If you could put your horse in bootcamp with a pro, who would you choose and how would you go about it?

Been doing a little wishful thinking as I’m stuck in Midwest mid-winter doldrums while many fellow eventers head south for the season…

My husband got a young OTTB a couple years ago who I think has a lot of potential to be a great event horse. His training and move up has unfortunately been a bit slow going, though, due to a shoe injury that caused a big abscess last spring which ended up benching him for the whole of what was to be his first full show season (he did a few starter courses at the end of 2021).

He’s been coming back into work this winter but of course we won’t have any outdoor access until spring and even then our XC options are limited in the area. A fellow boarder is sending her horse to FL next month to see if he still wants to be an eventer, and it got me daydreaming about the possibilities of putting my husband’s horse in bootcamp with a pro.

Has anyone actually done this? If so, curious how you went about setting it up, how much it cost, and what kind of results you saw/was it worth it?

Also, as a fun fantasy question if you could choose anyone in the world to train your horse, who would you choose and why?

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I think your answer really depends on what YOUR expectations are. Do you expect the horse to move up the levels with your husband or do you want to just be an owner and see how for the horse goes with a pro? Are you considering a long term program or just a month or two? That will dictate who is a better candidate for the job. Most upper level pros don’t have time for the day to day riding and so the horse may actually not be trained by who you think. There is a difference between being famous and being the best.

I have seen horses go to bootcamp with small name pros who compete at the 5* level and who have small programs so they ride every horse most days (expect when they are traveling to compete). Generally that runs a normal boarding and training fee (approx. $2000 a month). Obviously the cost goes up from there for “well known” pros.

Me, personally, I want to train my own horse. But that is me. I’ve done it all my life. If you want big names, my personal favorites are on the West Coast (James Alliston, Marc Grandia). Smaller names include Ingrid George, Bec Braitling, and Jill Walton.


Dom and Jimmie. Just good peeps and great horsemen.


I was actually daydreaming about the same thing today… So I am interested in the responses too

The main goal is to have him partnered with my husband. However, I think it’s usually ideal if one half of the pair has a little more experience than the other so they aren’t both learning the ropes at the same time. We started eventing only a few years ago and also had some horse changes so haven’t gone above BN yet.

If we did this, it would just be short term. I don’t think my husband would enjoy being horseless for more than a month or two!

Our current trainer is fantastic, both with humans and horses. He’s been doing training rides on husband’s horse since we purchased him. However, time commitment can be challenging especially during show season as he also does a lot of judging and ends up traveling a lot.

Separate from the bootcamp idea, I was actually considering talking to him about whether he’d want to compete with our horse. His daughter took over his competition horse a couple years ago, and I think he misses it. If we approached him about that I’m not sure if it would be something we pay him for or if it’s like a quid pro quo thing where he gets a horse to get back into the show ring…although I suppose it’d be at a level lower than where he was previously competing so maybe we do pay him as a training thing? I’m not sure how those situations typically work…

I’m spoiled in that the one person in the world that I would choose to train my horse is training my horse (and me). She’s one of those small-name pros that RAyers is describing, and I’ve had the fortune of knowing her since I was ten years old (well over half my life ago, now, and well before she was ever riding at 5*). She produces all of her own horses from the ground up and doesn’t really have other owners aside from a couple of partnerships with our performance vet and a fellow eventer who is a friend of hers, so she’s an irregular participant at the 5* level, but the skillset is there and she’s sold on horses to other pros who have taken them the rest of the way.

I don’t have my horse formally in training with her because a) she’s recovering from surgery so won’t be riding for at least another month and b) I need the training as much as he does, but we do lesson twice a week and she’ll be putting a handful of training rides on him once she’s allowed back in the saddle just to get a better feeling for what we’re working with (she’s only ever sat on him once before for five minutes after he dumped me over the summer). Because she trained me as a kid for several years before my (unwilling) hiatus from her program, she knows my foundation, so she’s less actively training me and more refreshing my prior knowledge at the moment.

Even not having him in training with her regularly in the saddle, I absolutely think it’s worth it. We’ve had three consistent lessons with her so far and he’s already massively improved from where he was two weeks ago before I moved him to her barn and only saw her once every few months. It’s hard for me to say where her full training program falls in terms of cost, but I’d say somewhere in the range of $1-2k per month (my monthly board runs $400 a month, shoutout to southwestern PA). She’s the one who does the daily riding, so anyone who sends their horse to her gets the full value out of the training.

