What can I do? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 08-11-2020, 04:17 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Florida
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Post What can I do?

Recently I've been brainstorming ideas when it comes to future jobs. Of course, I'd like to do something with horses. I've never been one for "dream jobs" and have always been practical when it comes to looking for work. Even if it's not super fun I'll learn it so I can make a living. Still, if possible, I'd like to do something that at least remotely relates to horses. I'm already in college studying to be a vet tech, but I'm not sure I want to stop there. I know it's a good job and I can pretty much go anywhere in the country to work (provided I take the required state licencing tests). It's a good reliable profession and I hope to specialize in livestock/equine. However, is that all I can do? What about after college? It's only an associate's degree, so 2 years.

I've done some basic training and am fairly confident I could break a colt. I've got years of experience with fairly difficult/green horses. I also have many different people who'd help me and give me advice on breaking at no cost. I'm wondering if I should take a crack at that after school and see how it turns out. Maybe find a nice 2-3yo who's halter broke and go from there? Where I live horses like that are a dime a dozen and I could find a grade one for cheap with no health/confirmation issues. Those horses tend to sell pretty well too, especially if I start them on barrels, which I can. It wouldn't make much money the first time around but I'm pretty sure I could do it.

If that works out well, I could keep doing it. Eventually I could advertise and have a nice little side business going on. This would be hard if I kept up with a normal 9-5 job, but it could be doable, especially during the summer. I wouldn't have much time to ride for fun, but I'm still riding and maybe making some cash. I don't really want to do this as a full time profession unless I turn out to be particularly amazing at it (lol) but it sounds like if I budget and pick my horses carefully I could make some money doing it. I know people who know people who know people, so I might be able to find a job as assistant trainer as well.

Another option is learning to be a farrier. I want to learn enough so I can at least trim my own horse's feet anyway. Learning to shoe would be cool too but that's a whole 'nother ballgame. If I did, should I go to school or apprentice under somebody? School seem really expensive and I'm already attending college. I'm a hard worker and if I could show up at all hours to help a farrier I'm pretty sure I could find a good one in our area to show me the ropes. My farrier is one, and he's a well-known shoer in these parts. Another one is the guy who does my boss's horses, but he may be retiring. I know a few other horse people who could help me find someone. IME, farriers are no nonsense and tend to be rough around the edges. Or at least, mine is. Finding someone to teach me would be doable.

ANOTHER option is teaching lessons. I've been doing that for a while, actually. It pays for most of my horse bills. I only have 2 horses at the moment and one of them is too hot for kiddos (she tries every trick in the book with new people and...no). My old guy however is a perfect babysitter. He's big and sweet and gentle and has been teaching kids for years now. However, he's old. He has arthritis and while he can still teach kids to ride, he's limited on his speed and endurance. So, I can only do a couple lessons a week with him. I can't afford to get another good lesson horse, so expanding that business is out of the question. It's nice for side cash and maybe once I'm established at a clinic somewhere I can afford to have 3 but I doubt it. My dude's old. He eats a lot. Also, he's not going anywhere unless for some reason I'm incapable of taking care of him. Till he croaks or I marry a rich man, I can't get any more horses. (It will kill me when that horse goes. He's amazing. anyhow) I mean...I'd rather train horses than people. People are fine, but I've rarely had to tell a horse the exact same thing twice. Kids on the other hand? There's no end.

I want to own enough property to keep my horses on, and if I do that I may have space to board a couple. Not sure how doable that is on a vet tech salary, but we'll see. Very easy money right there, all I'd have to do is clean stalls and feed the critter. But then comes the paperwork and waivers and insurance in the worst cases. Most issues can be avoided by knowing the owner and the horse really well and not letting some rando board on your property, but insurance helps. That costs money.

Then there's things like finding live-on-site stable/ranch employment (which would be amazing, but I'm not sure what I'd do with my horses), exercising horses, working part time at a feed store, buying and swapping tack (I've had good luck with that before), making custom tack (leatherworking has always sounded cool to me and I've made simple bridles before), offering to trailer horses locally (more insurance there though), etc. I have't planned those ideas out fully yet.

