Trainer for driving (professional)

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Well-Known Member
Mar 10, 2004
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First, please excuse my silly questions-- I'm a newbie with showing. Thanks to my friends I've been able to put some horses in some regional shows. (Thanks, Hillary and Jen)

Here's my problem:

My friend is moving away. She has done wonders with my driving stallion but I'm not sure what to do for next year. She will drive him at Nationals for me as a friend but after that he's in my hands. I've just started driving and honestly I'm not all that good. Not good enough to continue his training. (Probably the reason he is an inconsistent performer.)

He's 4 and this is his 2nd year at driving CP. Since here in Maine we can only depend on working the horses from May-October, he's had about 6 months total training in 2 years. At Nationals last year (his first year) a judge placed him 5th in a class of 20. At Area I this year he was consistent and performed like a professional, receiving 2nd in the open class of 8 and champion in the stakes class of 8. (Uhhh, we won't talk about Area II and NH earlier in the year. LOL Ribbons mean nothing if he's being a butthead. And yes, he had been with me up to that point for both of those shows. Proof to me that I'm not good enough for him.)

So I think he's got potential.

How do you find a trainer?

What do they expect?

What can I expect?

How do you choose?

How do I know if he's good enough for a professional trainer?

What if I can't afford a professional trainer and therefore he can't live up to his potential-- am I a bad momma (I would feel guilty)?

What if the trainer hurts my poor baby and he comes back with a wounded heart?

Thanks in advance.
Your best bet is to ask friends and aquaintances that handle their horses the way you like to handle yours for recommendations of trainers. Once you get a name go to visit he/she at their facility and talk to them about your horse. You should be able to get a feel for whether or not you can trust them with your horse and they will let you know whether your horse has potential or not once they meet him.
First of all -- your boy doesn't care if he's a national champion as long as he has good food, a place to play, and someone who loves him. So the only "potential" is in YOUR heart, and he's doing it for you,.

You've come to the right place to find a professional. Just ask on this forum! Believe me, many on this have no problem telling it like it is, and will give you the straight story on many professionals.

What I expect from a trainer is that I can visit the horse when I want - but may not be able to see him put through his paces if I just show up. I would be willing to set up appointments for progress checks where I would be able to see that.

I'd expect the horse to appear comfortable and happy, and in good weight. I'd expect clean stalls and if possible a turnout place. That's not always available, but it's a nice feature.

I'd not expect a win every time out. I'd expect a horse that is comfortable in harness and is performing to his natural ability.

I'd expect a trainer to show the horse if I pay him to take it.
Are you looking to send him off to a trainer, or for someone to come to your place and give you lessons? I chose the latter rounte and found a trainer in my area through Leia's website It is a couple who train big horses - mostly Morgans - for CDEs, and it turns out we have mutual friends. They help me train my minis (we are on # 3 now) and give me driving lessons. They also make sure my harness is adjusted properly, and I ask them all those questions that it really helps to have someone around to answer! There must be driving clubs in Maine, so I would look there - unless you really want to send him out to a mini trainer. I don't send mine out to a professional trainer because I would worry too much about them. I like using a CDE trainer because they stress the basics - which should help any horse over the long haul. Of course, they aren't going to take the horse into the mini show ring, but I have gotten up my nerve to do that. Well, OK, I didn't have enough nerve the day of the AMHR show in May, but I have taken her in the ring. And I remember your mini at that show and he looked great warming up outside! Nice horse!!


I do not have the contact info right here but there is a Maine driving club for horses of all sizes. They are sponsoring a class or two I think at our fair show. A few of the members are on the coast. One I talked with seemed to be a trainer for mostly big horses but has worked with minis.

I will see if I can find the contact info.

