WORKING IN THE EQUESTRIAN PERFORMANCE INDUSTRY
My name is Amanda Hocking and I am a full time performance horse trainer and EA NCAS Level 2 coach.
I am British by birth and as my parents were not in the financial position buy me a pony when I was a young girl I used to hang around the local riding schools “bartering” cleaning stables in return for rides. I slowly progressed to cleaning saddlery, grooming and preparing feeds and by the age of 12 I was actually teaching beginner riders. Each year I would hire a pony to go to Pony Club camp and because the school could not afford to let their best school ponies be out of work for a week I used to take whichever equine misfit was least liked by the clients. This led to some interesting learning curves!
I can remember having the compulsory Career talk with a careers councillor at school when I was 15 and telling her that I wanted to be a full time Three Day Event rider and Coach. She looked at me sympathetically and said “Yes, but what do you want to do when you grow up?”! I managed to escape school fairly early and was offered a job with a hunting yard. Here we cared for 4 to 5 stabled horses 7 days a week with one day off a fortnight and these horses were ridden by the 2 Masters, the Huntsman and the 2 Whips. The owner of the yard also supplemented her income by buying Irish-bred buckjumpers and” turning” them into quiet “Hunters For Hire” During the “turning” process we grooms usually acquired a few bumps and bruises!
The Fernie Hunt is based in Leicestershire and this is considered very fast country (when they find a fox the countryside lends itself to some very long and fast gallops) so each of the hunt staff needed access to 2 horses each so as to last the day. As a rider of 2nd horses I was expected to follow hounds at a quiet distance and then when we swapped to hack the now tired 1st horse back to the truck or stables, which ever was closest. Sometimes the 2nd horses returned back to the yard at 7pm still hot and caked in mud. As we were not allowed to wash horses at that time of night we had to rub them down until they were calm and dry, then groom every speck of mud off, often this was not finished until 10pm. Then we had to clean all the gear!
One night I was so tired I went to bed without rinsing and refreshing the water buckets and I was woken up at 1am by a furious Boss who dragged me out of bed to do my water buckets. She let me know in no uncertain terms that tired horses, locked up in stables, do not deserve to drink stale water. She pointed out to me that water in stables absorbs the ammonia from the air making the water taste off within a four hour period, a fact I have never forgotten.
The work was hard and the standard consistently high but the plusses were amazing. Like the days we were out hunting and I had the opportunity to ride at full gallop over miles of huge 1.20m brush fences and ditches. Awesome!
I then did a year at an eventing yard where I trained the eventers for a young junior rider. Great when she was at school as I was allowed to ride in competitions but when she came home I had to step down. It was this that made me look toward immigrating to Australia.
My first horse job in Australia was working for a wealthy American family who owned an amazing equestrian property in Bowral. All white wooden rails and mown paddocks. They bred American Saddlebred horses, but this was the 70’s and most people could not get their head around how these horses were shown. High tail carriage, hollow backs and well above the bit, very strange paces (or gaits). As a result not many horses were sold and at one stage there were over 200 horses and only 5 members of staff. Not a lot of time for quality workmanship here! Horses were cheap to buy and land/space was plentiful. I started to realise that Aussies tend to work with quantity rather than quality.
But I had never given up my dream of becoming a coach so when I was given the opportunity to come to Victoria and work in an Equestrian centre near the coast I jumped at the chance. The boss and his wife were extraordinary in their generosity, giving me two nice horses to ride, time off to compete, go to clinics, use of a float and payed up my expenses! So the next thing I realised was that Aussies will back you all the way if you are honest, up front and prepared to put in.
After a couple of years we hatched a plan were I would go to England and obtain my BHS qualifications, with the view of coming back to Australia to set up a Coach Training scheme. This I did but before I left I thought it would be fun to get involved with the International eventing scene, so I went and did an internship with the Roycroft family for 3 months so I could have a reference that the Poms would recognise. Back in England I stayed for one year, gaining two BHS Instructor qualifications and one ABRS, went to Badminton Horse Trials as a Journalist for Hoofs and Horns, met Princess Ann at a very posh reception in a castle, strapped for the Australian 3DE team at the alternative Olympics, trained with leading BHS Examiner and Coach Islay Auty and worked as a barmaid/dish-pig at the local pub to cover my expenses!
When I returned to Australia it was to find that the NCAS had been formed and Riding Coach qualifications were now available. After gaining my Level 11 I chose to open my own yard teaching riders and training performance horses. As we lived near 13th beach I also took on pre-race training racehorses as the money was very good and it was a good way to check out potential event horses.
Over the next few years I enjoyed winning numerous events including my first 3DE, riding in an Australian Dressage Team and my husband and I taking out the Daily double at a 3DE, he won the 3* and me the 1*. I continue to train both here and overseas with great trainers and coaches as I love to learn more about our fascinating sport and four legged friends.
I have learnt how to drive trotters and fine harness, break in horses, natural horsemanship and ridden world class reining quarter horses. Later this year I am travelling to the states to participate in The Art of Teaching program with Jane Savoie, well known rider/competitor/ coach who uses NLP, sports psychology and other neurological science to enhance performance.
As a Level 2 and Coach Educator I now am based in Shepparton and work around the state helping riders follow their chosen path and trainee coaches fulfil their coaching dreams. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting involved at the grass roots of the NCAS system and have seen tremendous growth and development over the years.
If I was to offer any advice to people wishing to make a career in the horse industry it would be this:-
- Always have a dream – then set realistic goals that help you to realise the dream
- Be flexible and open to possibilities – there are many roads to Rome and some whilst unusual, can be very educational and lead to amazing opportunities.
- Work for the love – if you are passionate about your work the money and opportunities will come.
- A sense of humour – it does not matter how many medals you win or accolades you achieve in the horse industry there will always be poo to pick up. On your first day of work you will be cleaning up poo and probably on your last day of work! Poo happens. Get over it!
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