As a young adult trying to get into the horse industry without a horse of your own, it can be pretty difficult and discouraging. The ability to own and care for a horse is no easy feat, financially or physically. Luckily, in todays day and age, there are so many opportunities for young riders to get involved without their own horse. Here are some jobs and activities you can do to get yourself connected into the horse industry and the do’s and do not’s that come with them (based on experience).
1. Exercise Horses
This was my first go to! I knew that I was a good rider, and there are so many people that own horses that simply don’t have the time to ride them as often as they should. That’s where you and I come in. I had put a few ads out on various horse websites and found a few potential clients. I didn’t charge them since I just wanted more time under the saddle, but obviously you can. First, be sure to make known your experience with horses and riding. Include pictures, videos and references from barns or other people you might have ridden for. When meeting a potential client and their horse, have them ride the horse first. I had so many people tell me that their horse was the best thing ever, and then I’d end up getting thrown off because their horse was actually the devil. My mistake. Once you’ve evaluated the horse, make sure that you sign a liability agreement that states that any injuries sustained is not the owners responsibility. Accidents happen, horses are unpredictable and you always need to be prepared, and the owner needs to be protected. After that, come to an agreement on price (if you’re charging), how often the horse will be ridden, and the intensity of the workout. Once everything is down on paper, make you sure you actually show up and do the job you are paid for (or maybe just volunteering). The horse is going to need sometime to get to know you, and you also need to get to know the horse. If you’re inconsistent and lazy, the owner will probably let you go since their not getting the results they’re wanting: a fit horse. This is a great way to build connections with riders around you, and also a great way to get letters of recommendation for when you move on to bigger jobs.
2. Horse Internships
In the prime of my late teen years, I decided to take a 4 month internship at a Morgan show barn in KS. The facility seemed amazing, and the girls I was working with were a pleasure to be around. When taking on a job like this, you have to remember that you’re there to learn and to grow as a rider and entrepreneur. At this barn the other girls and I were in charge of the summer camp program and teaching lessons, which sounds easy on paper, however that was not the case. The summer camp program had been run by one person for three years, and it had just been given to us. The person that had run it before told us nothing about it, gave us no tips or activity ideas and overall we were left to our on devices. This is where the entrepreneur things comes in handy. The girls and I made up our own little curriculum and had a schedule that we followed to a T. Outside of the summer camp we were also teaching lessons to the kids from the camp that came back to learn more. As well, our boss taught us the ins and outs of running a barn, costs of going to horse shows and how they set everything up, and the little tidbits about running a business that no one tells you. Internships like these can look great on a college resume if you’re going into this industry, especially if you work at big name show barns. While all of this might sound grand, I actually didn’t make it to the end. There are a lot of things you need to be aware of while working at a place like this. First, you get paid close to nothing. As an intern you’re there to do the grunt work and the work that no one else really want to do. You get all the odd projects that no one has touched in 5 years handed to you. It is very rare that they’ll give you insurance of any kind, which means if you get really sick (unless you have your own or on your parents), you’re kind of screwed. I remember I had pink eye and couldn’t afford to go to a doctor, but couldn’t work as it highly contagious to animals and humans. As well, you have very limited days off and your work days are usually sun up to sun down. I lived on site and was also in charge of any overnighters that came and wanted to board their horse at our facility. Some of these people came in at like 10 pm or even 2 am, we never turned them down. Overall, it was a wonderful experience (for the most part). Would I ever do it again? Absolutely not.
3. Big Animal Sitter
This was a really fun job for me and while it was inconsistent, I had my regular customers. Being a petsitter can be really rewarding and exciting. With big animals, it can be hard for people to leave and go on vacations because finding someone that knows what they’re doing can be difficult and a little scary, but having someone there to look after them gives you a real sense of appreciation and the owner ease of mind. The most important thing in this job is communication! Continually providing updates every time I went to see their animals, really makes the customer feel like you know what you’re doing, and that they can trust you (which leads to more work). Even if there is the slightest change, let the owner know. They can let you know if this is normal for the animal or not, and if it’s not you can take the appropriate steps to better care for their animal. Another important thing with this job is to follow instructions. Have the customer write down a list of everything they do for that animal, and then don’t stray from it. You don’t want to take any chances while the owner is away as you could endanger the animal or yourself, which would ultimately lead to you no longer working for that particular customer. If there is something that you feel should be changed or done, call and talk to the owner first and make sure you have their permission. During spring and summer, you ca get a lot of business doing this kind of work. Many families take vacations around this time and are always looking for good people to take care of their animals. As you work with more families, you’ll get connected to others and if you’re good enough you’ll be hired the following year or whenever they take more vacations.
All in all, working in the horse industry is no joke, and should be taken very seriously. Make sure you take the proper precautions to protect yourself, the animals you’re working with and the people who own the animals. Working with big animals can be exciting, fun, challenging and a good way to get your foot in the door and get you noticed by other employers. I had at blast at every job I did and worked hard to get to where I am now in my riding career. Every horse I’ve ridden, or job I’ve done has taught me something and made me a better rider and person. Some jobs are going to be ridiculously hard and make you feel like you can’t do anything right. But, just stick to it, cause at the end of the day if you’re doing what you love then that’s all that matters.