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Careers with horses?

41 replies

historyrocks · 04/05/2021 21:53

DD1 is desperate to work with horses. She is 14 and currently has a part loan through the riding school (We can’t afford to get her one of her own.) She’s a hard worker and very committed. But I don’t know what she should be aiming for, or the various types of jobs working with horses that she could do. Does anyone have advice? What areas of study should she focus upon? I think that she can do BHS exams now. Is that a good idea? Many thanks

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Stickytreacle · 04/05/2021 22:51

The BHS run a qualification scheme where she can do examinations to become a coach or groom, the exam structure has changed since I did them, but I did stages I -IV, Horsemastership exam and Preliminary Teaching. I worked as an instructor, managed a yard and did breaking and schooling, At fourteen my best advice would be to stick in at school and keep horses as a hobby. While working with horses can be rewarding there are often big sacrifices to be made if you want to be successful and at the top of the game. A private groom can be expected to work long hours at times, often for not much money. Most people prefer to be coached by someone already successful or experienced, so competing can play a part.
If it was my daughter, I'd be encouraging them more down the veterinary medicine/nursing route.

Stickytreacle · 04/05/2021 23:05

Sorry, I haven't been much help, but I would probably wait until she has finished school before doing her stages exams, if she's still really keen then it would be worth the investment, but doing them now you may find that she discovers boys and other distractions and the cost would be wasted, also she may be better with up to date training/qualifications as an eighteen year old. She can prepare by gaining as much experience and knowledge as possible in the meantime.

ZenNudist · 04/05/2021 23:22

I have a family member who has a horse career. He went from competing as a showjumper as a child to working on a livery yard working for a professional show jumper. He continued to compete often riding other people's horses and teaching people to ride/ jump better.

He set up his own livery yard for a while with significant family help but was not a business man so gave it up when his family backer got fed up of him.

He then fell on his feet and started working as a mounted extra in film and TV. Now he travels and works all over and has worked on some really prestigious shows and films. He does things like body doubles for the actors to do stunts and impressive riding, teaches the cast to ride, rides horses as an extra in films. Generally has a great time and it's well paid. He loves it. It's been a long time coming but he's really in a good place. It's hard work and I don't think he can do it until he's too old but he's in his 40s so got some time yet.

Hope that helps you understand one horse career. It's such hard work and low paid. You're up early and you often have to live on site in shared accommodation. It helps to have a wealthy sponsor if you are a good rider. It seems a good life FWIW.

lastqueenofscotland · 05/05/2021 08:21

Does she want to be a groom? If so racing is the best regulated and paid by a country mile in terms of employee conditions.
If she wants to ride she’d need to be pretty brave (and incredibly fit) but there are plenty of non riding roles.
Have a look at the British racing school (Newmarket), northern racing college (Doncaster) and the national stud also offer a course. BRS and NRC are very good at helping you find a job at the end also.
Because of the traditional hierarchical structure of yards it offers slightly more career progression that most.
There is also a bit of an opportunity to travel.

ZooKeeper19 · 05/05/2021 10:10

@historyrocks the best advice I got at the BRS some years ago from the lead coach there - go to Uni, get a degree and buy horses you can ride as a hobby. Do not make yourself a lifelong slave to someone else's horses.

Even kids from wealthy horse families have not an easy time working with horses and making money out of it. Then there is the whole family/children thing and that also does not go well with being an exercise rider/groom/yard lad.

Honestly education before hobbies (and I was willing to throw everything away at her age and even many years older to just be able to ride).

historyrocks · 05/05/2021 10:11

She isn't sure what she wants to do exactly--well, she wants to compete professionally, but I just can't see that happening without her own horse right now. Do people ever make it through to that without competing as a child?

Almost all of her friends at the stables are getting their own horses and it breaks my heart to not be able to do that for her (I also ride & know exactly what it would cost.)

She chose her subjects for S4 exams (we're in Scotland) recently. The
only subject that I could see would make a difference is Biology. She's spoken about having her own business and has also chosen Accountancy and Business Studies. I''m not sure what options there may be where she can have her own business.

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historyrocks · 05/05/2021 10:18

Apologies for multiple posts...
@zookeeper19, I also got that advice. I have a well paid job (as a lecturer), but it's still not enough to have our own.

It's difficult--she was diagnosed as dyslexic at primary school and certainly at the time I didn't know whether she would make it to university, or even want to. Having said that, she really blossomed during the most recent lockdown and is getting on well.

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Rainbowshine · 05/05/2021 10:21

I think she’d find it really hard going into competition as an adult, if she hasn’t as a child. She’d be up against those that have had that experience and know how to cope and thrive in the competitive environment. She’d also be “behind” those with that experience when applying for jobs. Sorry, I don’t like being a doomsayer but as others have said there’s other routes that might be better.

