Owners - do you wonder where your day rate money goes? Below is an average breakdown of the rate paid by owners per horse daily for training services. The breakdown is based on a 20-25 horse stable at a major Kentucky track.
Most stables have horses coming and going all the time, therefore contract labor is
often used to supplement staff on salary. Some trainers gallop or groom horses themselves which is a big savings but not always realistic in a big stable.
Typical costs PER HORSE PER DAY in Kentucky can vary by several dollars/day - the numbers here
are on the LOW END of the range, and are current through 2010. A little over 20% of the labor cost for groom, rider, and hotwalker is FICA, unemployment, and workers compensation taxes :
- $18.25 - groom
- $18.25 - exercise rider
- $9.50 - hotwalker
Total labor cost per day per horse is $46.
- $5.50 - straw
- $6.50 - hay
- $6 - grain or other feed and supplements (like electrolytes) not charged to owner
- $1.35 - office equipment, tack (saddles, bridles, leads, etc.), barn equipment ( buckets, pitchforks, fans, etc.), supplies (disinfectant, horse shampoo, fly control, etc.)
The total is $65.35 PER DAY PER HORSE.
Note that hay and straw are much more expensive in south Florida because it must be shipped in from the north. Also note that training centers that do not have live racing
charge "stall rent", generally at a rate of $7-$10 per day per stall. These two expenses alone can raise the cost per day per horse significantly.
In our research we found day rates at major tracks and training centers
in Kentucky that varied from $65-$100/day. The majority of trainers
we encountered that are stabled at race tracks and large training centers in Kentucky
charge at least $75/day.
Other expenses paid by the trainer and usually not covered by the day rate:
- travel and moving expenses, rent at seasonal track
- assistant trainer's salary
- health and liability insurance
Other expenses paid by the owner that are not included in the day rate:
- farrier - at the track this is $125-$150 per horse about every 30 days
- shipping - to races at outside tracks, between racetracks seasonally, to and from farms if your horse gets lay-up or vacation
- race day expenses - pony to post, hotwalker, vet wrap, tape, run down patches, etc. at about $50 per race
- veterinary care, medications, vaccinations, worming - including pre and post race treatment
- specialized equipment or supplements for an individual horse
- mortality insurance on horses - usually about 3% of agreed value of horse annually
- liability insurance - generally a "per horse" rate annually
- jockey fees - usually $50-$75 if unplaced or 10% taken out of purse money automatically
- trainer's share of purse - usually 10% of purse money earned, invoiced to owner monthly
Other points to consider:
- Not only do most trainers drive to work in the morning 7 days/week, they also
have to drive to the races when not stabled at the active track, and many
move their entire stable and their home with the racing circuit several times a year.
In order to retain important staff members, trainers have to pay some employees' travel
and moving expenses as well. For these reasons travel expenses are extremely high for most trainers.
- For trainers who have exercise riders on salary, the more horses per day that one rider can
gallop, the less the cost per horse for the trainer.
Similarly the trainer's labor cost will be less if salaried grooms handle more
horses per groom; however, each horse in the stable
will receive less individual attention if the groom and exercise rider have more
horses to work with daily.
- Feed and bedding cost is directly related to quality, and feed/bedding quality directly
affects the horse's health and performance so is very important. The cost of hay and straw
can fluctuate greatly depending on weather conditions, location and demand. Some race tracks
and large training centers mandate use of straw for bedding, so lower cost bedding
options like bulk sawdust on rubber mats is usually not an option. Bagged shavings or other alternative bedding is comparable in cost to straw.
- Most racing stable employees and many trainers do
not have health care insurance coverage because they can't afford the premiums. Of course
this is a problem shared by many small businesses in the U.S. This problem is part of the reason for the
existence of horsemen's organizations such as the Horsemen's Benevolent and
Protective Association (HBPA) and the
Kentucky Racing Health and Welfare Fund.
So you might ask, "how does a trainer make a living?"
Trainers have to make ends meet with purse money, and there
isn't much room for error or a trainer will go broke quick. Let's optimistically
assume that an average trainer's 10 horse stable earns an average of $20,000/year per horse,
or $200,000 in total earnings. The trainer's share of the purse earnings is 10% or $20,000.
A major focus of the HBPA is maximizing purse money,
since it is what keeps not only trainers, but the whole racing industry in business.
Creative ways that some trainers try to improve the bottom line:
- Owning part of the horses they train, therefore
increasing their percentage of purse earnings. This is risky since there is no
guarantee that any horse will actually earn money (see stats below).
- Acting as bloodstock agents for their
owners, making 5-10% commission on buying and selling racing prospects.
- Owning a farm, boarding layups, broodmares and young
horses for owners, and growing their own hay and straw.
- Using their own truck and trailer for shipping.
- Galloping, grooming, and hotwalking some of the stable's horses to cut down on outside labor.
Unless a trainer has several high dollar earners in the barn, it's a tough way
to make a living. A trainer must be ruthlessly selective of the horses kept in
training to ensure that each one can contribute to the bottom line. This is not
an easy task considering the statistics below from Thoroughbred Times:
Chances of what any given thoroughbred race horse born in North America
might accomplish in its entire racing career:
run in a race: 69%
win a race: 45%
win more than once: 34%
win a stakes race: 3%
win a graded stakes: less than 1%
race at age 2: 34%
win at 2: 11%
win a stakes at 2: less than 1%