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Feeling lost.. thoughts/insight appreciated

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  • Feeling lost.. thoughts/insight appreciated

    For lack of a better term, I feel like I'm going through a quarter life crisis. I am a 21 year old senior in college, finishing up a BA in experimental psychology. I've done pretty well in school, have a good GPA, but never really felt like school as whole was my thing. I've ridden my entire life, did the high children's jumpers and all the medal/maclay stuff as a junior, catch rode in other divisions as much as I could. I continued to ride in college, spent a little time on an IHSA team, and now have a horse with me on a lease.

    I am nearing my last semester of school before graduating and I have no idea what I am going to do. My entire life my parents told me they understood how much I loved riding, but that I should never try to make a living off it. Instead, I should get a non horsey job in which I could make enough money to enjoy horses as a hobby. And I understand where they're coming from--that's the practical route. But I just don't know if I can picture that for myself. Working a 9-5 Monday through Friday would hardly leave me time to ride anyway, and that's assuming I really would be making enough to own or lease a horse for myself.

    I am already currently getting paid to ride, I actually have been since I was 16 or so. More recently I've started teaching as well, however I have not declared as a professional yet. (Before anyone asks, no I am not showing in any amateur divisions nor do I have any plans to!) I really enjoy teaching as well as riding. I know its cliche, but the sport has carried me through some of the toughest times of my life, including a diagnosis of depression and anxiety. When I got back to riding 5-6 days I felt more like myself than I had in a long time. Horses worked better than any antidepressant the doctors ever prescribed me.

    My apologies for rambling, I guess what I'm trying to get at is, is there a way I can do this to make a decent living? I know that probably sounds like a naive question, but I would really love to hear insight from some COTHers who have perhaps been in my shoes. I'm not looking or expecting to become rich, I just want to be happy and make enough money to live a modest life and have health insurance.

  • #2
    Finish your degree and and try it for while. If it means you live at home don’t, but of you plan on living at home until you get a good job why not give it ago? You can always fall back on your degree.

    Also don’t use anxiety and depression as a reason to not work in a field you’ve earned to be in. Horses will always be there to ride 5-6 days a week even with a non-equine related job.

    Comment


    • #3
      As someone who is doing the "make enough money to enjoy it as a hobby"route.... it's tough. I work a 9-6 (slightly flexible) and I am 4 years out of college and currently not yet in the state of "making enough" lol. I did finally get to a living situation (have a car now, and am outside of the city) so that I was able to find a barn 20 minutes from home with a horse to do a partial lease on. The barn is mostly working professionals, so getting there around 7:30 is the norm for many riders. It is totally different than when I was a junior and had 4:00 or 5:00 lessons! I get home from the barn usually around 9:00.

      I rode "professionally" in college, and while I loved it- I will say it is very nice not feeling the pressure to have each and every ride be 100%. As an ammy who is truly riding now for enjoyment, I can go out and work on my own equitation, or my eye and not really worry about messing up the horse (he's a been there done that type) or worry that someone is paying me to do XYZ and that I've gotta perform.

      Another aspect to think about...I was just talking to a friend about this but there are *so many* unethical trainers out there. Has to be because it is such a hard industry. I don't think they are all bad people, but I think after a while they get worn down. They see that a lot of other trainers are doing it. They convince their clients to buy horses that aren't necessarily suitable so they get a big commission check, or advertise a horse in a non honest fashion or just any number of unethical practices and I think this is a testament to the difficulty of the industry. I think it is something to think about and consider when wondering if you want to get into the horse industry full time. Could you deal with this aspect of it? The scammers and cheaters and possible temptation?

      Comment


      • #4
        The cold hard truth is that most people who try to make a living in horses do not make "enough money to live a modest life and have health insurance."

        I was very active in the horse word when I was in college. My BS is in animal science, specializing in horses. I rode regularly, IHSA, drill team, taught lessons, and, being in Lexington, had the opportunity to pick up jobs in the Thoroughbred industry (night watch during foaling season, Keeneland yearling sales, etc).

        One of the reasons that I did not pursue a horse-focused career was that I knew and worked with lots of women who had. Most of them drove old beat-up trucks, had roommates to share living expenses, didn't have health insurance, and by the time they were in their late 30's had bad knees, bad shoulders, and/or bad backs. Oh, and most of them couldn't afford to keep a horse. Most of the ones who were truly doing well were those who came from money or had husbands with good jobs to support them.

