Horse enthusiasts about to embark on a career are often faced with two preconceived options. One — choose a completely unrelated job, and hope to earn enough money to keep your own horse. Two — make horses your career, and have no time, money or energy left to enjoy them as a hobby.
But that’s not the whole story. Some people do manage to combine their passion with their career, and have climbed the ladder to reach an enviably well-paid job. These people dispel the myth that working with horses is all hard labour, long hours and no prospects.
A popular but ultra-competitive option for those seeking a career in the horse world is broadcasting.
“It’s easier to get in now than it used to be,” reassures John Hunt, a freelance commentator and radio and TV broadcaster. “There are more outlets today — with bookmakers’ own services and two racing channels.”
But John admits it was by a “pure fluke” that he got into broadcasting.
“I was a policeman with the London Met when I saw an advert in a local paper for a trainee broadcaster for Ladbrokes’ own TV channel. I’ve always had a passion for racing, and I got the job. On my first day, I worked alongside Angus Loughran and Derek Thompson — and I got paid as well!”
From there, John was employed as a racetrack commentator, then began working with Satellite Information Services (SIS), which offers data and broadcast services to bookmakers.
“One of my first big days with Five Live was at the Grand National in 2004. On the same day, we had the FA Cup Final and a big England cricket match. It’s great to be caught up in the wider sporting world.”
If you want to join the large number of people set on a career in broadcasting, John advises, be persistent and “make a complete nuisance of yourself”.
“Don’t just decide you’re going to start commentating on the Grand National,” he adds. “Learn about the industry — find out about sound engineering and what a producer does. Once you get in, you can work your way up from inside.”
As a freelancer, John receives a set payment per day of broadcasting. But other industry sources suggest that £50,000 would be a potential annual salary for full-time broadcasters — working hard and putting in long hours — rising to £100,000-plus for top celebrity presenters.
Join Horse & Hound’s NAGS
Membership of the National Association of Grooms and Students (NAGS) is free to all bona fide grooms and students. NAGS is sponsored by training provider KEITS, which offers Modern Apprenticeships, for those aged 16-25, as well as work-based training in equine, animal care and agricultural businesses.
Benefits of being a NAGS member include: Horse & Hound subscription at £1 per copy, £3 discount voucher on a sack of Blue Chip Dynamic, 10% discount on Splash Equestrian equipment and clothing, no P&P charges from Equestrian Vision mail order and eligibility for NAGS-only competitions and offers.
If you are interested in becoming a member, write to: NAGS, Room 2018, Kings Reach Tower, Stamford Street, London SE1 9LS (tel: 020 7261 6993), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to download an application form in PDF format.
And remember, the club is open to all students, not just those studying for an equine qualification.
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