The Maryland Horse Breeders Association is excited to introduce Erin Swope, one of two new full-time staff members, who has taken on the role of bookkeeper in our finance department. Erin, a 23-year-old native of Westminster, graduated in December 2020 from Towson University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a concentration in finance. On top of her time in the MHBA office, she spends her mornings at Pimlico exercising racehorses for trainer Mary Eppler.
Could you tell us a bit about your past work experience?
As soon as I graduated from high school, I started galloping racehorses at Pimlico for trainer Mary Eppler. I was lucky to get a job galloping for Mary because she has been working in the industry for so long and has had a great deal of success. I worked there all throughout college, getting up between 4 and 5 a.m., six days a week, and riding anywhere from eight to 16 or more horses a day during training hours. My job as an exercise rider involves doing anything from jogging to galloping or breezing, along with teaching horses how to break out of the gate. Being an exercise rider was always a dream job of mine because I have been riding my whole life and grew up in a family that was involved in the racing industry. Most of my past work experience involves riding and working directly with horses, but during my last semester of college, I had the opportunity to intern with the Maryland Horse Foundation. This was my first time ever working in an office setting, which gave me a better understanding of the business side of things. I also really enjoyed learning about everything that the Foundation was involved in.
How did you get involved in the horse industry?
I have been involved in the horse industry for my entire life. I grew up on a horse farm and my dad, Ben Swope, is a farrier who has also trained and ridden his own steeplechase horses. My family has also owned various horses that have raced on the flat over the years.
I learned how to ride as soon as I possibly could and my dad got me involved in foxhunting when I was about 5 or 6. Foxhunting is one of the main reasons that I fell in love with riding. To this day, my dad and I have been able to continue hunting together with the Carrollton Hounds, where he is now the huntsman. I also grew up going to the steeplechase races, which got me involved in pony racing at a young age and I have been hooked ever since. I am so lucky to be able to continue doing what I love. Whether it is getting on racehorses every morning at the track, foxhunting on the weekends with the Carrollton Hounds, or even riding in a steeplechase race from time to time, I can never get enough of the horses!
What have you learned from the various aspects of the horse industry that you’ve worked in?
I have learned so much over the years from working in the horse industry. I mainly have been surrounded by the racing industry specifically, as I have had the privilege of working hands-on in different barns while learning from various trainers, grooms, exercise riders, jockeys, etc.
My dad has definitely had the most influence on my riding and general horse knowledge, but I have been lucky to work with a wide variety of great people in the industry that have each taught me something along the way. Working at the racetrack over the past five years has taught me so much about riding racehorses because riding at the track exposes you to so many different types of horses. Each horse has its own quirks and uniqueness about them, and riding them has given me a better understanding of how to adjust to each one and figure out what makes each horse click.
Working in a barn like Mary’s has taught me what goes into managing a racing stable of up to 40, or more, horses. I have learned that it is a team effort getting a horse to the races and everyone’s role is important. It takes hard work, day in and day out, from everyone in the barn to ensure success in this industry.
What interested you about the position with the MHBA and what are you looking forward to most?
Since I majored in finance throughout college, I wanted to find a job that would allow me to utilize the skills that I learned in school. Towson’s finance program was heavily-focused on investing, and even though that was interesting to me, I wanted to find a finance-related position that was in the horse industry. When I first interned with the Maryland Horse Foundation in my last semester of college, I really enjoyed the culture of the organization and what the organization is involved in. When I found out the MHBA was hiring for a bookkeeper position, I thought that it would be the perfect fit for me. Not only am I be able to utilize my finance skills, but I’m working for an organization that is part of the horse industry. It is an added bonus that I was already familiar with the company as well as everyone in the office from my internship.
There are many things to look forward to in this position, but one huge advantage about this job is that I am able to continue to go to the track and gallop before driving to the office. I am really looking forward to gaining experience and knowledge about managing the finances of a business. Since I have had the experience of working hands-on with the horses, it will be a great opportunity to work as a bookkeeper and be exposed to another aspect of the industry.