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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep. 21, 2007
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    1,092

    Default If the thought of going pro (or at least training full time) has ever crossed your

    mind, what made you try it and/or what is holding you back?

    I'm not talking about hanging out a shingle at your local barn (NOT that there is anything wrong with that!!!) (unless of course that's were Steffen Peters trains ), but really pulling all the stops to get to, say, where Catherine Haddad is now.

    Do you ever think that you *could* get there if you put *everything * you have behind it? I.e. give up your current career and fairly secure (while not plush) lifestyle? I.e. take a chance that maybe you're not as talented as you may deep down think you are? At what age (30s? 40s? 50s? ever?) does the likelihood of really polishing up your skills to pro level drop to not worth the risks?

    Oh, sometimes I'd just like to entertain the thought...
    "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar. 16, 2011
    Posts
    715

    Default

    Well, it's the money that stopped me from gunning for international fame. That, and I'm not thaaaat great of a rider. But the costs of campaigning a horse for that level are astronomical. Unless you're endowed with a family fortune (not me) or friends who are willing to sponsor you and throw away $500+K/yr. Also not me.

    What really put the damper on my aspirations... I went to NAJYRC as one of the team grooms. The quality of horses. The tension behind the scene. The fact that your/my competition has been throwing themselves 100% behind the horse aspirations since a ridiculously young age... I don't stand a chance.

    So instead I'm graduating in May with an engineering degree and a job offer. I'm going to work and ride my own horses, and I'm going to be the best adult amateur that I can be. And maybe that will attract some attention, and I'll get a sponsorship, and THE WORLD WILL BE MINE MWAHAHAHA... but more likely, I'll get some ribbons and take my horses home and go back to work on Monday.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul. 31, 2007
    Posts
    17,022

    Default

    It was/is lack of money for me first and last.

    I grew up riding anything and everything. I had the ability to improve a horse, to learn, to teach and I was/am strong with no real physical problems. I had/have a work ethic and the willingness and knowledge it takes to live poor.

    But I learned just how SOL I was when I graduated from college and why I would never again think about going pro. The folks I had worked for all through high school and a bit in college said, "Well, if you had wanted to be a horse trainer than you shouldn't have gone to college."

    Here's how it looked to me then: I could go to top 10 school and get what was then a $100K education for about $30K thanks to financial aid. I could get my parents to spend $0 on my horse career, of course. Even if they had put in the $30K they scrounged up for college before my 18th birthday, that wouldn't have *approached* what it would have taken to help me get a start as a horse pro.

    My parents didn't understand the horse world but they probably had a vibe: A handful of well-capitalized folks make a good living. The vast majority do not. If you could get in at the bottom of one hierarchy or near the top of another, what would you do? They were practical people.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan. 27, 2008
    Posts
    290

    Default

    Well I'll tell you my story...I'll try to stick with the short version

    I worked and rode and worked to ride all through growing up. I could fix horses and take the crazy ones and make them into successful show horses, ride the little ones and do whatever you needed on the ground, in the barn, etc. Non horsey fam, no cash for ponies, just stall cleaning and barn slave work for riding

    Everyone that I talked to when I was in high school said..."go to school, get a good job that will pay for you to be able to ride without having to make a living at it." So that's what I did. Great school, great job, etc.

    Fast forward to now...I'm 30. Not that old I know, but no longer a starry-eyed teenager dreaming of ponies. Except, I'm still dreaming of ponies! I had a good job that I really loved, and was very very good at. This job was paying me enough to have a couple horses, but I only have one. I spent all my effort trying to get better, move though the levels, etc...but I didn't have the TIME to have more than one horse! So now I was at the other end of the trouble spectrum...I'd spent my life up until that point trying to get the MONEY to afford the horses that I wanted and the training, equipment, etc. All of a sudden, I realized that I had it, I had the cash to get another horse, even a schoolmaster that I had access to...but I didn't have the TIME to ride and work more than one with dedication, AND work my full time job, AND be married! And we don't even have kids!

    So...I talked this over with my hubby for about 2 years And finally got him to see what I was talking about and how serious I was. I am lucky in that I was able to shift my job to more part time and took a 6 month hiatus from my life to be a working student! I wanted to make sure I really wanted to do what I thought I did. Well I do! So now, I work 2 days a week at my part time job (to cover my mare's expenses), have one horse in training, may have just picked up another and will have one or two more in a couple months! Slowly but surely I'm working towards my goals...which really haven't changed since I was a kid

    But, I'm glad I did it this way, because I like my life! I love the things I've been able to do and I'm glad I was able to get to a point where I felt what it was like to have enough money coming in and realize that wasn't all there was to it! And I was NOT wealthy in any way, solid middle class income, but it was enough...I don't spend my money on anything else!

