If you’ve been riding horses for any length of time, you’ve likely fallen in love with the discipline and wondered if it’s something you could do for a living. Fortunately, there are many ways to become a professional horseback rider. However, becoming a professional equestrian is extremely challenging and requires hard work and dedication to your chosen discipline. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the various careers a professional equestrian might pursue and outline the steps required to get there.
What is a Professional Horseback Rider?
A professional horseback rider is someone who earns a living by riding and working with horses. Sounds amazing, right?
These individuals typically have a high level of expertise in horse riding and specialize in various equestrian disciplines such as show jumping, dressage, eventing, racing (like thoroughbred or quarter horse racing), stunt riding, and other horse-related activities. Their primary responsibilities may include training and exercising horses, competing in equestrian events, providing riding lessons, and caring for the horses’ overall well-being.
Professional horse riders often dedicate a significant amount of time to honing their riding skills and developing a deep understanding of equine behavior and care. They may also work with horses in various contexts, such as in the entertainment industry, as stunt riders, or as trainers for specific disciplines. Earning a living as a professional horse rider can be demanding, physically and mentally, but it is a career pursued by those with a strong passion for horses and equestrian sports.
Types of Horseback Riding Competitions and Careers
Professional equestrians have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to competitions, sports, and careers. Here are some common competitions and careers a professional horseback rider might pursue at an elite level.
Professional riders can become trainers who work with horses and riders to improve their skills in disciplines such as dressage, show jumping, or eventing. They can teach riding lessons to individuals of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced riders, at riding schools, equestrian centers, or as freelance instructors.
Equine coaches focus on training and instructing horses as opposed to riders. These coaches usually train horses in one specific discipline, such as dressage, show jumping, or racing. Equine coaches can either be independent or employed by breeders, and train horses to prepare them for sale, competition, or simply to prepare young horses for further training as they age.
Horse Show Competitor
Many professional riders compete in horse shows and events. They may earn a living through prize money, sponsorships, and endorsements. Dressage, show jumping, polo, and cross-country are just a few equestrian sports with elite levels for riders to aspire to. The Olympics even feature three key equestrian sports: jumping, dressage, and eventing. Reaching Olympic-level performance is a desirable milestone for many equestrian athletes.
Learn more: 6 Types of Horseback Riding Competitions
A racing jockey is a highly skilled and specialized athlete who competes in horse racing events, such as thoroughbred racing. Their primary role is to ride racehorses during competitions, with the goal of guiding their mounts to victory. Horse racing is an incredibly demanding and competitive field.
Equestrian stunt riding combines elements of horsemanship, athleticism, and entertainment, making it a specialized and exciting career within the broader equestrian and entertainment industries. These riders are typically trained to execute a wide range of impressive maneuvers and actions while riding horses, often in live shows, movies, television productions, circuses, rodeos, and other events where equestrian performances are featured.
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How to Become a Professional Equestrian
Becoming a professional horse rider requires dedication, training, and a strong passion for working with horses. Here are the steps you can follow to pursue a career as a professional equestrian:
Choose a Discipline
Decide on the equestrian discipline that interests you the most. There are various disciplines to choose from, such as dressage, show jumping, eventing, racing, reining, and more. Your choice will determine the specific training and skills you need to develop.
Get Proper Training
Seek out experienced trainers and coaches in your chosen discipline. Training and instruction are crucial for improving your riding skills and understanding the technical aspects of your chosen discipline.
Dedicate a significant amount of time to practice and riding; most professional athletes of any discipline train for nearly 20-30 hours per week. Consistent practice is essential to becoming a skilled rider. Work with different horses, if possible, to gain experience with various temperaments and abilities.
Compete in Shows
Participate in local, regional, national and even international horse shows and competitions in your chosen discipline. Competing will help you gain experience and exposure as you build a competitive record.
Obtain Necessary Qualifications
Depending on your discipline and career goals, you may need to obtain certifications or qualifications. Some disciplines have governing bodies that offer certification programs. Examples include the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) certification and the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Instructor Certification Program.
Build a network within the equestrian community. Connect with trainers, riders, owners, and professionals in your chosen discipline. Networking can open doors to opportunities such as mentorships, full-time roles, and more.
Work as an Assistant
Consider working as an assistant or horse groom for established professionals in your discipline. This can provide valuable hands-on experience and insights into the industry.
Equestrian sports are constantly evolving. Stay updated on the latest developments, training techniques, and horse care practices by attending clinics, seminars, and workshops.
Manage Your Fitness
Maintain good physical fitness. Riding requires strength, balance, and coordination. Regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle are important for equestrian athletes.
Some equestrian careers may benefit from formal education in fields like equine science, veterinary medicine, or business management, depending on your career goals. A formal equestrian degree can provide invaluable experiences and opportunities to aspiring professional equestrians.
Build a Reputation
Building a good reputation for your skills, professionalism, and work ethic is crucial. Word of mouth and recommendations can play a significant role in your success.
Seek Sponsorship or Funding
Depending on your chosen equestrian discipline, you may need financial support. Equestrian competitions can be expensive on their own, never mind the cost of taking care of a competition horse (or multiple horses). Consider seeking sponsorships or funding from individuals, businesses, or organizations that align with your goals.
Dress for Success
Equestrian careers can be elite and competitive, but with dedication and hard work, you can achieve amazing things in your field of choice. If your career goals take you to elite levels of equestrian competition, R.J. Classics has you covered with stylish, high-quality equestrian clothing that will help you stand out from the crowd. No matter your chosen discipline, R.J. Classics has breeches, show shirts, show coats, and more to give you a polished, professional look as you work your way to the top.
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