If it wasn’t for the fact that my wallet isn’t bottomless and I need to ride, I’d absolutely consider putting my horse in full training with her for a month or two. As things currently stand, we’re definitely moving a bit more slowly because of my own limitations (read: I’m very out of shape) than we would be if she was putting the foundation on him, but there have been marked improvements in both my riding and my horse’s suppleness and responsiveness in literally two weeks (he’s six, we’re not asking him to do calculus right now), so I have no complaints.

By all means, have a conversation with your current trainer about whether he would like to compete your husband’s horse up through a few levels to solidify the foundation on the horse and make him a better horse for your husband. There isn’t a one size fits all arrangement in these type situations, but unless the horse is unusually talented, the trainer would probably expect to have show fees paid as well as receive some compensation for training.

In your situation and with your goals, I have to think sending the horse away to warmer climes for a month or two is going to cost a pile of money and is not likely to really yield meaningful results other than fulfilling your fantasy of doing it. If you wanted to share a little more specifically where you are, there are probably people on the forums who can recommend some possibilities for boot camp trainers within reasonable driving distance of your location.


Sinead and Tik Maynard!


Ryan Wood, hands down

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I think i would personally only truly consider this with a pro i had a prior relationship with, or could quickly develop one with through lessons/clinics.

Depending on the horse too, a major change in routine can take a few days/weeks to adjust to, esp. for green horses in a new to them discipline, so i would take that into account wrt schedule and how “worth it” the experience might be. The payoff could be huge in the right situation though. My main goal for a green horse would be for the horse to gain confidence/worldliness. So i would want someone with a philosophy/approach of providing lots of low pressure exposure to xc elements. Bootcamps being time limited might only be able to accommodate so much of this, but it still would be more than arena work in Midwest winters!

My ideal schedule might look like move the horse and school the horse myself and take lessons w/pro for a few weeks, then turn the horse over to the pro’s bootcamp. From there, I would want to watch the work for my own education :slight_smile:


You have piqued my interest. Care to privately share your trainers name?

Are you me? My trainer is absolutely where I would send my horse (and I did! 2 years ago). Small name pro that only locals would recognize.

A lot of professionals only ride their training horses from time to time, and the working students do most of the riding under the head trainer’s supervision. I have seen this with my own eyes with 5* riders, and I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, but there is something to be said for a smaller name who does all the riding themselves.


Agreed re: working students - my trainer has put working students on her training horses in the past but it’s always been with the owner’s advance agreement and a corresponding adjustment in training fees.

When I was with a different trainer (not a 5* rider by any stretch of the imagination, lol) as a broke college student who wanted whatever saddle time I could get since I couldn’t afford my own horse at the time, I was the person doing a lot of those training rides that she was getting paid for without the owners knowing. Having been on that side of it: absolutely not, do not recommend, I’m not incompetent and I can (and did) put miles on horses but I wouldn’t say I’m qualified to train them to the degree that the pro price tag would imply (and having the owners not be informed up front of who may be getting on their horse(s) is just not good no matter how you slice it).


In the Chicagoland area, so we’d have to go pretty far to avoid similar winter weather conditions. I imagine KY would probably be the closest option though I’m not sure who trains there over the winter. I know Liz H-S moves further south to FL for the season.

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Yes, I’ve done it. And the most recent time I thought it was a big success, although my parameters for success probably aren’t everyones’.

A little background: I bought a just started 3 rising 4 year old Feb of 2020 to bring along myself. He is a warmblood with really nice, and recognizable breeding for eventing, a very good if not excellent mover, obviously athletic, and well put together. He was less than 20K. By Summer of 2020 I heard he had a 2 year old full brother sitting out in a field (who was 2 year old awkward) and I went and bought him too for a reasonable price, brought him home, handled him everyday and let him grow up until we started him a little over a year later. In the mean time I was doing really well with Big Brother–good scores, good ribbons always in the hunt, school shows and recognized.

Last February I sent Little Brother to train with someone in Ocala (a trainer who 9 months a year lives 3 hours from me and whom I lesson with every once in a while.) The goal was to prepare and compete him in the 4 year old YEH Futurity. I have some physical knee issues and he’s such a big athletic mover I wanted someone to help me with him. For 8 months we passed him back and forth–2 months with her, 6 weeks with me, back to her, me, etc. He competed in a couple YEH divisions and a couple HTs with her, one HT with me having solid results. He grew almost 4 inches his 4 year old year which is not compatible with top caliber scores–but he is no doubt going to be the whole package and the real deal when grows into himself. I’m ecstatic with him.

