How much of your day/week is related to horses?
Most of it! I feed and exercise the horses at work in the mornings, treadmilling, swimming or saddling them up, then I am either working my own horse and/or chasing or writing stories for the magazine during the day, and then back to work to feed up again in the afternoon!
And if I’m not with horses, you can guarantee I’m still thinking about them.
What is it exactly that you do?
I work with Endurance Arabians as my ‘main’ job; feeding, exercising, health care, pre-ride care etc. I have always loved the Arabian breed, so it is like my dream job, they are unsurpassed in their intelligence and just such a joy to work with! Previously I’ve worked in racing stables and establishments and have to say that the horses are like chalk and cheese, such difference in intelligence and personalities.
My background in racing and my marketing experience through my magazine have also landed me another position managing the marketing and public relations side of a new company, Colts and Fillies Labour Hire which deals with employment in the racing and stud industries.
On top of this I also produce a magazine, Pony Magazine Australia. I have been freelance writing for a number of equine publications all over the world for over ten years and it has been a long-time ambition of mine to start up a magazine that catered for the pony industry, where breeders and owners could promote their ponies as performance animals.
Self-publishing has meant that the magazine is very much my own work, I have full control over what is in there. It has also meant a huge amount of work on my part, as I do everything myself from sourcing the articles, interviewing, researching and writing, to advert design and general layout design. It has been a steep learning curve, my qualifications and background in writing made writing and researching the articles relatively easy, however the design and marketing side of it all was something quite new and somewhat of a challenge!
Mastering all of the various software, getting people involved in the magazine (everyone loves to read them but it’s much harder to get them actively involved), and also producing an entire magazine by yourself within a few months are some of the challenges I have faced.
In this field of work, is it possible to be a full time professional and earning a liveable income?
The endurance industry is quite an active one, I am sure there are plenty of jobs in endurance. Some are probably seasonal, but the horses need to be cared for twelve months of the year, and it is quite a long road getting a horse to a ride. It doesn’t take months like racehorses, it takes years to leg them up and ensure that their bodies are properly prepared for the tracks, which can be over quite challenging terrain. They are like the marathon runners of the horse world.
As for writing in the equine industry, as a professional I believe it would be relatively hard to make a living as a freelancer, with the exception of specialising in the racing industry. Most of my writing was done on a volunteer basis. There is the option of trying to get a staff job in some of the bigger equine magazines, and I also did find that some of the overseas magazines paid quite well, but to make a living as a freelancer it would be of benefit to also branch out into other areas, I believe. As for self-publishing, it is a huge amount of work, but highly rewarding!! I don’t believe that it is for all people, but if you are motivated, disciplined and dedicated, and have a passion for something, it is worth having a go at.
What are the general steps taken to be employed in such a role?
As with any job working with horses, passion goes a long way! There are early mornings, it can be messy work, in some instances there is a lot of poop scooping, not all performance horses are a joy to work with (anybody who has had to deal with a sour racehorse will vouch for this), you really need to love the animals and love your job. Most people will start at the bottom, mucking boxes, sweeping, filling waters, etc. but be patient, horses are large animals and can be unpredictable and dangerous. If you aspire to work with performance horses but have no experience, perhaps volunteer at a local riding school where the horses are generally quieter, they are chosen for their ability to deal with beginners. Learn all you can, read, study etc.
With writing, obviously it helps to have a good understanding of the English language. Read a lot, you will find that it helps, also write a lot, practice, practice, practice. You will find the more you write the easier it generally gets. There are plenty of courses on writing and journalism, I would highly recommend completing one of these, there is so much to learn, not only about the writing and researching side, but also about getting published and the legal side of things. Offer to volunteer your services to get your name out there and published, this can help a great deal, plus some editors are fantastic and will offer you plenty of advice!
Favourite horse memory?
I have lots, most of them involve my second pony Jemma (Willawick Celebrity). Our first gymkhana together was pretty memorable, we placed in all our classes which was a big achievement. Also our first show jumping round, which was at the Zone Championships, we flew around the course. She loved to jump and was such a handy pony. She taught me so much, she was not always the easiest horse to ride but this made me learn a lot! Also when I first laid eyes on my first pony Comet, I fell in love instantly! That love was often challenged, he was so naughty and I fell off so many times, but I always got back on again. I have very fond memories of doing stockwork with my dad on the ponies, mine were never as well behaved as his but it was a lot of fun.
I plan to keep going with the magazine, getting bigger and better as I learn more. I’d love to become more involved in the industry, sponsoring a few shows and perhaps a few ponies and riders. I’m hoping to eventually print. I’m currently looking at printing an annual each year, the costs are the main hurdle at the moment as I self-fund the whole magazine and not printing decreases the overheads by a huge amount.
I’d love to also self-publish a few books, I have a few in the pipeline at the moment. As for my horse-related goals, I would love to get back into competing again! I’ve done a few shows and competitions over the last few years but I’d like to get my horse out more. He’s an absolutely gorgeous pure Arabian named Besure with the most charming nature, but he can be a difficult ride at times.
Best thing about your sport/profession?
The horses of course! Their loyalty and intelligence, just getting to spend time with them every day. I absolutely love working with Arabians for their responsiveness, they are so light to handle and so smart (this can work against you on the odd occasion though).
With the writing, I have been lucky enough to interview a few of the big personalities in both the Arabian and pony worlds, which has been great! I love talking to people about their beautiful horses and ponies.
“Who among us has not as a child asked Santa Claus to bring us a pony on Christmas day?” – Author unknown