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Exercising Horses 101: How to Get Paid for Riding

Starting a business exercising horses is a great way to get started in the equine industry or grow your skills as a professional horseback rider.

Exercising horses can be a full-time job, a way to earn a little extra cash, or a way to help afford a horse in college.

In this post, I explain how to start an equine business that makes money by providing a service riding/exercising horses when their owners are too busy to make it into the saddle. Exercise riders help keep horses conditioned and their training sharp. These riders make it possible for busy owners, when they do ride, to have a fit obedient horse that they can enjoy.

A person riding a white horse at a trot.

Getting Started as an Exercise Rider

There are a few things to consider when starting a business exercising people’s horses:

Polish your Skills

The first thing to consider is whether you have the necessary skills and experience to professionally exercise horses. You don’t have to be an expert- or even have skills as a horse trainer- but it’s important that you’ve clocked many hours in the saddle on at least 6-7 horses before starting a job exercising horses. Every horse is different, so having a lot of experience on 1 or 2 horses may not be sufficient to start charging money for exercising horses. You should also be aware of the physical demands of the job, as it can be quite strenuous.

Research the Market for Horse Exercising near you

Do some research to find out if there is a demand for horse exercise services in your area. Where I grew up in rural Kansas, I dreamed of taking on horse-owner clients for exercise riding, but there simply wasn’t a market in that part of the world. (There, most horses are little more than backyard pasture ornaments occasionally pawned off to a teen to get the bucks out before an organized trail ride or “showdeo”!) As a professional exercise rider, that’s not the kind of horse you’ll want to deal with! You’ll also need to consider the competition, and what you can do to stand out from the crowd.

Make your Business Official

Before you launch your business as an exercise rider, consider the basics of any small business:

  • Location. decide where you’ll ride. Only at a boarding stable or will you visit private farms?
  • Insurance. Will you need additional insurance to cover accidents or damage that might occur?
  • Advertising. How will you advertise your service? Will word of mouth keep plenty of horses on your roster or do you need a website or an ad in a local horse paper?

With a bit of planning and preparation, starting a business exercising people’s horses can be a rewarding and lucrative venture.

Is Exercising Other People’s Horses a Good Fit For You?

While it’s not for everyone, here are a few signs being an exercise rider would be a good fit for you:

  1. 🏇🏽 You love riding, like, all the time. If you can’t get enough time in the saddle, exercising other people’s horses could be a fun way to earn cash and stay fit. You’ll get to spend hours in the saddle improving your own riding skill and getting some fresh air while you are at it.
  2. 👩🏽‍⚕️🐴 You want to make a career in the horse industry. Exercising horses is also a great way to network with other horse owners and horse professionals. As you exercise horses for their owners, you will get to know them and their horses- if you exercise horses at a boarding stable, you’ll also get word-of-mouth advertisements. This is a great way to build professional relationships and maybe even make some new friends. If you do well, you should even get some repeat customers who will refer their friends to you. It may even be the start to a profitable career with horses.
  3. 👋🏽 You love helping others while growing your skill. Finally, starting a horse exercise business is a great way to help out horse owners who may not have the time or ability to exercise their horses themselves. If you have a passion for horses and want to help them stay healthy and fit, this is a great way to do it- especially if you’re early in your career and still training for one of the more high-paying jobs in the equine industry.

Getting started as a horse exercise rider:

There are a few key things you need in order to get started in a business exercising other people’s horses. First, you need to have a love for horses and a strong interest in learning more about training and conditioning. Second, you need to be able to build relationships with both horse owners- the horse business may seem like it’s about horses, but it’s the people who make it move- after all, they pay the bills! Third, you need to have years of experience in the saddle, a reasonable level of fitness, and have a good work ethic. Finally, you need to be able to market your horse exercising services and build a client base of owners.

If you have a passion for horses, are interested in learning more about conditioning, and have many hours in the saddle, then a career exercising horses may be for you.

How to market your new business exercising horses

There are many ways to market your services exercising people’s horses. You can start by creating a website and social media accounts to help get the word out. You can also distribute flyers to feed and tack stores and business cards in local horse-related businesses. You can also offer discounts (like 4 rides for the price of 3) or free trials (First ride free!) to help get people interested in your services.

Whatever marketing strategy you choose, be honest about what you can and cannot offer horse owners (for example, the types of horses you won’t exercise and the limitations of your service as exercise only, not training.) One bad review can harm a budding business venture, so only take on clients if you feed comfortable with the horse and the owner.

How much to charge to exercise horses

There is no definitive answer to how much you should charge to ride someone’s horse, since it depends on a number of factors. When pricing your services, consider:

  • the horse’s age, training, and condition (i.e. will the ride be easy and fun?)
  • your skill (are you able to expertly fine-tune a horse’s training or condition specific muscles?)
  • length and difficulty of the ride; (A 30-minute hack or a full jumping session?)
  • weather and terrain (indoor or outdoor riding? On the trail or arena?)
  • insurance or other business costs
  • fees for riding in a commercial arena (if applicable)
  • geographic region (In areas where boarding starts at $800/mo, you can charge more for exercise riding than in areas where boarding costs $400/mo)

In general, when all else is average, it is reasonable to charge around $20-$40 for a 30-minute horse ride. Since you’ll need to cover operating costs, $20 an hour should be your minimum pay, even for amateur youth riders.

Market Research is a great way to find out how to offer services and price them well. For big businesses, market research may look like customer surveys, focus groups, and competitor analysis- but even tiny start-ups like your horse exercising business can benefit from a version of these market research methods.

For example: ask your local horse friends on social media what they would be willing to pay for an exercise rider. As potential local customers, their feedback can help you set a price. Similarly, if you know other people who exercise ride or did it in recent years past, find out what they charged and price your services accordingly.

Final Thoughts

If you are passionate about horses and love spending time in the saddle growing your riding skills, then starting a business exercising people’s horses is a great idea. With a bit of planning and preparation, you can be on your way to earning money riding other people’s horses.

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