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Making a big leap into dressage career

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  • Making a big leap into dressage career

    Posting for advice: I am youngish (not junior) rider that loves my horses and my sport (dressage). I'm ready to make a big life change and would like to go and attempt to find a working student position with a dressage trainer that is regularly riding and/or producing med/big tour horses.
    About me: I've worked for a couple small local trainers, ridden many different horses and really pride myself on being able to get excellent basics on hard horses and make them go really well. Ridden horses to 4th/I in lessons, but have never trained or retrained a horse beyond 3rd. Working hard at that now! Have not showed much, but will in the future. Most of all, I want to make a career in dressage for myself. It's kindof become clear I need more education but I don't really know who to talk to about it, so I thought posting might be worth a try.

    If you were me, where would you start? Who would you approach and how?


  • #2
    If I were looking to make this move, and had all the flexibility in the world, I'd use every contact I had to find a good working student position in one of the large dressage areas of the country. My first thought is Wellington.

    I'd sell everything, pack up my car and go. Once you're there, if the first position doesnt work out, you're better set to find another since you're already down there.

    It will be years of hard work but could set you up for a solid career.


    • #3
      Sorry, I can no longer recommend young people get into this sport professionally. The risk vs reward is so ridiculously skewed these days it's not worth it.


      • #4
        I have been a working student and an employee (groom to barn manager) over my lifetime, and 15+yrs as a trainer/instructor. If I could start over again as a young person, I would go to Europe because more horses, higher quality of dressage, faster learning process, BUT TOUGHER! I could have done it in my twenties, but not in my thirties or forties. If you don't want to go that route, I would go thru, research and make sure that they have produced RIDERS as well as horses, and go there. Producing riders is much rarer than horses and you will get worked to the bone so make sure who ever you go to as a history of turning out GP riders.


        • #5
          Agree with Myout. Go to Europe while you're young. I know of someone who did the 3yr Bereiter's program after high school in Germany and is now back stateside doing very well as a Head Trainer in their mid 20s. They have a waiting list actually. From what I understand, the program is rigourous, but totally worth it to become a dressage professional if that is your goal.
          "Horses are too spency!" - Mom


          • #6
            I suggest Europe, but further suggest apply to Schockemohle's trainer apprentice program.

            Let me apologize in advance.


            • #7
              Originally posted by dressurpferd01 View Post
              Sorry, I can no longer recommend young people get into this sport professionally. The risk vs reward is so ridiculously skewed these days it's not worth it.
              Agree. Don't try to make something you love to do into a business, because it'll ruin it as a hobby. That, and there's almost always too much competition in such fields, because everyone who loves riding/training/painting/pottery/art wants to be able to do it more--right up until they have to do it more and then they often wish they'd just continued to pursue it as a hobby.

              Chose a job or career with a higher return so that you can pursue the hobby of choice in your limited free time so that you'll be less likely to burn out on it.


              • #8
                I love horses and have a breeding business.... but there’s really no sure fire way to ruin your love than to work full time in the industry. I decided to get a couple degrees and a very good paying job so I could be the owner, not the one working for the owner.
                Not to say you can’t give it a go, but if you do, head to Europe and be prepared to work your ass off for the education (which is far better than NA imho).
                Good luck in whatever you decide to do!
                Wonderful ponies for family or show!


                • #9
                  A structured program like the bereiter certificate or internship seems better than a working student position even if a BNT takes you on, there’s no guarantee of her support long term.


                  • #10
                    Germany or Holland. Pack up everything and be prepared to work like you've never worked before. :-) Even if it turns out NOT to be your life's career after all, you will have a great work ethic and maybe a second language.


                    • #11
                      Move to a country where there are better, well established, educational opportunities.
                      ... _. ._ .._. .._


                      • #12
                        In addition to the already good suggestions here for improving your riding and training skills, eg apprentice with the best you can, Europe etc, there's much more to consider. You wrote you love horses and the sport. To make a good living as a professional and not just get by, those are not enough no matter the talent in the saddle. You'll need excellent management skills both in the barn, scheduling and with the horses, you need to be somewhat (or more) of a self promoter especially in this age of social media. Selling horses as well as teaching which usually necessary to make money. Keep in mind too where you will be located. The more affluent areas tend to have much more competition among trainers. Above all, to get and keep clients you need to ask yourself if you enjoy working with people because clients are the ones who pay, and that's not always the fun part. You'll need a thick skin and resilience. There will b self promotion without enough credentials among other pros, seeing horses bought and sold as commodities and unrealistic and difficult clients as a reality. The love of horses and dressage may get you through but you'll be in a better position as a professional if you consider the whole of what you're getting into.


                        • #13
                          The best experience I ever knew of personally was that of a friend of mine. She went to college, majored in accounting, and became a high-earning CPA. She married a high-earning lawyer. She could then afford good horses, and had one with which she went to PSG. Both she and her horses are now retired and living comfortably.

                          That is much more of a career and enjoyment than other friends of mine who took the equine-degree track, went to work full time in the horse industry, and burned out young, one still in her 20s,the other around 40. Neither had a life away from the barn, never had money to do anything they enjoyed (including horsey vacations), and years before retirement age left the horse business, one by choice, the other because they couldn't make it. Not for lack of hard work.
                          Rack on!


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by amteam View Post
                            ... ridden many different horses and really pride myself on being able to get excellent basics on hard horses and make them go really well. Ridden horses to 4th/I in lessons, but have never trained or retrained a horse beyond 3rd. Working hard at that now!

                            Have not showed much, but will in the future.

                            Most of all, I want to make a career in dressage for myself. It's kindof become clear I need more education but I don't really know who to talk to about it,...!
                            So you have ridden ‘hard’ horses... maybe because that’s what you get when people want you to fix their mistakes. Could you be happy only riding those kind of horses... unless you have great connections (people and money or people with money) that might be all you get.

                            Sounds good that you think you will show in the future... money again.

                            Yes, you need more education, especially if you are not sure who to talk to about your future path. Rackonteur had some interesting friends who went down different life paths. I spent six months in England (decades ago), riding and learning. Came back and spent a few years teaching and training. At some point it became just a job. I was lucky that I already had a college degree (Animal Science) and went back and got a totally different masters degrees and a good job. Now I am retired got back into horses and I can afford my horse, trailer, lessons and shows. Maybe you have enough talent and will be really lucky. But think about a ‘plan B’.

                            On the other hand, if I hadn’t TRIED it would have been difficult to do something NOT horses just to earn money. I thought it was the only thing. There are many successful trainers and riders, maybe you could be one of them. Or not. Then what? If you spend some time in Europe and change you mind...the what. Think about that a bit. And then find this thread in two or three years and let us know how it turns out.