Entry-Level Jobs - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 10-27-2014, 11:17 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: Arkansas
Posts: 25
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Lightbulb Entry-Level Jobs

Hi everybody!

Next year in January or this summer I want to start a job, hopefully working with horses. I have no previous experience with horses, so I've a few general questions about what I'll be able to do.

1) What might I be doing if I go to help out a local barn, ranch, etc.? Would it be rewarding experience at all?

2) Will the jobs that I might get vary in the different seasons (winter vs. summer)?

3) Have any of you had the same experience (starting work with horses without any experience)?

Thank you guys so much!

All the best!

TheCurious1 is offline  
post #2 of 10 Old 10-27-2014, 11:31 AM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Kentucky
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Without experience, don't expect much actual contact with the horses. Expect to do a great deal of physical labor, hauling hay and grain and supplies. Tough work. Not magical or glamorous in any capacity. Every barn will be different in their expectations of labor.

Good luck finding a place that would hire you. Personally, I wouldn't hire help with zero experience. This is a skilled type job that can be very dangerous. The liability of inexperienced help would be too great. It will be hard to find a paying position without something. "Fast learner" won't teach you the warning signs of a horse getting sick, or the body language of a horse. That comes with experience, that most people pay for to earn through lessons and free labor/volunteering. I would look through my potential candidates and only consider those with experience. I would want ready to go out of the box, not someone that I will have to train from the ground up. If I were running a tack shop, then sure! Retail training is easy. Or needing office help. You might be able to find office work for a larger farm. Data entry and records and billing and the like. Experience is needed there but not for an assistant.

Last edited by LadyDreamer; 10-27-2014 at 11:36 AM.
LadyDreamer is offline  
post #3 of 10 Old 10-27-2014, 11:50 AM
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Alberta, Canada
Posts: 1,779
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Most people get the basics from paying for riding lessons, going to a summer horse camp or just riding at dude ranches. It gives you SOME exposure.

I find working with horses to be very rewarding! Yes there are different jobs summer and winter, but mucking out stalls and cleaning tack are all weather jobs.

Expect to pay your dues first. You will understand that a stable won't want to let you handle the horses before they show you how, but will start you in a volunteer position of sweeping aisles, cleaning out empty stalls (so you don't have to physically move the horses), scrubbing buckets and mangers, moving hay and straw and sacks of feed, cleaning tack, cleaning out the horse trailer, tidying up the tack room/office/lounge. Stuff like that.

Then you can observe how to hold a horse for the vet or farrier, then try it under supervision until your boss is satisfied you won't kill yourself and it basically goes from there.

Sometimes I wrestle with my demons. Sometimes we just snuggle.
Red Gate Farm is offline  
post #4 of 10 Old 10-27-2014, 11:52 AM
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: New England
Posts: 12,001
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Afraid I agree with LadyDreamer. You will probably be some assistant something or end up doing all the dirty work.

My recommendation would be to find a local stable and volunteer- at least learn to pick stalls.

Mucking stalls quickly and efficiently is the only way I can think of to even consider an entry level candidate with no experience. You will still be under someone elses supervision but you may be considered for a job with "limited experience but motivated and very good at cleaning stalls!" with "no experience but motivated" you'll be at the bottom of the list.

So learn to clean stalls, lead quiet horses, clean tack and THEN you will be ready for entry level.
Yogiwick is offline  
post #5 of 10 Old 10-27-2014, 01:55 PM
Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: North County San Diego
Posts: 563
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I volunteer at a "rescue" stable. I too started with zero experience. Here's a quick rundown of what I do. Roughly in order of when I was allowed to do it.

poop patrol, stalls and pens.
garbage/rotten hay patrol
clean everything that is able to be cleaned
stall mucking, bedding replacement, etc.
Bring bales of hay to feed stall
Empty feed bags into the garbage cans the owner uses as feed containers.
Sweep the barn
check/scrub/fill water tubs
rinse/wet/soak hay prior to putting it in feed tubs
empty "goodies" from the mix bucket into the small feed containers
Halter and lead the easy horses
Halter and lead the not so easy horses
put on/remove fly masks
keep horses calm while owner applies external medicine
exercise (free longe) horses in the round pen

The folks with more experience are allowed to
groom/wash horses
ride a couple of them (most are not suited for riding anymore)

At this point I would be allowed to groom and wash if I asked to. I've been told I'll be allowed to ride one of the horses at some point as my riding lessons progress.

I don't get paid. I do this because I enjoy it, it's good exercise, a great learning experience, and I love the horses. I do this roughly 6-8 hrs a week.

I asked my riding instructor if I could volunteer at her stable and her response was no, I'd have to be babysat until I convinced folks I was competent, and that the liability issues of having an inexperienced worker among potentially dangerous animals (i.e. all horses) were too great. That's volunteering, not even working.