        I know, I'm a real Debbie Downer.

        Your senior year of college, especially that last semester, can be terrifying. I still remember the day when I had a near panic attack because it occurred to me that I would be graduating soon and people would expect me to know things and be able to do something productive. The idea of having to go out into the world and be a grown-up completely freaked me out. The idea of retreating to the horse world, where you feel competent and comfortable, is not nearly as terrifying as the idea of going out and getting job that utilizes your brand new degree.

        Working 9-5 is not a death knell for riding. Lots of people work 9-5 and still manage to ride regularly. I did. It wasn't until I had kids that my riding time dwindled down to almost nothing.
        "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
        that's even remotely true."

        Homer Simpson

        Comment


        • #5
          Here's an exercise I recommend ALL the time. It takes some time and introspection, but it's worth it.

          Take a piece of paper and write down answers to these questions (there is no right or wrong to your answers!!):
          What do I want my...
          --Work life to look like?
          --Social life to look like?
          --Relationship life to look like?
          --Riding life to look like?
          --Financial life to look like?
          --Family life to look like?
          --Work/Life balance to look like?
          --Emotional/Spiritual life to look like?

          You want to answer this from the perspective of your ideal life, but rooted in reality. For example, don't answer "I don't ever want to have to work for a living" unless you're currently an heiress and that's truly an option. Instead, answer what your ideal work life would be considering your current reality..."I'd like to work no more than 40 hours a week so I have time to ride, and be able to retire by 60."

          The second part of the exercise is to compare your current life with your ideal life and ask yourself if your current life is taking you toward or away from what you want.

          Since you're in a transition phase, this exercise will help you identify which path to take. You need to take your ideals and compare them to the career paths you have.

          For example, if you want to be able to participate in family gatherings, have an active social life, find and marry a life partner, have good work-life balance, find the pure enjoyment of your personal riding development is most important, want to own a house by 32 and have retirement in place, I would not recommend a career in horses.

          Being a pro sounds really great. But the reality is that it is an incredibly difficult lifestyle. You will miss holidays (horses always colic on them ), your social and dating life may take a backseat, you will not make much money, you will likely not have benefits like health insurance or retirement, your own riding may get put in the backseat as you prioritize your business and your clients (I know mine did!), you need to be okay with your passion becoming your business (which can and does take joy away from something that previously was simply an outlet for you), you need to be okay with a poor work/life balance, and you need to love and thrive not just in the sport of riding, but in the business of riding, to truly be happy as a pro.

          This very exercise is what made the lightbulb click for me - that talent and desire aside, I wanted too many other things in life that didn't jive with the reality of being a pro. I do miss aspects of the business, but overall, I am much, much happier as an amateur.

          Step #3 is creating a plan to help you reach your goals. Note that there may be steps working toward your goals that aren't ideal (to use the earlier work example, you may need to work 50 hours/week for a few years to get to a place where 40 is doable) - and that's not only fine but expected - because it's taking you toward your end goal. But if 40 hours/week is your goal, don't get into a career requiring 60 a week forever (ie...horses ) because that's taking you away from your goal.

          One final piece of advice - being an adult is hard. No situation is easy. It's hard working full time and continuing to ride (especially when you meet someone and have a SO who needs time/attention). But it's also hard being a full time pro (and while you may *ride* more, you may not be doing the type of riding you really want. I rode a whole lot of greenies and problem horses. I rarely got to ride just for me. You also don't typically make enough money to fund a nice horse of your own, requiring you to acquire and retain good owners/clients).

