Within the equine industry, there are opportunities for equine graduates as diverse as nutrition, pharmaceutical research, welfare, insurance, lecturing and therapeutic work, in addition to the traditional “hands-on” roles of yard managers, stud hands, grooms and riding instructors.
Despite these prospects, statistics reveal as many as 30-40% of equine graduates work outside the horse industry. So even with the right training, does an equine degree prepare students to tackle the job market?
Mark Sanderson, equine degree course manager at Bishop Burton College, thinks that success depends on choosing the right course, and having the will to achieve.
“To some extent, our foundation degree is for people who want a practical emphasis. We direct the others towards a BSc in equine science and management. It might take people a little while to get a job, but that’s true of any area. Those who are focused will usually find they get there.”
He believes the students who move outside the equine industry do so out of choice rather than necessity.
“Those who don’t go into equine areas seem to be students who want a degree but don’t want to stay with horses. They perform better academically when motivated by a subject of interest.”
The University and College Admissions Service (UCAS) lists around 39 UK institutions offering equine courses at foundation degree level and above. These include traditional academic options such as equine science, as well as hands-on equine studies and management degrees.
Within the past three years, several institutions have introduced equine degree courses with more specific focuses. Duchy College began foundation degrees in equine sports performance and equine behaviour and training two years ago.
Lecturer Lorna Button explains the move: “Once the old HNDs were due to be re-evaluated and reviewed, we asked whether they were serving students and the industry. The industry wanted students with different emphasis — who were employable.
“The equine behaviour and training course is unique,” she continues. “We compare training techniques, such as those of Monty Roberts and Pat Parelli. Many people are interested in these but there’s no real qualification. This should give horse owners more confidence in who to approach when looking for advice.”
So with colleges increasingly targeting the industry, and the range of specialisms growing, there are more opportunities than ever for pursuing the ideal job. However, many require skills beyond those provided by an equine degree.
It is a popular myth that students can move straight from an equine studies degree to a career in horse physiotherapy, for example. You can’t. Similarly it is incorrect to think a module in equine law is sufficient to become an equine lawyer.
Belinda Walkinshaw, a lawyer with Pickworths, explains that equine lawyers apply normal law to equestrian related problems. Therefore it is not possible to enter the profession with an equine degree.
“If you have a non-law degree you still have to take your law qualifications. You would not get dispensation for having a law module from your equine degree,” she explains.
Students need to consider what they want to do and assess whether they have the grades for the courses they need. They also need to understand what potential employers look for in a candidate and try to expand their knowledge and skills to cover these areas.
Horse & Hound’s careers special
Find out what the future held for five equine students after they completed their degrees in Horse & Hound’s careers special, on sale today (13 January, ’05). This week’s Horse & Hound also includes features on former grooms who have moved on to new careers and working for the police, as well as adverts for a wide range of jobs in the industry, college courses and training opportunities.