Have you considered getting some training in driving with some of the good videos that are available? As someone else said, your horse doesn't care if he is a champion or not, he just wants to make you happy. Also, the more experience you have, the more confident you will be and the more he will trust your instruction. Most people have limited time weather wise. You can still harness and ground drive in an aisle way in the winter. Just make sure to warm the bit so it doesn't freeze to his mouth. If I were you, I would drive him whenever I got the chance. As for driving in competition, we have set up a ringlike area and go through show paces several times a week to get the feel of the different trots and the turnarounds. The more you both do it over and over, the more you will do things automatically in the ring and not even think about making a mistake because you both know exactly what to do. Even trot into a lineup with a header and backup and step forward just as if you were showing. Sit tall and straight and send confidence through the lines to your horse. You seem to already have the basics. Now you just need the practice and confidence to put them into practice.

If you still feel you must have a trainer, listen to some of the advice of others. I, personally, don't want to let someone else care for my babies for that long of a time. We did it with a couple of horses some years back, but probably won't do it again because we miss them too badly.

Most of all have fun. Good luck.

There are a few trainers i know personally that i would trust to train any of my horses to drive, i know them just from shows ext. I would love to have a driving horse, with a trainer ..i guess i am one of the few who do not want to drive, i would rather watch my horse drive with a trainer.

Sit back WATCH, LISTEN, not just the brags but how the horse is treated in the barn. YOU have to be satisfied what you want so dig deep and LOOK. There are plenty of trainers out there Tracy and the one Mark talking about does standardbreds and CDE. That would be Robin Cuffey. We currently have a member who is taking lessons from her and she is in your area. Give me a call or look me up sunday at the show and I'll see what I can come up with for you. I hate seeing Hillary move though she's my driving buddy. Linda
I've contacted two local trainers and they told me about $75/hour. I suppose that a monthly rate could be arranged with a different focus than I originally talked about.

Yes, I know he doesn't have to be a driving horse-- to say nothing about a champion. He is loved dearly here. But as a mother (of human kids and furkids alike) I tend to feel guilty about things...

Maybe starting him early in the season with someone that has an indoor facility would be good. He does better as the season gets on.

And I'm not aiming for national champion-- good gravy, no.

Last year at nationals my goal for him was--don't freak out.

This year the goal is don't freak out and perform better than last year.

Thanks to those that have responded and I wish more would do so... :)

PM me with info/names/recommendations if that's better for you.
Good advice, Linda. If I'm going to watch how trainers work with horses and people, I guess I need someone to point out who they are!! LOL
I don't know of anyone in your area but I found Annette (HHP) from right here on the forum long ago and I told myself when I get a horse to show, that's my trainer. I kept my eyes and ears open for a long time. I read her posts all the time, loved her ideas and her views and I knew from things she said that she treated her client horses and her clients very well. I knew we would click and that is very important to have a trainer you can communicate with. She has a wonderful reputation and besides being darn good with horses, she loves what she is doing. She is crazy in love with horses. If she wasn't on the other side of the earth, some of my horses would still be there with her now. Geesh, my little Dickens even sets up and gives his ears for a bath and I"m like "What are you doing? you don't have to keep doing that now you're home!).

As far as what a trainer expects from you: I'd say to leave them alone and let them do their job. Pay them timely and don't be a pain in the neck. Sure, ask questions, but don't get in their way and keep interrupting them so they can work your horse in peace. Watch, listen, pay close attention, don't get in a hurry, and you will find someone you trust with your horses too. Do your homework.
I have had

my mini mare in training with Robyn Cuffey, I have known Robyn for about 15 years and driven with her, she has a good sound safe approach to driving horses. If you go to the bottom of this link you will see some pics of her ground driving my mare

Robyn has been very ammenable to tailoring our training time and giving me homeowork...

So I don't leave my mare there for a month at a time, but we can go once a week for training or lessons... or I take her there for a week, it all depends ...

I think her rates are reasonable.

Hi there,

Robin Cuffey is wonderful - Photo Finish Farm in Gorham.

Ansley Newton in Pownal is also FANTASTIC.

they are both "large" horse trainers but have so much experience and are so good with all horses. No, they aren't going to bring your horse into the mini show ring, but they will help your horse improve as well as you!

I will be at the Tiny Hooves Show on Saturday if you want to talk. You can't miss me - I'll be the only one there 7 months pregnant and showing 3 horses! =)


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