These ideas aren't very well planned out, I'm still in the brainstorming stage. There's definitely no harm in learning more, but there is the question of "is it useful or not?" and "does it put bread on the table?". As much as these things would certainly be fun, I might not be able to afford it. But let's pretend I have the time and money to learn these things. Which would be a better bet as a side or full time job? I could work part time in multiple, full time in one...what's the best combination?

What would you do? What do you think would be the most cost-effective?

No matter how much you think you know about horses, there will always be one that'll come along and teach you something new.
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post #2 of 13 Old 08-11-2020, 05:02 PM
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: Lansing, Michigan
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Something to keep in mind...
Training & farrier work destroys your body.

Being dragged around on the ground, hitting the ground, getting kicked, just riding as a job...all put wear and tear on your body. I spent four months training for people, and called it quits once winter hit. The amount of $$$ I spent on the chiropractor, and the time I spent on heating pads/ice packs didn't make it worth it for me anymore.

And as for farrier work...at least two of the farriers that did my horses were trying to reach retirement ASAP, before their bodies broke down. One found a different, better paying, desk job and quit trimming - and this was a woman that dedicated her life to continuing her learning about horses feet.

He's Ultimately Fine - Toofine - 1998 Half Arabian
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post #3 of 13 Old 08-11-2020, 05:08 PM
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You live smack in the best state to trot that vet tech degree with a bit more schooling and land a job teaching Ag classes.
Make a better than decent salary, teach kids about caring for and you are still immersed with animals...
Think it is Pinellas County that had a equus dominant Ag class, specific to domesticated hooved livestock that not only did normal learning of rote stuff but also had a breeding stallion, mares, babies and the students worked hands-on in that program learning how to do, why you do, when you do, and when you don't but to call a SOS cause you got big problems..
I don't know if that particular class still exists but the Ag stuff does and it can branch to many other woven intricacies of animal husbandry.

Personally, I would not want to be a farrier or trimmer for anything.
Not every horse is nice nor are their owners..
The nice animals are great, but you always have a few that rodeo time, injuries occur, you get hurt can't work and damages to your spine don't heal ever quite the same...yea, not going down that path.
Watch your farrier move after doing your horse and a few others...ask him how his back and body really are...

Do you want to become a vet...6 years more of intense education plus internship, huge incredible debt and if you want to make a good living you go small animal cause large animal vets get banged up, hurt and I'll catch you next time for bills paid..
Small animal vets, you want to go home with Fluffy, pay the bill now before out the door is allowed. Done.

Being a "trainer" sounds wonderful, glorious a job but in reality back-breaking work and you are ripe to be injured...then what?
What you propose doing of flipping...you need to buy and sell in 3 -4 weeks time at most to make a profit.
Can you train and flip one that fast?
Every day after eats your profit margin up fast...

Everything you have considered sound great but there is little money in it that you describe.
High risk jobs, physically your body is beat by the time you are 40 - 50 at most...
Wonder why CA does what he does the way he does it?
Cause he beat his body up trying to make a name for himself before he became a gimmick same as any other "known" trainer out there...so now he is marketing fodder and prances around a ring, a far cry from the trainer he once was eons ago when he really was training.

