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A scary step into the horse industry. Advice for down the line?

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  • #41
    You should send a message to ohandthesmokes on this board.
    She is a photography/equine studies major at SCAD and loves it.


    • #42
      If what you want is to be a low-paid assistant/barn manager, there are always jobs for that. Someone who can manage a show barn, ride a green horse, teach a safe lesson, etc is definitely in demand. You won't make millions and you'll work hard but if you are happy with that life, you can do it.

      I did it for years, and loved it, but eventually realized I was selling myself a bit short. Went back to grad school, got a degree in something I could do on the side. Now I work part-time at a barn and part-time in another (also low-paid) field.

      So I would say pursue your dream but cultivate something else on the side. I know video and photo are unstable as well, but if you could work with horses and have a photo business on the side, for example, at least you won't be trapped, and will have more options. Because there will probably come a time when you realize that as much as you love your barn job, you will never be able to own a house or retire off what you make there. It won't matter for a few years, but one day it will.
      "I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." --Vincent Van Gogh


      • #43
        I think that if you want to work in the horse industry and not just own/ride, you should plan to get a business degree of some sort (good business sense is helpful in almost ANY profession) and start looking hard for some opportunities to apprentice with someone.

        Here are some realities about being a grownup:

        -Many of us went into college thinking we would become X and then life happened and we found Y profession. For example--my main degree was in biology. The ONLY money I've made off that degree is tutoring pre med/nursing students. I've worked in technology since I graduated from college. I had to HAVE a degree to get a job, but through personal connections and such, I ended up in a very small niche technology sector which has allowed me to have horses.

        -In order to have horses in our lives, many of us must work in some other more lucrative profession.

        -Having a business background should you choose to become a trainer, a BO, or anything else in the horse profession is a good thing. And...if for some reason you could no longer be involved in horses due to injury or some such, you will have an easier time getting a job if you've got something that is more applicable across the board.

        Wish you the very best of luck!
        A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

        Might be a reason, never an excuse...


        • #44
          Originally posted by Event4Life View Post
          I cannot emphasize this enough! My parents let me go over to the UK to do a stint as a Working Student when I was 16. I learned the best way possible that I didn't want to be forced to do horses full time because I had no other option. I saw a girl who had dropped out of school at 16 to do horses fall off and break her leg in - wait for it - 3 places. She basically got screwed out of her livelihood. Last I heard of her, she is, at age 30, struggling to keep menial jobs and sleeping on friends sofas. And she was a talented event rider. Another girl I know is still, at aged 30 something, living out of her car. These may be extreme examples, but I saw them with my own eyes. I realized pretty quickly that I didn't want this life for myself, and actually took school seriously thereafter.

          Having said that, try to find something without the "Working Student" label because you'll get screwed over. I did. Find an actual paying (it'll be minimum wage if your lucky, but that's better than nothing) job, even if it involves mucking stalls and all the grunge work. yardandgroom.com is a great place to start.
          Umm yeah thats like me. I went to school for agricultural business, got a couple of great jobs in the horse industry, working my way up the ladder, got sick and found out I had Rheumatoid Arthritis, had to give it all up. I then needed a real job with health insurance big time! I dont regret working in the horse industry for 5 years, in fact I'm glad I did it because if I hadn't I would now regret not taking the oppertunity.

          I would sugest, like Event4Life, that you take a job in a stable and see if you can physicaly and mentaly do it.


          • #45
            I am not sure if this has been suggested: but OP have you done the hard core working student at a high end barn thing yet?

            that would be the first thing i would suggest. then you will have some kind of an idea of what it will take to survive in the horse world

            then you can make some kind of decisions

            and fwiw, every person i have met that did "equine science" in a local school had zero useful info and zero real horse skills.... honestly i have no idea what those folks were taught but it didn't really help them at the barn.

            (as an idea they were taught not to stroke or lightly touch a horse because the horse will think they are a fly and kick them - so instead they slapped them and used loud voices!)


            • #46
              Working Student - if you haven't, do it!

              I think spending time as a working student is important.

              I spent several years at a “BNT” eventing barn, then a few years at a medium sized hunter jumper barn. Worked my way up to the point I was mostly riding and teaching (and not doing as much cleaning, feeding and grooming!)

              Long days, hard work, tons of horses. While I did love it, it also burnt me out and taught me despite what I had thought for years, this was not the career path I wanted. In the end, I just wanted to take my horse home and enjoy him! To no longer have to put other people’s animals first. To no longer be the one staying back and taking care of everything while others went on vacations, were able to spend $$$ and show more etc.

