When you’re young—especially if you’re in the horse industry—everyone talks about the need to gain experience abroad.
It doesn’t matter where you go, they say, just go somewhere that has horses. I used to think it was just talk and wouldn’t affect much in my life, especially my professional one.
I was wrong.
Last year, after talking about my future to many people I respected and hearing the same thing every time, I took the leap and traveled to Australia for nine months. I was lucky enough in that time to work with a major farm followed by a legendary trainer and learned more about the international horse industry in nine months than I had in the previous five or more years heavily researching and reading about it.
Safe to say, I’ve become one of those “you need to travel” preachers.
If after hearing the lecture over and over again, you still aren’t sure traveling is for you, here are four reasons I recommend taking at least a few months to work in another country if you’re serious about making a career in the horse industry.
First, you see all types of horses.
While bloodlines are similar, body types are different because of what they’re bred for. For example, while we breed for more classic distance dirt horses, Australia breeds for early two-year-old turf sprinters so their horses are powerful blocks of muscle made to break from the gate and run like rockets. Even those horses with more American or European pedigrees are built more like this than the streamlined, classic distance look most northern hemisphere Thoroughbreds have.
Because the horses are bred for a different type of racing, you also get to learn and see more about what kind of conformation is desirable in horses bred for different things. This not only helps you with racehorses but can also translate to other sport horses as well.
At its core, horsemanship is the same around the world with everyone trying to figure out the best way to have horses live up to their potential. But just as you experience different ways of handling horses in different barns, there are different ways to do things depending on the country you’re in.
The best part of traveling, for me, is the various ways handling changes.
One thing I found most interesting about Australia is that their foals are raised as outdoorsy as possible, with it almost feeling like wild horse herds at times. Foals are born outside and unless they have something that needs treated, rarely, if ever, see the inside of a stall when they are foals.
Also interesting is that unlike the U.S., the foals accompany their dams to the breeding shed and are put in a pen in the shed where they can see their dam at all times. While I saw positives and negatives to many of the things that were done differently in Australia, just seeing how it worked firsthand helped give me ideas and solutions for the future.
No matter where you go, the equestrian culture is different than you’re used to. I’ve been racing in multiple countries with each being drastically different than the next.
When I traveled to Panama a few years ago, one thing that struck me was how much a celebration there was of the horse racing. Horses came to the paddock decorated with ribbons and other gear and the general public celebrated each win more than even some owners I’ve seen in other countries.
In Australia, many of my Uber or taxi drivers knew at least a little about racing and could hold a conversation about racing events in their city. Even when I was on the Gold Coast for the Magic Millions horse sale, one driver not only knew about the races held that week but also about the sale.
Seeing how each country has treated racing has been a huge tool for me because it not only gives me the opportunity to make my future work appeal to a larger audience, but it also gives me some ideas for things I’d like to try and bring to my own country.
The final reason I think traveling is so important is the people you meet and the cultures you experience.
While not directly related to racing, traveling to other countries also gives you a taste of a different way of living. For example, Australia was more of a laid-back country where people “work to live” as opposed to America’s “live to work” culture. Seeing a more relaxed style of living when you’re brought up in a culture where life is centered around jobs and careers was quite interesting.
Another good thing about not only traveling but also living in a different country is the networking you do. You’ll make lifelong friends when traveling and, on a professional level, make business acquaintances, both of which will play a part in your future and give you other opportunities you may not have ever dreamt of.
While moving to a different country is scary and can be tough at times, the things you’ll experience far outweigh any doubts you have and I promise will only make you a stronger horse(wo)man no matter what discipline you want to excel in.
About the Author
A native of Vancouver, WA, Melissa Bauer-Herzog followed her passion for all things equine to Central Kentucky. She is a frequent contributor to America’s Best Racing, and publishes a blog on international bloodstock, All Equine All The Time.