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Horse Racing Job Opportunities and Salary Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in horse racing. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and training information.

What Are Career Options for Horse Racing Professionals?

Horse racing job opportunities range from jockey and trainer to equine therapist and bloodstock agent. As a professional athlete a jockey must maintain a high level of physical fitness through exercise and healthy nutrition. They must also practice to improve improve their skills and ensure that all their gear is in good condition. Horse trainers may take on some general care tasked as a animal caretakers, but their primary responsibility is to ensure horses are obedient and respond properly to verbal commands. Horse groomers take on a lot more of the general care tasks. Their objective is to keep horses in a presentable condition. They trim and shampoo horses manes along with other maintenance tasks. The table below provides an outline of the general requirements and job options for this career field.

Jockeys Horse Trainers Horse Groomers
Training RequiredOn-the-job training On-the-job training (associate's or bachelor's degree in equine studies may be required for some positions) On-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Ride race horses and motivate them to highest performance Develop regimens to prepare horses for races Take care of horse's physical appearance and hygiene
Licensure/Certification Licensure is required in most states Some employers require certification Licensure is not required.
Job Growth (2018-2028) 6% growth (for all athletes and sports competitors) * 13% growth (for all animal trainers)* 16% growth (for all animal care and service workers)*
Mean Salary (2018) $87,030 (for all athletes and sports competitors)* $25,890 (for all non-farm animal caretakers working in spectator sports)* $25,890 (for all non-farm animal caretakers working in spectator sports)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Job Opportunities in Horse Racing Can I Pursue?

Positions in horse racing may include working directly with horses or being involved in the business side of the racetrack. One position that includes working with horses is a jockey. Jockeys ride race horses in races using a range of tactics to push the horse to a strong performance. This is an intense and dangerous job, requiring exceptional riding skills and a lightweight frame. Similar to a jockey, you can become a harness racing driver, which involves controlling racing horses, only from sulkies, or carts, that are pulled by the horses instead of by riding them.

Horse training is another option, which deals with managing the preparation work that goes into readying a horse for racing. As a horse trainer, you'll develop feeding, exercise and training regimens. Additional jobs involving close contact with horses are exercise rider, equine therapist, breeder and equine dentist.

Horse racing also requires a variety of support positions, including a groomer, farrier, hot walker and nutrition specialist. If your interest is business-oriented, you can work as a horse salesperson or bloodstock agent. Bloodstock agents negotiate sales of race horses on behalf of owners and must be not only skilled in bargaining, but also in analyzing a horse's pedigree, conditioning and value.

The act of running the races requires an assortment of technical staff, such as a paddock judge, who manages the paddock area, and the outrider, who manages safety on the track. You can also pursue work involving the data that is processed in horse racing in jobs such as clocker, chart caller and clerk of scales. If you'd like to focus more on the spectators and gamblers at the racetrack, you can work as an announcer, a promotions manager or a mutuel manager, which is the person in charge of wagering.

What Type of Education Will I Need?

Many positions will only require on-the-job training. Additionally, there are several jobs in horse racing that are seen as entry-level or stepping stone roles like working as a groomer before becoming a barn foreman or horse trainer. In order to become a jockey, you'll typically need to work as an exercise rider first.

Other jobs are more technically demanding and may require you to complete a training program. For example, to work as a horse breeder, trainer or nutrition specialist, you may need to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in equine studies. These programs often include courses on working with horses and general business skills. Other career fields, such as a farrier, may require a certificate or other brief training that incorporates extensive hands-on learning.

What Might I Earn?

Your salary potential in horse racing is as varied as the job opportunities. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2018, animal caretakers working in spectator sports had an annual mean wage of $26,980 (www.bls.gov). In horse racing, though, you may make a base salary and then earn a portion of the horse's winnings. The same source also reports the projected job growth for all animal care and service workers is 16% which is much faster than average for 2018-2028 for all occupations.

Other jobs in horse racing can be more dependent on horse performance. As a jockey, you'll earn a fee for each race and if the horse you ride finishes among the top three, you'll earn a percentage of the horse owner's share of the purse, or prize winnings. Bloodstock agents often earn money based on the performances of the horses they purchase, although those percentages may be negotiated between the agent and owner. The BLS lists jockeys under the broad category of athletes and sports competitors which had an average annual salary of $87,030 in May 2018.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are many other careers related to those featured in this article. Farmers and ranchers work with livestock on an agricultural level. In order to be profitable they must ensure that their animals are taken care of and healthy, much like a horse racing team needs to care for their horse. To be a farmer or rancher you don't really need any specific level of education, though a high-school diploma is most common. Veterinary assistants is another career that may only require a high-school diploma or equivalent. These professionals feed, clean and perform routine care for animals at veterinarian offices. With an associate's degree a person could also work as a veterinary technologists or technicians, and perform diagnostic tests on sick or injured animals.