Our Programs

Elite Vocations

Equipping American Veterans with employable skills and housing benefits through our certified horsemanship training program.

Our Programs

Elite Vocations

Elite Vocations

Equipping American Veterans with employable skills and housing benefits through our certified horsemanship training program.

The Program

Elite Vocations is a comprehensive ten-week (210-hour) vocational horsemanship training program designed to empower at-risk American Veterans who are seeking to make a career change and rediscover their sense of purpose. Our mission is dual-purpose: to equip Veterans with the skills, certifications, and opportunities needed to thrive in the equine industry while simultaneously providing the therapeutic benefits that come from working regularly with horses.

The Curriculum

Elite Vocations offers comprehensive equine care and management, deeply rooted in natural horsemanship principles. Licensed under the internationally-recognized Groom Elite horsemanship education program, which has been transforming lives since 2001, Elite Vocations provides hands-on training in professional grooming, equine care and first aid, daily management, physical conditioning/exercising, and ground manners training.

Our program focuses on ground-based interactions with horses, and while it does not include horseback riding, it takes a well-rounded approach to equine care and basic training.

female Veteran cleans out retired racehorse hoof in vocational horsemanship program

Program Benefits

At Elite Vocations, we offer much more than just a vocational horsemanship training program. Our comprehensive curriculum provides a multitude of benefits that extend beyond the classroom. Key advantages include:

  • Employment Opportunities: Upon successful completion of our program, Veterans are provided assistance with placements in various roles in the equine industry that suit their skills and desires. These roles include professional grooms, barn managers, assistant trainers, and apprenticeship opportunities in fields such as farriery, equine massage, and veterinary technology.

  • Housing Benefits: Many positions in the equine industry come with on-site housing, providing not only employment but also a stable living situation. We understand the importance of stable housing, and our program significantly improves Veterans’ chances of finding stable accommodation alongside their job placement.

  • Therapeutic Benefits: Working regularly with horses has proven therapeutic benefits. Veterans in our program often experience improved mental well-being, enhanced self-esteem, reduced PTSD, anxiety and/or depression symptoms, and a deeper sense of purpose through their interactions with these incredible animals.

Veteran bandages horse legs ready for exercise

“Before I came I was depressed, I guess borderline suicidal. I felt like I was at square one and didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know what do with the rest of my life. When I showed up here I had no expectations, I had no idea what was going to happen, what was going on. And within 48 hours it kind of snapped me out of everything I was feeling – I wasn’t depressed by the next week pretty much. It gave me a sense of purpose, something new to do, a new direction to go in my life.”

Program Oversight

Veteran-to-Veteran Mentorship

At Elite Vocations, we believe in the transformative power of shared experiences. That’s why our program is uniquely designed with a strong Veteran presence. Veterans are not just a part of our founders, board of directors, and dedicated staff; they actively shape the program’s design and facilitation. This includes our impactful peer-to-peer mentorship initiative, where Veterans support one another on their journey.

We understand that Veterans share a bond forged through their service, making them uniquely qualified to understand and guide fellow Veterans. Through Veteran-to-Veteran mentorship, participants benefit from the wisdom, camaraderie, and insights that only those who have walked a similar path can provide. It’s a cornerstone of our program, ensuring that Veterans receive the understanding and support they deserve on their journey to a fulfilling career and renewed sense of purpose in the equine industry.

Join our Program

Are you a Veteran ready to embark on a transformative career journey, reignite your sense of purpose, and build a brighter future? At Elite Vocations, we’re here to support you every step of the way. Our multifaceted training program not only equips you with valuable skills for a fulfilling career in the equine industry but also offers the potential for housing benefits and therapeutic advantages to enhance your well-being. No prior horsemanship experience is necessary. Join us today to discover your purpose in this rewarding field.

Application Process

Rather than specific course start dates, Veterans can join the program at any time throughout the year (provided space is available). Please use our application form below, call Yvette on 805-868-7634, or email yvette@heroeshorses.org to learn more about our program. We’ll set up a date and time for you to visit the ranch, answer any questions and help you determine if the program will be a good fit for you. We’ll also be able to share when the next opening will be available.

Veteran tacks up horse in vocational horsemanship program

Program Structure

Our Veterans Vocational Horsemanship Program runs continuously throughout the year. Veterans attend on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday* (8 am to 3 pm) for ten weeks. Veterans graduate once they complete the required skillsets and learning outcomes.

*Exceptions are made for certain federal holidays including Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Program days that fall on these dates are rescheduled to a later date in the week(s) that is convenient for the participants.

Two Veterans stand at mounting block next to horse while trainer Simon d'Unienville stands in front. Photo credit Randy de la Pena

Qualifying Criteria

Our program is tailored to empower Veterans who are determined to make significant, positive changes in their lives.

  • Qualifying Veterans: include, but are not limited to, those who are currently experiencing homelessness, at risk of homelessness, actively engaged in substance abuse recovery, and/or have a 30%+ disability rating from the VA.

  • Inclusivity Policy: We are committed to inclusivity and do not discriminate based on age, race/ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression, or disability. Read our inclusivity statement for more details.

  • Physical Fitness: All participants must meet the physical fitness requirements necessary to work safely with our program horses. We prioritize the safety and well-being of both our participants and our horses.
  • Logistics: While we provide our program at no cost, please note that housing, transportation, and meals (except lunch on program days) are not included. Veterans accepted into the program will need to arrange their own lodging and daily transport to, and from, our Nipomo, CA location.

Veteran and retired racehorse look out into distance

Veteran Application Form

Branch of Service