Floralnomad · 05/05/2021 12:26

I think you would be better to try and sell her education and a career of some sort where she could afford to have her own and compete as a hobby . I always wanted to work with horses ( we had our own ) and my parents insisted I stayed on for A levels and it was during that final school year that it became apparent that working with horses wasn’t going to work for us ( me and my main horse) . I did nursing in the end which worked out much better .

FlyingNimbus · 05/05/2021 12:53

One route is through Hartpury

but tbh I know more people who have had success working their way up and taking BHS qualifications along the way, or combining it with a career. That could be unfair though as I don't personally know any Hartpury graduates.

I'd say at 14 years I would be encouraging her to stick with her academic studies as well so she has more choice at 18. Your DD sounds like she has the right attitude but working with horses is as much as a vocation as a career tbh. They need care 24/7, Christmas day, in all weathers, and the pay isn't great. It's hard going. Early starts. Long hours. You have many ups and downs and have to be very resilient to succeed. And of course you can be seriously injured yourself. Sorry to sound so negative but the risks are there.

The benefits are huge too of course if you are an active, energetic person who enjoys working in the outdoors. And of course it's a great privilege to work with animals; hugely rewarding. One day is never the same as the next. And you learn so much each day. And the lifestyle is a very healthy one if you can avoid accidents.

How about having a look at this as a start ?

And talk to as many people in the various branches of the industry as you can: breeders of all types, showjumpers, dressage riders, eventers, endurance riders, jumps and flat trainers in racing, vaulters, horseback archery, show yards, hunter yards, point to pointers, general liveries, pentathletes, working heavy horses, chiropractors, farriers, equine vets, saddlers, feed merchants, equine equipment and clothing retail, land management ...the list goes on ... .

She needs to talk to people in the industry and get as broad experience as possible in the holidays. Where you get work experience is important. If it's a good place with a good reputation, in whatever area of the sport, the contacts you make will be very useful later on.

lastqueenofscotland · 05/05/2021 13:17

Gently... competing professionally is pretty much out of the question.
She would need immense financial backing, a big standard 1.10 horse goes for 15-20k these days. A true professionals horse... six or even seven figures. You need to be a big name to attract owners or insanely rich.
I’m not one for shitting on kids dreams but if she’s thinking about leaving school to do that is tell her that it’s highly unrealistic.

There is a chance of being a working pupil on a professional eventing/SH yard but they do tend to prefer young people with experience of seriously highly strung (and over fed under turned out) sport horses.

FlyingNimbus · 05/05/2021 13:27

Very very hard but not totally out of the question, surely?

There are quite a few professional riders who started late.

Accountancy is quite a good mix with a career in horses op!

Bigsighall · 05/05/2021 13:30

What about training to be a farrier or a physio? Saddler? Those pay ok, she’d be around horses and hopefully have the inclination to ride her own after work!

s285 · 05/05/2021 13:36

Hi my daughter always wanted her own horses however I could only afford to part loan one for her when she was younger. My daughter is now 22 and has been in the British Army for 4 years and is a trained engineer. She now can afford not 1 but 2 horses of her own and represents her Corp at showjumping. From what i understand each soldier is given time off in the week to pursue a sport of their choice - my daughters is horse riding.

s285 · 05/05/2021 13:37

My daughter is also dyslexic

ItsReallyOnlyMe · 05/05/2021 13:48
historyrocks · 05/05/2021 14:14

@s285, sorry if mentioning the dyslexia sounded negative. I didn't mean it in that way. I just felt it's somewhat relevant to which career(s) she takes.

Many thanks for the suggestions. I have been pushing DD towards other ways of working with horses. She's talked about having her own business (and has been working on ideas to earn money for a good year!) That could be a route to somehow working with horses.

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historyrocks · 05/05/2021 14:16

Sorry, double post again! Equine physio is one possibility I'd thought about. but I don't know how easy it is to get work, or how well it pays.

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Ineedaneasteregg · 05/05/2021 14:20

My dsis (also horse mad and dyslexic) became an engineer as well.
She kept a horse as a hobby.
There were no decent horse paying jobs she could find for those who didn't have a background of money.

maxelly · 05/05/2021 14:51

I agree that groom/work rider type jobs are pretty hard work for low pay so really has to be a labour of love, and that vanishingly few people make it to be top-tier professional competition riders without serious family/financial backing (Charlotte Dujardin being perhaps a notable exception) - this absolutely doesn't mean she can't be a serious competition rider, a large number of riders even going round Badminton or Burghley never mind the lower levels of BS/BD/BE would be to a greater or lesser extent 'amateurs' - either true amateurs whose main job is something unrelated but lucrative enough to fund the horses as a hobby or semi-amateurs who work in the field but derive their main income from their job/business rather than competition (vets, riding instructors, equine physios, yard managers, dealers). It's hard but not impossible to get to this level without being a competitive rider/having own horse as a child, I would certainly encourage her to continue with anything that will bring on her riding, lessons, pony club, helping at yard and riding holidays, and she's getting to the level where a share horse is a possibility which will improve her riding no end...