    So I guess...you can do it. My biggest worry as I do this is that I never want to be one of those people who hang out a shingle and am not qualified to do so! So...I'm sticking to young horses in training (which I know) and furthering my own training with my mare at higher levels...

    Go for it!!! I need other people in this crazy boat I'm floating around in! Please! Bring an oar!

    I just wanted to add that I am GREATLY helped in this craziness by having an awesome husband who supports me mentally and financially! I am obviously not making enough with horses (yet!) to pay the mortgage...or buy food
    Last edited by echodecker; Apr. 11, 2011 at 08:18 PM. Reason: Can't forget the hubby!



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan. 16, 2008
    Posts
    267

    Default

    For the faint of heart:

    I was a young pro, and broke. Good at being a cowgirl eventer, and could ride anything, and did, but there was no money in it. I had no finesse at that time. So..... Went back to university and got a Masters. Went to work. Paid off student loans over 10 years. Finally went to Holland and was a working student for a top GP trainer at the ripe old age of 30. I learned a ton from him, but the best part was being able to ride his old international GP stallion. Bought an inexpensive 3 yr old from him (with the money from the sale of an Intermediate eventer I had trained from the racetrack). Came back to Canada and trained him myself, while working as a prof at colleges and university. Took him to the Pan Ams, WEG and the World Cup. No family money, no sponsorship except some wonderful people who saw some potential - but never more than $5000. per year, not the 500K that is being said here on the board. As I became more successful more businesses said they can support me with product, which helps ever so much! It comes slowly, but it does come if you can slog out the tough times.

    After the Pan Ams I had enough street cred to actually make a living in the business, so I finally went out as a pro again after many years. It was a long time coming, but it is possible without money of your own or huge sponsorship.

    It's hard, and takes much more if you don't have the money at your disposal, but it is possible. Not for the faint of heart for sure! If you have the desire and some talent, hard work and more hard work will get you the help you need. Age is not that much of a factor!

    In addition, I have to give much credit to a wonderful husband, whose contribution is the mortgage and unlimited emotional support, without whom I could not do this. I think after all it might be hard work, no giving up, and a friend or spouse who believes in you no matter what.....Without him I know this would not be possible.

    For those of you who dream - you don't have to have millionaire parents or made horses. It is possible if you work hard and open yourself to the opportunities that present themselves.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb. 8, 2011
    Location
    Canton Georgia
    Posts
    31

    Default Its a journey

    I am a professional trainer and I love my job. I didn't start out that way. I took the traditional advice of my parents and believed that I should go to college and get a good job so you can buy a house and have a family and assumed they were right when they told me that you can't make a living doing what you love. They were and still are very wrong. I have always been the type of person to have zero followthrough on things I am not invested in. I completed four years of college and and after the first semester of Grad school got in my car and never went back. My part time job developed into a full time job that lead into a 6 yr stint in management with that company until I was frustrated and walked out the door at one point. At that point I asked myself, "Now What?" I had been teaching a few students on the weekend and started to pick up other students here and there. For the last ten years I have built a thriving teaching and training business and and international horse sales business. It has never been my goal to be an international star, but rather to be a top notch honest professional in a service industry where I can help people. I am by no means rich, but I make twice the money I made in the corporate world and I get to do what I love everyday and get paid to do it. success for me is not measured by international standards but rather by how much integrity you bring to your business and whether you are helping people achieve their dreams and goals. This I believe has kept me in business and helps mine grow every year. For me it is not about me but about the people that I work for. In the end I am rewarded with a good annual salary that is steady and growing even in these economic times. This is a hard business in that horse trainers and professional riders are a luxury business. It some point everyone can sell or turn their horses out if the economy gets bad enough. I think to be standing in the long run you have to have integrity and realize that at the heart of this business is customer service.



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan. 16, 2008
    Posts
    267

    Default

    Absolutely true!