              I was ALWAYS working, at times 7 days a week. I would put my heart and soul into the care and training of a horse – only to have its owner reap the rewards, or perhaps ride it poorly and end up sending it down the line. It can be a rewarding, yet very difficult line of work.
              APPSOLUTE CHOCKLATE - Photo by Kathy Colman


              • #47
                OP, I was in your shoes... I specialized in a particular discipline early. I showed extensively. I worked for top trainers at show barns. I earned that 3.9 GPA while taking AP and college courses.
                I made it into any state school based on my ACT scores.

                But I wanted to work with horses. So, I sat down and did the math. I realized that I liked riding nice ($$) horses, driving vehicles that work, and being able to eat, all at the same time. Picky, right?

                So off I went to college, earned a degree in Mechanical engineering, graduated and joined the 'real world'. All through out college, I rode. I even took a summer "off" of (paid) engineering internships to be a working student for a respected trainer half-way across the country.
                It was hard work, long days, no pay, and I loved it.

                Fast forward to today, I made the jump to being a 'horse professional'... entirely on accident. I did not go out looking to train horses or riders, however others recognized my skill sets (and that my new young horse was actually progressing very well) while I was boarding for the winter. Now I teach 5-15 lessons a week (depending on weather, availability, etc) along with training my two young horses and my more advanced horse and working as a design engineer.

                Here's the most important things I've learned so far (far from everything):
                • Hot, cold, rain or shine... I have to work my horses. They are my advertisements and why I work so hard at everything.
                • Always take the high road. Always. Horse people are crazy;don't get sucked in.
                • Have something that no one else in the area can offer. In my case, I have dressage show horses... Which is unique to the area.
                • Make contacts. Let them help you when you don't know something. My contacts, at least, are more than happy to help me out with my new business questions.
                • Realize that everything you do (riding, training, cleaning tack) will be scrutinized and discussed by the local horse community.
                • Give up on a social life. You wont have time.
                • Be thankful for every little bit of luck that you get. You'll need it.

                So it is possible. It's just not easy.


                • #48
                  I had to skip the last few posts, so I apologize if this has already been mentioned. But when you say, "film"...could that be broadened to videography or visual arts? I have a co-worker who is a videographer, then later got a degree in distance learning. He's worked on movie sets, but he's also done training videos for the military and government agencies. I'm sure if you landed a videography job, or visual arts (working in the Smithsonian setting up exhibits!!!) there would surely be time to do freelance work in horses. Maybe there's even a way to work distance learning/videography/horses all in one! Next break I get, I'm off to scope out the course offerings at SCAD. And, as an Emory University graduate, I can say that we were all envious of those who went to SCAD - and that was back when Emory was listed as top 10 in the U.S.!


                  • Original Poster

                    Wow! Woke up to a whole new slew of responses, thanks guys Here's my attempt to try and address all of them.

                    I think you've gotten a lot of great advice here - especially those that said to take every opportunity to give yourself work experience (paid or unpaid) in either of your ares or interest -- that will serve you well in the long run, not just a degree in art or a degree in equestrian studies.
                    I'm definitely going to start searching! I think someone mentioned a yardandgroom.com website, and I'll look into that as well.

                    If you are fine with being the busy bee worker and just work with horses, any one way, grooming gives you as much pleasure as getting to ride and train and the occasional chance to show a green or difficult horse, then that is a good fit to start in the horse industry.
                    That is, ultimately, my plan of 'attack' so to speak. If that's where I start off, I would be completely fine with that. Most jobs you have to work from the bottom up (unless you have a large never ending bank account), and as I mentioned before working from the bottom with horses > working from the bottom in an office environment. Plus there's so much experience I can learn from doing so.

                    They have a really great riding team, so if you wanted to, you could always try out for that to get your horse fix. I think you'd be surprised at what a place like SCAD has to offer, and you never know what might really interest you until you take a few classes.
                    That's my plan Their equestrian team is doing AMAZINGLY right now, so I can only hope I have what it takes to try out and be on the team.

                    So I would say pursue your dream but cultivate something else on the side. I know video and photo are unstable as well, but if you could work with horses and have a photo business on the side, for example, at least you won't be trapped, and will have more options. Because there will probably come a time when you realize that as much as you love your barn job, you will never be able to own a house or retire off what you make there. It won't matter for a few years, but one day it will.
                    A photo business on the side is a new idea of mine, but I'm starting to like the idea of it. I'm already starting my business now, and trying to get my name out there as much as I can. I still have a lot to learn, but it's always an option!

