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Equine Occupations — A Starting Point

Many of us work at one thing and spend our free time at another. This division gives us a break and change of focus for work and play. However, some of us want to combine the two, but don't quite know where to start. For the purpose of this article, we're discussing jobs and careers specifically in the horse world. We love our four-legged friends, love to be around them, to ride them, and to compete together against other horses and riders with them. Wouldn't it also be nice to pursue a vocation related to horses?

Weanlings Playing

Many people have approached me with questions as to what possible equine vocations might exist that they could pursue. We're all familiar with the struggling, small barn owner, so the next question shot my way invariably inquires: Is it actually possible to make a living related to horses? The answer is an unequivocal: YES! But there are more important follow-on questions to consider: What do I want to do? What can I do for which I might have the necessary expertise? If I don't have it, where do I get it? How do I get started?

Let's start by getting an idea of just how big the horse world is here in the US:

Annual U.S. Horse Industry:
Number of Horse Owners
Fulltime Jobs
2 Million
Horses Racing
Horses Showing
Horses Used For Recreation
TOTAL Horses in the U.S.
Source: American Horse Council 2009

As you can see, the dollars at stake are huge. Worldwide, it's even bigger and there are good paying jobs as well as professional careers available. Now, let's consider related work and career opportunities.

When most people think of equine occupations, only a few come to mind, such as riding instructors and horse trainers for their discipline, barn owners accepting boarders, farriers, and vets, but there are many, many more! Just for starters, think about the fact that a riding instructor or horse trainer likely focuses on just one or a few disciplines while there are actually many riding disciplines. Someone teaching western pleasure or barrel racing will usually not be teaching polo or eventing. And Thoroughbred racing is quite different than harness racing or chuckwagon racing, which are all different from team cutting — you get the idea. It can almost be said that there exists an occupation in the horse world for many of the same occupations outside of that world. So, besides veterinarians, massage therapists, and jockeys, there are also equine property architects, builders, realtors, equine journalists, educators, and photographers, plus many, many more.

Here's a sampling of just some of the horse-related jobs and careers that you can explore depending on your experience and interests:

Barn Owner/Boarding Services
Bloodstock Agent
Broodmare Manager
Dude Ranch Owners and Managers
Equine Advertising Agent
Equine Acupuncturist
Equine Apparel Designer
Equine Artist (Paint, Sculpture/Jewelry)
Equine Attorney
Equine Auctioneer
Equine Chiropractor
Equine Dentist
Equine Feed and Supply Dealer
Equine Geneticist
Equine Insurance Adjuster
Equine Insurance Agent/Broker
Equine Insurance Underwriter
Equine Journalist
Equine Librarian
Equine Massage Therapist
Equine Marketing Services
Equine Nutritionist
Equine Photographer
Equine Physical Therapist
Equine Product Designers
Equine Product Manufacturers
Equine Property Architect
Equine Property Builder
Equine Property Realtor/Broker
Equine Publisher (Books/Magazine/DVD)
Equine Recreational Director
Equine Science Educator
Equine Sportscaster (Race Announcer)
Equine Transportation Agent
Equine Vacation Planner/Agent
Exercise rider
Horse Show Judge
Horse trainer (many disciplines)
Hot Walker
Jockey Agent
Jockey Trainer
Mounted Park Ranger
Mounted Police Officer
Race Starters
Racehorse Investor/Speculator
Riding Instructor (many disciplines)
Rodeo Entertainment Producer
Saddle Maker
Stud Manager
Tack Shop Owner
Veterinary Pharmaceutical Sales

As you can see, there are many equine careers to consider and the above is only a sample list. Some can be pursued with only a high-school education, while others require a college degree or an advanced degree, such as a veterinarian, equine lawyer, or an equine science professor. Which vocation you decide to pursue depends upon your own interests and passions.

As another example of just how enormous your opportunities are, think of just these few related categories: designers, manufacturers, and retailers. Now consider how vast these few are when you start thinking about horse products (saddles and all manner of tack, trailers, feeds, fly spray, blankets, treats, apparel) and you'll get an idea of just how vast the opportunities are for horse-related careers. There are designers, manufacturers, and retailers for every one of these products and many more products.

In the future, our Horse Girl, Kathleen Reagan and I hope to probe equine careers in more depth. We're hoping we can offer readers deeper insights into some possible career opportunities they may want to pursue. Some will address full-time careers while others will be part-time to augment income and not force you to leave a fulfilling full-time career in another area. We hope this information will help you find that most rewarding equine-related career!

Besides being an avid trail rider, Jerry Tardif is a technology consultant and a horse and nature photographer in SE Connecticut — see his work at: www.jerrytardif.com. He is also co-founder and President of QueryHorse.

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