Equine Careers: the pros and cons of taking a horse and pets to a new job
It’s true to say that horses are not a hobby but a way of life and for the majority, if not all of us, horses are in our blood. It’s a passion that can’t be ignored, resulting in many of us keeping horses, working with horses – or both. Our job and our horse(s) are two of the biggest and most important elements of life. Without the former you can’t keep the latter! The team at Caroline Carter Recruitment love horses and pets, as you have probably gathered. 😊
The equine industry offers a rare environment in which you often have the wonderful opportunity to take your horse, and other pets, to work with you. But what considerations should be made when weighing up these life choices at the outset? The key questions to ask yourself are:
- Do I want my own horse?
- Do I want to work with horses instead?
- Do I want to work with horses as well?
- How will a horse fit in with my foreseeable future plans?
- What about the unforeseeable future?
All grown up stuff which somewhat takes the edge off the realisation of our childhood dreams. Here at Caroline Carter Recruitment we do our best to help you identify where your future lays, and we can also help you make informed decisions about your future employment. Here we outline some of the basic considerations to make when choosing an equine career path, and how our four-footed family fit in with it.
Equine Job vs Equine Career
If you are looking for a local live-out job within a commutable distance from your home then the chances are you will not have the same considerations regarding a horse/pets as someone who is looking for a live-in job. You probably livery your horse locally and leave your pets at home when you go to work each day. An employer might be happy for you to keep your horse at their yard, and/or bring your dog to work with you each day, but if not there are most probably suitable alternative solutions available for you. Having a horse to look after would not stop you from taking a live-out office job locally, after all. That being said we do have grooms who try to secure permanent, full time jobs with the same number of horses as any yard might have, and that does make an employer think twice – “How can this potential employee do my job in winter, which starts at 8am finishes at 5pm, when she/he has 6 horses kept 20 miles from here? How can they do my job when they have 4/5 dogs who have to be left at home every day, or the groom says they can be kept in their car?” (in summer?)…it does happen!
Things tend to get more complicated when you factor in career development and travelling further afield to take a job with accommodation. For grooms looking to expand their careers, with aspirations of becoming a top competition groom, yard manager, rider or trainer the chances are you are going to have to travel further afield and take live-in jobs in order to access the necessary opportunities to realise your dreams, maybe even move abroad for a time!
A lot of grooms assume it’s OK to acquire a horse(s) and/or a dog(s) and think…. “I work on a yard so I will just take my horse/dog with me!”.
Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy!
The negatives to consider when considering owning your own horse.
Having a horse to accommodate at work can limit the number of jobs available to you for a variety of reasons…
Many yards state “Strictly no own horse”!
No rooms at the inn! Some employers simply do not have room to accommodate their groom’s horses alongside their own. Whether your prospective place of employment is a family yard, commercial yard, or competition yard it is never a given that there is the grazing or stable space to accommodate a horse they did not plan to have.
No time to spare. Let’s be blunt, an employer is paying you to care for their horses, not your own – harsh, but true and fair. The greater majority of employers will be horse lovers too and will fully understand a groom’s desire to have a horse of their own to enjoy, therefore have been quite happy to make space for staff horses. BUT, many employers have been stung by former grooms taking advantage of having their horse at work with them, the classic scenario being a groom skimping on the care of the employers’ yard and horses in order to maximise time spent with their own horse. It is not unreasonable for employers to want to avoid this happening in future by refusing to consider accommodating staff horses on their yard. It’s unfortunate, but it’s one of the downsides to consider, and there are a few grooms who behave this way and spoil it for those employed afterwards.
You could possibly bring your own horse…
Weighing up the options. Some employers are mindful that not allowing an employee to bring their own horse can limit their options too, and therefore will consider a horse on a person-to-person basis. For example, if you have a highly strung, high maintenance horse who requires a certain amount of the right type of turnout, is a colt/stallion, weaves, and hates dogs, chances are your prospective employer will be reluctant to agree to accommodate your horse. If you have a straightforward horse and you bring a lot to the job in skills and experience, your prospective employer is more likely to compromise on your horse. However, none of this is a given, the final decision is entirely at the employers’ discretion and if you are unsuccessful you just have to move on and find another job opportunity.
