Assistant Trainer Duties & Pay - California

Hey all! I want to get your thoughts on my current job duties and pay as an assistant.

I work full-time at a bustling hunter/jumper facility in California. My duties and responsibilities include:

  • Managing 55 horses (turnout schedule, exercise schedule, giving medicine, overall care as needed)
  • Teaching 5-7 lessons with 20-25 students a day (two - three times a week) lessons run 45 minutes to an hour - clients groom and tack/untack
  • Coordinating/communicating with vets, farriers, existing clients, workers, website inquiries, scheduling visits for potential clients and giving tours
  • Managing supplies & ordering more as needed
  • Grooming, tacking, riding, lunging, schooling 5-7 horses a day


  • Discounted board, hauling
  • Food/housing has been covered at shows
  • I pay for my own health insurance
  • Working as a W-2 employee
  • I have two of my own horses on the property and am currently trying to make sure they are fit into my daily schedule somehow…

I get two - three days off per week depending on the show schedule. More-so two days.

I have to drive just under 60 miles one-way for my commute. Given our gas here in California is $5.99 per gallon I need to fill up twice a week. Me and my boyfriend’s rent has gone up as well as the bridge toll I have to go across each day. We would like to move closer, but everywhere is more expensive to rent than what we are currently paying. I spend ~3 hours on the road due to bad traffic. I do love my job, appreciate my employers and feel they see me as a big asset but what I’m doing now for the pay I receive is not sustainable in the long term.

I’ve been working at this barn for 2 years and have an extensive riding background, with my foundation in the hunters and having competed up to the 1.40 meter in jumpers (now with 2 years of teaching all levels under my belt alongside that). The barn runs smoothly when they are away at shows.

What would you expect to be paid (or would pay) someone in this position? I’m interested to see what people think is reasonable given my situation.

Thanks for getting through my wall of text, appreciate any thoughts or feedback.

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Typically commute time and cost are not factored into salary from the perspective of the employer. For instance I could choose to live next door to my jobsite but instead I have a 45 mile commute. I don’t get paid more because of this.

On the other hand, location and length of commute is certainly something that the employee needs to consider when deciding if a job makes sense.

From what you describe you are in the typical horse world spiral of too much work for too little money. Likely the barn cannot afford to pay you significantly more. And honestly I can’t see how you mange to fit all that in.

I think you have likely hit the wall with this level of horse job. Young riders are so excited to get a pro job assuming this will help them develop their skills and progress. But as soon as you go pro, you have to put all your clients needs ahead of your own. You ride the clients’ horses and you spend shows babysitting clients, not competing yourself.

If you are starting to feel burned out and disillusioned then there is no amount of money that will give you extra hours in the day or time for your own riding.

Getting rid of the commute would help. But there can be a dearth of rentals in upscale rural areas, if there is no employee housing on site. And do you and boyfriend want to live in a house trailer in the back of beyond with no urban amenities?


Sounds like what you need isn’t a raise, but more so living accommodations on site. Would that negatively impact your boyfriend? Is this something you and your employer can discuss?

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Building on endlessclimb’s idea, I would suggest you schedule a sit-down with your employers to discuss possible changes. Assuming your employer values you and wants you to continue in the job, (s)he should be willing to work with you to find solutions. I know, as an employer, that I would be eager to keep a great employee and would certainly invest time in brainstorming with an open mind.

For instance, would office support for the appointments, supplies ordering, website, etc. help? Would a groom for your horses-in-training help? Would you be able to stay on premises (say) two nights a week without actually moving? It would be a good idea for you to show up at the meeting with some specific ideas to get the conversation started. Be clear in your own mind what you want to achieve.

I agree strongly with previous posters that money will not solve the problem, although it’s always nice!


This was my first thought when I read the OP’s post.
I too live 45 minutes from the office. I have coworkers who live even further.
Our pay negotiation has to do with our job/skills, not where we chose to live.

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what would it cost to replace you? (If there are any people qualified?)

