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Am I Crazy? Career in horses....

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  • Am I Crazy? Career in horses....

    I am currently a college student and I will graduate within the next year. I am majoring in business, but all I really want to do is work in the h/j world... AM I CRAZY?

    a little background:

    I rode as a junior, had one semi-nice equitation horse due to financial constraints, and did pretty well! Since aging out I have dabbled in the aa hunters and jumpers whenever I can find a horse. I've been a working student for about 3 years and I have a trainer I help out at school too... so I am no stranger to the long days and lifestyle. Both home trainer and school trainer have said I have the ability.. just not much of a record show wise...

    Question is:

    Would you take time off (after graduation) to pursue riding while still able or just forget it and forge on into business world? The further I go in school the more I just want to ride for someone and eventually run a business.

    TIA for advice!

  • #2
    Some questions:

    1) Do you know what makes your trainer's business run? Have you seen what she does to keep the cash coming? Does that come from lessons, day fees at shows? Commissions? Owning the farm where she runs her business?

    2) Do you think you can or would like to learn how to run a small business? I'm talking about things like doing your own books, writing a business plan?

    3) How well capitalized are you?

    I'm sorry to have to ask this question. IMO/E, it's very, very hard to get started as a horse trainer without a stake. That's the stuff that lets you buy a nice horse to bring along and be seen on, to put a down-payment on a farm, to borrow for the big trailer or whatever else. Sadly, I think the people who *do* make a go of this as a profession that's more than hand-to-mouth bring money with them or have access to more than they can make and set aside for themselves in the first few years (or decades).

    4) Is there another profession or grad school that you already have been preparing to go into? If more school is on your plate, can you do that without borrowing a lot, as things stand now?

    Given the heinous job situation for college grads right now, and the tendency among students to "hide out" in grad school... often borrowing to do that.... using students loans that cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy, I think there are worse things to do than try your hand at being a horse trainer.

    That's not for everyone. That's not good advice for all times and all places. But, heck, if you have the talent, ability and desire, I see nothing wrong with spending a few years training or being an assistant right now.

    One thing you must keep in mind: You need to be developing something-- your ability with horses, students and clients, your knowledge of the business side of running a barn, a nest egg-- while you are in the horse world. It's not a vacation from "the real world." Work for the best person you can. Take what you like and leave the rest. Be sure you (or someone) buys you health insurance and see what you can get done in, say, 3 years.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat

    Comment


    • #3
      Yes! It's practically a job requirement of being a horse pro You'll be in good company!

      Welcome to the circus
      "Using draw reins without spurs is like going to the bar with no underwear on. You're just waiting to get f***ed."

      Comment


      • #4
        I'm in the same boat! Have you been taking business courses? The most useful ones are marketing, basic accounting and management. Not that you need them, but they help give you an idea of a "normal" business...which you can apply to the "abnormal" horse business

        The mistake I see coaches make the most is forgetting that they need a salary too. Not just cash for the new trailer, new horse, board, etc...you'll still need cash for savings, rent, vehicle, gas and all that good stuff.

        If you're lucky enough to have two coaches that can help you get your foot in the door, I say go for it! You'll have that degree to fall back on...but look ahead - work experience in that field could be useful later in life, plus you could use some capital to get started. After you graduate, it might not be a bad idea to work for a few months to get some savings going and experience.

        Good luck, I hope it works out

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by mvp View Post
          Some questions:

          1) Do you know what makes your trainer's business run? Have you seen what she does to keep the cash coming? Does that come from lessons, day fees at shows? Commissions? Owning the farm where she runs her business?

          2) Do you think you can or would like to learn how to run a small business? I'm talking about things like doing your own books, writing a business plan?

          3) How well capitalized are you?

          I'm sorry to have to ask this question. IMO/E, it's very, very hard to get started as a horse trainer without a stake. That's the stuff that lets you buy a nice horse to bring along and be seen on, to put a down-payment on a farm, to borrow for the big trailer or whatever else. Sadly, I think the people who *do* make a go of this as a profession that's more than hand-to-mouth bring money with them or have access to more than they can make and set aside for themselves in the first few years (or decades).

