Out of the ‘Horse World’ and Into the ‘Real World’

Mary Hollis Baird galloping racehorses at the track in Ocala. Photo courtesy of Mary Hollis Baird.

Applying for jobs is not fun. It’s even less fun when the only references on your resumé are non-verbal, 1,200-pound quadrupeds.

I recently have made the transition out of the professional “horse world.” I went back to college after riding and working in Ocala for five years. Making the decision to get out of Florida and the professional equine industry for me was scary because all my past experiences and hard work might not matter to anyone else.

The thing about eventing employment, like managing barns and working student gigs, is that you work hard and build a very specific skill-set. Besides being an ace stall-mucker and barn-aisle blower, I gained valuable expertise, like: working in a team environment; training and managing new employees; making clients feel heard and happy. Translating your roster of equine abilities into a resume is not an entirely effortless endeavor.

Photo courtesy of Mary Hollis Baird.

So here are some hopefully useful resumé tips that might help:

1. Use numbers. People don’t always understand equine jargon, but if you can say something like, “Implemented a 30% more efficient daily routine, allowing our team to maximize the time in our day,” that’s just a fancy way of saying I saved time by keeping the horses in for the morning while we rode and then turning them out in the afternoon. It’s all about utilizing your vocabulary to get noticed.

Another way to use numbers is by assessing a value to the horses to help future employers understand the responsibility that you were tasked with everyday. For example, an ex-working student for a high performance barn in Ocala could say, “Provided daily care for 10 sport horses ranging in value from $10,000-$80,000.”

2. Brag! Don’t be shy about trying to impress people; for example, if you worked for an Olympic athlete, mention that! It connotes a level of competency into a context that non-equine professionals can understand.

3. Skills are skills are skills are skills. You can highlight soft skills on your resumé. Sometimes these will get you more traction with an employer than specific industry experience. For instance:

  • Any good horse show groom is a whiz at time management.
  • Managing an eventing barn makes you adopt effective organizational practices.
  • Motivating and directing your fellow barn workers is the same as working with any employees at other organizations.

4. References! You will need them, but definitely give people you are asking for references from a heads up. Horse people can be wonderful and charismatic; however, they might not quite realize what your future employer needs or wants to hear about you. Brief your references on the types of positions you are applying for and what you’d prefer them to convey — this way they are more prepared for the nature of questions that might be asked of them about you.

Having an out of the box resumé can be so helpful. Employers will notice you, it’s your job to make sure they notice the right things.

Good luck and Go Eventing (on the weekends because you have a real job now)!

Photo courtesy of Mary Hollis Baird.