In most sports, there’s an option that straddles the ever-widening divide between professionals and amateurs. In equestrian sports, this isn’t really talked about. The Chronicle of the Horse last spring wrote an in depth piece about the complications in classification between amateur and professional. The short of it: you take $1 in renumeration related to horses and you’re a professional.
I’ve found a passion for coaching students in the off season, which surprised even me. I have enjoyed working with our family business to build relationships with equestrian and wellness related brands; I want to be able to represent these relationships as an individual.
But, one large looming fact remains. As of now, I don’t want to be a full-time professional. I am not dispassionate. I am not unmotivated. I don’t lack “hustle”, although many tried and true professionals will to tell you “all you need to make it as a professional is to have true grit, a good work ethic, and a voracious appetite to learn.” While this is all true, I’d also tack on a trust fund. That’s super helpful. As a wise old saying goes, the way to make a million in the horse business is to start with three.
Look, I was an economics major in college, and financial intuition has been beaten into me. I’ve crunched the numbers over and over. I can’t feasibly live solely off income from horses at the moment (The lesser talked about topic is that virtually no one can – but that’s for another conversation). I couldn’t even make a winter in Aiken work without risking all my hard earned savings. If I did choose to go that route, I’d have to make severe cuts in other areas. I could quit competing my own horses or stop taking as many lessons. None of this would make sense “professionally” either, but that’s often the choice full time professionals must make. I’m also pretty risk averse. That means I’m not willing to chance my present and future financial stability (emergency savings, retirement) on a sport that, though I love, is inherently expensive and risky.
Yet, I’m not ready to give up on my professional dreams. So, for the time being, I also need to build a resume for myself outside the horse world. I’ve had hundred of “odd jobs” that supported my horse habit through college from scooping ice cream to house sitting to hostessing. Now I am focused on building a career around business, digital marketing, and writing.
I’m proud to be this type of semi-professional equestrian. I’m not sure how many of you are out there like me. I understand the struggles and joy this sport creates from both sides. Maybe I’m trying to have it all, and maybe that’s impossible. But for now, I’m going to try.