I just want to be clear, since people know me and know where I work, that I AM happy and I do like my job. But I have learned a lot about myself in the last year or so. When my job here is done (the farm is on the market), I have a lot of soul searching and thinking to do. I've already been doing a lot of it. I have some very exciting ideas...but a few of those ideas will require some serious leaps of faith.
As the mom of an 18 year old rider, and having been a rider myself, years AND YEARS(!) ago, here is what i think about your situation. First of all, ask yourself this question....of all of the horse people you know, which of those people are making a real career out of their horses and are being successful. if you can answer that question, then maybe you should go work for one of them...for free...for at least 6 months. Do everything they do, when they do it and see if you still like it (6 months might not be enough time). My daughter has had her horses for 6 years and because we are not wealthy people, heck we barely make ends meet, she (we) have had to do self care for our horses every.single.day for all of those years (by the way, we do not have our own barn so we have to travel to the barn every.single.day) Even though we love it, it gets old, but we still (have to) do it. In saying this, my daughter has learned that, when she gets older, she still wants to have horses, but she does not want to be the main caregiver of whatever horses she has, so she has decided that she is going to go to college and get a degree in a field that will have a very lucrative job market (she has done much research) and will get a job (and this kid goes after what she wants so i have no doubt about her goals) that pays her well enough to afford to have someone else care for her horses and she can FINALLY have her fun. Also, we know several young women who have gone to college for the equine sciences and NONE of them have jobs in that field, because there just aren't that many of those kinds of jobs to have. I think many, many young women your age go through what you are going through and i think many of those young women have parents who are thinking the way your parents are thinking. See, we parents are able to see the big picture better than you guys because we've "been there and done that", my daughter doesn't always seem to understand that but it really is true. we only want the best for you guys and at least from my experience, having a job (a real, good paying job) in the horse world really isn't realistic.
...Whenever I even try and consider a "real" job outside of horses, I feel my heart sink. I get panicked...
Ahhhhhh, wait until you buy a house, get married, start a family or make a major move many states away from home. You never grow out of that panicked feeling when fear of the unknown and all the "what ifs" creep into the warm, fuzzy world of the familiar. But that is part of being an adult and what your parents are trying to prepare you to deal with.There will be many changes as you go thru life-some you won't see coming.
Some of us ary trying to tell all of the posters with the same concerns they need to explore life more before deciding horses are the one and only thing they ever want to deal with, who knows what other passions you may discover.
Anyway...one thing your folks have a right to be concerned about is the health care situation. Yes they can keep you on their policy. However, many places run the help under the table, cash only, with no workmans comp or anything like that. If/when you do get hurt as either uncovered employee or unpaid working student, your folks insurance will cover BUT want to know when where and how you were hurt and they can go after the barn owner to recoup the claims cost. especially if you have more then one claim. That release you sign excludes negligence or unsafe conditions and they may try to prove that and get the barn owner to pay.
That recent developement and our propensity to sue have changed the way barn owners and managers deal with help and WS issues. Makes it harder to find entry level opportunities as more and more barns are reluctant to expose themselves to liability risk.
One more thing I think will help you...and I do not mean this in a mean way at all so don't anybody take this personally. Jessica, you want to get into the A show environment, correct? Then you need to do that. You already have good barn experience at the local levels, can communicate very well and seem to have a good work ethic.
The areas you mentioned in another thread are well off the major circuit trail and away from population centers that tend to have higher disgressionary incomes-that means there is not much need for the big show type barns. So those barns in that area, and many others, are not going to really help you take that first step up the ladder. You may ride more but not anything much more then what you ride now...and you won't make many of the kinds of contacts that can help you get involved or learn to work with and turn out a AA quality animal appearance wise (and that's harder then riding them). Most will want you to be able to manage them in the barn and get them all dressed up to AA standard before you ever throw a leg over and get on one. That's fair and the traditional way to break in as a horseman, not just another rider begging rides.