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar. 28, 2003
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    365

    Default

    I'm so happy to see some inspiring stories I myself am still a work in progress..
    Since I was 6 I knew I wanted to go to the olympics. I come from a very NON horsey, My first pony was bought from a family friend for 500 bucks. Every horse I bought after that was from the money I made off of selling that first pony for an "upgrade" as I got older, even now every horse I get is a sales horse.
    Went to college as a psych major and worked full time as a working student for a nearby dressage trainer. Learned so much, had amazing experiences, and was gearing up to find a horse to borrow for nayrc having the time of my life. Then an accident happened and my trainer was killed. She owned the barn so obviously the horses and clients had to move on
    The following summer I accepted a job where I was riding as a pro. It was a traveling job and did that for a year and when I returned to finish school I started a small lesson program and was starting horses on the side. Then I got an opportunity (I have a bad habbit at leaping at these lol) to work for a BNT as a working student and promptly moved to Florida. Afterwards I was hired to train at a local barn. 2 years later I am BACK in school trying to finish that dang degree finally and go on and get my masters.
    Now what I have discovered by playing in both worls off and on is that I am NOT going to choose between the 2 as everyone told me I had to. When I was doing school, my heart was crying for horses, when only at the barn, my head was yelling at me to get back in school. I also learned in the horse world that one instant can take everything you have been working for away, and do not want to ever be in that situation again..life happens. I have also gotten a chance to see how many different kinds of operations and learned how they SHOULD be run,and how it should never be run..
    Also I learned that while I love teaching lessons, the reason I love dressage so much is because of the relationship and watching the development of your horse.I ended up being too busy riding everyone elses horses I never had time to really spend the time I wanted to on my own horse.
    So as it stands now once I get my degree in sports psychology I plan to counsel part of the time as well as still ride professionally a limited number of horses at a time. Eventually I would love to mesh my two worlds together too but plan to just see where things go from there. As I said I do have a bad habbit of leaping at any opportunity if given the chance.
    It\'s not the color of the ribbon that counts,but the color of the ride.
    Oh My!



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan. 16, 2008
    Posts
    267

    Default

    Dressage Dreamer - you sound very wise! I will never regret the time and money I put into my degrees, it's a nice feeling that whatever happens I always have that to rely on.....I always try to recommend extra education if possible.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun. 7, 2006
    Posts
    9,650

    Default

    I have considered training full time, am still considering it, and am not in any rush.

    Currently my goals in life are to save up a nest egg, pay off my law degree, and buy a small farm. In the meantime I will keep a small string of sale horses and pursue the absolute best riding education I can on them, and do some part-time training and riding as the opportunities arise. Hopefully the sale horses will sell for decent money and help the whole nest-egg concept along.

    And then, when I am 40, and have my nest egg and farm squared away or at least a very healthy start, I may just have a mid life crisis and let it rip.




  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun. 2, 2010
    Posts
    52

    Default

    It's really interesting to read these stories. I'm currently in college and intend to graduate in a couple of years with a good degree. But my dream is to become a successful horse professional. Everyone tells me over and over that there's absolutely no money in horses, which gets discouraging. It's nice to hear that it can work even for people who don't start out with tons of money.



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec. 31, 2009
    Location
    Area 51
    Posts
    1,834

    Default

    Totally not for the faint of heart!!!

    And I am faint of heart. I could not stand the back-stabbing, gossip and downright nastiness that comes out when you begin to climb the horsey success ladder. People calling people at the shows to find out how you placed, hiding behind bleachers to see you ride, looking up your records that were in a locked file cabinet...yikes!

    I couldn't stand the drama+pressure to do well--it was too much for my sensitive nerves. It totally killed my wanting to do horses for a living.

    I hope I don't sound like a downer, that was not my intention--just thought I would give a different perspective. For me it wasn't the typical no money/sponser (had that) or good quality horses (had that too). It was my personality that got in the way.
    I LOVE my Chickens!



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar. 25, 2009
    Posts
    645

    Wink I Didn't/Won't Go Pro Because...

    ...I thought as I left high school and went to college (and still think) I might lose the LOVE I have for horses and riding...that I'd burn out doing it full-time, so I opted for permanent amateur status.

    And I see professionals who won't show under certain judges for fear of getting low scores...

    and pros with the pressure from owners of getting ridiculously high scores on every single ride...

    I witness the negative intensity and energy at recognized shows and it bothers me. I actually really DESPISE that negative energy and feel myself affected by it, but I try to surround myself with friends at shows and ignore the vibes. I've heard that the CDI shows are exponentially edgier, but I've never been to one, so that's heresay.

    The thrill (for me) comes from progressing on my OWN horse...in that unique partnership...I keep my horses (unless it's a really bad match) for life...I've never felt the need or want to ride everything in the barn or someone else's horse (unless the owner was a good friend.)

    I am miserable at selling horses.

