Where does your trainer’s day-rate go?

A major cost to owning a racehorse is your trainer’s day-rate.

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 different areas 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 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.