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☛ The ABCs of hiring a professional horse trainer 8-12-18

THE ABC’S OF HIRING A PROFESSIONAL HORSE TRAINER

 

DON’T BE A FOOL WITH YOUR MONEY!

 

 

By Richard E. “Rick” Dennis
Aug. 12, 2018

 

So, you’ve made the decision to enter the horse industry. Your reasoning may include a myriad of ideological thought processes, including for an investment purpose, just to enjoy the equestrian life, a reenactment with the Old West lifestyle, or simply your love of horses and the ability to engage with one of the most marvelous animals on planet earth.

 

Regardless of what your reasoning is, one of the most important investment decisions the equestrian will make, besides the horse, is locating and retaining the right professional horse trainer. However, and for the record, the horse industry, unlike other professions requiring either a college degree or a degree from a vo-tech school, professional horse trainers occupy a unique niche in our society: “a niche that’s virtually unregulated and likened to the unregulated society of the Wild West.”

 

In a sense, horse trainers are unique in that they learn their trade on a generational basis, i.e., the training techniques are passed down from generation-to-generation. However, and contrary to popular belief, horse trainers aren’t Gods and they can’t walk on water! In some cases they think they are lawyers but a majority percentage dictates they aren’t one of those either.

 

Another satirical moment in history has taught us that some horse trainers think they can run a multi-million-dollar 501(c)3 nonprofit but they can’t do that either.

 

However and for the record, there are a lot of really good horse trainers out there; however, the corrupt, immoral, fraudulent and imbecilic individuals operating within the industry, as well as the ones causing the abhorrent abuses and fraudulent activities, are unfairly stigmatizing the honorable ones. For the record, not all horse trainers are created equally or share the same moralistic values of trust, duty of loyalty, honor and country.

 

Therefore, there aren’t any degrees to obtain, either from an accredited college or a vo-tech school, to vouch for their training. And there aren’t any governmental or 501(c)3 non-profit horse organization licensing requirements that I’m aware of, except the Thoroughbred racing industry, which is designed to regulate a horse trainer within a specific industry, as well as the AQHA Professional Horseman group. Unfortunately, in today’s society and especially in the performance horse industry, the only requirements for an individual desiring to be a professional horse trainer is to hang out his or her shingle and proclaim, “Today, I’m a professional horse trainer.”

 

In an abundance of caution, the investor or newcomer to the industry should also be aware that there’s absolutely no way for an individual to know whether or not an horse trainer has a prior criminal history or an existing criminal record of wrong doing, unless you ask, or the trainer agrees to a background check. Don’t rely on the 501(c)3 nonprofit to assist you in this matter because, to my knowledge, there’s no rule in their rule books to address pre-existing criminal record exclusions, except for “horse abuse.”

 

In my line of work, as a security consultant and risk analyst, I have to undergo an annual background check, including a urine drug screen, fingerprints check and a financial checkup, just to stay within my licensing requirements.  Therefore, my question is, “If I have to undergo those checks to operate within my jurisdiction, why shouldn’t horse trainers have to be subjected to the same scrutiny, especially in lieu of the fact that in some cases, horse trainers operate using millions of dollars of other peoples’ money?”

 

WHAT IS NOT REQUIRED OF TRAINERS?

Individual background checks are essential in maintaining safety standards within certain industries of our society; however, unfortunately it’s not a requirement with performance horse trainers in the reining, cutting or cow horse industry. Equally, it’s also not a requirement for an individual to be subjected to pre-access, random, probable-cause, or post-accident individual drug and alcohol screening requirements.

 

WHAT IS REQUIRED OF TRAINERS?

However, there are governmental licensing and taxing requirements for the individual proclaiming to be a professional horse trainer. More specifically, the professional horse trainer has to adhere to the taxing requirementsof the state he or she operates in, as well as the federal government taxing requirements for both the individual and the business name he or she is operating under. For example, in the event the professional horse trainer’s name is John Doe and he is operating a (dba) “doing business as” or “an assumed name” business, i.e., John Doe Cutting Horses, then, he or she has to register his or her business with the secretary of state that he or she is operating in, as well as the county the business is located in. This is also the same for partnerships.

