Horse farm managers bear the ultimate responsibility for ensuring the well being of the horses under their supervision, managing farm employees, and overseeing maintenance of the facility.Duties
Horse farm managers are responsible for overseeing various farm employees such as barn managers, broodmare or stallion managers, grooms, and office employees on a day to day basis. They may be assisted in these supervisory duties by an assistant farm manager (a position that usually only exists on larger scale operations).
Farm managers on small operations may have more direct contact with the horses and the day to day running of affairs. Managers of large commercial operations often have to spend a significant amount of time dealing with administrative and financial duties, and therefore only have a limited amount of direct interaction with the horses.
Horse farm managers may interact with riding instructors, racehorse trainers, feed and forage suppliers, farriers, equine veterinarians, and other service providers. They make decisions regarding what suppliers to do business with and what veterinary hospitals to consult. They advise the farm owner on what horses to sell or purchase, evaluate the development of foals, evaluate the progress of horses in training, and oversee the management of the operation’s finances.
Farm managers also usually oversee the maintenance of the entire farm including fencing and barn repair, replacement of equipment, tractor and vehicle servicing, and budgeting for these maintenance costs.Career Options
Horse farm managers can work in a variety of environments such as breeding farms, show horse farms, riding stables, training centers, and veterinary hospitals. A particularly large market for horse farm managers revolves around the Thoroughbred industry, with many racing, breeding, and training operations requiring management services.Education & Training
Farm managers frequently have a college degree, though this is not always a requirement for obtaining such a position. The equine industry has always placed a significant value on experience, so if a candidate has worked their way up through the ranks (and gained significant experience) they may be able to secure a management position with just a high school diploma. Useful education for a horse farm manager would include pursuing a Bachelors of Science degree in a field such as Equine Science, Animal Science, or Equine Business Management.
Computer skills are becoming increasingly important for managers in the equine industry, as most record keeping and bookkeeping systems are computer or internet based. Farm managers are likely to do a great deal of communication via email with vendors and other equine professionals.
Most horse farm managers work their way up in the industry through the time honored tradition of “paying their dues.” They may start out in a position such as a groom, earn a promotion to barn foreman or barn manager, advance to assistant farm manager, and ultimately achieve the full farm manager responsibilities. It is possible to skip some steps by earning a degree in the field, but a college graduate rarely advances directly to a farm manager position.
Horse farm managers must be well versed in the business conducted at their facility. For example, the farm manager of a Kentucky Thoroughbred breeding farm would be expected to have extensive experience with evaluating pedigrees, planning breedings, acquiring stallion seasons, evaluating conformation, interacting with major sales companies, and other specialty tasks.Salary
Salary for horse farm managers can vary widely based on factors such as the area of the industry (racing, breeding, or showing), the manager’s education and experience in the field, and region where the farm is located.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the average salary for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers was $60,750 ($29.21 per hour) in May of 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,280 per year while the highest 10 percent greater than $106,980 per year. Managers of major commercial horse operations can earn salaries well in excess of $100,000 per year.
Equine management positions often carry additional valuable benefits such as a free house on the farm, use of a farm vehicle, free board for the manager’s own horse, paid vacation, and health insurance.Career Outlook
While the BLS predicts that the number of opportunities for all farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers will show a slight decline (8 percent) over the decade from 2010 through 2020, it does not separate out horse farm managers from its general statistics. The equine industry should continue to have farm manager opportunities available to qualified candidates with the right combination of education and experience.