Turning Pro - Part 1

Can I?  Should I?  How do I?

At some stage if you are any good as a rider, and if you love what you do, and simply cannot imagine doing anything else the thought comes to you: “Maybe I can become a professional at this…”

Everyone knows it’s not an easy, glamorous job, and not likely to make one very rich, right?  But is this true? Is this a myth?  It’s certainly a question I thought about, once, for a second or two… but I was never a particularly talented rider, so I groomed instead and learned a lot about what it takes to be a pro from that side of the fence.


Really, any young rider considering making this their profession needs to ask themselves these two questions:

1/ Is this my passion, what makes my heart sing, and what I imagine doing through all weathers for many years to come?

2/ Can I make a profit?


Most people find the first question really easy to answer, but funnily enough tend to avoid even thinking about the second.

It’s one of those career choices where we often resign ourselves to being broke, and making sacrifices to live our passion, hoping some kind owner or benefactor will come along with lots of cash, and the sponsorships will flow on in.

Why not approach it a different way?  Being a professional rider is a matter of running your own small business, and in my opinion, rarely treated as such.

You can choose to “work to live”, and build a career or a job away from horses to pay for your passion to train and compete.  You can also make the decision to build a business around your riding and training, and if you do, quite bluntly, it needs to be profitable or you will starve, and so will your horses.

So, how does one work out if this idea of being a professional rider is going to bring in an income for you?  By using the “magic” of reverse engineering.



Take a moment now to grab a piece of paper and pen, and a calculator. I want you to list all the expenses that you incur on a yearly basis.  Rent/ mortgage, phone, internet, gas, electricity, water, council rates, car servicing, insurances, food, entertainment, clothes etc.  Now, add up the expenses your horse/s incurs for you right now- agistment, feed, lessons, entries, tack, vet expenses, shoes etc.  Add all those numbers to get a total amount.  For and example, let’s call it $45,000.

Now, have a think about how you would like to LIVE your life.  Perhaps you want a holiday a year, a new float, a cleaner, and some savings.  Add up those amounts as a yearly figure as well- let’s call that $25,000.

Add those two together, and then multiply that by 60% (for savings, unexpected expenses and tax).  What figure do you get?  I got $112,000 with my example numbers.

So what does this tell you?  It means you need that last figure (in my example, $112,000) in income to cover your expenses.  Ideally, you need that in profit from your venture, because you will have business expenses to cover as well.

So, say you plan to fund your life and your own horses in the example above as a riding coach, giving lessons for $80 per hour, per single rider.  Apart from travelling to and from locations, (fuel) and your memberships and insurances to allow you to do this, there are very few overheads, so let’s say you make $70 profit.

To make your goal income of $112,000 you need to teach 1600 hours.  Over 48 weeks (you need some holidays!) that works out to be 33 lessons per week, or 6 lessons per day, on a 5 day week.

If you are taking in horses to train for other people, say at $350 per week, assuming your only expenses apart from your time is feed at say $70 per week, your profit is $280 per horse.  So, if you have one horse in work for the 48 weeks of the year, it will bring in $13,440.  To reach your goal of $112,000, you need to take in 9 horses, and have them for 48 weeks of the year.

Running the numbers like this is scary.  But it’s a fun kind of scary, kinda like a roller coaster, because the numbers don’t lie. They aren’t emotional.  Data can’t get passionate and excited.  It either works out, or it doesn’t.

Of course, the scenarios mentioned here are just simple examples, and most professional riders will have many different “products” or services that they offer and have the potential to make money off.  Breaking, schooling, problem solving, catch rides, lessons, clinics, float hire, arena hire, buying and selling on…

It’s a matter of breaking it down, and seeing where the profit is coming from, and working out how you can do more of that to make the most of the time you have available to you each week.

Can you see that is you taught monthly clinics, of 12 riders, at $280 per rider = $40,320 income.  Teach twice monthly clinics, $80,640 and you are 3/4s of the way to you income goal, with a lot more time during the week for other activities.

You can make money as a professional rider.  You can live a good lifestyle as a professional rider.  You don’t need to live hand to mouth, and run yourself into the ground trying to make it work.  Run the numbers, work the figures.  Make a plan- but plan from the end backwards.  Reverse engineer how you will get there, and you will have a far better direction than any 29 page business plan will give you.

Read Turning Pro Part 2 here

About the author: Anita Marchesani built a successful retail business from scratch with her credit card, and then sold it to the perfect new owner.  Now she is helping other small businesses to their own version of success, which usually involved having more time to ride!  Get FREE business resources from her website, here