Working with horses is, most often, about the love of it. Those of us willing to dedicate our careers to the wonderful animals aren’t necessarily in it for the money.
But what does it take to support yourself while working with horses? How difficult is it to work in the equestrian industry?
A few points always come up:
- Working with horses requires long hours.
- Working with horses can be hard work.
But anybody who is passionate about horse work knows this. In fact, it’s part of the reason the equestrian industry is so attractive. Spending all day throwing yourself whole-heartedly into good, hard work is a great thing to do.
So let’s look at some of the different professions, how they make their money, how they’re involved with horses and what it takes to get there.
A farrier, as most of you will know, shoes horses. This can be a lot of work and can be quite difficult, but if you are confident you can build up a solid client base after you’ve become qualified, it can be a very solid profession.
Income: Average $42K per year. Range from 30K to 68K.
Professional Eventer –
Trying to make a living off prize money is very, very difficult, particularly for those in Australia. The Adelaide International is the biggest of such events, and has a total prize pool of only $120,000 (spread across all events).
To double the difficulty of making money this way, transporting, training and keeping horses costs a lot of money. Eventing is usually supported by teaching classes, training horses or other side professions.
Income: Some events in America (such as the Kentucky events) can earn an eventer 70 – 80,000. But that’s for first place.
The prize money for horse racing is a lot richer – and the industry is much healthier in Australia. The Melbourne cup is not only a popular Australian event, but is large by world standards.
An important thing to remember is that winnings are split up between a lot of people, including investors, and the jockey may only be paid an agreed wage.
Income: Winning the Melbourne cup earns $3.6 million.
Trainers prepare horses for events. Respected trainers have usually proven themselves with a strong performance record.
Income: Approximately $43,000 per year.
Equine Veterinarian –
Equestrian vets are specialized and go through large amount of study and qualification. Because of this, they can earn relatively high salaries but require at least 4 years of study.
Income: Average $62K up to $89K per year for senior vets.
Mounted police officer –
Mounted police officer positions are relatively limited but offer a very stable way for people to move into a profession that involved working with horses very closely.
A mounted police officer has a primary horse for which they are responsible, but also does general stable maintenance work as well. Being in the police force, it can involve relatively interesting and intense work, as well as allowing opportunities to meet new people and expand your life experience.
Income: During training, you’ll receive an income of $45K, which then goes up to $62K.
Equine Dentist –
Similar to a vet, this requires about 4 years of study and involves specialising to horse dentistry after a broader study of veterinarian science.
Income: $42K per year.
Five Biggest Mistakes When Building a Horse Arena
If building a horse arena is costly, making mistakes in the process can be painfully costly. A horse arena is a major investment, and getting it right in the earliest planning stages will save you a lot of time, money and heartache. Take the following points into consideration if you’re planning to construct your own arena, and remember than one mistake made can often lead to others.
1. Location by nature, not by aesthetics.
Obviously, drainage is a problem that looms large in arena construction. It is important to locate your arena on a high point of the property; never choose a site that is at the base of hills, or in the path of runoff water. Working with nature rather than against it can cut the drainage battle in half, and will probably reduce the costs as well.
2. Drainage; Get it right the first time.
Water pooling on your arena will lead to a breakdown in expensive arena surface and sub-layers, and create an unstable riding environment. Make sure you design a proper, realistic drainage system based on location, the lie of the land, anticipated annual rainfall, soil type and your own sub-layers. There are a number of methods used for arenas, take the time to investigate which will work best with the above factors. Obviously, building a covered over horse arena will eliminate a lot of the drainage problems, so long as surrounding run-off is properly drained, the arena surface itself won’t have to stand up to downpours and sodden surfaces. Another big advantage of a covered arena is that you can collect and store the water at little cost and with huge lasting benefits.
3. Use the right materials.
It is absolutely essential to spend time and money to ensure you use materials that will work for your arena. There is no across the board ‘rule book’ for sub layers, as materials vary from region to region. Skimping on base layers or choosing the wrong materials can undo the ultimate effectiveness and quality of your arena in a wink. Have a good idea how you want to use the arena when choosing materials, so you can make sure you have the right amount of each layer, and that one layer won’t become too thin after compacting to be effective.
4. Top layer is crucial.
Ideally, a “perfect” riding surface should be cushioned to minimise concussion on horse legs, firm enough to provide traction, not too slick, not too dusty, not overly abrasive to horse hooves, inexpensive to obtain, and easy to maintain. There is a wide range of top fill products available on the market, both natural and commercially produced, and your selection will depend largely on your budget and intended arena use. It would probably pay to make use of some local knowledge, talk to the people who have already done what you are seeking to do.
You can extend the lifetime of your arena by practicing some simple TLC. Harrow the topping regularly to prevent it compacting too much. Removing manure will preserve the quality of your top layer. Watering regularly will keep the dust down, and likewise if the surface is sodden after heavy rain, leave it to dry up a bit before riding. Ongoing maintenance not only saves you time in the long run, but will also save you money in lengthening the time between construction and when your arena is due for a renovation. Once again, building an arena cover will extend the life of your arena a lot by not exposing it to the weather and preserving the surface and below layers.