 

In the absence of legal registration requirements, the owner of the (dba) or “an assumed name” doesn’t have the legal protections provided by the legal requirements or have the state’s authority to operate a business in the state of the domicile; nor does the owner or operator have the legal authority to engage in contracts or enforce contracts while being unregistered, such as filing or maintaining lawsuits within a specific legal jurisdiction. Furthermore, the individual operating an unregistered or non-legal business has to absorb all of the liability for operating an unregistered business, by his or herself.

 

Each state and county has their own licensing requirements, so the best avenue for obtaining this information is through either the Secretary of State’s office or the County Clerk’s office of your county.

 

RESEARCH:

Therefore, your only available option is left up to you to conduct your own research.  For the record, an individual’s failure to register a (dba) “or an assumed name” when required to do so, could result in fines and penalties to the trainer, which also can include incarceration, prosecution and imprisonment upon a guilty verdict.

 

One essential element, which appears to have escaped most 501(c)3 nonprofits, is the absence of enforcement rules to govern the moral behavior of certain individuals in the industry. This has also contributed to the withdrawal of existing members and is perhaps stymying new investors and members. Therefore, this analytical reasoning can be deduced as one of the “direct causes” to the rapid decline of participants and members in the specific performance horse groups.

 

Your Research:

The due-diligence doesn’t end after you locate a prospective training facility and horse trainer. The next step is to gather as much background or intelligence information as you can on the training facility itself, as well as the trainer. This can be done by:

 

  1. Ask for references. An excellent place to start is talking to prior or existing customers to find out what their experiences with a specific trainer have been. This can be done by asking the professional horse trainer for a list of references.

 

  1. Check with the Better Business Bureau. If any complaints were filed against an individual or his or her company over the years, this information will be located with this agency.

 

  1. Check with your state, county or parish licensing agencies for a particular business license requirement. Ascertain whether or not this particular individual’s business is currently registered and up-to-date, if required.

 

  1. Check with the local sheriff’s office or the SPCA to ascertain whether or not your potential trainer has ever had an animal abuse complaint filed against him or her. If so, obtain the judicial disposition of the case.

 

  1. There are two ways to research an individual’s background.1) Do it yourself or hire someone to do it after you obtain a signed release from the trainer, or 2) simply go to the local civil records section of the court house yourself and ask the clerk of court in the civil records section for all public arrest and filed lawsuit records for a specific individual. After all, arrest and lawsuit records are public documents.

 

B – Business Contracts and Insurance Policies

 

         The Business Contract:

 

  1. One of the most vital aspects of any business arrangement in today’s society is reducing the business arrangements to legal and notarized writings. A competent attorney at law should be used to draw-up the particulars for you.

 

  1. NEVERexecute or sign a “hand-written” contractual document with anyone. This type of scribed document is suspect in the first place. You may be signing a scheme to defraud, which has been proven factual in certain filed legal documents and circumstances. After all, you need all the legal protection you can muster-up in the event a dispute arises and you require an attorney at law to enforce a specific performance clause in the contract.

 

  1. A contract keeps everything clean and neat.If a trainer won’t sign a contract, this is a “red flag,” simply walk away and find someone who will.

 

         Business Insurance:

 

  1. Unfortunately in today’s marketplace, we all need insurance to protect our valuable assets. This is especially true with a horse.As my old veterinarian use to say, “A horse is just an accident looking for somewhere to happen.”  Therefore, common sense tells us “We all need to insure our horses while they’re in training.”

 

  1. Common sense also tells us, that the training facility, where the horse is boarded, as well as the trainer, should also have a liability insurance policy in the unlikely event that an incident happens and client damages can be recouped for injury, illness, or even death to a particular horse, while under trainer care, custody and control.