          Adulting is all about learning to find balance but also working hard for what's important to you. Whether you go the pro or ammie route, it isn't going to feel easy....our culture tells us it should, but it never does. However, the struggle is worth it *if it is taking you toward your life goals*.
          Jennifer Baas
          It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)

          Comment


          • #6
            I suggest that when you start looking for jobs, look for jobs of all sorts: psych jobs, horse jobs, or random things that look like fun. Keep your options open. Apply for whatever looks good. Use the interviews to learn more about the available options. Take a job that excites you. Don't worry right now about what filed it is in. Good luck!
            www.TheSaddleTree.com
            www.TrainingTree.net

            Comment


            • #7
              Find a job in a horse related industry that you might enjoy...
              equine insurance
              Vet tech
              Farrier
              Equine related equip sales (saddle rep, saddle fitter, working for dover, saddle maker, jump sales, footing sales, equine nutrition)
              Real estate, specializing in horse properties
              Equine transport driver
              While working a regular job, continue giving lessons, and take online courses to get a degree to fall back on (include business, IT, ...something that can be used in a variety of fields)

              You probably cant make enough enough to survive just giving lessons. But there are many jobs out there that are horse related or not 9-5.

              Comment


              • #8
                A time of massive change in your life, so hardly surprising that you are questioning your future direction. Other people have been guiding your education - and your life - up to this point. Now it is time for you to take control. Yes, your parents are totally right: better a professional's income to sustain an expensive equestrian hobby. Yes, you are totally right: follow your passion. Difficult choices, but how exciting! Any decision you make now, at this stage of your life, is not set in stone. How you earn a living today may not be how you make one in five years and certainly not in fifteen or fifty-five years from now. But nothing you learn in life is ever wasted. You can apply skills from equestrianism in the world-of-good-pay and vice versa. Horses are currently your happy place and offer security in a time of change. Think, talk to your family and friends, consider, and then take your first steps: courage is a virtue when trying to live life well. Horses will always be there for you.

                So, if you wish to follow your dreams, even if just for a few years, get practical. Seek and obtain the professional knowledge and skills to become a great teacher and trainer. Seek and develop the skills necessary to become a top rated professional groom and work with the very best teams. Look to gain recognised qualifications (e.g. the BHS system), travel overseas to learn (Europe) ... Or are you going to become one of the many, many other good riders with large dreams and no health plan.
                "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths

                Comment


                • #9
                  I went the route of getting a degree and getting a job in the non-horsey world. I watched several of my friends go straight to the pro life, and that was enough to keep me on track with graduating and getting a job. I spent 4 or 5 years spending every spare dollar on horses and literally living off of mac 'n cheese to be able to do so. Then I worked "enough" to get a better job paying me a lot more money. Then a better job and even more money. And eventually I got to the point where I could own my own farm and own my own horse, and then horses, and then could import horses from Europe. Right now I've got a GP horse, a couple of 1.40m horses, a really incredible young mare doing the 1.10m, and a couple of ponies and a horse for my daughter. I am very very glad I took the path I did. And, for the record, I never worked a 9-5 job. I worked in a biomedical research facility as a technician for a few years (where I had flexible hours) and then moved to sales where I've been ever since. Because I've always been field based, I've always worked out of a home office and have always been able to set my own hours...I've often thought that an office job where I was restricted to 9-5 would be nice though

                  With that being said, it hasn't been easy. My husband and kids don't see me enough. I don't take vacations, I don't get my hair done, I don't think I've ever had a manicure. I've traveled for work through childrens' birthdays, and when I haven't done that I've been away at a horseshow for other birthdays. In other words, doing horses and a job pretty much steals every minute of your life. But I have several young trainer friends who are working just as many hours without the salary and benefits I have. I may "only" get to ride 4-5 horses a day (and often on dark, rainy nights in my unlit outdoor arena), but my horses belong only to me, I don't have to answer to anyone, and I can focus on showing when and where I want to. I like being in control of my riding life completely and being to do things (or not do things) on a whim.

                  I have never regretted going the "career path." I have a couple of trainer friends who had/have a lot of funding behind them (in the form of parents mostly, though one has a client that has funded everything), and they've done okay, but most of my friends who became trainers out of high school eventually ended up finding other paths where they could get healthcare and make money.

                  On that note, I took a couple of years where I only did the horses. There's a long backstory behind it that I've never (and won't) share here, but I can say that I absolutely loved the first year of it....the freedom of just doing one thing at a time was amazing. But I started going stir-crazy in the second year. Dealing with only horse people is a really really frustrating thing 99% of the time, and selling horses certainly puts you in line to deal with an insane amount of....well....insanity. I very happily jumped back into a corporate role, and I'm really loving having the balance again and not feeling like I *have* to sell every really nice horse I get.

