Many people love horses enough to seek a career in it. Is this the ideal path for you? Agriculture almost always has job openings somewhere in the industry, but like working with horses is not for everyone. These five “down sides” can help you decide if the horses will offset enough for a balance. The examples are from real life situations, with names protected for privacy.
How much can you shrug off? Often managers and owners are less than tactful with workers. Some can cross to outright emotional and verbal abuse. Remember in the agriculture employment sector (which horses are under) there are far less protections. In the ideas put forth by an Alabama employment worker – if you don’t like it leave. When you are told do something there is usually little chance to discuss alternatives, even if safer or better results. “Jane” found that even when reluctant, following and injury occurs there is little obligation to make it right by the employer. Could she sue? Probably…if she never wanted to work with horses again.
Expect long hours and low pay. This can be especially strenuous during foaling and breeding season at a breeding barn or show season at a show barn. “Lisa” found at one job she was expected to be at work 7-4 and although off she really wasn’t. During nice weather she had to be back at the barn at 8 pm to close up and when mares went under lights in the fall she had to go turn the lights off also. These are small tasks but eliminate going to a movie, a night out with friends, even taking part in many clubs or anything with an evening meeting. Don’t expect a weekend off in return.
Expect the employer’s needs and wishes to come first, especially if you live on the farm. As Lisa found what the employer wants goes. In addition you must take care of the house and usually are not allowed pets. “We have pets at the barn” is the mantra of many farms, even though they may leave at any time. Your life is the barn life. If you want to get ahead it means learning and trying to squeeze saving money out of each check.
Have realistic expectations about advancement. While many move up through the ranks many more never have that opportunity. It takes more than talent; it takes an almost ruthless business talent and the ability to market yourself and your barn in a sea of competition. Trailers, barns, good clients aren’t easy to get. Is it possible? Sure it is! Horse racing has several good trainers that famously came up under other trainers. The ones that don’t aren’t ever seen. Most barns lose money or break even.
Maintain independence. Don’t look for employers to take care of you. The bad experiences will add up. If you’re unlucky so do the injuries. YOU need to keep in mind your long term goals and know what boundaries you must set. Remember, lots of people want to work with horses. Few make it a career, and there’s always some willing to work cheap for a while.
Be reliable, be mindful of the farm as #1 is what the employer is looking at and remember that if you don’t get a day off in 6 months or more…well that’s part of the job. Yes these are worst case examples. Yes there are good people out there. Yes there is a great community in the horse world possible. Expect the worst, hope for and seek the best. If you find a good employer treasure them!
Evaluate the down side with seeing that youngster you raised win a show, even if you don’t get credit for it. When things are tough remember that “impossible” mare that you handled and gained the trust of. These things build memories and make the work worth it. If it doesn’t, do yourself, your employer and the horses a favor and find a different line of work. Life is too short to do something you don’t like.
Working with horses can be the ride of a lifetime, but anticipate the falls and learn to roll with it and get back on. With horses and jobs, that can make a career.