertise this commitment extends to, it is easy to see why the horse trainer holds one of the most prestigious positions among those who are responsible for bringing a horse to the track to race.