                  So my advice would be to finish school...that degree is important! And then if you feel like you absolutely can't live without doing it, think about taking a year or two to do the horses full time. You will likely figure out very quickly that unless you are oddly lucky, it's very difficult to make a decent living doing it. And I don't mean this disrespectfully, but your background is not one that makes people naturally want to come train with you. Riding in the high children's and medal/eq is great, but unless you were a national title winner or also showing in the GPs, there are a lot of people who have done the same.
                  __________________________________
                  Flying F Sport Horses
                  Horses in the NW

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by PNWjumper View Post
                    And, for the record, I never worked a 9-5 job.
                    PNWjumper makes a great point that I think is worth repeating. A non-horsey career doesn’t necessarily entail 9-5 chained to a desk. There are so many ways to “make enough money” that can also be flexible enough to fit in horses. They may not necessarily be available to you straight out of college but with some planning and hard work the opportunities are out there.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The reality of the corporate world is that you need to get a job using your degree after graduation (with a bachelors or from graduate school), because if you wait too long afterward, employers lose confidence that you still remember what you learned, and that you are committed to a career. There is some possibility that taking only one year might fly, if you can explain it well as a professional and/or personal development. But more than that will create some skepticism.

                      So, I suggest putting in a year or two in a position that requires a college degree, before giving time to being a full-time horse professional. It's part of adulting.

                      It can be tough to keep checking all the boxes that will give you a more secure and independent future (no needing to ask the parents for money). But securing some job time is also a chance to find out that you prefer being in the driver's seat of your horse activities, with the finances to call the shots yourself.

                      I do suggest a change of scenery, a trip long enough to activate your mind cells and break the routine, to help you come to some conclusions. Rather than cycle through the same decision circle, put it aside for a little time and allow in a new experience. The experience doesn't have to have a goal, just something different, somewhere different. Quite likely you will clear the cobwebs, and at some point you will suddenly have a vision of what you know you want as a life plan.

                      In your list of pros & cons for a horse career vs a career using your degree, here are a few points to consider:

                      - You can still ride while working a full-time job that requires a college degree. You can even earn money from side gigs with horses (teaching lessons, etc.). But you can't ride as a full-time pro and also work in the degree-required job at the same time.

                      - Riding as an amateur with your own income means you can pick the level, the kind of horse you want to ride, and just what you do riding.
                      - Riding as a pro means you ride what comes your way, good or bad. Mostly horses with problems, because people don't need you to ride their horse that doesn't have problems. You may have some chances to ride a great horse that you particularly like. But you'll still have the problem horses at the same time . It may take longer to work your way up the rank of the level of horse talent being sent to you (assuming that you do move up) than it would to work the professional job and wait until the money is saved for an equine upgrade.

                      - Riding as an amateur means that you have chances to socialize with fellow ammys, juniors and their trainers and families. Riding as a pro offers some of the same opportunities, but these are work conversations, not just pleasure. You should always be very aware of what you are saying to who, and avoid certain lines of discussion altogether, to stay in your clients' good graces. I hope this makes sense. You find that everyone is a possible lead to a new client, and you are always monitoring your casual conversation more than you are likely to need to do with a more conventional job.

                      - Riding as am amateur is primarily for diversion and fun, all positive reasons. If something isn't working you can just drop it and look for another solution. If something *is* working you can spend more time on it and enjoy it.
                      - Riding as a pro is work, and it has to be done even when at times you don't feel up to it. You manage to a strict time schedule, because you are essentially selling your time as a rider, coach and barn manager. Doing something professionally can really take the fun out of it.

                      - Riding as an amateur with a salaried degree-required job means you know how much will come to your bank account every month. And you'll have health insurance. Even at entry level, degree-jobs often pay more than what most of the rest of the population earns, and offer a comfortable lifestyle.
                      - Riding as a full-time pro means not knowing how much is coming into the bank account every month. And the bookkeeper is probably you, to the tune of hours every month. All planning and money matters are your headache. You are also the bill collector when people don't pay.

                      - No decision is the final decision on horse-career vs. non-horse career. There will be repeated chances for decisions at unknown times in the future.


