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Profile On: Alex Brown, Former Exercise Rider

Alex Brown recently released a novel relating to the horse racing industry.  As someone who was a professional exercise rider, he has fit a lot of his knowledge into his book Missionville.  He also kindly took the time to answer some questions about exercise riding as a career.

Former Exercise Rider, Alex Brown with a Fan | Equus Education

Former Exercise Rider, Alex Brown with a Fan | Equus Education

How much of your day/week is related to horses?
For now, very little, unfortunately, unless you count writing about them, and my new book, Missionville!

What was it exactly that you did?
I worked in horse racing, in the United States, on and off for more than 25 years. During this time, I mostly exercised horses as a salaried or freelance exercise rider. A typical morning would mean galloping about 7-8 horses, starting around 6, and finishing around 10 in the morning.

This gave me plenty of time to do some other stuff. During the latter years, a lot of my additional time was devoted to horse welfare issues, horse slaughter and the retirement of racehorses.

In this field of work, is it possible to be a full time professional and earning a liveable income?
Yes, an exercise rider can do quite well. My last salaried job, which was for Steve Asmussen, I was earning around about $30k salary. Because of the short working hours, I could do a little extra work, if I wanted. That might have been breaking young horses, freelancing a few extra horses at the track, or working in a role at the races (which I never did).

Missionville by Alex Brown | Equus Education

Missionville by Alex Brown | Equus Education

What are the general steps taken to be employed in such a role?
I was lucky. I’ve ridden all my life, and went to the US to ride for a racehorse trainer who had recently moved to the US too. Basically, you need some decent riding experience before heading to a racetrack, and then you need a trainer who will spend some time helping you get started. You don’t want to be thrown in the deep-end straightaway.

Riding on a track is quite different to equestrian riding. You need to learn how to ride off a neckstrap, bridge your reins, ride with shorter stirrups, and so forth. Strangely, you learn to ride longer, with more experience, but it’s important to get the balance of riding short.

Favourite horse memory?
That’s a tough one, after twenty five or so years. But it will be about a horse winning a race. It’s just a great feeling, after galloping a horse for awhile, to see it do well at the races.

Most recently, probably when Maple Time won a little race at Penn National. When I worked for Asmussen, any time Salty Langfuhn won a race.

Future goals?
Now I’m back in the UK, and retired from horse racing, who knows. I really enjoyed writing Missionville, which is in part based on my experiences at the race tracks in the US. But I’m not sure writing full-time will ever be my calling. I am fortunate to have another career in the sphere of MBA admissions, so that keeps me busy too.

Best thing about your sport/profession?
I just love horses. We owe so much to them.

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