As a side note, my riding instructor was more than a little concerned that I was working with horses at the rescue stable without enough experience and that I was setting myself up to get hurt. I think I'm past that point now but her concern was well noted. I have been lightly hurt a couple times now. My foot was stepped on, I've been bitten. Neither serious enough to stop the volunteering but both were sobering and made me be that much more careful.

So if you do manage to find a position expect to be doing drudge work for a probably long while. Horses speak their own language and in order to work with them safely you have to understand enough of it to know when a situation is getting dangerous. There are also a whole slew of "never do this around a horse!" things that you need to know or you will be in danger.

I've learned all this in a couple months. The folks here with 20+ years (or 50+ years) of experience with horses would say that I know nothing yet and they would be right.

Good luck!
EncinitasM is offline  
post #6 of 10 Old 10-27-2014, 02:48 PM
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Murfreesboro, TN
Posts: 585
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Well, I can't tell you all the hows because each barn is different. What I can tell you is how I went about getting my feet wet in the horse world.

I had very little experience with horses, but decided I wanted to give working with them a try to see how I liked it. My experience up until that point was just a few trail rides here and there ( like as an excursion on a cruise, or around the ring at the fair type of thing). So, after college I moved from Louisiana to Montana to work on a dude ranch for a season. Best experience of my life! First-- it is Montana, the most beautiful place on earth. Second, I was surrounded by experts. I started out really small, mostly doing other ranch work( 95% of my job had nothing to do with horses, barns, trails, etc) with minimal horse contact. But, once I proved myself to be somewhat intelligent and capable, I was given more access. That came in the form of handling some tack, feeding, CLEANING<-- lots and lots of stall/barn cleaning.

Then, I was able to move out onto the trails more with guests when they came to the ranch. By the end of the season, I was still a newbie-- but I had the "horse bug", and knew what direction I wanted to go, had learned some terminology, knew what to look for [somewhat] in regards to horse health [i.e. colic]. Just some things that only time and experience will lend you.

After that stint, I moved to Tennessee for a "real" job [ aka, the job that now pays for my horse habit!], and volunteered at a barn that housed 27 Tennessee Walking Horses. I had a more clear/concrete description at this barn: feed 2x a day a mixture of hay/grain/supplements depending on the horse, water 2x/day, clean stalls, sweep common areas, lots and lots of hay stacking/rearranging, occasional trailer cleaning, tack room cleaning, spider web knocking down... anything that is associated with a barn. I did that for several months

NOW, I decided I wanted to take it up a notch about 6 months ago and invested in 1x1 lessons with a trainer a couple times a week. In addition to my lessons, I spend a lot of time in the barn helping out, feeding, organizing tack, feeding again, moving horses around the pasture(s) depending on the need, grooming horses, talking to newbies at the barn who are getting lessons and might be nervous, etc.

Everything is layered by experience. Every day I learn something new, whether through experiences, reading and online research or by talking to people more knowledgeable than myself. I wouldn't say you're unqualified, because we were all unqualified at one point-- but be prepared to muck stalls and not get much interaction with horses at first. You kind of need to "earn your stripes" so to speak, and you WANT to get that experience and knowledge before jumping in head first.

I went to Montana in 2009, so this has been a slow rolling progression of learning and gaining new experiences. Be patient, there's so much to learn, give yourself time to absorb it.

Sorry, this turned out WAY longer than I anticipated! Hope it helps..
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The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire. ~Sharon Ralls Lemon
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post #7 of 10 Old 10-27-2014, 04:13 PM
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Some dude ranches will hire people with no horse experience and have them start in the kitchen or in housekeeping.

Those that show an interest and willingness often get the opportunity to ease into the horse side of things.

Depending on where you work, it is seasonal. Some workers even working northern ranches in the summer and southwestern outfits in the winter months. Some northern outfits do hunting in the fall to extend their seasons.

If this is something you want to try, go for it. Best wishes.
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boots is offline  
post #8 of 10 Old 10-28-2014, 11:58 AM
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: New England
Posts: 12,001
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I just want to add- there are plenty of "experienced" people that I will do the work for them to avoid them doing it and there are plenty of unexperienced people that I happily show them a few times then know they have it. Some of the little barn rats I will allow to help me around the barn. It's pretty easy once you know all the horses and people to know who's ok doing what. If there's ever an issue I will be right there and take care of it myself or if it's less of an issue I can send one of the older working students to take care of it.

