How to Become a Trainer

After watching the races, you’ve decided you have a keen interest in helping horses live up to their potential and want to become a horse trainer. But’s not as easy as it looks.

To be a trainer, you must have excellent knowledge of horses and realize being a trainer is a lifestyle not a job. Not only will you have to deal with animals that can be stubborn sometimes or not understand what you are asking, you will also have to handle a variety of human issues from staff complaints to communicating with clients.

But becoming a trainer isn’t a fast or easy path. It is highly recommended that you spend years in another role such as being a strapper or track rider working with horses so you can gain experience in a variety of situations. Knowing how to solve a variety of issues such as horse behaviour problems or how to handle an equine injury is something you can only learn with experience, which is why being a trainer is something you can’t jump into if you don’t have a knowledge of horses.


“If you want to be a trainer, get hands on experience,” said successful trainer Mark Newnham. “Approach a stable and do school holiday work to see if you can cope with the hours and get work experience from school. Get a taste of what it is. It is a lot of hours and hard work but if it is something that you like doing then it’s worth it.”

Hands-on experience is vital to being a successful trainer, with tasks such as bandaging an injury or putting together a training plan for a horse something you can only learn by putting it into practice. The more willing you are to learn from those around you, the more successful you will become at reaching your training goals.

“This is an industry where you don’t need a formal education to be successful,” said Newnham. “You need to love what you are doing and for first few years keep your eyes open and your mouth shut unless you’re asking a question. Observe what successful people do.”


Outside of the hard work that will go into learning about the horses, one consideration that needs to be taken into account as well is that you won’t often have days off. You will need to be at the track every morning well before sunrise supervising your runners and attending races in the afternoon. Every day you will have a task to attend to and while some days will be shorter than others, you will be expected to be on call 24/7 for any issues that arise with your horses or any queries owners may have.

If you do decide that training is for you, you’ll then need to take out a license. There are three main licenses to choose from: a trainer license if you intend to train by yourself and train other peoples’ horses, an Owner Trainer permit if you only want to train horses you own, or a Trainer Partnership license if you are planning to train with one or two other people.

While you don’t need any formal training, there are some schools that offer courses to help you learn more about being a trainer. TAFE NSW’s Australian Racing and Equine Academy is one school with a course that teaches you everything from how to manage a stable to how to handle interviews with the media. This education is not required, but it provides you a large box of tools to help you overcome any obstacles you may encounter.  The average cost of the course is $3,000 and takes an average of two years to complete.

In addition to the practical tools, you’ll also learn a variety of more paperwork orientated skills such as the rules and regulations  of racing, the OHS procedures your stable must follow, and how to participate in protests. With racing being more than just training a horse to walk into the winner’s enclosure, these are all important skills you’ll need to learn to be successful.

Being a trainer can be frustrating at times but there are also major perks, according to Newnham.

“Whether it’s a Group 1 or a maiden at Kembla Grange, getting a horse from a yearling that has never set foot on a racetrack and turning into a winner is rewarding. It’s all about the satisfaction of educating that horse into a racehorse.”