Following on from our blog about diversifying livery yards and equestrian establishments, we’ve added one for those looking to break into the equestrian industry who are not in the position to have their own yards to work from, and simply want to put their love of horses to good use. Equestrianism is an expensive hobby, especially if you have your own horses. Below are some suggestions to put your equine knowledge and skills to good use to help cover some of the cost of riding and perhaps as a future career!
For our inspiration for this blog, please see “Crazy about horses? These tips will make your hobby, pay”
Hold on! This is about making money from horses- you don’t get paid to volunteer! Correct. But by volunteering your time and skills in your spare time you can increase your experience- often with nationally recognised associations and charities. This is something ideal to combine with study or other part time paid employment as the time you need to dedicate can vary and be flexible depending upon your availability.
Many volunteer positions can lead to paid positions with job progression- perhaps leading a team of volunteers or progressing to a different aspect of the charity or business. There are all sorts of roles to volunteer for from welfare officers to committee roles for pony clubs and riding clubs, to RDA centres. You can even volunteer as a judge – if you’ve the experience- or steward at equestrian events from being a cross country fence judge to helping the judge in the show ring or being part of the arena party replacing fallen jumps at BS events. These can often give a great insight as to how events run and get you known by the committee and local riders. Volunteering also looks great on your CV for future employers, and shows commitment. Why stay in the UK- there are also many equine and animal charities abroad that often seek help with their campaigns giving you a varied experience you can apply to an equine career here in the UK so ideal if you have a gap year to fill or want to expand your worldly equine knowledge.
Train as a Riding Instructor
Most people who want to learn to ride start with an instructor, and many of them seek lessons at a riding school or equestrian centre. Many of these offer instruction from various levels of BHS (British Horse Society) approved instructors. The BHS offers a formal path of qualifications from basic ‘stages’ to becoming a fully qualified riding instructor. The process takes some years including teaching placements, practical riding assessments and theory exams, but it can be worthwhile for finding future employment at well reputed establishments. Of course, you do not need to be a qualified instructor to teach. Many instructors have never followed that career path and simply have a great teaching client base and reputation based on their own experience, particularly if they are a successful competitor to a high level or have proven experience in the field of training horses and riders.
Being an instructor also gives you the option to instruct ‘freelance’ – i.e not from a fixed establishment which makes it ideal to fit in around other employment and studying. This means you can travel to other yards or premises to teach, and also have the ability to offer paid instruction- often higher than an employed rate- and being a qualified instructor often opens up your services to other equestrian communities such as riding clubs, pony clubs or horse camps. Well respected riders with a solid competition record are often sought after by groups, clubs and individuals making it easier to fill your diary!
Train as an Equestrian professional through Further Education
Many people just know the ‘want to work with horses’ with no real plan as to in what capacity. An option is to study equines in further education which you can do in a range of ways from NVQ Apprenticeships (now called Work Based Diplomas) to degrees at college specialising in particular fields such as breeding or bio-mechanics which can lead to a huge variety of roles across the equine industry. Some qualifications, such as Work Based Diplomascan be studied while you are ‘on the job’ meaning you can earn and learn at the same time. .
Alternatively, aside from roles working physically day to day with horses, there are many forms of career path that involves services to the industry like nutritionist, saddle maker or office based roles such as recruitment, marketing, online resources and administration without the day to day direct contact with horses that do not necessarily need any formal qualifications equestrian or otherwise. Most land-based careers (agriculture, equine, animal care etc) can apply to the equine industry whether veterinary, land management or direct equine aspects, and can all play apart in fulfilling a dream to work with equines or in the equine sector. All of these use your equine knowledge but also include the learning of additional skills and crafts that can make you indispensable to the equine world, but also keep your career options open should you wish to work in a different industry later on in life.
Become a Professional Rider
A hard one to break into as to be a ‘professional’ sportsman or sportswoman your income must solely be from your chosen sport. However, with the right support, horses and sponsors you can work your way up the ranks of your chosen disciplines and have the potential to make it your day job! You don’t just need the riding experience, but to be a professional rider you will need a support network of trusted professionals, plus the business sense to make your competing pay, build a reputation and know how to manage your sponsors and self promotion such as via websites or social media. This is hard work but can be worthwhile- many professional riders with a good reputation and support often find they are offered rides from owners rather than purchasing their own, expanding your string of horses and enabling you many opportunities to better yourself further at your chosen sport.
