What do you want to be when you grow up? Here’s the short list of many a horse-infatuated young person:
• Olympic rider
• Horse trainer
But the list of equine-related careers is much longer (see related sidebar, page 66, for even more opportunities). From working with- in a breed or discipline association to custom-designing show clothes, the opportunities are endless.
We talked to a few people who have managed to combine their life’s passion for horses with their careers. And they might be careers many people have never even considered.
Jolene Bertrand, Avalon Photography, loved everything about horses and was fortunate enough to spend her youth riding through the Cali- fornia vineyards, foothills and on the beach, through the generosity of friends.
Her photography interest started when she was ten. Jolene began developing her skills by taking photos of people, pets, events and landscapes, when for Christmas, her parents gave her an SLR camera and her “hobby” grew to become more than that.
“Photography has always been more than a hobby to me. Portraiture and wedding photography were my passion. I began photographing family and friends, then friends of friends, events, pets and weddings in high school,” she says. “I worked for a camera shop in Santa Rosa, California, before moving to Minneapolis to finish my college degree.”
While Jolene obtained a dual degree in Photography and Christian Studies, she describes her early career in pediatric research as a “desert” experience, seeming to be searching for what her “calling” or what she was “meant” to do. About the same time, Jolene also returned to riding. “I decided to get back into riding in my late 20s. I started formal lessons, then leased and rode horses for people who didn’t have time to ride. When the owner and her clients found out I was a photographer, they started asking me to photograph their horses.” One thing led to another and soon she left research to pursue photography full-time with the official opening of Avalon Photography in 2000.
Little did she know where photographing horse shows would lead. It began at the Minnesota Horse Expo as a vendor. Jolene was approached about photographing an Arabian horse show. “I knew there was a standard pose that people wanted for conformation and a specific ‘action’ shot for show photos, so I studied the breed magazines and shadowed other photographers, namely Terrie (Washburn) Lenz and Dominique Cognee. It was just the beginning. Since then, I have been privileged to photograph most major shows, including Arabian Youth Nationals, Region 10, Region 11, Arabian Breeders World Cup, U.S. Nationals and Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show with Howard Schatzberg, and Friesian Nationals.”
“I remember when the proverbial light bulb went off,” she says. “I realized I could do both — work with horses AND be a photographer. A dream job for sure!”
Yes, she’s all three! Gayle Lampe, Professor Emeritus, Equestrian Studies, William Woods University, grew up in Louisville, Kentucky.
“I have loved horses as long as I can remember. Kentucky was horse country and there were several places to take riding lessons, and they were all saddle seat lessons on Saddlebred horses.”
Besides learning saddle seat at an early age, Gayle dabbled in hunt seat lessons as well. A graduate of Stephens College, she was hired by what was then known as William Woods College right after graduation. And she’s been there ever since.
Successful on top of a horse with national titles in different breed shows (Morgan, Arabian, Saddlebred) to her name, Gayle has also found success on the ground, helping others. A favorite Arabian was Misty Valley Tirdes (Tirs x Desdemona). “I showed him for several years at open shows in Arabian English Pleasure. He was also a terrific lesson horse for the university. He could set his head perfectly, or he could turn his nose upside down depending on how well the rider rode. He told me who could ride!” Another favorite was the well-known stallion DW Bonfire (*Bask++ x Alouma).
A part of the William Woods faculty for 42 years, Gayle is still teaching. She does a lecture class each semester and conducts riding clinics at William Woods to non-students when the enrolled students are not on campus.
Besides teaching, Gayle also judges, and has been a fixture at the highest level of Arabian horse competition. “I’m most proud of being invited to judge the first ever Arabian Youth Nationals. I have judged that show four times since and hope to have the opportunity to do it again someday.” She has also judged U.S. Nationals as recently as 2016.
“When you combine your passion with your career, you never work a day in your life. I look forward to every day that I get to work with horses and other people who share my interest. I can’t imagine having a job where you look at the clock every few minutes to see when the work day will be over, or count the years until you get to retire. I don’t ever want to retire! Ever!”
Gayle’s recommendation to equine enthusiasts who want to incorporate horses into their careers? Visit multiple schools with equestrian programs and ask about career possibilities in the horse business, considering all the options. “At William Woods we have a handout that lists tons of jobs in related fields way beyond training and teaching.
If someone doesn’t know the direction in which they want to head, ask to speak to a guidance counselor. “
She also suggests young people take advantage of as many types of internships as possible. “Be brave, try everything!”
“A close friend and I developed a theory that there is an undiscovered gene that makes you born either horse crazy or not. Those of us that have this ‘gene’ know it from the first conscious moment. My earliest toys were horses; I played non-stop with Breyer and model ponies,” says Denise Farris, Farris Law Firm.
Scraping together enough loose change to purchase her first pony at the age of five, Denise recalls that Tony the Pony was her best friend. Since then, she’s owned horses off and on, getting serious about riding when she was in her late 20s.
“I had always ridden bareback, so I was fairly fearless, but I didn’t know a correct lead from a wrong diagonal. I took lessons and did Class A shows to fine tune my riding and purchased my first purebred Arabian when I was 32.”
Since then, Denise has started trail and distance riding. “What I love about competitive trail riding is that it puts you into beautiful parks throughout the U.S., mostly primitive and varied terrain, and it challenges you and your horse to become better partners. Your training rides occur in all weather and can be beautiful and serene moments in nature. Or terrible, in which case you are proud that you survived the ride.”
It was on a law firm retreat in 1993 when Denise had an epiphany. “I realized how therapeutic horseback riding was in managing stress.”
