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The Greenhorn Chronicles 20: Moya Byrne Merrin on High Point Equestrian Centre and Equine Labour Shortages (1)

2022-08-22

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 30.E, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (25)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com

Individual Publication Date: August 22, 2022

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2022

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 1,635

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Moya Byrne Merrin is the Director of High Point Equestrian Centre. She discusses: foot in the door moment for the equine world; the industry looking now; finding people who are willing to do the hard labour; a common experience in equestrianism among managers and owners; and separation between haves and have-nots, growing income inequality, and worker insecurity.

Keywords: Canada, dressage, equestrianism, High Point Equestrian Centre, Moya Byrne Merrin, The Greenhorn Chronicles.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 20: Moya Byrne Merrin on High Point Equestrian Centre and Equine Labour Shortages (1)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citations after the interview.*

*Interview conducted January 2, 2022.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, today, we are here with Moya of High Point Equestrian Centre. We’ve had a chance to explore the facilities and discuss some of the issues facing the equestrian world at the moment. Your focus is dressage. Although, this is one particular professional area of equestrianism. There’s a wide range. However, each facet of equestrianism, I think, can provide a bit of a glimpse into different images of equestrianism as a whole. So, to get started, to give people an idea, what was your first foot in the door moment for the equine world?

Moya Byrne Merrin[1],[2]: My first in the door was my parents buying me a $500 horse. I was, probably, around 10-years-old. It kept me out of trouble. Then there was a bit pause. I was 28 when I began picking up horses again with a retired race horse, which was quite young and quite athletic. That started. I did not plan or foresee – my husband and I – an equestrian lifestyle. Where, we have ended up owning a facility and running & managing it, which does events and focuses on education.

Jacobsen: How is the industry looking now, in terms of dressage?

Merrin: We have a lot of support in our area. We have amazing trainers and access to them. People from the Interior come down and are willing to train here with coaches that are allowed to come in. We also bring in trainers from all around the world. There is a lot of support for the education and the shows. We a show series, which is a lower-level. It is called the schooling show. It is not rated. You are welcome to try your first ride. You are welcome to try the next level. It is a very fun atmosphere. We take the precautions and do the proper things.

We focus on the schooling and the education aspect of it. We sell out every show, prior to Covid. This has been something that we have been working on during Covid because there wasn’t any access to the rate shows. We couldn’t do this. We could do this safely on a smaller scale. We have had overwhelming response to our show series. It looks like the sport is thriving. But when you get to those bigger rated shows that cost a lot more, it thins out. It really does seem to be a divide between the professionals and the amateurs.

The amateurs used to make up the bulk of these shows. Now, it is about 50/50. People are finding out series more interesting, or cannot afford it.

Jacobsen: Staffing, this is an issue, not only in the times of the coronavirus pandemic, but also in the industry as a whole: Finding people who are willing to do the hard labour. So, the issue of finding quality labour in the midst of a pandemic and in a field requiring, simply put, hard labour.  

Merrin: So, prior to the pandemic, staffing has always been an issue, finding reliable, hard working staff that are willing to look beyond the immediate. It is never the same day in a barn. There are always things that come up and happen, and people will sign up to stall cleaning. That’s it. If you ask them to do anything else, they won’t listen. It is not in their job description. I don’t know if this people being more educated about or not, but people say, “This is not in my job description. I am not doing it”

Then you get these rare gems who either have horses and want to be here because they understand. They want to be a part of this. This is their long-term goal. Those are the ones that we have had the most success with; they’re flexible, adaptable, and hardworking. Either their parents have instilled it in them, “This is what you need to do to get a horse,” rather than simply going to Starbucks and getting a set course.

Yes, the barn work does offer more flexibility. But we tend to find a conflict between those who want to ride and compete, who really understand the sport, because those are the times where we need those people to work. [Laughing] That’s been tough. What I have found works fast is if they don’t actually ride, they want to simply be working with the horses, being around them, and in the lifestyle. They, sometimes, get the opportunity to take on someone else’s horse. So, they get the fix that way.

Between pay and the type of work, they find it difficult. The pandemic, actually, had more people out of work. They couldn’t go elsewhere. We had some really good people come in and just do it short-term because it is not a long-term profession. There’s no room here, in this particular facility, to work your way up. Previously, you could have worked your way to a management position. We don’t have that. We are very small.

Because we are a small operation. I don’t think that we’re alone in that. We find part-timers who are willing to come here for a few hours and to work hard. I am looking for a unique person.; So, it has been incredibly challenging.

Jacobsen: Is this a common experience in equestrianism among managers and owners (outside of dressage)?

