Dos and Don’ts of Writing an Equestrian Resume + Contest for Job Seekers

Writing a resume is hard enough, but being the person who must read through stacks of them to find the right candidate for a job takes a special kind of patience. Margaret Rizzo McKelvy of Mythic Landing Enterprises has been busy reviewing dozens of resumes as she seeks to fill positions for several of her clients and laments that only one in five people applying for the jobs have good, solid resumes. In light of this, she’s kindly offered up some helpful hints for equestrians seeking employment.

The Resume

Your primary objective when writing a resume is to explain your skills and experience relative to the position you’re applying for. The challenge is putting what can sometimes be a lot of information into a professional, succinct, easy-to-read document for your potential employer to peruse.

“Your potential employer wants to see you put in some effort and take pride in yourself and your background,” Margaret said. “Even though your job is not going to involve you sitting at a computer, you still need to make a good first impression. So while your resume does not need to be fancy, it does need to be clean and easy to read.”

There are hundreds of different resume styles and just as many templates available to download online or possibly stored in the writing software on your computer. These templates will show you where to put your contact information and how best to organize your experience and job history.

Take advantage of spell check and go ahead and have someone proofread your resume as well. Getting a second pair of eyes on the information is incredibly helpful, no matter how many times you’ve read it yourself.

“I proofed one for a friend and he had transposed two numbers in his own phone number. Since then I’ve always double-checked phone numbers when proofing resumes,” Margaret said.

For most positions in the equestrian world, Margaret feels that a well-written email (accompanied by a professional resume) is a fine substitute for a cover letter, but you should think critically about it and take the time to write a great email that catches the employer’s attention. Remember to proofread it and customize the content for each position you’re applying for.

“That’s your place to say why you want to learn more and why you want to work for someone,” Margaret said. “I get a lot of rambling emails that I can tell are written using ‘voice to text.’ If you can’t take the time to sit down, even if you’re doing it on your phone, to compose an email and put some effort into punctuation, it’s going to take a lot for me to overlook those things.”

This could be you! After your barn duties are done, of course. Photo courtesy of Phyllis Dawson.

Riding Videos

Many jobs in the equestrian world will request a riding video as part of your application. This is not the time to send a clip of you schooling for a few seconds at home. This is your chance to show what kind of rider you are and how you interact with the horse.

“A lot of times I get ten second clips of someone jumping. This is not helpful. With all the technology we have available, especially for the younger generation, you can create a video a few minutes long right on your phone,” Margaret said.

“When you’re sending your riding video to another professional, that’s part of your application. They’re really looking at how you’re handling yourself and your horse. It’s not all about whether or not you look pretty.”

It’s best to send one YouTube link instead of multiple short clips. Make sure your video is as current as possible but also shows your best ability under saddle. For example, if you’ve ridden through Preliminary level but you currently have a green off-track Thoroughbred, Margaret explained, send an older video of when you were competing at the higher level as well as a newer video of you riding the new horse.

All About Attitude

One of the most important things you want to come across in your job application is the right attitude. For example, if you’re applying to be a working student, make sure you express a willingness to learn, work hard and adapt.

“I had a girl apply to be a working student for an Olympic level rider and she rode Western. She just wanted to learn more about eventing and be in that quality of a program,” Margaret recalled. The video the applicant submitted was of her riding Western because she didn’t have experience in eventing, but her in-person interview sealed the deal.

“She beat her boss to the barn that morning, and when he showed up she was already helping with barn chores. She ended up being an awesome working student. She started out hacking horses and was eventually trusted with more responsibility. Her attitude was so good, that’s what it comes down to. You want that go get ‘em attitude to come through,” Margaret said.

“Attitude is everything. Even for paid positions I would say nine times out of ten someone would be so happy to train someone that has a really good attitude rather than hire someone that has all the skills but not the best attitude.”


When it comes to references, it’s not always necessary to include them on the resume, but always note that references are available. Don’t forget to inform (or better yet, ask permission) your references that you are listing them. Make sure your references know what position you are applying for and find out if they prefer to be contacted via phone or email.

If you or the reference isn’t confident they can accept a call or respond to an email in a timely manner, it may be best to use someone else. Most importantly, use references that are appropriate for the position you’re applying to, not just your friends.

“Think a little bit about what your job is going to be when you’re thinking about who your references are going to be,” Margaret said. “For example, if you’re interviewing for a barn manager position where you’ll have lots of interaction with boarders, one reference could be a boarder at the current facility where you work–someone who speaks to your customer service. Or if it’s a teaching position, list not only your supervisor as a reference, but maybe one of your long time students. That just shows you’ve put thought into your resume and application.”

Working students have all the … fun? Photo by Meg Kep.

The Interview

If your application is well received and you’re called upon for an interview, great! Now is the opportunity to make sure this is the right job for you. Remember, honesty is always key.

“The worst thing you can do once you get to an interview is to over-embellish what you’re capable of,” Margaret said. “If they ask you, for instance, ‘how much experience do you have grooming upper-level event horses’ and you don’t have any, you can say ‘I don’t have experience doing that, but this is what I do have experience doing and I really want to learn more.’”

If the job is within driving distance, try to do your interview in person so you can see the facility. Take time to research the company and use the interview time to learn more about what your responsibilities will be, whether you’ll be working with a team, what an average day looks like, etc.

Some positions will require a trial period so both parties can be sure of the right match. If you are doing a trial, put your best foot forward. Stay off your phone, go above and beyond the call of duty to help out and stay busy, show your boss you want to learn and be useful. Both you and your boss will know quickly if you’re going to cut the mustard.

“The horse world is tough, especially if you’re working in a barn. The hours are tough and long and the work is very physical. You have to have that love and desire to want to do it,” Margaret said.

Applying for working student positions and part- or full-time paying jobs is a stressful process, but it’s important to take a step back and consider if it’s a job you really want and if this position is one where you will learn and thrive. It’s okay to get to the end of the interview process or trial period and say ‘this isn’t for me’ and go in search of something better. That kind of honesty and self-awareness will avoid wasting yours and your employer’s valuable time and energy.

Margaret has seen it all reviewing resumes and applications. Here are some definite “don’ts” she recommends. And yes, these have happened!

DON’T put a selfie in your resume. “I don’t actually recommend photos at all. That’s not the place for them.”

DON’T send video clips of you cross country schooling in shorts. “I had to look away.”

DON’T use smiley faces or emojis in your resume, cover letter or introduction email.

DON’T blow off a scheduled phone interview.

DON’T lead with ‘what can you do for me’ questions.

DON’T set your party pictures on Facebook to ‘public.’

DON’T bad mouth a previous employer.

DON’T let your cover letter be a stream of consciousness.

Mythic Landing Enterprises offers an array of professional services to help businesses succeed. Their knowledgeable, creative and resourceful team specializes in communications, marketing, business management and event planning. They support U.S. and international clients ranging from one-person start-ups to nationally recognized associations.

Mythic Landing is offering their services FREE to one lucky person who would like help with creating or improving their professional resume. Enter using the rafflecopter below. The contest ends Wednesday, August 9, 2017.