Most boarding and training facilities have at least one in-house instructor/trainer. In many cases, the trainer is also the farm owner. But at some stables, the trainers work for or with the owners.
Every business relationship has its advantages as well as its potential pitfalls. More than one stable owner has brought a trainer on board with high expectations, only to discover later on that it’s much easier to hire than to fire. On the other hand, many stable owners have been delighted with trainer performance and thriving clientele, only to watch helplessly when the trainer leaves for another facility, taking much or all of the clientele along in the process.
Can you, the stable owner, take precautions to avoid being stuck with a bum trainer or left high and dry if he or she leaves? Yes—if you learn to choose wisely and to negotiate solid contracts. The old saw about an ounce of prevention was never more true than in the hiring game, so do your homework before you start.
The Trainer Search
Not all business relationships represent the traditional employer-employee model. Independent contractors, for instance, are self-employed individuals who are responsible for their own insurance, taxes and work schedule. Consider both types of arrangements to widen the pool of potential trainers.
Find qualified applicants. The horse world is a small place. If you’ve been in the business for a while, you probably already know the trainers in your area. If you don’t, then learn about them by going to horse shows and watching them and their students. If your current or prospective clientele focuses on a particular breed or riding discipline, then make the rounds at those kinds of shows. Look for trainers whose conduct and operation you admire, keeping in mind that the winningest trainer is not necessarily the best horseman, the best businessperson or the easiest person to get along with.
You may not be able to hire away a top trainer, but most professionals of that caliber employ at least one assistant trainer and perhaps some working students. The underlings are there to learn from the master, but someday they will likely strike out on their own. If you are lucky, you may stumble across an assistant trainer who’s as good as the boss, but who lacks the name recognition and is hungry for a chance to build his or her own business.
Help-wanted ads and equine employment agencies also can be sources. Whatever trainer search method you use, though, decide what you’re looking for.
Write a job description. Many businesses rely on written job descriptions to establish an employee’s duties, to distinguish among seniority levels and to justify the job’s salary level or range, among other reasons. As a stable owner, you might think you don’t need to write or update job descriptions for your employees, but doing so will help you clarify what you’re looking for if you decide to use the services of an employment agency or place a help-wanted ad.
Begin by listing the skills, experience or other qualifications that the candidate must possess in order to be considered for the position. Let’s say you’re looking to hire a dressage instructor. Your list might read: