I always knew what I wanted to do as a child. I bounced around from several different career choices but all of them revolved around horses. As my senior year went by, I spent countless hours researching equine science degrees at four-year colleges and applying to schools all over the country that had programs that fascinated me. I ended up at Colorado State University, after debating between West Texas A&M, Tarleton State University, and Texas A&M. I graduated from Colorado State University with my degree in equine science and promptly attempted to enter the work force searching for my place in the equine world. What a learning experience!
If you are about to graduate high school or maybe you have a son or daughter who is about to graduate high school and they are determined to go to school for equine science. On one hand, it is an awesome thing that they know what they want to do, especially considering the astounding numbers of undeclared majors in state universities these days. On the other hand, the reality is, equine science is almost a worthless major in the eyes of most employers. It is also a degree that requires a lot of entrepreneur spirit in order to succeed in the equine world. If you are a follower and not a leader, this may not be the correct degree choice to work towards.
This is a tough place as every parent wants to support their children’s dreams. You can make a living at anything if you are truly determined to do it and you love what you do. The problem is after visiting college campuses and having a ton of smoke blown up your butt about how wonderful each school is, there is a lot to an equine science degree that nobody ever tells you until you get into the thick of it all and waste a ton of money on the degree.
Equine science is a popular pre-vet degree. Most four-year schools that offer the degree also have a veterinary program. What this means is, if you are not interested in becoming a vet, you still are going to class with pre-vet students who must get an A in every class. What this means for the average equine science student who is there to further their knowledge of the horse industry is, there are no curve grades, and the competition to get into classes with limited seats is tough. First preferences often times go to the pre vet students leaving the average equine science student to get pushed back anther year before they can take that required class that is only offered in the spring once a year.
Another feat perhaps more difficult than getting into your required classes when competing with vet students and pre-vet students is getting a job in the field so you can get experience most employers‘ want you to have while you are still in college. Once an employer learns that you are not pre-vet often, times you, get bumped all together from those equine employers employee choices. Best way to avoid this is to inquire if the school’s internship program is actually hands on about placing students with employers, which allows a more fair opportunity for those who are going to school just to get their equine science degree to actually get a job around horses. Most schools that have placement programs do this, as internships are required in order to graduate from their equine science program. Employers will usually choose vet students and pre-vet students for positions within a barn or equine facility because they like the thought of having someone with veterinary knowledge around the horses for a minimal investment. 9 times out of 10, the equine science student will not even be called in for an interview when they are competing with vet students. This is why having a school placement program is crucial for avoiding this problem all together.
One of the other interesting little tidbits you learn while trying to get an equine related job while in college is that the equine industry in notorious for expecting you to work your butt off for free. This means you better be the master of the shovel, willing to work every spare minute you have for little compensation, and do it with a smile and maybe, just maybe you will get the opportunity to ride a horse, or work with an incredible trainer, or get some responsibilities that are not the bottom of the barrel work. I have to admit that the equine employers that think they are doing the educational system a favor by offering these internships are truly looking out for their own best interest and trying to find cheap labor. It surely is not for the students benefit in most cases. They assume every equine science student is a kept pony princess or prince whose bills are paid by their rich parents and that the college credit they are giving you in exchange for your hard work is equal to the compensation they would be paying a non-student. The other problem is most of these jobs, as I mentioned before you are stuck not really learning anything, but doing all the chores and work, that nobody else will do on the farm other than migrant workers. Which guess what, as an intern your even lower than that because they have to pay the migrant workers! It is a pretty sad and discouraging system. I do agree that scooping poop does build character, but there’s a limit to how much character building a college student needs while trying to learn the ropes in the equine industry while in school. There are also a fair share of equine employers who severely abuse this system and only participate to get their free slave college labor.
The reality is once you graduate with your equine science degree, what you do with it is up to you. It’s a degree best suited for those of you who want to start your own equine related business as employers look at it as a worthless degree otherwise. Most equine science graduates end up making their living in an industry outside the horse industry and often times run into roadblocks because of the validity of the degree itself. This is why I would encourage those of you pursuing this degree who are not vet students to minor in a degree or attain a second bachelor’s degree in a field that will help you get employment in the instance you are not working in the equine industry after graduation. I would recommend business, marketing, computer science, legal, or anything related to the energy field. All of these choices will complement your equine science degree and ensure you have plenty of career choices after graduation.
Do not be surprised that the low pay continues after graduation with your equine science degree. Most equine employers think they are being generous by offering you housing along with a huge monthly salary of 1500.00 a month in exchange for 60 hour a week worth of hard labor. This labor almost always includes scooping more crap, yes even after all the experience you gained in your internships doing this equine employers still feel you need more practice at it for little pay! What they usually do not tell you is the housing they are offering is nasty, rat hole, and you will have to share that housing with the other farm help, and you get to pay the utilities. Oh yes, the equine industry is tough. This is why if this is your direction you are choosing I would highly recommend that you minor in business. As the most successful in the equine industry are self employed small business owners that set off and started their own businesses to make a living. You really have no other choice unless earning a $1500 a month salary and living in a rat hole with no free time is your ideal career choice.
