Oh, to be young with such dreams! Awesome! I second what was said a bout riding lots of different horses and get yourself attached to a good trainer in some capacity. Training involves far more than showing horses. You need to be able to handle customers, care for your horses, deal with the less than perfect horse, and so much more. Since you are only 14 your job is to watch, ride, listen and learn.
Another idea that hasn't been mentioned is joining the pony club and working up through the levels. The horsemanship testing, especially, is rigorous and will teach you a lot that can be used in any discipline. I think they *just* started a hunter-specific track, but even if eventing isn't you *thing* working through the lower levels will be great cross training and will expose you to clinicians/teaching you might not otherwise be able to afford.
For OP, what is available around you as far as Pony Club or your trainer (or another close by) would be interested in giving you a part time job or limited working student position? Limited availability because you are 14, in school and need a ride from somebody else?
Think hard. Might be grooming or stall cleaning in a QH barn or helping bring Ayrabs in at a breeding farm. But you have to think about something that will start you on the bottom steps of that ladder and get you started. I am sure you know that you don't start as a pro rider because professional riders ride for owners and groups of owners that are careful who gets their business. Start early in building a resume of satisfied employers who can give you references as you move along and up. Build your people skills too, you will ride for somebody else as a pro, learn to be a good employee.
Maybe even ask your trainer if you can just be a barn rat and hang around the barn every single free moment you have. Pick up, sweep aisles and clean tack for free without being asked. If you show a good work ethic, you will become trusted and get more opportunities.
And READ, read, read everything you can get your hands on. From magazines to George Morris books to getting familiar with the USEF/USHJA rules rated show run under (for example "Juniors" show rated at 3'6" in the Hunters and about 4'+ with combinations and, possibly, water in the rated Junior Jumpers). If you have been showing around 3'? You are, in the rated world, a Childrens division rider at this point.
Kind of like looking at the map before starting a road trip. Start planning ahead...no GPS telling you to turn right when you are approaching a decision point. Learn where you want to go, be an expert in it and then work to get there.
Good luck to you.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
Ahahaha! I love those videos, Atlas Shrugged!
OP, you also need to understand that becoming a pro doesn't normally mean showing your own horses in the upper levels/Olympics. You would need a whole string of your own upper level horses to do it on your own.
So I second all the suggestions to work on horsemanship skills (torture your ponies by learning how to wrap, pull and braid manes like a pro, and clip!), resume, and people skills, as well as learning to ride every kind of horse. Chances are you will encounter many horses along the way that aren't "pushbutton" or easy.
And be humble. You can learn something from EVERYONE.
Best of luck!!
Originally Posted by Nickelodian
We jump horses. Over sticks. For fun.
Never take life too seriously. Nobody makes it out alive anyway. Regulus RDL
I would make it your goal to get to HA and at least B level riding, if you can. That will give you an excellent foundation. And with the systemation PC approach, you should be able to accomplish that by getting smaller goals for ratings etc.
It's great that you have big dreams. You do sound young so I am going to echo the working student idea. You'll start out doing a lot of mucking and grooming, with likely little riding, and that's okay. Don't get frustrated. Prove what you're worth and you'll get saddle time.
I know that when you're young, money seems a lot different. When I was a little kid, I won a drawing for $100 worth of clothes at the local department store. I thought I had hit it big time! (Not calling you a little kid, of course, just saying how perspectives change). I don't know how much you have saved up, but at these big shows you can easily spend $1000 in a weekend (WITHOUT a stall!)
"A horse gallops with his lungs, perseveres with his heart, and wins with his character." - Tesio
In addition, there are pros and there are pros. Very few make it to the BNT level, but there are many pros who eek out a living teaching and riding at the more local level. If you can ride AND teach (many good riders are not great teachers, and many great trainers/teachers are not the best riders) you can make it at the lower levels. Most of these pros that I know do it all - teach, do schooling rides, look for horses for clients, and show client's horses...but showing client's horses at this level is usually NOT the main money-maker Its the lessons and training rides that end up being your "bread and butter".
Lots of good input for anyone on this thread. Much of it is applicable to other jobs as well as riding. But as a BNT/BNR or even a non-BNT/BNR other skills beyond the horse will be needed. People skills, learning to understand the client's perpsective, negotiation with vendors, understanding how to present a business case.
Mad horse riding skills will help, but that alone might not be enough.
I second the Working Student part. A girl I was a nanny for is currently a WS for Will Simpson (how cool right!). It has really given her MAJOR insight on the big showing world. I started my own horse training business after my second year of college, and it has really opened my eyes personally. I never, EVER want to be a horse trainer for a living. It is a good college job, but I would much rather be a client! I strongly suggest testing the waters as much as possible however you can. It has helped Aud (Will Simpson's WS) and myself open our eyes to the type of careers we actually want. I also second college! You can still decide to be a professional after college.
Filling out the application and submitting videos of yourself will help you to identify your goals and getting letters of recommendations from trainers and school teachers will make them see that you are serious about the sport. This will provide you with a base of support as you go forward. Good luck, never give up!
