Horse Trainer Kaiwhakapakari Hōiho

Horse trainers train horses for racing, and are responsible for their care at a stable or race track.

If you wish to train horses to compete at race meetings, you need to be licensed by the relevant organisation:

  • New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing licenses people to train gallopers
  • Harness Racing New Zealand licenses people to train trotters.

You need to meet standards set by the recognised racing authorities, which include being:

  • over 18 or 20, depending on the type of licence
  • financially sound and of good character
  • able to provide suitable accommodation for horses
  • considered competent to train horses.

Horse trainers may do some or all of the following:

  • train horses to get used to riders, equipment and the racing environment
  • organise training plans for horses and train them for racing
  • ride horses on training tracks
  • ensure horses are groomed and fed
  • monitor horses' health
  • communicate with horse owners
  • train apprentice jockeys and stablehands
  • market and sell horses at races and independently
  • run their own business and manage staff. 

Physical Requirements

Horse trainers need to have a good level of fitness and health as the work can be physical and involve standing for long hours. 

Useful Experience

Useful experience for horse trainers includes working:

  • as a jockey
  • as a pre-trainer or horse breaker
  • as a stablehand, stable foreperson or assistant trainer
  • with horses in other ways.

Personal Qualities

Horse trainers need to be:

  • passionate about horses
  • confident around horses
  • patient and firm
  • good communicators
  • good at training and motivating staff
  • dedicated and hard working.


Horse trainers need to have:

  • knowledge of horses' anatomy and their behaviour
  • an understanding of horses' nutritional requirements, especially to improve performance
  • good horse-handling skills
  • knowledge of horse training methods
  • an understanding of horse racing rules and procedures.

Horse trainers who employ staff must also have small business skills.


Horse trainers:

  • usually start work early in the morning and finish late in the afternoon
  • work weekends and longer hours on race days
  • work at stables and racetracks
  • work outdoors in most weather conditions
  • travel to race meetings and trials throughout New Zealand, and sometimes overseas.

Subject Recommendations

A minimum of three years of secondary education is recommended.

Gateway opportunities for school students

For Year 11 to 13 learners, the Gateway programme is a good way to work towards national certificates through Harness Racing New Zealand and gain industry knowledge. This may include off-site learning and some on-the-job training.

Horse Trainers can earn around .

Chances of getting a job as a Horse Trainer are good due to a shortage of people interested in this type of work.

Pay for horse trainers varies depending on how they are employed, their experience and their horses' success. They may: 

  • charge a fee for training horses and receive a percentage of their horses' winnings
  • train young horses and make their money by selling them
  • work as a co-trainer and receive a weekly wage and a share of winnings. 

Owner-trainers train a small number of their own horses. They may need to do additional jobs to supplement their income.

Horse trainers may specialise in: 

  • steeplechasing
  • harness racing
  • thoroughbred racing
  • pre-training – working only with young race horses.

Years Of Training

There are no specific requirements to become a horse trainer, but you usually need at least six years' experience working with horses. This can include work as a:

  • stablehand
  • trackwork rider
  • stable foreperson
  • pre-trainer/horse breaker
  • jockey or apprentice jockey
  • harness driver.

Completing an apprenticeship and gaining a National Certificate in Equine Studies (Level 3 and  Level 4) may be useful.

Horse Trainer