Cleveland is not so far, has AA barns and good quality local shows, so does Columbus. Buffalo too, maybe Pittsburg. There are COTH posters in these areas who might be able to recommend good show barns you can contact. Now, you have less then a 1 in 10 chance of getting a working student position, at best. But you are probably 5 or 6 in 10 to get a groom or barn help slot.
I would also like to suggest that you try to arrange kind of a "tag along" or shadow arrangement with a trainer when you go to a few AAs as you said you would like to. Just showing up to watch and trying to talk to them with no introduction when they are sleep deprived and busy is not the best way. Plus you don't know who they are and there are a few that we would rather you did not associate with.
Go on Wednesday or Thursday too, "Pro days". Anything after Friday around noon and they are knee deep in Ammies and Pony kids coming in to lesson then show over the weekend. Although, if you make a good impression and are free, spending the day seeing how a busy show barn works might be quite beneficial-you might even make yourself useful if asked if you make a good impression on that trainer earlier in the week.
Kick that door open girl, I'm just middle class, parents could not afford it. But I lived near an A barn and took lessons there when I hit 18 and got an outside job, eventually a cheap, young horse. I had the contacts and worked off alot of board over the years in those fancy barns-I learned how to turn those horses out to standard and develop contacts. So can you.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
My advice is to focus on an education and profitable career outside the horse world whereby you can fund all of your horse desires. Please don't ever count on a spouse to help fund your way. As a judge, I have seen way too many women sitting on the curb when a marriage goes south.
Get an education and focus on a career that will provide a good living. Thereafter, you can spend as much time as you want with your horses.
Someone once told me that my job does not need to be my life's work- my vocation- my passion.
It's true. Horses, and animals for that matter, are my vocation. I know that- just like I know my current boyfriend is THE ONE.
But they are not my job. At 17, I knew that my chances of being a successful professional rider were slim to none. Why? Because REALLY successful professional trainers are already competing at an advanced level by that age and I wasn't. My parents could not afford for me to ride and compete at an "A" level, or buy me a horse with more advanced potential. And even though I know there are lots of professional horse people out there that were not necessarily advanced in their careers by 17, I wasn't interested in a life of hard labor, which is what I saw a lot of trainers doing.
So I went to college and I tried being a veterinary technician after college, which did NOT pay enough to support myself and a horse, and I went to the back-up plan. Teach high school math. And I'm happy doing it- I love my job- but it is NOT my entire life.
At some point in the future I might own a small barn and I know rescuing/rehabbing animals will ALWAYS be a part of my life (I guess I was supposed to be vet tech for a while- I gained a lot of veterinary knowledge doing that).
I do not know what part of the country Jessica is in, but if she is in KY she is in luck, two ways. University of Louisville has an equine business degree, I believe and UK in Lexington offers close proximity to many breeding and training farms where she could work part time whilst attenting school. In Iowa, there is Kirkwood Community college, credits from which are acceptable to 4 year degree schools and Kirkwood has an AI Tech/Vet Tech curriculum in addition to general equine studies. In Missouri, William Woods University would allow for combining academics with horse activity. There are many more, but those come to mind.
Last edited by sdlbredfan; Feb. 2, 2013 at 08:49 PM.
RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.
Think about attending a big state university that has an Agriculture School. My daughters both went to the Ag school at the University of Maryland, College Park. They loved the Ag school. Not only did they get a good education at a reasonable price, but they had so many opportunities to enjoy the best parts of the Ag world. UMD has a course that is nicknamed "Lamb Watch" where students watch the lambs being born. Both daughters took a diseases of wildlife course that was so interesting. There were lots of equine classes available, although neither daughter could fit those classes into the schedule because they had so many other interesting class choices, as well as the requirements for their majors. After graduating, both daughters decided to go to grad school, although they had plenty of job opportunities. College can be a lot of work, but also can be a lot of fun.
