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Equine progression and careers event inspires and informs

18 Feb 2022 | College

This week, Bishop Burton College played host to an inspirational day focused on equine career paths and progression opportunities.

Representatives from Bedmax Ltd, Dengie Crops Ltd, East Riding Council, Equine Massage Academy, HorseFit UK, Northern Racing College, Racing to Schools and Riders Minds took time to visit the College and talk to our students about progression beyond their current studies.

The day kickstarted with a fantastic coaching demonstration by Academy coach Karen Howarth and academy riders in our state-of-the-art arena. This was followed by a series of smaller break-out sessions and activities, which enabled students to explore career options with representatives from higher education here at Bishop Burton. The Further Education (FE) team demonstrated the fantastic equine laboratory facilities at the College and sessions with potential employers from equine-based industries such as HorseFit UK and Riders Minds gave another perspective.

A selection of employers and representatives from the industry were also exhibiting, providing students with the chance to talk to them about prospects within their businesses, explore career paths they may not have previously considered, and learn more about the world of work within the equine sector.

The day also provided the perfect showcase for Principal Bill Meredith, to congratulate 24 of our students on achieving their BHS stage 1 qualifications.

The event culminated with an amazing display by former student Ben Atkinson from Atkinson Action Horses. Ben who studied Level 3 in Equine Management at Bishop Burton, is now a professional stunt rider, horse trainer, and rider. Highly respected within the industry he has an enviable list of TV and film projects to his name including Peaky Blinders, Poldark and Victoria. Following his demonstration, Ben gave the students some practical pearls of wisdom to help them make more effective job applications by considering their skills and employability to position themselves to stand out from the crowd.

His first tip was to read job adverts properly, as he usually ditches 50-60% of all applications he receives immediately because they don’t follow the submission instructions. Ben commented “If you can’t follow a simple request then why would I employ you? If someone puts out a job advert your application shouldn’t be about what you think you should be sending - it’s about what that person is asking you for.”

He also had some great advice on preparing to work in a yard, by soaking up knowledge from the earliest stages and being open and accepting of different working practices. Ben made the point that all yards are unique, using an example of when he was an apprentice himself and worked in a yard that approached the horses in a completely different manner than he was used to. “It didn’t matter how I would do it at home or what I felt was correct” he said. “If you’re employed by someone and they tell you that’s how you work with their animals then that’s how you work with their animals. That’s the job – you couldn’t get a job at Tesco and decide to stack all the Crunchy Nut in the bath products aisle!”

Being able to ride really well is fundamentally important from Ben’s perspective. He emphasised the importance of flat work and its role as the bedrock of everything, as it would make students more educated and generic equine professionals. Commenting “It doesn’t matter if you want to work in a hunt yard, or show jump or produce horses, if your flat work is terrible you’ll always be limited - you’ll always come up against walls because flat work is the end and start of everything.”

Ben also explained how the students could make themselves more employable by using their initiative. Even if not being directed there is always something that can be done in a yard and a proactive attitude will always be noted and well received. Furthermore, he advised the students that gaining an HGV licence to drive lorries would be advantageous, stressing that whilst not the coolest of attributes this capability would make them stand apart from other applicants as they would be a highly useful employee. He made the point that having a passion is fantastic but only the starting point. Acquiring as much knowledge as possible across the many aspects of the industry is invaluable because there’s always something to be learnt. The more strings you have to your bow and the more versatile you become, the more an employer will want to have you around.

Finally, Ben gave a realistic viewpoint about working in the equine industry, stressing how competitive it was and that a true dedication and passion was essential. He summed it up as follows “Horses are hard. In a recent Instagram Q&A someone asked me how do I stay motivated to ride and train every day? And I said because it’s my job - it’s what I want to do.” With the right attitude, determination and commitment to succeed it is an incredibly rewarding profession.

Ben’s amazing display and practical advice was the perfect end to an informative and inspiring day. Event organiser and Equine Instructor/Tutor Monica Zetterqvist Sheppard commented

“A key part of my job as a Tutor is to prepare students for their next steps beyond College and today’s event was a fantastic way to introduce the students to employers and representatives from the equine industry and give them new perspective on the progression opportunities open to them. A huge thanks to all our participants for giving up their time to share their experiences and insight into careers within the equine sector.”

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