Love Horses and Animals? Jobs in the Horse Industry Are Waiting By Jill Walter-Robinson
Jobs are hard to find in the U.S. right now. Perhaps you've lost your job, want a career change, or have a son or daughter needing guidance. What's it like to work in the horse industry? Are jobs available? Can you make money?
Generally, in the horse industry, your job is your 'life'. Most horse jobs require at least 6 days a week, starting early in the morning. Education requirements vary. You can't become qualified to work in the horse industry through an online-course. Also, a four year degree in Equine Science is not worth much without at least four additional years of hands on experience, and even then, it is that experience that employers value most. Here is a list of typical equestrian-related careers, roughly in reverse order of salary and experience required:
--Mucker: As long as you are sober and physically fit, you can walk right off the street and muck (clean out) horse stalls somewhere -- there is always a demand. Unless they grew up with horses, this is how many equestrian professionals got their 'start'!
--Groom/Stable Hand: Once you get familiar with horses, (in about a month), you can work as a groom or stable-hand-feeding, turning-out, grooming them (preparing them to ride). Pays a little more than mucking.
--Farm Hand: You will usually see men (but there are women) whose responsibility is to maintain the physical plant, operate the tractor, and do repairs. At larger equestrian centers, you can work up to being a supervisor, which pays fairly well.
--Stable Manager: This is the most common job that equestrian science majors hope to find with their 4-year degree. Unfortunately, it is their work experience that counts the most. Stable managers can make decent money ($24,000 per year) but some of that is put toward a house to live in, and a stall for their horse. There are usually no health benefits, either. But -- you are the master or mistress of your equestrian universe!
--Trainer: Trainers are usually good riders who like to bring a young horse to fruition, train an intermediate horse to go further, or fix problem horses. They can charge what the market will bear. Top trainers are in demand and well compensated.
--Teacher: Good teachers are hard to find; they must have worked many of the above jobs, be acutely aware of horse health, and must love both horses and people, especially children. Their hours will usually be tough, and the working conditions difficult. Pay can be up to $40.00 per hour.
--Riding School Director: There are dozens of excellent riding schools around the country; the big ones near population centers. Horsemen with excellent management, book keeping and promotional skills can work their way up to running a school. Riding school owners and directors don’t get rich, but can usually eat lobster any time they wish!
--Show Rider: The most talented riders can make a living riding, training and showing other people's horses. It is a dangerous and grueling job, but the best end up winning prize money and getting huge bonuses from their wealthy clientele.
--Breeder: Breeders of show horses and race horses are experts at blood lines and producing healthy, training-ready stock. You can become a millionaire, or you might end up broke.
--Track Exercise Rider: Horse racing is the toughest place of all to make a living with horses. Exercise riders get to ride and train horses at 5 a.m. and are often quite beat up from doing it. Pay varies.
--Horse Dealer: Most dealers provide stock for camps, trail riders, schools, and the public. Not a very glamorous life, and not much money to be made, either.
--Transportation; There are people who just truck horses all around the country. Pays like a trucker.
--Ferrier: Putting shoes on horses is both an art and a science. You need to apprentice and take a 1 year course to be fully qualified to start. You can make good money, but the work is hard on your back, and some horses can be bullies.
--Construction, Jump Building: There are specialty barn builders, arena builders, and builders of show jumps.
--College Program Director or Assistant: This career can pay very well, include housing and benefits, and plenty of vacation time. Only people with a lot of the above knowledge and experience need apply. This is the ‘ivory tower’ job in the industry. --Retail: People do quite well owning and operating a tack shop (leather equipment, supplies) a feed store, and mail order/internet outlets.
--Handicapped Program Teacher/Therapist: Some specialized training is required -- often 'on the job'. Pay is low, but the results can be very rewarding.
--Holistic Horse Skills: Just as in society, there is a demand for massage, chiropractic, reiki and acupuncture for horses. Pay is low, but you can be your own boss, and do what you love.
--Show Management: These are the 'PT Barnums' of the horse world. They are experienced horsemen, managers, book keepers and promoters, and work behind the scenes to make the big shows happen.
--Judging and Officiating: You need to be very experienced, travel, and work part time.
--Veterinarian, Surgeon: The field requires extensive, expensive education, (usually loans), an apprentice period, and long and erratic hours. You can earn a good living eventually, with your own practice, but large animal medicine is very physical -- be prepared for bumps and bruises.
Over twenty years at The Guilford Riding School, we have watched and nurtured dozens of students who have gone on to careers in the horse world. Some start on the equine side, and branch off to a parallel career. Emily, who started riding with us at age 8, is now getting a masters in public health at Yale. She majored in Equine Science as an undergraduate. Other students are now veterinarians, stable managers, trainers, massage therapists and we have one young man who now has a thriving Ferrier practice in Virginia. Just walking in the door and signing up for riding at The Guilford Riding School can be the start of something big!