I've seen quite a few articles, Instagram posts, etc. going around about how hard it is to get into the horse industry, especially professional riding, if you don't come from money. And, you know what? They're not wrong! Horses are expensive... like Erika Jayne XXPEN$IVE.
So, how the hell do you get your foot in the door with horses when you have absolutely no money???
"If you can't get a seat at the table, serve the water to get in the room" -Grant Cardone
What does that mean for a hopeful equestrian?
You need to work in the industry... but you don't have to be a working student.
Yes, the dilemma of the equestrian hopeful with no money... People expect you to be a working student. But a working student is essentially an unpaid intern. Working your ass off all day, six to seven days a week for absolutely no money is no problem for those who already have it. For those of us who don't have money, working for nothing just isn't feasible. It's not realistic, no matter how amazing the trainer or opportunity may be.
For the up and coming equestrian with no money, you may need to skip the working student positions and, instead, get a job in the industry. Since you're young and inexperienced, this won't be a glamourous job but it will be an opportunity where you will get paid to learn!
Grooming, cleaning stalls, working in equestrian retail, working in hospitality or service at a major show ground or race track are all paid positions where you can make connections with people in the industry. You never know who you'll meet and where it will take you. Connections are everything.
If your goal is to ride and train for a living, you need to get in the barn.
Some way, some how... even if that means taking a dirty job. Just about every riding job I ever landed, I got my foot in the door by being hired as a stall cleaner. Eventually, the trainers saw I could handle myself and a horse and gave me a chance to put down the pitch fork and put my feet in the irons. Sometimes it took a few weeks, sometimes a few months, and sometimes much longer... but when I demonstrated day after day that I was willing to work hard and learn, every single trainer I worked for eventually gave me an opportunity to ride.
If your goal is to ride and train for a living, you need to ride every horse you can.
After you work your long hours cleaning stalls and grooming at your main job, you need to ride every horse you can after work. Ride every single horse you can. Ride for free at first, if necessary. Then ride less than perfect (old, young, problems, certainly not fancy, maybe even a little dangerous... i.e. POS) horses for shit money. Every horse will teach you something. Every horse will help you become a better rider. And the horses' owners, your clients, will teach you even more - how to deal with people, how to manage money, how to manage relationships, what you're willing to put up with and what you're not... though, in the beginning, you may have to put up with a lot. It's ok - it will get better. I promise.
If your goal is to ride and train for a living, you'll eventually need your own ride.
All of that money (ha!) you're making from riding all of those horses no one else wants to ride during your off hours from your day job grooming or cleaning stalls... you need to save it. Save, save, save your money. Then save some more. Then buy the nicest young horse you can.
When you're an unknown, no one is going to give you a nice horse to ride. But the catch is, you need a nice horse to ride to get out there in the show ring and become "known."
Buy your own. Be your own sponsor.
I'd like to tell you it gets easier from here, but from my experience so far, that's not the case. Horses and the horse industry are not easy. There's no way around that. But it does get better. Keep working hard and working smart. Learn something from every horse, every person, and every experience. You will get better. And it will get better. And it's possible to build success in this industry without being born into money!