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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct. 2, 2007
    Beyond the pale.

    Default Spin off- What is the difference between a "Trainer", "Coach" and "Riding Teacher"

    Old Fashioned's rant about saddle fit got me thinking about a conversation I had about 15 years ago with Alex Wortman and Hannes Muller, (from the Warendorf Academy) about the meanings of the three terms.

    Hannes is known as a "trainer of trainers" and "teacher of teachers". Neither gent favoured the english word "coach".

    Alex in particular, felt the word "coach" as it is used over here, denotes someone who guides a student in personal issues affecting their sport as well as training the rider and helping the rider train the horse.

    At least, that seemed to be what many young students and their parents expected, that the coach, like a highschool volleyball coach or swimming coach, would be a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk over boyfriend or family troubles, etc. and it was frustrating to him as he was a Reitlehrer- a "Riding Teacher" who loved to teach RIDING and knows that subject inside out. The other stuff unrelated to actual riding was more in my field ( I am a professional counselor of young people).

    Trainer denoted someone who worked with the horse, pretty much exclusively and might give some advice to the horse's usual rider once the training was done.

    Somehow, these terms get used interchangeably over here. I have been confused by "Trainers" who never actually get on the horse, and by students who expect a "Riding teacher" will help them train their 3 year old unbroke rescue horse, even before the rider is riding at a level that would be required to saddle train a young horse.

    And as a counselor and former riding teacher, I was a little upset when people would pay me for a riding lesson and expect me to listen to their sob story about their breakup with their boyfriend while they sat on their horse, because I held a "Coaching certificate". The only professional qulification offered by our national body is not "riding teacher"but "Coach".

    Just opening up the discussion to see what others might think.

    Are the three terms interchangeable?
    "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug. 12, 2009


    To me a trainer "trains" the horse but can also give lessons which then makes them a riding teacher/instructor. Never really applied the word coach to riding.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan. 24, 2000
    Out of the loop


    Well, I have my personal definitions, but I know people use the terms interchangeably for various reasons.

    FWIW, in my mind:

    1) Trainer: Primary area of expertise is the training and athletic and competitive development of the horse. This individual likely will teach horse owners, as well, but the focus is on instructing the rider how to get X result from the horse; trainer generally will also ride and/or show the horse and may even be the primary rider.

    2) Coach: This individual's area of expertise is developing a competitive athlete, horse or human (or both). Sometimes the trainer also acts as a coach. Sometimes the coach is a separate person called in just before or during shows to fine-tune a rider's show strategy.

    When speaking with non-riding friends, however, I refer to having a session with my "coach," though I consider the person I ride with to be my "trainer" who helps guide me in the proper development of my horses. I find it is easier for nonriders -- who may have coaches for golf, tennis or their particular hobby sport -- to understand the idea of an experience rider working with a coach to enhance performance as opposed to "taking lessons."

    3) Riding instructor: This is a person whose primary skill set centers around teaching the rider body control and correct equestrian ergonomics. This person may also work with horses, but the main focus of their business is in teaching riders to ride better. Their work may also enhance the way horses go under their students over time, but their focus is on the rider versus the horse.

    But people mix and match these terms all the time and, as already noted, a single person can wear all three hats depending on the client and specific situation. I don't expect anyone who is not me to go along with my definitions.
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    4 members found this post helpful.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan. 4, 2007


    I don't think the terms are interchangeable, but any one horse professional may be one, two or all three of them, depending on the situation.

    A trainer trains horses, an instructor teaches students, a coach prepares individuals of a team for competition.

    A trainer may go on the road as a coach for some students in it's barn and others.
    So may a riding instructor, that may also at home train and teach it's local students.

    An individual rider may have a trainer at home, a riding instructor it may haul to get lessons with and at shows may be part of a regional or breed team and be coached by the designated team coach.

    2 members found this post helpful.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul. 17, 2008


    I think of it like, A trainer can be a riding instructor, but a riding instructor is not a trainer...if that makes sense.

    Trainers train horses, teach people how to ride/train their horses. My riding instructor is a trainer. She teaches me how to ride (equitation), but when I had a horse she would get on him if I needed her to and she would help me train my horse.

    I consider myself a riding instructor. I put little kids on perfectly (well...kind of perfectly haha) trained lesson horses and teach them equitation. Yes, if the horse is causing problems I get on it, but I am training the rider, not the horse.

    I think that when it comes to riding the coach would be maybe for like a show team or something? I have never referred to my trainer as my "coach." I kind of feel like "coach" and "trainer" are the same in horses.
    I WAS a proud member of the *I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday* clique..but now I am 30!!!!!!!!!!!
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar. 19, 2008


    I am an instructor, not a trainer. I teach equitation but I don't train horses. I will occasionally hop on one of the schoolies if they need a tune-up or if I need to demonstrate something (the latter much more often than the former). I guess I've "trained" my own personal horse since I did 90% of his off-track schooling myself, but I don't count that.

    My boss is a trainer, an instructor, and a coach. She works on the horses as well as the riders. She coaches the college teams our barn hosts and she coaches the show kids. I don't really consider a coach a shoulder to cry on (although my boss certainly provides more than her fair share of that), rather someone who deals with a team as opposed to an individual.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb. 28, 2006
    The rocky part of KY


    I had heard the term trainer used way back in the '70's, for those who were active in Western showing, and to me it meant someone like a coach, but not the cry-on-the-shoulder kind, more the Bela Karolyi kind. Kept horse and rider trained to their peak effectiveness as a team.

