If horses are your passion, you like working with people and you’ve a fascination with the travel industry, your dream job could be waiting for you in equine tourism.
“More people go on riding holidays than ever before,” says Claire Williams, executive director of the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA). “It’s hard to give an exact figure, as to my knowledge no survey has been done. But our National Equestrian Survey found that of the 2.1million regular riders, 84,000 have taken a riding holiday in the past year.”
There are now several British tour operators offering foreign riding holidays, such as Ride World Wide, Unicorn Trails and Shropshire-based In The Saddle. The latter was one of the first to launch 20 years ago, as managing director Olwen Law explains.
“20 years ago, there were no other similar companies and in our first year we took just 100 bookings. Now, we do 2,000 a year,” she says.
In the Saddle is run by a team of 12, predominantly working in sales. When Olwen recruits, she has specific criteria and — with anywhere from 100 applicants for each new job when advertising locally — can afford to be choosy.
“Employees all have to be able to ride, have an interest in travel and strong administration skills. A degree isn’t mandatory, but we do look closely at GCSE and A-Level results. We tend to not accept applicants who don’t have good maths and english exam results,” she says. “Many applicants have strong computer skills nowadays, but if they can’t write an email with correctly formed sentences and perfect spelling, they won’t succeed within our business.”
“I’m also impressed by people who’ve travelled independently. If someone hasn’t travelled it begs the question why? Often the reason is that they don’t want to leave their home comforts which is obviously of little use in a company like our. Salaries start at about £15,000, but someone more experienced could be paid up to £22,000.”
If working in an office is not for you, there are plenty of opportunities in the great outdoors, such as working at a trekking centre or as a hacking guide for an equine holiday company.
Working in close collaboration with The Trekking and Riding Society of Scotland, The Association of Irish Riding Establishments and The Welsh Trekking and Riding Association, the BHS has a series of equine tourism exams designed to help applicants show that they have a level of competence in the industry. The qualifications particularly benefit those who escort treks, trail rides and hacks and provide industry related, recognised standards of competence.
There are three exams under this tourism umbrella;
- EQL level 2 diploma for the ride leader — shows competence at taking two-hour rides or hacks or assisting a ride leader with a group of riders.
- EQL level 3 diploma for the ride leader — designed for those 18 years or above who want a more senior role. They will be confident and able to take sole charge of a groupd of riders of mixed abilities.
- Eqiune tourism centre manager — responisble for clients, tourist organisation and employees. They are also responsible for operating a riding holiday centre, either as manager or owner, from both a pratical and financial aspect.