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The best road to a career with horses?

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  • The best road to a career with horses?

    I'm a junior in high school and I'm completely dedicated to having a career and life with horses as a professional. I would love to be a trainer, judge, competitor and instructor all in one with maybe the possibility of owning my own facility some day. I'm pretty sure we all would love that.

    The problem is, I live in a low-middle class household with just me and my mom. I can barely take once a week lessons right now, and I have been on and off with riding the past year thanks to the money issue. I have about 8 years under my belt of hunter/jumper riding and a great knowledge of general horse care.

    What is the best option for becoming a professional in the horse industry? Is college a must or is there an opportunity in equestrian specific schools like Maredith Manor? It'll be an extremely big struggle to earn enough money to be able to go there or any college, though. Once I am able to get my license it'll be easier to maybe work as a stable hand at my stable if they'd give me the job.

    I have my doubts and hopes about this dream. I would also love to hear your stories about your career successes with horses.

  • #2
    I would definitely try to get a working student job for as long as you can, maybe over the summer while still in high school. Especially since refrences tend to go a long way in the horse world.


    • #3
      Marry Well...works for lots of people.
      "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"


      • #4
        One thing to consider is making sure to get a college degree.

        You should be able to go to a state university and even if you had to take student loans the tuition is a lot lower than a private school.

        A business degree never hurts to have if you want to someday go into any kind of business for yourself. It is also a good fallback plan in case you decide to switch game plans and have a career which pays well enough to support your horse habit.

        Depending on what state you are from, you might be able to get a business degree or even liberal arts or science or something else that interests you - and also be able to take some equine science/animal husbandry courses. Maybe check out what your state schools offer for programs.

        Personally I think if it is a struggle for you and your mom financially you are much wiser to invest in a well rounded education at a good university rather than a specialized equine related program that gives you a relatively narrow focus and skill set.


        • #5
          Go to college and get a degree that is not equine related. A business degree would serve you well if you plan to own or run a facility.


          • #6
            Make a list of judges/trainers/competitors that you admire. Research their stories, it may give you some ideas. It can be done (as others have proven) so learn from them.


            • #7
              Sketcher is correct. But once you get a business degree you'll decide that the horse business is not a money maker.

              Choose a career in which you can make some real money and have your horses for fun.

              I've seen waaaaay too many kids with degrees in Equine Management mucking stalls. Many of the graduates of Equine programs around here in Lexington are the children of wealthy TB farm owners. I'm not saying that these people don't work hard but they usually have a great advantage when their parents own a 2500 acre farms.

              In addition many of the barns that look successful have a working spouse that has a career somewhere else. The inherited farm where the husband is otherwise employed may look like they are making money but they are really just running the business so the wife can show her horses and write it off. It is tough to compete against these barns because they are really boarding most of the horses at their cost. If you have a trainer there and are not the trainer yourself its really almost impossible to profit.

              If you doubt the profitability just try going to your local bank and borrowing money to start a horse related business. Wear a helmet on your visit because your exit out the door will be swift and painful.
              Last edited by redhorse5; Jan. 24, 2010, 10:29 PM. Reason: adding sentence


              • #8
                Since the ship has already sailed on "the best" option (pick your parents wisely -- ie wealthy and willing to pour a big chunk of that wealth into your horsie pursuits), second best is snag a rich husband (or in this day and age, a rich wife).

                Horatio Alger stories are really, really rare in the horse world.

                Most horse professionals are PINOs and have another revenue stream that they pour down the rathole of the horse "business".


                • #9
                  I've been told by tons of horse people(fellow riders, boarders, trainers, barn owners, farriers, and even vets) that it's much smarter to get a non-horse degree in something that I could make good money in, and support my "horse habit" that way. By doing that, you could be financially secure and always have the option of opening your own barn in the long run. I'm going for a medical degree(obviously not just for the money!); I'll be in school forever, but once I'm older and have an established job, I'm sure I'll easily be able to afford my horseys!