                      And do take a little time to be thankful for the good fortune to have had the opportunities to work your way to such choices. It's a good problem to have!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        You've already gotten a lot of good advice and anecdotes. I want to emphasize what a few others said: you're not locked into a path that you choose in the next few months!

                        I did a brief stint as a professional, and it's a hard life. I worked with/for both ends of the spectrum: successful grand prix rider/trainer down to barely-scraping-by-living-in-a-tinyhouse-with-no-healthcare-or-retirement-plan, and several points between. What I learned is you need at least one of these three things in spades: money, bravery, talent. Having two or all three stacks the deck in your favor even more.
                        Independent wealth gets you nice horses, nice facility, and takes some of the stress out of a 7x workdays/week , living on the road, trying to build a program life.
                        Bravery means you are willing to ride the scary or quirky horses that others don't want to swing a leg over, to jump the really big fences on a green-ish horse the client wants ridden in the welcome classic next month, or to school the affordable talented horse that developed a hard stop somewhere in the past.
                        Notice 'willing to work hard' or 'really loves riding and horses' aren't on my list. That's because all aspiring pros have those.

                        After several years of part time (all through high school and college) and then full time for a few years after that, I realized I didn't have enough of any of those three. I loved my teaching job, I loved the clients, and most of their horses. But I was exhausted after working 6-7 days/week for years, my back hurt, and I no longer enjoyed riding my own horse--I'd take that lunch hour to actually lunch or something, and my horse would just get the day off. Again.

                        I've now been in a non-horse job for over 17 years. I managed to own a horse and ride for most of them. I showed a bit, and realized while I'm not talented enough to compete well as a professional, I can hold my own in the amateur divisions. I enjoy riding again, and horses are still a huge part of my life: to the point where I have my own farm, about 10 at any given time, and I get to breed a little, try new things like USDF dressage or hunting. My salary gives me enough to enjoy riding and owning horses, though honestly, not the AA level. But most jobs aren't going to pay you that much.

                        So what I'm saying is, you can go in one direction now, and after a year or three, re-evaluate and see if its working out. You can find a job with decent trainer, work your ass off and learn a ton about the industry, and then continue on or try something else. Make sure if you go this route, you plan for the future. You don't want to find yourself in your late 60s, still teaching up/down lessons 6 days a week, and unable to quit because you have no retirement plan or savings.
                        Or you can get a job that relates to your major. Or something completely different. Try living a more 'typical' adult lifestyle, with a horse or two on the side and see how that works. You may find you have more time to ride and show than you expected.
                        There's no right answer here--it's really all about what works best for YOU. But whatever path you choose, go in with deliberate planning and the mindset that you *can* change your mind. Early adulthood is about experimenting. You have the time and flexibility to try a few paths before you find the one that makes you happy, in all the elements of your life.
                        A good man can make you feel sexy, strong, and able to take on the world.... oh, sorry.... that's wine...wine does that...

                        http://elementfarm.blogspot.com/

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                        • #13
                          I won’t lie. I took a different route than my horse friends and sometimes I feel like I’m way behind where they are, sometimes I feel resentful and I also have PTSD/Anxiety/Depression. But before I could even think about college I had to realize I couldn’t pay for it so first I sold 5 years of my life to the military. THEN I went to college to be a nurse. I work nights Friday Saturday Sunday leaving Monday through Friday to do what I want. But in that time I also acquired a husband and two children, setting me even further back. I’m further back but I’m also ahead. Does that make sense? Because those horsey friends that are ahead of me experience wise are now behind me in other ways. I own my own farm and I board horses there for passive income. I have a truck, trailer, arena, everything of my own. So I’ve not gained their experience but I’ve been working on a foundation that will take me much further in the long run. I am 28 and have been riding for 21 years, in no way do I feel like I can teach people as I am still learning myself. I don’t want to teach people. I’d rather take horses up the levels. So for now, I am a nurse that is working on my riding education so that when I retire from nursing, and when my kids are grown, I can then move into the professional realm. Because by then I’ll be riding for 30-40 years and have real life and abundant experiences under my belt and only then would I personally feel qualified to teach or train, etc. but like you in the middle of it all I feel down about it. I just try to remember the plan.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by no.stirrups View Post
                            I suggest that when you start looking for jobs, look for jobs of all sorts: psych jobs, horse jobs, or random things that look like fun. Keep your options open. Apply for whatever looks good. Use the interviews to learn more about the available options. Take a job that excites you. Don't worry right now about what filed it is in. Good luck!
                            Great advice.