You describe living on a working ranch...we have several members here who do that...
Hopefully they will join in the discussion and explain about the less glamorous side to their lifestyle of hard work.
It takes a very special person, a unique personality to work so hard day in and day out 24/7 often for peanuts. 40 hours a week, not likely...work till done is much more like it.
The good ones make decent to good money...but they had to prove themselves and earn it every step of the way and still need to be a leader of the team or be pushed aside.
I myself worked the horse barns...never a holiday off.
Worked sick, worked injured...special occasion - not till I finish my work and pray for no emergency to happen as I close for the night.
I was paid really well because I worked for a wealthy family beyond most peoples imagination...but I worked hard for my money.
That was great till I wanted, needed some me time.
You can't push and punish your body like you are referring to doing for literally 40 years and expect to be healthy and carefree no aches or pains...it doesn't work that way.
You can't afford to retire early cause you live paycheck to paycheck as most of us do.
You have to think about not tomorrow or next week, month or year...but think about do you want to be doing this 20 years from now? Really?
And finally, what you think about doing now is as a hobby...
Once it becomes your source of income some of the rosy glasses tarnish and a different side of the industry is revealed. Some of the reason my answers in posts seem so harsh is the rosy glasses were ripped off years ago and reality is a tough educator.
I went from my dream job of working with horses to walking away totally...the horse crazy girl...done, fed-up, no more.
Don't allow your passion for the animal to destroy you when it is no longer fun but a dreaded job that is killing your spirit, breaking your back and bones and you no longer want to do...
I strongly urge you to find something where you can have horses as your hobby, a part-time venture to play and dabble in but not as your sole source of income cause the fun stops when the reality awakens and the bills to survive arrive...

Good luck...consider wisely and choose a career where there is a need for your talents 20+ years further in time...
You're young, retirement isn't but a blimp on the horizon now, but getting to that blip so you can enjoy it....very precious.
A job that pays well, has perks of vacations, holidays, time-off paid, friends and companionship in shared activities and that can afford to keep your passion alive and going forth, health benefits and retirement...now that is a dream job to pursue.
Keep horses as a passion and hobby, not to make your living solely by...that would be my "motherly" advice to any child.

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....

Last edited by horselovinguy; 08-11-2020 at 05:15 PM. Reason: fixing typos...sorry
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post #4 of 13 Old 08-12-2020, 10:38 AM
Join Date: Jul 2018
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I think you've already had some pretty good food for thought. A job with horses unfortunately is commonly underpaid with high risk. For that reason, it is not the easiest to pursue for full-time, but I think you could make a small business out of it on the side. That being said, I really like horselovinguy's idea in teaching Ag classes, which could be a very rewarding job for you as it sounds like you already have a talent for teaching.

Like has been said, farrier work and training do a number on your body. I've been taught to do very minor trims on my horses, who are both well behaved. It not only takes lots of muscle, but it also puts you in a dangerous position if a horse were to decide he doesn't want to be done. I don't think it would be a route I'd take as a business, but it is an interesting field. Training can be a fun job, but also just as dangerous. I think your current business model errors on the side of little profit because of the associated costs of buying/caring for the horses before sale. I think a better way to go about it would be to work on others horses and bring them to your property (charging a board+training rate), but that is like opening a can of worms and you will never know what you'll get. The worst part about training for someone else, in my opinion, is when you know and issue stems from the horse being uncomfortable and the owner refuses to have the vet/chiro or saddle fitter out to correct the issue. That puts the trainer in a really bad position, particularly if the issue poses danger to the rider and you are left with either sending the horse back or trying to work around the problem. Either way, you are stuck between protecting yourself and the potential of your business reputation being blemished if the owner isn't too happy you didn't finish the job. I'd say that is a common issue for trainers starting out and not as much for well established trainers who have enough clientele that they can cherry pick their horses anyway. Another way you could start with the training is by travelling to give lessons/training rides. This does give you a bit more control on what horses you could work with. If you work with one you are not comfortable with, then you could always avoid it the second time. There is still potential to get injured though and the downside to this route is that whilst you put in training on the horse, that training could be undone very quickly with differences in handling/riding.

Some other routes that may interest you .... equine nutritionist and chiro/massage therapy.
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post #5 of 13 Old 08-12-2020, 10:48 AM
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Vermont
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I like the idea of positioning yourself for Ag education.

