hot walkers, to riding instructors, to equine lawyers, one can pursue
a job in all kinds of equine professions. For all those horse-crazy
kids out there who want to find a way to combine their passion for
horses with a full-time job, there may be more options than one would
Here you will find
just three of hundreds of career options. Each year in the young
rider issue, The Equiery will explore additional careers. If you
have a story idea you would like to share, please contact us at
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-244-9580 x 107.
On February 12, the Maryland Horse Industry Board
(made up of a diverse group of equine professionals appointed by the governor)
got a behind-the-scenes look at a unique equine profession, equine entertainment
through Medieval Times. No, not the Renaissance Fair!
The MHIB is tasked, via the legislation that created
it, to support and develop the Maryland horse industry, which includes expanding
tourism opportunities as well as providing lesson and boarding stables with more
opportunities for growth, and helping to foster equine-related manufacturing
and other support industry jobs. For most of their 2013 monthly meetings, MHIB
members will be touring different types of equine businesses located in Maryland.
Medieval Times is the equine-themed dinner theater
located in Arundel Mills. Founded in 1973 in Majorca, Spain, the corporation
now has nine U.S. locations. The show maintains its own Andalusian breeding farm
in Texas, but also recruits talented equines from around the world.
Although Medieval Times will occasionally hire
experienced riders, the organization prefers to “grow their own,” finding
raw talent—perhaps guys who have never even seen a horse—and bringing
them along to their standards. The show is traditional, and all knights and knaves
(as well as kings and princes) are men; while women are employed as ladies, princesses
and queens, there currently are no shows in which the ladies, princesses or queens
In addition to the “back stage” stabling
at Arundel Mills, the show maintains a farm in Crownsville that affords the horses
plenty of down time and turnout and gives the knights more room to practice their
riding and hone their craft.
The MHIB getting a behind the scenes
at Medieval Times
Here is a quick
look at the business of Medieval Times “by the numbers:”
10 – Number
of years Medieval Times has been in Maryland.
400+ – The approximate number of shows the
Arundel Mills location performs each year.
200,000+ – The number of spectators over
the course of the year.
1 million – 10 years x 200,000 spectators
26 – The number of horses based in Maryland
that can perform in the show; on average, about 20 horses are in any given show.
13 – The number of horsemen, or “knights,” currently
employed by the Maryland show, of varying ages and skill levels.
75 – Total number of people employed by the
Maryland show (50 cast, crew and adminstration; 25 riding and/or caring for the
100 – The number of other Maryland businesses
impacted by Medieval Times, with a little over one dozen providing equine or
farm-related services. Local, equine-related vendors
include (but are not limited to) American Wood Fibers, Equine Veterinary Services
from Westminster, Rick Groomes farriery, Outback Leather,
Dogwood Tack, Gambrills General Store for feed and Brendel Farms for hay. Additionally,
Medieval Times supports numerous therapeutic riding centers with
ticket donations for fund raisers, and has provided local lesson stables with
retired horses (talk …).
The Equiery has seen the
show, and we encourage all Maryland horse people to check it
out. We know, we know… we believe you will not only be
pleasantly surprised, but impressed with the talent of the horses
and their riders, and delighted by the reaction of the audience!
It is shows like these that fuel the imaginations of children,
power our lesson and other gateway programs, and help insure
that the horse industry has a dynamic future in Maryland!
11-year-old Andalusian stallion
Specialties: Spanish walk, piaffe, passage, parade,
high school routine
15-year-old Trakehner gelding
Specialties: Games, jousting, mounted combat,
8-year-old Quarter Horse gelding
Specialties: Mounted combat, jousting, fall stunts
10-year-old Andalusian stallion
Specialties: Levade, Spanish walk, parade,
high school routine
4-year-old Andalusian stallion
Specialties: Parade, hind-leg walk
14-year-old Andalusian gelding
Specialties: Capriole, parade, games
6-year-old Azteca stallion
Specialties: Games, parade, jousting
Mikahla Jestes working
on a client's horse
Horses always captivated Mikahla Jestes, but she
did not know she would one day be sticking needles in them. Mikahla has been
a certified acupuncturist since August 2012. Now with her own business, Points
in Balance Acupuncture, the 27-year-old helps horses with the thousand-year-old
technique of acupuncture.
“I was reading a book about how the body
has the ability to heal itself,” Mikahla said, referring to the power of
acupuncture. “It really sparked my interest, but I didn’t really
know much about it.”
Mikahla’s parents were hesitant when she
wanted to jump back into more school after recently graduating, but encouraged
her to get more information. She began conducting her own research and Googled
acupuncture schools in Maryland. Mikahla was shocked and excited to learn that
one of the best acupuncture schools in the country, Tai Sophia Institute, was
located in Laurel, not far from her home. “I went to an open house and
after that I decided it was the right fit for me,” Mikahla said.
An area that really piqued Mikahla’s curiosity
was performing acupuncture on animals. She knew that with her Masters, she could
complete a certification that would allow her to perform acupuncture on dogs,
cats, rabbits, ferrets, and to her delight, horses.
