I recently interviewed Kevin McGinn, a trainer at Ever Wood Stables, part of the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. When asked what advice he had to give to young equestrians, here’s what he said:
- Know yourself. Be totally honest with yourself and ask if a horse career is your best option.
- I always suggest a few things namely higher education (it can never hurt ) and the more telling question .. “Can you be equally happy doing anything else. The Horse business is full of highs and lows. The Highs ie the victory gallop, the regional finals or selling the horse “for all the money” are just flashes of light in a life full of long days (and nights ) sick horses failed vet checks and a very thin profit margin always. BUT if the answer is YES this is my path,then this is my experience for making your chance for sucess the highest.
- Always aim High . If you have the funds train with the trainer that has a solid reputation and a long track record.
- IF you want an entry level position as an intern or working student PLEASE don’t think you are a volunteer!! You are doing no established trainer any favor with your presence, Even if you work 6 days a week 11 + hours per day you must remember that YOU are the recipient of a life time of experience …and the best investment you can make is in your personal education.
- That Said, Choosing a Mentor: Be selective now or regrets will come later.I live in Los Angeles where there’s a plethora of Super Qualified world class rider /trainers Susan Hutchison , The Ridlands, Hap Hansen , Mandy Porter Butch and Lu Thomas to name a few. Remember you need to to want what they are offering. That includes the whole person as you are known by who you associate with. Do they have a reputation for being scrupulously honest and fair as well as a great rider ?? Do they command respect among their peers ??Notice I have not encouraged you to seek the flavor of the month or being the catch rider on the “hot horse ” on the circuit. That stuff comes and goes along that line don’t fall for the prettiest set up at the show, a show is a marketing arm of any barn. Big HAT /No Cattle sound familiar??Anybody can go to Costco and buy a set up.
- More important, Does their philosophy seem humane, straight f’ward, supportive and inclusive? AND WILL YOU BE CHALLENGED TO GROW? EVERY BODY likes to be liked BUT a career is not a popularity contest.Are there quality sound safe (perhaps young ) horses for you to ride/lesson and even show??? If you are more adventurous and connected I would urge you to head to western Europe. Most young graduating jr’s are NOT willing to deal with the hours (endless ) weather (always freezing /or hot w no a/c ). Then there is the food and the start from scratch approach. The average Grad of the jr ranks won’t be getting leg ups and pats on the back. They will be worked like never before for seemingly unimpressed dealers. In the US horses are a Business, In Europe it’s a lifestyle and an industry. And it’s deadly serious.
- In short: a traditional education never hurts, avoid the flash in the pans and overnight success’, observe before you approach, and watch the trainer in every setting, at shows, in lessons,as well as at the back gate . That’s where people’s true dynamics can easily be seen.Always aim High and once you commit COMMIT !!!!!!! Nothing less useful to a busy pro is a Diva waiting for her/his moment.
- Be humble expect to WORK your way forward YOU are no longer being backed by mommy and daddy’s FAT check book. So remember you are only being judged by your helpfulness. SO be of SERVICE! Help the kids with their hair and dress so very lesson looks pulled together and could appear in an issue of Practical Horseman.
- Be early, not just on time. Always suit up in a professional way. Be a problem solver. Be 100% discreet: Learn the line between being polite and professional and warm with clients BUT Never make a habit of socializing with clients. NEVER EVER smoke near a horse/barn or in front of clients !! Especially Jrs. Never Go “for Cocktails” with clients or reveal your mentors company business or opinions.
- Always be calm, never use swear words or common language. Learn CPR and basic 1 st aid and make it a point that you are versed in first aid for people and horses. Find time to get some time doing Ride alongs w your field vet so you have a basic understanding of Veterinary skills. Remain open to new ideas. Never tell your mentor “yes, YOU KNOW” rather Is there anything else.. and thank you.
- Lastly listen to your “inner voice”, not every trainer is what their public image is. If you see things inhumane, or dishonest business practices or short cuts that impede or prevent making the horses in the barn their very best.Leave and keep it simple. Just say it’s not a fit, and move on. This doesn’t mean your ego got bruised and you want to retreat and pout.
- Aside from working with a trainer I’d suggest everybody volunteer to work on a jump crew with a top course designer. NO better way to see what NOT to do than to watch 200 rounds a day not to mention Course Designers aren’t hatched like Linda Allen when he was a top Grand Prix rider for years as was Conrad Homfeld.
- Watch the calender. If you stop Growing (really) then time to move up and discuss this departure with your present mentor. It’s not about personalities, or it shouldn’t anyway! And it shouldn’t be I’ve done XYZ etc for you,
- It’s about Is there more here for me to learn If the answer is no than GO!! If you’ve just had a hard week sleep on it. But as long as you are there try to do EXACTLY what you are asked and set the example and in your own way elevate the tone of the barn.
These are life skills that will serve you always.
Pictured below, A young professional working with Kevin dressed for a lesson with Linda Allen.
Click image above for more photos.
Reprinted from Find My Horse Job. Original article at http://findmyhorsejob.com/part-1-tips-for-young-equestrians-kevin-mcginn/