FROM CAREERS ADVISER: AN INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL PUBLISHING MAGAZINE

Equine studies gives students free rein

For many careers advisers, equine studies may not be the first course they think of when a student comes to them wanting a career in sales, event management or teaching. But these are just three of the careers that students have gone on to do after completing their equine studies courses at the Institute of Rural Science at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Carol Green is the equine course co-ordinator there. "These courses have a strong vocational aspect to them. Students ride five days a week, receive lectures on all aspects of horse mastership and care for the horses on a daily basis under the supervision of the equine team. But our graduates find employment in a wide range of places including research, nutrition and management roles in the equine industry. Some go on to train to be vets and some go on to complete a PGCE and then teach. Some ex-students also go on to work for competition riders, including international event riders, dressage riders, and show-jumper riders both in the UK and abroad."

Students from the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester in Gloucestershire go into a similar range of careers although the course there does not include riding. "From its inception, the course never had the facility of teaching people how to ride. It was to do with giving them a grounding in business management so they could take up jobs and have a basic knowledge of the various elements of business management, including marketing, law and some accounting, and at the same time have a background in equine physiology and nutrition that would be particular to a job in the equine industry," says Peter Morris, equine development director.

The Royal Agricultural College has been offering undergraduate courses in equine studies for the last 15 years and takes between 25 and 30 students a year "It was essentially started because of enquiries and requests that we received, from diverse areas of the equine industry, for a degree that would give students a sound basis in business management that would be particularly related to equine related businesses."

The college encourages students to take a diverse approach to potential careers and students are required to undertake a 20 week placement in their second year to explore the various options and to give them an insight into how to find work and to build contacts.

"They end up going into all kind of things," says Morris, "including equine insurance, bloodstock agency, journalism, racecourse management, marketing, public relations and event organisation. Some people go and set up their own businesses. Some become race horse trainers like one of our graduates, Andrew Balding."

As the business element of the Royal Agricultural College course shows, just liking horses and riding isn't enough as students mainly focus on other skills: "Careers advisers need to try to explore whether the student's love of riding is something that would be best maintained as a hobby because the areas our students go out into have an equine theme but it may very well be that the riding isn't an essential part of their job," says Morris.

Carrie Ryan, equine section manager at Sparsholt College in Hampshire, a specialist land-based college of further and higher education with students from the age of 16, agrees with this. She points out that there are many career options that involve riding where an equine studies course might not be the most appropriate, such as the police or army. However, although riding isn't always the emphasis, students taking any equine course should already be accomplished riders: "They need previous riding experience but most important of all they need a firm commitment to the care and welfare of horse and to be physically fit and also dedicated to the care of horses," says Ryan. "Careers advisers should encourage interested students to take riding lessons themselves, as just riding without instruction is not satisfactory. They could look at getting experience in a local riding school caring for horses that gives them a good taster of what the industry is like and they should be reading magazines like Pony, and Horse & Rider.

"When we go to careers events we get a lot of young women who are interested in equine careers and the first thing we try to ascertain is that they are not just doing it simply because they love horses," says Dave Alderson, marketing manager at Sparsholt. "A career in horses is different to an amateur love of horses. We know they love horses and love being around horses and are aware of all the grotty jobs that have to be done but they go through all that just for the sake of riding the horse. However, the industry is not about that - it's about making money out of horses one way or another. So we're not teaching students how to ride but about the business of horses. If we're honest with them we say that the vast majority are not going to make very much money doing it but will do it for the love of it."

This, he says, is what careers advisers need to make sure potential equine studies students understand. "If somebody is not very dedicated to working with horses we would suggest that they enjoy their horses at weekends and earn their money a different way."

'IT WAS FANTASTIC'

Sarah Hosmer, 23, studied for a BSC in international equine and agricultural business management at the Royal Agricultural College after taking A-levels in English literature, French and biology.

"The course gives you a good grounding in business management and business principles alongside equine modules and agricultural modules. In your third year you can choose what to specialise in and I chose marketing and journalism.

The course I took gave me the option of having horses and agriculture as an interest but also learning business principles so it was the best of both worlds. The other benefit was I got to learn about international markets too. We went to Kentucky to see how the industry is run over there and we also went to France and Germany. It was a fantastic experience as we got to learn about the UK, US and European industy. We could learn a language too, so I took Spanish classes.

My work placement in the second year was at Martin Collins Enterprises, which is where I work now. I can't highlight enough how important the work placement was as you get to experience the real working world and you learn so much. We manufacture and install synthetic riding surfaces for racetracks, private training facilities, international showgrounds and private arenas. I'm involved in the sales on the racing side. I've been exposed to an awful lot of high value projects but we also work with trainers who have a few horses and are looking at ways to improve what they already have. The best part is just meeting people and getting out and about and promoting the product."

HORSES FOR COURSES

There are many types of equine studies courses and potential students need to decide what emphasis they are looking for. Some equine studies courses focus on the riding and care of horses. Others ignore this aspect completely and assume students will already be experienced in this. Equine science may include courses in physiology, breeding, nutrition and animal science research with an emphasis on horse biology. Equine sports may focus on sports involving horses including the care of the human participants. Equine management and equine and business is likely to look more closely at law, marketing and accounting and prepare students for work on the business side of the equine industry. But as with all courses, careers advisers and students should look at the actual modules on offer as course names can be misleading.

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