This certification was her optimal goal. However,
Mikahla was in the midst of a family tragedy with her father being diagnosed
with cancer. The balance between school and family became a juggling act. “I
wanted to be present as much as I could with him, but I had this goal to be done
with my Masters in December so I could start my certification in March,” Mikahla
Mikahla did her best to stay focused. She was successfully
completing her observation hours but was finding it hard to seek out patients
for treatment. Mikahla’s father died at the end of her schooling. “It
was a very big deal to learn how to let him go. I think I did a very good job
managing everything even if school may not be getting done as quickly as I wanted
it to,” Mikahla said.
Mikahla’s determination and strength earned
her a Masters in Acupuncture after completing her clinical requirements in December
2011. Mikahla then went on to start her certification in March and finished in
October 2012, all according to plan.
Mikahla’s certification to perform acupuncture
on animals is rather uncommon as she was one of eight people to finish the certification.
With this certification Mikahla hopes to build
clientele within her own practice, Points in Balance. Her hope is to focus more
on upper-level competing horses in any discipline. “These riders understand
the benefits in proactively providing wellness and balance to their horses so
that they can compete at their highest abilities,” Mikahla said.
Acupuncture has the same benefits for horses
as it does for humans. A treatment helps with pain-related issues, soreness,
arthritis, digestion complications and many other issues. Mikahla also finds
no difference between treating humans and horses. “Since I have been around
horses for so long I know how to handle them and their subtle communication so
it doesn’t seem more difficult than working with a human,” Mikahla
Her love of equine companionship started at the
young age of four. She was an active member of Howard County’s 4-H Horse
Show Series and competed as a hunter/jumper. At such a young age, Mikahla had
no idea that her passion for horses would become a considerable part of her career.
Mikahla grew up in Lisbon and attended Glenelg
High School. After high school, Mikahla attended the Fashion Institute of Technology
in New York City. She returned to Maryland where she graduated from Towson University
with a degree in business marketing. Mikahla was hoping for a job in medical
sales but in the meantime, she returned to her passion and trained and rode horses
at Hidden Island Farms in Kent Island.
Mikahla now lives in Marriottsville with her husband.
She also works at The Still Point in Clarksville where she was hired in December
2011 and has become a beneficial member of the staff focusing on supporting her
patients to meet health goals both physically and emotionally.
Equine Ambulatory Vets
Michael Erskinnn, DVM.
Most people might believe
that all equine vets do the same work. But in reality, veterinary
medicine is highly specialized. Equine ambulatory veterinarians
are those who are on the road making farm calls, whether or not
those farm calls are routine preventative medicine such as annual
vaccinations, or emergency visits. Michael Erskine, DVM of Damascus
Equine is one of these equine ambulatory specialists. “What
I love most about this job is building relationships with the owners.
I like being a part of the overall care and development of the
horse,” Erskine stated.
Erskine has been a vet for 25 years. “I was
interested in science and biology and grew up with horses so this became a way
to pursue both,” he added. As a child and young adult, Erskine participated
in 4-H and Pony Club as well as AQHA shows where he showed his family’s
homebred Quarter Horses.
After majoring in biology as an undergraduate,
Erskine attended the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine
at Virginia Tech and graduated in 1988. Erskine knew at an early age that he
wanted to become a vet and says that it is important for students to decide early
if veterinary medicine is something they want to pursue so they can organize
their classes around getting into vet school. “Getting into a good school
is very competitive. Students should visit vet schools and plan their course
work early. You need to be committed to the field early on,” he said.
Erskine also suggests that kids gain some experience
even before college by doing “ride-alongs” or shadowing their local
vet. “Once in vet school, they will end up studying more than just one
element of vet care so it is good to get a feel of all types of veterinary medicine
including small animals, hospital care and emergency medicine,” Erskine
Erskine’s first vet job was with the Penn Paddock
Equine Center in Pennsylvania from 1988 to 1990. The practice included work at
Thoroughbred tracks, surgical and medical cases at a veterinary hospital and
large ambulatory service. In 1990, Erskine returned to Maryland to join Damascus Equine
Associates and through the years has developed a large ambulatory practice focusing
on sport and pleasure horses.
“Each day is different, which keeps things
interesting and fresh,” he said adding, “I do mainly primary routine
preventative medicine all the way through emergency care.” Although he
technically has office hours and tries to keep to a schedule, Erskine warns would-be
vets that an ambulatory practice takes strong time management. “Things
can be unpredictable and you need to be able to juggle schedules,” adding
that emergency calls do not follow strict schedules and vets often work odd hours
In 1996, Erskine became the first practicing equine
veterinarian in Maryland to be board certified by the American Board of Veterinary
Practitioners and was elected Vice-President of ABVP in 2010. He became President
in 2011. Erskine is also on the Maryland Horse Council Board of Directors and
was President from 2005-2009. This year, Erskine received the 2013 Maryland Distinguished
Veterinarian Award from the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association in recognition
of and appreciation of his outstanding leadership, dedication and continued commitment
to veterinary medicine.
Most recently, Erskine announced he had accepted
the position of interim director of Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott
Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia. He assures his clients that the
new position will not disrupt his current practice in Maryland.