Yes getting hurt is part of the job description. A good place will take every step necessary to avoid that. None of my kids have gotten hurt on my watch. I've had all the above done to me though working with the variety of horses I have, usually solo. Some things are avoidable others aren't and some things are more likely than others. So if you don't want to get hurt find a different job. It won't necessarily (I hope!) happen often or seriously but it's pretty much a guarantee at some point. Hey I guess you can get papercuts at an office job, but our handling material weighs 10x more than we do and has a mind of it's own :)

Not trying to scare you, it's well worth it and avoidable with experience, just be aware.
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Yogiwick is offline  
post #9 of 10 Old 11-05-2014, 12:22 PM
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Atlanta, Ga
Posts: 119
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One thing no one has really mentioned but comes to my mind is as harsh as it sounds, to be prepared for rejection. Depending on the types of barns you are approaching, many places will be weiry of taking on a random stranger with no experience, even as a volunteer. Many barns with boarders and students already have an over abundance of people wanting to learn, chip in, etc so taking on an unknown person with no horse experience that isn't invested in that barn's community just doesn't make sense. Some things that I might recommend (which some have mentioned) to get around this issue should you encounter it is 1) seek out any local non-profits in your area (horse rescues and therpeutic riding programs). These folks rely on volunteers, many of whom come with no training, so they typically are happy for ANYONE to assist AND have training programs in place which you can be assured have been time-tested and vetted to be safe (or as safe as learning to work with horses can be!), 2) Offer to volunteer. It is extremely unlikely that you will get a paid job off the bat with no experience. Volunteering shows you are truly dedicated and gives you some experience in the meantime and might get your foot in the door for a paying gig. 3) If the manager at the barn tells you no, ask if there is a trainer at the barn that teaches beginners. If so, approach the trainer---you have a few options there, pay to take lessons (you will get experience needed to land a job later and in meantime will have fun!), ask the trainer if you could work for them in exchange for lessons, OR ask the trainer if you could just volunteer with her. 4) You might consider the dude ranch route, I am less familiar with this but does seem like you may be able to get your foot in the door if you take a position that isn't directly associated with horses but seize the opportunity to gain some experience.

Lastly, make sure that you protect self. By this, I mean to go into whatever opportunity you get being aware of safety. The bottom line is that someone is going to have to train you and this requires time. Sadly, some folks don't put the time into training a beginner that they should and this can result in you being put into unsafe situations that can result in you or a horse getting hurt. Prior to taking on an opportunity, ask what types of training you'll be getting and if there is a general progression of tasks that you will be asked to take on. You should never be handling or even in the same enclosure (stall, pasture, etc) with a horse unattended when you're first starting. If at any point you are asked to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable or that you don't understand, ask for help or clarity and if you don't get the answers or reactions that you'd like, take that as your signal to find somewhere else to volunteer/ work.
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post #10 of 10 Old 11-06-2014, 07:15 AM
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Where the red fern grows....
Posts: 1,293
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Have you thought about starting out looking at your local equestrian job list? I have experience with horses, I ride both western and english, can handle foals, young stock, and older horses, know feed, hay, can doctor wounds, am quick to see things that sometimes the owner doesn't always see, etc...

That being said, one barn I work at, I have been there over a year now, it is for a local equine veterinarian who is an older person, as is the husband, and I love it. They have 8 horses. I muck stalls, anywhere from 3 to 5 of them, refill water buckets after cleaning them out, fresh hay in the hay bags, ensure there is always enough shavings in each stall, keep the general barn free of cob webs, sweep the aisle way each day, bring in hay to the barn so there is always some there, clean the outside water troughs, and ride one of the fox hunters 3+ a week to keep him in shape. I get one day off a week. However, I get paid well and do earn the money I am making.

In August I picked up another part time barn job, this lady lives right next door to the above barn. She has Hanoverian horses and when I was hired, it was to totally clean her WHOLE barn, believe me, when I started I thought every spider in our county had moved in and taken up residency, there were so many cob webs. The barn has since been cleaned, everything polished, and I now help with mucking stalls, re-bedding, cleaning out and refilling water buckets, pretty much what I do at the first barn.

I also work with one of her 4 year olds who had a "trainer" start him and after laying into him a stud chain over his nose, he had a rearing and balking issue...several weeks later I, and the owner, can safely lead him and work with him. We have discussed me working with him as the gelding gets on well with me, all her horses are a pleasure to be around, and she can count on me to listen, to the letter, what she wants done. Again, I also get paid well.

ALL places like promptness. I can't tell you the stories I have heard or things I have witnessed. I am able to provide a work history for my horse experience, names of people who know my worth ethics, and anything else that is needed. The fox hunter I ride, I provide my own saddle, which we have ensured fits him well, and I ensure that my saddle, as well as the owners tack, is kept clean and in good shape. Being able to work without someone constantly telling you what to do all the time, noticing something that needs to be done and doing it without being told, all also come into play.

Horse work can be rewarding, personally speaking, I truly love it and find great peace. It isn't without it's grumbles though, I have been bitten, stepped on, working out in any and all temperatures can be a challenge, loosing a horse or foal is never easy either. I have seen the best, and worst, the horse world has to offer.
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