Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How to make money training horses

Yes, possible as well...when done in a smart, business-sense fashion. I'll describe a couple of criteria/scenarios where it can work, and where it will not work. While I do not believe that someone can earn a sufficient income training to fully substitute say a high 5-figure or low 6-figure career, I think someone can easily earn a supplemental income training horses, if done in a specific, market-savvy way. Not only is this obviously beneficial to you, but you are usually also providing a second chance to a horse that deserves it but might not otherwise get it - the horse that just needs a little help up to find a good home. In my experiences indicate that most people do not understand how to train, so if you have the talent and expertise, use it, because there is a niche for you.

Own your own facility
Or train at one that allows you discounts (etc) for training horses there (or better yet, who pays you to be there and allows you to bring in your own horses for a reduced fee). You'll probably need arenas (or at least open space, preferably fenced), round pen, barns, paddocks/pastures, and good footing!

Client horses do not make you money
Usually, and especially if you have to board them out! You'll make very little and though you'll think you can count on say $2,000 a month profit for four horses...something always comes up. You'll spend more in fuel, you'll have to get some additional or new pieces of equipment, etc, and by the time you're finished, you really were not paid much, if anything, for your time. If you're a BNT who can charge a thousand or more for showing and training at your own facilities, well maybe you are making some money then. Usually though all that happens is you end up working your fingers to the bone without much to show for it. On the other hand, client horses are an excellent way to get your name out there (WOM is invaluable) and to gain further experience. Just be prepared to always be professional and to have a thick skin.

Have an eagle eye
For the deals out there. The gems for sale people do not realise they have, the horses going for cheap or auction who only need a little special touch to turn their luck around, the horses who are going for cheap because their owners have no interest/opportunity to turn them around for a higher dollar (ie. racehorses off the track often go for meat price but could be flipped for anywhere from $1,000-$7,000, even in this market), for the 'problem horses', etc. Keep one eye on the market and watch for the exceptional deals out there to buy, (re-)train, and sell later. If you've got the property, buy low in the fall/winter and sell high in the spring/summer. Put some show experience on your project and make it versatile (ie. trail rides, rides both english and western), in addition to furthering it in its particular discipline. We purchased a Thoroughbred off the track for meat price whom we could definitely have sold high immediately afterwards - his original owners and breeders just didn't want to put the time into him. He has fantastic dressage movement, also has hunter potential, and is, as a coming-six-year-old now, packing around beginnger/intermediate riders (including an 11yo girl). He packs well in the mountains and could be shown easily. I know of one individual who would regularly pick up lovely registered Quarter Horses and turn around and sell them, at times without touching them, for much more than she had paid - sometimes double or triple what she had paid, without even investing any money into them at times. I also know of several barns that buy horses off the track cheap and re-sell them as hunter/jumpers for much more than they put into them. I have been offered horses I knew I could easily have flipped had I had the time and money at the time. One was a 5yo imported Dutch Warmblood gelding. The owner was having difficulties with him and offered him to me for a mere $5,000. This was back when the market was good, too. He was well over 16hh and was an absolutely gorgeous dark bay with beautiful movement and plenty of athleticism. He was not a true problem horse, he was simply too much horse for his middle-aged, fearful owner - she needed and wanted something quieter. She had the money to spend and did not mind practically giving away a horse for a fraction of his true worth (once he was tweaked further). Another example is our Paint horse, Cody. I originally took him with the intent to flip; he was given to me when his owner ultimately decided he was too much for her. He had been abused in the past and was extremely fearful and distrustful of humans. In the end though, he ended up too good to sell so he is with us to stay, but a solid palomino Paint with good looks, a willing attitude, and an incredible saddle horse - he is priceless (I have already had offers on him, actually). We recently purchased a Hano-bred jumper filly (coming 3 this summer) and were able to get a good deal on her - her owner passed on the good deal they originally got on her. I have the feeling she will be worth more come this summer as she fills out, and I know with absolute certainty (by researching what is comparable out there) that she will be worth double what we paid once I start her under-saddle. Of course we do not plan on selling her, however she would have been a good investment to flip as well. The deals are out there, you just have to know what to look for and to have the eye for a good horse.

Choose wisely
If you choose project horses to train, you need a good eye, experience, and/or a mentor to back you up. Choose horses you would want yourself. Choose good minds and temperaments, athleticism, good conformation, and a horse suitable to its chosen discipline (yes, even according to the latest fads such as colour and movement/body type). The friend I spoke of who flipped Quarter Horses always chose horses she was drawn to - beautiful, solid buckskins, palominos, etc. I swear those horses always sold within minutes. They were never on the market long. Choose what others are drawn to and what you would love to have standing in your own barn.

Be prepared
If you work with project horses, fair warning: do be prepared to have to keep the horse longer than you anticipate. Sometimes shit happens and the horse does not sell for whatever reason. Budget to figure out where you stand, what you can spend, and what is your lowest selling price. Keep a close watch on your finances and the market. Also, make sure you have the experience to flip horses for a profit and always be prepared to take the horse's best interests into account. Apprentice if you can, observe/work with/learn from other trainers in your area first, then take on some client horses, preferably with help first. Take on the young unstarted horses first, then move on to problem horses if you have got the expertise and the touch.

Most people are looking for show horses they can eventually compete on, so the more competition you've got under your belt, the more potential buyers will trust you, and the more competitions your sale horse has got under its girth, the more valuable he becomes. Even old broodmares. Horse & Rider featured an article last year on a broodmare whose owners tried to sell a few years back. The mare did not sell immediately so they decided to try her out under-saddle. She turned out to be exceptional under-saddle, so they started showing her. She won multiple national championships and the mare worth only a few thousand to start (and not selling) was now worth something in the 5 digits. It pays to compete and by competing you not only get your name out there, but you also get your sale prospect's name out there.

Give your horses the edge
Teach them everything you possibly can, from standing under tarps to trail riding in the mountains, a reining/dressage foundation, jumping (if applicable), clipping, bathing, shoeing, showing, etc. Make them amateur and youth-friendly. Most people buying horses want a versatile horse they can compete on but also enjoy out on the trails, who is not spooky, and who has a lot of experience under its belt. They want more bang for their buck. Make your horse stand out with additional experiences and training.

Learn how to efficiently and effectively market and sell your horse. Learn what sells and what does not.

In short, there is money in training horses - if you do it the smart way. Most of the time this is not by taking on client horses (though doing so is still important), but rather by taking on projects with the intent to sell. The key is to have an eye for good projects, horses who have a low purchase price but who will have a high marketability later - horses who allow for the least amount of risk possible. Start out small as you learn the ropes!!


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