    I took lessons from a riding instructor. I wasn't part of a team with my horse and it wasn't her job to train the horse, just me. Training the horse was extra.

    When I came back to riding, I encountered the ubiquitous use of the word trainer, and "program", which was pretty straight forward.

    However, trainer implies that you the rider are never going to advance to where you train your horse on your own. You have to either be a trainer, or be trained.
    I know I use trainer when my riding instructor is just that, the lady that gives me a lesson on a fully trained horse, and sometimes I think I use the term because I am too lazy to type out "riding instructor". I've also been told that USEF show forms have a line to be filled out indicating "trainer". without specifying who they train, horse or rider, just to add to the confusion.
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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep. 12, 2007


    Ok, a trainer wears top of the line, but well worn breeches and boots. Usually a baseball cap. Trainers drive large trucks capable of pulling multiple horses at one time. They drive them everywhere. Inside the truck are the contents of an entire feed and tack store. The trainer is never far from the traveling "barnmobile," and its 4 dogs. Trainers own jack russells, because they are also persistent, pesky, scrappers. Trainers do not have a lot to say to humans, except to make clear the amount of checks.

    An instructor wears middle cost breeches with some really ugly shoe/boots that can be ridden in, and also stand up to a lot of walking. Instructors are covered in dust, and tend toward floppy sun hats. Instructors have a little, low cost car that gets good mileage because they are always driving everywhere to teach lessons. This vehicle is a dogmobile, complete with crate, bed, water, toys, towels, chew sticks and treats because the instructor's dog is higher maintenance than a trainer's. Instructors own Corgis, because both love to shepherd people and always have a lot to say.

    A clinician wears designer brands because they charge a fortune. They leave their swiss mountain dogs at home, along with their designer cats. Clinicians don't drive, they fly.

    A coach is a slang term used when speaking to outsiders who neither know nor care what an instructor or trainer is. If you say you have an instructor, they say, "What do you need an instructor for? You've been riding forever." If you say have a trainer, they assume someone else is riding the horse. If you say you have a coach, that's something most sports have, so they get it. Even though coaches don't really exist in riding. Hope that helps!

    7 members found this post helpful.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul. 3, 2012
    Twin Cities


    Definitely a difference among the three, but I have started telling non horse ppl that I have a "coach" simply b/c I am sick of the inevitable question about needing an instructor, lessons, etc.

    ETA: wrote that b/f reading all the posts. What it says right above mine.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr. 17, 2002
    between the barn and the pond


    700/month- trainer
    100/lesson - coach
    50/lesson - riding instructor

    Just kidding

    3 members found this post helpful.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun. 4, 2012
    Louisa County, Virginia


    Quote Originally Posted by narcisco View Post
    Ok, a trainer wears top of the line, but well worn breeches and boots. Usually a baseball cap.

    An instructor wears middle cost breeches with some really ugly shoe/boots that can be ridden in, and also stand up to a lot of walking. Instructors are covered in dust, and tend toward floppy sun hats.

    Hope that helps!
    I was forming a response like this, but you nailed it. Well, I would have thrown in the blingy belt and the cellphone/two way clipped on the side, along with a customized golf cart.

    Quote Originally Posted by katarine View Post
    700/month- trainer
    100/lesson - coach
    50/lesson - riding instructor

    Just kidding
    Sounds perfectly serious and accurate to me!!!!

    2 members found this post helpful.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun. 7, 2002


    Definitely not the same.
    A trainer (who trains horses) might not make a good instructor (who teaches people), and vice versa.

    I'm fortunate that my instructor is also a trainer, and although she never rode my horse (I did all off track retraining myself) she knows her well, and when I have a lesson she instructs me how to ride my horse, with great results. She is also a breeder and barn manager - doesn't fit in any real category, especially not when it comes to the clothing stereotypes.
    Ottbs - The finish line is only the beginning!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep. 16, 2013


    In my opinion they are all separate things!
    - Coach:
    Someone to give you one-on-one instruction on both you and your horse.
    - Riding Teacher/Instructor:
    To either help you learn to ride, or progress in your riding skills. Focus is on you, not the horse.
    - Trainer:
    Strictly a horse trainer. To break/train green horses, retrain horses to new disciplines, etc. Obviously, they are there to train your horse - not you! Many trainers just do everything themselves, without you.
    Hope this helped...

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr. 8, 2004
    The Great, uh, Green (?!?!) North!


    To me?

    Trainer = someone who works with the horse
    Coach = someone who works with the rider, generally with a specific goal/plan in mind. Can help teach the mental game as well as the riding skills, develops a plan etc.
    Riding Instructor = someone who teaches, but might not be looking at the big goals, or may be doing a one-off lesson, teaching kids etc. Usually lower level work.

    To me the ideal is someone who can combine the first two. They might be a trainer who can also coach, or a coach who can also train, but they need to do both at some level to have competitive clients.
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  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun. 20, 2008


    it's gets a little stickier w/ USEF shows because a trainer or coach signature needs to be on the form unless you are showing w/o trainer or coach. Under USEF a trainer has care custody and control of horse - so if you ride and board your horse w/ this person they would be your trainer, if you don't board w/ that person they would be your coach.

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