Many people long to have a career in the thoroughbred industry. However, few make the dream a reality. Whether you are interested in jump racing or flat track racing, there are ways to get your foot into the tack room door.
Choose Your Throroughbred Career Path
There are many different jobs available within the Thoroughbred industry at the track, on breeding farms, and in other related fields such as veterinary medicine, sales, transportation, and insurance.
At the track, you will find trainers, assistant trainers, jockeys, jockey agents, exercise riders, racing officials, horse identifiers, photographers, hot walkers, farriers, veterinarians, and administrative staff.
On breeding farms, you will find farm managers, broodmare managers, stallion managers, yearling managers, foaling attendants, grooms, veterinarians, stallion booking secretaries, bloodstock agents, and administrative staff.
Other related positions may be found with shipping companies, sales agencies, insurance agencies, veterinary clinics, publications, and industry organizations.
Realize that while there are breeders and racetracks across the country, the Thoroughbred industry is largely based out of Lexington, KY, and Ocala, FL. Southern California and New York also have significant populations of Thoroughbreds. There are more racing-related jobs in these areas than anywhere else. If you have the flexibility to change locations, you’ll be at a huge advantage. If you are in an area with fewer opportunities, you may face much more competition for any available jobs.
Use Your Education
If you are still in school or planning on attending, be sure that you choose a major in an area that can help you in your pursuit of a Thoroughbred career. If you plan to work with horses in a hands-on capacity, a degree in Equine Science or Animal Science could be useful. You could also major in accounting, marketing, journalism, or business—each of these degrees can lead to a position with racing organizations, farms, or publications.
Your degree doesn't have to be in an equine-specific field since there are many related positions in the industry that don't require hands-on experience. Two schools that offer degree programs are the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program and the University of Louisville: Equine Business.
Remember that while a degree is certainly a plus, this industry tends to place a high value on practical experience and references. If you can get a job with a top outfit, it will go a long way on your resume.
An internship can be a great way to get your foot in the door and brush up on your horsemanship skills. Many of the large farms in Lexington take on interns. Some farms offer free on-site housing. Take a look at the websites for the Kentucky Equine Management Internship program, the Darley Flying Start Course, and the Irish National Stud Course.
There are many racing industry programs, but viewing these three can give you a good feeling for what will be involved with an internship in the racing industry and are considered some of the best programs out there.
Many jobs never appear in the classified section of a newspaper or magazine, and this is often the case with positions in the Thoroughbred industry. If you’ve completed an industry internship, you might get a job lead from that organization which is not offered to the public. A friend at a farm might know of entry-level grooming or foal watch positions. Use your connections whenever possible. Go to all the industry events that you can and try to meet the vets, breeders, and managers. Networking is key in the Thoroughbred business.