For more information… BHS Professional Rider Pathway
Become a Welfare Officer
Charities and organisations like the BHS, Redwings and World Horse Welfare are always looking for volunteers and people to work as ‘Welfare Officers’ who have the relevant experience (see ‘volunteering’). Although the voluntary positions are unpaid, the experience and dedication can often lead to paid employment in these or other organisations once you’ve shown you have the initial experience and competence in the role.
Become a Vet or Veterinary Nurse
Vets are well paid.; Its a fact! And horse vets even more so because they further their education by specialising in all things equine. It takes a long time to train as a vet, and even longer to train as an equine vet but the rewards can be worth it. Still working in the equine industry and with a large potential client base you would use your profession to diagnose, treat, investigate and advise on all manner of illnesses and diseases, as well as standard tasks like vaccinations and vettings.
If you don;t want the whole hog, there is the option for ‘on the job’ training and qualifications to become and equine veterinary assistant, and similarly to a vet you can then proceed to specialise in becoming and equine veterinary nurse. These are heavily relied upon by all veterinary practices for day to day care and minor treatment of patients. There is no doubt that being a equine veterinary surgeon or nurse is a physically and mentally demanding job. The roles often involves long and unsociable hours, including weekend and on call work. However the rewards that come from nursing sick animals back to health and working as part of a close knit team make the job very worthwhile.
Become an Employed Groom
Many yards often look for part or full time grooms and assistance to help with the day to day running of yards whether small livery yards or large equestrian centres. Mucking out, filling haynets and poo-picking may not be your chosen career but if you stick at it job progression can lead to qualifications and promotion, and to have that experience will play a great part if you apply for jobs at other yards. Many higher roles will offer accommodation and the ability to bring your own horse to which can also help with your own riding and competing. I know many grooms who started off like this and have gone as far as working within Team GB at the Olympics!
Whilst not necessarily a paid job, helping out other horse owners at your livery yard can also work with return favours. If a fellow livery is ill or on holiday and needs their horse looking after why not offer your services, they would hopefully do the same for you. Even better if you have skills like clipping or mane pulling other liveries may want you to carry out jobs like this on their horses in return for payment. One word of warning though… its always worth checking with the yard owner first as some have rules that this is not permitted (especially if they offer these paid services themselves!).
Become a Paid Rider
Many yards offer breaking and schooling services, often with many horses to fit in in one day. By offering your services you can gain employment as a paid rider and at the same time improve your riding skills and knowledge often without the need for stable duties to be undertaken. These positions do not come without risk of course as many horses sent for training have nasty habits and vices but also offer the ability to learn more about resolving these issues and the training of equines for various disciplines. Some yards, such as racing yards, simply need help to exercises the horses in training and also offer the opportunity to gain experience of a different sector of the equine industry. Similarly if you have a good level of competitive experience other owners may be willing to pay you to ride, school or compete their horses on a freelance basis.
Buy and Sell Horses
This would only be advised if you had the right experience, skill and support network, but buying and producing horses and ponies can make money in the right market and if done well. There are often many ‘project’ horses or ponies for sale that have issues or difficulties with their current owners, people seeking a ‘quick sale’ at lower prices due to their circumstances, or prospective youngsters up for sale. If you are more of a business person that falling in love with every horse you own, and have an affordable way of stabling and managing the horses- perhaps even a couple at a time- as well as the time dedicated to their training… this could be an option for you. Be aware though that the equine market and prices fluctuates rapidly and there are always lots for sale so be sure to do your research properly before you commit to anything, and don’t take on anything you have doubts about as in the long run this can end up costing you money!
Become a Freelance Groom
Whilst its ideal to have qualifications to be a ‘freelance’ groom- such as those gained from Work Based Diplomas or other equestrian qualifications- not all do, although the necessary skills and insurance would be advised. You can use your own experience of looking after your own horse to look after others whether this be holiday cover (at their own yard), mane pulling, turnout for events or clipping. A level of competence would be required especially to get return business, but it can be a lucrative and flexible job either full or part time if you can get a good client base who rely on your services.