I am probably not the best person to give you advice because I am pretty close to being in your shoes. At 15, I have the same passion as you. My parents aren't rich by any means, and I don't have a horse, but I ride about six times a week, if every thing goes well. I lease a mare, and I ride for my coach and also get paid by a boarder to ride her older horse. I work 5 days a week at the barn down the street with an awesome eventing coach and two days a week at McDonald's because that was the only place who hired me when I started looking at 14. Right now, I'm on the path to buy myself an OTTB this fall, and I, too, plan on taking a year off before college to become a working student.
I absolutely understand that the horse industry chews you and up spits you back out. That it is rough and not a fairy tale lifestyle, usually. But I must say there is something about knowing exactly what you want to do at 17. Many have no idea. You need a plan to execute it, but having a plan is a lot more than most people can say. I wouldn't recommend throwing yourself into the industry - go to college, be a working student in summers, attempt to graduate with as little debt as possible. Get a good job and teach lessons in evenings and compete/teach on weekends to get established. Get good enough to be known around your area (easier said than down) and work your way out. If you want to be at the top of your sport and afford to stay there, then I would wait until your having some competitive success at the upper levels to start running your own business. You don't necessarily have to buy your own farm, either, since there may be options to lease farms, especially in horse country.
Sorry about all that. I could go on and on just because I feel very similar to you. Overall, don't let any one kill your dream. If you want it bad enough and you aren't limited by anything other than your own attitude, you can make it happen. While the advice is very helpful, only your experience in your own time can decide what is best for YOU and what YOU truely want.
"If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise."
I Love your passion for the horse Industry and can remember a time when i frlt exactly like you do now. The thought of not working with horses for the rest of my life was sickening. Knowing what I know now, I am forever grateful that my mother guided me away from that lifestyle. I went to school, and get paid very well As a professional and can afford to pay other people to do the dirty work. I chose to only work 3-4 days a week so I can spend more time with horses and my family and I absolutely love it.
I'm not sure if this has been mentioned yet, but in case it hasn't, now is the time to do some careful market research about which degree will get you a job that pays enough to sustain a horsey lifestyle after school. There is an overwhelming number of young people who have just graduated from university looking for jobs that currently aren't available so be careful. College is only a good plan if you pick the correct field, otherwise it is a very expensive way to spend four years of your lifewith no guarantee of employment.
You know there is a middle ground which a lot of my working students and former lessons kids go and split the difference by going to college that includes horse related careers, such as Colorado State or Rocky Mountain College where they have and entire Equestrian Studies department with majors and minors.
Also just because you get a "real job" is no guarantee of health insurance or other benefits. Buying health insurance is part of the cost of doing business, and is an element to consider when negotiating things as an independent contractor or small business. I would almost guarantee they have a class in small business and benefits. You don't need to have all of the answers, that's what college is for; To ask questions, learn about yourself and find answers on your own.
If you had all of the answers you wouldn't need to go to college!
I agree that Colorado State is an example of a school that might interest you. You may want to pick a major in Computer Science or Accounting or something else that is marketable, but also take a lot of equine and Animal Science electives. You don't want to graduate with a lot of debt. A $1000 per month loan payment will make life difficult. What does your state university have in the way of programs that interest you?
I am a professional educator, and I agree that the OP (or any young person considering college) should carefully work out how much debt he/she will have to take on to get that degree. It is also imperative that the prospective college student be highly motivated. I teach a lot in our university's "core" (required general education courses), and I see too many students drop out because they don't really know why they are in college, or they are there because someone else, usually the parents, are pushing it. They don't do well...and unfortunately, the debt is still there whether or not they have earned any credits.
I also have come to the conclusion that the general attitude in our country of pushing all students to try to achieve a bachelor's degree is doing them a disservice...it's not easy, and not everyone has the academic abilities or mindset to do it. You may think I'm an elitist, but I've seen too many kids fall by the wayside in college--that's in spite of all the retention policies and programs the typical university, including ours, has in place. Some of them may do better by working for a few years and coming back to college when they are older, but others simply would be better off doing something else with their lives.