                    If you're looking for a WS position, check out the recent thread on the H/J page. Somebody posted about a WS position they often have. Sounds like a good deal, especially if you will actually WORK as opposed just talk about it.
                    You know, I think I know which one you are talking about. I was actually talking to my mother about it, because it seemed PERFECT. If it's the same one you're talking about in SoCal.

                    Sorry if I didn't address everyone, there was more then I expected waking up and logging in this morning haha

                    - G


                    • #50
                      Think about MAJORING in film and MINORING in equine instead of the other way around.

                      There's no reason why you have to give up riding if you have a real day job.


                      • #51
                        I see this topic a lot, especially with high school girls looking for a career with horses. What kind of jobs can you get with an equestrian studies/equine trainer degree? Does anyone have a success story in that the degree? From what I have seen is girls with a lack luster junior career and riding skills go to these colleges because they believe an equestrian degree will lead to the career they want. I am amazed that parents support these endeavors as most of these colleges are private with high tuition.


                        • #52
                          Are in living in GA? The (greatly reduced) HOPE is still a great reason to do your first two years at a GA public U... Tifton or better- UGA offer AG/Equine programs, and I know there are many, many good art programs in GA through public schools. Debt sucks big time.

                          Unless of course, your folks don't mind spending the money and you are not going into debt over this. If that is the case, go for SCAD, do well and then if you need more education, a graduate degree is always possible.

                          Follow your passion but remember that the passion can be combined with all sorts of different ways to make money.

                          That said, let me give you an example of other options. Take my youngest son for instance... His passion is music (folk-punk) but he is a talented musician from classical piano to guitar and as a twenty year old senior in computer science at GA Tech, he is set up for a great job. But -his passion... he is performing at venues all over Atlanta with his music and will graduate from Tech with a degree that starts at 75K a year. He will be able to take that degree, combine it with his music and follow both his passon and his desire to have a secure comfortable life. Try to figure out that "niche," that allows you to follow what you love (horses or art?) and???? Figure it out!
                          Luistano Stallion standing for 2013: Wolverine UVF


                          • #53
                            [QUOTE=atilthia;6799563] ...although my hopes is that I could get connections through the Equestrian Team/Equestrian Studies degree since SCAD talks a lot about getting jobs for students. Granted, they could be just saying that but, ...QUOTE]

                            Ask to see their numbers. They should have records of # of graduates they placed in the past several years. And you would want to see for at least 5-10, as the current fiscal situation has had a negative impact for a few.

                            I'm with others who stress the necessity for SOLID business skills. And a realistic knowledge of self. Do you like partying? Going out with your friends? Buying clothes/shoes? What are you wiling to give UP to do what you want to do?

                            I can see that a solid business sense might be very useful on your resume with a BNT/BNR. Know how to market yourself. Learn how to control a situation without coming across as a drill sergeant. Be ABSOLUTELY responsible/show good sense at all times.

                            Do NOT think that health insurance is for old people or those whose employers pay it. Yup - I survived years in the horse business without it. I was lucky. Others - not so much.

                            Good luck.

                            Equine Photography in the Northeast


                            • #54
                              I didn't read all the posts, but I know there's been some advice to get a degree in something practical, like business. DO THAT. I'm having a helluva time trying to change careers at 40 (and support my horses) b/c I didn't have enough sense to get a degree in business or accounting, etc. You can always parlay a degree like that into perhaps managing a barn, working for Dover or Smartpak or the USDF, USEF. Is there a college that would allow you to major in business and maybe minor in something like equestrian studies?


                              • #55
                                Okay, I was in your shoes four years ago, I made a thread similar to this and got similar responses. Everyone said no, and what did I do? I flew over to England and studied a BSc. (Hons) Equine Science at Hartpury College. Now I'm doing my MSc Applied Equine Science at the Royal Agricultural College. When I graduate I will have a really impressive cv (both riding and academic).
                                Not all of my peers came out with the same fate. If you want to go the equine university route be prepared to put the work in, take internships (paid or not) over EVERY SINGLE HOLIDAY. Blog. Ride anything. Get involved.

                                But realise this- look at everything you buy for your horse. All of these things come from somewhere, are manufactured by someone, are marketed by someone and hours of research and design come into play to produce these things. Your horse's feed, that's a specialised formulation of ingredients designed by someone. When your horse is sore you get the vet physio out to look at him. When your instructor gets a new arena, the footing specialists advise her based on research into impact ratings on different surfaces. When you go to a show, someone's managing it.... the list goes on. I think the biggest thing you or anyone else in your shoes has to realise is that the equine industry isn't just riders. The equine industry is formed of many parts.

