Building A Healthy Horse Trainer Business Without Going Into Debt

In the equestrian world, we are used to seeing lots of zeros after numbers.  We’re not surprised by the amount of money that it takes to take care of a horse, and also to compete with that horse.  But just because the industry is notorious for big dollar signs, this doesn’t mean you can’t lead a successful career as a trainer with little to no debt. You may think this is impossible, but Miya Childers has figured out how to build a thriving business as a western riding trainer in Colorado and keep her debt minimal.  

We asked Miya for a few of her tips for other trainers who are trying to build their business.  

  1. Pay Cash.  Simple as that.  Pay cash for trailers and trucks.  This may mean that you don’t have the Rolls Royce of trailers at first, but you won’t be horse-broke and living from payment to payment on a fancy trailer.  
  2. Have a daily car.  Don’t use your semi or dually for everyday use.  You’ll use it out!  Instead, look for a basic car that can get you around town and to your barn that you can buy with little to no loan.  
  3. Smart Credit Cards.  Pay attention to the credit card rewards.  Miya personally likes the cards that pay back up to 3% for fuel since hauling to horse shows racks up a lot of miles!  These credit card rewards are extra money that could go toward some really gorgeous hats, boots, or a good concert now and then!
  4. Accept Checks.  While online payments from clients may be easier, they also come with a 3% fee from Paypal or other credit cards companies.  Accepting check only helps you avoid these extra fees.
  5. Stall Payments.  Have your client pay for the stall directly.  This saves you from having to deal with reimbursements later on from clients.  This also saves you a few headaches if a client backs out of a show at the last minute.  
  6. Mobile Banking.  We’ve probably all washed things in our jean pockets that we forgot were there.  After it happens to a check from a client for the first time, you’ll probably never let that happen again.  That’s why Miya recommends using mobile banking apps to deposit your checks right away.  That way, if (and when!) something happens to the check while you’re on the go, you don’t have to stress.  
  7. MileIQ.  This mobile app is a great tool for trainers that are charging clients by the mile.  It tracks all of your “rides” allowing you to later export them for reimbursement.  It costs a few dollars a month, but if it saves you headache when you’re doing invoicing later on, it is worth the few bucks!  There are a bunch of other mileage apps out there too (some free) that may be a better option for you.  Try them out to see which one works best for you!
  8. Wire Transfers Are Your Friend.  Wire transfers are the best for horse sales.  When you’re looking at big dollar amounts for a transaction, wire transfers are a safe way to do business.  
  9. Honest Billing.  As a trainer, set out your pricing and be honest about it from the get-go.  Have your clients sign a price sheet that spells it all out.  It makes awkward convos later on about money a whole lot easier.
  10. Check Your Accounts.  If you want to stay out of debt, stay on top of your accounts!  Take a weekly, or even daily, look at your bank accounts to see where you’re spending your money.  If you’re not measuring these things, you’ll never know if you’re on track to meet your goals.

As a horse trainer, you are wearing a lot of hats.  Let’s face it, you want to be in the barn, not behind a laptop balancing your books.  The reality is that if you run a debt-free operation, you have the ability to actually ENJOY your clients and their horses, rather than feeling obligated to work with a high volume of clients.  

Miya is the head trainer at Dawning Performance Horses.  Her love of horses started with 4H and open shows in Washington State.  She went to her first Quarter Horse shows in her 20’s and worked for both a Quarter horse trainer and an Appaloosa trainer.  Miya’s team works with fourteen horses daily for care and management.  Horses are what she loves and she truly believes “It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle!”

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