                  • #10
                    I posted above but wanted to add something:

                    I, too, wanted to be a pro. I did one semester of college and dropped out so I could manage a 5-stall barn and ride.

                    Then I broke my back. And had screws and rods inserted in my spine. Five days in the hospital, 6 months to be somewhat normal again. I was 21 years old.

                    I was in pain for four years before I found a neurosurgeon who pinpointed the problem. Long story short, I needed another fusion. More screws & rods implanted. Permanent nerve damage from the first surgery. Another 5 days in the hospital, another 6 months to be somewhat normal. I have now been pain free for six years.

                    I am now 31 years old. I just went back to college (my first class was last Tuesday). Majoring in laboratory sciences.

                    Moral of my story: You NEVER KNOW when something could happen to end your pro career - before it even starts. I broke my back in a freak accident. I was pushing a (full) wheelbarrow up the ramp to the manure spreader, slipped & fell flat on my back. Wheelbarrow (and all it's contents) landed on top of me.

                    It took almost three years to be diagnosed as I actually broke the joints between the vertebrae. That caused the vertebrae to slip back and forth which caused spinal cord pinching and damage (that's the permanent nerve damage I spoke about).

                    I'll still get on and ride - but not without a safety vest and I want someone watching in case I do fall - they can call 911. I wont jump anymore.

                    Please, don't make my mistake. When my accident happened, I had a high school education and no college degree to fall back on. You don't make much money with a high school education; in this economy, you might find it difficult to get a job without a college degree.

                    Best of luck. Let us know what you think. PM me if you have any questions.

                    ETA: If you are from a low or middle income household, the federal goverment will give you grants (free money) to go to school. They're called Pell Grants. The state I live in (NJ) also has a similar program called TAG. More free money to go to school. Check out your options in IL.
                    Last edited by tarynls; Jan. 25, 2010, 08:42 AM. Reason: added grant info


                    • #11
                      There's a very old saying: "How do you make a million dollars with horses? Start with $2 million"

                      You don't want to be "the help". If you don't own the barn, you're the help. You can be fired very easily...and then what?

                      Injuries..are a common part of horses, and barns need workers, not people on light duy for 6 months. Insurance for these injuries...can be slim to none. I've boarded places where the the BO told her workers "you will be fired one minute before you got hurt", and she meant it.

                      Loyalty...just isn't here. You're running the barn/horses, a new SYT (Sweet Young Thing) comes into the BO's life and she's running the barn and you're out. Thou shalt have no gods before the SYT, they're jealous and evil and you're a threat.

                      Wear and tear...take a look at women in "the help" area of the horse world. They're old before their time, leather skin, typically alone (but I've got my horse etc.) with no retirement or savings. A 45 year old horse employee is not as productive as a SYT or 25 year old guy. Think of McDonalds, when they can hire a newby and keep em' for 2 years, why pay higher salaries to long term employees when the learning curve is pretty low and the work quality between great and talented vs. which end of the fork do I hold can be closed fairly shortly.

                      Earn lots of money with a career, better to sit in back of the limo than be the driver.
                      "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"


                      • #12
                        If you are dead serious about making a living with horses and you are not born with the proverbial silver spoon in your mouth, invest in a superb language course and go to Europe.

                        Regulations are different, you actually get benefits etc, the job is a recognized trade you go to school for for 3 years. I mean school losely, as you will be working in a barn and have classroom time in addition.

                        The hours are long, pay extremely lousy and off days far and between.

                        but you can manage.

                        Other than that, get a degree in something good and useful, like business and accounting, learn electrician or plumber.

                        The horse world is full of stary eye dreamers who would pay for the 'honor' to do that as a job, tough set up to actually earn a living wages...


                        • #13
                          Get top grades in high school so you can get into your state university that has an agriculture school. Then, get a degree in something useful (nursing, medical technology, engineering or other marketable degree) and do a minor in equine science. After you are making good money at your primary job, you can teach riding and bring along young horses in your spare time.