Financial factors. Some employers will happily accommodate your horse – for a fee. This can range from a token contribution towards stable rent, to a standard livery rate. Potentially, every stable a staff horse takes is a lost livery or training fee, so it’s not unreasonable to be expected to remunerate the business for that loss. This needs to be factored into your living expenses. If you are a less experienced groom the chances are the fee for your horses’ keep will make a significant hole in your salary each month.
Local Livery. A simple and seemingly obvious solution. Or not. Again, this is something to consider on a job-by-job basis and isn’t a go-to solution for all future positions. Some yards are fairly remote, and you could find yourself with a considerable drive to do your own horse before and after work each day. Your prospective employer may be concerned by this. Is it feasible to drive to another yard, ride and take care of your own horse after a days’ work on the yard, every day? No matter how devoted and enthusiastic you are, you are not a robot! There is also the chance that if you are a more junior groom or a more experienced with fixed outgoings the cost of livery may leave you without much wage left to live on.
The negatives to consider when considering owning your own dog.
Taking a dog to work can limit the number of jobs available to you for a variety of reasons…
Playing nicely. Your dog might be as soft as butter, but some employers have dogs/other pets that may not be compatible with a new dog coming into the territory. The yard is your employers’ dogs home, and it is not unreasonable for them to be unhappy about an interloper encroaching their territory. Dog fighting doesn’t make for a tranquil horse environment!
Bad experiences. Some employers have had negative experiences taking in employees dogs and are extremely wary of allowing them into their yard and staff accommodation. They just won’t budge on it. I have had stories of grooms who never pick up after the dog, employers who have had their cats killed by the very dogs their new Groom said loved cats, children bitten by the dog etc. Nobody wants that. If an employer has previously had a negative experience with staff dogs, you just have to accept it and move on to finding the next perfect job opportunity. Again an instance of the few spoiling it for the many. Do ensure you train your dog to be a well-behaved companion and that you are the model owner.
Small vs big vs bigger. The size, breed and personality of your dog is a consideration to your employer, and therefore it needs to be to you. When considering getting your own dog, be mindful and sensible about your future career moves. It is not unreasonable for an employer to be reluctant to accommodate your 14kg shy, unneutered dog who “is wary of people he doesn’t know” / Border Collie with a penchant for chasing horses/terrier that hates cats and anything that remotely resembles a cat, with a passion. Also, it has to be said that within the general public there are breeds who are just discriminated against even though they themselves have done nothing – unfair, but there it is. If you simply must have a little yard companion of your own, (we get that!) be sensible about choosing your new buddy. Your job is a huge part of your life and Fido must fit in with it. If you already have a furry best friend who requires special considerations you must accept when employers can’t meet you halfway and move on to finding another perfect job opportunity.
Taking other domestic pets can be a sticky matter.
It’s fair to say that employers can be reluctant to accommodate fluffies and scaleys… but not always. We have had Grooms apply for jobs with magpies, mini pigs, goats, lizards, rats and snakes. Now if you follow us on Facebook you will see what animal lovers we are at Caroline Carter Recruitment but not all employers feel the same about an expanded menagerie!
In summary, we are just saying think before you commit. Your animal friends are obviously not just for Christmas, but for life and that can affect your career choices, sometimes quite significantly. If you haven’t got any animals yet, think wisely about your choices. If you already have your own animals, maybe this is a useful insight into the other side of things. There are many happy Groom:Employer arrangements and all their animals meet and live happily ever after. Some have made very valuable comments on the facebook post I added earlier in the week – we don’t hear enough about them these days!
Find jobs which welcome horses and pets on The Grooms List here.