Dream Job: Internet Editor, The American Quarter Horse Association

In our Dream Job series Project Pageantry interviews professionals in careers that you're interested in to find out the best part of the job, what it takes to get there, and how aspiring young women can get their foot in the door.

Tara Matsler

Internet Editor, The American Quarter Horse Association

Photo courtesy of Tara Matsler. Credit:  Kelsey Pecsek .

Photo courtesy of Tara Matsler. Credit: Kelsey Pecsek.

Professional Stats:

  • Internet Editor
  • 6 years with AQHA
  • Agricultural communications and journalism major, agricultural economics minor at Texas A&M University
  • National Collegiate Equestrian Association team member
  • AQHA communications and publications intern, 2010
  • AQHA youth working cow horse world champion, 2006

How did you transition from the internship to a full-time role with AQHA?

Photo courtesy of Tara Matsler.

Photo courtesy of Tara Matsler.

“When I was getting ready to graduate in 2011, the job market wasn’t great. I was worried that I may or may not be able to get a job out of college. AQHA had a job opening that same spring. They called and offered me the position based on how well my internship had gone. I’m glad they kept me in mind and that they held the position for me to start in May.”

          “When I started my job I had many of the same duties (as in my internship). I still helped with the daily blog and newsletters as well as email communications. I also picked up some new social-media accounts to manage. Over the years, I’ve developed specialties in Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. When I first started, I also managed the magazine’s Web presence and email communications, a responsibility I still have now.”
          Over the years, the position’s evolved. “I now manage all of AQHA marketing for shows, which includes all of our world championship shows, regional championships, Level-1 championships as well as our other show programs. I also manage all of the marketing for the magazines.” There are five separate titles, including the AQHA Journal, The Performance Horse and The Ranch Horse Journals, America’s Horse Magazine, and Quarter Racing Journal.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

“I love to go to events, talk to people who love their horses, and tell their stories. It’s why I wanted to work for the American Quarter Horse Association in the first place. My background is showing horses, so I get to go out and work in my element.”

“When I was in college, I didn’t take any photography classes. It wasn’t necessarily a passion of mine.” As part of event coverage, the writer who covers the class is also responsible to capture photography. ‘When I did my internship my boss handed me a camera and said, “Go photograph this event.” The team entrusts interns to dig in, make mistakes, and learn. “Luckily I had co-workers who showed me the basics, but photography was a trial-and-error experience. I watched YouTube videos and CreativeLive videos. My skill is all self-taught. Now, I love to photograph events.”

What skills, education, and experience are helpful for young ladies who aspire to work in the horse industry, and in a role such as yours?

“There are so many opportunities in social-media marketing and public relations; those are two exciting career fields.”

Write Well

You need to be able to write. “You can’t write Facebook statuses with poor grammar. It doesn’t make your organization or company look reputable. So, if you can write, there are so many jobs that are open to you. You can work for a magazine, you can work for an organization, or a company that produces products, like saddles or equine supplements.”

AQHA Director of Shows and Professional Horsemen Patti Carter and AQHA Internet Editor Tara Matsler walk you through the AQHA level system.

Choose a degree that’ll give you a solid writing background. “My degree paired journalism with public relations. I envisioned that I would work for magazines as a journalist. My job’s actually become more public-relations centered, and I wish I would’ve taken more public relations classes. PR is a fun version of marketing. You get to find creative ways to market your product or organization in a way such that the person who consumes the information isn’t even aware that they’re being marketed to.”

Speak Well

You need to be able to convey your thoughts well. This serves in a career in which you either conduct interviews or are interviewed, such as in job or media interviews. “If you can communicate well, you understand to use a tone that's appropriate to the situation.” If you’re a public figure, such as a rodeo queen, “you need to be able to walk the tight rope to be formal and professional, yet still approachable.” The same is true when you represent your company.

If you already have a horse background and these foundational skills, all that's left is experience. "As you try to break into a career in the horse industry find opportunities that add to your resume. Even if it’s writing, managing social-media accounts, or a Website for free. Do whatever it takes to build your resume and portfolio; it’s what makes you shine. There are plenty of opportunities in the horse industry to help professionals and trainers, and you never know what doors that’ll open. They could have a connection with a tack company or horse organization and can make an introduction on your behalf.”

Does AQHA still offer the internship program that helped you get your foot in the door?

“We have three internships throughout the year. By that I mean we have three internships in the spring, three in the summer, and three in the fall. One focuses on marketing and publicity; another digital and online communications, and the third is with our media team.”

          Visit AQHA’s Internship page to find information on how to apply as well as find the application deadlines for each seasonal opportunity. Selection teams work together to look at all of the applications and determine who’s best suited to which position, even if it’s not the position originally applied for. ‘So, even if marketing says an applicant isn’t the right fit for that department. We can say, “Man, they’d be great in the digital communications internship," and interview them for that position instead.’

          “I can’t speak more highly of our internships. They’re paid and you get so much experience. The summer and fall interns cover events, such as our AQHA world championship shows, they write articles and press releases, maintain the Website, and help with social-media accounts.” It’s yet another opportunity to add horse industry-specific experience to your resume and portfolio.  

What do you love most about working for AQHA?

“We’re in the business of selling joy. I get to talk to people who love their horses, and share that with others around the world. You can’t ask for a better job than that.”

          “I’m also lucky to have a company that’s willing to invest in me. They send me to seminars to get more training, and reward my hard work with the flexibility to work remotely. I have diversity in my work. Some days I go to events and others I spend at the office. AQHA and my team also understands when I take a long weekend to go off to a horse show of my own. It’s very hard to find a company that understands and supports the lifestyle I want to live.” 

We want to know!

What do you want to be when you 'grow up'? We'll interview someone who works where you want to work, or does what you want to do so you can learn what it takes to get there. Email us at projectpageantry@gmail.com.