Be a Part of Equine Tourism
Equestrianism plays a large part of tourism in the UK from trekking centres to riding schools and rescue farms open to the public to raise funds. These often seek volunteers to assist with their events, leading out rides and managing their organisations. Many jobs may be administrative, whilst others may be hands on. Some that offer riding will even give you the opportunity to ride for a living leading or assisting with treks, guiding riders and helping manage the horses. Many centres, such as the Riding for the Disabled (RDA) often seek volunteers which- like other career paths mentioned- can lead to paid employment once you have the relative experience.
Become a Live-in Groom/ Au Pair/ Nanny
Many high income households in the UK combine ponies, and children, and families lucky enough to be in that position often seek au pairs to help with their day to day running of the household. This can include looking after and exercising the horses, accompanying to events, childcare, cleaning, cooking and care of other pets as well as house sitting in their absence.
You can either choose to register with an agency- which may lead to short or long term placements- or apply for roles independently. Payment is usually a nominal amount of ‘pocket money’ with all living costs covered as part of the employment package-often including separate accommodation, use of a car and the option to take your own horse and sometimes partner too. Some households often seek a ‘working couple to cover the aforementioned demands, as well as maintenance of grounds and property too.
Whilst childcare qualifications would be advantageous, they are not always a necessity and normally a good grasp of the English language, basic computer skills and other useful qualifications (such as safeguarding, first aid etc) will prove sufficient.
Blogging and Feature Writing
Blogging is becoming increasingly popular whether on independent self-published platforms- such as websites and social media- to people blogging for other companies and organisations. Many magazines look for blog writers for their online features such as Horse and Hound, Your Horse, Horsemart, whether one-off or as a regular feature. Some magazines seek people to submit their stories and experiences as part of a specific feature or campaign.
These blogs can be about personal experiences, or to help and advise others as a resource. The main point is to have a niche and to stand out from the crowd- make people want to read what you’ve written. Perhaps you are a qualified professional wanting to share your knowledge, or just have the sort of experiences that come across entertaining in print. Some people even write their blogs from their animals point of view! Often blogging is unpaid but can give good experience of equine journalism and, if your blog gets enough exposure, can often lead to you being provided with items to ‘test’ or include in your features which are often provided to you free of charge!
If your blogging skills are good enough and get the right amount of readership ona regular basis, you may find this experience is advantageous to a career ion journalism, or even be approached as a feature writer for a national magazine or website!
Get Crafty and use your Existing Skills
There are lots of jobs that don’t involve direct contact with horses but working within the industry and use other skills- such as rosette makers, event planners or running online directories. Even those who make fancy browbands or invent innovations to solve problems around the yard are deep in the equine industry and use their equine knowledge to carry out their day to day businesses. Equine photography is a great skill to learn and can get good income from being appointed photographers for events and shows. Similarly equine and pet portrait artists are becoming increasingly in demand as people want to capture a lasting memory of their horse. Why not consider any other skills you have and how they can be applied to make money in the equine community.
For more information.. British Equine Trade Association (BETA)
Further your skills to gain better roles
Many employers will seek not only practical experience, but also other benefits you can offer them and areas you have trained in. Whilst not necessary for much of the equestrian employment, nationally recognised qualifications and training such as Safeguarding, Equine First Aid and Emergency First Aid can be advantageous to you when applying for jobs. Many of these are also used in the non-equestrian sector so can be applied to pretty much any industry where they may be of use, and your additional want to learn and offer these skills will only be seen positively. It is also advantageous in many roles to have basic computer skills such as using the internet and Microsoft word.
There are many options I’ve not included. The most important aspect is to always want to learn. Even the most experienced horseman or woman learns new things everyday, and with a want to strive to be the best career progressions can have no bounds. Aspire to be the best and to be an equestrian professional in demand- a saddle fitter or instructor with a great reputation will often find their demand exceeds their capability and could lead to expansion or ability to start a larger business with your own employees!
This PDF from the BHS ‘Working with Horses’ is a good starting point from the Uk’s leading equine charity and equetsrian body, although and there are plenty of resources and training providers that can be found locally and nationally giving details online as to the training options.