The job market in California is scary … a position I know that was a $110k position a few years ago can not be filled even at $190k because of the cost of living in the area of employment,

I suggest OP start by Google searching just what the Low-Income Families incomes are expected to be are in their area

here is southern CA (HUD income level 1)

Some companies have just give up moving out.


These jobs vary widely in pay. But discounted board for two horses and two or three days off a week is very unusual. You are likely getting the upper end of a deal.


Agreed with this ^ as well.

Obviously up to the OP, but living on-site, even if it means saving in rent and gas, isn’t always a plus. The employee (even when not technically on the clock) can find herself responsible for doing that extra night check, medication, or feed, as well as doesn’t have the stress release of a personal life physically away from work.

While I agree that the employer isn’t technically responsible for taking into consideration rent and housing costs, cost of living does have to be factored in when offering a competitive salary and retaining a good employee, when a job is required to be performed on-site. It sounds like quite a few of the aspects of the OP’s compensation aren’t monetary but involve board/food and the job responsibilities are kind of infinitely expansive.

Are you paid by the hour or get a fixed salary?


In my non-horse job my (and other) employers are quickly realizing that they will have to start giving raises as the costs of living have gone up significantly for just about everyone in every industry. This may mean they have to pass this expense onto their clients (if they haven’t already.) For some reason, the horse world doesn’t seem to get this – often I think this is because its a niche passion-fueled business.

Have you gone 2 years with no raise? I know it can be hard to ask for a raise at a job that you enjoy, but it is rare an employer is going to freely offer up more money without some prompting. You have proven your worth to them over two years and I don’t think its unfair to ask what upward movement and opportunities is available for you.

Like others have said, if this isn’t in the form of $$$ come up with other solutions that may help ease your burden. I will caution you though that living on site may seem like an easy solution, but ask yourself if you will be able to “turn off” from work if you live on site. Some people can, others can’t and feel constantly “on duty” even when they aren’t.

Best of luck, you sound like you have your head on your shoulders well and are willing to work hard.


Replying to everyoneish:

The living situation is also because my boyfriend works in the city we currently live in. So living on the property is not an option for me. I would ideally like to move somewhere in between his job and my job, but again rent is more elsewhere. We are keeping an eye out for things becoming available. We moved in together before the pandemic and I had a job (in my degree) at the time. I got laid off due to Covid and decided to do my true passion full-time. I’m located in the bay area.

I get paid a daily rate and my hours are different day-to-day (sometimes I’m there until 6:20pm after lesson have just finished). I usually start around 9am. As a side note, they havent raised their costs for clients since I’ve been there. I’m curious if that’s coming any way because it seems everywhere else is raising rates due to the economic climate.

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I’m not seeing how you are working somewhat normal business hours but teaching up to 7hrs of lessons a day and also riding 5-7 horses? Or is it some days you ride and some days you teach?

Are you paid salary or hourly or do you get a % of the lessons and rides fees? If you are W2, I’d push more for a salary for predictable income and ask your employer to contribute some to your health insurance. I don’t think they will be all that sympathetic to your commute situation, but you are in a very high COL area generally, and that should be reflected in the pay. But there are plenty of assistants out there that work a lot more hours and days per week, even though you have a lot of responsibilities, and so I would expect less pay for you especially since you are given some perks for your personal horses. Even if it seems like you don’t have time for them or don’t want to drive in for them on your off days.


From what I understood, the OP teaches 2-3 days a week, 5-7 lessons, with 4-5 people in a lesson, on top of all of her other duties. Other days “just” exercises the horses, and does multiple administrative duties.

So the OP is wearing many hats–teacher, trainer, barn manager, and also general administrative support.

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things to consider and think about

does your boyfriends employer provide benefits ( health care and dental) to co-habiting partners, Mine did . Is he aware of this answer, has he asked the question. Is marriage in your future?

can you do part of your commute by public transportation and leave your car in park in ride for the remainder of your journey. Particularly home to across the toll section.