          4) Is there another profession or grad school that you already have been preparing to go into? If more school is on your plate, can you do that without borrowing a lot, as things stand now?

          Given the heinous job situation for college grads right now, and the tendency among students to "hide out" in grad school... often borrowing to do that.... using students loans that cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy, I think there are worse things to do than try your hand at being a horse trainer.

          That's not for everyone. That's not good advice for all times and all places. But, heck, if you have the talent, ability and desire, I see nothing wrong with spending a few years training or being an assistant right now.

          One thing you must keep in mind: You need to be developing something-- your ability with horses, students and clients, your knowledge of the business side of running a barn, a nest egg-- while you are in the horse world. It's not a vacation from "the real world." Work for the best person you can. Take what you like and leave the rest. Be sure you (or someone) buys you health insurance and see what you can get done in, say, 3 years.
          Thanks for the responses!

          mvp you bring up a TON of really good things to think about!

          I am enrolled in classes that I thought would give me an edge in running a small business - even picked negotiation class as an elective, as that comes in handy in sales!

          Luckily I still have some school left, so I have time to figure it out! I just like to have a plan in mind - and give myself some motivation as exams are coming up!

          Comment


          • #6
            I just graduated and rook time off before grad school to move and work with horses in Europe. I knew if i didnt at least try, I wouldn't of ever been happy in the 9-5 setting. So, I say there is no harm in trying! Perhaps if you work as an assistant trainer somewhere or a more intense working student would be better. I have other friends who made a go at renting a barn/lessons etc at a young age and are miserable.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Miraya View Post
              I'm in the same boat! Have you been taking business courses? The most useful ones are marketing, basic accounting and management. Not that you need them, but they help give you an idea of a "normal" business...which you can apply to the "abnormal" horse business
              She says she's a business major...

              OP, have you ever worked for a trainer? You might find that you'd be happier keeping horses as a hobby than having it become a job. I know several of the trainers I've ridden with have actively discouraged my turning professional because of how draining and unfulfilling it can be (not to mention the physical issues that you can/will incur).
              http://www.youtube.com/user/supershorty628
              Proudly blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse!

              Comment


              • #8
                If you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get a degree that will prepare you adequately for a non-horse job, please do yourself a favor and make sure you do as well as you can. It is priceless insurance you will need if A) you end up deciding that running a horse related business is not for you and/or B) something happens - illness, injury, financial issues - that prevents you from continuing down that road. Have a viable plan B in place.

                MOST horse trainers/instructors/coaches etc do not have things like health insurance, retirement funds, regular vacations etc that are common in the rest of the working world. It may not seem like a big deal when you are young and healthy... but at some point, they start to matter a great deal.

                I am not trying to discourage you from trying out this career option, BTW. But go into it with your eyes open, and with a business plan that does more than sit on a shelf once you get started. Definitely find someone who has the sort of business you want to have some day, and see if you can spend some serious time with them, either as an intern or a working student of some sort. Find out what it took to build that business and what it takes to sustain it.
                **********
                We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
                -PaulaEdwina

                Comment


                • #9
                  If you think you want a career with horses, dive right into it. Give it some time and then reassess.

                  Otherwise, you will always think "what if" when you are working long/hard hours in an office if you head the business route.

                  This was me. I thought horses were it so I graduated with an undergrad in business but dove right into the horse world. I was an assistant barn manager for 6 months and then completed a 9 month barn manager fellowship in a college stable with 80 horses making $20,000 as an equivalent annual salary. Yep those 9 months really showed me that I did not want to be sore, tired, dirty, cold, hot, sunburnt, injured, frozen, and POOR for the rest of my life. After working with horses all day I found that I did not want to go ride my personal horse because it was no longer fun. However, I do not regret going this route first because it was enough to get my butt back in school for a masters degree and a career that will enable me to enjoy horses as a hobby and not a lifestyle.

                  Sure, on nice spring days, I get a twinge when I walk to my car on a breezy sunny morning thinking how nice it would be to be able to ride and not go to work but then I think how my career allows me to own a nice horse, have nice tack, take lessons, show, etc etc which I would otherwise probably not have the means to do.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Let me throw this out there too...it's not about riding the horses.