 

  1. As a Risk Manager, I feel two of the most important aspects of any insurance liability policy are: a) having the client named as “additionally insured” on the trainer’s liability policy and b) an “error and omissions” clause. Still another important aspect, is to have the insurance company notify the client in the event of policy cancellation and/or at least (30) days in advance of the cancellation date. This provision can be included in the business contract between the parties.

 

C – Maintaining Contact With Your Horse While It Is In Training:

 

As a Risk Manager, I believe in the practice of, “seeing what you getand what you’re paying for.”  Since, you’re paying the bills, it’s a good practice to make regular trips to see your horse while it’s in training. That way, you can see for yourself exactly how the horse is being trained and how the horse is progressing during training with the trainer. If you aren’t satisfied with the horse’s progression, it’s a good idea to speak to the trainer about it.

 

NEVER, get caught in the trap of being a victim or a life donator to a trainer’s 401 K retirement plan, especially with a horse that’s never going to make it in a specific performance horse discipline in the first place. It is a fact of life that not all horses are destined to become “superstars” no matter what the breeding sheet tells you and no matter how long they are in training. Therefore, your only reliance on this fact is in the opinion of your horse trainer’s credibility. That is, unless you’re an experienced horseman yourself, as well as being a good judge of horseflesh and training methods. So live by this rule: “Trust But Verify.”

 

Making regular visits to the horse-training facility will allow you to judge that for yourself. If your horse trainer objects to your regular visits to ascertain how your horse is being treated and trained, simply find another horse trainer. The plain truth is: Your trainer is going to know in very short order whether your horse is a worthy candidate or not for a specific horse discipline or event in the performance horse industry. It’s not going to take a year or longer.

 

D – Money Earnings Split:

 

NEVER engage in a practice where a horse trainer is allowed to have a winning’s check issued in his or her name and NEVER opt for a deal with the trainer to maintain control of your share of earnings and apply it to your bill balance. The “pitfall” of this accounting method is that you’re relying on the horse trainer to act as your accountant. This is exactly how financial disputes arise in the first place. Be smarter than that!  Essentially, the horse trainer is your “contract laborer,” not an agent for your accountant.  The proper way to handle the “money/split” is for the client to receive the earnings’ check, pay the trainer his or her portion and issue the trainer an IRS form 1099 form at the end of the year for the tax filing purposes of both parties.

 

The client should always pay their board, training and entry fees separate and apart from money-earning check payouts. At the end of the year, it’s the client’s responsibility to issue the IRS form1099 to the trainer, which includes what you paid him or her – not, vice-versa.

 

E – Fraudulent Acts:

 

If at anytime you determine your trainer is “padding” invoices, i.e., adding expenses that aren’t usual and customary, this is a red flag! Immediately address this with your trainer and refuse to pay the bill until it is rectified. If this practice persists after the initial finding, fire the trainer and find someone else. Beware, of a facility that desires to provide you with multiple months’ billing all at once – or even on a quarterly, semi-annual, bi-annual or annual basis. This should raise a serious red flag to the client as it relates to the accuracies of the contents identified as billable services.

 

Another avenue available to the individual, who has been the victim of a fraudulent act, is to consult with law enforcement, rather than a lawyer, for asset recovery. In my opinion, those identified as operating fraudulent business practices should be evicted from the business on a permanent basis.

 

F – Money-back Guarantee:

 

If the trainer you pick is the really “fire-bang wizard” he or she proclaims, then speak to them about a “Money-Back Guarantee” on their training. At my company, I offer a “Money-Back-Guarantee” on all of my business products and services, including horse training. The guarantee states: “If a Client isn’t completely satisfied with my products or services, they’re entitled to a full refund, or a “money-back guarantee.”  If the trainer balks, you might want to find another trainer. To date, I haven’t returned anyone’s money and I’ve trained a lot of horses in my time. This separates the really confident trainers from the wanna-be’s, “so-to-speak.”

