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.

One woman who has encountered the problem of combining horses with a London career is Diana Rhodes (pictured), founder of Blue Zebra PR, which specialises in equestrian business.

Having worked her way up in the PR industry, Diana set up her own company, and she now splits her time between her London and Oxfordshire offices.

Diana owned a horse until she went to college to study communications, then for the next few years concentrated on furthering her career. In 1992, while still working in non-equestrian PR, she took a half-share in a horse she kept in Cobham, Surrey.

“I caught the riding bug again. I was working in Cromwell Road at the time, and I would dash home to ride every night,” she explains.

Having progressed from junior account executive, including a stint in Bahrain as an account director, Diana was offered the position of associate director at an Oxfordshire-based PR agency, whose clients included a veterinary company and a horse feed manufacturer.

A few years later, she had reached a point in her career where, to progress, she had to either move to a bigger company or set up alone. She opted for the latter, founding Blue Zebra PR, and was finally able to combine what she was good at with what she really loved.

Before long, Blue Zebra expanded: today it has two offices and seven full-time employees, with additional support from a network of consultants. While the majority of its clients are horse companies, including Finest Brands International, Intervet UK and the National Riding Festival, it also caters for non-equestrian clients.

According to Diana, a starting salary might be around £15,000-16,000 for London-based PRs, and earnings of £40,000-plus are achievable. But the job can be stressful, and involve long hours.

If that still sounds appealing, get as much work experience as you can, advises Diana.

“We receive an enormous number of CVs, but we insist on hiring people with a PR background,” she says. “We look for a flair for writing and someone with a bit of gumption, who isn’t afraid to approach companies.”

There are currently around 20 PR agencies in Britain specialising in equestrian businesses, with many more working in one-person operations — but bear in mind you need the contacts, business acumen and PR experience before you go it alone. It may be easier to start working in general PR first to gain experience before specialising.

“If you hold out for an opening in equestrian PR, you could wait for a very long time,” explains Diana.

  • This careers special was first published in Horse & Hound (11 August, ’05)

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