A Career as an Equine Appraiser: Is it for you? Interview with a Professional Equine Appraiser, Alison Gay
By: Stacy Bromley Cheetham
Are you inspired by the modern and unique designs at 2KGrey? Does your passion for riding or fashion drive you to seek out a career that is extraordinary? Our interviewee did just that! Like many successful equestrian businesswomen, Alison Gay caught the “horse bug” as a kid and never outgrew it. She rode mostly hunter/jumper and dressage, working around barns and finding any job she could do there just to be at the barn. It was this exposure that led her to decide initially upon a career in the industry, heading off for a four-year Bachelor’s degree in Equine Science at William Woods University.
Courses in veterinary medicine, teaching and training, farrier technique, nutrition, leather and tack repair, and equine management were only a sampling of the courses that enabled her to graduate with doors opened to opportunities to work for some of the leading training, breeding and showing facilities in the world – including Castle Forbes Stud in Ireland, a Thoroughbred breeding facility in France and at a prestigious hunter/jumper facility in Chicago. These experiences, while amazing, led to the discovery that Alison was not as happy in that area of the industry as she thought she would be. After some research into other avenues of the horse industry, she came upon equine appraising, and found that the skill set fit her very well – writing skills, customer service, entrepreneurship, expertise in the horse industry and remaining calm under pressure being some of the notable ones. She decided to attend a training seminar offered by the American Society of Agricultural/Equine Appraisers and became certified. In 2012, while in North Carolina, she formed EquiAppraisal and now operates nationwide.
The business keeps Alison very busy, as there are many needs for equine appraisal, and the field is a growing industry. Situations where an appraisal might be used could include:
- Insurance Policies and Claims
- Purchases, Sales and Syndications
- Expert Witness Testimony
- Divorce and Estate Settlements
- Tax Audits and Inquiries
- Contract Disputes
Alison says that she loves what she does, but cautions that the career is not for the faint of heart. The most difficult part, she says, is not in the actual appraising of the horses but on the business end. Primarily through trial and error, you must learn appropriate marketing strategies, how to handle unusual situations, and the ebb and flow of the market and budgeting for success. Although start-up costs are relatively low, she estimates that based upon her experience, one might not expect to be paid back, even on a full-time investment of your time for the first few years of your business. One must also have a certain personality to be able to handle the litigation component of the job – an expert witness can expect to be criticized and interrogated by opposing attorneys in an attempt to discredit them. It is the appraiser’s job to remain calm and professional in these intensely stressful situations.
Alison’s recommendations for those interested in a career in equine appraisal:
- Continued education- As an expert in the field, it’s best if you have some sort of judging/stewarding experience, continued participation in educational clinics, further knowledge on conformation, bloodlines, appraisal techniques, expert witness training, and you MUST know all breeds and disciplines. A very important note: I do not believe this is the best job choice for someone who is new to horses or who has not gained other work experience in the industry. If you have an interest in the equine appraisal field, make sure you have first acquired the background to solidify your “expertise” on horses.
- Location is everything- Do your market research first. If you are in an area with very little horse activity, very little money in the local horse industry, or where there are already equine appraisers established, the market may already be too saturated. Set yourself up for success by doing your research and gaining a realistic perspective on what opportunities are available to you in that location.
- Find a way to support yourself for several years while the business grows. Whether through a second job or savings, make sure that you are set up for the long-run. Statistically, only ~4% of small business start-ups are still running ten years after they begin. If you are working while starting the business, make sure you still contribute the necessary time to helping the business grow.
Her career as an equine appraiser has allowed her the luxury of showing her own horses, while gaining the freedom to have a more stable and structured job and managing her own schedule. She says that devoting herself to this business and seeing it grow has been one of the most rewarding experiences of her life. For more information, please visit www.EquiAppraisal.com or contact Alison Gay via Alison@EquiAppraisal.com or toll free at 1.844.900.2200.
Never forget 2kGrey’s motto – Ride with Passion!