Merrin: I have seen this on both sides. You can post for Fraser Valley barn help. Either the hours aren’t suitable for them. There’s not a lot flexibility for them. It, basically, comes down to pay. People want $20/hr or more for a job that doesn’t really require what a horse needs. But if it is only 4 hours of work, and if it only pays $20/hr, there are people who are worth it. For here, you earn it. If you work full-time here, and if you get good benefits, you earned it. But now, with the number of horses, you are working part-time. It is, maybe, 4 hours of work during the day and another 2 hours at night.

So, it is a bit of struggle for us. Elsewhere in the industry, I see find someone working 8 hours challenging. It is a lot of physical labour. They burnout. Career advancement is an issue. We don’t have it. You don’t see it. Unless, you are a trainer. Trains have the upper hand in that area. So, the labour thing will come back to life in this industry for sure. We have to pay more. That’s the reality there. We have to look after them.

Jacobsen: Some issues for larger scale aspects of the industry. The separation between haves and have-nots, growing income inequality, and worker insecurity cause issues for the industry as a whole. How is this impacting Canadian equestrianism as a whole?

Merrin: I cannot speak for Canadian equestrianism because we are unique. What I find is, people want a place to live and to work. If we can offer live-work, some of their work can be done here, then they could work elsewhere advancing whatever they do. Some of that problem is directly related to the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve). It won’t allow some forms of secondary, etc., etc. If you own your own property, getting the permit to have somebody else above your barn is incredibly impactful, everybody wants a suite in a barn. Yet, we’re not allowed.

It is getting the labour. Getting here, you need a car, and so on. A real advantage to have somewhere to work and live. A working student can live there and they will work for you. That used to be a very common thing. I don’t know if that’s so feasible anymore with the bylaws and the regulations. I can see it impacting our community. I don’t know if the job security in our industry is keeping up with the payment and benefits for any of these things, or if it can, because a lot of this stuff is done contract. “I work for you. You give me a lesson.”

“Training and skills, I get to be around your horse and learn how to do this.” I don’t know what the job security is; I know what our labour laws state. I used to be very careful. They can show up; they can quit. Here again, it is different. I really try to have communication and try to keep our staff very happy, etc. It is coming out and saying, “It is a crappy day. Let me help you.”

Most barn owners are trainers. If they are really good, then they can pick who works for them and then they can set the demand, “This is what the job is, and this is what I expect.” It is like interning. Which doesn’t give much financial reward, and depending on the people worked for can be a bit of slave trade, labour laws caught up with that, so did the kids and their parents. The independent worker just looking to do stalls.

Generally, we find the young motivated. They are great. They are here for a short-time. They are off to school, to get that trainer, to get to the next level. They are, usually, short and sporadic. If you get the older, seasoned worker, they, usually, have a vice or two. They’re immovable in their ways of working. You have to adapt to that. You to take your pick. I think that’s the same in any industry. I worked in the restaurant industry. Some are great, but are going to school or something. Then they are out of here. Then the seasoned, “I like to do these things this way.” They are honest, show up, and get the job done. “Okay, bye.” I think it is more of a gig industry.

It depends.

Footnotes

[1] Director, High Point Equestrian Centre.

[2] Individual Publication Date: August 22, 2022: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/merrin-1; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2022: https://in-sightpublishing.com/insight-issues/.

Citations

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 20: Moya Byrne Merrin on High Point Equestrian Centre and Equine Labour Shortages (1)[Online]. August 2022; 30(E). Available from: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/merrin-1.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2022, August 22). The Greenhorn Chronicles 20: Moya Byrne Merrin on High Point Equestrian Centre and Equine Labour Shortages (1). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/merrin-1.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 20: Moya Byrne Merrin on High Point Equestrian Centre and Equine Labour Shortages (1). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 30.E, August. 2022. <http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/merrin-1>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2022. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 20: Moya Byrne Merrin on High Point Equestrian Centre and Equine Labour Shortages (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 30.E. http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/merrin-1.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “The Greenhorn Chronicles 20: Moya Byrne Merrin on High Point Equestrian Centre and Equine Labour Shortages (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 30.E (August 2022). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/merrin-1.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2022, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 20: Moya Byrne Merrin on High Point Equestrian Centre and Equine Labour Shortages (1)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 30.E. Available from: <http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/merrin-1>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2022, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 20: Moya Byrne Merrin on High Point Equestrian Centre and Equine Labour Shortages (1)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 30.E., http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/merrin-1.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 20: Moya Byrne Merrin on High Point Equestrian Centre and Equine Labour Shortages (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 30.E (2022): August. 2022. Web. <http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/merrin-1>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 20: Moya Byrne Merrin on High Point Equestrian Centre and Equine Labour Shortages (1)[Internet]. (2022, August 30(E). Available from: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/merrin-1.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012–Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and can disseminate for their independent purposes.

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