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Equestrian Advice & Guides Beginners Advice
“Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” The saying rings true, time and time again!
If your passion lies in equestrianism, and you're on the lookout for your dream career; then working with horses may well be the perfect career choice for you.
With a multitude of different roles available, no matter your preference, be it marketing, or mucking out - we’re confident that there are equine jobs out there to suit every personality and skillset.
The number one requirement for anyone looking for a career with horses - a love of horses!
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t always take a skilled rider to be successful in the equine industry, in fact, there are many opportunities to those who have never ridden a day in their lives.
Throughout this guide, you’ll find information on the requirements for a number of equine industry jobs. Take a look, and see which one best fits you, there might be a career waiting for you to step into right now.
(Click below to navigate straight to a career, or scroll down to view all)
1. Yard Groom
2. Yard Manager
7. Equine Vet
11. Exercise Rider
13. Equine Writer
14. Show Manager
15. Show Judge
Careers in Equine Care
Grooms are the lifeblood of any yard. Keeping all of the horses happy, healthy, and spotting anything that has gone amiss before anyone else.
They are the most hands on with the horses and can develop unwavering bonds with the animals in their charge.
With so many types of equestrian facilities, from private homes, and livery yards, to riding schools, and competition yards there is no shortage of jobs available in this outdoor, and active role.
From morning to evening, every need of the horse is taken care of by the yard groom(s), primary responsibilities include:
Additional Bonus Skills (Especially necessary for competition grooms)
A groom’s responsibility is the general daily care of the horses in their charge. Including feeding, watering, mucking out, turning out/in, and grooming.
When considering taking on a new career as a groom, the most important thing that you’ll need is a keen interest in horses. Qualifications, such as BHS Stages, and vocational courses can be useful to confirm your knowledge but are not always a necessity.
As long as you have some equestrian experience, are happy to spend your day outdoors no matter the weather, and are reasonably fit - then you’re almost guaranteed to be able to find your first job in the field!
With most grooming positions not including any riding, even those with no riding experience can comfortably work as professional grooms.
Starting salary averages £10,000, going up to around £16,000 for experienced grooms.*
Director of Education, Alex Copeland
A yard manager (aka stable or barn manager) is a person in charge of everything, and everyone. Not as active in day to day physical tasks such as mucking out, they are responsible for scheduling staff, ordering feed and bedding, and other vital duties. A stable manager is a right-hand man/lady for the owner of the facility, and they have to be able to know what’s happening everywhere, at all times.
Depending on the type of yard, the responsibilities vary, some examples include:
Many stable managers work their way up the ranks, starting as a groom, and prove that their ability, knowledge, and organisational skills. A stable manager is the glue that holds the entire yard together; therefore it's understandable that a yard owner will want to know that you have what it takes to cope with the many stresses that will be put upon you.
Hartpury College run a course on Horse Management with an emphasis on business; this course even combines real life work experience thus giving you immediate work experience to add to your CV!
University degrees can, of course, be beneficial, from the obvious Equine Studies to Management, and Veterinary Sciences. Oxford Brookes offers a three-year degree in Equine Science that will equip you with all the knowledge and skills needed to become a succesful Yard Manager. This course runs in partnership with Abingdon and Witney College and it's racehorse stud, allowing students to gain some hands on commercial experience.
These courses aren’t a prerequisite, and often experience with horses, and a background in management in any other area can make you fly through the hiring process.
Wages can start at £13,000 for assistant stable managers, whilst experienced stable managers for the large competition yards can expect to bring in upwards of £20,000+.*
A farrier, also known as a blacksmith (though the roles do vary slightly), is a professional hoof care specialist who trims horses, ponies, mules, and donkeys feet, as well as making, and fitting horseshoes.
As the saying goes, no foot, no horse! And it couldn’t be truer. The hoof is an incredibly sensitive part of the anatomy, and with only a short period of neglect - issues can occur that will cause lameness that can last a lifetime. While there are many things that a horse owner can go without - a farrier is not one of them.
When neglect has occurred, or a horse is born with physical deformities of the feet, and legs occur, you’re also more likely to find that the farrier works to correct this rather than the vet.
A rewarding, flexible, and well-paid career - be aware that it’s also back breaking, and physically demanding.
Becoming a farrier takes time, dedication and physical strength. Whilst the training process is long (as we mention in the next section), the rewards are great.
There is a lot of training and certification that you must go through to legally work as a farrier.
There are different routes you can take, but the most common way to becoming a pro hoof master is to head to farrier school to train for, and take their Forgework Certificate which is a requirement before entering into an apprenticeship.
Newbie farriers will work under an Approved Training Farrier, the apprenticeship will last four years, and two months before they are eligible to be fully registered as a farrier.
