by Trey Nosrac
“You want to know something weird?” I asked my pal Benny the Fly over brews and wings at the Tips and Sips Sports Bar.
He replied with a smile, “Weirder than normal?”
“Well, you tell me. Here’s the deal. In almost 20 years of buying a yearling to race, never, not once, not a single time, has a trainer solicited me to train my yearling. In the real world, there is a constant stream of folks asking to handle my finances, power-wash my house, join their HMO, do my housecleaning and dozens of other services.”
“Well, maybe those potential trainers don’t know you, or, more likely, they do know you.”
“Very funny. Look, I didn’t know the trainers I hired. I just did a little research and made a few calls for recommendations. In each case, I approached them, introduced myself, said I had a yearling to train, asked the rate, and asked if they wanted the job.”
“Did they all say yes?”
“They did, and they all were excellent trainers, but each time I was doing the asking. Shouldn’t that train run both ways?”
Fly thought for a few seconds and said, “Most normal people probably already have a trainer lined up before buying a yearling.”
“That’s true, but my normal ship sailed years ago. I’m a cart before the horse kind of guy.”
He added another thought, “Perhaps there is a code of conduct. Maybe potential trainers don’t want to be labeled poachers. Sort of an old boys club.”
“I ain’t in no club. I would consider any age or sex to train my horse.”
He said, “Well, horse trainer is a unique job, probably not one that is easy to break into.”
I nodded. “And it’s a difficult job, with plenty of disappointment, responsibility, and long hours.” After a pause, I said, “True story, early on, I rashly decided to try to train my yearling. I didn’t last a week.”
“Driving to the track on day three, I realized that horse trainer wannabe was no type of work for a scatterbrained bon vivant. So, I immediately fired myself due to poor work habits and lack of knowledge.”
“Probably a wise decision,” Fly said.
I persisted, “Why hasn’t any hopeful trainer, male or female, young or old, been interested in graduating from a second trainer or top groom, asked to train one of my horses?”
“Would you trust a valuable yearling to a novice trainer?” he asked.
“Me? Absolutely. Finding a fledgling trainer who demonstrated initiative, a decent resume, and a skill set would be cool. I enjoy reading the Grassroots Perspective column in HRU to get a feel for some new trainers who might come with advantages like lower training bills, more attention, and increased enthusiasm.”
He asked, “So why not just ask around, find one of those unknown trainers?”
“Because I have no idea who is thinking about starting their small training stable. I can’t read minds. I can’t roam the barns, tap strangers on the shoulder asking if they are considering quitting their job, going out on their own, or training on the side.”
He countered, “Well, in the same vein, potential trainers don’t know you might be in the market for a trainer.”
“They at least have some clues. They could begin with the sales results. They could see I bought a horse; they could do a little research on me. Newbies could take note of the retirements of former trainers. Tips and clues are all over the backstretches and paddocks. They look for a prospect and figure out an entrance point.”
“Entrance point?” he asked.
“Dude, they are entering a business. Making connections are essential. Hustling up customers is step one of any business, for example, say I get this text:
HI TREY – YOU DON’T KNOW ME, BUT I NOTICED THAT YOU BOUGHT JILLNFAST AT THE SELECT SALE. I GROOMED HER MOTHER! I HAVE WORKED FOR TWO TOP TRAINERS AND AM STARTING A SMALL STABLE ON MY OWN. WISH US BOTH LUCK.
He nodded, “Not bad. A very low-key approach. Would you be interested?”
“Hard to say. I would check out the new trainer. There are a lot of variables to consider – price, location, resume, etc. But a text or email of that sort would put the newbie trainer on my radar screen. Here’s another one I would try if I were in their shoes.”
HI – SEE YOU BOUGHT JILLNFAST AT THE RECENT SALE. I NOTICED YOU LIVE IN PITTSFIELD. I HAVE A SMALL TRAINING STABLE (MY THIRD YEAR), AND THE TRAINING TRACK WHERE I STABLE MY FOUR HORSES IS ONLY 18 MILES AWAY FROM YOUR HOME ADDRESS.
“Or they could try this one:
I TAKE THREE HORSES TO SOUTHERN OAKS TRAINING CENTER AND HAVE A FOUR-HORSE TRAILER. IF YOU ARE UNDECIDED ON A TRAINER, I RACE IN PENNSYLVANIA. GIVE ME A SHOUT BACK IF YOU WANNA TALK AND IF YOU ARE NOT AS CRAZY AS YOU SOMETIMES APPEAR.
Fly held up his hand and said, “Okay, I get your point. You are outlining a story as old as commerce. Some people find ways to get a foothold and find methods for drumming up customers.”
“Exactly. I see very little of this in the harness horse training world. Going into business does not happen organically. It’s like Yoda says, ‘Your path you must decide.’”