    I ride my 2 horses daily (well, one has been lame on and off for a year...sigh...)...so, I guess my horses ARE in full-time training..... with ME! I lesson regularly, audit far more clinics than I ride in, and show 5-6X a year at recognized shows, do the BLMS or GAIGS.

    As an amateur, I have the luxury of focusing soley on my horse/my progress and my journey. I rush home from work EVERY SINGLE DAY to ride...it is my greatest LOVE.

    One day, if I can get my mare above 4th, I'd consider a hiatus from work/my life to train in a more "full time" capacity...I dream of going to Florida for the winter circuit to train...maybe, one winter, I'll save up! In reality, I'll find a Grand-Prix trainer I really like and relocate for a few months each year...and it won't matter if that person is in Florida or not.

    I recognize that my progress is FAR slower than if I were really training full time and that makes me antsy sometimes, but we all START at the bottom of training pyramid...

    So, basically, I'm thankful I can surround myself with pros that I respect and enjoy and learn from! And thankful they do their job so well, and with such grace, because I see how hard it is, but I have no desire to do that myself.
    Last edited by HollysHobbies; Apr. 13, 2011 at 12:03 PM. Reason: choix de colour



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr. 17, 2002
    Location
    between the barn and the pond
    Posts
    14,495

    Default

    HollysHobbies, that purple font is a killer and illegible on a white background

    I was unwilling to bite the bullet and do it for a few core reasons:

    Health Insurance (affordable, that is)

    Inherent instability of the market (horses are a luxury)

    Unwillingness to gamble in terms of where do I live? How do I get by? (At the time in my life I was pondering college vs horses I was riding western: I was too chicken to up and move to OK/TX etc and jump in head first into unknown water depths. I'm not made that way)

    Worried about money: Now that I'm married, and age 40...and I bring in 50% of the income toward our little life, I can't see me turning to Mr Kat and saying I think I'll go ride horses for a living. The headache, heartache, start up time and costs....he'd be shouldering the burden of our retirement planning. Add to that we aren't in a terribly horsey area so the market's thin already...and we'd have to invest a lot of money to make our place outside horse friendly in terms of turnouts, manure mgmt, etc (I'm really only set up for one outside horse at a time, no money in that approach)..aye aye for me, the list goes on and on.

    To be truthful, I did take a year off between 'real jobs' LOL and taught lessons, did some horsie stuff... but I tell you that for me, it was lonely and stressful trying to prep horses for resale, deal with whiney beginners and the crappy unsuitable horses they'd bought on their own and now had trouble with and now were contacting me for help...so while I have the skills to help more 'capable' riders, I'm still a green bean in terms of reputation, having a history, a show record to look up....so I was starting at the bottom with all that comes with being a new business. No thanks, I was ready to come back to corporate life, have a steady paycheck, time and money for my own lessons and shows, and to heck with making a go of it. I am 100% admiring of those who do it, and I pensively wonder 'if' every now and then...then I lie down for thirty minutes and it passes



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb. 7, 2011
    Posts
    661

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ShannonLee View Post
    For the faint of heart:

    I was a young pro, and broke. Good at being a cowgirl eventer, and could ride anything, and did, but there was no money in it. I had no finesse at that time. So..... Went back to university and got a Masters. Went to work. Paid off student loans over 10 years. Finally went to Holland and was a working student for a top GP trainer at the ripe old age of 30. I learned a ton from him, but the best part was being able to ride his old international GP stallion. Bought an inexpensive 3 yr old from him (with the money from the sale of an Intermediate eventer I had trained from the racetrack). Came back to Canada and trained him myself, while working as a prof at colleges and university. Took him to the Pan Ams, WEG and the World Cup. No family money, no sponsorship except some wonderful people who saw some potential - but never more than $5000. per year, not the 500K that is being said here on the board. As I became more successful more businesses said they can support me with product, which helps ever so much! It comes slowly, but it does come if you can slog out the tough times.

    After the Pan Ams I had enough street cred to actually make a living in the business, so I finally went out as a pro again after many years. It was a long time coming, but it is possible without money of your own or huge sponsorship.

    It's hard, and takes much more if you don't have the money at your disposal, but it is possible. Not for the faint of heart for sure! If you have the desire and some talent, hard work and more hard work will get you the help you need. Age is not that much of a factor!

    In addition, I have to give much credit to a wonderful husband, whose contribution is the mortgage and unlimited emotional support, without whom I could not do this. I think after all it might be hard work, no giving up, and a friend or spouse who believes in you no matter what.....Without him I know this would not be possible.

