So, you want a career with horses?
Written by Chris Cervantes
You love horses and think having a career with horses would be a dream come true, right? But you are not sure your riding skills are up to becoming a trainer. No problem. Regardless of your level of riding, the good news is there are plenty of other ways to earn a living while enjoying horses.
It is important to know your options and set reasonable goals because there are so many different opportunities to work with horses. Take some time and do some real brainstorming about your interests and your strengths. I say that because, fortunately, with horses, there is a huge pool of different jobs to choose from.
Do you want to train horses?
The first question you need to ask yourself is how long you have been riding. In order to train a horse you have to know how to ride one first, and you certainly have to know more about horses than simply that you love them. To become a successful trainer, you must be able to ride a variety of horses, not just your favorites who are nice easy rides.
There are many things to consider when it comes to actually training horses. Are you interested in training young ones? All horses have to start somewhere – they are not born broke and need to be taught to halter, stand for grooming and handling, as well as to accept tack, and eventually, a rider.
There are plenty of problem horses, too, that need an experienced trainer to work with them. Retraining horses with behavioral issues, who were poorly trained to begin with, or even that have been abused, can be challenging and rewarding — but not everyone is well suited for working with horses that have issues that can sometimes be downright dangerous.
Even properly trained horses need reminders and maintaining and keeping a horse well-schooled for the owner is very important. Trainers often ride their student’s horses in addition to teaching the rider.
Sometimes the lines between trainer and riders become blurred. Great riders are not necessarily the best trainers for starting young horses or able to fix problem horses so the horse’s owner can ride and enjoy their own horse. Riding a trained twelve-year-old horse and winning a blue ribbon doesn’t necessarily mean you could actually train “Sugar” to perform that well. You rode the finished product, after the hard work that takes years of dedicated and competent training to achieve has already been put on the horse. It most definitely takes a lot of skill to show well, but in most cases the horse was not trained by its owner/rider.
If actual training is not your forte’ than maybe a rider position is in your future. How about working for a training barn that is geared towards taking students to show on horses older and more experienced?
- Average Salary For Horse Trainers: $34,000
Do you enjoy teaching?
Teaching and riding go hand in hand and most students expect that a trainer who can ride can automatically teach just as well. But “doing” and “teaching” involve different skills and strengths, and simply being a great rider does not mean you will make a great teacher.
Being able to have near-endless patience with students is essential. It can be hard for sure, and teaching someone who has no clue on top of the 1,200 pound animal is sometimes a white knuckler, however, when the horse you are training is owned by someone and that someone wants to learn how to ride and enjoy their equine partner as best and safely as they can, it is the trainer’s job to instill confidence in them and their skills, patiently show them what it is they should be looking for.
Trainers have students who ride for different reasons, and have different kinds of goals. Do you prefer students who enjoy riding, but are in no hurry for anything as far as showing goes? Or would you prefer students who really want to excel at it for the sport and are looking to enhance their riding skills as best as they can and not just more of a casual type rider? Their attitudes will be different and teaching students who may not fit what you enjoy teaching day today may become draining tomorrow. Sometimes, it is knowing what each students goals are that can help you set your own goals. You will then not put your expectations on the student because you may be thinking they have one goal and they really have another.
- Average Riding Instructor Salary: Independent riding instructors typically charge an hourly rate for services but on average earn about $35,000 to $39,000 per year. Many barns hire riding instructions who may receive a salary, commissions, and perks such as free boarding, and in some cases, free housing.
Are you good with people? Love multitasking? You might make a great barn manager!
Are you organized, timely, enjoy working in an office but still want to enjoy seeing horses, being able to ride, and the casualness of working at a barn? How about becoming a barn manager?
A barn manger can be responsible for many things like scheduling appointments with the vet and farrier, organizing lessons, giving tours of the barn to prospective clients. It helps to be detailed oriented and a good multi-tasker as barn managers often seem like they have a million things to do at once. It is a big and very important job and being able to work with a variety of people on a day-to-day basis is crucial. Being a barn manager is a job for a people person, for sure!
Managing anything can be stressful, especially when it involves dealing with a variety of clients, but if you’re not interested in riding, training, or teaching, but still long for a career with horses this could be a way to enjoy horses without having to have to the qualifications of a trainer.
- Average Salary For Barn Managers: $32,000, with a high-low range typically around $30,000 to $40,000 per year.
Interested in medicine but not in becoming a vet?
If you find the field of veterinary medicine interesting, but are not planning to become a vet, perhaps you would enjoy working an equine vet clinic. Working in a clinic opens up a whole other world of possible job positions to keep you connected with horses, including:
- Day-to-day care of the horses that does not require certification such as grooming, cleaning out stalls, feeding, walking, and other routine, nonmedical care.
- Assisting the vet with the daily routines which can include holding horses during exams and x-rays, giving medications, wound care, giving injections and medications, taking blood, patient monitoring, etc. Being a vet technician does require a focused education and certification, but may also become a stepping stone to become an equine vet.
- Office work may not provide as much direct contact with horses but you still get to see and enjoy them daily. Office work varies, but duties may include answering phones, taking and confirming appointments, bookkeeping, billing, filing, typing, and in some cases, updating patient charts.
- Average Salary Vet Technician: $35,000
So stop and do some real brainstorming about what it is you like and enjoy, and what you have the capabilities to do — and do well now, or the career paths that you are willing to invest in the education and training.
If you love horses, what could be better than getting to spend each day with them, right? How about getting paid to enjoy your passion!
Chris Cervantes is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and professional horse trainer. He is currently starting a four-year-old, rescued thoroughbred named Roxy. You can follow their journey together on:
- Chris and Roxy’s YouTube Channel
- Roxy The Thoroughbred on Facebook
- Bio and More Articles By Chris Cervantes
Other Careers With Horses
Maybe none of the above position sounds too appealing to you, but that’s okay, there are still plenty of other options to consider.
- Equine Dental Technician: Typically paid a set for per horse, full-time and in-demand, equine dental technicians can earn up to $50,000 per year.
- Equine Vet: Average salary $85,000. Board certified doctors and specialists can earn much higher salaries.
- Exercise Rider: For full-time work, can earn an average of $27,000 annually.
- Farrier: Average salary $92,600 per year.
- Groom: Average salary $20,000 per year. Show grooms and head grooms may earn slightly more.
- Mounted Police Officer: Average salary $53,540 per year.
- Racehorse Trainers: Top pros earn triple digit salaries, however, most earn between $20,000 and $60,000 per year.
- Stallion Manager: Average salary $40,577 per year.