There are three colleges that offer the Farrier Registration Council approved apprenticeship:
For more information on how to become a qualified farrier, visit these two government resources:
Newbie apprentices can expect to earn approximately £16,000, rising to £30,000 as you gain experience. A self-employed, experienced farrier with their own apprentices can make around £100,000.*
Teaching & Training Equine Careers
A riding instructor does so much more than just teach their students to ride, they teach safe horsemanship practices, and share their passion for the sport of equestrianism.
Instructors will take their students from either absolute beginners, teaching them the basics of correct riding position, riding aids, and softness, or work with more advanced riders to perfect aspects of their riding, and prune bad habits.
Try teaching a few friends before deciding on this as your career path, some thrive on teaching others, whilst others have very little patience, and would be better suited to other areas that fit your skills.
Most riding instructors need to be qualified with a governing body in order to get insurance - which is a must.
The starting salary for a junior instructor, working at a riding school is somewhere around £14,000. More senior instructors working in the same establishment can expect up to £25,000, but the real draw is freelancing. For experienced, knowledgeable, sought after pros - they can charge rates of up to £70.*
Horse trainers jobs involve training young horses and teaching them to accept a rider. They also work to bring on already trained horses to a higher standard, most commonly competition horses.
Horse Trainers almost always specialise in one particular discipline, however; the backing of young horses doesn’t always require a discipline-specific trainer - just a kind, patient, and experienced one.
WITH YOUNG HORSES
WITH OLDER HORSES
Many riders find their prowess in the training of horses through schooling their own horses.
Commonly trainers will get their start in professional training through friends. Impressed with the standard of training that your horse has received - they can seek out your services, and push you to consider this as a career option.
Alternatively, you can offer to ride for a local yard, and build up a list of testimonials from happy owners before starting your own training business, or beginning work for a yard.
Many riders looking to make it as trainers will attend university to study Equine Studies. Hadlow College, in the South East of England, is one such FE centre that offers this as a foundation degree. Other options are to start an apprenticeship, or take a diploma in horsemanship.
Qualifications aren’t necessarily needed, and experience, show results, and word of mouth suggestions usually go further.
This depends greatly on your chosen discipline, the area of the country that you’re based - and whether you’re working in a yard, or have your own business. As a guide, you can expect to earn anywhere from £12,000 to £50,000.*
Equine Medical Careers
A Registered Veterinary Nurse, or RVN - works alongside a qualified veterinarian to provide medical care, provide routine testing, and can even perform minor surgery.
Not confined to working only in vet surgeries, vet nurses can also find employment in Breeding Yards, Zoo’s, Boarding Kennels, and Animal Rescue Centres.
Veterinary nursing is the ideal option for those wanting to help animals without the massive expense of time, and money required for veterinary school. As long as you’re not squeamish around blood, and have a passion for helping animals - then this is almost definitely the career for you.
To enter a career in veterinary nursing, you need to have a minimum of five GCSE’s consisting of English, Maths, and a Science subject at grade C or above.
You have two options when it comes to qualifying, either a university course in Veterinary Nursing or a Diploma in Veterinary Nursing which will require you to work as an apprentice for a period in a licenced veterinary practice before becoming fully qualified.
For a list of Universities and Colleges offering Veterinary Nursing degrees, see here.
Starting salary for an RVN in an apprenticeship is around £16,000 while fully qualified RVN’s will commonly command salaries of up to around £26,000.*
An equine vet’s works with horses, ponies, donkeys, and mules, their job is to save equines lives, alleviate discomfort and relieve any suffering.
Most people think of vets as incredibly well-paid individuals, and while they can earn a high salary, the years of schooling required can cost around £100,000.
Many veterinarians have said that they knew that they knew what they wanted to do from a very early age. It takes dedication, to become an equine veterinarian - more than just caring about the welfare of horses and ponies, a veterinarian has to undergo years of training - in fact, more than that of a medical doctor.
Veterinary training takes between four, and six years to complete - depending on your approach, and previous qualifications. The average length of a veterinary degree is five years; this can be decreased by one year if you already possess another degree. Alternatively, it will be extended by one year if you choose to study at Cambridge.
A newbie horse vet, on average, can expect to earn around £31,150. However, more generally speaking, with further training and experience an equine vet can expect to earn anywhere between £40,000 - £70,000 pa. The wages do depend on where in the country you decide to work.*
You may be surprised to hear that many mysterious behavioural issues with horses often turns out to be related to the oral health of the horse.
Equine dentistry is exactly what it sounds like, the practice of treating and preventing illness, and injury of the mouth.
This career isn’t for the faint of heart; you’ll need a decent amount of strength, stamina, and patience to make a good Equine Dentist. Not to mention, a great bedside manner with the owners, and an ability to calmly, describe issues in layman's terms - and work together to create a plan of action.