 

Overall, the bad trainers in the industry are making the good trainers and the industry suffer. That’s a sad commentary for the industry. In recent years I’ve seen highly publicized increases in animal abuse cases among trainers, as well as an increase in lawsuits, because of business dealings that have gone bad or have been fraudulent.

 

One trainer to avoid is the one who always wants you to engage in some sort of partnership with him or her. This is just another way for them to use your money. From what I can tell, most of those partnerships don’t have happy endings. Therefore, be frugal with your money, diligent in your research and prudent in your business practices and you’ll more than likely be happy in the industry.

 

Another option for guidance is to purchase my book: “THE AMERICAN HORSE INDUSTRY, Avoiding the Pitfalls.”  This book was written to address the many “Pitfalls” the equine enthusiast may encounter in the industry, as well as the ways to avoid them, including the ones in this article.

 

Until Next Time, Keep ‘Em Between the Bridle!

 

WIND RIVER COMPANY LLC

Richard E. “Rick” Dennis
Managing Member
Professional Reined Cow Horse Trainer.
Freelance Writer and Author
Office/Mobile: (985) 630-3500
Email: windrivercompany.rd@gmail.com
Web Site: http://www.richardedennis.net

DIVISIONS:
Wind River Security, Personal Protection, Risk Management, and Analysis.
Wind River Employee Drug and Alcohol Testing Consortium Services.
Wind River Stock Horses – Breeding Training Exhibition and Sales.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. Good morning. Your articles are succinct and well written. Such a breath of fresh air for the industry. I would like to purchase an autographed copy of your book. I did not find it on Amazon. Could you direct me please. Again, thank you for your desire to educate and your integrity in practice.
    Cindy Hellstern

  2. I wish I’d of had this advice many years ago. I, like others, have had the displeasure of some “trainers” that should be out of the business. But the honest and good trainers I’ve met have made up for the rats in the business. I hope that the NCHA does something more than slap Dufurrena’s hand. He and all his related crooks should be thrown out of the NCHA and AQHA. Anyone new to the business hears about that and they’ll probably turn and run.
    Kathy Grater

  3. Wow, looks like this idiot gave up too much control and had a bad experience with a horse trainer. Far too many of these people come to our sport, see whose winning , buy a horse, send it to the winning trainer and think , boom, I’m going to win. These novice idiots may not realize that some no named trainer worked their but off on a certain horse. Mr. big named trainer had a client buy this horse a month before a major event and won that show. The Moron writing this article gets excited and buys a young horse and sends it to this great showman(poor horse trainer) and thinks he’s going to win the futurity.This person then gets mad and writes an article about how bad horse trainers are.Like any business, watch, study and do research before you invest in a sport you know nothing about and then bad mouth those whom took advantage of your ignorance.
    cutterrider@aol.com

    • For the record, the person writing this article is obviously the only non-moron in this conversation. For the record, I’m a Professional Reined Cow Horse trainer and I’ve had two horses in the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. One in the Open finals, and one not. I believe your last paragraph clearly defines your complicit behavior in taking advantage of a newcomer to the industry.  For the record, I’d never have a horse in the NCHA futurity. Nor would I ever participate in this organization. Get your records straight before you have a knee-jerk reaction and write such an illiterate response.
      Professional Reined Cow Horse trainer 

  4. This article is so true and I can personally attest to the corrupt horse trainers in Texas and Louisiana. I set one of my horses to a cutting horse trainer in Texas. He had my horse for a year. I went to see him and the horse was lame. I brought my horse to a veterinarian in Pilot Point. The horse had a divot in his hip socket or a area that was void of bone at birth. The vet in Pilot Point told me he couldn’t have been riding the horse because the lameness would’ve showed up immediately due to the missing bone. The trainer billed me $1,000 per month for a year. Said he rode my horse every week. I picked my horse up. ended very badly.
    I Sent a mare to a cutting home trainer in Louisiana. She came back pregnant. The trainer refused to help me identify the stallion. This also ended very badly. More wasted money I’m out of the horse business never to return. Some trainers are just corrupt and thieves.
    Bob

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