"If you cannot fail, you cannot learn..."
- Eric Ries
2021 has been a major landmark year for me with regards to my professional pursuit within the equestrian industry. It has been the first year where I feel all of the choices I have made before now, all make a little more sense. See, when I was at college studying for my A-levels it was just drilled into me that the next step was University. There didn't appear to be any alternative, and I only knew two things - I like science and I loved horses! So off to University I went, 3 years later graduated with a BSc(Hons) in Equine Psychology and Sports Science.
Naively at the age of 21, I thought I'd find a job within the equestrian industry that was geared to my scientific knowledge. I thought prospective employers would utilise my skillset to the fullest, and allow me to use what I had learnt and implement that into the daily management of the horses in my care. However, as the years went by I felt like my knowledge was wasted. No one really wanted to listen, or the traditional stand-point on things was pretty much set in stone..."it's the way we've always done things..."
The more I read, learn and continue my professional development the more I realise just HOW out of touch the equestrian industry is with the latest research. It is so hard to get people on board with my wave of thinking, and for years I have felt like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. When actually I'm a player on the same team - and only want the best for the horses in my care. I have been yelled at for trying to be helpful, belittled for "not knowing what I am talking about" when the reality is; I have just made someone stop and think about their practices. The defensive response is an interesting observation, as though I am inherently trying to insult a person - when in fact I am just using the brain they hired me for? It's funny because your CV looks great to people, until you use what you know in real life.
What they don't tell you at University, is that more than likely you are going to need to be self-employed to fulfil any of your career aspirations within this industry (it is a competitive market, so kudos for those of you that are employed and feel fulfilled within the industry).
So cue 2017, when I became a certified Equine Sports Massage Therapist. It has always been a part-time gig, I had always tried to make it full-time but the sheer volume of clients you need to fill a 40-hour week; day in day out, is pretty ludicrous! In my experience massage was never a necessity for people; and whilst its application is better suited to proactive preventative care, the majority of horse folk use it as a reactive measure once a problem with their horse has already progressed. Whilst I have a decent number of regular clients who I have served for about 4 years, I just felt like I wanted to do more.
But what is "more"? I studied for approximately 18 months between 2017-2019 into equine clinical physiological imaging (fancy term for thermography) - but the company I was with filed for liquidation and that was that. Very short-lived (and expensive) side track... however, it was incredibly interesting and I wish I could have done more in that field.
In 2020: I got accepted to study with Equine Podiatry Training Ltd on their Level 5 Lantra Awarded/Ofqual regulated qualification. Which was (and still is) incredibly exciting! But of course, COVID-19 had to put a kybosh on to that, and the curriculum was juggled about and elements of the course pushed back to 2021.
So here I am... fast forward to 1st November 2021, writing to you all about the best year of my life. The equine podiatry course was in full swing this year, I have been to Wiltshire, Somerset and Anglesey to carry out my training. I have shadowed two brilliant Equine Podiatrists, and met some wonderful people on my journey so far!
(Below a photograph of Equine Podiatry Training Ltd: Class of 2020!)
I have felt as though I have belonged this year, I have found my greater purpose in life. Where I can fully submerge myself with my love of horses, and combine it with anatomy and hopefully educate many forward-thinking horse owners in the future. I passed my trim 2 exam last month, and just awaiting the final paper work to say I can start trimming non-pathological clients and case studies. The build up over the last 8 years, has amounted to something and I am so pleased I kept chasing that "something"... I never knew what that something was; but I knew I could make a career in horses. I always felt as though; if I didn't have horses, I wouldn't be much good at anything else!!
As much as horses (and the industry) have made my heart bleed at times, it sure is an industry that has also made it sing.
So, if you are (or know anyone) that is a equestrian college/university student - and feel you don't really know what direction you are heading in. I am here to tell you that is normal, my advice to you would be to always follow your instincts, question everything but also trust that your teachers are golden (the best teachers will be the horses you encounter over the years, believe me). But the people-teachers are good also!
Employers might mistake you for being outspoken, when your passion makes you question the way things are done. But that is their misunderstanding, not yours. The direction in which the industry is heading is ours to shape for the future (guess what, you are the future).
Let's make it bright <3
Best of luck!