Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Equine-Related Professions

Getting A Good Education Is A Must For A Successful Equine Career
by Susan Dudasik, Salmon, Idaho

There are even opportunities to work with equines through government agencies, like the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management
Each weekend there are thousands of shows held nationwide and many of them have highly trained professionals from judges to show managers and course designers
For as long as you can remember you've loved horses and dreamed of a career with them. But before you start dreaming of big paychecks and blue ribbons, there are some negatives to consider before venturing into an equine career. First, you must realize it's a twenty-four/seven venture with little chance for days off, paid holidays or a two-week vacation. The work is physical and demanding and don't expect to retire rich with full benefits.

The equine industry has seen a drastic change over the past 20 years. Before, you could often get by just on your equine knowledge. But today's equine professional must also have a basic understanding of accounting, business management, advertising, computer skills, marketing and possess good communication and people skills. Ask any trainer or barn manager and they will tell you much of their time is spent doing office work or dealing with employees and clients.

Also you don't own the equines, your clients do and they always have the last say no matter how you feel about a situation. If you're getting discouraged, don't be. All jobs have a downside, but as long as you know about and accept them, there's no reason a career as a trainer, rider, breeder or barn manager can't be as exciting, challenging and rewarding as you've imagined it would be. It just takes hard work and perseverance.

Previously, only veterinarians had college degrees. Today many equine professionals hold degrees in Equine Studies or have had extensive formal training to become certified in various equine fields. Look in any equine magazine and you'll find ads for equine colleges, wilderness outfitter programs, farrier, dentistry and equine massage schools, as well as courses in saddle making and bronc riding. So getting a good education is a must!

If the above realities were more than you considered, don't despair, there are still countless equine-related jobs such as equine lawyer, journalist, photographer, accountant, events coordinator, web designer, feed store owner and product representative. Many breed organizations have full staffs ranging from secretaries to researchers and public relations specialists. Unfortunately, they may not provide that much physical contact with equines, though on the bright side, they are usually better paying 9-to-5 jobs which offer various benefits, so you could afford to own your own equines and have time to ride them. There are even governmental jobs like working with the Bureau of Land Management's wild horse programs, packing for the Forest Service or being an equine specialist with the Department of Agricultural. And don't forget jobs in law enforcement like a mounted police officer or research and promotion with feed and health companies.

What equine career you pursue is limited only to your imagination and ability to fill a need, especially if you are artistic and willing to try something new. There are countless equine journalists, photographers and artists. Some people have successfully ventured into unexpected areas such as designing custom show clothes, making jumps or trail obstacles and designing websites. Though some might not seem eqiune-related, with a little creativity they can be. Numerous people are specializing in equine law, insurance, construction, and real estate. You just need to find a niche to fill.

So, where do you start? First, do your homework. Read books, search the internet, study videos, watch others work with equines and investigate all types of job opportunities. Learn as much as possible from everyone you meet. Just because you want to ride jumpers doesn't mean you shouldn't learn about western riding or vice versa. Versatility is the key word in today's equine industry and you need to have a basic knowledge of a variety of topics from current show-ring trends to the latest health and environmental issues.

Be inquisitive, ask questions, and go to equine expos and ride in, or audit, clinics. If you're in high school take classes in communication, business, and accounting, or check into community college courses to learn more about using the internet and promotion. Many county extension offices hold workshops geared to the agricultural or equine business community. Volunteer with a local youth equestrian club or therapeutic riding center. Teaching youngsters is a great way to develop your teaching style, as well as people skills. If you're interested in a specific type of showing, volunteer to serve as ring steward and learn from the judge.

The equine world offers a variety of demanding, challenging and rewarding jobs and by doing some research, soul searching and creative thinking, you can find one that’s just right for you. But it takes a good education to help you reach your potential.

Susan Dudasik is an equine journalist, PATH Intl. Certified riding instructor and a mule enthusiast. She's competed in numerous trail class events, holds clinics and teaches groundwork and trail classes at Misfit Farm in Salmon, Idaho. The advice given here is meant only as a guide. A professional trainer should handle any serious mule training problems. Find Misfit Farms on Facebook!

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