Finding My Way In The Horse Industry

Nov 2, 2022 - 7:58 AM

I’ve been obsessed with horses for as long as I can remember. I wanted to grow up to become a trainer until I was 12 or 13, at which point I realized I only ever wanted to ride for fun and never for obligation. Short of becoming another hands-on professional within the industry like a vet or a farrier, I assumed I was destined to be an amateur rider, working outside the horse world to make money to stay in it.

Through college and in the four or five years after, I lacked direction. I struggled with the concepts of self-identification and purpose, as many of us do in our early- to mid-20s. I majored in Spanish in college because I was good at it and had no better ideas, but once I graduated, I realized I was actually expected to do something with that degree, which had somehow never fully dawned on me. (I realize now what a ridiculous thought process that is and fully accept the stupidity of it all.) I didn’t want to teach the language, and I didn’t want to interpret, so there was no neat path lined up for me.

I floundered around trying to find direction. I did a brief stint in professional makeup artistry, then landed in an administrative assistant role I liked. I stumbled into a few marketing responsibilities at work, which really appealed to my creative side. Maybe that was the path meant for me.

During the 2020 pandemic, though, I was furloughed indefinitely from my job, which felt like my professional rock bottom. I was unemployed with a degree in something I didn’t want to pursue and very few qualifications in the field I was interested in. I tried to channel my subsequent anxiety and existential dread into some soul-searching. What did I love? What did I love to do? What were my strengths, and how could I play to them in a professional setting?

Adriaanse MD 5 Star Photo slider
Blogger Laura Adriaanse combined passion and profession working an equine media gig with Major League Eventing during the Mars Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill. Photo Courtesy Of Laura Adriaanse

The short and all-encompassing answers were: horses and writing. What did that look like? Writing a book didn’t really appeal to me. I dug deeper and realized I really love horse shows specifically, regardless of the discipline. Could I write about horse shows? Was that a viable and even remotely lucrative career path?

I soon discovered the world of equestrian media. It all started with my first blog post I submitted to the Chronicle of the Horse and grew from there into other smaller opportunities, like writing sales and lease ads for my then-trainer. It all felt right and not like work at all, so I glommed onto this concept. I pooled my resources and decided to pursue graduate school in strategic communications, and I figured I would iron out the details along the way.

Fast forward a year and a half, and here I am, 70% through my graduate program and absolutely loving it. For the first time, I’m excited about the future of my career. I’ve caught onto the concepts in school pretty quickly, and I’ve sought out opportunities to put them to use within the context of horses, like securing a contract to write an email marketing campaign for an equine bodywork company.

Everything really fell into place for me when I was afforded the opportunity to cover the Mars Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill. I contracted for the equestrian media firm Major League Eventing, running its social media and conducting interviews with the athletes.

The four days I spent at the event felt like home. I could spend all day at a horse show just for fun, but working at a show and being so involved in the action each day just added a layer of excitement. I felt like the social media aspect came naturally to me, in large part because of how passionate I was about the subject matter. I followed both the three-star and five-star divisions and posted regular updates, and I featured the company’s sponsors and interspersed their advertisements with the horse show content.

I was mere feet from Elisa Wallace and Renkum Corsair as they went clear through the three-star show jumping to lock in the win, and I captured some up-close photos of the moment Elisa realized she’d won. I witnessed Hannah Sue Hollberg’s final event aboard her legendary Harbour Pilot. I laughed with Tim Price, the No. 1 rider in the world, about his pre-event dinner of McDonald’s and beer. I interviewed multiple Olympians from around the world minutes after they’d completed the five-star cross country track. I hadn’t had so much fun or felt so fulfilled in ages. I would have paid to do all this; the fact that I was being paid was practically inconceivable to me.

I left the final day of the event with a sense of confidence in my purpose that I’ve never felt before. I’d found a way to combine my passion for horses, my proclivity for writing, my new expertise in marketing and media, and my love of horse shows into a realistic, sustainable career path. The potential opportunities for my future career are so exciting; I simply cannot wait to delve further into them.

I suppose this is just a long-winded, anecdotal account of figuring out that there are so many options for careers within the horse industry, no matter your strengths and interests. The corny old adage “love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life” turns out to be not so corny and actually rather sage advice. I am confident that there is a path for everyone in the industry beyond riding professionally, and I’m so grateful to have found my way here.

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