By Kristin Pitzer
Let’s face it. In the horse industry, it’s typically the people in the spotlight — the trainers, the breeders and the owners — who get the applause and credit at the end of the day. Ask a young horse-crazy child what they want to do when they grow up, and the answer will likely be “ride horses.” But there are other horse-focused careers out there that don’t get nearly the same amount of acclaim.
Bloodstock agents, massage therapists, grooms, stable managers, equine transporters — these are all important roles in the horse industry. Tack needs leather workers, and sale horses need people to fit them. Yet, these positions aren’t always as valued as their seemingly higher-profile colleagues.
“I think it has a little bit to do with ego,” said Kristen Bosgraf, Director of Admissions at Meredith Manor, an accredited equine vocational school. “[Some jobs] sound like lowly, unimportant positions, but it’s these ‘lowlier’ positions that are keeping all of the cogs turning so others can do their jobs. One can’t happen without the other. They are interlinked.”
Many of these fields are untapped, making the jobs in high demand. Bosgraf said there are few people who possess the skills necessary to work with leather, for example, so the trade is wide open to newcomers with talent.
Since college isn’t for everyone, it’s an added bonus that a lot of these positions don’t require four-year degrees to get started, which means a faster track to making a paycheck. Instead, practical experience is highly valued, whether it’s through shadowing a professional or attending several months at a vocational school.
“When I see students being successful, it is through mentorship—no matter what track they pursue,” Bosgraf said. “No tradesperson can make it in an industry without continuing education and mentorship to help them reach their goals. I think horse people tend to shy away from that for some reason, and they’re missing the boat.”
Many enjoy the ability to be self-employed in these fields, which gives them the freedom to work the hours they want and to only accept projects they enjoy. For those looking for more stable income and other benefits, there are also opportunities to land gigs at established facilities, such as managing the barn at a university with an equestrian program or working for a proven sales brokerage company.
No matter how big or small a person’s contribution is to the horse world, it’s a necessary part of the big picture. Therefore, it’s time to value all careers and all aspects of equestrian sport.
“No part of this industry is stand-alone. It’s very much about collaboration,” Bosgraf said. “Without that whole team of people, the horse’s needs are not going to be met.”
Let’s train more people for careers in this sport, and not just to be clients.