Good replies, but I am wondering how much a 'ton' of money is. From your original post I gather you really do mean the 'top'. I certainly don't mean to rain on your parade, but you may need some additional information to discuss with your parents as far as your family's potential financial committment may be.
So, here is some input on the fiscal logistics of this little niche of the horse world. Realistically, getting to the 'top' can mean the investment of several hundreds of thousands of dollars, just for one horse (I see you presently have 2). Now tack everything else on and you get the picture. It's been hashed out before, but for showing at that level you've got to be able to shell out on average anywhere between 5-15,000 per month (depending on the number of shows/horses) and be able to go where the big shows are - east coast, Florida, California, etc. And don't forget, since you are still in school, you will have to arrange to attend classes while you are showing away from home, like during WEF in Jan/Feb.
Being at the top means showing and placing well at this level. It can be a HUGE financial committment for your family. Of course there are many other ways of working up to the 'top' of the H/J world, but just wanted you to have this information in your toolbox. Good luck!!
Some days the best thing about my job is that the chair spins.
Being a working student is the best way to get experience. Once you are 18 and you have the chance, see if you can get an opportunity as a working student in Europe. You may have the talent and ambition to meet your goals. I never like to discourage anyone.
You are 14. Concentrate on school first, riding second. Unless your parents are on board with all of this, your immediate future is in THEIR hands, not yours. When you turn 18 and can call your own shots AND still want to do this and have some talent, you will be able to get better guidance. Until then, concentrate on learning to ride both jumpers and hunters effectively. Forget the eq. That is not going to get you to be a top pro. Try to get into the Emerging Athletes Program. Pony Club will give you your horsemanship, but won't necessarily make your riding better. Find an old school trainer who will insist on basics.
When you turn 18, let us know if your plans are the same.
First, keep in mind that Reed and BNT's are the exception and far from the rule. That said, there are many very good horsemen provide good service and horsemanship skills to happy clientele across the country, while never being written up in COTH or wearing the red jacket of an international rider.
First, be sure your trainer knows that riding/training is really your goal. Offer as much help as possible, be it mucking or feeding or wrapping or tending to hurt or sick horses. You learn a ton this way. Ride anything you are offered, anything.
Discuss your goals with your parents. College is very expensive. If they are planning on assisting you with college and thinking ahead to a 4 year tuition expense, maybe you can consider a 2 year community college option with the remainder going to assist in your riding career. (Funding an "apprenticeship" instead of college coursework is not something every parent sees as a worthy goal.) Your family needs to be on board with your decision as they will be involved. In order to make a name for yourself, you will need to travel. The Big EQ is the most likely way for juniors to get noticed and that requires a "lifestyle" commitment from your family. The alternative is in the junior hunters. In the EQ however, a very good rider on a less than top class horse might get noticed. In the hunters, you need to be sitting on exceptional horses to be pinning high and getting attention.
Go to as many big shows as possible. Go and stand by the schooling ring and watch and listen. Observe the best riders and trainers school and then watch how it translates into the ring. Get an idea of what it takes to win at the top levels of hunters, jumpers and equitation. Ride with as many top riders as possible. Do clinics whenever possible. Step out of your usual genre and try an event trainer or dressage trainer. There are many things to learn from an array of trainers.
Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique
One thing to point out is, when Reed Kessler was 14, she was already a veteran Pony Jock and was cleaning up the children's jumpers.
Who is the best trainer in your area? When I mean area, as in a four hour radis. Jacob Pope has to travel 8 hours to get to heritage farm, and Madison Goetzmann used to live four hours away and only get to take lessons twice a month.
I hope to see you in the winners circle in the future! Good Luck!
Last edited by ChocolateHooves; Nov. 16, 2012 at 12:57 PM.
Reason: Spelling errors
MY #1 WORD OF ADVICE EVER: Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Finish school. Graduate high school, go to college. Get a degree in something you love just as much as you love riding (be it literature or equine studies or engineering or business). Have a contingency plan (what if you get injured? burned out? have a financial crisis that prohibits you from riding/showing as much as is necessary to become a top rider?)
Ride as much as you can, read as much as you can, watch as much as you can.
Remember that for every one Top Rider/Trainer there is, there are 1000s more who aren't. Like an above poster said, the BNTs and Olympians are the EXCEPTIONS, not the RULES.
Something else to think about that I mentioned in a similar thread in the eventing forum recently: You don't age out of horse sports. It's okay if you get your dream of being a horse pro when you're older than 18. I got my part-time working student gig when I was 33 and spent the first 6 months cleaning stalls and tacking up horses in 103 degree heat. Now, at just barely 35, I'm riding fabulous horses and even show some of them. Because I'm compensated I am, in the USEF's eyes, a pro. I have learned though that I absolutely do not want to be a horse professional with all of my income horse related. It is hard. Really, really hard. And you don't necessarily realize that until you're sitting there with someone in the trenches, trying to make ends meet.
When I was about this age I wanted to be a horse trainer. A circuit for sure. My mom mentioned that then you got to ride mostly problem horses. And that's the truth.
Yes, you get to ride and show. But generally, if the horses are good, you're clients will be showing them. And that's the reality of the sport. Very few trainers will have a client sponsor their riding fully.