The first to step on this career path is to either sign up for a university course, or become an apprentice for a licensed British Veterinary Dental Association or British Equine Veterinary Association. Training takes three years, after which; you’ll be required to undergo exams to prove your knowledge. Upon completing both of these steps, you must register with the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians.
The average cost of a visit from an equne dentist is between £40 - £50, however, this can vary based on location, and severity of work needed With with most choosing to work as freelancers - the wage can vary greatly. Group bookings are preferred, with whole yards usually being covered by one dentist.*
An Equine Physiotherapist, also known as a veterinary physiotherapist works with animals to relieve musculoskeletal issues. From improving quality of life of older horses with arthritis to rehab for youngsters coming out of an injury.
Equine and Veterinary Physiotherapy can be an incredibly rewarding career for animal lovers, not only that - but the training process is relatively short when compared to other options, and the salary quite high.
Certificates, and university courses exist to become a fully fledged equine physio. For those already working in physiotherapy in human patients - there is a fast-track, add on course available to you.
Many Equine Physios work on a freelance basis and will work with other animals to boost their earning potential. There are full-time jobs available at universities, and larger veterinary surgeries. Salaries vary from £18,500, all the way up to £65,000 per year.*
Careers in Horse Racing
A jockey is a rider responsible for riding a racehorse during the race meet; a jockey doesn’t ride the horses that he competes on a daily basis - this is left to the Exercise Riders at each specific race yard.
There are two types of jockey - those that ride on the flat, and those that ride over hurdles - all have to hold a license with the British Horse Racing Authority.
Flat jockeys have a minimum weight limit of eight stone, whilst hurdle jockeys are allowed up to ten stone.
More often than not, grooms and stable staff who work at race yards will develop an interest in becoming a jockey due to their insider's view of the racing world.
Not for the faint hearted, racing is a dangerous sport, especially over hurdles, and except for the elite few - it doesn’t pay a ridiculous sum. Starting out as an exercise rider, or apprentice is a great way to get into this industry.
Many riders don’t make it through training, and dropout, mainly from their inability to cope with the early mornings, and hard work.
All jockeys must obtain a racing license before they’re legally allowed to take part in a race in Britain, understandable as the insurance for such events would be impossible to guarantee otherwise.
Jockeys wages are very difficult to calculate, as they are usually paid per ride, and given a percentage of winnings.
A flat jockey can expect to be paid around £115 per race, whereas a jump jockey makes slightly higher -- perhaps to make up for the additional danger -- and bring in £150 per race. This may seem like a lot, but with many jockeys only receiving one ride per race day, when you factor in their expenses - which aren’t covered by the owner - they could be walking away with as little as £70. On the other hand, successful race jockeys can earn a salary of £60,000.*
An exercise rider, sometimes known as a work rider, or galloper; is the rider responsible for riding racehorses out, and keeping them fit in preparation for race meets.
Unlike a jockey, an exercise rider doesn’t usually partake in an actual race. Their job is perhaps all the more important, as without them - there would be no racing. They keep to the trainer’s program; an exercise rider is responsible for completing the correct number of hours, and distance on each horse every week, and, of course, providing detailed feedback to the trainer.
An exercise rider is subject to weight limits, with the normal maximum coming in at 150lbs, slightly above the 125lbs of a race jockey.
Racehorses are big, strong, and athletic - it takes a confident, skilled, and patient rider to get the best out of them. For that reason, you will need to have a lot of riding experience and be confident galloping in a race saddle.
The easiest way to find a position in this field is by looking at equestrian job boards, phoning around, or popping into race yards and offering your services. Be prepared to complete a test ride - you’ll likely be put on one of their more challenging mounts to test your skills fully.
Exercise riders are at risk of serious injury, and even death. It takes a passion for racehorses to work in this physically demanding role.
Exercise riders, unlike jockeys, do not always have to be trained professionals, and sometimes - you will find that yards hire young, experienced riders as their exercise riders.
Riders with some jockey training often have more success in applying to exercise rider positions. Some of the best courses on offer are run by British Racing School and Northern Racing College.
The lowest wage for an exercise rider is for an apprentice who will earn £3.50 an hour, bearing in mind that this is not a full-time role, and you could be required to ride on five horses - working only four hours a day - that would bring in only £70 per week.
More experienced riders can charge around £10 per horse, per day. With the same workload as above, those more seasoned can be looking at £250 per week, as well as receiving bonuses, and/or a share of the winnings when their horses do well on the track.*
Creative Industry Equine Careers
An equestrian photographer has the fantastic, artistic, and creative job of capturing the majesty of a horse on film (well, digitally nowadays!).
Equestrian photographers have a multitude of options open to them regarding where they can find customers, from those who specialise in shows to horse/owner portrait sessions, and of course photographers who work for equestrian publications.
Taking great photos of horses, and their riders.
