I started working as an assistant for Caitlyn Shiels at True North Stables about a year ago, and I knew it would be a career move that would set me on the right path toward achieving my goals, not just in the near future, but also for where I see myself way down the road.
Unlike many professional riders, I’m not dying to get into the show ring, so Caitlyn does most of the showing, and I step in where needed. I like to focus on training, horse sales and helping manage the business. Having my degree from Centenary University (New Jersey) and a business-oriented mindset helps me have a broad outlook on the industry as a whole and also allows me to focus on what’s most important to me and to True North.
An important factor for me beyond the horses and running the business is where I’ll be in the future, financially. I’m not just looking at next year or the year after. I’m thinking ahead to when I’ll be too old to do this job anymore. In this industry, many positions are short-term, and you see people hopping from job to job with little to no security and no long-term plan or lifelong protection.
This is one of the most significant challenges we face in this industry. At the end of a 40-year career, unless you plan ahead, you very likely won’t have health insurance or a retirement fund. Everyone has an expiration date working on the ground in our sport. Your body just can’t do the same work at a certain age, and few people take the time required to begin planning for their future when they are young.
In addition to helping the True North business succeed, I’m also investing in myself. There are two areas in particular that I feel are critical: having a savings plan and looking for business growth opportunities that will hopefully turn a profit down the line.
I contribute to an IRA monthly and believe setting aside money is one of the greatest favors you can do for yourself. Eventually, I hope I can diversify my investment portfolio, so my money can do even more of the work for me. I learned the value of investing from my father; he has always advocated planning for the future as opposed to just living in the moment. With this in mind, I began to look to other professionals in the industry and learn from them. I admire the ones who are not only building a solid reputation, but who are also planning for long-term financial success.
Another outlet for investment I’m working on is the management of my own sales horses. It’s something that will provide more than just income for my future – it’s also giving me invaluable business and horse experience. Selling horses can require significant investment upfront in order to pay off in the long run, but I’m starting slowly so I can learn the right way and have a greater chance for success. My goal of having quality sales horses coming in and out of True North also helps the business and its reputation as a top show stable.
I’m putting in the time now to plan for my own financial health and the development of the True North business to help ensure that we are all in a secure position when we step down from running the business.
People don’t talk much about retirement in this sport, but I’m hoping to start that conversation. Many of us lack the patience to think far into the future because we’re so focused on the here and now. Working for someone often makes it hard to feel like you have enough power to ask for or create investment opportunities. It’s less important to me to just work for the top names in the sport; I’d rather have a strong, steady career where I’m not just working for the moment, but I’m also working for my future.
If you’re still young and getting started with your career, look into ways you can invest and create business opportunities for yourself. Some of us can learn from relatives or family friends who have experience investing, but there are plenty of free resources online, as well. If you’re in the latter half of your career, know it’s never too late to start a new business venture or begin saving for when you are no longer in the saddle. Anything you can do to help your future self is worth the investment.
Cody Wooten is a young hunter/jumper professional currently working as assistant trainer for Caitlyn Shiels’ True North Stables, with bases in Illinois and Florida. True North Stables is dedicated to providing individualized training that allows horses and riders of all levels to achieve their goals.