    For those of you who dream - you don't have to have millionaire parents or made horses. It is possible if you work hard and open yourself to the opportunities that present themselves.
    What a fab and inspiring story!



  16. #16
    Join Date
    May. 24, 2006
    Posts
    28

    Default

    "Well, it's the money that stopped me from gunning for international fame. That, and I'm not thaaaat great of a rider. But the costs of campaigning a horse for that level are astronomical. Unless you're endowed with a family fortune (not me) or friends who are willing to sponsor you and throw away $500+K/yr. Also not me." This.

    And also, having a husband or SO who is willing and able to support you while you build up your reputation, skills and clientèle. Not a lot of fun.



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan. 16, 2008
    Posts
    267

    Default

    I do believe that having the husband, partner or family who supports you emotionally is really important, but it probably is important regardless of what you want to excel at....Anyone who wants to do anything at the Olympic level has to be a little - shall we say "special" - driven, focused to the point of obsession, willing to sacrifice a ton of other things that are more important to more normal people....

    But we are not talking international superstars here, but all professionals in the business. Any start-up business takes a little time to get off the ground, and if you have the skills necessary (which you can get while working at another, paying job) then you can make it happen.

    For sure competing at the international level is very expensive, and I work very hard to afford it. My barn has 12 stalls, and 11 are client horses in full training - that makes me able to pay for my mare! (and I do take a salary most months - but not a huge one - to help pay household expenses).

    There is no way hard work does it all though, I have had a great childhood getting bucked off all sorts of horses, and a top horsewoman for a mother, who tried to teach me dressage (unsuccessfully) but who did teach me horses. I have had great friends who have rallied and helped when I really needed it.

    One great story is when I was named to the Pan Am team, I had absolutely no money to pay for Kathy Connelly (who coached me at the time) to come to the Games. I told her how much I needed her guidance there, but I could not pay her. She came anyway, and helped me through the whole very exciting and scary time. She said it was because when she was very broke and competing at the World Cup, Herbert Rehbein (sp?) helped her for no money, so she was paying it forward. I will forever be grateful, and now I am waiting for my turn when I get to help someone in a similar situation.....



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Apr. 10, 2011
    Posts
    538

    Default

    I am also one of those people who spent their whole teenae life working to have a horse and show, slaved through barn work and backing young horses. Ive worked at some very large stables in ontario, some private facilities, and a thoroughbred farm training horses for track.

    And then I ended up married, then the kids came...

    Since i've taken a break, im only 26 so I still have time. But like everyone has pointed out, it takes time and dedication. Im in the process of building myself back up, I have a part-time job, plus the full time job of caring for 2 young children.

    I don't have money, I grew up poor and am still not incredibly well off. I have 1 horse that im breeding, and taking the chance that in a few years I will have a decent prospect to enter back into the competition world.



  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar. 10, 2011
    Posts
    74

    Default

    At 50-something, all I will add is that as you get older, you don't regret the things you did nearly as much as you regret the things that you wanted to do, but didn't. If you love something & want to do it, don't let anyone, however well intentioned, discourage you from following your dream.



  20. #20
    Join Date
    May. 1, 2008
    Location
    Arizona
    Posts
    198

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ShannonLee View Post
    I was a young pro, and broke. Good at being a cowgirl eventer, and could ride anything, and did, but there was no money in it. I had no finesse at that time. So..... Went back to university and got a Masters. Went to work. Paid off student loans over 10 years. Finally went to Holland and was a working student for a top GP trainer at the ripe old age of 30. ...
    This post was really inspiring

    I'm about to graduate from my undergrad and reading through this thread really is great food for thought.... I did NAYRC eventing- it's been 5 years now since I've done a recognized HT and I find I'm saying the same thing to myself that I was saying when I was running Intermediate, planning the moves for Advanced, etc - I don't want to rely on the horses to pay the bills, I want to keep enjoying it, etc.

    But I've been breaking & training Arabs during college for my money on the side (and now to pay for board for my first pony, the ottb wonder) and I think - I would love to just ride all day even if it's a discipline I am not as excited about. Problem is, I'm missing that refinement that I would have gotten had I been riding with a coach or as a WS the last five years, or had the money for lessons now.

    Rambling aside, I feel like many of the other posters who have thought about it but haven't - where does that leave me now? Get a real job that will definitely pay off the student loans, and hope I have enough time to keep doing it on the side? For how long?
    “They were not sitting backwards on their horses,” he said with a sly smile. “But they had no dressage preparation..." - Bert de Nemethy



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