Looking to take your love for horses to the next level, and make it a career? Here, Katie Allen-Clarke, from Horse & Country, shares some tips for taking the plunge.
Are you a keen amateur rider, but thought that working with horses was beyond your next career move? While getting into the equestrian world professionally can seem a little intimidating at first, making your income from horses is something that anyone can do — it just takes commitment, dedication, and an awareness of your current (and desired!) skillset. So, if you're willing to go the extra mile, you could be able to carve out a career as a pro.
Here, I'll share four tips that will help you take your hobby to the next level.
1. Identify your skills
Most career equestrians will focus on a particular part of the industry to develop their skills and experience in. So, your first step is to decide which kind of roles you’d like to concentrate on. Some common jobs in the industry include becoming a professional athlete, horse dealer, farrier, riding instructor, groom, equine dentist, equine therapist (e.g. physiotherapist or chiropractor), event manager, marketing specialist, or equine photographer.
You might already have a good idea of what you’re interested in, or what sort of skillset you have, already. But, if not, then you might want to reach out to some equestrian professionals that are already working in the industry, so you can work out what you're most passionate about. Ask them about what they do on a day-to-day basis and see if any of that appeals to you.
Don't forget – not all roles within the equestrian industry require strong or experienced riders! You can carve out a career within this sector, using the skills and experience you already have.
2. Up your experience level
Once you've worked out which kind of role you want to specialise in, you can take the next step: building out your experience. When it comes to equestrian sport, being prepared to train hard is often much more important than innate talent or ability (although a pinch of that won't hurt your chances, either) — and it’s exactly the same for your career! So, the more time and energy you're prepared to devote to your working out where you can build your CV, the better.
Ideally, you want to show direct experience in the sector you want to specialise in, as competition for these specialist roles can be high. If you want to improve your skills and ability quickly with intensive training, then work experience or an internship (depending on the route you choose), might help also build your portfolio quickly.
If a full-time placement isn’t an option for you, try shadowing someone on a short-term basis or volunteering.
Finally, finding a great mentor (or mentors!) can also work wonders, so make sure you have someone who understands your goals and career ambitions, and who you work well with. If you’re looking for a ridden career as a horse trainer or athlete, make sure you also have current and former pros on your list to take lessons with, too — this is a great way to refine your riding technique and push yourself to the next level.
3. Research the relevant qualifications
If you’re looking to head down a career path that’s governed by a regulatory body, you’ll need to make sure you’re up to scratch with the right certifications and training. For example, if you are looking to become a farrier, you will need to be registered with the Farriers' Registration Council. The only way to register is to complete a four-year Apprenticeship with an Approved Training Farrier (ATF).
There are many careers that are better to embark upon with registration or qualifications, that prove you are of a certain standard. For example, if you’re interested in becoming a horse riding instructor, to attract the most clients and keep your standard of teaching high, a qualification with the British Horse Society (BHS) or Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS) would be beneficial.
4. Invest in equipment that aids performance
Now you’ve spent some time deciding on your career path, it’s time to make moves towards taking things pro! Whether you’re considering a role as an equestrian photographer or as a professional rider, you’ll need to make some investments along the way to accelerate your career.
For example, if you're serious about developing as a rider, you'll need to make sure you have clothing and equipment that enables you to perform at your best. Well-made technical equestrian clothing will help keep you comfortable during long hours of training, and it will also ensure you look and feel your best when competing. It would also be worth investing in quality tack and horse wear, too — this will ensure your equine partner is also feeling comfortable during training and competitions, and will last the test of time.
In contrast, if you’re choosing a non-ridden career path, you’ll need to think about the sorts of equipment that would help you perform at your best. For example, if you’re heading down the route of equestrian photography, you’ll need to invest in camera and editing equipment that will capture beautiful images that help to tell your client’s story. This could include items such as a DSLR camera body and high-quality camera lens, as well as effective editing software. As a photographer, you’re also likely to be on your feet constantly or in challenging outdoor environments, so make sure the clothing you’re in is of a good, long-lasting quality and keeps you comfortable in the environment you’re in.
So, there you have it… a few ideas to help you get started on the road to becoming an employee in the equestrian industry. Try following some of the tips I've shared here to take your equestrian passion to the next level.