But what truly made it a success for me? I’ve gotten every penny I’ve invested and more in his value. I’m riding a horse worth more than I invested in him. I don’t think if he was an average horse of average ability and potential that putting thousands of dollars in him would be very satisfying. If you could sell your horse, add what you’d put into training and get a better horse than the one you started with, you really need to think about it.

For what it’s worth, riding Little Brother in tandem with this trainer made me see a training hole I’d left in Big Brother. I had double knee replacement in December. Guess where Big Brother is while I’m getting myself ready to ride again?! I’m confident it will be totally worth it.

For success: It definitely helps to have a prior relationship with a trainer. Know that you have compatible training philosophies. Have realistic expectations. Then do an honest evaluation as to whether you would be making a financial investment in something that will retain at least some of that investment.


I wouldn’t discount smaller name riders/trainers, for a few reasons. Riders like this make their money from lessons and training and are more familiar with how ammys think/ride and tailor programs accordingly.

I’m not saying that 5* riders are ill-equipped to send a horse to, but said trainer might only ride the horse once a week because they’re on the road competing all the time. I would rather send my horse to a trainer I use for lessons who has more time to devote to my horse on a one-on-one basis. That way, when I’m riding in a lesson or getting coached at a competition, that trainer knows exactly what’s going on in my horse’s head and how I can get the best out of them with the skills I have.

My own trainer has a thriving teaching business and her students do consistently well. Is she a BN 5* rider? No, but she’s ridden at the 4* level with horses she’s produced herself, her dressage is always excellent, and her students aren’t scary running around XC. :sweat_smile:


I daydream about this often during the middle of winter while I’m chipping ice off of my feeders… :laughing: But in the end I always keep them with myself because like RAyers I want to be part of their journey and I want to have a partnership. So what if it’s somewhere in the middle, I go with my horse for pro-bootcamp for horse AND rider?

If money were no object, Lauren Nicholson (Kieffer). I just love how wonderfully happy her horses look. I want my horse to look that happy when he trots down the centerline.

I really like Dominic Schramm’s approach to horse husbandry. He would be a close second.

I’d be interested in Tik Maynard too, I do enjoy how horse-centric his approach is.


I think the value of sending to a full time pro in a place like Aiken is that the horse gets to go a lot of places and have new experiences and grow up a bit on a compressed timeframe. I don’t expect much actual training but just a well managed introduction to new things and places in a group setting and on a timeframe that I could never match. I can’t take 4 horses on a group trip to a new place two or three times a week for two months. I can’t go to a horse trial or hunter pace every week. I can’t hack my greenies out in a group every day. Therefore I don’t care if working students ride the horse, or even other amateurs as long as I trust the barn to manage it well, I actually see that as a bonus. It’s good for a horse to be able to deal with new things and different (competent) riders.

I am working with a young pro who has a barn down the road to take my green horses to local-ish multi-day shows during the week when she has stall space and just hack them around and care for them then bring them home on Friday when she’s picking up her client horses. It’s done wonders for their maturity and although she’s not “training” them she’s a great rider and I trust her to deal appropriately with any shenanigans. And it’s super cost effective for me.


This! While all the other comments have valid points, this is the main advantage I see to exploring this option. The access and variety and schedule of events that we just don’t have in the Midwest even during show season.

Do you mind sharing roughly what you’re paying?

For those who mentioned the benefit of working with a trainer you’re familiar with, I totally agree with that, but that wouldn’t be an option for us. The only trainers we’ve worked with are the ones at home. I’m not opposed to the idea of going with a lesser known name (although I do like the idea of someone like Tik Maynard–we audited one of his clinics once and liked his vibe). The challenge is finding someone who’s reputable and whose experience matches our need.


I pay shipping, half the stall fee for the week, whatever the grounds fee is and daycare + $50 to ride them per day (they don’t always get ridden the first time). They are usually there 2-3 days. It comes to a few hundred per horse per show but I don’t have to take off work, travel or get a hotel etc so that saves me money. And in terms of exposure she rides them all over the grounds, schools in various places etc and gets done in one week what would take me several weekends to do if I could even access those arenas on the weekends to school.