Are both horse you own vital to your forward success. Is leasing or selling one an option?

when I look at your list of duties I wonder, too, how you all manage it. You sound over burdened. Evaluate how much time you really spend on admin type duties and if your employer might be better off with someone who can manage most of those duties


I had a job similar to this about 10 years ago – the duties weren’t all the same, but close enough. I was teaching way more, though, and working 60-70 hour weeks with 1 day off. I’m baffled at how you are cramming all of that in to a 9-hour day, but I’m guessing you ride less on your teaching days.

Burnout is real and almost inevitable with this type of schedule. I also didn’t live on the property, but occasionally stayed overnight and I’m not sure if it helped or hurt my mental state, but it might help with your commute situation to lighten that load even a little. I am, however, impressed that you get 2 days off and sometimes 3 (I shouldn’t find that so amazing, but hey, it’s the horse biz lol). That would have helped my own burnout a TON. In fact, I tried to negotiate for a 2nd day off on weeks when the owner wasn’t away at shows, and that lasted a grand total of 1 week before she put me back on a 6 day workweek. :frowning:

I can’t offer any insight in to what I would expect to be paid for your duties, as I am from the Midwest, but I WOULD advise you to ask for a raise, since it has been 2 years since you started. I don’t care what you’re making, you should always advocate for periodic raises. But before you go in and ask, make sure you know whether or not you’ll be okay with them saying no, and if you are comfortable negotiating for a smaller number at that point, or maybe other benefits like others have mentioned on the thread already.

Best of luck!

ETA: You probably know this, but just in case: figure out what you think is a fair pay raise, and then ask for more. They’ll probably say they can’t go that high, especially if they are running on as slim a profit margin as a lot of barn owners are. Hopefully, though, they will counter with a lower amount that is close to what you really want.


Ah. You have a degree and a potential “real world” fall back career, and this job is about Follow Your Passion.

I have had 2 lifelong passions. One I made into an academic career. Now it’s much more a job than a passion. The other was horses. I never wanted to professionalize in horses because I didn’t want to spend all my time facilitating other people’s riding. Or have to extract a living from horses. So I’ve been happy as an amateur.

When you say pursue your passion with this job, what is your passion? Do you love teaching juniors and want to run your own barn, which will basically mean living at a barn 24/7? Or is your passion more about maxing out saddle time and progressing in your own skills? If so you might do better as an ammie with a good job.

My impression is that most people who start coaching and barn managing full time stall put in their own development because there is no longer time or support to keep improving themselves. If it’s a choice between teaching all day Saturday or taking a group of kiddies to cross poles with day fees and day leases making it lucrative versus giving up a chunk of income to take your own horse to a higher level competition? You always choose income.


Do you get a break on board for your two horses? If yes, does this come through the trainer you work for? Has the cost of board been affected by all the recent increases in the cost of gas/hay etc.? Board at my facility just went up $150/month. Factoring in any benefit you may (or may not) be receiving in terms of what you pay for two horses in the Bay Area could be a significant consideration in whether or not you’re being paid (compensated) fairly in today’s horse world. Just something more to think about…

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Are you getting paid overtime? in CA any day over 8 hours you earn overtime, its based on the day not the workweek. It’s not common for employers to reimburse for commute time.

I’d just sit down and ask for a raise, don’t make your commute part of the discussion though. And maybe there are other non-raise ways they can increase your compensation (ie more hauling etc)


I don’t think we’ve answered OP’s original question, which is what a person should expect to be paid for this kind of role.

She is basically a full-time Assistant Trainer/Assistant Barn Manager. Is there anyone here who either works in such a job, or employs such a person, that can give an idea of the going rate? (Of course, it might have to be adjusted upward since it’s California–cost of living and wages are generally higher here).


I have no salary info to share, sadly, but wanted to chime in to say Bay Area traffic is just terrible. My friends who live there have similar commutes, and I have other friends in my current city who moved here primarily because they couldn’t handle the commute they had in the Bay Area - it required an hour plus each way to get from work to where they could afford to live.

One thought - could you avoid some of the commute time by shifting your hours? Could you come in midday and stay later in the evening? Or come in much earlier and leave mid afternoon? In that traffic finding a way to avoid peak commute times could save you time without costing your employer anything.