There are also office management type jobs for breeding farms, training centers, breed associations, etc. Grant writing to supporting nonprofits. Accounting/finance management for all types of organizations that could be horse related. HR or marketing for a feed company or tack website like Smartpak. So I think the big question is whether your goal is to be hands on with horses/clients or if you’d like to be adjacent to horses but in an office environment. Look at a bunch of different job posts to get a sense of skills/education needed.
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post #6 of 13 Old 08-12-2020, 11:06 AM
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Training and Farrier work are hard and offer no benefits (health or retirement) and both can take years of mentorship before you can get enough experience to make it a lving.

Vet Tech degrees are great -but make sure you become a certified Vet Tech. Unfortunately, in my area even the certified Vet Techs don't make that much money relatively speaking.

Teaching Ag is a great thought - check your area though. If you are open to relocating that may be a good bet.
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post #7 of 13 Old 08-12-2020, 09:52 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Florida
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I will be licensed, that's why I'm going to school. Many people are "techs" without the papers. Frankly they probably learned more thoroughly than kids who go through 2 years of school but everything's gotta be certified these days.

Most of the ideas up there don't require too much further schooling. That's why I don't want to be a vet, because I don't want to go to school for 8 years. No thanks. I don't really want an office job if I can help it. Teaching Ag sounds a little more appealing than being a vet but...more school. How many years more? I've always loved being hands on and would prefer that to some desk job shut up in a building somewhere. If I wanted to be a teacher I'd have studied English or history instead, which are the subjects that I actually enjoy. I think kids need that more than they need Ag classes tbh.

That being said, equine nutritionist sounds interesting. I already have some pretty strong opinions on what to feed and not to feed and what supplements are actually necessary. Also, recently I've been studying the usage of homeopathic medicine and how that effects horses. Chiro is also cool! I didn't think of that, but good chiros around here can charge an arm and a leg and get it too!

Most of these are suggestions for part-time too. I'm not looking to make my only living off training or being a farrier. I know people who train horses part time. My friend will take people's colts (who pay for them to be boarded there) and break them. It's not under as big of a time crunch as buying a colt and reselling, but there's expectations to be met. If you make a mistake with your horse, that's one thing. Make a mistake with someone else's horse and that's another.

Farrier was honestly kind of a long shot. I DO want to learn to trim no matter what, but not necessarily do it for other people (except maybe family in a tight spot or something).

As a vet tech I will also gain experience dealing with money and scheduling and numbers and such (this program teaches a lot of that), which will help me if for some reason I do need to get a stuffy office job.

No matter how much you think you know about horses, there will always be one that'll come along and teach you something new.
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post #8 of 13 Old 08-12-2020, 10:21 PM
Join Date: Apr 2020
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You could open up a boarding facility? That's always been a dream of mine. I grew up on a 30 stall, 3 barn, boarding facility with an indoor arena, outdoor roping arena, right on the highway. It was an amazing way to grow up and I would not trade it for anything, lessons were given, horses trained, and basic vet tech knowledge applied. I am currently a veterinary assistant/receptionist and am going to tech school next fall while also getting a double major in Equine Studies. I've always had people tell me to become a vet, but most vets have told me if you want to specialize you better go the vet tech route because after working for a few years in general practice you can go work for a specialist and complete your requirements through NAVTA as an Equine Nurse, that's my goal. Or if you want to make money while still doing vet tech stuff you have the option to go work at different labs that general practice clinics send samples to like WADDL, CSU, UC Davis, MWI, or Idexx-there is definitely more money there or even being a Zoetis rep. Good luck!
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post #9 of 13 Old 08-12-2020, 10:25 PM
Join Date: Apr 2020
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Also, in order to be an equine chiro (legally) you have to get your D.V.M. or D.C. (Doctor of Chiropractic). Most people, when they think of someone reputable in that department, will typically lean towards a vet who has a DVM and did a residency program specific to chiro. Probably not a good choice if you don't want a ton of schooling.
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post #10 of 13 Old 08-13-2020, 12:41 AM
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I like the idea of marrying a rich man.
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