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Horse trainer payment

From: Lysane

I am wondering if it is common for a horse trainer to ask for payment up front? I guess I always assumed payment was made at the end of training. I found a good trainer who asked for payment up front. I was a little suprised. After all, while he seems very nice and honest, I don't know him that well. I guess I'm worried about handing over the money without him having even done anything yet. No one wants to get "ripped off." :) He is boarding my horse at the place where he is going to train it, so I understand wanting the board money right away at the beginning of the month, but the money for the "training" part as well? This trainer says that it is quite common in his area to ask for the payment up front (of at least one month's worth of work/board). He compared it to someone going to rent a horse for an hour. They have to pay up front for the hour regardless of whether they change their mind mid-way and want to come back to the barn. It's the first time I have hired a trainer, so I don't really know, although I have never (that I can think of) had to pay for a service before I got the service. Wouldn't the horse act as a "collateral" or guarantee for my payment of the service at the end, i.e. if I don't pay, I don't get my horse back? My horse is at the trainer's now, so I have to live with my decision (I do feel I made the right choice in trainer, even if this money thing is a bit weird), but I wanted to get some advice from you since you have much experience in the area of training. Help! Lysa

Hi Lysa! Naturally nobody wants to get "ripped off", but since you want this person to train your horses, I have to assume that you are familiar with him and his work, and that you've been impressed by the horses he has trained, by his methods and training techniques, and by him as a trainer. Otherwise, why would you be entrusting your horse to him?

I'm also a little concerned that you don't seem to be planning to participate in your horse's training. I've trained a good many horses, and I assure you that training the HORSE is the least of it - it's training the RIDER that's the hard part of the job. I always advise riders to be sure that they arrange to get trained along with their horse. Your trainer may choose to teach you on a schoolhorse whilst your own horse is being trained, but you should be involved in your horse's training, first as a spectator and later as a participant. A horse's training isn't static. It will rise - or drop! - to the rider's level, and more quickly than you might suspect, so if you want to take full advantage of your investment in training, be sure that YOU get trained along with your horse.

I'll bet that if you sit down and think about it for a few minutes, you'll realize that you've paid for a LOT of services before receiving them, or at least had to guarantee payment! Have you ever rented a car? Usually you'll find yourself paying - or at least having your credit card run - BEFORE anyone hands you the keys. Similarly, when you rent a hotel or motel room, although you may not actually PAY in advance, you need to provide a credit card number and a signature when you check in, even if you plan to pay cash when you check out. Board payments - same again; you'll typically be asked to pay for your horse's board by the first or fifth of each month, NOT at the end of the month. And so on, and so on. Generally there's a deposit as well - first month's rent, first month's board (sometimes, with apartments, you can be asked to pay the first month's rent, the last month's rent, and a security or cleaning deposit equivalent to another month's rent, ALL in advance). You'll pay up front for each semester of college... and these days, unless you have proof of insurance, you will probably be asked to pay up front for any medical care you receive. So your trainer isn't out of line there; I expect he's just trying to protect himself from clients who might bring a horse in for 30 days of training, and then come in quietly at night and take the horse away after 29 days, and "forget" to pay. Things like that do happen, I'm sorry to say.

In answer to your other question: No, your horse wouldn't really serve as "collateral", although you could eventually lose the horse if you left your horse at the facility but stopped paying your board. If you board your horse with someone and fail to pay your board, in most states the barn owner COULD legally keep your horse on the property until you paid your bill. The barn owner would send you a notice saying that you couldn't take your horse away until you had paid. But this isn't always particularly convenient for the barn owner, since he would be required to continue to provide reasonable care for your horse (feeding, exercise, turnout, stall cleaning, etc.). He would NOT be able to turn around and sell your horse to someone else to get the money that you owe him; each state has certain specific legal requirements that must be met, and legal proceedings that must be gone through, before the owner of a boarding stable can arrange the sale of a horse that belongs (or, rather, belonged) to a non-paying boarder. This isn't something that barn owners typically want to do. Most horse facilities operate on a month-to-month basis, and the owners count on boarders providing timely payments for their horses' board, or board and training. They would much prefer that you pay up, take your horse away, and free its stall or place in the pasture for one of the horses on their waiting list.

You've found a trainer you like and trust - give him a chance to help you with your horse. Be there when he's working with your horse, so that you can see what he's doing, and talk to him about working with your horse AND YOURSELF. If he's a good trainer, he'll want to do that anyway, because he'll understand that the whole point of the training is to help educate you and your horse as partners. A good trainer will be able to explain his training program in general, as well as the specific training he will be providing to your horse and yourself, given your ages/experience/fitness/abilities. It doesn't matter whether you pay a month in advance or write a check after each session - it DOES matter that you get good, kind, correct training for your horse, and good lessons for yourself. Ten years from now, the effect of that training and those lessons will still be with you, for better or for worse. I hope it will be "for better". Good luck!


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