I heard a neigh. Oh, such a brisk and melodious neigh as that was! My very heart leaped with delight at the sound. --Nathaniel Hawthorne
I am planning on going to college to get a business degree as well as an English degree so that I can support myself outside of the industry if I need too.-Jessica
Take a look at the University of Louisville's College of Business's Equine Studies program.... and Churchill Downs is just a few blocks away.... my son had his track card and was an exercise rider while attending school.
Also there are just about unlimited opportunities to work with nearly any breed of horse with in a few miles of Louisville
Haven't read the replies, so this may be redundant.
Get your degree, and make sure it's one that will land you a job in a field that can support the equestrian lifestyle. Later, you may be able to make it possible to become involved full time and professionally in the horse word.
Want to show your parents you're not only serious, but financially responsible? Subscribe to a personal finance magazine (Kiplinger's has worked well for me) and learn from it. It'll give you plenty of advice, not only on insurance and retirement plans, but also on everyday management of your money. From my experience, it's the best $12 you'll ever spend.
“There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.”
I only read the first page of replies, so forgive me if this has been said already, but from a current college student's perspective, stay open to new ideas/things/passions.
When I was your age, I wanted to work in the equine industry, most likely as a barn owner or manager. Upon being told that the money and means of supporting yourself is a touch lacking, I decided I would instead be an equine vet. I volunteered/worked/etc with local vets but it wasn't until college that I realized my idea of a passion and my true passion were completely different. It took me three years, but I settled into animal agribusiness and adore the field. I started my own business, began working on some research and am loving it.
I will always have horses. I own one currently and there are plans to purchase one for my husband in the future. It's not that I don't love the horse industry and wouldn't take the chance to work exclusively in it, I just discovered along the way that my passion was different than I thought. I changed SO radically from 17 to 23 that it's amazing sometimes. In a word, don't be afraid (or embarrassed like me) to change your mind later.
And if you'd like to talk about the above/have questions (it wasn't that long ago that I was making your decisions and having the same conversation with my parents!) just PM me
To be loved by a horse should fill us with awe, for we hath not deserved it.
I was a lucky kid that started and trained Arabs in message when I was in high school. The trainer paid me a flat rate every week, and I got to show for free and receive free lessons. I was very lucky to have that opportunity.
Here's the bad part.
I started resenting horses. They weren't enjoyable anymore. The trainer certainly didn't have the same discipline theory that I did, and I had to put up with horses being naughty towards me and it quit being enjoyable.
I made out ok financially, and I have priceless experience.
It's possible to "make it" in the industry, but it takes a lot of work in the salt mines.
I say get a degree so you could have it as a hobby you can afford. Otherwise you may not end up enjoying horses anymore.
Originally Posted by dizzywriter
My saddle fits perfectly well. It might be a little tight around the waist, but I take care of that with those spandex things.
An interesting observation of some young women who want to work as assistant trainers. Most only want to ride and not teach. It seems teaching is beneath them, especially if it is the lower level riders.
I havn't read all the replies, but I was the same way you are. At 17 and 18 all I wanted was a career in horses. Except with me it was racehorses. I followed my dreams right out of high school and worked at the track for 15 years. I trained and taught lessons, I had a barn full of horses.
It was fun! Then the pain started setting in. I have damage to both rotator cuffs, I have degenerative joint disease in my neck and back. I have osteoarthritis in my hands, wrists and knees, and I hurt so bad some mornings I can barely get out of bed. I am only 39.
I am now working and have been working an "inside" job as a secretary for the last few years. I am going to school to get my degree, which is harder to do now that I am older and working full time than it would have been when I was younger and my parents would have helped me.
Yes, take a summer and play with the horses, but get an education so you don't beat your body up and have no insurance to care for yourself like I did. It sucks! You pay for it in the long run!
Good luck. Don't give up on the horses, but have them as a hoby, not a job.