Do you love horses? Do you enjoy riding horses, grooming horses, feeding or training horses?
If so, and you’re willing to work hard and learn, an equine career might just be lifelong career you’ve been searching for.
Equine careers are split into several broad categories, from veterinary care to horse training, grooming, stable management, stable hands, horse breeders, riding instructors, farriers, racehorse trainers, and even jockeys if you meet the size and courage requirements.
As you might imagine, there’s a lot of work involved in keeping horses alive and healthy throughout their lifetimes. Equines aren’t like dogs, cats, or other pets where you can just feed them and let them run about the yard and they’ll the fine. Horses need special attention, including specialized veterinary care, grooming, stable hands, grooming, and the services of a farrier.
So where does one go to learn the skills necessary for a career working with horses? There are about 20 colleges and universities in the US that offer degrees in horse management or equine husbandry. Coursework includes horse training skills, but it usually also prepares students for several other careers, including stable management and breeding, horse facilities management, racetrack management, equine business, and feed and equipment sales.
If you’re considering an equestrian career, you might also consider what your local community college has to offer.
If you're not interested in going to college, there's good news for you as well. There are many horse-related careers that don't require a college degree. They do, however, require considerable experience handling and working with horses, as well as good health, a positive attitude, and considerable physical strength.
Experience is important in a horse related career
As you might expect, horse trainers and other equine specialists need experience with horses, and should also have good to expert riding skills. You might start by working or volunteering in a stable: cleaning stalls; feeding, washing, and brushing horses; and performing other basic horse care. Many trainers start their professional careers as grooms, trainer assistants, or apprentice trainers. In these jobs, they do stable chores, but they may also help to train and exercise the horses. Experienced grooms or assistants might ride six to eight horses each day, exercising them according to trainer instructions.
Working with horses is hard, rewarding work, and many trainers and stable hands get up well before dawn to begin their workdays. Exercise sessions often begin at 5:30 a.m.—and that’s after the trainer oversees a grooming session and inspects the horses for bruises or injuries. Another session later in the day might focus on improving a horse’s gait or some other skill. In the evening, the horses might be walked or taken swimming.
Horse trainers teach people as well as horses. Racehorse trainers instruct jockeys on how to handle each horse. Show-horse trainers teach owners how to manage their horses, and many trainers are also riding instructors.
Horse trainers are also managers. They develop and oversee each horse’s training plan, and they supervise grooms who exercise the horses according to that plan. Trainers set specific fitness goals and keep detailed records. They meet with veterinarians, nutritionists, and stable managers.
If you’re serious about an equine career, learn to be resourceful! There’s no end to the opportunities the horse industry has to offer, no matter where you live or what your background is. Just keep in mind that working in the industry doesn’t always mean working exclusively with horses. Many jobs, such as an accountant, attorney, artist, clothes designer, journalist, computer programmer, etc. can be tailored to your interests. In making your future plans consider a broad education that may be adapted later to your choice of career.
Tips for finding a job in the equine industry
Some of the best ways to locate a job in this industry, as in many career fields, is by networking and getting the word out. Attend horse shows and rodeos in your area whenever you can, and get to know as many “horse people” as you can. Introduce yourself, be willing to listen and learn, and start speaking the language used by people in this business.
Another option is to visit any horse race tracks in your area, and see if you can network with some of the employees there, and find out the best way to get an entry-level position working with race horses. This is another case of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” as many of the best job openings never appear in the classifieds or on job boards.
Another path into a into a highly-rewarding equine career is by volunteering your time. The horse industry thrives on volunteer participation that can provide the vehicle to introduce and get you involved in many aspects of horse-related activities. Often good experience can be gained by offering to work for free. This experience in turn can open doors and help you establish valuable contacts.
If a job or career working with horses sounds like the ticket for you, and you're willing to put in the time and effort to get an education and "learn the ropes," you might visit the Horse Council website to learn more about this rewarding career opportunity.
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