If you are lucky enough to find an equine job that is not on a horse ranch, breeding facility, or training facility the pay usually is not great, and you are expected to work hard! My example comes from personal experience. April of my senior year in college I got a position at The Arabian Horse Association as a Member Services Representative. I was so excited to actually get a horse job, I did not mind the 82-mile one-way drive to Denver, or the crappy pay which at the time was less than 10.50/hour. I thought the job was perfect for me as I focused a lot of my effort in learning about equine event management, and was stoked that I might actually get the experience and chance to help the AHA put on their breed shows. It also put my family at bay for not giving me a hard time not working in the horse industry, as up until that point I could not afford to go work for the equine slave drivers in college for free as I was not a pony princess, I had to pay my way through school which meant paying bills not just paying for alcohol. I was responsible for paying for a truck, my housing, my food, and my horse. Spending the time I was not in class working for free was not an option for me. I spent a year and a half working at the AHA, only to discover they kept wanting more data entry work, I rarely got to leave my cubicle hell, and the biggest raises they gave hourly employee’s was.05 an hour and in the year and a half I got one.05 raise. In that same year and half fuel prices increased over.30 a gallon. During that time several salaried higher paying positions came available within the AHA, but what you do not know is that the positions I applied for that were in the breed association development department, they wanted people with marketing, and business degrees, not equine science. The other problem with my job was the long commute. I could not afford to move closer to my job because it was in the middle of the city and I would have to board my horse an hour plus away from where I would be living and spending more money to have a horse, while being able to see my horse less just so I could get an extra hour of sleep, and avoid an 82 mile 1 way drive. I was living on a 5-acre horse property with my horse for less money than what is would have cost me to move closer to my work. Yeah, screw that. I quit and started my own business in the oil and gas industry after a bunch of prodding from my future husband that I was sitting on the road to nowhere. He was right.
I was regretful that I did not spend more time learning more about business and marketing in while I was in school. It is hard to even think about going to school since I went for 5 years paying out of state tuition only to discover the degree was worthless. Every successful equine business owner I know will tell you that they know dozens of people with my degree that do not use it. Therefore, my advice to those of you still determined to do this:
- You had better be thick skinned and prepared for a lot of rejection. Competition with vet students is cut throat.
- You will need to make a living until you can find a job, so find other talents that you have that will allow you to make a living until you can secure that dream job in the horse world.
- Be prepared for the equine scum employers, it will never matter how much crap you scoop, many of these positions are dead end and they are just out to look for cheap labor. They have absolutely no interest in giving you what you want, they will work you until you quit or give up for as little money as possible.
- Do not take any more than one job in your college career that entails scooping horse crap, seriously, it is not doing you any good and you will be wasting your time. You will learn more by getting work from other businesses that can help you become a successful business owner in the future. I worked one tax season for an accountant, it was one of the best experiences I ever had in college, and it taught me so much about being a business owner the experience was incredible!
- If you have a truck, do not let an equine employer talk you into using your personal vehicle for their benefit unless they intend on fairly compensating you for it. I had one job in college at an Andalusion farm where the owner seemed to think that not paying me very much included free use of my truck to haul hay was included.
- Narrow down you career choices while you are in school than contact future potential employers to find out what they are looking for when they hire for those positions. Why, because you don’t want to find yourself in an entry level job in the horse industry to only find out that the better jobs they offer require a completely different degree like I found out at The Arabian Horse Association. This will allow you to be working towards the best degree for your chosen career path, and not end up with a worthless, useless degree that will make it more difficult for you to attain employment with in the future.
- 2 year degree programs are good for getting a lot of hands on experience but they do not allow you to get participate in a backup major such as business.
- 2-year programs typically are better suited for those looking to go into horse training, riding instruction, and coaching. These programs are also cheaper, and typically, they are a much easier degree academically to complete. Just remember many careers require a 4-year degree unless you are in a job that is primarily a technical position such as an electrician, plumber, or other specialized career that requires special training.
- 4 year University Equine Science programs typically will have programs in equine reproduction, where you can learn the art of Artificial Insemination and semen collecting, as well as the skills required to work in a reproduction lab or breeding facility.
- 4-year equine science degrees typically are less hands on than a two-year equine science degree. You spend a solid 2 years at least working on core requirements that every major the school offers requires students to take. These include classes such as algebra, speech, English, statistics, chemistry, biology, foreign language, and public speaking. Of course, most of these classes are completely useless and will not make or break you in the real world.
- There are some 4-year equine science programs out there where you never even handle a horse. Be cautious of this, after all there really is not much point to getting an equine science degree if you never handle a horse. If all you want to do is handle & work directly with horses a 2-year program may be the better choice.
Personally, I can attest to the fact that I regret getting my degree in equine science. I also wish that the career advisors at my school had been more honest with me. I paid a lot of money for that degree only to find out after graduation its true value. Your best defense in this world if you want to work in the horse industry is to be prepared to start your own business as that’s really the best way for you to make a decent living. It is a tough world and if you graduate with that degree and are expecting to get a high paying job, you are going to be searching for a long time because very few of them exist. In fact, there are very few equine science positions that even pay $35,000 a year. Many higher paying positions in the equine world also have other degree preferences for their job candidates that are not equine science degrees and only require that you have hands on knowledge of the equine world, not an equine science degree.
Finally, if you are looking for any job to just pay your bills, often time’s equine science degrees will not count, thus making it more difficult to attain employment outside the equine world. Your best defense in this world is to round out your education, do not get tunnel vision thinking horses and only horses. Attain a second bachelors, or get a minor in a degree program that can not only help your equine career but help you secure a job outside the equine industry if need be at a later time. Most importantly, do not let your college baffle you with bullshit, they only want your money and truly do not care what happens to you after graduation. Supporting yourself after graduation falls on you not the school, you graduated from, and there is no degree that has a guarantee you will be able to find employment after graduation, especially in today’s job market.