                            OP, if you have no student loan debt and can afford to be really poor for awhile, I suggest that you try it in the horse world.

                            That's because: THERE WILL NEVER BE AN EASIER OR MORE ACCEPTABLE TIME IN YOUR LIFE TO TRY A NON-RAT RACE PATH. Let that sink in.

                            Until now, you were on the conveyer-belt of school. And once/if you choose a white-collar career, you will be on another, rather constraining path. Of course, though, anyone can switch careers at any time. But! The advent of a partner, a mortgage, kids and unwillingness/inability to live low on the hog all create compelling constraints that prevent adults from making the big switch to a profession they have always wanted to try.

                            I can tell you from having sat in job interviews after a stint out in the horse world running my own business is that interviewers were intrigued. It's just an unusual, self-driven thing to do, that they wanted to know more. And once I explained the relative unsustainability of the business, as a business (and not a hobby-job), no one seemed to think less of me for applying for their job.
                            The armchair saddler
                            Politically Pro-Cat

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                            • #15
                              OP, you have gotten a lot of really good advice here. So I just want to add a few things. There are a thousand different paths to happiness and success in life. So don't let yourself feel pressured into taking a route that might have worked for someone else.

                              I know at your age and stage it feels as though you need to have everything planned out right now. Take it from someone who saw all her carefully made plans disintegrate shortly before college graduation--you don't. Sometimes a deep breath really helps.

                              This is the time to explore your options--both horse-related and otherwise. The idea of a 9-5 job may sound limiting. But having your life revolve around horses is equally limiting, no matter how appealing that idea may sound right now. Financial security is a great feeling--and one it's almost impossible to achieve in the horse world. You can always come back to horses, even if you find you have to step away now for a while.

                              www.laurienberenson.com

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                              • #16
                                Actually several people have mentioned something that needs to be at the center of any life plan you are entertaining, at any point in your life - a husband/SO, and kids. Of your own.

                                If you aren't attached and have no kids, now is the time to take some chances and really reach out, whatever direction that goes. That could be horses, or it could be a job in another city, or a grand far-reaching adventure. If you do plan to someday have a family, even just a husband/SO, that is a significant anchor in your decisions after that commitment is made (with or without a public ceremony).

                                One of the best pieces of advice I got in my 20's was from a mature adult friend who said DO IT NOW. Before the family, before the SO. Because, she said, once you have those things, it is very unlikely you will be able to do it later, regardless of what you may tell yourself about making it work.

                                Kids especially are a role of the dice, because there is no knowing what needs each will end up having, and at what point in their lives those needs will be paramount to everything else. You can choose your SO, but when it comes to children (even adoptees/fosters), you'll get what you're given.

                                All the best, whatever you do! Would love to hear an update in 5 years, 10 years, etc.

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                                • #17
                                  Think the thing that burns out more Pros then anything else is the fact it’s never your horse to do with as you please, it’s a client horse or if you do own it, it’s a sale horse and the object is to get it sold. The only way any money can be made is a happy client and/ or a check from a buyer. That will always influence your decisions and will keep you up at night more then actually running the business. Making enough off the business to pay the bills to keep it operating will dominate your thoughts. It’s not much fun anymore.

                                  Think about that. It’s different when you HAVE to make money so HAVE to get the horse to perform to client or buyer expectations or you can’t make your rent, car payment or pay the hay guy.