                    Riding is NOT what allows rider/trainers to be successful-many of the very best riders are solely dependent on a "hot horse" owned by somebody else and that somebody else's wallet.

                    They can be the best rider in the world, ask those who are/were on that level and lost the "hot horse"...kind of a where are they now list. They didn't have-or have the time for- a wide client base to cushion loss of the big ride.

                    That scenario happens on all levels, WC or 3' Hunters. Most clients today do not want to watch somebody else ride their horse either, trainer has to select properly, in the budget and teach, not ride their dream horse.

                    If OP wants to try to break in after she graduates? Strongly suggest a postion as a paid full time assistant trainer, no WS indentured servitude uninvolved with the business end and financials. Focus on actually running that business to the extent allowed. Building contacts to create your own little network to source and sell horses for clients because THAT is what makes successful trainers...even into their 50s when they are long out of the irons.

                    Also urge OP to set a time limit on it and have a plan B. Just in my own circle of about 10 horsey friends, most of them tried the pro route and only one was still a Pro at age 35...then she shattered a pelvis and became an Equine specialist CPA.

                    It's not impossible and OP will probably regret not trying-just take great care with the "what if" side.
                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by mvp View Post
                      Some questions:

                      1) Do you know what makes your trainer's business run? Have you seen what she does to keep the cash coming? Does that come from lessons, day fees at shows? Commissions? Owning the farm where she runs her business?

                      2) Do you think you can or would like to learn how to run a small business? I'm talking about things like doing your own books, writing a business plan?

                      3) How well capitalized are you?

                      I'm sorry to have to ask this question. IMO/E, it's very, very hard to get started as a horse trainer without a stake. That's the stuff that lets you buy a nice horse to bring along and be seen on, to put a down-payment on a farm, to borrow for the big trailer or whatever else. Sadly, I think the people who *do* make a go of this as a profession that's more than hand-to-mouth bring money with them or have access to more than they can make and set aside for themselves in the first few years (or decades).

                      4) Is there another profession or grad school that you already have been preparing to go into? If more school is on your plate, can you do that without borrowing a lot, as things stand now?

                      Given the heinous job situation for college grads right now, and the tendency among students to "hide out" in grad school... often borrowing to do that.... using students loans that cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy, I think there are worse things to do than try your hand at being a horse trainer.

                      That's not for everyone. That's not good advice for all times and all places. But, heck, if you have the talent, ability and desire, I see nothing wrong with spending a few years training or being an assistant right now.

                      One thing you must keep in mind: You need to be developing something-- your ability with horses, students and clients, your knowledge of the business side of running a barn, a nest egg-- while you are in the horse world. It's not a vacation from "the real world." Work for the best person you can. Take what you like and leave the rest. Be sure you (or someone) buys you health insurance and see what you can get done in, say, 3 years.
                      A couple of pieces of advice:

                      I graduated in '09 and the job market is tough. Despite a great GPA and resume, it took me 1 1/2 years to get a good job. You and I have very similar riding backgrounds and prior to graduating college I had a few different paid positions riding (working student for ****Eventer, exercise rider) as well as a really sweet "paid" deal ($5/ride towards my lessons) with an excellent hunter trainer. However when it comes down to it, even there is nothing I would rather do, for me it wasn't financially realistic... it really came down to medical insurance. You can work your rear off doing what you love but if you don't have the startup money to launch your own business, you need to be able to live at home while you are making a small paycheck getting experience as an assistant. I don't know if this is your situation but it is hard to support yourself at first... especially since student loans come out of deferrment after 6 months and you have to start paying them!

                      Additionally--If you *DO* decide you want to go to grad school, whatever you do don't pay for it! There are lots of Graduate Assistanceships out there for things such as being a Research Assistant or a Teaching Assistant. And lots of companies offer tuition assistance programs--I know my company will reimburse a set amount of money per year including software and textbook expenses as long as it relates to my current job.

                      One last thing to remember: The economy is not what it used to be and horseback riding is a luxury sport. A lot of people have downsized over the past few years and aren't as quick to buy/lesson/show. There are lots of nice horses out there who have been "sitting" due to financial reasons.

                      I hope this does not come across as discouraging, just trying to impart the things I learned in the same quest over the past few years. If I can answer any questions from the position of someone who has been in your shoes and has had to make some tough choices about my relationship with horses I'm here to help!

