Working In The Horse World
One of the significant resources American Horse Publications has developed are its members. Former publisher and past AHP president, Jenny Meyer, now freelances from her home in California. One of her past articles was an interview with seven individuals who are working within the horse industry. One individual she interviewed was Jennifer Denison, a former winner of the AHP Student Award, who has achieved her career goal with her current position as senior editor for Horse & Rider.
Jenny and Horse & Rider have granted AHP permission to reprint Jennifer’s comments and advice to students seeking a career in equine publishing. We have also included a list of tips that accompanied the article excerpted from “Working in the Horse World” by Jennifer Forsberg Meyer, originally appearing in the October 1998 issue of Horse & Rider.
SCORES WITH A SCHOLARSHIP
Vital stats: Jennifer Denison, 25, married with no children. Graduated from Colorado State University with a Bachelor of Art degree in journalism and a Bachelor of Science in equine sciences. Hired in 1996 by Cowles Enthusiast Media as an assistant editor for Horse & Rider magazine, headquartered in Golden, Colorado. Works a 40-hour week, usually 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., although deadlines frequently extend those hours; occasionally works weekends to attend horse shows and direct photo shoots. Starting salary: $18,000 annually. Owns three Quarter Horses, with which she regularly participates in barrel racing, pole bending, and local open shows.
What she actually does: "I write, edit, and proofread stories, and help tie up all the loose ends at deadline. I also coordinate photo-shoots, scheduling the itinerary and accompanying the photographer to direct the shots. I do some customer service, too--fielding phone calls from readers and answering letters and e-mail messages."
The break that got her the job: "A scholarship. As a junior in college, I won the American Horse Publications' student scholarship. When I attended the AHP annual convention to accept my award, I met a number of publishers, including Pat Eskew of Horse & Rider, Western-English World, and Western Styles. Through my contacts, I wrangled internships with Western Styles and Western-English World. I drove 2 hours each way to get to these unpaid internships, where I was writing mini-articles, fact-checking, and handling other small chores. But my efforts resulted in a paid internship with H&R the following summer, which in turn led to an offer of permanent employment as an assistant editor that fall."
Most helpful college courses: "My copyediting and production classes helped me learn to understand page design and to think editorially. That's been a tremendous help on photo shoots, where you must visualize how an image will work on a page. My PR classes helped me know how to target an audience, and direct an article towards the needs and interests of readers. And the equine reproduction and disease classes have helped me to understand the technical language of veterinarians and other professionals, so I can translate it for readers."
Most challenging part of the job: "Editing to the high level of Horse & Rider --everything must be perfect! I'm still learning and probably always will be. Every magazine has its own style and way of doing things, and this isn't something that can be taught in school. You have to assimilate it on the job."
Part of the job she'd do for free if she had to: "Going to horse shows and photo shoots. Of course, Horse & Rider would need to pay my travel expenses!"
Part of the job that's drudgery: "Deadlines--especially when articles come in at the last minute and have problems that need fixing."
Most memorable moment in the job so far: "Going to the National Barrel Horse Association World Championships in Augusta, Georgia, in 1996. It was my very first time organizing a photo-shoot, and everything went so smoothly--in fact, I wish they all could go that well. It was also my first time traveling so far from home, and as I'm a barrel-racing fan myself, the entire trip was just wonderful."
How someone could steal her job: "By getting as much experience as you can, however you can get it. Read every horse magazine you can find and familiarize yourself with its style and content. Get into internships, even if you have to volunteer. Submit articles as a freelancer for publication. Something I would do differently now that I know about the job would be to take more writing classes in college--I had a PR emphasis, instead--as well as some photography and perhaps some web-page development courses. All that would be very useful."
SHOW YOUR PASSION
Want to work in the horse world? Follow these tips gleaned from the seven interviewees and Octavia Brown, an assistant professor of equine studies at Centenary College in Hackettstown, New Jersey.
Seek internships. They're a great way to learn the details of a job and to get your foot in the door with a potential employer. "Even if you must work for free or nominal pay, do it," says Brown. "Internships are always worth pursuing."
Build a network. Internships are part of it, but cultivate relationships with your professors and advisors, as well. Tell them what kind of a job you hope to have someday, and ask for letters of recommendation. "Develop a core of people who will stand up and be counted for you," says Brown. "Successful people are generally willing to help others on the way up. Don't be afraid to ask."
Grab a curry comb. Practical, hands-on horse experience will be helpful in almost any horse-related career. "One of the criticisms of graduates of equine studies programs," notes Brown, "is that they don't have enough grounding in the basics--grooming, feeding, handling, and so on."
Become well-rounded--don't focus your education too narrowly. "For many horse-related jobs, you'll definitely want some business courses, and if you'll be doing any teaching, psychology courses will help," advises Brown. "Consider developing your computer skills as well--at least working a word processor and handling a data base. Nowadays, it can't hurt to be familiar with the Internet, too, and what it has to offer your particular line of work."
Polish your people skills. Employers in every field prefer job candidates who seem as if they'll get along well with management, fellow employees, and clients/customers. "Learn to be cooperative and diplomatic," Brown suggests.
Be flexible. Don't turn down a job offer just because it isn't exactly what you had in mind, or because it requires relocating or travel. "Later on, after you're committed to home and family, you'll be much less able to accept extraordinary demands," notes Brown. "Be flexible while you can to take advantage of opportunity."
Show your passion. Make those telephone calls, and write cover letters that express your enthusiasm for the job. "Be persistent," stresses Brown. "Don't wait for employers to come to you--go to them. You must take responsibility for your success."
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Students looking for colleges or universities offering equine degrees and courses will find the 1998-99 Equine School & College Directory an excellent resource. This comprehensive listing also includes scholarship sources for students interested in horses. To order a copy, send $8 in check or money order to the Harness Horse Youth Foundation, 14950 Greyhound Ct., Ste. 210, Carmel, IN 46032, or call (317) 848-5132.