                                  Maybe trying the Pro life out for a year before deciding to switch career paths for the rest of your life would be a good idea. Need to start by working for somebody else to develop a network and get enough of a reputation to attract clients.
                                  When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                  The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

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                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by PNWjumper View Post
                                    I went the route of getting a degree and getting a job in the non-horsey world. I watched several of my friends go straight to the pro life, and that was enough to keep me on track with graduating and getting a job. I spent 4 or 5 years spending every spare dollar on horses and literally living off of mac 'n cheese to be able to do so. Then I worked "enough" to get a better job paying me a lot more money. Then a better job and even more money. And eventually I got to the point where I could own my own farm and own my own horse, and then horses, and then could import horses from Europe. Right now I've got a GP horse, a couple of 1.40m horses, a really incredible young mare doing the 1.10m, and a couple of ponies and a horse for my daughter. I am very very glad I took the path I did. And, for the record, I never worked a 9-5 job. I worked in a biomedical research facility as a technician for a few years (where I had flexible hours) and then moved to sales where I've been ever since. Because I've always been field based, I've always worked out of a home office and have always been able to set my own hours...I've often thought that an office job where I was restricted to 9-5 would be nice though

                                    With that being said, it hasn't been easy. My husband and kids don't see me enough. I don't take vacations, I don't get my hair done, I don't think I've ever had a manicure. I've traveled for work through childrens' birthdays, and when I haven't done that I've been away at a horseshow for other birthdays. In other words, doing horses and a job pretty much steals every minute of your life. But I have several young trainer friends who are working just as many hours without the salary and benefits I have. I may "only" get to ride 4-5 horses a day (and often on dark, rainy nights in my unlit outdoor arena), but my horses belong only to me, I don't have to answer to anyone, and I can focus on showing when and where I want to. I like being in control of my riding life completely and being to do things (or not do things) on a whim.

                                    I have never regretted going the "career path." I have a couple of trainer friends who had/have a lot of funding behind them (in the form of parents mostly, though one has a client that has funded everything), and they've done okay, but most of my friends who became trainers out of high school eventually ended up finding other paths where they could get healthcare and make money.

                                    On that note, I took a couple of years where I only did the horses. There's a long backstory behind it that I've never (and won't) share here, but I can say that I absolutely loved the first year of it....the freedom of just doing one thing at a time was amazing. But I started going stir-crazy in the second year. Dealing with only horse people is a really really frustrating thing 99% of the time, and selling horses certainly puts you in line to deal with an insane amount of....well....insanity. I very happily jumped back into a corporate role, and I'm really loving having the balance again and not feeling like I *have* to sell every really nice horse I get.

                                    So my advice would be to finish school...that degree is important! And then if you feel like you absolutely can't live without doing it, think about taking a year or two to do the horses full time. You will likely figure out very quickly that unless you are oddly lucky, it's very difficult to make a decent living doing it. And I don't mean this disrespectfully, but your background is not one that makes people naturally want to come train with you. Riding in the high children's and medal/eq is great, but unless you were a national title winner or also showing in the GPs, there are a lot of people who have done the same.
                                    You’ve more or less described my dream I’m not totally dead set on going the professional route, I am just worried I’ll get sucked into the corporate world and never get to the point where I can afford something like you described. There isn’t so much you can do with a 4 year psych degree, at least in the field of psychology, and I really don’t want to stay in school for longer and be up to my eyeballs in debt.

                                    Thank you guys so much for all your detailed and thoughtful responses. It’s honestly so overwhelming because every single person I talk to has given me different advice. I’ll probably come back to this thread in a few days and reread all your replies again.

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by OverandOnward View Post
                                      The reality of the corporate world is that you need to get a job using your degree after graduation (with a bachelors or from graduate school), because if you wait too long afterward, employers lose confidence that you still remember what you learned, and that you are committed to a career. There is some possibility that taking only one year might fly, if you can explain it well as a professional and/or personal development. But more than that will create some skepticism.
                                      This is absolutely true. If you are in a professional field where employers hire straight out of undergrad, you need to get that first job in order to realize the full value of that degree. In many fields, you can't just opt out for a while and pick up where you left off later. Put in 2 years (consider it an extended portion of school - like an internship), and then re-evaluate.

                                      If you are in a field where most people go to graduate school before working or where people go all different directions at different times (like English majors), then you have a lot more flexibility to take time off and then go back to school/work without losing value.

                                      I was a functioning part-time professional when I was a junior - a few training horses and a full lesson book as an assistant trainer for a bigger name person. I gave it up, then went to college and law school as an amateur. With some careful planning to avoid commute time, I've ridden 6 days a week throughout. I get to choose the horses I ride, and what I do with them, and frankly, I have nicer horses that are exactly my type. That's not to say I may not make the switch at some point, with enough money in the bank to do it the way I want to. Giving up the teaching was hard for me, and I still do it (for free) on occasion just because I enjoy it so much.

