Get the job – Pursuing an equine career


All horse lovers dream of a career in the equine industry. Some aspire to be a top coach, competitive riders envision a riding career abroad, while others hope to run a successful livery. The reality of things is that it can be hard to make it in the riding world; there’s a lot of good talent to compete with and the industry is not financially stable. There are, however, several other avenues to consider that are not limited to riding itself. We cover some of the equine career opportunities available abroad and the respective average salary figures.


Working as a groom is a low-income, entry-level job in South Africa. In other countries, working as a groom is an entirely different deal. Working as a groom in someone’s yard can be the foot in the door you need to make it abroad. The work isn’t glamorous and you’ll spend most of your time mucking out stables, turning out horses, feeding, grooming, lunging and being the rider’s right-hand man at shows, but in return you can earn a comfortable living and you may be given the opportunity to ride some of the horses. A lot of responsibility falls on your shoulders, as you’ll be the person expected to raise the alarm if a horse needs specialised attention. You’ll work long and hard hours, but you will learn a lot, and if you prove your potential, it could be your ticket to competing abroad.

Most South African riders aim for yards in Germany, Belgium, France or the Netherlands, and some also try for America. Getting into these yards are largely about connections and most of the time a coach or fellow rider will be the person to put you in touch and recommend you.

Grooms in Europe and the USA can expect to earn around R21,600 per month, which may not be sustainable as a long-term career, but you could be reaping benefits through riding.

Grooms in South Africa earn between R3,500 and R4,000 per month.

Yard manager

If you have experience running and managing a yard, you could look into getting this same position in a more competitive or commercial yard. As a yard manager, you will be expected to oversee all operations and delegate responsibilities to the team. You will also tend to admin matters, such as placing stock orders, processing accounts and co-ordinating shows. You can work as a yard manager at a competitive sport horse yard, a racing yard or a stud farm. If you want to manage a yard abroad, the same thing goes – being put in touch and recommended is your best starting point.

Depending on the size of the business, you could expect to earn between R32,500 and R43,000 per month.

A small yard manager earns around R6,000 while bigger yard managers can earn up to R15,000 per month.

Work rider

If you’ve proved your worth as a groom and you showcase real talent to produce competition horses, you might be upgraded to a working rider. If you’re already a successful rider in South Africa, your coach might recommend you as a working rider in someone’s yard. Your riding capability is of paramount importance, and you will need to be competent enough to ride a variety of horses – the good and the bad. Your physical fitness and wellbeing is also important, and you will need to be prepared to spend most of your day in the saddle – working anything between five and eight horses a day. On the plus side, you will be able to compete at local shows and be coached on a regular basis. You’ll get a good idea of the riding and competition scene, and you’ll have the opportunity to ride among some of the world’s best riders in your league.

A work rider’s income can either be based on a flat rate, a weekly rate or an hourly rate. Depending on the type of yard and the horses you ride, you can expect to earn between R6,500 and R9,000 per week. The standard per-ride rate is R200. If you are paid on a weekly or hourly basis, your income can vary, because horses might get time off after a show or they might be out for a while if they have an injury.

Work riders in South Africa work on a percentage or per-ride rate. Work riders will usually make R100 to R150 per ride or they’ll earn 25 to 50% of what the yard charges the client.

The full article appears in the August INTERNATIONAL ISSUE of HQ  > Shop now 


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