A keen eye for photography and a passion for horses are pre-requisites. It takes a certain type of person to perfectly set up shots, and capture horses on the right stride - with their ears forwards!
No qualifications are necessary, however - a great deal of practice, and working with a photographer as their assistant will really help to hone your skills.
This depends on whether you’re a freelancer or a full-time show photographer. An experienced freelancer can expect to earn between £14,000 - £35,000, or even up to £50,000 with bags of experience. Whereas, the latter, can earn up to £30,000 per year.*
A crafter of content, and a wizard with words - a professional Equestrian writer will get to spend their days doing what they love to do - prattling on about horses!
There is a lot of competition in the field, but for those with a natural talent, and lots of equestrian experience - they can shine above the rest. Going on to work with magazines, companies, blogs, and even event organisers to help take their thoughts and transfer them into engaging words that will entice, and engage.
Your responsibilities may vary depending on the type of role that you accept, regular roles, and responsibilities include:
Copywriter For a Brand
If you’re interested in becoming an equestrian writer, first make sure that you educate yourself on the chosen subject. Start reading books, and articles - and never stop, this is how you can set yourself apart from the competition.
Get in touch with a small local magazine, offer to write a piece free of charge for the exposure - you would be surprised by how many times editors will give you a shot. After all, those with a passion for writing tend to stick together!
As you become more comfortable working with the editor of one small magazine, and putting together quality content promptly - approach a large national publication with a portfolio of your work, and again - offer to create some work for free to prove the quality of content that you can provide.
After only a few articles with the larger magazine, your portfolio will be impressive, your speed will be competitive, and you can start charging for your work!
A prowess for content creation, a way with words, and sheer tenacity are what get you into this industry!
Having said that, a background - or top grades in English, or Journalism wouldn’t hurt!
It is of course highly dependent on experience. Those entering the profession as graduates, or trainees, will likely earn between £15,000 to £26,000. Then as you progress further in terms of your responsibility, your pay will increase also, with senior staff able to earn up to £35,000. Major publications, or landing the top job as editor-in-chief can allow you to earn up to £65,000. However - freelance writers can pull in £40 per hour, earning up to £70,000 per year.*
Deputy Editor of Country Life & BEWA (British Equine Writers Association) Vice-Chairman, Kate Green
A show manager does far more than keeping everyone in line on show day - they are in fact the one responsible for organising the entire event. From booking judges to wrangling volunteers - the buck always stops with the Show Manager.
A show manager does not start at the deep end; they’ll start as a volunteer at shows and learn the ropes before taking up the reins themselves.
Many breed organisations offer show manager courses to members organising breed or discipline specific competitions. With information on how to best organise, manage, and profit from their shows.
The seminars and courses are usually paid, but the price for each course varies depending on the organisation. In no way do you need to go on one of these courses, the main advantage is having the opportunity to learn from someone that has - been there, done that, got the rosette.
Another route would be take an Equine Care and Management related course, like they run at Bedford College. Here you will combine learning equine science and business management, with sound practical skills.
A select few show circuits hire show managers to work on producing events full-time, and the salary for this is around £25,000. The more profitable way of being a show manager is to organise your own shows, this could increase your potential earnings by more than double, and for the dedicated, and hardworking individual - they may be able to bring in £60,000.*
A horse show judge is an equestrian professional who has undergone specific training, and exams to be eligible to judge at horse shows.
The certification process for a judge is strict and sometimes lengthy. Ideal for the horse trainer, and clinician who is looking to add a string to their bow - and an income stream!
The judge’s role at a horse show is to score the horse, and/or rider in an unbiased manner, taking into consideration the requirements of the competition, rules of the organisation which they are judging for, and welfare of the equine in question.
The best way to become a judge is to have a lot of experience in the show ring, or at least on the side lines. Horse shows are an entirely different world to that of hobby riding, and different traits are sought after.
In order to judge professionally, you will likely need to obtain a judging card from your equestrian organisation of choice.
This is one of the few careers outside of medicine, within the equestrian industry where you almost always have to have a qualification. Luckily, the training and examination can take weeks, or months rather than years.
This career opportunity isn’t usually something that you can just walk into full-time.
In fact, many lower level judges are unpaid, and only have their expenses covered.
For those willing to put in time in the beginning - it can pay off down the line.
When judging for a national competition, you can expect to make somewhere between £100 - £250 per day, whereas an international competition could earn you closer to £500 per day.
An excellent judge who has a reputation for being easy to work with, fair to competitors, and friendly around the showground - can fill twenty weekends of the year with competitions across the globe, supplementing their income by up to £20,000.*
*Salaries can vary greatly, dependent on a number of factors. Therefore please use as a guide only.
Sources / Further Reading:
The Cost of Keeping a Horse or Pony - British Horse Society (PDF)