                                      I work with some really exceptional professionals, and watch them struggle. The ones that own a horse scraped and saved to do it, and honestly didn't buy the best horses. Or they bought babies and waited years. And they can't afford to care for their horses in the same way the clients care for theirs - no extra vet visits, chiro, acupuncture, etc. They can't afford to bring their horses on the road to as many shows as the clients do, so their horses end up behind. The ones that don't own a horse go through swings of depression when the one or two training/client horses they really enjoy get pulled from them or get injured. They get sick of spending half their day managing all the people - employees, clients, service providers, etc. - and not being purely horse-focused roles (which are so very rare).

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                                      • #20
                                        Can’t tell you what to do but can share my experiences. Rode professionally for a trainer who I really liked. Made money riding, general barn work, feeding horses, and occasional commissions from horses I helped sell. Was pretty fun but got really burned out after a couple years. My boss/trainer is an amazing coach and my riding really got next level. Like I was always goooood, I could always get the job done but never impressive or anything to write home about. After I started riding for her and getting free lessons on her horses I really improved a lot. I’m not saying I’m amazing or anything I’m sure tons of people here are much better than me but I definitely noticed a shift in how people viewed me. Strangers at Wellington and other rated shows compliment my riding more than my horses now (and I am very privileged and ride really lovely wonderful horses). But as much as I liked her and appreciated her as a person and as a coach, working for her kind of sucked because she would honestly never pay you if you didn’t nag for your money. And she felt very entitled to berate you about the slightest thing out of place when she still owed you a lot of money. Like, my rent is due and you owe me a ton of money that I’ve been asking for for weeks and now you’re being nasty to me because I accidentally gave chunky horse an extra flake of hay. She always would pay you eventually but it was stressful and exhausting having to beg for your paycheck. Time she was extremely generous with, really truly I was and am grateful, money not so much. I was feeling burned out and depressed so I took a job as a property manager 1000 miles away. Was good too because I saved my relationship with my boss/coach. I really do appreciate all the time she gave me, I didn’t want to hate her but I was starting to. Still have a good friendship with her now! After working as a property manager for 2 years was not feeling it even though the steady paycheck and extra spending money was sweet. Decided to take a job as an assistant trainer at a local barn. I don’t really have any desire to be the face of an organization or a salesperson lol but I love schooling and training horses and teaching beginners. I really really like the people I work for, I have a really good relationship with them, they’re super fun and light hearted and feel like they really have my back. It makes a huge difference who you work with. I remember one time some kid’s parents got really mad at me because I accidentally said something kind of not pc in front of them and I was feeling really upset with myself for being such a dingus and not being more careful and she was like, “yeah but then you wouldn’t be you so whatever don’t worry about it” and that made me feel really good. My boss and I had a really stressful day today so we stayed late and jumped some of the fun easy horses we have in need of a little tune up anyway and just had a really good time. Lol one of those schooling sessions where we just jump around and constantly talk about how perfect the horses are and how much we love them. I don’t make a ton of money, but I have health insurance and an apartment taken care of and have enough money to travel occasionally. Yeah it can be a really stressful and hard job some days, but it’s really fun most days honestly. Sometimes people suck, but most people are nice and just want to have a good time. Like 90% of our clients are really cool people I enjoy spending time with and am really genuinely happy for them when they feel good about themselves for even the smallest improvement. And seeing a kid who works super hard and loves their pony so much who was super scared and timid gallop around the jumper ring (and by gallop I mean they think they’re galloping, really they’re just doing the correct steps lol) with a huge grin is like the best thing ever. I’ve been at this job for about 3 years and don’t really have any desire to leave. I get to show one of my boss’s really nice warmbloods for free, I get free board for my horses, always have space for a young sales prospect which is actually profitable barring tragedy when you don’t have to pay board lol, discounted farrier visits, and other fun perks. Maybe I’m just lucky but I’m glad I decided to give the horse business another go after feeling burned out because I’m having a good time. Maybe I’ll want something more in the future or more free time because I do work a ton of hours but for now I’m good.
                                        Last edited by Farosh; Oct. 12, 2019, 10:31 PM.

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