Community & Intuition: A Holistic Approach To Equestrian CareersAug 31, 2022
In the past decade, I’ve managed a tack store that brought in seven figures of annual revenue and traveled the world to meet vendors and scout out new products. I’ve designed a line of riding clothing and launched (and shuttered) my own brand of leather goods. I’ve written essays and commentary for equestrian and mainstream publications, managed social media strategy for companies with worldwide name recognition, and — plot twist — bought and sold hunter ponies with an old friend and new ones.
You can guess that I've figured out a couple of things along the way. If you’re thinking about a career in the horse world, here’s what I’d tell you...
No shame in part time.
The idea of making your passion into your full-time gig is really romanticized, but it has downsides too. While I’ve pursued various equestrian occupations for years, I’ve only briefly dedicated myself to one full time — and I burned out super hard. Turns out the barn isn’t such a relaxing refuge when you’re constantly being waylaid by people asking you work questions!
I’ve found that dedicating at least half of my time to a non-equestrian job is a healthy balance for me, and I know plenty of people with horse businesses who also work as software engineers, healthcare workers, scientists, electricians, and more. You’re not less driven, talented or successful just because you have a “regular” job. In fact, I’d argue it’s smart to have multiple income streams until you’re 110% sure horses can support you.
Your relationships are everything.
Conventional resumes and accolades aren’t a thing in the horse world. This is a community that operates on word of mouth, even in 2022, and horse people talk. What this means is that a handful of happy clients or friends who believe in you can be a massive asset to your career and your business.
Besides my very first job in the horse world — which I found on Craigslist — all my big opportunities have come to me through personal relationships. I’ve found great trainers through friends, bought and sold horses with them, been referred to writing and social media jobs, catch-ridden at shows, and more.
This has nothing to do with being extroverted (I’m pretty shy!) or about old-school “networking.” It’s really just about fostering genuine, positive human connections over the years.
Follow your intuition and look for momentum.
I’m not a planner. While I have plenty of goals and pursuits, the idea of sitting down and writing out a five- or ten-year plan and then executing it is completely strange to me. More power to people whose brains operate that way, but it’s not for me.
Looking back at my career, I can see that I make my best decisions when I am following my intuition. I pursue what is interesting to me while still paying the bills. When I got burned out of equestrian retail, I realized I still enjoyed the e-commerce aspect, so I found an e-commerce role at a mainstream fashion company and launched my own DTC line of equestrian leather goods. When that small business plateaued, I began to feel more interested in returning to writing, so I closed the leather goods business and redirected my energy toward writing. Freelance writing turning into a social media copywriting job, which evolved into social media strategy, which is the bulk of my work today.
I’m also a big believer in looking for momentum and staying open to feedback. If something in your life is going well, keep going! If a surprising opportunity comes up, investigate it. If a pattern keeps showing up in your life, if people keep asking you the same question or making similar suggestions to you? That’s like a big flashing light telling you where to direct your attention and energy.
Lean into your niche — but not too hard.
Finding a niche that works for you is an important way to stand out in a noisy marketplace.
What are you good at? What makes you different from your competitors? What can you bring to the table that they can’t? What’s the “hook” in your story that will help clients remember you?
At the barn, my niche is green ponies. I enjoy the day-to-day process of developing young horses, I’m petite and fit nicely on the little ones, and I love their smarts and sense of humor. When I'm looking for equestrian writing or social media jobs, my hook is simply that I’ve done that same work, successfully, for well-known companies outside of the equestrian space. If you have a badass “civilian” resume with skills that transfer, people will want those skills in the horse world, too.
It’s still important to be flexible and let your career evolve. Maybe you’re an instructor and you really thought you wanted to introduce up-down kids to the sport in a safe environment, but your phone is ringing off the hook with nervous re-riders. (Momentum!) You’re looking for the sweet spot between what makes you special and what the market is demanding... and it might not be exactly what you expect.
Written by Jessie Lochrie for On Course Equestrian.
You can connect with Jessie at www.jessielochrie.com.