Horse farm managers bear the ultimate responsibility for managing all aspects of equine care, supervising farm employees, and overseeing the maintenance of the facility.
Horse farm managers are responsible for overseeing various farm employees such as barn managers, broodmare or stallion managers, grooms, and office staff on a daily basis. They may be assisted in these supervisory duties by an assistant farm manager—a position that usually only exists in larger scale operations.
Farm managers on small operations tend to have more direct contact with the horses. Managers of large commercial operations often have to spend a significant amount of time dealing with administrative and financial duties and thus have a limited amount of direct interaction with horses.
Horse farm managers interact regularly with equine professionals such as riding instructors, racehorse trainers, feed and forage suppliers, farriers, equine veterinarians, and other service providers. They make decisions regarding which suppliers they will do business with and what veterinary hospitals they will choose to consult. They advise the farm owner on what horses to sell or purchase, evaluate the development of foals, monitor the progress of horses in training, and oversee the management of the operation’s finances.
Farm managers also usually oversee the maintenance of the entire farm including fencing and barn repair, replacement of equipment, tractor and vehicle servicing, and budgeting for all maintenance costs.
Horse farm managers can work in a variety of environments including breeding farms, show horse farms, riding stables, training centers, and veterinary hospitals. A particularly large market for horse farm managers revolves around the thoroughbred horse industry where many racing, breeding, and training operations require management services.
Education and Training
Farm managers frequently have a college degree, though this is not always required by potential employers. The equine industry has always placed a significant value on experience, so if a candidate has worked their way up through the ranks (and gained significant experience) they may be able to secure a management position with just a high school diploma. Useful education for a horse farm manager would include pursuing a B.S. degree in a field such as Equine Science, Animal Science, or Equine Business Management.
Computer skills are becoming increasingly important for managers in the equine industry, as most record keeping and bookkeeping systems are computer or internet-based. Farm managers usually do a great deal of communication via email with vendors and service professionals.
Experience Is Key
Most horse farm managers work their way up in the ladder through the time-honored tradition of "paying their dues". They may start out in a lower level position such as a groom, earn a promotion to barn foreman or barn manager and then advance to assistant farm manager. If taking this course, they ultimately qualify for full-farm manager responsibilities. It is possible to skip some steps by earning a degree in the field, but a college graduate rarely advances directly to a farm manager position.
Horse farm managers must be well-versed in all business conducted at their facility. For example, the farm manager of a Kentucky thoroughbred breeding farm would be expected to have extensive experience evaluating pedigrees, planning breedings, acquiring stallion seasons, evaluating conformation, interacting with major sales companies, and other specialized tasks.
The salary for horse farm managers can vary widely based on such factors as the particular area of the industry (i.e., racing, breeding, or showing), the manager’s education and experience in the field, and where the farm is located.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median wage for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers is $80,320 (or an hourly rate of $ 38.62). The lowest 10 percent earned less than $35,360 annually while the highest 10 percent earned $135,900 annually. Managers of major commercial horse operations can earn salaries well in excess of $100,000 per year.
Equine management positions often carry additional benefits and perks such as a free house on the farm, use of a farm vehicle, free boarding for the manager’s own horse, paid vacation, and health insurance.
While the BLS predicts that the number of opportunities for all farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers will show a very slight decline (2 percent) through 2024, it does not separate out horse farm managers from its general statistics. The equine industry should continue to have farm manager opportunities available to qualified candidates with the right combination of education and experience.