Let’s Discuss: The Equestrian Profession

Growing up, my mother forbade me from seeking a career out of buying and selling or riding horses. Learn from her mistakes, she said, as even though she had a rather successful breeding program, it’s no secret that it’s hard to make money on horses.

But not being able to get it out of my system, I still pursued a degree in Animal Science when I went to college. My intent was to focus on breeding, but from a different angle- I wanted to specialize in reproductive services: a focused practice centered around embryo transplants, artificial insemination, and other modern approaches to equine breeding programs.

Other risks to buying and selling horses- watching your mother almost get stomped to death by excited youngsters

Risks to buying and selling horses: watching your mother almost get stomped to death by excited youngsters

While I was well acquainted with the back end of a horse by the time I went to school (helping my mother tease mares and observe sperm motility through my elementary microscope kit from an early age), what I wasn’t prepared for were the labs. After a year of scaring the pants off of my Animal Science professor by turning sheet white every time an organ got squished and probed in front of me, I decided to pursue design school.


Life growing up on a farm: The brother hanging out with an OTTB

Some days it’s disappointing to not be involved with horses on a daily basis. Other days, like in the scorching heat of summer or a particularly nasty winter, I am incredibly thankful for the seemingly cushy life of a desk job.

If you were to pick any equestrian job, what would you choose? What would the pros and cons be of that field? If you are now in an equine-related profession, what is it about your job do you love most? What are the downfalls?

17 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: The Equestrian Profession

  1. I quit my job of 11 years last June to work full time at a horse job, but I’ve managed to strike a very nice balance. I feel extremely lucky for the opportunity to be able to keep one foot in the door at my former employer (overseeing major projects, and billing them regularly) while the other 5 days are spent working at a farm that specializes in buying OTTBs and retraining them for spor thorse careers. What’s even better, is that since I started working for my trainer, we’ve sold a crazy amount of horses (compared to past years) — and I’ve gotten to fully immerse myself in the process. I’m learning something new every single day and gaining the sort of independence with these creatures that I never fully understood. My days are varied greatly (which helps) and I don’t muck stalls (which helps even more), but I do work long hours in whatever weather Mother Nature throws our way. And, my schedule allows for plenty of time for freelance photography. My particular role for my trainer’s business is unique as I don’t get paid in a traditional sense, but my horse’s board and training/lessons are included and I buy 2-3 OTTBs in partnership with her which gives me plenty of incentive to move them along.

    I don’t know how long it takes to burn out, but I’m loving every minute of it right now (and I started in the middle of a heat wave and it’s winter so maybe I’m just a crazy person).

  2. I feel the same way as you. My mother also encouraged me to pursue a career that would pay for my passion and not make my passion my career. She did not have the history as your mother does though. She did know how hard it is to make an honest living with horses and wanted me to have everything I desired. Some days I really wish I worked with horses every day. However, I am always happy that I do not have to sell them to pay for things or worry about the feed bill. I have also seen people lose the love of horses by making it their living. I NEVER wanted that to be me, which was the main reason I did not chose anything horses for my living. If I were to pick any equestrian job, it would probably be somewhere in breeding and/or dealing with the youngsters. I really enjoy raising and working with babies and there is nothing happier looking than a pregnant or nursing mare. Maybe for someone else as a manager or something.

  3. I was a barn manager at a breeding farm for a few years after I came back from being a working student on the east coast. While I loved it, that particular job was 7 days a week, 14 hours a day, and I was the only worker so I did EVERYTHING. That’s the point at which it’s no longer fun for me… no matter what job I have, I need a break at least sometimes.

    That said, if it was the right position I would totally go back into a horse related profession. But how many “right positions” really exist in that industry? 😉

  4. On my worst days in the office, I dream of quitting and going to work at a barn. On the grossest days of weather, I am happy to be inside, snug and warm!
    That said, I think if I could combine my marketing profession with horses, I’d be so happy. I’m considering ways to make that move but it’s tough.

  5. I am a wimpy baby and love having my 40 hr/week job that is air conditioned in the summer and air conditioned in the winter. And I also really like being able to decline riding horses I don’t want to ride. I like my well-broke grownup horses, thankyouverymuch. That being said, I would LOVE to work in the business side of a major horse show/equestrian publication/something horse related. That for me would be a perfect mix of getting to use my math-brain for good, and getting to be around like-minded people in an industry I’m passionate about.