Shortly after that retreat, Denise also noticed that a number of states had begun to pass protective “assumption of risk” statutes. She started publishing a newsletter educating her stable-owning friends about this law.
“Although my practice was primarily commercial construction law at that time, I began publishing other news articles about legal issues in the horse community and BAM— discovered a hot new practice niche which was diverse, exciting, and had very little competition.”
Since then, Denise’s practice has morphed out into animal pharmaceutical issues and the rapidly developing areas of law related to animal pharmaceutical development and compounded drugs.
Denise draws upon her equine experience on a daily basis in her career. “It’s important as an attorney to bring a knowledge and practical aspect to your legal engagements. Because I work with all breeds and disciplines, I have a special understanding that makes me more effective in problem solving, cutting to the chase, and finding innovative ways to approach a problem that I would not have but for my familiarity with this great sport. I speak the language.” Denise feels lucky — “I get to travel around the country and world talking to horse people. I get to ride a LOT. And — best of all — it rarely feels like work when I’m practicing equine law.”
Stacey Yalenti describes herself as obsessed with horses and riding as early as second grade. “I wanted to spend all my time at the barn. By the time I was in fourth grade, my trainer settled into a great barn in East Millstone, New Jersey, and I spent every available minute at the barn working to earn ride time and lessons.”
As Stacey fondly recalls, the group was tight-knit. “It was reminiscent of ‘The Saddle Club’ books. We all did the local shows and while my showing didn’t progress, a few of my fellow barn friends went on to big shows. We all went off to college and went our separate ways, but I’ll always remember how wonderful it was to grow up in that barn.”
“I always knew I wanted to keep horses in my life,” says the current CPA, MSAC and owner of the Abby Road Group accounting firm. “But by high school it became pretty clear to me that although I was a good rider, I wasn’t good enough to make a name for myself as a trainer or competitor.”
Stacey had to opt for PlanB— and even though none of the people she consulted thought it was a good idea, she went with her gut. “Over the years, I mentioned the idea of equine accounting to various colleagues and found little support that it was a good idea. Then four years ago, I decided to go with my gut and see if opening an equine accounting practice had merit.”
Combining her equine knowledge with her accounting acumen makes Stacey unique in the field. “Equine business owners don’t sit in an office and are typically very busy. They want someone who speaks their language and knows their business. They don’t want to have to educate an accountant on what a Kubota is or what horse shipping means.”
Following her gut was the right decision, and today, her business is thriving with lesson barns, boarding barns, show barns and sale barns serving many different breeds and disciplines. “Many of my clients have come to me when they were just starting their businesses, knowing that they needed an accountant on their team and wanting to do everything right from the beginning. Others have come to me with the realization that they are behind in filing taxes and have no accounting records. We are not here to judge, only to help.”
Having spent time prior to opening her business as an auditor and controller, Stacey understands the other nuances involved and can partner with her clients on multiple levels. “Many of my equine clients come to me needing help, but don’t always have the best records. I guide them through what information they need to provide to me, and keep it as stress-free as possible. There are also some equine specific tax laws that can be advantageous to some clients, and since I provide quarterly financial statements I can discuss pertinent tax issues through the year as it applies to their business. I also put together a budget for each client based on their goals and highlight how many lessons they need to give at their rate/horses they need to board/training horses they need, etc.”
Stacey’s love of horses hasn’t dwindled any, and she is the owner of a Belgium Warmblood cross named Absolute Independence, ‘Abby,’ for short. “I ride when time allows, and as fate would have it, I take lessons from my beloved trainer from childhood.”
Animal Pharmaceutical Sales/Marketing
Amanda McAvoy, Senior Associate Director, Equine Marketing, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, grew up surrounded by horses. “My grandfather owned a small boarding and breeding facility east of Kansas City, Missouri. I don’t think he made any money at it, but the grandkids got to ride — and that’s what we spent every waking moment doing — riding and getting ready for the next show.”
She continued riding through college at the University of MissouriColumbia, competing on the University’s rodeo team, participating on the horse judging team and serving as a founding member of the school’s Saddle Club. Although she was initially going to pursue a veterinary degree, Amanda changed her mind when an animal pharmaceutical sales representative came and spoke.
While it took some time for her to break into the highly competitive field, Amanda landed her first role as a temporary sales representative with Merial (now a part of Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, BIAH). That job eventually became a permanent one. For the last two decades, she has spent equal amounts of time in the field as part of the sales force, and in the office as part of the marketing team, first for Merial, and most recently, for BIAH.
In the sales role, she was responsible for calling on veterinary clinics in a designated territory, educating them about advances in equine health care, best practice protocols and providing tools to help veterinarians communicate with horse owners.
As a marketing director, her role has been to work with brand managers to create and implement initiatives for the entire equine product portfolio. Every day in that role presents new and different opportunities and challenges ranging from budgeting to advertising to horse owner engagement. While the diversity of the role is appealing, it’s the ability to help other horse owners that most appeals to Amanda.
“We didn’t know what we didn’t know,” she says about her early years and her grandfather’s barn. “We loved and cared for our horses and those boarded at our facility, but there have been so many advances in equine health care. We know so much more now about immunology, joint health care, Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, (formerly known as Equine Cushing’s Disease), ulcer treatment, deworming and all the other issues that can affect a horse’s health.
Helping other horse owners take better care of their horses, along with the four in my own backyard, that’s pretty cool. I feel lucky to be a part of it.”
Colleen Scott lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and has been riding and showing on the Arabian circuit for more than 20 years; and writing about them for the same. Her current equine partner is Kiss A Girl LOA. She is also fortunate enough to have a related career, working for an advertising/public relations agency on an equine pharmaceutical account.