                                Maybe an equine university/degree/degree with equine specialisation etc will help open your eyes to the possibilities that exist out there. But at the same time, you could go to a 'normal' university, be completely dispassionate about what you're doing and come out with a lacklustre CV. I say follow your passion but have a plan (A & B!!!). When you're passionate you will find the opportunities and get to your goal... eventually!


                                • #56
                                  Originally posted by atilthia View Post
                                  I'm eighteen, graduated high school and didn't get into any of the colleges I applied to for film (California is brutal, a 4.0 GPA still wasn't enough) so i'm currently taking classes at a community college.

                                  But thank you for the advice about the major changes! I can attest to that because a year ago I was completely set on film no matter what and here I am a year later already questioning it. I know, for sure, I'd be happy in any sort of degree offered at SCAD, and was pleased to know they're really supportive about changing degrees. It's nice to know there are so many choices when it comes down to it. I'm not even quite sure if i'm going to major/minor in equine studies or something else, although because I'm a transfer student I had to declare for the sake of getting in.

                                  My mother has the same mentality as you haha. She thinks of college as a place to figure out your future, not necessarily to lock yourself onto one path.

                                  Thank you so much!
                                  One other thing I want to mention (which I think several others have done as well): do you own horses right now, at home? It's a LOT of work, and if you want to be a barn manager or groom for a big-name rider or something similar, there are no days off. I keep 8 horses and they have to be fed when I have a migraine, when I have the flu, when I have a broken knee, when I have a broken arm, when it's 0 outside with a windchill of -10. There are the midnight colic calls to the vet where you're up until 4am hand-walking. And that's just me and my pasture horses. If you want to run a boarding barn or be a top groom, there are standards of care that are way above mine (I could care less if my horses manes are pulled, but your customers might.) It's a whole other world.

                                  You might want to look up some interviews that Practical Horseman and Dressage Today have done in the past with working students and top grooms, to get that perspective.

                                  And BTW, just know that even if you go this route now, that doesn't mean you can't change your mind later. I have degrees in history and anthropology and I'm returning to school this fall for my degree in creative writing. Your mom's right: college is for exploration!


                                  • #57
                                    Originally posted by atilthia View Post

                                    That's my plan Their equestrian team is doing AMAZINGLY right now, so I can only hope I have what it takes to try out and be on the team.
                                    The person I mentioned earlier is also one of the team captains. You should definitely send her a message. She's great!


                                    • #58
                                      OP, Read This Thread!:


                                      I think you'll find this very interesting!


                                      • #59
                                        Originally posted by Appsolute View Post

                                        Go to school and study something OTHER than horses that will allow you to have a stable (pardon the pun) career.
                                        This. x1000. I have to kind of laugh when I think of what my worldview was when I was 18. I went to college to be an English teacher. I am now a freshwater endangered species biologist. I too have ridden since I was about 5 years old, but never owned a horse till I was 26.

                                        (1) There are WAY scarier things than failure. I hope you do not experience them.

                                        (2) There are a few, VERY FEW, exceptions, but I have learned that if you make the hobby that you love your job, no matter how much you love it, it becomes WORK. I never want that to happen to my riding. I love conservation and am passionate about it, but it is my job, and it can suck the life out of me. Be very careful and try to be open minded and learn from those of us on the other side.
                                        Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                                        Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                                        We Are Flying Solo


                                        • #60
                                          I think that it is unrealistic to expect anyone working as a groom/rider for a stable to have their own horse.
                                          Their salary doesn't reach to boarding a horse and even if that is considered a freebie, I rather have that money added to those small salaries.
                                          Never mind if the horse needs expensive vet work.

                                          Add to that you have to ride the stable's horses, when will you have time and energy to ride yours, how will you pay for showing fees, how will you have time to care for and show your horse, when you are there for your employer's horses?
                                          That all may easily become a conflict of interest.

                                          A good groom/exercise rider/assistant trainer is best without any family/pets/horses.
                                          Work hard, save and years down the line you may be able to then become a barn manager, main instructor or even have your own stable.

                                          That kind of life takes much sacrifice up front, being a self starter with an incredible work ethic and some luck all goes well, no injuries, etc.

                                          I get some degree first, then decide if life at the bottom of the horse industry is really what you want.