                          • #14
                            The horse world is full of stary eye dreamers who would pay for the 'honor' to do that as a job, tough set up to actually earn a living wages...
                            Yup, and this is why people fail in this industry - because reality sets in. And reality is that you're working a physically hard job, for not a lot of money, little to no glory or perks. Barn owners can get away with paying less "because you're working with horses" and someone else has taken less before.

                            Most of these jobs make it impossible to save any money to buy a home or retire. And believe me, at some point you're going to need to retire, since the work is hard, physical, and dangerous. You're also going to need health insurance, which unfortunately, isn't often standard in the industry.

                            That's not to say you can't do it. That's only to say you need to walk in with a plan AND a backup plan. I think the idea of a business degree and possibly a working student position in summer or something would probably be the best starter.
                            They're small hearts.


                            • #15
                              Re-read posts #7, 10, & 13 very carefully


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by tarynls View Post
                                ETA: If you are from a low or middle income household, the federal goverment will give you grants (free money) to go to school. They're called Pell Grants. The state I live in (NJ) also has a similar program called TAG. More free money to go to school. Check out your options in IL.
                                Yes! Many schools that offer Equine Studies are truly liberal arts, and you could get a minor in ES, or do a double major. Does your high school have a career counselor? I work in a high school where over 90% of our kids are on free lunch, and we have a significant number go to college, mostly on Pell grants. If you need more info, please PM me. Your spring semeter of junior year is when you need to start planning!
                                Last edited by Hunter Mom; Jan. 25, 2010, 11:18 AM.
                                A proud friend of bar.ka.


                                • #17
                                  I wouldn't necessarily go majoring in equine studies. A lot of the students I've seen come out of there have no experience in working in the horse world or any real idea of how the industry or business end works. Search for any number of multiple threads on getting an equine studies degree.

                                  If you must, major in business and minor in equine studies.
                                  They're small hearts.


                                  • #18
                                    Get a degree in something useful. If money is an issue, you can do two years at community college and then go on to state school. While you're in school, get a job at a barn as a working student. Best advice my daughter ever got was that college would get you nothing in the horse industry, experience is the only thing that counts. But, you need that degree as a back-up. There are some careers that will complement the horse industry, like turf management, computer science and information systems (focusing on website development), etc. Accounting is not a bad way to go, either.

                                    However, if you want to be IN the industry, you need to start off like everybody else, at the bottom, mucking stalls. Just the way it is.

                                    Now, if you had lots of money....But, don't we all wish that!


                                    • #19
                                      Here in Ocala, Central Florida College (formerly known as Central Florida Community College) offers an AA degree in Equine Science. Here are the Programs of Study they offer:

                                      Equine Studies—Business Management Specialization

                                      Equine Studies—Equine Exercise Physiology

                                      Equine Studies—Therapeutic Riding Management Specialization

                                      Equine Studies—Equine Assistant Manager

                                      These are really good programs - a friend of mine is the Director of the program.




                                      • #20
                                        Again, there are lots of programs out there. My daughter's friend graduated with a degree in Equine Management. She has worked for two TB farms in the past year. No health insurance, and she was injured on the job and will require surgery. She had to sue the owner for workmen's comp. And now she has no job. Other friends have been unable to find jobs in the industry. Now for the wealthy ones, they've gone on to showing (on their nickel) or working on the family farm. Sorry, that's just how it is.

                                        Get yourself a marketable degree, then purse the horse industry. Take working student jobs over the summer and progress that way.

                                        If you're only riding one day a week, you're really not seeing a true picture anyway.

                                        We've had a rough start to the year. New Year's day, sick horse, temps in the low teens. IV meds froze going in. Spent about 8 hours a day in the barn with no heat. We were sick, too, but you don't get sick days on a horse farm. Is that really what you want?