How to get your dream job with horses

Whether your dream job is to travel the world and do horse riding holidays, work as a ranch manager, become a vet, guide guests on trail rides or teach horse riding lessons to kids, you’ll need some sort of plan to get your dream equestrian job! 

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Studying at university or taking courses in horsemanship

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way. If you want to be an equine vet, you’ll have to study for it. The same goes for horse-related jobs such as mounted police, and any other equestrian careers you can think of that require you to study for it. There are, however, lots and lots of equestrian jobs that don’t necessarily require any education, but a few courses will always come in handy. For aspiring horse trainers for example, I highly recommend Featherlight Horsemanship. Taught by Yvet Blokesch, this course teaches aspiring trainers all about starting young horses, solving problems, liberty and more. You'll need lots of different courses and real life experience to develop your own style of training. For equestrian photographers, I recommend having a look at Eliane van Schaik. She is based in the Netherlands, but offers online photography courses in Dutch and German and organises photography trips to Switzerland and Germany. Also, Emma Emerelle offers photoshop and photography courses and books, and organises photo tours in the Netherlands and Sweden.  

Training horses in Malawi
Training young horses in Malawi

Hands-on experience with professional horsemen and women

You can take a hundred courses in horse training or teaching, but in the end, you’ll need hands-on experience to truly become good at what you do and score an equestrian job you love and dream of. Hands-on experience can be gained by shadowing a trainer or other equestrian professional, volunteering, mucking out in exchange for lessons, or simply just helping out as much as you can at barns and riding schools. 

Horseback safari guide in South Africa
Guiding on horseback in South Africa

Network within the horse community

Online and on social media

In the Netherlands, there’s a platform called Bokt, this is an example of a great networking community, especially for horse photographers looking for models. There is also the international Horse Forum, the German Reitforum, and so much more. These forums are great for aspiring equine photographers and videographers, but also for writers and bloggers as it’s a great place to offer advice which will lead people to have a look on your website. To be honest, there are a lot of unfriendly people on these forums, despite the people who run them trying their very best to keep everything friendly, so proceed with caution! There are also so many wonderful people though, so it’s up to you whether it’s worth it. Of course, social media is a great way to connect with people. Set up an instagram account, follow and connect with people you look up to or are inspired by, and join an equestrian Facebook group to chat to a community of like-minded people. 

On the (equestrian) job!

While you’re volunteering, working, helping out, participating in a workshop, guiding riders on horseback, following a course, etc, chat to the people you’re there with! They are all likely to be horse people, just like you, and they could be a great new friend, colleague or boss, you never know! I’ve become great friends with some of the people I’ve guided on horse riding holidays, and have even traveled together with people that used to volunteer where I worked. Some of my guests have even offered me jobs, or invited me to their homes for a great few days of horse riding! 

Horse trainer in South Africa
Occasionally you'll be training in less than ideal circumstances to prove you're good at what you do!

You’ll have to muck out stables

For most of these jobs, especially the ones that are more difficult to get, you’ll have to start at the bottom. As a vet, you’ll be able to finish your education, do your internship, and work as a vet, but for a trainer, guide, or photographer, there is not always such a set path. Sure, you can do several training courses, get guiding certificates, and do photography workshops, but that doesn’t mean that you are in any way qualified afterwards. A photographer won’t have to necessarily muck out stables, but to build a name you’ll have to start out by working for free to create a portfolio and gain an audience. As a guide, even with all needed certificates, you’ll need to prove that you’re great with guests and have a friendly riding style, and you’re likely to muck out lots and lots of stables while you’re proving your point. A trainer will have to shadow other trainers, learn from dozens of different courses and people, develop their own unique training style, all while mucking out to make money and work your way up. A lot of people ask me how they can get a job as a trainer after following a horse training course, and sometimes their reason for wanting a job like this is to learn (more) about horse training. I completely understand, it’s an incredible learning process, and the job is one of the most rewarding I’ve ever done! However, be prepared to spend quite a few years developing your skills, and helping around barns in exchange for sessions with professional trainers. If a job in the equine world is your dream, don't be discouraged, as you'll definitely get there as long as you're motivated! I'm also more than happy to help you out on your journey to your dream horsey job, so feel free to reach out for a chat.

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