The professional horseback riding career is an elite one. When you think of riding horses professionally, it brings to mind world class Olympic competitors and high level professional horse trainers.
The truth is, it is super competitive at the top.
Competition is fierce and you have to be at the top of your game every day, all the time. Going professional with horses generally means you have lots of money for superiorly bred, high quality horses, or know someone who does. Professional riders have clients with horses that they ride in competition.
Showing is expensive, and getting to
this high of a level is very challenging. With determination, hard work, talent, and most importantly a great attitude,
it can be done.
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Professional horseback riding involves riding, training, and teaching. When you ride professionally, others pay you to train, ride and compete their horses in high level and/or international competitions. These owners want the best riders for their horses so it can increase their odds of winning and showcasing their horses.
From professional jockeys to top level show jumpers, that means you have to be a really good rider in the discipline you choose. To go professional you will need loads of determination and a strong backbone.
Most pro’s have ridden the show circuit and done everything possible with horses and then some.
If you are interested in professional horseback riding you should start showing locally as soon as possible. Ride your horse, and ride other peoples’ horses, too for experience. Doing this will get you used to the in’s and out’s of competition a lot of exposure to the showing environment and rules.
This will help to give you an eye for what the judges are looking for in your chosen discipline. If you have no showing experience start with fun shows, then as you become a better rider work into the rated shows. It is important to have an excellent trainer at your side.
Showing locally will also help you learn to deal with disappointment, unfairness, and other issues that are bound to occur when judging is subjective to a person’s opinion. This is is often the case in equestrian competition unless the classes you compete in are non-subjective timed only events such as show jumping or barrel racing.
This means you won’t like the results of a competition sometimes even though you did your very best. It happens, even if you felt like your horse was better than the competition. This is why a strong backbone and ability to bounce back from disappointment is important. A determined attitude to keep going no matter the obstacles will get you a long way.
You will also need lots and lots of horse and riding experience.
Attending summer horseback riding camps, riding lessons, shows, and
working at local stables and the like will gain you valuable miles in
the saddle. Your goal is to gain quality miles. For professional
horseback riding a proper foundation and education in riding and horse
care is absolutely essential. Groups such as Pony Club and 4-H are excellent for teaching you the skills you need.
Many professional riders have a four year equestrian degree. In fact,
attending an equestrian school is a great way to gain an education based
around horses. You may also gain a formal recognized degree that may
help you open up doors for professional horseback riding. Both two year
associates programs and four year bachelor’s programs are available.
A formal degree is not the only way into professional horseback riding.
Apprenticeship or working student positions where you go and
study under a highly qualified professional rider or trainer for months
or even years can be one of the greatest learning opportunities you may
ever receive. If you are lucky enough to land an apprenticeship with an
excellent trainer (who is also an excellent teacher!) you will have to
work extremely hard. You will work for little or no pay. You will gain the privilege
of valuable knowledge through lessons and shadowing from a
working professional in the field.
A positive mindset, a willing to be taught attitude and excellent work ethic are necessities!
cultivate these qualities now in all that you do in school, work, horse
and home life. When looking for working student opportunities make sure
you check out the trainer beforehand. Try to shadow a current working
student to see what is required, what learning
opportunities are available, and the style of the trainer.
For those already showing in rated shows a good goal if you are serious about competition and professional horseback riding is to aim for the North American Young Riders Championships (NAYRC).
Disciplines include show jumping, dressage, eventing, reining, and endurance. Showing at the NAYRC level is the highest level for junior (14-18) and young riders (16-21). NAYRC is a member of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), so holds competitions under those official rules. Competing under FEI rules at the NAYRC level is the closest you can get to being a professional rider at a young age. It can also possibly open doors for you being noticed at a young age and high level of competition.
Some of the disciplines you can go professional in are: