Do you dream of traveling to all the top horse shows and help manage the barn and horses? Well that's exactly what today's career panel interviewee gets to do! We caught up with Courtney Billings, who works for Court Lin Frae Stables, and got to hear all about her interesting job.
TBR: What is your job title?
CB: Barn Manager
TBR: Describe your position and your average work day.
CB: My position is to oversee the day to day care of the horses in the barn. My average work day does depend on whether I am at a horse show or not. When I am not at a show, my day starts at 7AM with feeding, stalls, and turnout. The trainer and clients usually start to show up around 9AM to start their rides. I will get their horses ready for them and take care of them afterwards, whether that means bathing them or grooming them, whatever they may need. If any of the horses are going to jump that day I will go out to the ring to set jumps. Once all the clients are done riding for the day I will ride any horses that I have for the day. Come afternoon and all the rides are done the stalls will get picked out, top off water, feed, and make sure the horses are all set for the night. Night check is done around 8PM every night, just to check on the horses after they have eaten their grain, give them another flake of hay and top off water. The difference when at a show is usually just the start time (6:30AM). Also, all the riding will vary depending on the show schedule, and when each horse is showing.
TBR: What is the best part of your job?
CB: The best part of my job is watching the horses succeed. I work with these horses’ day in and day out making sure all their needs are met. I’m the one scheduling with vets, farriers, chiropractors, dentists etc. to make sure the horses are looking and feeling their best before walking into the show ring. When it all comes together and the horses walk into the ring and put in a great round or even win, I experience the same excitement as the rider. The horses are on my mind 24/7 and I will do whatever I need to do to keep them happy and enjoying their job, and seeing them enjoy their job makes it all of the hard work worth it.
TBR: What is the hardest/least desirable part of your job?
CB: The least desirable part of my job is trying to find working students/grooms. Trying to find hard working, reliable, passionate help is very hard to come across in this industry. As for the hardest part of my job I would say it must be the traveling. My schedule is 6 months in Wellington, FL and 6 months traveling up the east coast. Although going to all the different horse shows and seeing all the cool places I get to go to is amazing, being on the road and living out of a suitcase does get tiring.
TBR: How many hours a week do you spend working? What is the work/life balance like?
CB: When I am not at a horse show a normal work week is probably about 60 hours/week. When I am in Florida during the winter it is easy for me to maintain a good work/life balance because I get Mondays off. When I am on the road in the summer it is a little more difficult because of the traveling.
TBR: What advice would you give to someone wanting to do this job?
CB: For someone who is looking for this position I would say they need to be prepared to be on call 24/7 and make this job a big part of their life. Someone once told me that this isn’t just a job it’s a lifestyle, and I think that is the easiest way to describe this job and to mentally prepare for it. Although it is still possible to maintain a normal work/life balance the horses are still going to have to come first when you are the person responsible for them. But at the end of the day the rewards that you get from this job and the relationship you build with the horses make everything worth while.
TBR: What experience or schooling did you need to qualify for this job?
CB: Before getting this job, I did attend Centenary University and received my Bachelor’s of Science in Equine Studies. My education from Centenary was extremely beneficial in preparing me to work in the industry after graduation. While I was attending Centenary, I was able to have a working student position with one of my professors at her business. My working student position was very helpful in getting my feet wet in the industry and allowed me to get a feel for what it was going to be like after college.
TBR: What is the range of pay for this position?
CB: The range of pay does depend on the size business which is always something to keep in mind. The salary range is $500-$650/week. Most of these jobs do provide housing which is a major financial cost that I get to save.
TBR: What are 3 things you would want someone applying for this job to know?
CB: 1) Observe everything, I spend a lot of time in the schooling rings at horse shows and I get to watch a lot of the top professionals so I try and absorb everything I see and hear. 2) Stay connected, leave a good impression with everyone you meet and work with you never know when you might need a reference or some help. After having this job for five years and working with so many different people with different jobs in the industry I have acquired many different skill sets that have only helped me improve in my job. 3) The horses will always come first. Whether it’s early mornings prepping horses for the ring, or staying at the barn late with a vet or doing multiple night checks for a sick horse it is my job to be the person that is there for the horses. Sometimes these things might ruin plans that I have made for that day but horses are unpredictable and I must be prepared for that at all times.
TBR: What do you think the horse industry needs to do for the future?
CB: I think one of the biggest things the industry needs is for the future generation to have more involvement in the care of the horses. A lot of the students graduating college or coming into the industry believe that it is all about the riding but the horses they are riding wouldn’t be ready for the ring without the people that care for them. The people behind the scenes are a vital part to the horses’ life, and the reason we all even fell in love with this sport was for the animal and I think at the end of the day we all need to remember that.