If she's academic enough for university, I would really encourage her to pursue this, there are a variety of professions in the equine field at graduate level including the more obvious vets, but also physios, equine business management, marketing and sales for equine companies, even more niche things like sports journalism and media (mainly racing but some other sports also), equine tourism. Bluntly, if she's serious about competition she'll need some money behind her so taking a hit in terms of doing a more professional/office based role will give her more money and flexibility to spend on competing, it would be very difficult to run even a BE100 season on a £20k salary (even if you lived super frugally in all other respects) unless you have access to free livery through your work or similar.

If uni isn't for her or she really wants more hands on work, she could consider veterinary nursing, saddlery or doing her qualifications to become a riding instructor - these wouldn't be as well paid but should provide a reasonable income and a horsey lifestyle. For the latter the route tends to be doing your BHS 'Stage' (1 -3) qualifications followed by preliminary coaching qualifications, up to becoming an Assistant Instructor or Instructor - the latter exams pretty much need to be done on the job, she can do the stages as a regular candidate if she wants although I wouldn't say it's absolutely essential, most people wanting to take that route start out as (badly paid and very hard worked!) apprentices at a training centre/large riding school or college, and will be put through their qualifications as part of the job - she'll be a better candidate and get qualified sooner if she starts with her stage 2/3 or her PC C/B tests which are equivalent but they are expensive to do so don't beat yourself up if you can't manage it...

Germolenequeen · 05/05/2021 14:58

My advice - a decent paying job & own horse - sadly careers in horses are for most part badly paid with poor conditions and long hours which are exhausting 😕

maxelly · 05/05/2021 14:59

Re equine physio, I would say there's enough work around (it's becoming more and more popular amongst 'ordinary' horse owners as well as competition riders), my yard now has a weekly afternoon visit from the physio and she always fills her slots - however I would not say it's particularly well paid considering the training and skill involved. Most are probably self-employed (large vet practices and some large racing yards may directly employ a physio but that's quite rare, most would be freelance) - extrapolating from what they charge I guess they earn £20-£25k working full time. ACPAT phsyios have usually done a degree in human physiotherapy first and when you consider a NHS physio starts on £25k and earns more like £30-£35k once they have 5- 10 years or so experience, obviously you can see that once again the equine route is poorly paid!

Pleasedontdothat · 05/05/2021 15:13

Ultimately it will be your daughter who has to decide what she wants to do and if she’s prepared for the difficulties/sacrifices working with horses would entail. I’ve been trying to guide my daughter towards the uni/well-paid job/having horses as a (serious) hobby route and given that she’s about to start as an apprentice with a 5* eventer, I’ve obviously failed ..

She’s been adamant that she doesn’t want to go to uni for a while and to be honest uni would be a disaster for her right now. We did manage to get her to finish her A-levels (although she’s dropped one subject and if she manages to pass the others it will be a minor miracle) so that she would have options if horses didn’t work out. However, although she finds schoolwork very hard (she has processing issues) she excels with anything horsey - sailed through her pony club tests, is incredibly confident and competent at riding/yard jobs and to see her in her element you’d never know that there was anything wrong.

So by all means encourage her to continue in education but some teenagers will not be able to follow the standard path. My daughter realises that she will almost certainly never be well-off if she carries on but she would not have been happy if she hadn’t at least given it a go. Having worked at a yard part time for the last four years she’s under no illusions how hard life with horses can be. But even if she decides at the end of the apprenticeship that she doesn’t want to keep going, she’ll still have had some amazing experiences and will develop transferable skills plus a hardcore work ethic which will stand her in good stead in the future.

EuroTrashed · 05/05/2021 16:25

There are a lot of horse related careers that can earn a reasonable living and many of which would involve freelancing or the ability to set up own practice so the business studies are a good idea. Off the top of my head (and with varying degrees of academic qualifications/ skills required):
Saddler / specialty crafts that are equine related
Feed rep / horse feed development / nutrition
Stud admin / stallion manager / really niche horse sperm wrangling jobs
There are niche accountants and lawyers for the various equine specialisms, particularly if you look at the racing world. There are even equestrian property specialists at high end estate agencies - maybe she can pick a mainstream career but carry it out within an equine industry?

DorisLessingsCat · 05/05/2021 17:02

Following with interest. DD is currently eyeing up various equine related careers and courses at Hartpury College.

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