                      If it makes you feel any better, I believe I am at the beginning of a career that will allow me to be able to afford those "nice" horses I used to have to break myself and on my way to free grad school... that could also be you!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Hey, going into it with a four-year business degree is a lot more prepared for the 'grown-up' aspect. If you're physically fit enough for the 'labor' end, and have enough business sense for the business end, you probably have a better shot at it than some people who want to skip college and go right to 'riding for a living!'

                        Right now, the traditional "go to school, graduate, get an office job" market is the worst place to be. They don't need a lot of livestock in the cube farms any more. If you can view it as "building your own small business" rather than "playing with horses for a living" and it sounds like you already put a lot of thought into that with things like focusing on negotiation, I would at least look into it. Especially if you have a trainer who would let you come in as an assistant/bookeeper to learn the ropes.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by danceronice View Post
                          .... Especially if you have a trainer who would let you come in as an assistant/bookeeper to learn the ropes.
                          BINGO.

                          You need to learn what it costs to keep 1 horse in 1 stall with feed and bedding multiplied by the number of occupied stalls+ overhead (rent, mortgage and property tax/utilities+insurance), arena maintainance, repairs to determine what you have to charge to break even on the physical side of the business.

                          You need to factor that cost into what you charge for training and lessons so you can (maybe) make a profit. Add things like truck and trailer and travel expenses...and don't forget what you need to take home to live on.

                          People forget this and get wrapped up in the riding part.

                          Until you sit at the desk and run the billing, receivables and payroll? You have no idea.
                          When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                          The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by findeight View Post
                            BINGO.

                            You need to factor that cost into what you charge for training and lessons so you can (maybe) make a profit. Add things like truck and trailer and travel expenses...and don't forget what you need to take home to live on.

                            People forget this and get wrapped up in the riding part.

                            Until you sit at the desk and run the billing, receivables and payroll? You have no idea.
                            EXACTLY. Most people don't realize you don't make much profit off board (despite the fact it can cost an arm & leg.) It's really the sales horses and horse shows that bring in the cash.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Set up costs for your own business

                              Best bet would be to work with a trainer who has been in the business for a long time. Learn the ropes because the initial start up costs can be really high.

                              It is not necessary for you to own your own barn to be a trainer. It has pluses and minuses. Pluses are that you are in control of the horses, what they eat, how they are bedded, rings etc. Minuses are that you are in control and responsible for the above. I'm not sure that many who own their own barns make much money on the board piece of the puzzle. It is expensive to run a barn and capital expenses and repairs are very costly. If you want an idea of what you are getting into, price tractors. You will be shocked at how much a tractor costs and that is a small piece of owning a barn.

                              There are also a lot of costs if you are setting up a show stable. You will need at a minimum a cargo trailer. You will have to purchase things that you need at the shows; water buckets, brushes, vacuum, clippers, shelving for the get-ready stall, pitchforks, wheelbarrows not to mention if you are going to the rated shows tack room drapes and barn set ups. (Trunks, saddle racks, bridle racks) I'd estimate around $10,000 for a nice show set up which included drapes, saddle racks, bridle racks, tent, chairs, etc.

                              If you want high end clients, you need to do things right and not skimp. This is a selling tool.

                              Most trainers have their own trailers etc. Regardless of whether or not you own the barn, you will need a trailer (or access to one) should a horse colic and need an emergency vet clinic visit.

                              I think that many don't budget for things like this when they are starting out. That is a lot of money when you are not really making much money in the beginning.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                IMO, right after college is a great time to take a risk, especially if you're lucky enough to have some financial support from your parents so you have a soft place to fall if things don't work out. But I would make a timeline and stick to it, i.e. if you're not on the right track and making progress towards a horsey career in a year, it's time to reevaluate.
                                LEGADO DE RIOS

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Honestly, if you were my daughter, I would advise you to get a job right out of college, get some business experience and build a bit of a nest egg for a few years before attempting to start a horse business. I have found that because many trainers haven't actually worked in the real world, many of them lack the key component of knowing how to speak and behave professionally and to treat their business as a "business" as opposed to a hobby. Should you ultimately decide that a career in horses is what you must have, real world/real people experience will benefit you greatly.