  6. There seems to be much too much uncertainty and heartbreak in the horse business for me to be willing to work in it full time. I am happy to fuss over one horse as an amateur right now. Plus, ya know, employer-sponsored health insurance is a huge plus in a regular job.

  7. I wanted to be a vet at a young age but couldn’t stomach large amounts of blood and such so decided to just choose something to afford ponies. So I ended up becoming a tax accountant and CPA.

    Knowing what I know now I would have loved to have become an equine nutritionist but that is a lot of school to go back to since I have a business degree. Otherwise I love saddle fitting and wish that was a more steady type of job to do. I do have hopes that some day I can just find an equestrian business to work for as a tax accountant, I think that would be fun.

  8. I’m actually very content not working in the equestrian industry. My short stint at SmartPak was enough. Horses are a huge passion in my life, but they are best alongside my career instead of in it.

  9. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some really great middle-of-the-road jobs that keep me very much in touch with the horse world, but without the 7 days a week/24 hours a day schedule. I spent 5 years working for USEF in their High Performance office, which gave me such great insight into the top of the sport and awesome connections, and then when I moved to PA I started working for a former USEF co-worker who had decided to go into real estate full time, selling horse farms. I’ve also kept part-time barn jobs throughout that time and would eventually like to have my own place and a handful of boarders, but I love the balance of being able to be a part of the industry without being burnt-out on the grind of riding and training for a living. And let’s face it – I’m nowhere near good enough to get paid to ride and train!

  10. I’ve worked in the horse industry in a variety of guises – riding, teaching, trimming, selling tack, grooming – & I am soooooo thankful that I don’t any more. The terrible hours & conditions are one thing, but I always put myself under a huge amount of pressure because I never ever feel like I’m good enough. Then my whole world becomes horses horses horses & it drives me mad. Also horse people are crazy and can be very frustrating to deal with haha.
    I’m happy now with my 9 to 5 that lets me focus on my own horses & riding 🙂

  11. Ideally I want to find some kind of mix, since you know, still in college and all that. I so wanted to go to an equine college but wasn’t allowed. I then attempted pre-vet but I suck at memorizing so it just isn’t for me. Now I’m doing business and I’m hoping to have a part-time/work from home horse related job for the benefits and also do some breeding/training on the side. On the business front, I think it would be cool and useful to have a rehab facility in my area. But you know, wishful thinking and all that.

  12. I guess I’d probably do what I do as a career, teach, but with horses. I have done so in the past and know I couldn’t handle it long term, but it is fun every once in awhile. Last weekend I had a couple of kids I teach vet science to at school (as an elective – now that’s fun!) out to the barn to do a horse care 101 afternoon which included a brief introduction to riding. The kids LOVED it, are already begging for another, and two of the girls are currently writing their persuasive essays in English on why horseback riding is the best sport….um whoops did I create monsters? Ha ha.

  13. This is a tough one. I wanted to be a vet, but I am glad I didn’t go down that path. As much as I enjoyed my time as a vet assistant, it also showed me that I would have not done well as a veterinarian long term. Although I am fascinated with all things health and science with equines, which would probably lead me to research.
    I could totally see myself doing research, either in nutrition or exercise health (race ponies!) Give me microscopes and pipettes and blood and things!

  14. Good question(s)! I briefly considered the veterinary route when I was a kid, but my high school math and science marks squashed that dream. lol I was never a good enough rider to be a trainer, so that didn’t appeal to me. And now, seeing all of the butt-kissing and hand holding trainers have to do to keep their clients makes me glad of that!

    If I won the lottery, I could see buying a nice place and doing some boarding/breeding/sales, but not as a my main career. I love horses and horse stuff, but getting my nice regular paycheque every two weeks without shovelling any literal manure is kinda nice! 😉

  15. I knew pretty quickly that I wasn’t good enough to be a trainer or smart enough to be a vet, so I tried to meld my strengths with the horse industry and found out that working for horse people is sometimes not so ideal. I’m happy to have a professional life completely separate from my equestrian life.

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