Becoming a professional equestrian is the dream of many horse riding enthusiasts and, with dedication and commitment, you can make that dream a reality. However, it is not an easy path, especially if you want to make it all the way to the top and compete at an Olympic level.
In this article, we’ll be discussing the first steps you can take along the road to competing professionally as an Equestrian, or how you can help someone in your life who is horse-crazy live out their dreams.
Starting With the Pony Club
While it is true that most equestrian come from horsey families, not owning a horse isn’t going to mean you’ll never get the chance to become one. An excellent place to get start with horse riding are organizations like the Pony Club or 4-H.
Joining one of these youth riding clubs gives you access to a range of benefits, such as getting yourself a professional coach, renting a horse if you don’t own one, and being able to get involved with local competitions at a young age.
Attending these smaller competitions is core to becoming an equestrian. Not only does it introduce you to the official organizations that organize these circuits, but they also instill the basics of teamwork, discipline, and technique.
The American Young Riders Program
Funded and organized by the United States Eventing Association, the Young Rider Program seeks to encourage riders aged 21 and younger to participate in eventing as a sport.
The benefits of joining the Young Rider Program is to provide coaching, make riders aware of educational opportunities, and field teams in the North American Youth Championships and overseas in the European Young Riders Championships.
The North American Junior and Young Rider Championships
One of the principal benefits of joining the Young Rider Program is the opportunity to participate in events played on by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), who are the governing body for Olympic Equestrianism.
Those chosen to be in the teams fielded by the Young Rider Program have the opportunity to take part in North American and Canadian events, as well as in the Caribbean and Europe.
Those who excel in these competitions are then shortlisted for the Canadian and United States Equestrian Teams. Making it on to one of those teams is the only way that equestrians can compete in the calendar’s largest competitions, such as the Olympics, the World Championships, and the World Equestrian Games.
It is, however, worth noting that equestrianism is not just a sport for the young. You can enter the feeder competitions and qualify for the Canadian and United States Equestrian Teams at any age. Eventers in their 70s have participated at the highest levels of the sport.
Narrow Your Focus
Anyone looking to transition into a professional sport needs to narrow their focus in order to carve out their niche. Professional footballers don’t play in every position, they specialize in one; most professional tennis players have a preferred type of court, be that grass or clay; and even professional poker players specialize in specific tactics like learning how to bluff their opponents with a bad hand.
While specialization might seem like it narrows your options, it does, in fact, allow you to avoid becoming a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’, a person who doesn’t excel in any particular area.
When it comes to Olympic level equestrianism, you can follow three basic paths: dressage, stadium jumping, and eventing. While you may start out enjoying all three, it’s best to make the decision on which one you want to specialize in as quickly as possible.
Understand the Costs
There is a cost associated with being a full-time professional in any sport, and equestrianism is no different. The initial cost comes in time and dedication it takes to master horse riding in the first place. The higher financial costs come from the fact that most high-level equestrians pull from a pool of horses, which are typically leased, and come with a significant expenditure level.
While dedication to the sport is hugely important, good planning and financial sense are also essential. However, with both commitment and sponsorship, the sky is the limit when it comes to professional equestrianism.