                                  The job market is picking up and there are many more opportunities for new grads than there were even last year. All of the recruiters I've been speaking to in my field (I have a daughter graduating next month) are very positive about the prospects right now.

                                  Good luck!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I just read this on Equisearch last night - seems like it might be useful here! Hope this link works - otherwise, just go to Equisearch; it's on the main page at the moment.
                                    http://www.equisearch.com/horses_rid...al-equestrian/

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by ponymom64 View Post
                                      Honestly, if you were my daughter, I would advise you to get a job right out of college, get some business experience and build a bit of a nest egg for a few years before attempting to start a horse business. I have found that because many trainers haven't actually worked in the real world, many of them lack the key component of knowing how to speak and behave professionally and to treat their business as a "business" as opposed to a hobby. Should you ultimately decide that a career in horses is what you must have, real world/real people experience will benefit you greatly.

                                      The job market is picking up and there are many more opportunities for new grads than there were even last year. All of the recruiters I've been speaking to in my field (I have a daughter graduating next month) are very positive about the prospects right now.

                                      Good luck!

                                      Meh, depends on how much debt from school and help with things you have going in.

                                      IMO, newly-minted BAs/BSs aren't producing the jobs that allow folks to put aside very much money. Depending on the size nest egg you think you need, it could be years before you get to that mark.

                                      The other thing that can help you now, while you are in school, OP, is learning to live poor and simple. So know, for example, that you need to buy a used little beater car rather than lease even a modest new one. Figure out how to live with roomies. Do talk to your parents or investigate health insurance. Don't decide that you need to own a dog, cat or horse right now. Those "dependents" will make things harder.

                                      One of the best (and most freeing) things you can do if you are thinking about trying out a new career is create a simple and stream-lined life for yourself. That makes you flexible and mobile. I'm sure you'll want to say yes to the right position when it comes along. That's easier to do when you have that portable life all set up.
                                      The armchair saddler
                                      Politically Pro-Cat

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I would encourage you to have a go at it.
                                        I have two bachelors degrees, worked as an assistant trainer/ pro rider/and college program director for 10 years before launching my own shingle. I didn't have an illustruous junior career, but did ride as a child and rode well. My parents always kept my horses at home, and I was always responsible for helping to care for them; so I had an understanding of the work and costs involved.

                                        I was also lucky enough to already have property in a horsey area owned by my family in which to build my own facility. I knew that I didn't want to work out of one of the multiple trainer faciities in the area. I worked as a vet tech for 2 years while I built a business plan, made connections and moved forward to breaking ground.

                                        It's not just about capital though, 1 year into opening my business, my husband suffered a catstrophic illness that was devastating both financially and emotionally. It has taken two years to rebuild my personal life and income, so that I can replace the capital that had been set aside to finish plans on the facility. I have clients that have been through this with me the whole time, and others that weren't willing to wait. You need to have a thick skin, and in my case, the committment to stick it out.

                                        You also have be willing to wait on things for yourself, and in many cases put the client first. I would love to campaign my own horses on the 'A' circuit, but the business requires that money go elsewhere right now. You have to be willing to stand by what you know is right, ethically and for the horse, to not get swayed by the latest trend or a quick $$.

                                        To be honest, at this point,my husband's income supports 80% of our non-farm bills. ( Thank goodness he recovered!)
                                        I have made enough at the barn to purchase and pay off a modest rig, maintain two quality horses for myself, and carry my lesson horses when they don't have enough work. I do have medical insurance, it's not terribly expensive and it's a good policy. My husband has the same policy he had prior to his illness, and they paid over 1 million dollars in claims, and his rate is still under $200.00 per month. So, I wouldn't get caught into the I need to work for better benefits club. Between our two incomes, we have also been able to save and pay cash for a modest home in the area. We did live in my parents in-law suite while he recovered, and I focused on stablizing my business; that made it easier to save for our house.

                                        My business has the ability to do better, this is a regrouping year for me, to finish the things I need to do to fairly charge a higher rate. It's just about making a plan, and sticking to it, even when you get blind sided.

                                        Good luck, and I'll welcome you to the club.

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