Working for Kentucky Equine Research in Australia, Brooke Charteris came out to speak to some of my students a couple of months back. Obviously enthusiastic about her role of informing others with regards to the nutrition and welfare of their horses, her advice was great and definitely worth storing for future use.
Recently she’s been representing KER at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and shortly after was in New Zealand for work. When she found some time to spare she kindly answered some questions regarding her career choice.
Have you always been interested in horses and when did you decide that the nutrition of these gorgeous animals was the area in which you wanted to focus? How did you pursue this interest?
Yes! I have loved horse since I was little. My parents had never been involved with horses, so they decided to send me to have riding lessons with I was 12. From then on I was addicted.
I became more interested in nutrition when I bought a TB, ex-racer, who had quite a few problems. I was in year 12, and after doing my own research, realised it was a fascinating area. I wanted to work with horses, but also knew getting a good sound education was important, so went to Melbourne Uni and studied Agricultural Science. I did work experience with Kentucky Equine Research, and never left! I completed my Honours thesis in Post Operative and Clinically Ill Equine Nutrition. This combined my love of horses, with my interest in science!
How much of your day/week is hands on with horses?
My day varies quite considerably! I always start the day early and work one of my horses, feed, change rugs and do all of those routine jobs! I then head into the office, check emails and go from there. Some days I’ll spend all day in an office, other days I’ll be traveling to visit stores and clients, consulting on farm, presenting lectures or assisting vets. There is no such thing as a normal day, or a boring one!!
After all that, if I am home, I then ride another horse (only in daylight savings) or just feed and rug. If I’m away, my wonderful parents help out! I work very long days!
In this field is it possible for someone to be a full time professional, earning a livable income?
Yes, but you do it for the love! I make a good living, and am comfortable, but I also teach (am an EFA NCAS Intro coach, becoming a level one) to help supplement my horses! As I have recently moved into a brand new house and saving for my wedding, a supportive partner is essential! I am away from home frequently, and as we all know horses aren’t cheap! BUT, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
What are the general steps taken to be able to provide a nutritional service to others for their livestock?
I do a lot of my work with clients who have been seeking nutritional advice, especially those with ‘problem horses’. I will ask a range of questions, to get a feel for the horse, not only age, breed and weight, but about his general disposition and attitude.
From there I will ask what the owner would like to get out of this service (is it help with a problem, more cost effective, or some people just want to be sure they are doing the best for their horse!)
Any advice for those interested in pursuing this line of work?
Be passionate about horses and love talking to people. As my days can be long, you must love what you do! Have a solid background, and an interest in science is always helpful too. Make sure you have sound knowledge of all areas of horsemanship, as you will be required to assist getting young horses onto scales, and need to be hands on. Public speaking is handy also!
Is there anything else with horses you’d love to learn about or try?
I am currently completing my EFA NCAS level one at the moment. I read as much as I can, on all horse topics and am continually trying to improve myself as an instructor, equine nutrition advisor and rider. Working with horses, I learn new things all the time, and think I’ll always learn whilst I work with these amazing animals.
Favourite horse memory?
Oh, there are so many of them. My TB, Cal has given me a life time of memories, some good, some bad and some that make me laugh and cry at the same time!
I think my favourite memory with him would be coming second and sixth at a big dressage day. He had been so naughty leading up to it, and was one of the few times I actually got him on the float (we have since fixed that issue!), but on the day he was perfect and I was so proud of us! My new mare is just amazing too. She has giving me the most amazing rides. I am continually amazed how kind and forgiving she is, with time she will give me some super memories too!
Professionally, to keep doing what I’m doing! I love nutrition and lecturing, and I love being able to share my knowledge with people and help them to improve their horses health and in some cases welfare too, it can be very rewarding work! Long term however, I would like to establish my own teaching business. I would like to incorporate all I have learnt, regarding nutrition, physiology, behaviour and training principles to help others achieve their riding goals (however, I’m a long way off this!)
Personally, I would like to keep training and competing my horses well into old age! I am hoping to train and compete my mare at Grand Prix, but that too is a long term goal! Nothing ever happens quickly in the horse world! For now, I want to keep enjoying riding and training. I love having the time with my horses and can’t see myself without a horse!
Best thing about your sport/profession?
Working with the animal that I love! Not many people are as lucky as me and can turn their passion into a career. I enjoy meeting like-minded people, and assisting them to reach their next goal, fix a problem or just improve their horses diet.
“You know you love your horse when your mouth waters at the sight of a wagon-full of hay.”